An unexpected family discovery led former Hesston College faculty members Sharon Cranford (Wichita, Kan.) and Dwight Roth (Hesston) to co-author a historical fiction book – Kinship Concealed: Amish Mennonite/African-American Family Connections (Legacy Book Publishing, 2013) – that documents the historical multi-racial lineage of 18th century Amish brothers John and Jacob Mast.
Cranford, an African-American Baptist, and Roth, a white Mennonite-Episcopalian, were both teaching in Hesston’s social science program in 2004 when they discovered a shared branch on their family trees. They realized their ancestors were brothers who immigrated from Switzerland to Pennsylvania in the 1750s. Roth’s ancestor, Jacob Mast, was the first Amish bishop ordained in the United States, and his brother, John, from whom Cranford descends, moved to the south where his family became slave owners in North Carolina and his grandson Reuben fathered a child with an enslaved girl.
Both Cranford and Roth say writing their ancestors’ stories was a personal experience full of growth and understanding.
Kinship Concealed can be purchased through the Hesston College Bookstore at books.hesston.edu.