Cantonment Mennonite Mission (Canton, Oklahoma, USA)

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Cantonment, a Mennonite mission (General Conference Mennonite) among the Cheyenne people, located on the North Canada River, a few miles north of Canton, Oklahoma. The "Cantonment" once housed a division of cavalry, stationed here to guard the Cheyennes. On 2 October 1882 the empty buildings of the cantonment were turned over to the mission to be used as a school. In the mid-1950s the mission only consisted of a few government buildings, residences of officials, and two small mission buildings.

The mission school was opened in 1883 by S. S. Haury and continued until 1901 under the leadership of a number of missionary teachers. When it was abandoned because a new large government school was established near by it was decided to station a missionary in Cantonment. Rudolphe Petter and his wife Marie Gerber Petter, both natives of Switzerland, accepted this task, reduced the language to writing, and translated parts of the Bible. A chapel was built for regular worship services.

Since Cantonment was for a while also an Arapaho center, in 1897 A. Funk was appointed to this place to work among them. But the Arapaho were moving south; so it was decided to move their missionary with them, and Cantonment once more became a center only for Cheyenne mission work. At the request of Chief Oechowo, a subsidiary station was opened about ten miles from Cantonment to better serve the field, which extended 30 miles (50 km) to the west. This station, named Fonda, consisted of a chapel, a small frame house for the use of the missionary when he was there, and a small dwelling for the Indigenous assistant.

The Cantonment station had about 600 Indigenous people, who, however, lived widely scattered. Of these, 114 had been received into the church by baptism by about 1915.

Government officials often came to Cantonment to look after the economic and physical welfare of the Indigenous people, but because they had short terms they did not become personally acquainted with the Indigenous and did not understand their language. Therefore the Indigenous people came to the mission every day with all sorts of matters for advice and help. This practical help was always combined with spiritual aid.

After the Petters were transferred to work among the Cheyennes in Montana, the Albert Claassens, Bertha Kinsinger (later Mrs. Petter), and Agnes W. Williams worked here from 1914-1917. The G. A. Linscheids served at Cantonment from 1920 until the fall of 1938, when they were succeeded by the Benno Toews. They continued until the spring of 1940, when the Arthur Friesens became their successors. On 19 April 1947, they transferred to Clinton. The Alfred Wiebes then came to take over the responsibility for Canton, Longdale, and Fonda, and were still serving there in the 1950s.

Since the Indigenous population drifted away from Cantonment the old church there was razed and its material used in 1926 to build a new church at Longdale, across the river. Work at Fonda continued with a meeting in Cheyenne each Sunday. The government school at Fonda was closed in 1927 (?); the work continued there, as well as at Longdale and Canton at least to the 1950s.

In Theodor Fontane's novel Quitt (Berlin, 1891) the scene of the second part is the Cantonment Mennonite Mission.


Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 325.

Kaufman, E. G. The Development of the Missionary and Philanthropic Interest Among the Mennonites of North America. (Berne, 1931) 103-10 and 135-51.

Krehbiel, H. P. The history of the General Conference of the Mennonites of North America. Canton, Ohio : Published by the author, 1898-1938: I, 282-343.

Zieglschmid, A. "Truth and Fiction and Mennonites in . . . Quitt." Mennonite Quarterly Review 16 (1942): 223-246.

Author(s) Rodolphe Petter
Date Published 1953

Cite This Article

MLA style

Petter, Rodolphe. "Cantonment Mennonite Mission (Canton, Oklahoma, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 24 Jun 2024.,_Oklahoma,_USA)&oldid=174589.

APA style

Petter, Rodolphe. (1953). Cantonment Mennonite Mission (Canton, Oklahoma, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 June 2024, from,_Oklahoma,_USA)&oldid=174589.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 511. All rights reserved.

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