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Schwenkfelders

Foreword - The Ancestors of John and Susanna (Harris) Masters

The ancestors of the Masters family lived in Harpersdorf,. Germany, the original having been Meisther or Meschter. They were members of a Protestant religious sect who were followers of Caspar Schwenckfeld von Ossig (1489 - 1561) a Silesian nobleman, who was a contemporary of Martin Luther but who differed from Luther over several points of doctrine. His followers were called Schwenkfelders and there were a considerable number of them in different parts of Silesia. The Schwenkfelders were the objects of special persecution by the Catholic Church and in 1726 a large number of them fled to Saxony where they were given temporary protection. After staying there eight years, this protection was withdrawn and, rather than return to Silesia, some forty-three families, including the ancestors of the Masters family decided to emigrate to Pennsylvania. They went to Altona in Denmark, then to Haarlem in Holland, and in June, 1734 they sailed from Rotterdam for America on the English ship St. Andrew arriving at Philadelphia on September 22, 1734.

The members of the Meschter family who came to America at that time were Gregorius Meschter, his wife and one son, his brother, Melchior Meschter and wife, Eve Meschter, and Anna Weiss, sister of Gregorius and Melchior Meschter. They settled in counties around Philadelphia and most of those living in that part of the country still use the name Meschter. There are at present five Schwenkfelder churches in and around Philadelphia with a membership of over 25O0.

The members of the family remaining in Harpersdorf and their descendants continued to occupy the Meschter homestead there until near the close of World War II when the Russians overran that part of Silesia and burned the buildings and drove the inhabitants of Harpersdorf out of the village. Most of them returned after a short interval until the Poles occupied the country and drove all of the residents into the British zone of occupied Germany.

The ancestor of the Masters branch of the family in America was Gregorius Meisther or Meschter, b about November, l705; d December 16, l775. He was the youngest son of Balthasar Meisther who died April 1, 1723 and was buried at Harpersdorf in the “Viehwag”, a public burial ground or village dump, because the Catholic Church would not allow the Schwenckfelders to be buried in the regular cemeteries, Gregorius Meschter bought land in Hereford Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania and he and his wife are buried in Washington Shwenkfelder Cemetery in Hereford Township. He made “his mark” in signing the Oath of Allegiance on September 23, at Philadelphia and was naturalized April 10,1759.

- Paul E. Masters, 143 Orchard Street, Sewickley, Pennsylvania. 1953
 
Navigation Aid: Schwenkfelders

Many thanks to all who have contributed names, dates, photographs and stories. Corrections are always welcome.
Our research is ongoing and the validity of the information presented should be judged by the quality of our sources.

Our study includes our ancestors and their descendants (our cousins) and our cousins' spouses and their parents. The parents of our cousins' spouses will show as "A descendant is related to Susan or Barry" and their other children will not be included unless they are connected to our family.


Last Updated
April 2, 2022

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