Rev. David and Mary Plank

Rev. David Plank was my great grandfather's older brother. He was a leader in the Mennonite church in Western Ohio and much information on him is available from Mennonite sources. This biography appeared on page 794 of the History of Logan County, published in 1880 by O. L. Baskin, Chicago. It is one of several biographies of persons living in Union Township, and provides information on several of our Plank ancestors:

REV. DAVID PLANK, farmer and minister; P. O., Bellefontaine; was born May 15, 1833, in Mifflin Co., Penn. To give anything like a correct sketch of the Plank family in this country would necessitate reference to documents and dates which are now beyond our reach in the irretrievable past. However, in about the year 1700, or shortly thereafter, one Melcher Plank1 (the name originally was Blank; by the variation of the English pronunciation the orthography was changed to Plank), with his four sons and two daughters -- Christian, John, Jacob, Peter, Rebecca and Barbara -- emigrated from Germany to this continent, and settled about Berks Co., Penn.

His son, Christian,2 married and settled himself in that section, and had a family of six sons and two daughters -- John, Christian, Isaac, Joseph, Jacob, Samuel, Martha and Barbara.

Samuel,3 the youngest son, was born in Lancaster Co. in 1808; he married Juliana Hartzler, a native of his own county, who was born in 1819.4 They are the parents of the present generation of that name in Logan Co. They came here with six of their children -- Joseph C., David, Leah, Elizabeth, Martha and Barbara -- in October, 1845, and settled on the same farm where David resides. After they came here the family was increased by three -- Juliana, Samuel W.5 and Mary. Only two of Christian's family survive -- Martha, in Champaign Co., and Barbara, who lives near by her nephew David; they are both well advanced in years.

David's father died here, after a life of quiet usefulness, Dec. 11, 1878, and his mother April 11, 1879. David's early life was spent on the farm and attending to the various duties of the same; his marriage was celebrated with Martha Hartzler6 Feb. 14, 1856. She was born in Pennsylvania, June 9, 1836, and came to Champaign Co. with a sister in 1853. They have eight children living -- Samuel H., Salome M., Levi L., Mary E., Lydia, Juliana, Katie and David.7 Mr. Plank was ordained a minister of the Ormish Mennonite Church in this township, Oct. 19, 1859. They are now known as the "Walnut Grove" congregation. Mr. Plank is now the longest officiating minister connected with said congregation.

The following description of an innovation of Rev. Plank's was found in the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (GAMEO):

The first permanent Mennonite (MC) Sunday school in America was started by the South Union congregation near West Liberty, Ohio, by David Plank in May 1863. The record book of this Sunday school contains this statement for May 31, 1863 (translated): "J. C. Kanagy and D. Plank, ministers of the Church of God in this vicinity, have decided with the council of the church to organize a Sunday school in the name of God, for we believe quite confidently that as the fathers and mothers give us their support, much good will arise out of it." In a few years Sunday schools were established in widely scattered sections of the church and gradually became accepted as a part of the ministry of the church to its young people.

The growth of the Sunday school, however, was slow and not without serious opposition. Some of the reasons for opposing it were that it was patterned after that of other churches, was "worldly" and fostered pride, placed teaching responsibility into the hands of the laity, and was unsupported by the Bible. It is an interesting fact that through the Amish churches, which were generally not yet bound together by district conferences, the Sunday-school movement spread among the Mennonites.

GAMEO also includes the following biography of Rev. David Plank:

Plank, David (1833-1912)

David Plank (1833-1912), bishop of the South Union and Walnut Grove Amish Mennonite congregations in Logan County, Ohio, from 1895 to 1912, was born in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, the son of Samuel (later, deacon) and Juliana Hertzler Plank. With his parents he moved to Union Township, Logan County, Ohio, in 1845. In 1856 he was married to Mary Hertzler. After his ordination in 1859 he sided with the more progresssive neighboring Champaign County bishop, John Warye, in his controversy with the Logan County leaders. Always alert for new ideas and plans for Christian work, he attended a Brethren Sunday school near his home and in 1863 with the consent of his bishop and the unanimous vote of the congregation he organized in Logan County the first Amish Sunday school in America, held in an Amish meetinghouse. The next year he organized a similar school in the Hooley Amish meetinghouse in Champaign County (later known as the Oak Grove Church). He served as both superintendent and teacher for a number of years. Following the complete break between the two districts in the late 1860's he and his father had charge of the seceding Logan County group, which alternated services with the Champaign congregation and in 1875 erected the Walnut Grove Amish Mennonite Church in Union Township near Plank's home. Plank was successful in his small farming operations and had special talent in drawing, carpentry, and cabinet-making. After the bishop at South Union moved to Kansas, the congregation at that place was left without a bishop. Following the organization of the Ohio Amish Mennonite Conference in 1893 earnest efforts to reconcile differences between South Union and Walnut Grove resulted in a decision to place the Walnut Grove and South Union ministers in the lot for bishop and to ordain for both congregations whoever was chosen. David Plank was chosen and ordained in 1895 and served until his death in 1912, when A. I. Yoder, as son of the South Union minister, was installed as Plank's successor. Plank did much to heal the breach between the two factions.

Bibliography: Umble, John. "Early Sunday Schools at West Liberty, Ohio," Mennonite Quarterly Review (1930): 6-50, passim.

A lengthy biography of Rev. Plank appeared in Historical Review of Logan County, Ohio, Gen. Robert P. Kennedy, 1903, pp. 498-500. Much of its information is duplicated in other articles in these pages, but we'll reproduce it here in its entirety for historical purposes, with the only change being that we're displaying the two families' children as numbered lists:

REV. DAVID PLANK.

Only the history of the good and great comes down to us through the ages. The true religion has been the strongest influence known to man through all time, while many false doctrines have flourished only for a day and then vanished. More potent at the present than at any period in the world's history are the work and influence of Christianity, and among those who are devoting their lives to its inculcation among men is Rev. David Plank of the Amish Mennonite church, who is pastor of the churches at Walnut Grove, Union township, and South Union on the West Liberty and Bellefontaine road.

Mr. Plank was born in Miffiin county, Pennsylvania, May 15, 1833, and is a son of Samuel3 and Juliana (Hartzler) Plank. The name has undergone two changes since the family was founded in America, it being originally spelled Blanck by our subject's great-grandfather, Melcher Blanck,1 but the grandfather changed it to Planck and the father to Plank, dropping the c. The father was born in either Lancaster or Berks county, Pennsylvania, July 20, 1808, a son of Christian2 and Barbara (Yoder) Planck. Christian Planck was a native of Berks county and a son of Melchior Blanck. The birthplace of the latter was either Germany or Switzerland and there he grew to manhood and was married. Accompanying some friends on board a vessel bound for the new world, he was persuaded by the captain to remain on board over night, being told that the vessel would not start until the next day, but in the morning he found that they were far from land and then realized that they had been kidnapped. On reaching Pennsylvania, he was sold to a Mr. Morgan, living either in Lancaster or Berks county, to pay his passage. He was a farmer by occupation and a member of the Mennonite church.

Samuel Plank, our subject's father, engaged in agricultural pursuits in the Keystone state until the fall of 1845, when he came by wagon to Ohio, bringing with him his wife and six children. Before starting he had sent on a four-horse team and wagon in charge of a man and his eldest son, Joseph C., now a resident of Bellefontaine, but they were overtaken when the family reached Washington. Pennsylvania, and David remained with the wagon while the family proceeded on their journey. They arrived at their destination a few days before the wagon, which was eighteen days upon the road. Previous to this time the father had visited Logan county and purchased a farm supposed to consist of one hundred and four acres, but it was afterward found to contain almost one hundred and nine acres. Here he spent the remainder of his life.

After coming to Ohio the family circle was increased by the birth of three more children, making nine in all. They were as follows:

  1. Joseph C., now a resident of Bellefontaine, married Eliza Kerr and was engaged in farming in early life and later in carpentering;
  2. David is the next of the family.
  3. Leah married David M. Yoder and died in Champaign county, Ohio;
  4. Elizabeth married Joel Zook and died in Logan county;
  5. Martha married J. S. Yoder and lives in Mifflin county, Pennsylvania;
  6. Barbara became the wife of John Detweiler and resides in Union township, Logan county;
  7. Juliana is the wife of C. H. Yoder and makes her home in Ada, Ohio;
  8. Samuel W.5 married Elizabeth Wilhelm and was engaged in carpentering and butchering in West Liberty, where he died;
  9. and Mary wedded John C. Allgyer and makes her home in Union township.

During his boyhood Rev. Plank received a limited education. He remained with his parents upon the home farm until his marriage, which was celebrated in Union township, February 14, 1856, Miss Mary Hartzler, of Champaign county, becoming his wife. She, too, was born in Mifflin county, Pennsylvania, June 9, 1836, a daughter of Adam and Mary (Hooley) Hartzler, and was seventeen years of age when she came with her sisters to Ohio, her parents having previously died in Pennsylvania. They began their domestic life on a farm of ninety acres owned by Mr. Plank's father, and after operating that tract for six years they removed to the home farm. The father had added a ten-acre tract to the original purchase. He died on the 11th of December, 1878, and the mother passed away April 11, 1879. Our subject then purchased the interests of the other heirs and became the owner of the old homestead. There he resided until 1893, when he sold the place and removed to the ten-acre tract previously referred to, this being his present home.

Of the ten children born to Mr. and Mrs. Plank, eight reached manhood and womanhood, namely:

  1. Samuel H., born in Union township, married Hannah Byler and as a tenant is living on the old homestead;
  2. Salome M. is the wife of S. B. Plank, of Union township;
  3. Levi married Amanda D. Yoder and lives with our subject;
  4. Mary Elsie married Amos Y. Hartzler and died in Union township;
  5. Lydia is the wife of Eli Krabill and lives near Bellefontaine;
  6. Anna is at home with her parents;
  7. Katharine is the wife of Simon H. King, of Union township;
  8. and David L. is at home.

For almost half a century Mr. Plank has been preaching the gospel, being one of two who were chosen as ministers in 1859, and was at once ordained by Bishop Solomon Byler, at that time of Mifflin county, Pennsylvania. He was ordained an elder in 1895. His son, Levi L., was chosen a minister in 1901 and ordained by Elder Jonas C. Yoder, of Huntsville, and his son-in-law, Simon H. King, was ordained a deacon in the same year. Mr. Plank was a minister for several years before he ever had the pleasure of attending a Sunday-school, but at length he and a brother visited a union Sunday-school conducted at the school house No. 1. He was so favorably impressed that he at once favored the establishment of Sunday schools in the Amish church and through his instrumentality one was organized in Liberty township in June, 1863, by Bishop J. C. Kenagy, it being the first Sunday school formed in the Amish Mennonite church. Mr. Plank is an untiring worker in the interests of his church and has labored long and faithfully in the Master's vineyard. He is widely known throughout the county where he has made his home for sixty years, and is held in the highest respect and esteem by all classes of citizens.

The archives of the Ohio Mennonite Conference list David Plank as the Moderator, or as delivering the principal sermon, at several annual sessions of the Eastern Amish Mennonite Conference during the early 1900s. Rev. David Plank's obituary appeared in the Gospel Herald, 31 Oct 1912, pp 494-496:

Plank. - David, son of Samuel and Julia Plank, was born in Mifflin Co., Pa., May 15, 1833. In 1845, he with his father's family moved to Union Twp., Logan Co., O. Here he lived until the final summons came Oct. 4, 1912, and he passed away at the advanced age of 79 y. 4 m. 19 d. On Feb, 14, 1856, he was united in marriage to Mary6 Hertzler. To them were born 10 children, 7 of whom, with their mother, are left to mourn the departure of a loving father and husband. Besides his immediate family he leaves 1 brother, 4 sisters, 16 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild. He united with the Amish Mennonite Church in early manhood. In 1859 he was called to the ministry, and in 1895 was ordained bishop of the Church of his choice.

Father Plank, as a man, was inclined to look on the bright side of life, rather than brood over ills that were beyond his control. He loved flowers and the beautiful in nature. He loved children and frequently had correspondence with young people of his acquaintance. Through his interest in young people he won their respect, confidence and obedience. As a citizen he endeavored to have peace with all men and was eminently successful. To learn to know and converse with him meant to have higher ideals of life and character. All classes of people seemed ready to say, "He is a fine man." His faith in God and His Word was an inspiration for him to labor earnestly in His calling as a minister. To hear him preach meant to remember some truth he presented. Much of his success as a minister and church leader may be ascribed to his devoted prayer life, he many times resorting to the closet for the solution of some difficult problem.

He had great respect for the opinion of others but had convictions of his own from which he was not easily moved. He was firm yet kind, had "charity for all, with malice toward none." "Swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath." On a certain occasion in referring to a co-laborer he said, "We labored together for many years we differed on some things but we never quarreled." He helped organize the first permanent Sunday school in the Mennonite Church of America in 1863 and had been an active worker in the school ever since it was organized. He read and appreciated good literature and often recommended a good book to a friend. Among his last acts in this life was to send a copy of "Our Blessed Dead" to a widowed mother. He sometimes expressed himself as not being weary of life yet ready to go at the Master's call. Thus "he came to his grave in a full age like as a shock of corn cometh in his season."

"I am not weary of Thy work,
From earth I would not flee;
But while I walk and while I serve,
Oh, lift me up to Thee."
--From one of his favorite hymns.

Funeral services were held at Walnut Grove Church Sunday afternoon at 2 o'clock, conducted by Amos I. Yoder, assisted by S. E. Allgyer and John M. Shenk.

Mary (Hartzler) Plank's obituary appeared on pg 687 of the Gospel Herald for 27 Nov 1924:

Plank, Mary, daughter of Adam and Mary (Hooley) Hartzler, was born June 9, 1836, in Mifflin Co., Pa. She was the youngest of a family of 6 children, all of whom preceded her in death. Her mother died when she was 15 months old, and she was reared by her grandmother and older sisters. At the age of 17 she came to this community, near West Liberty, Ohio, and lived here for the remainder of her years.

On Feb. 14, 1856, she united in marriage with David Plank and shared this sacred fellowship for over 56 years. Her faithful husband, Bishop David Plank, entered into his eternal reward Oct. 4, 1912. To this union were born 10 children. Two died in infancy and 8 grew up to manhood and womanhood: Samuel H., Salome M. (Mrs. S. B. Plank), Levi, Mary Elsie (Mrs. A. Y. Hartzler), Lydia (Mrs. Eli Krabill), Julia Anna, Katie A. (Mrs. Simon King), and David L.

Her motherly heart received the sorrow of the death of her beloved husband and four dear children with Christian submission. She fell peacefully asleep Nov. 10, 1924 (aged 88 y. 5 m. 1 d.) leaving 6 children, 15 grandchildren, and 20 great-grandchildren. In her youth she accepted Jesus as her personal Savior and was received into the fellowship of the Amish Mennonite Church, in which faith she was found faithful unto death. She was of a quiet, retiring, peaceable disposition, always manifesting a deep concern for the well-being of her children in home and Church, for 56 years a devoted companion with her husband in the duties and responsibilities of the home, 53 years faithfully supporting him in his Christian ministry, and 63 years exercising and manifesting her mother interest, truly a noble Christian woman and mother.

Scripture lesson. Eph. 5, chosen by the departed sister, was read by A. I. Yoder. Sermons by I. W. Royer (Text, Jno. 16:33) and J. D. Mininger (Text Rev. 14:13). Remarks and closing prayer by S. E. Allgyer.

The Historical Committee of the Mennonite Church USA has a collection of Rev. David Plank's papers and provides a brief inventory of them, as well as a biographical sketch which lists his wife's name as Martha.


1 John Melchior Plank (1742?-1816) was my g-g-g-g-grandfather. His arrival in America actually occurred in the 1760s and it is likely all his children were born on this continent.
2 Christian Plank (1770-1851) was my g-g-g-grandfather.
3 Samuel Plank (1808-1878) was my g-g-grandfather.
4 This is obviously a misprint; other sources say my g-g-grandmother was born in 1810, which is more likely since her first child was born in 1831. Her family's name appears from time to time as both Hartzler and Hertzler.
5 Samuel W. Plank (1850-1891) was my great grandfather.
6 Note the discrepancies in the given name of David's wife -- was it Mary or Martha?
7 David and Mary and all of the children listed here were enumerated in Union township in the 1880 census.
This page was last updated 6 May 2011.