Updated: Aug 20, 2020
This week I thought I might delve a little deeper into my own family's history. No, we are not from Union County. Like so many current residents in Union County, one of the most rapidly growing counties in Ohio, I am a transplant. While I love local history, I also find researching my own family's background to be a rewarding experience, especially as we are all stuck at home with more time on our hands thanks to COVID-19.
My mother's family, the Brinsers, came to the United States in the 1740's on the "Loyal Judith," one of many ships that brought Germans, especially those facing religious persecution, to Philadelphia. Ever since its founding by English Quaker William Penn, Pennsylvania was a place known for religious tolerance and attracted a wide range of religious groups. My ancestors were Amish, a religious group with origins in the Swiss Anabaptist movement. (Anabaptism is the practice of adult baptism and is one of the main reasons the group clashed with mainstream Protestant and Roman Catholic groups back in Europe.) I studied all this stuff extensively in college, so I could go on and on, but basically: Anabaptist groups fled Europe due to brutal persecution from the religious majority, who held A LOT of power at the time.
Within the Amish faith, smaller groups emerged, focused around particular leaders and settling in tight knit communities in Eastern PA. The "Brinserites" were led by Matthias Brinser. One of their key beliefs, and a cause for dispute with other Amish groups, was the use of meeting houses as opposed to family homes for holding worship services.
Solomon C. Brinser (1832) was another notable member of the Brinser family. He manufactured and tweaked grain cradles and was the first to use a wheel rake in his county. He also milled roasted corn into meal, which added a distinct flavor and color and extended the cornmeal's shelf life. The mill stayed in the family for several generations before being sold to a local company: Earl Hoffman & Sons. The cornmeal is still sold under the name "Brinser's Best Yellow Cornmeal," and Solomon Brinser is still pictured on the bag.
Nowadays, most Brinser descendants have left the Amish community and are spread out all over the country (and the world!) Yes, some of my immediate relatives still live in Eastern PA, but we have spread out as far west as California, as far south as Florida, and yes, even to Union County, Ohio. Pretty cool when you think about it!
Now is a great time to do a little research on your own family history! If you happen to be a Union County native, here are some local resources to help get you started on your quest:
Marysville Public Library (lots of old newspapers on microfilm)
Of course this week's historical recipe had to use Brinser's Best Cornmeal! This is the cornbread recipe my family has been making for as long as I (and my mother and my grandmother) can remember, and it is fantastic, if I do say so myself!
Brinser's Best Roasted Cornbread will be for sale the weekend of August 22-23 at our farm market shed in Raymond (Saturday & Sunday 12:30-5:00pm) and all proceeds go to the Union County Historical Society. Don't forget to bring your Union County Bicentennial Passport to get it stamped!
Anabaptist photos from Wikipedia.
Brinser's Best Yellow Cornmeal is now manufactured by Haldemann Mills in Pennsylvania.