Brethren Historical Library and Archives

Hidden gems: Brauer/Brower family documents

Hubert and Anna Brower, and their three sons and a daughter, were Mennonites from the small hamlet of Fuss Gonheim, just across the Rhine River from Mannheim, in the Palatinate. They were part of a Swiss-German Mennonite community who fled Switzerland under persecution, and who then fled Germany seeking religious freedom in William Penn’s colony of Pennsylvania.

The family prospered in their new country, and all three sons – John, Christian, and Henry – married into well-known Mennonite families in the Chester County, PA, area. By the second generation, Christian Brower’s descendants became Brethren, John Brower’s became Lutheran-Episcopal, and Henry Brower’s descendants remained Mennonite.

The three rare documents shown were all donated to the Brethren Historical Library and Archives (BHLA) in 2007 by Brower descendant, Dr. David A. Otto, Ph.D., and his wife, Elizabeth, of Fort Mill, South Carolina.

Brower Pass document, image by Carol Fike
Photo by Carol Fike

“The Pass” was required of any person or family who wished to emigrate from Germany to America in the 18th century. Akin to a passport or travel paper, the Brauer Pass was issued on May 1, 1726, to Hubert Brauer (Brower) and his family from the Rhine River town of Fuss Gonheim. The Brower’s voyage to America could have taken up to six months!

Henry Brower's indentured servant's document, image by Carol Fike
Photo by Carol Fike

“The Servant’s Indenture,” dated October 2, 1749, bound one Elizabeth Smither to Henry Brower (son of Hubert) for a total of four years to pay off the cost of her passage to the New World. Apparently, Henry Brower was successful enough by age twenty-nine to “buy” the passage of an indentured immigrant. Family records show that he “bought” the passage of several others over the years.

Henry Brower's Oath of Allegiance document, image by Carol Fike
Photo by Carol Fike

Finally, “The Oath of Allegiance,” dated October 4, 1765, and signed by Philadelphia dignitary Edward Shippen, is the naturalization paper of Henry Brower (son of Hubert). Signing the “Oath of Allegiance” was required for land ownership in the colony, for example. As a Mennonite, Henry Brower did not bear arms during the Revolutionary War, but he did supply wagons for George Washington’s army.