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Sex, Evolutionary Biology, Victorian Scruples, and Religious Orthodoxy

The Victorians are famous for their civilized avoidance of the topic of sex, and Orthodoxy resists heretical ideas by holding tenaciously to doctrine.

Evolutionary biology of the popular variety is a sort of Victorian Orthodoxy.  It resists heretics like me who think that it took Someone to cause something as puzzling and delightful and inefficient and complex as sex.   It modestly changes the subject, usually to more doctrinally appropriate topics such as eras and eons.

When the devout evolutionists delicately explain the creation (Oops!  Wrong word!) of sex, the resulting theories are rather creative (Right word):  The Lottery Principle, The Tangled Bank Hypothesis, The Red Queen hypothesis, and The DNA Repair hypothesis are each wonderfully strange and problematic.  

These theories remind me of my early incoherent guesses about my origin. My ideas about sex, plus my understanding of the character of Dad and Mom, did not allow me to consider the possibility that they could have done that, and that I was the result.   So, I developed the “Mom and Dad entered a trance and were not responsible for their actions” theory and maintained my Victorian scruples and my Orthodox beliefs about my parents.

 “Inconceivable!” nicely describes the possibility that evolutionary biology will ever be able to explain chance development of sexual reproduction for even one species of plant or animal.   For evolutionary biology to work, these first trysts had to happen for all kinds of plants and animals, and they had to work.   It would be insufficient to have romance without viable, fertile offspring produced in each type of organism.    

It’s fun to try to imagine the first accidental corn seed or its evolutionary precursors.   Just how did the first pollen tubes develop at the same time the first stamen were producing the first pollen at the same time the first ears contained the first ovaries with the first female corn parts?   Scientific Orthodoxy demands that I believe anything is possible in a billion years or so, but all of those structures had to develop in a particular “becoming corn” plant or plants at a particular time.   It had to work on that occasion, and it had to keep on working.   The incredible coming together had to actually germinate a seed, and the seed had to contain the genetic material to result in all future corn plants.  (see

A 2007 publication by Gerhard Leubner describing the graphic below says:  “Seed plant pylogenetic tree considering major gymnosperm and angiosperm clades.   Note that the precise evolutionary connections between the different gymnosperm  groups are unkown and that the ancestors of angiosperms are unknown.  Typical seed types visualize steps in the evolution of the seed.”   (G. Leubner, “The Seed Biology Place”

In other words, modern Biology does not know how seeds may have developed or how the extreme diversity of seed plants sprang up so rapidly in their assigned geologic eon.   Darwin called the problem, “The Abominable Mystery.”    

As I look around this morning and see yellow tulips, and pink cyclamen, and lavender/purple pelargonium, and daffodils of all sorts, “Abominable” is not the word that comes to mind.    Maybe Mr. Darwin’s need for simple naturalistic explanations limited his quest for truth and dampened his enthusiasm for knowledge that did not fit his beliefs.     It would be a great surprise to discover that our modern scientists don’t suffer from the same sorts of bias.

I won’t hold my breath while waiting for someone to discover strong evidence for the evolution of sex through incremental change.  Rather, I expect patronizing pity for silly non-scientists like me who look around us at this amazing world and think we see evidence for design.  What nonsense to imagine that a Creator created all living things, many of them (including me) designed to reproduce in a very complicated and amazing and sometimes unmentionable way!    Heresy!

Jacob Gross

Rev. Jacob Gross, son of Rev. Jacob and Maria
Krall Gross, was born in Plumstead township, Bucks
county, Pa., Dec. 22, 1.780. The 3’ears of his child-
hood and early manhood were passed under the
parental roof of his sainted father, amid the stirring
scenes incident to and following the war of the Revo-
lution. On the farm adjoining to the Gross home-
stead lies buried the noted Tory chief, Moses Doan.


An honest, thrift}^ ^-oung laboring man, with
generous impulses, he had gained quite a competency
b}^ the time he attained his 30th year. In the year
1 8 10 he left his early home and turned his face
toward the setting sun and the North Star and
journej’ed to that then far off countr}^ (Canada) on
foot, in compan}^ with his brother John, returning
to Penns3dvania after a brief sojourn. He finally
moved to Canada after the close of the war of 1 8 1 2 , and
married Anna Moyer December 18, 18 17. He bought
and settled on the farm near Beamsville, Ont. , Canada,
which he occupied as a prosperous and well-to-do
farmer until his demise. His hospitable roof gave
shelter to the itinerant preacher and the stranger
irrespective of creed. He was not forgetful of the
Apostolic injunction : “Be not forgetful to entertain
strangers. ‘ ‘

His eventful career was not without its touch of
sorrow. The dreaded messenger, Death, entered his
home June 22, 1827, removed his wife and left
him to mourn his loss with five motherless children :
Samuel, Mary, John, Anna, Elizabeth. His sister,
Mary Nash, a widow, left her home in Tinicum,
Pa., with her little daughter Anna, for Canada, to
keep house for him and minister to the wants of his
motherless children. She proved a kind and true
foster mother to the children, who still hold her in
grateful remembrance, though long since fallen asleep,
a mother in Israel, the pride and ornament of the
minister’s home.

Rev. Jacob Gross married a second time, to Salome,
daughter of Elder vSamuel and Susanna Bleam Moyer,
of Hilltown, Bucks county, Pa., August 23, 1830,
who died after a brief illness April 10, 1878, and lies
buried in the Evangelical graveyard at Campden, Ont.

In the 3x^ar 1833 he was elected a minister of the
Mennonite Church and later ordained bishop. He was
a faithful minister of the creed, an honest and sincere
man, who had the courage to maintain his convictions.
During his incumbency in office as bishop, a religious
controversy arose in reference to the temperance
cause, Sunday school and prayer meetings. In the

— I 14 —

year 1S49 he, with others of his congregation, left the
Mennonite Church and united with the Hvangehcal
Association, of which he continued a member and
minister until his death, November 25, 1865. He
lies buried beside his second wife in the Evangelical
graveyard at Campden, Ont., Can. Children (second
wife): Susan, Salome, Jacob ( who died in infancy,
aged 2 years and 6 months).

Gross, Jacob (1780-1865)

Jacob Gross, farmer and minister, was born 22 December 1780 in Plumstead Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania to Jacob Gross (1743-12 December 1810) and Maria Krall Gross (ca. 1752-10 February 1816). He was the fourth son and fifth child in a family of seven children (some records say six children). His father immigrated to Pennsylvania from Germany about 1763, and became a minister and bishop at the Deep Run Mennonite Church. Four of Jacob (Sr.) and Maria Gross’s sons became Mennonite ministers. Jacob, Jr. moved to Upper Canada soon after the War of 1812 and lived on a farm near Beamsville. There were strong connections to the community at The Twenty; Jacob Sr. had written the 1801 letter from Pennsylvania authorizing the settlement to ordain a minister without the presence of a bishop. On 17 December 1817 Jacob Jr. married Anna Moyer (17 July 1799-22 June 1827); they had five children. On 23 August 1830 he married Salome Moyer (9 September 1796-10 April 1878); they had three children. Jacob Gross died 25 November 1865.

Jacob and Anna Moyer worked their farm in the Beamsville area, an apparently were prosperous. In 1833 Jacob was ordained as a minister for the congregation at The Twenty; he served with Daniel Hoch. He was likely ordained by Benjamin Eby after the sudden death of Bishop Jacob Moyer in Pennsylvania in June 1833, but the exact date of the ordination is unknown. In 1834 he was ordained as bishop, again by Benjamin Eby. In 1842 the ministerial team was joined by brothers Abraham Moyer and Dilman Moyer, both sons of the late Bishop Jacob Moyer. The congregation thrived for a time, but early in the 1840s some members began to be attracted by the outreach of the Evangelical Association.

Jacob Gross and Daniel Hoch both were receptive to aspects of the spiritual renewal movements that were influencing the Mennonite community, though they differed in the degree of their openness. They encouraged Sunday school, family worship and evening prayer meetings in which leadership was sometimes taken by lay persons. Hoch, however, was concerned to keep the reforms “Mennonite,” and rejected Gross’s greater openness to inclusion of members of other denominations in the prayer meetings and services held at the meetinghouses. Indeed it appears Jacob Gross opened his home to ministers of other denominations in a way that would have offended more traditional members. The Canada Conference cautiously approved prayer meetings in 1847 if they were held “in an orderly manner.” However the congregation at The Twenty divided in 1848 between the “praying” and “non-praying” parts of the church; the latter led by the Moyer brothers. Since there were three meetinghouses in the area, it was possible for each group to worship in peace. On the advice of Benjamin Eby, the two factions also held communion separately in fall 1848.

In late 1848 Jacob Gross and many members sympathetic to renewal attended evening meetings held in Mennonite homes but led by an Evangelical Association minister. There were a number of conversions, including one of Gross’s daughters. These persons then joined the new, local, Evangelical Association congregation. Benjamin Eby silenced Jacob Gross and Daniel Hoch (along with Deacon Jacob Albrecht) in May 1849.  Jacob Gross and his family then withdrew from the Mennonites, and joined the Evangelical Association along with a significant portion of the congregation. Daniel Hoch went to found the New Mennonite Church of Canada West. Thus the local Mennonite community was broken into three parts, with a minority staying with the Canada Conference.

Jacob and Salome Gross continued in the Evangelical Association until their deaths. Although often reported otherwise, it is not correct that Jacob Gross served as an Evangelical Association minister; he was in his late 60s at the time of his move. A younger, unrelated, Jacob Gross from Pennsylvania served the Evangelical Association briefly in the Niagara area in the late 1840s.

By some measures Jacob Gross failed as a Mennonite leader in the Niagara Peninsula. His congregation splintered, and he was often overshadowed by the more dynamic Daniel Hoch. However his life and the decisions he made reflected the religious turmoil that increasingly afflicted the Mennonite community in Upper Canada. He and Salome were buried at the Evangelical cemetery at Campden, Ontario.


Burkholder, L. J. A Brief History of the Mennonites in Ontario: Giving a Description of Conditions in Early Ontario, the Coming of the Mennonites into Canada, Settlements, Congregations, Conferences, Other Activities, and Nearly 400 Ordinations; 100 Pictures of Men and Churches. [Waterloo, Ont.]: Mennonite Historical Society of Ontario, 1986: 146-147, 290.

Fretz, A. J. A Genealogical Record of the Descendants of Christian and Hans Meyer and Other Pioneers: Together with Historical and Biographical Sketches, Illustrated with Eighty-Seven Portraits and Other Illustrations. Milton, N.J.: A.J. Fretz, 1896. (accessed 16 February 2010): 112-114.

“Jacob Gross Jr.” SAGA (Swiss Anabaptist Genealogical Association) Genealogical Website. (accessed 16 February 2010)

Kauffman, Daniel. Mennonite Cyclopedic Dictionary. Scottdale, Pa: Mennonite Pub. house, 1937: 140.

Steiner, Samuel. “Becoming Canadian: Settling on the New Frontier, 1786-1849.” Unpublished paper, 2010.

Steiner, Samuel. “Assurance of Salvation or Faithful Living: Ontario Mennonites Disagree About Renewal.” Unpublished paper, 2010.

©1996-2011 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.

To cite this page:

MLA style: Steiner, Sam. “Gross, Jacob (1780-1865).” Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. February 2010. Web. 06 March 2011.

Jacob Gross (1743 – 1810)
is your 5th great grandfather
Son of Jacob
Son of Christian
Son of John W.
Son of Abraham C
Son of Mahlon Godshalk
Son of Wesley Roe