Chart and Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor
SECOND ENTRY IN A SERIES OF FOUR POSTS
JOHANN (OR JOHN) NITSCHMANN, SR. (1703-MAY 6, 1772)
Moravian Missionary and Bishop
DAVID NITSCHMANN, JR., THE SYNDIC (SEPTEMBER 20, 1703-MARCH 28, 1779)
Moravian Bishop and Missionary
DAVID NITSCHMANN, THE MARTYR (DIED APRIL 15, 1729)
Moravian Missionary and Martyr
The process of researching the Nitschmanns led me through a number of contradictory sources. I paid close attention to minor details to determine relationships. There were, for example, four David Nitschmanns (two of whom became bishops) and two Johann (or John) Nitschmanns (both of whom became bishops). I am not surprised, therefore, that some writers whose work I consulted confused one Johann (or John) Nitschmann with another. They were contemporaries (one born in 1703 and the other in 1712), after all. Also, I am aware that, in the age of the Internet, I can gain easy access to more information easily from home than was possible with more effort not long ago. Even with that ease of access to information I became confused along the way, until I checked details (such as birthplaces and geographical locations of certain people in specific years) again and again. I admit the possibility that I have made some mistakes or at least arrived at some inaccurate determinations (given the material available to me as well as human imperfection), but I have tried to be as accurate as possible.
I was able to draw a family tree for the saints I covered in the previous post. In this post I cover three other Nitschmanns who were also foundational figures in the Renewed Moravian Church. At least one of them was a distant cousin of the first five Nitschmanns of whom I wrote. As for the other two Nitschmanns in this post, I do not know, for my searches yielded no such information.
Some of my sources confused the two Johann (or John) Nitschmanns, who were contemporaries and bishops about nine years apart in age. I have, however, to the best of my knowledge, been able to distinguish one from the other based on details, such as geographical locations in specific years and birthplaces of children. The previous post contains a summary of the life of Johann Nitschmann, Jr. (1712-1783). Now Johann Nitschmann, Sr. (1703-1772), gets his turn.
Johann Nitschmann, Sr., was a prominent figure in the early life of the Renewed Moravian Church. He came from a family of the Bohemian Brethren/Ancient Unity and emigrated to Herrnhut in 1725. He became a trusted aide to Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700-1760), accompanying the Count on a “witness journey” through Switzerland and southern Germany in 1731. Nitschmann traveled as far as Freiberg, Saxony. Three years later Nitschmann married Juliana Haberland (1712-1751), one of the original members of thee Single Sisters’ Choir at Herrnhut. Anna Nitschmann (1713-1760) and Anna Schindler (later Dober) (1713-1739) had founded the Choir in 1730, and the former led it. (A choir was a communal group.) Johann and Juliana had a son, Immanuel (1736), who married into the Van Vleck family, which became prominent in the Moravian Church, supplying ministers, bishops, musicians, and composers. Count Zinzendorf trusted Johann Nitschmann, Sr., so much that he assigned him to supervise young Christian Renatus von Zinzendorf, a student a Jena. Nitschmann’s other duties involved evangelism in Jena.
David Nitschmann (1696-1772) was a pioneer at Herrnhut. In fact, three young David Nitschmanns were pioneers at Herrnhut. A second David Nitschmann who arrived at Herrnhut 1724 was traveling through Austria in 1729 when authorities arrested him. He died in prison on Good Friday, April 15, 1729. Moravian Church records refer to him as David Nitschmann, the Martyr. A third David Nitschmann, who also settled at Herrnhut in 1724, was David Nitschmann, Jr., the Syndic (1703-1779). The native of Zauchtenthal , Moravia, was a weaver by trade and a distant cousin of the five Nitschmanns of whom I wrote in the previous post. David, Jr., was “the Syndic” because his duties included conducting negotiations on behalf of the Renewed Moravian Church. His first wife, Anna Helena Anders, died in 1734. Eventually he married a second time, to Rosina Fischer. The Syndic served as one half of a missionary team to Ceylon from 1739 to 1741. The other half of that team was a physician, one Dr. Eller. The two had to return to Herrnhut in 1741 because certain Dutch Reformed clergymen, hostile to the Moravian missionaries, interfered with the mission station.
1741 was an eventful year for the Renewed Moravian Church. Polycarp Muller and Johann Nitschmann, Sr., became the third and fourth bishops, respectively. (The David Nitschmann who lived from 1696 to 1772 had become the first bishop of the Renewed Moravian Church in 1735. Count Zinzendorf had become the second bishop two years later.) In September 1741 Chief Elder Johann Leonhard Dober (1706-1766) resigned. The job of leading the Renewed Moravian Church was too much for one person, he said. There were also concerns that the Chief Eldership might turn into a Moravian Papacy. The decision of the Synod of 1741 was that Jesus Christ would serve as the Chief Elder and that a three-member committee, the General Conference, would make decisions for the Church. Two of the original members were the newest bishops. The third original member was Friedrich von Watteville, who became the fifth bishop in 1743.
The Syndic, a bishop since 1746, served God via the Moravian Church until the end. The Synod of 1764 reorganized church government, creating three committees:
- the Directory, which provided general oversight;
- the Board of Syndics, which handled diplomacy and constitutional affairs; and
- the Board of Wardens, which handled finances.
The Syndic served, not surprisingly, on the Board of Syndics. He also traveled widely on official business. The Syndic died at Zeist, The Netherlands, on March 28, 1779.
Johann Nitschmann, Sr., also continued to serve, sometimes more effectively than others. From 1749 to 1751 he was the presiding bishop in America. At that time Nitschmann was, unfortunately, stubborn and strict in his interpretation of his orders from the Directory. The economy at Bethlehem and Nazareth, Pennsylvania, suffered as a result. Before he left America Juliana died on February 22, 1751. The widower bishop returned to Herrnhut, where he became the pastor. He died at Zeist, The Netherlands, on May 6, 1772.
These saints served God the best way they knew, devoting their lives to the Almighty. One died because of that dedication. They were, for all their human flaws, devout and excellent servants of God.
Here ends the second installment of this series of posts.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
APRIL 25, 2015 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF FEAST OF SAINT MARK THE EVANGELIST, MARTYR
Almighty God, you have surrounded us with a great cloud of witnesses:
Grant that we, encouraged by the good examples of your servants
Johann Nitschmann, Sr.; David Nitschmann, Jr., the Syndic; and David Nitschmann, the Martyr;
may persevere in running the race that is set before us,
until at last we may with them attain to your eternal joy;
through Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
–Adapted from Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 724