Cornelsen, Abraham (1826-1884)

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Abraham Cornelsen, an outstanding elder in the Mennonite Brethren Church, was born in Grossweide, Molotschna settlement, Ukraine, South Russia, on 11 August 1826, the oldest son of Abraham and Aganetha Cornelsen. His parents had at least one other son, John, who taught school in Russia and later immigrated to the United States and farmed. Abraham married Agnetha Gaede on 1 February 1849, and taught school in Elisabethtal. Ten sons and three daughters were born to them; three sons were still living in 1954.

Abraham Cornelsen pioneered for the cause of evangelical Christianity in the Molotschna settlement, showing warm interest in the Bible studies and missionary rallies conducted by Eduard Wüst. He is reportedly the one who administered the Lord's Supper as a layman to a small group who had gathered in a private home in Elisabethtal in December 1859, and later drew up the document of secession signed by the 18 charter members of the Mennonite Brethren Church, 6 January 1860, with his signature as the first. At the same meeting on 6 January he was elected as one of the three who were to represent the new group before ecclesiastical as well as governmental agencies. Under pressure of the colonial inspector of the Russian government he and the other two representatives of the new group signed a promise not to separate themselves from the established Mennonite Church, nor to engage in any religious activity in opposition to the elders, without first obtaining permission of the Russian government. This signature prevented him from taking any further leading part in the establishment of the Mennonite Brethren Church until after it had been recognized by the government. Because of his association with the new group, he had to withdraw from teaching in the Molotschna and settled in the Don area, where he was elected to the ministry and later ordained elder of a group which later joined the Baptists. From here he immigrated to America in 1879 and settled at Ebenfeld, Marion County, Kansas, and became elder of the Ebenfeld Mennonite Brethren Church. He traveled through many of the M.B. churches in Russia as well as in America, winning the hearts of his hearers by his fervent yet loving pulpit ministry.

He died in Ebenfeld on 24 September 1884 and was buried in the Mennonite Brethren cemetery at Ebenfeld.


Friesen, Peter M. Die Alt-Evangelische Mennonitische Brüderschaft in Russland (1789-1910) im Rahmen der mennonitischen Gesamtgeschichte. Halbstadt: Verlagsgesellschaft “Raduga“, 1911.

Harms, J. F. Geschichte der Mennoniten Brüdergemeinde. Hillsboro, 1924.

Isaak, Franz. Die Molotschnaer Mennoniten. Halbstadt, 1908.

Lohrenz, J. H. The Mennonite Brethren Church. Hills­boro, 1950. Available in full electronic text at:

Regier, Peter. Kurzgefasste Geschichte der Mennoniten Brüder-Gemeinde. Berne, 1901.

Author(s) Jacob J Toews
Date Published 1953

Cite This Article

MLA style

Toews, Jacob J. "Cornelsen, Abraham (1826-1884)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 18 Oct 2021.,_Abraham_(1826-1884)&oldid=163521.

APA style

Toews, Jacob J. (1953). Cornelsen, Abraham (1826-1884). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 October 2021, from,_Abraham_(1826-1884)&oldid=163521.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 715-716. All rights reserved.

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