Mennonite history

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Len Bechtel

(Photo: Len Bechtel / Mennonite Archives of Ontario)

Len Bechtel, front, is pictured with a portable saw he and other conscientious objectors (COs) designed near Vancouver during the Second World War. As oil supplies dwindled due to the war, this group of workers with mechanical aptitude in the Alternative Service program were pulled aside from forestry work to help supply Vancouverites with wood for the winter.

George Brunk

Photo: Mennonite Archives of Ontario

In 2001, evangelist George Brunk II, left, reflected on his 65-year-long ministry. Brunk’s style of revival meetings disrupted Mennonite communities. In a public talk at Conrad Grebel College he recalled, “At a time when Mennonite preachers stood still behind the pulpit, I would wander across the stage, carrying the microphone . . .

Century-old photos shed new light on Mennonites

Johann E. Funk took the cover photo for Mennonite Village Photography: Views from Manitoba 1890–1940 in 1903.

Photographer Peter H. Klippenstein took this portrait in the 1910s. Subject unknown. (Mennonite Heritage Archives photo)

Peter H. Klippenstein took this photo of the Altbergthal village road in the 1930s. Subjects unknown. (Mennonite Heritage Archives photo)

Peter G. Hamm took this photo of a horse and wagon in the 1920s. (Mennonite Heritage Archives photo)

Hundred-year-old images on fragile glass negatives, discovered in a dusty barn in the heritage village of Neubergthal, Man., open a window to Mennonite life in Manitoba in the early 20th century.

Canadian Foodgrains Bank meeting

Photo: Robb Nickel / Mennonite Heritage Archives / MCC collection

The Canadian Foodgrains Bank had its beginnings in 1975 as the Mennonite Central Committee Food Bank. In November 1982, representatives of 10 Christian denominations met to discuss plans for an inter-church foodgrains bank. Among those at the meeting, pictured left to right facing the camera, were Frank H. Epp, J.M. Klassen and C. Wilbert Loewen.

CO foresters

Photo: David T. Wall Collection / Mennonite Heritage Archives

Conscientious objectors (COs) played an important role on the Canadian volunteer scene during the Second World War. Among the assignments was work in the forests around Banff, Alta., clearing trees. Surprisingly, much of the parks system in Canada was established by these people, some of whom were less than willing to be there or do the work.

Mennonite resistance

(Photo: Richard Sutton, Kitchener-Waterloo Record/ Mennonite Archives of Ontario)

Tourists attempt to photograph boys outside of the Elmira Old Order Mennonite Meetinghouse, circa 1970. The boys are using a hand mirror to thwart their efforts. The photo appeared in the local newspaper with the caption “Mennonite Resistance.” After the Second World War, urban Canadians embraced rural tourism.

Updated history of Mennonites in Canada commissioned

Mennonites in Canada, Volumes 1-3, by FRank H. Epp and T.D. Regehr

The last time a history of Mennonites in Canada was published, it covered the period from 1920 to 1970—the year Pierre Trudeau was prime minister, Canada was converting to the metric system, the federal voting age was lowered to 18, and the October Crisis rocked Quebec.

It was a long time ago, in other words.

Historical society discusses new projects

The Mennonite Historical Society of Canada met at Camp Peniel in the Laurentians north of Montreal on Jan. 17 and 18. (Photo by Roy Draper)

The Mennonite Historical Society of Canada (MHSC) met in Quebec on Jan. 17 and 18 and discussed several new projects, including a history book of Mennonites in Canada since 1970 and a cross-Canada celebration of the centenary of the arrival of Russian Mennonites in 2023.

Old photo

Photo: Mennonite Genealogy Inc. Photo Collection

Photography in generations past was a very deliberate, expensive and intense hobby. Special equipment, such as chemicals, film, lighting and the camera itself, was needed. Photographers often had to develop their own photos, which meant they had to have a dark room.

Twilight Auction

Photo: David L. Hunsberger/ Mennonite Archives of Ontario

In this scene from Twilight Auction by John L. Ruth, young Harvard-educated Sam confronts his traditional Mennonite family’s willingness to sell treasured family heirlooms. Doug Millar, left, is the father, and Dale Shantz, holding the vase, plays Sam in this 1969 Conrad Grebel College production.

David Neufeld

Photo: Mennonite Heritage Archives / David P. Neufeld Fonds

You can find all kinds of things in the archives, including humour.  In a report dated Jan. 25, 1963, Rev. David P. Neufeld wrote, “During the course of the last year I have come to sympathize with a man who was called to be the executive secretary of one of our larger denominations [U.S. Protestant Episcopal Bishop, Stephen F. Bayne Jr.]. . . .

Cornelius Penner

Photo: Joel Landau, United Press International

In 1944, Cornelius Penner was separated from his wife and four children in Poland. He was sent to a German work camp while the rest of the family was taken to Siberia and later Tajikistan. Cornelius came to Winnipeg in 1949, and worked at the Mennonitische Rundschau newspaper.

MCC annual meeting

Photo by Charmayne Denlinger Brubaker / Mennonite Heritage Archives.

In 1984, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) held its annual meeting in Richmond, British Columbia. Pictured from left to right are board members Hugo Jantz, Leo Driedger, Henry P. Yoder, Bruce Janzen and Florence Driedger. Money is a form of power. With it, a person or organization can fulfill needs and wants. How does God want us to use this power?

Westgate students at rally

(Photo: The Canadian Mennonite / Mennonite Archives of Ontario)

In 1968, 115 Westgate Mennonite Collegiate students joined 2,000 members of Students for Educational Equality and Democracy (SEED) for a rally at the Manitoba legislature in Winnipeg. These students of private and parochial schools were seeking provincial funding, as recommended by a royal commission in Manitoba a decade before.

Ted Regehr

Photo: The Canadian Mennonite / Mennonite Archives of Ontario

At the Public Archives in Ottawa in 1968, Ted Regehr, head of the Government Records Section, standing, helps research assistant Ernie Dick locate government files related to Mennonites. The two were assisting historian Frank H. Epp with a monumental history of Mennonites in Canada project.

Rosengart church

(Photo: Mennonite Heritage Archives / Lawrence Klippenstein photo collection)

Mennonites lived in Prussia/Poland for more than 400 years, but our understanding of the Mennonite experience in this area requires further study. This is the former Mennonite church at Rosengart (now Rozgart), near Elbing (now Elblag). Peter Klassen (1930-2019) has worked hard at shedding light on the Mennonite experience in Prussia.

Event explores Jews, Mennonites and the Holocaust​​​​​​​

Wally and Millie Kroeker of River East (MB) Church talk to presenter Aileen Friesen, right, at ‘ Jews, Mennonites and the Holocaust,’ a public presentation at the Asper Jewish Community Centre in Winnipeg on Nov. 5. (Photo by John Longhurst)

About 80 years ago, Jews and Mennonites lived peacefully together in the Ukrainian city of Khortitsa. Then the Nazis came, and everything changed.

In 1941, before the invasion, Khortitsa had about 2,000 Mennonites and 402 Jews out of a population of about 14,000. A year or so later, the Jews were all gone, killed by the Nazis.

Speed sprayer

Photo credit: The Canadian Mennonite / Mennonite Archives of Ontario

Readers raised on fruit farms—including this archivist—may remember the high-pitched whine of an orchard pesticide sprayer in action. Pictured, Peter J. Sawatzky of Ruthven, Ont., is operating a “speed-sprayer” in his apple orchard.

Bethel Bible Institute

Photo: By Rudy Regehr / Mennonite Heritage Archives

Can you help identify these three men at Bethel Bible Institute (BBI)? Is John Poettcker in the centre? The formation of Bethel in Abbotsford, B.C., was proposed in 1937 at the ministers conference of the Conference of United Mennonite Churches of B.C.

Centennial celebration

Photo: Mennonite Heritage Archives / Lawrence Klippenstein photo collection

New Canadian initiatives around multiculturalism in the 1970s—celebrating anniversaries like Canada’s centennial in 1967, Manitoba’s in 1970, and the arrival of Mennonites in Manitoba in 1974—created a new energy and appreciation for history in Canada. During these years, the Mennonite Heritage Centre and the Archives of Ontario hired permanent staff.

Cayuga church

Photo: James Reusser / Mennonite Archives of Ontario

From halfway across the world, a loyal MAID watcher noticed an error. This was not the Rainham church in 1965, as originally labelled by the photographer, but South Cayuga Mennonite Church, Dunnville, Ont. Comparing it to another photo of South Cayuga, he urged us to “look at the west end of this meetinghouse.

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