Home Back


There has been an extremely funny blunder in the journalism of the past week. In one of the London morning papers a paragraph appeared setting forth that a "Congress of Drunkards" had just met, somewhere in the United States, and that the "drunkards" who assembled were twenty thousand strong. Forthwith a writer attached to another London morning paper blithely seized on the "twenty thousand drunkards" as a first-rate subject for leading article, and discoursed, to the extent of about a column and a quarter, about what the Congress might or might not have been like. Then came an explanation in another morning paper that the twenty thousand people who had assembled were not Drunkards, but "Dunkers."

The Dunkers are a sect of, originally, German Baptists, or "Brethren," as they prefer to be called, who emigrated to America between the years 1718 and 1730. In 1723 they established a church at Germantown, Pennsylvania, under the ministry of one Peter Becker. In the outset they were known as German First Day Baptists, from their observing the first day of the week as the Sabbath; but in 1725, Conrad Beissel, a leading member of a Dunker community at Mill Creek, avowed his preference for the seventh clay (the Jewish Sabbath) as the Christian Sunday, and founded a sect known as the German Seventh Day Baptists.

In 1735 a kind of monastic society was formed by Beissel and his followers, who set up a small colony called Ephrata. The brethren assumed the garb of White Friars—a long white robe, reaching down to the heels, with a girdle round the waist, and a cowl hanging down the back. Although they took no vows, all who entered the Ephrata cloister received monastic names. Pennsylvania is still the head-quarters of the Dunkers; and most people, I should say, will be surprised to learn that so many as twenty thousand of these harmless sectarians could be gathered together. A newspaper is not the proper place in which to give a detailed account of the peculiar theological tenets held by the Dunkers; but I may just mention that in their baptismal rite they administer "trine" immersion. When the person is kneeling in the water he is plunged three times head forward under water.

Source: The Illustrated London News, July 1, 1882, p.3