Funk, Joseph (1778-1862)

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Joseph Funk (6 April 1778-24 December 1862), of Singers Glen, Virginia, a pioneer Mennonite publisher and music teacher in America, established the first Mennonite printing house in the United States in 1847. He was the son of Henry Funk and Barbara Showalter, born April 6, 1778, in Berks County, PA, and a grandson of Bishop Henry Funck, who came to America in 1719 and became the founder of a long line of Funks. [Some sources have given Joseph Funk's birth date as 9 March 1777 (including his tombstone), but the 6 April 1778 date comes from a family register in Funk's own hand in a copy of Heinrich Funk's Eine Restitution.... in the Menno Simons Historical Library at Eastern Mennonite University.]

Early in his boyhood the family, 13 children, moved to Rockingham County, Virginia, where Joseph spent his lifetime. He married Elizabeth Rhodes, 25 December 1804, and raised five children. His second wife was Rachel Britton; they raised nine children. In 1847 Joseph Funk established a hand printing press in his log springhouse at Mountain Valley (Singers Glen), VA, which has the distinction of being the first Mennonite printing house in the United States. Funk had unusual ability in collecting songbooks, revising sacred melodies, and conducting singing schools. He and his sons organized singing schools by the dozens in at least eleven counties in Virginia.

The writings and compilations of Joseph Funk as far as known include the following seven books and periodicals: (1) Choral Music (Harrisonburg, 1816), 88 pp., a collection of German hymns. (2) A compilation of genuine church music (Winchester, 1832), 208 pp. After the fourth edition the name was changed to Harmonia Sacra. This was Funk's most popular and famous songbook. Over 25 editions have been printed, the last edition in 1994. (3) The Confession of Faith (Winchester, 1837), 461 pp., containing also Peter Burkholder's "Nine reflections," translated by Joseph Funk. (4) A collection of Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Winchester, 1847), 364 pp.. Reprints: Singers Glen, 1851, 1855, 1859, 1868, 1872; Lancaster, 1862, 1864, 1869. This book was compiled by a committee of Virginia Mennonites and has the distinction of being the first hymnbook to be published on a Mennonite press in America and the first English hymnbook used by American Mennonites. It is sometimes called the English Mennonite Hymnbook. (5) The reviewer reviewed (Mountain Valley 1857), 309 pp., a theological discussion defending his grandfather Henry Funck's A mirror of baptism against the review of the same by Elder John Kline, a leader in the (Dunkard) Church of the Brethren. (6) The Southern musical advocate and singer's friend (Mountain Valley), a 16 page monthly periodical produced and published by Joseph Funk & Sons; 21 issues appeared altogether, the first in July 1859, and the last in March 1861. (7) J. and D. Brenneman, Hymns, 10 pp. The authors are the noted John M. and Daniel Brenneman.

Joseph Funk died 24 December 1862. He was a faithful member of the Mennonite Church (probably the Weaver congregation) and was in his day cherished by thousands for his contribution to sacred song. He has left a lasting imprint on the Mennonites of the Shenandoah Valley. The Harmonia Sacra hymnbook found wide use among Mennonites well into the 20th century.


Wayland, J. W. Joseph Funk, Father of Song in Northern Virginia. Dayton, VA, n.d., 1908, reprint from the Pennsylvania German. Wayland accepts the birth date on Funk's tombstone.

Jackson, G. P. White Spirituals in the Southern Uplands. University of North Carolina Press, 1933.

Hostetler, John A. "Joseph Funk: Founder of Mennonite Publication Work, 1847." Gospel Herald 40 (23 December 1947).

Mennonitisches Lexikon II: 19.

Author(s) John A Hostetler
Date Published 1956

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Hostetler, John A. "Funk, Joseph (1778-1862)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 26 Jun 2022.,_Joseph_(1778-1862)&oldid=147695.

APA style

Hostetler, John A. (1956). Funk, Joseph (1778-1862). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 26 June 2022, from,_Joseph_(1778-1862)&oldid=147695.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 423. All rights reserved.

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