Harms, John F. (1855-1945)

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John F. Harms (1855-1945)

John Harms: an educator, editor, and minister of the Mennonite Brethren (MB) Church; was the only son of Jacob and Anna Foth Harms. He was born on 29 April 1855 in Kleefeld, Molotschna Mennonite settlement, South Russia. After his elementary education he attended a school in Steinbach for two years and the Zentralschule at Halbstadt for one year to prepare for the teaching profession. He taught school in the village of Lichtfelde, 1873-78. In the fall of 1873 he married Marie Isaak. To them two children were born, but in the spring of 1876 both the children and his wife died. In the fall of 1876 he married Margaret Isaak and to them five children were born.

In the summer of 1878 the family immigrated to North America, locating at Mountain Lake, Minnesota where they lived two years. In 1880 Harms went to Elkhart, Indiana, where he assisted John F. Funk in his printing establishment. At this time the Mennonitische Rundschau began to be published, and Harms became its editor for six years. For two years he attended an Evangelical college at Naperville, Illinois.

In 1884 Harms moved to Canada, Kansas, joined the Mennonite Brethren Church west of Marion, and began to publish the Zionsbote, which soon became the official organ of the Mennonite Brethren Church. He also conducted a Bible school in his own home for some time. Shortly after this he established his own printing house at Hillsboro, Kansas, where he continued his publication work.

Having already preached extensively, Harms was ordained to the ministry in 1896. During the winter of 1897 to 1898 Harms made a trip to Europe with his wife and visited many congregations in Russia and Poland. Upon their return they settled at Medford, Oklahoma, where Harms continued the publication of the Zionsbote until 1906, when it was given over to the MB Conference.

Harms was one of the most noted Mennonite Brethren Conference workers for many years, serving as its general secretary as well as a member of its Foreign Mission Committee. He was one of the strongest advocates of education in the conference.

Because of his wife's ill health the Harms family moved to Canada in 1906, and after living in Edmonton, Alberta for two years, they settled in the vicinity of Herbert, Saskatchewan. Here Harms earned his living by farming and taught Bible classes during the winter months. He was one of the founders of the Herbert Bible School and one of its first teachers. In 1918 the family lived in Seattle, Washington. After that they made their home in Reedley, California until the spring of 1921, when they returned to Hillsboro, where his wife died a few weeks after their arrival. On 27 November of the same year he married Mrs. Adelgunda Jost Prieb. She died in 1935.

At Hillsboro Harms again entered publication work, assuming the position of assistant editor of the Zionsbote. He also contributed many articles to the Hillsboro Vortwärts. His most valuable writing is the Geschichte der Mennoniten Brüdergemeinde, 1860-1924, a work of 342 pages. In 1943 he published Eine Lebensreise, an autobiographical discourse on his early life. After World War I he took a very prominent part in gathering support for the relief work for the suffering Mennonites in Russia. He died in Hillsboro on 7 January 1945 and was buried at the local Mennonite Brethren cemetery.


Harms, John F. Eine Lebensreise von Anfang bis zum baldigen Ende : Rückblicke von hoher Warte auf steile Berge und liebliche Täler in Verbindung mit Schilderungen verschiedenster Verhältnisse. Hillsboro, KS: J.F. Harms, 1943.

Harms, Orlando. Pioneer Publisher, the Life and Times of J.F. Harms. Winnipeg, MB: Kindred Press, 1984.

Hillsboro Journal (11 January 1945).

Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. "Harms, Johann Friedrich."

Author(s) John H Lohrenz
Date Published 1956

Cite This Article

MLA style

Lohrenz, John H. "Harms, John F. (1855-1945)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 12 Apr 2024. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Harms,_John_F._(1855-1945)&oldid=144157.

APA style

Lohrenz, John H. (1956). Harms, John F. (1855-1945). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 12 April 2024, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Harms,_John_F._(1855-1945)&oldid=144157.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 665. All rights reserved.

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