Saturday, August 13, 2011

a slap in the face

My ancestors Theiss (Matthew) and Nesgen (Agnes) Doors were Mennonites who suffered from persecution because of their religious beliefs.  They were married in the late 1630's and lived together in the village of Kaldenkirchen in what is now western Germany, directly bordering what is now The Netherlands.  There, Matthew worked as a shoemaker and had a shop and house near the village wall.  Apparently, Matthew (and perhaps Agnes) were born as Catholics, but became Anabaptists (Mennonites) some time in their adulthood.  Although the area where they lived was comparatively tolerant to their religious views, they still faced persecution.  It has also been described that they were "tolerated at best", and were even forced to pay special tax so that they could remain in the country and continue to practice their religion.

In 1655, Matthew was fined for failing to obey a submission.  Some have argued though that it was just an excuse though to expel him from the country because of his beliefs, which would happen if he failed to pay the fine. The Duke of Julich then sent a bailiff (another source says it was the Governor of Bruggen) to the Doors' house to issue the decree requiring the payment and collect the fine.  Matthew was away from home when the bailiff arrived and the bailiff instead met his irate wife Agnes, who was about 9 months pregnant.  The bailiff explained that he had an official decree and came to collect the fine.  In response, Agnes quarreled with the bailiff and tried to rip the decree from his hands.  At some point during their brawl, she was struck in the face.

Matthew had still not paid the fine so his shop goods were seized and sold.  They were also pressured to abandon their Mennonite beliefs.  In the subsequent trial, Matthew testified that his wife Agnes had wanted to be a Catholic, so when the child was born several days later (a daughter named Margarita), she was baptized in the Catholic church.  The family though did not remain Catholics and by the following year, they had all joined the Calvinist (Reformed) church, probably so that they could remain in the area.  Matthew and Agnes did apparently spend the rest of their lives in the Kaldenkirchen area, where they were officially members of the Reformed church. 

Religious persecution aside, it has also been suggested that some of the family (including Agnes) suffered from some kind of mental illness, which might explain Agnes' brawl with the bailiff.  Their daughter Gertrude Doors, who was married to Paulus Kusters, had a severe attack of mental illness in 1674, after giving birth to her 4th child Reiner.   The baptism record indicated that she was "unable to use her mental faculties", so her parents (Matthew and Agnes) cared for the child until she recovered.  It is assumed now that she suffered from postpartum depression.  Gertrude eventually did recover and had five more children and eventually immigrated to Pennsylvania with her family in the 1680s so that they were free to practice their Mennonite religion.
My descent from this couple:
Theiss Doors md. Nessgen
- Gertrude Doors md. Paulus Kusters
-- Arnold Kuster md. Rebecca
--- Paul Custer md. Sarah Martha Ball
---- Jonathan Custer md. Hannah Peters
----- Benjamin Custer md. Margaret Bell
------ Isaiah Custer md. Elizabeth Salehamer
------- Charles Custer md. Mary Jane Custer
-------- John W. Custer md. Elizabeth R. Taylor
--------- Louise E. Custer md. Odin F. Wadleigh
---------- Paul Wadleigh md. Bettye Brown
----------- Randy Wadleigh md. Barbara Plymale
-------------Ryan Wadleigh

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed reading about Doors and Kusters. I'm descendant of Paulus and Gertrude Kusters also, through their daughter Eva Kusters Godshalk. Doing some research for a book. Thank you for posting.