Mennonite history

Home children

Photo: MCC Ontario/Mennonite Archives of Ontario

George Bryant (standing) was a long way from the home of his birth when he posed with the Katie and Christian Bender family in about 1917. George was a British home child who arrived from Liverpool in 1907 and was sent to Stratford, Ont., for “distribution” to a local family. He believed his mother had died, but as an adult he discovered she was alive.

Forestry service and fun

Photo: John P. Dyck Photograph Collection / Mennonite Heritage Archives

Old black and white photos often leave us with the impression that past generations were dour and rigid, and had no fun. But life was lived in full colour, was complex with multiple hues, people had a sense of humour, and they had fun. This photo came from John P. Dyck of Winnipeg and it depicts a group of young men goofing off during their forestry service in Russia in 1912.

Epp Garage

Der Bote Photograph Collection / Mennonite Heritage Archives

The Epp Garage in Fiske, Sask., suffered a devastating fire. When material, like this photograph, comes to the archives with little or no information, we can often learn about it from its context—the other “stuff” that comes with it. But in this case there was no contextual information. We don’t know the family, owner, photographer or date, to help us fully identify this photo.

A Bible comes home

Visitors examine the historic Bender Bible, which was returned to Canada 90 years after it left Ontario. Conrad Grebel University College held a ‘homecoming’ event on May 12, 2018, which included the story of how the Bible originally arrived in Upper Canada in 1832. (Photo by D. Michael Hostetler)

Descendants of Jacob and Magdalena Bender examine the historic Bender Bible, held by Laureen Harder-Gissing, archivist of the Mennonite Archives of Ontario. (Photo by D. Michael Hostetler)

A unique feature of the 274-year-old Bender family Bible are the hand-written inscriptions with family names and birthdates. In 1831, the Bible travelled from southern Germany with Amish Mennonite immigrants Jacob and Magdalena Bender, arriving in Upper Canada in 1832. (Photo by D. Michael Hostetler)

Archivist Laureen Harder-Gissing and historian Fred Lichti examine the the historical Bender Bible, which was recently returned to Canada. It was first brought to Upper Canada in 1832 by Amish Mennonite immigrants Jacob and Magdalena Bender but spent 90 years in an archive in the U.S. (Photo by D. Michael Hostetler)

Archivist Laureen Harder-Gissing points out details of the Bender Bible to Virginia Hostetler. The historic Bible was brought to Upper Canada in 1832 by Amish Mennonite immigrants Jacob and Magdalena Bender, Hostetler’s ancestors from six generations back. (Photo by D. Michael Hostetler)

Descendants of Ivan and Beatrice Bender pose with the Bender Bible, a family heirloom, and the passport of their ancestor Jacob Bender, who brought the Bible to Canada in 1832, along with his wife Magdalena and their children. Pictured from left to right, back row: Grace Bender and Daniel Bender; middle row: Geoline Bender, Richard Bender, Mary Ann Bender, Laurel Bender-Lloyd and Sarah Clemmer; and front row: children Oliva Clemmer, Mason Clemmer and Benjamin Bender. (Photo by D. Michael Hostetler)

A historic Froschauer Bible, printed in 1744, found its way to the Mennonite Archives of Ontario, thanks to the efforts of archivist Laureen Harder-Gissing and local historians Fred Lichti and Catherine Schlegel (not pictured). It is informally known as the Bender Bible because it was brought to Upper Canada by Amish Mennonite immigrants Jacob and Magdalena Bender, in 1832. (Photo by D. Michael Hostetler)

On May 12, some 125 people gathered at Conrad Grebel University College for an unusual homecoming celebration—for a Bible. This large, centuries-old book is a part of Ontario Amish Mennonite history.

Bluffton archivist tells story of Ephrata ‘Martyrs Mirror’

Bluffton University archivist Carrie Phillips holds a copy of the 1748 edition of the Martyrs Mirror, printed in Ephrata, Pa. (Bluffton University photo)

At Bluffton (Ohio) University’s Musselman Library, archivist Carrie Phillips stores seven copies of the 1748 edition of the Ephrata Martyrs Mirror in boxes specially designed to keep them preserved. But this year, Phillips had multiple opportunities to take the books off the shelf and showcase both their religious and historical significance during presentations on and off campus.

Brubacher House opening

Photo: Mennonite Archives of Ontario

Tea is served on the front porch of Brubacher House Museum at its opening in 1979. The University of Waterloo, Ont., acquired the house and land to expand its campus. In 1968, the house suffered a devastating fire, but it was rebuilt with the help of Mennonite craftsman Simeon Martin.

Carling Heights

Photo: Mennonite Archives of Ontario

This is the view that greeted Amish Mennonite farm boys Dan and Willie Brenneman when they were apprehended by military police and detained at the Carling Heights Military Camp in London, Ont. Despite their conscientious objector status, they were taken while working in a field in East Zorra Township in May 1918.

Shoplifting

Photo: MCC Ontario / Mennonite Archives of Ontario

Under the watchful eye of a Kitchener, Ont., store owner, a teenager browses the record collection. Shortly, she will slip one into her bag, and the owner will catch her in the act of shoplifting.

UWinnipeg Fellowship to crack open KGB archives

The new fellowship is named in honour of the late Paul Toews, who was the resident historian of the Mennonite Heritage Cruise that took thousands of Mennonite “pilgrims” on a journey back to Ukraine. (Photo courtesy of University of Winnipeg)

In the 1930s, thousands of Mennonites disappeared in the Soviet Union without a trace. The KGB archives in Ukraine has thousands of files on these missing Mennonites, and a newly announced University of Winnipeg Fellowship wants to crack into these archives to uncover the stories of lost relatives, ancestors and much more.

OK Economy Store

Katie Funk Wiebe Photo Collection / Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies

“In the spring of 1928, not quite 15 years after the settlement had begun, Jake Funk opened the new red-brick store on a prominent corner of Main Street in Blaine Lake, Sask.

Singing off the wall

Photo courtesy of the United Church Publishing House / Mennonite Archives of Ontario

The phrase “singing off the wall,” referring to singing from projected words rather than a hymn book, first appeared in Canadian Mennonite in 2010. This image shows that the practice went back much further. Stirling Avenue Mennonite Church in Kitchener, Ont., recently donated a collection of glass “lantern slides” probably in use circa 1924-45.

‘Along the Road to Freedom’ exhibit tours Alberta

Tim Wiebe-Neufeld stands beside the Ray Dirks painting that tells the story of Maria Friesen Neufeld, his great grandmother, one of the courageous Mennonite women who brought their families out of the hardships and terror of the Soviet Union in the early 1900s. (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)

Nettie Dueck, one of four Along the Road to Freedom committee members, travelled from Winnipeg to Edmonton to be at the opening program at King’s University in Edmonton. Dueck is standing beside the Ray Dirks painting that tells her mother’s story. (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)

Dave Toews, left, Edmonton exhibition and Alberta tour organizer for the Along the Road to Freedom exhibit, meets Lois Mitchell, Alberta’s lieutenant governor, right, at a private viewing and discussion at King’s University on Dec. 3, 2017. (Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld)

On Dec. 2, 2017, more than a hundred people gathered at Edmonton’s King’s University for the opening of the Along the Road to Freedom art exhibit. This was the first of three stops in Alberta that will end in the spring. 

Abraham Dick

Photo by Sarah Dyck, Mennonite Archives of Ontario

When Abraham Dick broke his back in 1938, the family struggled to keep up with the work on their farm near St. Agatha, Ont. Then one day in early November, they were surprised to hear the roar of tractors. Many neighbours had shown up unannounced to do the fall plowing.

Sieburg women

Who are these five women from Siegburg, Germany, in 1919? We don’t know for certain, but on Jan. 13, soldier Gordon Eby wrote that he and an army buddy “called at the home of the Krohn family—Hubertina, Maria, Lena, Katie and Bettie.” Eby was a long way from his home and Mennonite roots in Kitchener, Ont., when his battalion was quartered in Germany after the Armistice.

Rabbit Lake church

Photo by C. F. Klassen, Centre for Mennonite Brethren Studies

The Hoffnungsfelder Mennonite Church in Rabbit Lake, Sask., 1938. In 1941, 87 percent of Mennonites were rural dwellers. By 1971, the number crashed to 53 percent and has continued to decline. There has been a massive shift in Mennonite communities toward urbanization, bringing with it new challenges and opportunities.

Microfilm

Photo: MB Herald Photography Collection, Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies

An idea mixed with passion and solid financial support were the ingredients that combined for a great accomplishment. In 1977 and ’78, young Bill Reimer from Winnipeg set out with elder statesman J.B. Toews  to cross North America in a truck and trailer microfilming congregational records.

A potluck plate full of Mennonite cultures

During his internship, Andrew Brown, centre, happened to meet John Redekop, left, and Peter Redekop, right, who were part of a group of Mennonites Brown researched. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Brown)

Andrew Brown, left, stands with members of the Mennonite Brethren Historical Commission. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Brown)

This spring I was awarded an archival internship with the Mennonite Brethren Historical Commission that allowed me to travel to various Mennonite Brethren archives in North America to learn how they work, as well as to do some of my own research.

Irene Klassen

Photo by John Klassen, Mennonite Archives of Alberta

Irene Klassen is pictured touring a sawmill at LaCrete, Alta., in September 2003, when the Mennonite Historical Society of Alberta meeting was held in the northern Alberta town. The trip was almost a thousand kilometres, so it took a long day to get there. Participants were provided with a tour of the LaCrete Mennonite Heritage Village, the Heimstaed Lodge for seniors, and the sawmill.

Mennonites, medicine, and the body

The poster for the conference, “Mennonites, Medicine and the Body: Health, Illness and Medical Research in the Past and Present,” held at Canadian Mennonite University in October 2015.

I had the privilege of participating in a conference this past weekend (Oct. 23, 24, 2015) at the University of Winnipeg hosted by Royden Loewen, the chair of Mennonite Studies. The theme was “Mennonites, Medicine, and the Body: Health, Illness and Medical Research in the Past and Present,” and it was a fascinating combination of medical, historical, literary, and theological perspectives.

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