Who Was Jakob Ammann? Q-and-A & Book Giveaway

Grounded Upon God’s Word: The Life and Labors of Jakob Ammann is a new book by co-authors Andrew V. Ste. Marie and Mike Atnip. Ammann was the early leader of the Amish, for whom the group is named.

For many years, little was known about Ammann, though in recent decades fresh research has revealed more about Ammann’s personal life beyond the schism which created the Amish and Mennonite factions of the Swiss Brethren.

Joseph Stoll, Amish co-founder of Pathway Publishers had this to say about the book: “We welcome this fresh and factual biography of Jakob Ammann. His life story is worth reading, and we can learn from Jakob Ammann’s unswerving vision of a holy and disciplined church of Jesus Christ.”

Today Andrew V. Ste. Marie has kindly agreed to answers some questions about Ammann’s life and legacy. The authors have also offered a book for giveaway to an Amish America reader.

Win a copy of Grounded Upon God’s Word

To enter to win a copy of Grounded Upon God’s Word, simply leave a comment on this post. I will draw one winner at random and post it here next Tuesday.

Q & A with Andrew V. Ste. Marie on Grounded Upon God’s Word: The Life and Labors of Jakob Ammann

Amish America: Who was Jakob Ammann?

Andrew V. Ste. Marie: Jakob Ammann (1644-c. 1730) was a leader among the Swiss Brethren Anabaptists, and was a leader in the first major schism among that group, resulting in its division into two groups, known today as the Amish and Mennonites. The Amish group was so named after Jakob Ammann.

Ammann was raised in the Reformed state church and joined the Anabaptists in his 30s, and at some point (probably soon after joining the Anabaptists) left Switzerland and moved to Alsace, France, where Anabaptists enjoyed greater religious toleration.

Simmental Valley, Switzerland

Amish America: How do perceptions of Jakob Ammann differ today?

Andrew V. Ste. Marie: Many misconceptions about him circulate today. I have heard bizarre retellings of the Amish/Mennonite schism, many of which feature Jakob Ammann dividing from Menno Simons (the two actually lived decades apart) over such issues as beards and buttons (neither of which featured in the actual debates at the time of the division).

Additionally, the idea persists that Jakob Ammann was a harsh, unreasonable, and impatient man who provoked a division in the Swiss Brethren Anabaptist community by his authoritarian actions. Recent research—upon which our book is based—takes a more nuanced approach, seeing Ammann as a man who tried patient means of resolving differences in views between various Swiss Brethren groups, but who ultimately succumbed to impatience under the stress of being “wanted” by a persecuting government and dealing with people who were acting very uncooperatively.

What were the main issues in the schism?

The dispute began in 1693, between Ammann and some of his co-ministers from Alsace, France, and Anabaptists living in Canton Bern, Switzerland. There were three main issues at the beginning: 1) the state of the Truehearted (explained below), 2) whether liars should be excommunicated from the church, and 3) how those in the church should relate to those who had been excommunicated.

Erlenbach church, where Ammann was baptized as an infant

Ammann insisted that liars should be excommunicated, while at least some of the Bernese ministers disagreed. Ammann also taught “shunning,” that church members should not have social interaction with someone who had been excommunicated. Many of the Bernese ministers thought that excommunicated persons should be banned from sharing Communion with the church, but that sharing social meals with them was acceptable.

As time went on, the dispute came to focus exclusively on the issue of shunning. Amish and Mennonites differ on this point to this day.

Who were the Truehearted and what was their importance?

The Truehearted (also called half-Anabaptists) were members of the Protestant state church who sympathized with the Anabaptists to various degrees. Some gave aid to the Anabaptists, such as warning them of authorities approaching to arrest them or providing hiding places for them. They were very important allies for Anabaptists as they sought to survive in hostile Canton Bern.

Some Anabaptist ministers in Canton Bern, appreciative of the Truehearted’s contributions to their safety, told the Truehearted that they could be saved even though they did not join the Anabaptist church through believer’s baptism. Jakob Ammann, himself a convert from the state church, insisted that expressing such sentiments was out of order. The Truehearted should be encouraged to commit themselves fully to following Christ and carrying His cross, including receiving believer’s baptism, before they could be comforted with the hope of salvation.

What are some of the biggest unknowns about Jakob Ammann that you wish we had answers for today?

The two biggest unknowns in the main outline of his life are 1) his conversion to Anabaptism—how he became interested in Anabaptism, how and why he decided to convert, who baptized him, etc.; and 2) the time and location of his death.

Photo of what may have been the Ammanns’ house

Beyond that, the unknowns of his life are best underscored by a piece of information which I read about and was able to include in the book just as it was about to go to the printer. In 1665, Ammann’s wife was reprimanded and fined by the Chorgericht (morals court) of the Swiss town where they lived for carrying hot coals through the streets in an improper container. While this underscores how seriously early Modern Europeans took fire safety, it is also the kind of human interest story which underscores just how little we actually know about the Ammanns’ lives. We may know the main outline, but much of the human color has vanished.

What are some of the more surprising things you discovered in researching and writing this work?

One thing was the town of Ammann’s residence in Alsace, named Ste. Marie-aux-Mines. Several people have asked if my name has any connection with the town. It does not (Ste. Marie is simply the French spelling of Saint Mary), but it still feels like I have a personal connection to the story!

Ste. Marie aux-Mines

What was life like for Ammann and his followers, following the schism?

Many of those who followed Ammann lived in Alsace, France, which offered some degree of religious toleration. In Ste. Marie-aux-Mines, the Anabaptists (Amish and non-Amish) had restored the land to productivity after it had fallen into disuse and disrepair following the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). Since they made up a significant proportion of the population and paid a proportionate amount of taxes, the non-political Anabaptists, ironically, had a significant influence on the local government. When Jakob Ammann asked the local authorities for something, they were generally quite willing to oblige!

What do we know about Ammann’s family?

Jakob was the third of six children born to Michel and Anna Ammann. Michel went on to convert to Anabaptism, as did Jakob, his younger brother Ulli, and probably one sister.

Jakob married Verena Stüdler before joining the Anabaptists. We know they had at least one daughter, although the details of their family are obscure for two reasons: 1) if an Anabaptist refused to have his child baptized, there would, of course, be no official record of that child in an age before birth certificates; and 2) Jakob had an uncle of the same name living in the same town, and it is difficult to tell in some records which Jakob is meant!

Are there any known descendants of Ammann?

No. The Ammann name died out among the Anabaptists, although if Jakob had daughters who remained with the Amish, it is possible that he does have Amish descendants under different last names.

Why did you decide to write this book?

The first Anabaptist church I was part of was composed mostly of people from an Amish background. I heard stories about Jakob Ammann—such as the true story of him excommunicating seven ministers in one meeting in a barn—for the first time from them. His mysterious and shadowy nature intrigued me greatly, and I found him an interesting person to research as I delved deeper and deeper into Anabaptist history. As I started to write about Anabaptist history, Ammann seemed like a natural subject to write about. His mystique, however, has never disappeared for me.

What is Jakob Ammann’s legacy?

His most visible and recognizable legacy is, of course, the existence of the Amish church. To me, though, his legacy is in his steadfastness for truth and his willingness to repent and admit when he was in error, seeking reconciliation (sadly, unsuccessfully) with those he had earlier disagreed with.

Where is your book available?

The book is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the publisher’s website, Sermon on the Mount Publishing. It is the third volume in the Cross Bearers Series, which also features earlier Anabaptist leaders Conrad Grebel and Michael Sattler.

Readers interested in following my continuing research and writing are encouraged to sign up for my free e-mail newsletter here.

Thank you to Andrew for this insightful interview. Don’t forget to enter to win by commenting below, and check back here for the winner next week.

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    1. Beverley Simpson

      Very Interesting

      I would like to know more about this man whose legacy remains to this day.

    2. Larry Lepard

      Glad to see a book about Amman

      I am glad there is a new go-to book about Amman. I am a volunteer at Mission to Amish People.

    3. Michael Wayne McDill

      Jakob Ammann

      Jakob Ammann book looks very interesting.

    4. John Brown


      Your article has certainly interested me in learning more about Amman

    5. Scott Stephenson

      Jakob was the founder of the Amish

    6. Mary Counts

      Book about Jakob Ammann

      Sounds like an interesting read. I love learning about different Religions.

    7. Lynda Runkle

      Anabaptist background

      Having descended from an Anabaptist family, I would find reading Jakob Ammann’s biography fascinating.

    8. Joy Wolfe

      Jakob Ammann

      I have traveled many times to the Amish communities in Ohio. My husband and I truly find the area and the Amish and Mennonite people welcoming and interesting too. This is the first time I have heard of Jakob Ammann. I would be very interested in reading more.

    9. Susan Boyd

      I am very interested in the Amish and their lifestyle. I would love to read about Jakob Ammann and learn the beginnings of the Amish people.

    10. Karen Thoman

      Jakob Ammann

      I would love to read this book. Thank you.

    11. Who Was Jakob Ammann? Q-and-A & Book Giveaway

      As my grandmother spoke Pennsylvania Dutch and was a member of an anabaptistic sect. I’d really like to rad this book.

    12. Jenny-Lynn Fricke

      Jakob Ammann

      I would love to know more about Jakob I have lived in Ohio and have heard of him but don’t know all about him but would love to.

    13. Amos Yoder

      Sounds interesting

      I would be interested in how they found some of the historical information they mention.

    14. Mary Watson


      Thanks for this interesting information. I enjoyed reading it!

    15. Dale H Wenner

      From Quakers and Shakers to Amish

      I would love to learn more about this unique individual. If it’s meant to be….so be it!

    16. Jerry Guiser

      Really intriguing!

      Before reading this article, I only knew his name. I know more now but really hope to learn more! Great job to the author!

    17. Jamie Prough

      Jakob Ammann Book

      I would love to read this book. Thank you for the opportunity.

    18. Pat Thompson

      Interested in learning

      An Amish community is closeby. I am always interested in different groups of people.

    19. Cathy Bloodsworth

      book giveaway

      I have been interested in learning about the Amish. I enjoy reading Amish book. Would love to read this book about who started the Amish church.

    20. Ken Pack

      Anxious to see what this author of integrity and excellence has to reveal concerning a man who has heretofore been known more as legend than human. Thank you, sir!

    21. Nyla Evans


      I found this article interesting.
      I would love to read this book then Share it with my small county library.

    22. Brenda Wahl

      Interesting book

      Looks like interesting book on Amish history. Always interested in learning more.

    23. Anne-Marie Ramsey

      Jakob Ammann

      Sounds like a fascinating book! Cannot wait to read it!

    24. Derek J Stratelak

      New Stuff!

      And I thought the Amish were from Germany! NO! the article above says Switzerland and France! But why do they speak German? Was this area very close to what is now Germany? I hope this book answers some of these questions!

    25. Martha Smith

      Jakob Ammann

      I would love to learn more about Jakob and the division in the churches.

    26. My Amish ancestors

      My family was one of the first Swiss-Amish families to settle Ohio and I would like to learn more about the Amish.

    27. Clarence Voth

      Life of Jakob Ammann

      Thanks for the information about Jakob Ammann. We are planning to move to the Amish Community where I was raised in Oklahoma. I am always interested in learning more about the Amish.

    28. Christine Moenke

      Anxious to read this book

      I love traveling to Lancaster,Pa. I an anxious to learn the history of the Amish. It sounds like this is just the book I need to increase my knowledge of the Amish and where they came from.

    29. Merrillyn Watts

      Want to know more

      I live in an Amish community in southern Maryland and am a driver. I enjoy my relationship with the Amish and would love to learn more. I enjoy this website very much and I have learned a lot. Thank you for your postings

    30. Phyllis Johnson


      This is very interesting and something I knew nothing about. Thanks.

    31. Jim Reed

      Tour Guide

      I am a tour guide in Lancaster County, Pa an would love to read your book and learn more about Jacob

    32. judy melish

      Interesting Amish

      Will definitely be reading this book.

    33. Min. T. Miller

      The Cover Picture is Wrong

      The picture on the cover has Jakob Amman wearing a moustache. Wrong. Real wrong. Amish do not wear moustaches, and neither did Jakob Amman. Anabaptists would not wear a moustache because the military of the day wore large ones, and the Anabaptists did not wish to be identified with the military. That belief continues.

    34. Jakob Ammann

      I have researched, written about, and lectured on the Anabaptist church for several years.It still amazes me that the namesake of the Amish religion, Jakob Ammann, has left us with so little history and writings. Quite unlike men like Martin Luther. I am looking forward to reading this book.

    35. David G Krehbiel

      Information about Jakob Ammann

      I have known about Jakob Ammann all my life and read some about him. I would be interested in his story and his work in the start of the Amish church.

    36. Marcia Taylor

      Interested in reading this

      I will be taking a tour of Switzerland, Austria and southern Germany in 2022. A few days of the tour is dedicated to learning about the Anabaptist movement and visiting several of the historic places. This would be great background information.

    37. CoraVee Caswell


      Thank you for an interesting and informative article! It sounds like a good book to read!

    38. Book

      I was writing a non fiction book about my journey with the Amish. I interviewed approximately 40 Amish and Mennonite families from southern, md. I started writing about the first Amish Jacob Amman band would love to know more for my book!

    39. Esther Schmucker

      Who Was Jakob Ammann?

      I would like to read this book.

    40. Zac Mirecki

      Interesting genealogy

      This is a wonderful overview of the man behind a somewhat enigmatic faith tradition. As an outsider looking in, I’m extremely interested in the history of Anabaptist and the “third way” of Jesus. As a confirmed – but not practicing – Roman Catholic, I think the Amish, Hutterite, Mennonite life and faith to be a breath of fresh air. It’d certainly be a worthy project to trace Amman’s relatives to see what relationships may turn up!

    41. Leonard Hanson


      I thought my recitation of history was better than I realized
      Thank you for the insight am looking forward for the reading of this book

    42. AngelaRose A. Howard

      Learning about Jakob Ammann

      Have much appreciated and enjoyed this greater introduction to Amish history.
      Amish-world romances have well-acquainted me with the people, so to “meet” the founder more fully is welcome.
      A read which would be a worth-reading “freebie”.

    43. Amish Book Giveaway

      I have always been fascinated with the lifestyle of the Amish and would be absolutely delighted to have a book about their origins.

    44. Mary Butikofer


      Thanks so much for this information as I give tours of our local Amish community. You never know what questions will be asked and I am now even better prepared!

    45. Very interesting

      This book sounds like it is full of great info about Jakob Amman. I would love to read it and learn more.

    46. Love to get this book

      I would love to get this book. I am a teacher at Evergreen Colony School near Faulkton, S.D. and would like to have this book so my students and I could read it. I recently had my 8th graders do a family tree of their family as well as of their colony. They were excited.

      1. Kathy Wendt

        Further information.

        My colony is Hutterite which is a break off of the Amish and they are interested in the Amish.

        1. Min. T. Miller

          Hutterites are not a break off from the Amish.

          With all due respect, the Hutterites (named after Jakob Hutter) were not a break off from the Amish. Hutterites have been around since 1528. It would be a couple centuries before the time of Jakob Ammann and the Amish. It is true that Amish, Mennonites, and Hutterites are all Anabaptists.

    47. Diane Sattazahn

      Who Was Jakob Ammann?

      Would just love to know more.

    48. Shirley LeBlanc


      I am very eager to read this intriguing book about Jakob Amman.

    49. Tim

      Wow, finally a book on the life of Jakob Ammann.
      I believe this will be a very popular book.
      Thank you!

    50. Jakob Ammann

      I would really like to read this book. It sounds fascinating. Thanks for this posting and the giveaway.