Zillerthal Evangelicals

Protestant residents of Zillerthal, one of the Tyrol valleys, who seceded from the Roman Catholic Church and migrated to Prussia in the 1830s. Though Zillerthal was not officially Tyrolean until 1816, the people felt themselves to be Tyroleans even before the Protestant Reformation. For centuries, however, the valley had been under the archbishopric of Salzburg. A Baptist movement had been totally suppressed early in the seventeenth century, but a strong Lutheran group would not yield to the Catholic pressures. From certain other Austrian provinces Protestants had emigrated en masse in search of a land where religious toleration was practiced. Tyrol, however, had been traditionally more lenient and had avoided such mass migrations. But late in the seventeenth century two brothers named Stainer of Mairhofen preached the evangelical doctrine in the Ziller valley with such effect that the Catholic hierarchy was alarmed. Over a period of several generations they attempted by various means, including both teaching and harassment, to regain the people's loyalty. Their efforts never fully succeeded. When a Prussian court preacher named Strauss visited with them, he was so favorably impressed that he arranged for them to migrate to Prussia. In 1837 they set out in six wagons, arriving in Schmiedaberg in October of that year. They established a colony at Erdmannsdorf.