Notes from the White County Historical Society

By Charlene Shields

Notes from the White County Historical Society as they appear in "The Carmi Times."

Copyright ©2002 by "The Carmi Times" Permission to reprint granted to Cindy Birk Conley and the ILGenWeb by Tammy Knox, editor, "The Carmi Times."

The fascinating Dunkards

Some years ago I was speaking at a Hon family reunion and unwittingly
electrified my audience by making the statement that all the early Hons
were Dunkards.

Many of the listeners thought I said "drunkards." So their wrath was
upon me.

Dunkards were a Swiss/German pietistic sect much like the Mennonites,
Moravians, etc. They were called Dunkards, or Dunkers, or
Tunkers--because they believed in baptism by dunking (immersion).
They wore plain clothing, coats with standing collars for the men, plain
bonnets and hoods for the women. Men were urged, but not required, to
wear beards; they should not wear mustaches alone. Women should not wear

They were to avoid narcotics, including tobacco. They did not use
instruments of music in the house of God. They observed the Lord's
Supper (full meal, with the soup eaten from a common dish), and
communion of the bread and cup after the meal. This was usually held
once in the spring and once in the fall. They did not pay their
ministers a salary. They did not celebrate holidays such as Thanksgiving
or Christmas.

They were to obey civil government as far as its laws did not conflict
with their religion. No Dunkard was to participate in politics. They
were not allowed to affiliate with secret societies or lodges. They
would not take nor subscribe to an oath. They considered slavery

They believed in nonresistance, so they were much maligned in the New
World. Their neighbors were often at odds with the Dunkards because they
would not participate in the Revolutionary War. Indians soon learned the
Dunkards would not resist, so they raided their homes.

There was one Dunkard who had a store which was raided three times.
After the third time, he armed himself with a gun. He was excommunicated
from his church for this act.

They stayed to themselves, spoke only German and stayed out of trouble.
Mainly they were farmers and weavers. Because they did not speak
English, other residents thought them illiterate, although the printing
presses of Germantown, Pa. were a product of the Dunkards.

Tracing genealogy in this group is a daunting process. Since they were
pacifists, there are no war records to pursue. There are few marriage
bonds prior to 1820, as both the Dunkards and Mennonites took a dim view
of paying the state a fee for the performance of a Christian ordinance.
Prior to 1800, Dunkards could be excommunicated for obtaining a
marriage license or bond.

Basically, they began life in the New World in Pennsylvania. Their
pacifism caused persecution and sometimes imprisonment. So they
started fleeing local pressure, generally going first to Virginia and
then the Carolinas. Then they moved to the remote West, being among the
first to enter the Ohio and Mississippi valleys.

Much of the history of the frontier was written by Presbyterian
ministers, so little is heard about these Dunkards--a peaceful,
industrious, plain-clothes people who were among the first white

Hons in White County are descended from Jacob Hon, who came here about
1812. Jacob was disowned in the will of his father, Jonas Hon, a Dunkard
minister near Louisville, Ky. Much speculation has taken place as to why
Jacob was excommunicated from the folds of his Dunkard family.


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