Hopedale Mennonite Church (Hopedale, Illinois, USA)

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The first Amish settlers in Tazewell County, Illinois, arrived in the 1850s. Joseph and Barbara Litwiller moved from Butler County, Ohio in 1854. Christian and John Nafziger purchased land near Hopedale that same year. They had come to North America from Germany. John Sutter purchased land in 1857; he was already a minister when he moved to the area in 1854. At first, the small Amish settlement held church services in homes every four weeks.

Christian Nafziger (1819-1899) was ordained as the first minister in 1855 and as bishop in 1861. This likely marked the transition to meeting every second week for worship, perhaps in conjunction with the Amish in the Pleasant Grove congregation that ultimately became part of the Morton congregation.

In 1875, the congregation built its first meetinghouse (50 feet by 32 feet) two miles southeast of Hopedale on two acres of land sold by Christian and Elizabeth Nafziger. It added an addition in 1884 and another in 1906. It erected a new building in 1926. It added a Sunday school and fellowship hall addition in 1965/66. Further internal renovations took place in the following decades.

The congregation was known as the Hopedale Amish Mennonite Church until 1925, when the "Amish" was dropped. Other Illinois Mennonites considered Hopedale to be somewhat conservative, but it was the first among Illinois Amish Mennonite congregations to drop the use of the lot in selecting ministers. It elected Joseph Egli and Daniel Nafziger as ministers in the early 1890s.

In 1901, some dissatisfied members helped to form the Boynton congregation together with Hessian Mennonite immigrants.

Sunday school began in 1885 on Sundays when there was no church service. Classes were in German; the change to English began in about 1903. The last German Sunday school class ended in 1947.

The church was daubed with yellow paint during World War I in reaction to the congregation's pacifist stance. By the time of World War II, the congregation's adherence to nonresistance had lessened. Twenty of its young men joined the military, and eight participated in church-approved Civilian Public Service.


Kauffmann, Ivan J., ed. 100 years at Hopedale: 1854-1954. Hopedale, Ill.: The Church, 1954.

Nafziger, Carolyn. Keeping the faith: the third fifty years: Hopedale Mennonite Church 1954-2004. Hopedale, Ill.: Hopedale Mennonite Church, 2004.

Smith, Willard H. Mennonites in Illinois. Studies in Anabaptist and Mennonite History, 24. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1983: 62, 99, 362, 364, 366, 453, 546.

Weber, Harry F. Centennial history of the Mennonites of Illinois, 1829-1929. Goshen, Ind.: Mennonite Historical Society, 1931. Available in full electronic text at https://archive.org/details/centennialhistor00webe.

Additional Information

Address: 5192 Hopedale Road, Hopedale, Illinois 61747

Phone: 309-449-6600

Website: https://www.hopedalemennonitechurch.com/

Denominational Affiliations: Illinois Mennonite Conference

Mennonite Church USA

Pastoral Leaders at Hopedale Mennonite Church

Name Years
of Service
John Sutter (1795-1887) 1854-1887
Christian Nafziger (1819-1899)
Andrew Baechler (1798-1874) 1855-1866
Simon Baechler (1834-1921) 1864-1866
Noah Augspurger (1817-1903) before 1866-1903
Johannes Egly before 1872-1878?
Joseph Springer (1837-1902) 1885-1890
Joseph Egli (1852-1915) 1891-1915
Daniel Nafziger (1860-1934) 1892-1934
John C. Birky (1849-1920)(Bishop) 1896-1920
Simon Litwiller (1880-1956)
Benjamin Springer (1881-1968) 1921-1965
Ivan J. Kauffmann (1922-2016) 1949-1972
Wilbur G. Nachtigall (1918-2003) 1969-1970
Lee J. Miller (1907-1984) 1972-1974
Aden J. Yoder (1925-2023) 1975-1984
H. James "Jim" Smith 1984-1999
Carl Horner (Associate) 1987-1993
Michael Knowles (Students and Young Adults) 1995-1998
Kurt W. Walker 2001-2022
Ray Nachtigall 2002-2008?
Kimberly A. Litwiller (Youth) 2008-2014
Roger Springer 2009-2017
Jessica L. Litwiller 2014-

Hopedale Mennonite Church Membership

Year Members
1907 169
1913 237
1920 282
1930 286
1940 339
1950 357
1960 331
1970 350
1980 350
1990 299
2000 326
2009 308
2020 180

Original Mennonite Encyclopedia Article

By Ivan J. Kauffmann. Copied by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 810. All rights reserved.

Hopedale Mennonite Church (Mennonite Church), approximately 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) southeast of Hopedale, Tazewell County, Illinois, a member of the Illinois Mennonite Conference, was originally named the "Delavan Prairie Church." Preceding the merging of the Amish with the Mennonites of the state, it was known as the Hopedale Amish-Mennonite Church and by the general public as the German Church. Some of the first settlers were Joe Litwiller 1854; Peter and Christian Nafziger 1856, Christ Slagel 1857, David Springer 1858, Simon Bechler 1862, and Christ Birky 1862. Services were held every two weeks in the homes in 1854-1876. The first church building was erected two miles southeast of Hopedale in 1876. Additions to the church were built in 1884 and 1906. A new building, still in use in 1956, with a seating capacity of 450, was erected in 1926.

Christian Nafziger (1819-1899) was ordained as the first minister in 1856 and as bishop in 1860. John C. Birky served as bishop 1896-1920, Samuel Gerber 1920-1925, and Simon Litwiller 1925-1956. Others who have served as ministers are Joseph Litwiller, Simon Bechler, William Unzicker, Joseph Hochstetler, J. Nafziger, Noah Augsburger, Andrew Birkey, Joseph Birky, Daniel Grieser, J. Birkey, John Egli, Joseph Egli, Joseph Springer, Daniel Nafziger, Ben Springer, and Ivan Kauffmann, who was installed as pastor in 1956. The membership that year was 370. The first Sunday school services were held in 1885 and were conducted in German.

Author(s) Samuel J Steiner
Date Published January 2024

Cite This Article

MLA style

Steiner, Samuel J. "Hopedale Mennonite Church (Hopedale, Illinois, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. January 2024. Web. 17 Apr 2024. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Hopedale_Mennonite_Church_(Hopedale,_Illinois,_USA)&oldid=178589.

APA style

Steiner, Samuel J. (January 2024). Hopedale Mennonite Church (Hopedale, Illinois, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 17 April 2024, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Hopedale_Mennonite_Church_(Hopedale,_Illinois,_USA)&oldid=178589.

©1996-2024 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.