Anabaptist Mennonite Tradition & Background

Much of the Robert Henss family background is rooted in Swiss and Iowa Anabaptist Mennonite traditions.  Many of our forebears were active participants and members of the following congregations. [Please note that this post will be updated as more information is uncovered].

Basel-Holee (Basel Switzerland)

Basel-Holee, a Mennonite congregation with a meetinghouse at Holeestrasse 141 in Basel, Switzerland, formerly called Basel-Binningen, the Amish congregation mentioned in the article Basel. The origins of the congregation go back to the middle of the 18th century, a church book containing records of births, marriages, deaths, and baptisms (probably maintained at the request of the state) having been kept from 1777 on (with an interruption 1880-1910). Throughout its existence a majority of the families of the congregations lived on the Alsatian side of the nearby border and the congregation belonged to the Alsatian Conference. In wartime this caused considerable trouble, particularly in World War II when the Alsatian part of the congregation could not cross the border into Basel and had to meet in near-by Bourgfelden. The first meetinghouse in the village of Binningen (now incorporated in the city of Basel) was built in 1847 and continued in use until the new meetinghouse was built on the same lot in 1932. The membership remained fairly constant for several decades, with considerable losses by emigration to the near-by Mulhouse region and to the United States. The 1952 membership was 185 and 50 children; in 2009 the membership was 100. Most common family names have been Roth, Widmer, Wenger, Würgler, and Goldschmidt. Elders have included Hans Jacob Schmuckli, 1777-?; Hans Freienberg, 1787-?; Johannes Kaufmann, ca. 1800-?; Fritz Steinbrunner, ca. 1830; Hans Steinbrunner, d. ca. 1843; Johannes Kaufmann, ca. 1845; Hans Schmuckli, ca. 1860; Christian Klopfenstein, ca. 1870; Joseph Klopfenstein, d. 1878; Jacob Zimmerman; Jacob Widmer, 1874-? emigrated to America; Michel Widmer, 1893-1924; Christian Roggy, 1896-1904; Daniel Roth, -1927; Jakob Widmer, 1924-1942; Fritz Goldschmidt, 1927-; and Daniel Wenger, 1951-. In the 1950s services are held every two weeks alternating with Schänzli. The congregation has had an organized chorus since 1896. As late as 1915 it still practiced feetwashing. The Ausbund was used as hymnal until into the 20th century.

source: Goldschmidt, Fritz and Harold S. Bender. (1953). Basel-Holee (Basel Switzerland). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 12 July 2010, from