Mennonites - Settlements



Historically, the Mennonites were settled as peasants on feudal estates, as yeomanry on independent farms, and as artisans and merchants in the towns of feudal Europe. Early in the movement, many were driven from the towns and forced into agricultural areas and pursuits. The city of Danzig, for example, refused some habitation. As Mennonites migrated from the Netherlands and other places around Europe and settled in Prussia, Poland, and Russia, they endeavored to establish village settlements. In Poland, they became distinguished and were known as Hollanderdorfer. But as private property in land increasingly replaced (feudal) usufruct rights, these traditional settlement patterns were disrupted. Yet, with each move, they sought again to reestablish villages, especially in Russia. In North America, a few village settlements were established but were soon threatened, as they had been elsewhere, by private property in land and private Household accumulation. Only in the less developed areas of the world (in particular, Belize) have these village settlement patterns survived into the present day.

In rural North America today, Mennonites are settled in a manner not unlike other farms—as dispersed private family farms. Swiss Mennonites established a settlement pattern known as the Hof. In the Jura Mountains of Switzerland and in southern parts of Germany they were independent yeomanry who sometimes settled compact or cluster villages (Haufendorfer). The Swiss and German Mennonites settling in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Kansas lived on isolated private farms—Germantown, Pennsylvania, was one exception. Among the largest population concentrations today are Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and south-central Kansas. Throughout the twentieth century, increasing numbers of Mennonites in North America have settled in urban areas. Today, less than one-third of Mennonites live on farms, one-third in rural communities (but nonfarm), and one-third in large urban areas.


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