Business among the Mennonites in North America

Jump to navigation Jump to search

In the United States Mennonites entered business first, of course, in the oldest settlements in eastern Pennsylvania. Soon after the Civil War (1865 ff.) Mennonites of the Franconia Conference District entered the business of supplying butter, eggs, and fresh meats and fowl to the residents of Philadelphia as commission merchants, and many Mennonites have continued in this business very successfully down to the present time. Around the turn of the 19th century Miller, Hess and Co. (majority ownership Mennonite) was established at Akron, Pennsylvania, as a substantial shoe manufacturing business with several (five in 1953) subsidiary companies, in which Orie O. Miller was a leading figure. In the region of Biglerville and Orrtanna, near Gettysburg, several Musselman families entered the apple (and cherry) canning business, and the C. H. Musselman Company became one of the leaders in processing apple products and other fruit. The J. M. Smucker Company at Orrville, Ohio, about the same time became a leading apple butter factory, making also jellies and jams of other fruits. The Yoder Greenhouses of Wooster, Ohio, became very large producers of cut flowers. Archbold, Ohio, became a center of Mennonite woodworking industries. Berne, Indiana, had a Mennonite overall and shirt company and a furniture manufacturing company. Several Mennonite farm implement specialty factories developed, among them the Ulrich Products Corporation at Roanoke, Illinois, and the Hesston Manufacturing Co. at Hesston, Kansas. At Altona, Manitoba, several large processing mills developed, especially one for sunflower-seed oil. The large Newton (Kansas) flour mills were established by B. Warkentin (branches in Kansas City and Halstead) and R. Goerz, thus continuing the tradition established in Russia. At Manson, Iowa, the Wieston Grain Co. had three large grain elevators. This list of Mennonite manufacturers by no means exhausts the list either in type or in location, for a vast number of Mennonites entered into business throughout the length and breadth of the United States and Canada, although west of Pennsylvania agricultural pursuits still predominated in the mid-20th century.

A large number of Mennonite farmers in the 1950s operated chicken or turkey farms with capacities up to 100,000 broilers per year, and several large processing plants were established, particularly the Maplecrest firm (A. C. Gingerich) at Wellman, Iowa, and Denver, Colorado, and Pine Manor Farm (Milo and Annas Miller) at Goshen, Indiana. Elkhart County, Indiana, and the region of Harrisonburg, Virginia, became great centers for the production of broilers, and Johnson-Washington counties in Iowa a major producer of turkeys. There were also many Mennonite hatcheries, one of the largest being the Shenk Hatchery at Harrisonburg, Virginia. Numerous Mennonite feed mills were established, some very large, which produced and distributed stock and poultry feeds. In Ohio and Indiana several large stock auctions were operated by Mennonites, e.g., the Lugbill Bros, at Archbold, Ohio. A large potato chip industry was built up by Edward Snyder at Preston, Ontario. Occasionally Mennonites become commission merchants on a large scale, selling eggs, chickens, and produce to the big metropolitan markets ("butter and egg men"). Abraham Schellenberg of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, has developed a chain of grocery stores which are located in all major cities of the province. An outstanding business was developed by David Redekop and his sons in Cuauhtémoc, Mexico, which served some 10,000 Old Colony Mennonites of that area. Among the larger privately owned printing establishments is the Herald Publishing Co. of Newton, Kansas, and D. W. Friesen and Sons of Altona, Manitoba.

The list of other businesses in which Mennonites have entered is very extensive: contractors and builders, banks and finance companies, creameries and dairies, grain companies and elevators, flour mills and feed mills, milk condenseries, produce houses, and large numbers of mercantile companies, lumber companies, oil companies and service stations, plumbing shops, radio shops, drugstores, bookstores, blacksmith shops, implement companies, and many others are to be found, one or more in every Mennonite community. Fire and burial insurance have been handled largely by mutual aid organizations., but one Mennonite firm has become a rather large commercial company—the Brotherhood Mutual Fire Insurance Co. (and its subsidiary, the B. M. Life Insurance Co.) of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Who’s Who Among the Mennonites offered a classified directory of Mennonite business firms in the United States and Canada (pp. 299-314), which, though professedly not exhaustive, lists almost a thousand Mennonite business firms in 1943. Some of the towns and cities in which Mennonite enterprises were found in greater numbers or were predominant were as follows: Newton, Moundridge, Hillsboro, Kansas; Beatrice, Nebraska; Freeman and Marion, South Dakota; Altona, Steinbach, and Winkler, Manitoba. In the mid-20th century a number of Mennonite-controlled banks could be found in towns like Newton, Moundridge, and Hillsboro, Kansas, as well as other places, and in some communities Mennonites held large amounts of local bank stock and served as bank presidents and other bank officers. A unique feature were the Credit Union banks.

The cooperative movement has not made much progress in Mennonite communities, partly because of the strong Mennonite emphasis upon individual enterprise in business and a certain fear of socialism in some quarters. In a few places, however, chiefly in Manitoba, cooperative enterprises have taken the place of individual business. An outstanding illustration of a (largely) Mennonite cooperative business is Cooperative Vegetable Oils, Limited, at Altona, Manitoba.

See also Business


Numerous short descriptive articles on the business and economic aspects of North American Mennonite communities, as well as on individual business and businessmen, appeared in Mennonite Life and Mennonite Community. The following lists of articles prior to 1954 are chronologically arranged without author names.

Mennonite Life 1947-1953

These articles can be found at the Mennonite Life website at

"The Economic Life of the Berne Community." (July 1947): 19.

"The Citrus Fruit Industry of Southern California." (October 1947): 4-7.

"Mennonite Citrus Fruit Growers." (October 1947): 8.

"Sixty Years in the Banking Business." (January 1948): 38-41.

"Sunflower Rebuilds Community." (July 1949): 28-32.

"The Crosstown Credit Union." (July 1949): 32.

"D. G. Rempel’s Adventure in Toy Manufacturing." (January 1950): 41-43.

"Wiebe’s Diary—A Story of Ambition and Work." (April 1950): 24-26.

"Mennonites in South Dakota." (July 1950): I-V.

"The Grape and Raisin Industry." (October 1950): 4-9.

"The Fruit and Vegetable Industry in Ontario." (October 1950): 24-26.

"Turkey Growing in Moutain Lake." (October 1950): 35-38.

"The Mennonites in Winnipeg (Industry and Business)." (January 1951): 16, 20-23.

"Mennonite Community at Meade." (July 1951): 8-13.

"A Printery on the Prairie." (January 1952): 16 f.

"The Shafter-Wasco Community." (October 1952): 158-164.

"Mennonites of Wichita (How They Live and Work)." (January 1953): 9-11.

"From Farmer to Officer Craftsman." (January 1953): 36-38.

"The Buhler Mill and Elevator Co." (April 1953): 82-86.

"The J. G. Wiebe Lumber Co." (July 1953): 127 f.

Mennonite Community 1947-1953

"Occupations Among the Mennonites of Bucks and Montgomery Counties." (July 1947): 6 f.

"A Community Builds for 50 Years." (September 1947): 19-23.

"Dairy Industry of Elkhart County, Incorporated." (May 1948): 17-23.

"The Turkey Industry at Wellman." (November 1948): 18-23.

"The Howard-Miami Community." (December 1948): 18-21.

"Community at Gulfport, Mississippi." (January 1949): 18-23.

"Community at Hubbard, Oregon." (February 1949): 18-23.

"The Brick and Tile Industry, Hubbard, Oregon." (February 1949): 24 f.

"A Community Develops Its Own Woodcraft Industry." (July 1949): 18 f.

"A Chair Shop of My Own (Homing’s Chair Shop)." (October 1949): 24 f.

"The Poultry Industry of Elkhart County." (November 1949): 6-10.

"The Goodville Mutual Casualty Company." (February 1950): 12 f.

"The Archbold Community." (May 1950): 6-11.

"Church, Community Flourish at Pigeon, Michigan." (July 1950): 32.

"Lumbering in the Northwest." (August 1950): 6-10.

"Mennonite Contributions to Poultry Industry in Shenandoah Valley." (November 1950): 6-11.

"The Mennonites in Woodford County, Illinois." (December 1950): 6-11, 33.

"The Story of the Community at Kidron, Ohio." (March 1951): 6-11, 15.

"The Mennonite Community of Washington County, Maryland." (May 1951): 6-11, 32 f.

"New Communities in York and Adams Counties, Pennsylvania." (July 1951): 10-12.

"Growth of Industries at Hesston, Kansas." (August 1951): 6-11.

"The Mennonite Mutual Insurance Company." (September 1951): 12 f.

"Church Community in Wayne County, Ohio." (October 1951): 6-11.

"Your Visit to the Grantsville and Springs Communities, Maryland." (December 1951): 6-11.

"A Farm Community Builds Its Own Industry." (October 1952): 17-19.

Author(s) Harold S Bender
Date Published 1953

Cite This Article

MLA style

Bender, Harold S. "Business among the Mennonites in North America." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 4 Jul 2022.

APA style

Bender, Harold S. (1953). Business among the Mennonites in North America. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 4 July 2022, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 483-484. All rights reserved.

©1996-2022 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.