Grove, Elmer David (1925-1987)

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Elmer and Ella Grove wedding photo, 1945.
Family photo

Elmer David Grove, minister, bishop, missionary and a founder of the Conservative Mennonite Church of Ontario, was born 27 April 1925 in Markham, Ontario, Canada to Russell Grove (5 October 1895-12 May 1975) and Annie Byer Grove (22 July 1899-23 July 1996). He was the third child and oldest son in a family of two sons and three daughters. His younger brother was Merlin Grove, who died as a missionary in Somalia in 1962. On 7 November 1945 Elmer married Ella Magdalena Wideman (6 January 1922-18 February 2016). They had three daughters and one son -- Carol, Marion, Kenneth and Dixie. Elmer died on 18 June 1987 following an earlier automobile accident. Elmer and Ella Grove are buried in the Riverside Cemetery, New Hamburg, Ontario.

Elmer Grove grew up on the family farm, and attended a nearby one-room school, and probably attended the Markham District High School for a time. His family attended and were members at the Wideman Mennonite Church. Of a conservative mindset, Elmer wore a plain coat at his wedding.

In 1948 the family moved to Virginia, USA so that Elmer could attend Eastern Mennonite College (EMC). After three years of study he took time off to teach at the Bank Mennonite School. He also owned and operated a small peach farm. He graduated from EMC with an AB degree in Bible in 1955.

Elmer Grove accepted a pastoral position at the Baden Mennonite Church in Baden, Ontario and was ordained as a minister on 10 April 1955 by Bishop Moses Roth. As well Elmer and Ella Grove operated a small turkey and pig farm. Grove's conservative emphasis on matters of church discipline was ultimately rejected by most of the Baden congregation. In 1960 Elmer Grove, along with bishops Curtis Cressman, Moses Roth and three other ordained men, withdrew from the Mennonite Conference of Ontario and formed what became the Conservative Mennonite Church of Ontario. The cause for their withdrawal was the decline in the levels of nonconformity enforced by the conference in matters of dress, jewelry, and assimilation in the larger society. Cressman and Grove gave congregational leadership to the newly-established New Hamburg Conservative Mennonite Church.

The early years of the congregation experienced much internal conflict as it tried to sort out its relationship to the Nationwide Fellowship Churches movement of conservative Mennonite congregations across North America. The Fellowship churches wanted all radios removed from homes, and a stronger discipline on cape dresses for women and plain coats for men than had been practiced in Ontario churches. Elmer Grove took the stricter position in this conflict that ultimately led to division in the New Hamburg congregation when a portion of it left to form the Grace Mennonite Fellowship in 1976.

On 23 May 1971 Elmer Grove was ordained as bishop of the New Hamburg District of the the Conservative Mennonite Church of Ontario, which included the Lakeview, Hillview, Calton, New Hamburg, and Fairview, Michigan congregations.

In 1975 Elmer travelled with others to India to explore the possibilities for a mission outreach. A mission station ultimately began in Susdega. The first families moved to India in 1979, and Elmer and Ella Grove travelled to India numerous times for extended periods of time. However, all the mission workers needed to leave the country in 1983.

In retirement Elmer and Ella Grove operated a jam business on their farm, and Elmer continued to accept preaching appointments up to within a week of his accident.

Elmer Grove's deep convictions led him to speak boldly about the spiritual issues he saw in the Mennonite communities. He was an influential leader who was used widely in conservative Mennonite circles as an evangelist and participant in Bible conferences.


Martin, Edgar M. "Elmer D. Grove (1925-1987)" The Historical Journal 25, 1 (April 2019): 4.

Martin, P. Dean. Unpublished manuscript on the history of the Conservative Mennonite Church of Ontario in the possession of the author.

"Grove, Ella Magdalena." Mark Jutzi Funeral Home Ltd. 20 February 2016. Web. 1 May 2019.

"Rev. Elmer David Grove." SAGA (Swiss Anabaptist Genealogical Association) Genealogical Website. Web. 1 May 2019.

"Russell (Reesor) Grove." SAGA (Swiss Anabaptist Genealogical Association) Genealogical Website. Web. 1 May 2019.

Author(s) Samuel J Steiner
Date Published May 2019

Cite This Article

MLA style

Steiner, Samuel J. "Grove, Elmer David (1925-1987)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. May 2019. Web. 19 Jun 2021.,_Elmer_David_(1925-1987)&oldid=164985.

APA style

Steiner, Samuel J. (May 2019). Grove, Elmer David (1925-1987). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 June 2021, from,_Elmer_David_(1925-1987)&oldid=164985.

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