In 1732, Conrad Beissal, an immigrant from Germany, broke off from a religious group known as the Brethren in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and formed the Ephrata Community in Cocalico, Pennsylvania. When Beissal was asked to perform a baptism as proxy for a deceased person, he agreed. The practice of baptizing for the dead continued for some years among the small community.
Some claim that Joseph Smith copied the practice of baptism for the dead from this community or some other German-based sect in Pennsylvania, but there is no evidence that the practice ever spread beyond the small community or that Joseph Smith ever heard of the Ephrata Community and its practices. The magnitude of the concept supporting baptism for the dead far exceeds anything suggested by study of the group at Cocalico.