Indiana (USA)

Revision as of 14:32, 25 April 2017 by SamSteiner (talk | contribs) (→‎Mission Churches (Mennonite Church): change name of church)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

1954 Article


Indiana was the 19th state of the Union, admitted 11 December 1816. It has an area of 36,418 square miles (94,321 km²) and an estimated population of 6,376,792 in 2008. 

Indiana is the location of a number of flourishing Mennonite settlements totaling over 14,000 baptized members in 1950. The basic settlements were all established in the quarter century just before the Civil War, 1838-1860. There were three: (1) the Swiss (General Conference Mennonite) settlement in Adams County around Berne; (2) the Mennonite (Mennonite Church) settlement around Goshen in Elkhart County, made by settlers largely from eastern Ohio; and (3) the Amish settlement east of Goshen and west of Nappanee, by settlers from Somerset County, PA, and Holmes County, Ohio. The small community in Allen County north of Fort Wayne was settled by Amish immigrants directly from Alsace and South Germany, some of whom also located in Adams County. Indiana Mennonite history is marked also by five divisions.

The Amish divided four times: (1) the Old Order-Progressive (MC) division about 1854-1865 in the Elkhart-Lagrange County settlement; (2) the Conservative Amish separation in the same area in 1876; (3) the Central Conference group split in the Clinton Frame congregation in 1892; and (4) the Beachy Amish separation from the Old Order Amish in 1950. The Elkhart County Mennonites suffered three schisms, two major: the Wisler (Old Order) division of 1871-1872, and the Mennonite Brethren in Christ (Brenneman) division of 1874; and a minor division occurred in 1923-1924 when several groups (MC) left to join the Central Conference and the General Conference Church. The following discussion will treat the history by settlements and branches.

Adams County

The first Mennonite settlers in the state were Swiss Mennonites, two Baumgartner brothers, Christian and Peter, who migrated from Wayne County, Ohio, to Adams County in 1838, just two years after Adams County was created, and located near Vera Cruz in Wells County, just across the Adams County line. The congregation which developed there was called the Baumgartner Church. In 1839 their aged father, Preacher David Baumgartner, followed his sons to Adams County. Other settlers followed, locating in Lick Township in the western portion of Adams County. In 1845 Christian Baumgartner was chosen by lot and ordained preacher to assist his father.

By 1849 there were 16 families in this Baumgartner congregation, among them Augsburger, Baumgartner, Bieri, Bixler, Falb, Gilliom, Habegger, Hirschy, Luginbill, Merillat, Moser, Soldner, Stauffer, Steiner, and Suter. In 1852 a number of Swiss Mennonite families came directly from the Emmenthal in the Canton of Bern and affiliated themselves with the Baumgartner congregation in Adams County. This group brought along two preachers, Ulrich Kipfer and Matthias Strahm. In that same year, 1852, a colony of about eight Swiss Mennonites emigrated from the Swiss Jura mountain region to Adams County and settled near what is now Berne, IN. Included in the group was a preacher, Peter S. Lehman, who had been chosen by lot and ordained in 1848. This group organized its own congregation instead of uniting with the Baumgartner congregation. In 1853 the aged David Baumgartner ordained Peter S. Lehman, who was selected by lot, to succeed him as elder, who then assumed oversight of both Baumgartner and Berne congregations.

By 1858 there had been a three-way division in the Baumgartner congregation: (1) some members withdrew and united with the Evangelical Association; (2) Preacher Matthias Strahm and some members withdrew and joined the "New Mennist" (Apostolic Christian) Church; (3) the remainder of the members continued under the leadership of Ulrich Kipfer as preacher (Christian Baumgartner had asked for release as a preacher). About 1860 the Baumgartner congregation built its first church building. In 1865 Christian Augsburger was chosen by lot and ordained a preacher. In 1869 Preacher Christian Augsburger (1821-1903) and family, and the families of John Stauffer, Peter Steiner, and George Fox withdrew and organized a Mennonite Church (MC) congregation. (In 1881 Augsburger attended the Indiana Mennonite Conference—MC—and asked for help in a church difficulty.) His group never prospered, and worshiped in homes and school buildings. The congregation which prospered in Adams County was the congregation at Berne, established in 1852 and served by Elder Peter S. Lehman. Its first meetinghouse was built in 1856-1858. Both the Baumgartner and Berne congregations united with the General Conference in 1872. The Berne congregation built a new church in 1879 (enlarged 1886 and 1899), and also in 1911-1912. The Baumgartner congregation was merged with the Berne church in 1886. At the same time a portion of the Berne group which had opposed various changes in the life of the church, and who had been having separate services for 15 years, were also reunited with the progressive group in Berne. The outstanding leader in this period was S. F. Sprunger. The Berne congregation has grown greatly, and in 1954 had a membership of 1,326. An Amish settlement was also made in Adams County, beginning in 1850.

Indiana Mennonite Churches & Institutions, 1950s
Source: Mennonite Encyclopedia, v. 3, p. 24

Perhaps the earliest Indiana Mennonite settlement outside Adams County was made at Arcadia in Hamilton County, beginning in 1838, by the Kauffman, Hildebrand, Gascho, and Correll families. No meetinghouse was built until 1881, the membership seems to have remained under 20, and the last member died in 1906.

Elkhart County Amish

The second settlement of Mennonites in northern Indiana was made by four Amish Mennonite families in 1841. They located in Clinton Township, Elkhart County (created as a county in 1830), and Newbury Township, Lagrange County (created as a county in 1832). Preacher Joseph and Elisabeth Miller and their four children, and Deacon Joseph and Barbara Borntreger and five children, came from Somerset County, PA, and settled in Clinton Township, Elkhart County. Daniel S. and Barbara Miller with their five children, and Christian and Elisabeth Borntreger with two children, also of Somerset County, PA., located in Newbury Township, Lagrange County. These four families arrived on the Elkhart Prairie in June 1841. In October the same year Emanuel Miller and wife of Ohio arrived in Lagrange County. A little later Preacher Isaac Smucker (Schmucker then) moved into the community, also the following and their families: Jacob Kaufmann, Isaac Miller, and Jonas Hochstetler. The first service of the Amish in Indiana was an Easter service held 27 March 1842 in the home of Preacher Joseph Miller in Clinton Township, Elkhart Co. There were 14 members in the church at the time of this service.

Other Amish settlers from Somerset County who settled in Lagrange County in 1842 were Abraham Herschberger, Joseph Herschberger, Johann Herschberger, Hans Miller, Heinrich Miller, Philip Weirich, Christian Hochstetler, and David Lehman. In the fall of 1842 the following Amish families from Holmes County, Ohio, arrived in Elkhart County: Johann Miller, Joseph J. Miller, Jonas Miller, David H. Miller, Eli Tschoppen, Velti Yoder, David Schragen, and Deacon Peter Schragen. In 1843 Isaac Smucker was ordained by lot as the first Amish bishop in Indiana. He removed to McLean County, IL, in 1850 but returned to Indiana in 1856 and organized the Hawpatch congregation, now known as Maple Grove, Topeka, IN.

Isaac Smucker was a progressive bishop, mild in discipline, and soon (1845) he was the leader of a less strict faction. But in 1847 a mediation committee resolved the controversy and the schism was healed for a time. In 1852 a preacher Jonas Troyer located in the Clinton district, which about the middle of the century had its separate church organization from that in Lagrange County, and that very year Isaac Smucker ordained him bishop. Bishop Jonas Troyer was also not as strict as some in maintaining the "old order" in the discipline of the church, and soon the Amish were threatened by division both in Elkhart and Lagrange counties. The schism was complete by 1854. Troyer introduced the new custom of holding Amish baptisms in streams, obviously to follow the New Testament precedent: Jesus, for example, was baptized in the Jordan River. In 1863 these progressives, who were destined to merge with the Mennonites (MC) of Indiana, built their first meetinghouse in Indiana, located in Clinton Township and known as Clinton Frame. The more conservative Amish, who tolerated fewer changes, came to be known as Old Order Amish. They also flourished, establishing congregations in Elkhart, Lagrange, Marshall, Newton, Jasper, Howard, Daviess, Adams, Brown, and Allen counties. In 1954 there were approximately 40 congregations of Old Order Amish in Indiana, a remarkable growth from the feeble start of 1841 in Elkhart County. These Old Order Amish wear severely plain dress, wear the beard, use the German in their services, generally shun all modern methods of Christian education such as Sunday schools, evangelistic meetings, build no meetinghouses, drive horse and buggy rather than automobiles, and try to maintain their simple rural culture rather than to conform to what they think of as the "world."

Amish Mennonites

The progressive Amish Mennonites, represented by such early leaders as Isaac Smucker and Jonas Troyer, on the other hand, had no hesitation to allow their congregations to gradually drop the earlier garb of the Amish, shave off their beards, build meetinghouses, introduce the use of English into the services of the church, etc. All these changes were not made in a decade or a generation, but the process of cultural accommodation went on. Progressive Amish Mennonite congregations appeared from 1854 on in various communities of Indiana: in that very year a new congregation was formed in the Amish settlement of Howard-Miami counties, which had been started in 1848; in 1871 this progressive group built their first church building. The Forks Amish Mennonite meetinghouse in Newbury Township, Lagrange County, was built in 1864, seven years after the group began to meet separately from the Old Order Amish for their worship services. The Leo Amish Mennonite congregation in Allen County had its beginnings in 1861, its first preacher in 1875, and its first meetinghouse in 1887. The Pretty Prairie Amish Mennonite congregation in Lagrange County had its first settlers in 1864, and its first meetinghouse in 1872, but became extinct. The Hawpatch (Maple Grove now) Amish Mennonite congregation was organized in 1854, and built its first church in 1856.

A small settlement of Amish Mennonites was made near Grovertown in Starke County in the 1860's, and a meetinghouse was erected. Bishop Jonas Troyer of Elkhart County lived there for a time. Bishop Isaac Smucker's son, Jonathan P. Smucker, was ordained deacon there in 1873, and preacher the same year. But the congregation died out soon after Smucker removed to Nappanee, Indiana., a year or so after his ordination. The West Market Street Amish Mennonite congregation at Nappanee was organized in the 1870's, and in 1875 J. P. Smucker was ordained bishop of the congregation there. The first church building was erected in 1877. A small Amish Mennonite congregation was organized in the Adams County Amish settlement, which congregation erected a meetinghouse in 1870, but soon became extinct. There were formerly Amish settlements in the Peru area and in Clinton County near Edna Mills.

Elkhart County Mennonites

The first Mennonite settlers (not Amish Mennonites) in Elkhart County were John Smith and his son Joseph from Medina County, Ohio, who settled in Harrison Township, nine miles south and one mile east of Elkhart. Smith bought the farm in 1843 but did not locate on it until the fall of 1845. About the same time Jacob Strohm settled in the same vicinity, having also come from Ohio. In the spring of 1845 the families of Bishop Martin Hoover (1760-1850), his son John Hoover, and Christian Henning removed from Medina County, Ohio, and also settled in Harrison Township. During the year 1848, 27 more families came to Harrison Township from Wayne, Columbiana, Medina, and Mahoning counties in Ohio, although most of these people were originally from Pennsylvania. Included in the 1848 settlers were Preacher Jacob Wisler (1808-1889) from Columbiana County, Ohio, and Preacher Jacob Christophel (1783-1868), who had left the Rhenish Palatinate in 1818, lived for a time in western Pennsylvania, had been ordained as preacher in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, in 1827, and had lived for a time in Columbiana County, Ohio.

The first service of the Harrison Township Mennonites, the Yellow Creek congregation, was held in a schoolhouse about a half mile north of the present village of Southwest on Ascension Day, 1848, with 16 people present. Services were held biweekly thereafter. The first log church building was erected in 1849 on the lot now occupied by the Wisler Yellow Creek (frame) meetinghouse. Before his death in 1849 Bishop Hoover had ordained Jacob Wisler as his successor in the bishop oversight of the Mennonites of Elkhart County. For many years Yellow Creek was the Mennonite center in Indiana, and the other churches were merely outposts of the Yellow Creek congregation. All baptisms, ordinations, and communion services were held at Yellow Creek for many years. In 1861 over 600 persons partook of the communion emblems. The (fall) meetings of the Conference were also held in the Yellow Creek meetinghouse.

Within a year or two after the building of the Yellow Creek meetinghouse, there were other small concentrations of Mennonites in outlying districts which occasioned the building of churches or the holding of biweekly services in schoolhouses on the Sundays when no services were held at Yellow Creek. Daniel Moyer (1812-1864), who was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, but had grown to manhood in Butler Co., PA, and had lived after his marriage in Ashland County, Ohio, removed to Elkhart Co., IN, to a farm west of Jamestown. About 1850 he was ordained as a preacher at Yellow Creek. Soon he and others were worshiping in a log schoolhouse a mile or less north of the present Olive Church. The Olive cemetery was platted in 1855. The new meetinghouse (Olive) on the Baugo was erected in 1862. The Holdeman settlement west of Wakarusa was also started by 1850, and the first log meetinghouse erected in 1851. The settlement of Mennonites in Clinton Township (Clinton Brick) was started as early as 1845, and the first log meetinghouse built in 1854. Mennonites began to locate in DeKalb County about 1850, but it was not until 1883 that they erected their first Pleasant Valley meetinghouse. This group later became extinct.

By 1851 Mennonites had begun to locate in Newbury Township, Lagrange County, and in 1874 they erected the Shore meetinghouse. The Emma congregation, a branch of Shore, is also located in Newbury Township. The congregation was organized in 1901 and a church building erected at once. In 1853 Dutch Mennonites from Balk in Friesland migrated to America and settled west of New Paris, IN. For many years they worshiped in private homes, then in the Neff schoolhouse, and finally in the Christophel and Blosser log meetinghouses. At last, in 1889, the Salem meetinghouse was erected, half of the members being of the Dutch Mennonite settlement. Several Mennonite families located at Rolling Prairie, La Porte County, in the 1850's, but no congregation developed and the settlement died out. About 1853 Mennonites from Ohio and Pennsylvania began to locate in Clay and Owen counties, Indiana, the first known Mennonite settler being Bishop Daniel Funk, then of Logan County, Ohio, but a Pennsylvanian by birth. The congregation was called Bowers in the course of time, named after Preacher Jacob Bower (Bauer). The first meetinghouse was built in 1861. Three years later the membership was at least 70 with four ministers and two young deacons, but it soon died out. The Gar Creek settlement in Allen County, eleven miles east of Fort Wayne, was started about 1854 but never had its own meetinghouse; a union house of worship was used. About 1865 the Mennonite settlement at Lakeville in St. Joseph County began. Resident ministers who later served there were Peter Y. Lehman, and Michael W. Shank (1833-1905), grandfather of Clarence Shank of the Olive congregation; the meetinghouse was a union building.

One of the most influential leaders in the Mennonite Church (MC), both in Elkhart County and in the church as a whole, was John F. Funk (1835-1930), who located in Elkhart in 1867 and founded the Prairie Street Mennonite Church. This congregation built its first meetinghouse in 1871.

It is to be remembered that from the 1840's until 1916 the Mennonites were of two original types: Mennonite and Amish. And from 1854 the progressive Amish Mennonites, in contrast with the Old Order Amish, gradually approached closer to the Mennonites in doctrine and practice, so that in 1917 the two conferences, Indiana-Michigan Mennonite and Indiana-Michigan Amish Mennonite, merged. But even prior to the merger there was in a few cases actually joint conference and bishop-care of certain congregations, e.g., the weak Barker Street Church. Both Mennonites and Amish Mennonites formed the Middlebury Sunday school (1903) and congregation (1904), but the affiliation was Amish Mennonite through the choice of an Amish Mennonite bishop. (The first Middlebury Amish Mennonite church building was built in 1911.) When Goshen College located in Goshen (from Elkhart) in 1903 a congregation of both Mennonites and Amish Mennonites was formed with a bishop from each of the two groups furnishing joint bishop oversight.

Literary Societies were organized in many of the congregations (MC) of northern Indiana in 1913-1928. An overall organization of the literaries was effected in 1924 and named Northern Indiana Literary Convention; its constitution was adopted in 1927. In 1949 the convention became affiliated with the nation-wide Mennonite Youth Fellowship (MC); consequently a new constitution was written for the convention in that year, reconstituting the convention into a conference-wide MYF organization. This new constitution was adopted in 1950, whereupon the organization took the name Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Youth Fellowship.

Mission Churches (Mennonite Church)

The discovery of a few families of scattered Mennonites in a distant county without church privileges caused the District Mission Board of the merged conferences (organized 1911) to place pastors in such needy fields, and to erect small houses of worship. The Burr Oak congregation near Rensselaer in Jasper County was begun in 1918, and the first church building built in 1925. The Berea congregation in Daviess County was founded in 1920, and a church built in 1925. More recent mission outposts, sponsored either by the district mission board or by congregations, and often created in purely non-Mennonite communities to evangelize the unchurched, are as follows: Elkhart County: Belmont, Elkhart, 1929; North Goshen, 1936; East Goshen, 1942; Locust Grove, Elkhart, 1942; Benton, 1944; Sunnyside, Dunlap, 1947; Roselawn, Elkhart, 1949; St. Joseph County: Crumstown, 1933; Osceola, 1951; Lagrange County: Marion, Howe, 1944; Plato, 1949; Allen County: Anderson, ca. 1941; Starke County: Toto, Knox, 1948; English Lake, 1949; Kosciusko County: Syracuse, 1947; Brown County: Bean Blossom, 1945; Wells County: New Bethel, Ossian, 1949; Howard County: Kokomo, 1947; La Porte County: Hudson Lake, 1950; Fish Lake, ca. 1950; Noble County: Kendallville, 1953; Morgan County: Mahalasville, 1951; Daviess County: Washington, 1953. The total membership of the Mennonite congregations in Indiana (MC) is now (1954) about 6,500, which is more than three fourths of the Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference (MC) membership.

General Conference Churches

In 1954 there were seven congregations of the General Conference Mennonite Church in Indiana. In Elkhart County were Silver Street, a schism from the Clinton Frame congregation (MC) in 1892, and which had 153 members, the Eighth Street Church in Goshen, with 304 members, the Warren Street Mennonite Church in Middlebury, having 84 members, and the First Mennonite in Nappanee, with 165 members. In Newton County was a small congregation, Zion at Goodland, with its 58 members, an Alsatian group which has been French-speaking; Topeka in Lagrange County had 235 members. The above five congregations (except Nappanee) were affiliated with the Central Conference (GCM). The Swiss congregation at Berne in Adams County had 1,326 members in 1954, and the Nappanee congregation in Elkhart County had 165 members: these two churches were affiliated with the Middle District Conference (GCM). The Berne congregation comprised about 60 per cent of all the General Conference Mennonites in Indiana. All of these but the Berne and Goodland congregations arose as schisms from Mennonite Church congregations, or were daughters of the schismatic groups.

Evangelical Mennonite Congregations

Formerly known as Defenseless Mennonites, this group arose in Indiana in the years 1864-1866 under the leadership of an Amish bishop of Geneva, Adams County, named Henry Egly. Bishop Egly, who experienced a spiritual awakening, led half his congregation into the new group. In 1954 there were five congregations of the Evangelical Mennonites in the state: Berne in Adams County (237 members); Fort Wayne (43 members), Grabill (143 members), and Woodburn (179) in Allen County; and Lafayette in Tippecanoe County with 64 members: a total of about 670 in the state. Lafayette was the continuation of a former rural church. The Amish Mennonite settlement at Edna Mills in Clinton County was established by Gingrich, Ehresman, etc., families. The rural Defenseless Church building was erected in 1885 in Tippecanoe County. The old Amish cemetery was located south of Edna Mills, a town about eight miles east of Lafayette.

Old Order Mennonites

The first Mennonite bishop ordained in Indiana, Jacob Wisler of the Yellow Creek congregation in Elkhart County, seceded from the Indiana Mennonite Conference (MC) in 1872, because he could not tolerate the numerous changes in church life, such as the adoption of Sunday schools, four-part singing, evening meetings, the loss of the German language in the church services, and a more favorable attitude toward evangelistic meetings. The "Wisler Mennonites" have not prospered since their founding in 1872. They have had some internal difficulties, and have found it difficult to know what new cultural items to tolerate. In 1907 they divided into two groups, ostensibly over the use of telephones. The more conservative group, which refused to allow the installation of telephones in their homes, also opposed the use of automobiles in later years when they became common. In the mid-20th century there was a degree of unrest in the more conservative group, with a partial shifting of members to the more progressive group, but there were still only two groups in Indiana. The stricter group, whose bishop was William G. Weaver, held services at three points: County Line Church near Wakarusa; Yellow Creek (frame) Church; and Blosser's Church near Nappanee. Membership in the district totaled 102. The more progressive group, whose bishop was William Ramer, held services every two weeks at Yellow Creek, and every two weeks at Blosser's. (The two groups alternated in the use of their church buildings.) The Ramer group had 150 members. The total Old Order membership in 1954 was 252.

United Missionary Church (formerly Mennonite Brethren in Christ)

Three years after Wisler and his followers withdrew from the Indiana Mennonite Conference (MC) because it was too progressive, Daniel Brenneman seceded in 1874 because it was not progressive enough. He felt that the time had come to launch out in evangelistic work, to emphasize revivals, and the like. He and his followers formed what is now known as the United Missionary Church, the first congregation being Bethel, eight miles south of Elkhart. In 1954 this denomination was represented in Indiana by about 27 congregations, all in the northern area of the state, 13 of them with 50 members or less. The membership in Indiana totaled 2,388 in 1953. The congregations and locations were as follows: Antioch, west of Decatur; Auten Chapel, west of South Bend; Bethel, south of Elkhart; Beulah and Zion in Elkhart; Brenneman Memorial and Sunnyfield in Goshen; Osolo, north of Elkhart; Cedar Road, Osceola; Mishawaka; Gospel Center and Edison Park in South Bend; Roseland, north of South Bend; Granger; West Union, south of South Bend; Indiana Chapel, north of Bremen; Bremen; Wakarusa; Oak Grove, west of Wakarusa; Nappanee; Foraker; Lagrange; Garver Lake; Jacoby; South West, west of Goshen; Wayside Chapel; Weisser Park, Fort Wayne.

Conservative Mennonites (formerly Conservative Amish Mennonites)

This group was organized as a body intermediate between the Old Order Amish and the Mennonite Church (MC). Although the conference was not organized until 1910, the Conservative Mennonites had been in existence for several decades (since 1880). In 1908 the members in Elkhart County totaled only 35. In 1954 they had over 600 members in five congregations in this county: Griner, Townline, Pleasant Grove, and River View, all in the general area about Middlebury, IN, and a newly organized (1954) congregation northeast of Nappanee. They also had a congregation of 170 members at Cuba near Grabill in Allen County. The name Amish was dropped in 1955.

Burkholder Amish Mennonites

A more recent body of progressive Amish was that led by Bishop David O. Burkholder of near Nappanee, IN. There were four congregations of his followers in Indiana: one near Nappanee, and one east of Goshen, both in Elkhart County; one in Miami County; and one in Daviess County. These four congregations had memberships running from 50 to 100 each, a total of about 320. They belong to the Beachy Amish group.

Missionary Church Association

This small body seceded from the Evangelical Mennonite Church (it was then called Defenseless Mennonite) in 1896-1898 under the leadership of Joseph E. Ramseyer. In 1954 It had 15 congregations in Indiana, with 1,739 members, located in Angola, Auburn, Berne (2), Decatur, Fort Wayne (5), Frankfort, Grabill, Mooresville, Woodburn, and Yoder.

Statistical Summary

The following summary will give a picture of the Mennonite membership in Indiana by groups in 1953. (All figures refer to baptized members; unbaptized children are not included.) Mennonite Church (MC), 6,500; General Conference Mennonites, 2,325; Old Order Amish Mennonites, 3,100; Evangelical Mennonites, 670; United Missionary Church, 2,300; Old Order Mennonites, 260; Conservative Mennonites, 770; Burkholder Amish Mennonites, 320; and Missionary Church Association, 1,739. The total of those who still call themselves Mennonites is 13,945.

The Mennonite institutions established in Indiana have been: Mennonite Publishing Co. (MC) at Elkhart, 1867-1925 (most of its business sold in 1908 to the Mennonite Publishing House at Scottdale, Pennsylvania); Goshen College (Mennonite Church) at Goshen, 1903-    , previously Elkhart Institute at Elkhart 1894-1903; Bethel College, South Bend (United Missionary Church) 1945-    ; Fort Wayne Bible College (Missionary Church Association) 1904-    ; Bethany Christian High School (Mennonite Church) at Goshen 1954-    . -- John C. Wenger

1987 Update

This article will summarize the progress and status of the Mennonite-related churches in the state of Indiana since 1954.

Old Order Amish

It is estimated that in 1987 there were about 24,000 Amish people in Indiana, living in 3,630 households. This included 10,500 baptized members in 116 church districts (congregations) located as follows (numbers in parentheses refer in each case to the number of districts and households): Elkhart-Lagrange Counties (50 districts, 1,696 households); Nappanee, Marshall, Kosciusko County (20, 600); Kokomo, Howard County (2, 51); Milroy, Rush County (2, 49); Adams County (19, 460); South Whitley, Whitley County (1, 13); Allen County (9, 350); Hamilton, Steuben County (1, 20); Daviess County (11, 374); Salem, Washington County (1, 15).

The life-style of the Amish changed little in the past 30 years. While they do not own automobiles, they do travel in autos, buses, and trains. They often use telephones located in phone booths near their homes. They farm with horses, with which they sometimes pull gasoline-powered hay balers. They live in rural areas but because of land shortages are being forced to work in construction and other industry. Some Indiana Amish have moved to Wisconsin and Michigan in search of land. Small shops in which stoves, furniture, and horse-drawn equipment are built are springing up. Some Amish people have opened roadside markets and stores to sell fabrics, bulk foods, and farm produce.

Worship services are held in the homes rather than in meeting houses. The German language is used. The service is simple. There are no musical instruments or Sunday School classes. The families are large. The Amish population is growing.

Mennonite Church

There were 68 congregations related to the Mennonite Church in Indiana, with a membership of 10,188 (1985). Twenty-seven of these congregations were started since 1954: Elkhart County Walnut Hill (1956), Waterford (1959), Tri Lakes Chapel (1961), Bonneyville (1962), South Side Fellowship (1965), Iglesia Del Buen Pastor (1970) Assembly (1974), Fellowship of Hope (1975), Berkey Ave. (1979), East End Covenant (1981). Lagrange County: Lake Bethel (1956). St. Joseph County: Kern Road (1960), Community (1961), Iglesia Anabautista Emanuel (1986). Marshall County: Bourbon Mennonite Chapel (1962). Kosciusko County: Maranatha Chapel (1979). Allen County: Fairhaven (1954), North Leo (1966), Central (1969). Marion County: First Mennonite in Indianapolis (1954). Miami County: Santa Fe (1960). Grant County: Iglesia Menonita Emanuel (1977). Orange County: Paoli Mennonite Fellowship (1974). Porter County: Valparaiso (1966). Daviess County: Bethel (1964), First Mennonite in Montgomery (1980). Tippecanoe County: Lafayette Mennonite Fellowship (1983). Assembly, Paoli, South Side Fellowship, Iglesia Anabautista Emanuel, and Lafayette Mennonite Fellowship hold dual memberships with the Mennonite Church (MC) and General Conference Mennonite Church (GCM). South Side Fellowship and Iglesia Anabautista Emanuel also held memberships with the Church of the Brethren.

By 1987 there were three licensed and three ordained women serving Indiana congregations. During the past number of years several charismatic, less traditional, and intentional groups have sprung up in northern Indiana. They have often attracted members from the established congregations. Some of these new groups have been received into the Indiana-Michigan Conference (MC) and the General Conference (GCM) as congregations. Mennonite Renewal Services, with headquarters in Goshen, is attempting to bring charismatic renewal into the various Mennonite denominations, especially the Mennonite Church (MC).

General Conference Mennonite Churches (GCM)

The General Conference Mennonite Church had 13 congregations in Indiana with a combined membership of 2,649 (1985). Of this total, 310 members were also counted with the Mennonite Church (MC) membership. New congregations since 1954 are: Elkhart County: Hively Ave. (1958), South Side Fellowship (1965), Assembly (1974). Orange County: Paoli Mennonite Fellowship (1974). Allen County: Maplewood Mennonite Church (1960). Tippecanoe County: Lafayette Mennonite Fellowship (1983). The First Mennonite Church at Berne, had 1,163 members, thus making it the largest Mennonite congregation in Indiana. In 1984 the Silver Street congregation moved from five miles east of Goshen to west Goshen, and was renamed Silverwood Mennonite Church. The Indiana (GC) churches have ordained and licensed women as pastors.

Old Order Mennonites

In 1987 there were about 340 Wisler Mennonites who worship in two meeting-houses west of Goshen: Yellow Creek Frame and Fairview. In 1872 Bishop Jacob Wisler separated from the Indiana Conference Mennonites over the issues related to the use of the German language, four-part singing, Sunday Schools, and evening services. In 1907 a group led by John W. Martin, left the Wisler church and formed the Old Order Mennonite Church. Forty years later, in 1947, Joseph F. Martin, John's son, returned to the Wislers with about one-third of the Old Order Mennonites. The Wislers are less strict than the Old Order Mennonites.

In 1981 there was a further schism among the Old Order Mennonites over the issue of rubber-tired tractors. William G. Weaver, who had been the bishop of the Old Order Mennonites, a more lenient leader, was left with 25 families. The more conservative group of about 80 families has identified with Pennsylvania Old Order Mennonites and has ordained Elvin Martin as its bishop.

Both Old Order groups dress simply and travel by horse and buggy. They have used meetinghouses from the beginning. The Wisler Mennonites drive automobiles.

Beachy Amish

A number of the more progressive Amish groups have joined what are called the (Beachy) Amish Mennonites. They, like the Amish, are conservative in their dress but use electricity, tractors, automobiles, and meetinghouses. In 1987 they had a membership of 750 in Indiana in 10 congregations: Berea Fellowship (Kosciusko County), Bethany Fellowship (Howard County), Christian Mission Fellowship (Adams County), Fairhaven (Elkhart County), Fellowship Haven (Allen County), Hebron Christian Fellowship (Lagrange County), Maple Lawn (Elkhart County), Mt. Olive Church (Daviess CountyCounty), South Haven and Woodlawn Amish Mennonite (both Elkhart County).

Conservative Mennonites

The oldest Conservative Mennonite Conference congregation in Indiana is Townline congregation, east of Goshen (1876). The Conservative Mennonite Conference developed out of the 19th century Amish Mennonites. They were much like the Mennonites of the area but preferred baptism in streams. In 1987 they are more conservative in dress than the Mennonite Church (MC).

There were 11 congregations in Indiana, with a membership in 1985 of 1,017. The churches (with nearest town in parentheses) are: Austin; Cuba (Grabill); Griner (Middlebury); Maple City Chapel (Goshen); Mt Joy (Goshen); Oak Grove (Campbellsburg); Pine Ridge (Middlebury); Pleasant Grove (Goshen); Roselawn (Shipshewana); Townline (Shipshewana); and Sunrise Chapel, founded in 1982 (Grabill).

Unaffiliated Mennonite Churches

There were 12 Mennonite congregations in Indiana in 1987 which were not part of any Mennonite conference. They had no official organization but conducted a "Sharing Concerns Bible Conference" in July and December of each year. This meeting attracted Mennonites of like concern from various parts of the United States and Canada. They were concerned with retaining traditional values and practices of the Mennonite Church. These congregations, of which Salem is the largest (247 members), had a total membership of 617 (1985): Butlerville (Butlerville); Grace Fellowship (Goshen); Pleasant View Conservative, and Rich Valley (Kokomo); Believer's Fellowship (Loogootee); Milford Chapel (Milford); Pleasant View Conservative (Montgomery); Fairview Amish Mennonite and South Union Fellowship (Nappanee); Ridgeview Amish (New Haven); Salem (New Paris); and Toto (North Judson).

Brethren in Christ

Four Brethren in Christ congregations were located in Indiana in 1987: Christian Union (Garrett); Mt. Zion (Marengo); Nappanee (Nappanee); and Union Grove (New Paris). Total membership was 205 in 1985. Since 1950 there has been a revival of social and missionary concern in the Brethren in Christ Church. The first woman delegate to conference was elected in 1964 and by the late 1970s women were members of the major boards. The headquarters of the General Conference of the Brethren in Christ and Evangel Press was located at 301 Elm St., Nappanee, Indiana.

Evangelical Mennonite Church

In 1985 the 10 Evangelical Mennonite Church congregations in Indiana had a combined membership of 1,120. The churches were: Berne (Berne); Brookside, Highland Bethel, and Pine Hills (Ft. Wayne); Evangelical Mennonite (Grabill); Hope Fellowship (Wabash); Evangelical Mennonite (Lafayette); Evangelical Mennonite (Union City); Evangelical Mennonite (Upland); and Evangelical Mennonite (Woodburn).

In 1975 the General Administrative Board (Evangelical Mennonite Church) restricted its regular involvement to four Mennonite organizations: Mennonite Central Committee, Mennonite Disaster Service, Council of Overseas Mission Board Secretaries (later renamed the Council of International Ministries); and Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission. The Evangelical Mennonite Church is a member of the National Association of Evangelicals.

Missionary Church

The Missionary Church in the United States and Canada, was divided into 12 districts with a membership of 27,000. Indiana churches were located in the Central and North Central districts. In 1979 the North Central District (north of U.S. Highways 6 and 24) had 39 Indiana churches and the Central District had 31 Indiana churches. The Indiana churches therefore made up 70 of the 359 congregations in the denomination.

The North Central District has developed large congregations such as Zion and Beulah (Elkhart); Gospel Center (South Bend); and Brenneman. Memorial (Goshen). In 1977 a $2,500,000 retirement community, south of Elkhart, called Hubbard Hill Estates, was completed and dedicated. Bethel College in Mishawaka was founded in 1947. The Missionary Church denominational press for the United States was Bethel Publishing Company, located in Elkhart.

The Central District of Indiana is at the hub of the activity. Denominational offices and Ft. Wayne Bible College are located in Ft. Wayne, in the Central District.

From 1883 until 1947 the Missionary Church was called Mennonite Brethren in Christ. In 1947 the name was changed to United Missionary Church. In 1952 the Pennsylvania District, unhappy with the name change and certain doctrines and purposes, withdrew with about 4,500 members. In 1959 congregations of the Pennsylvania District named themselves Bible Fellowship Church. In 1969, after many years of negotiation, the United Missionary Church and the Missionary Church Association, with headquarters in Ft. Wayne, merged to form the Missionary Church.

Other Mennonite offices and institutions in Indiana include the following: In Elkhart: Mennonite Board of Congregational Ministries(MC); Mennonite Board of Education (MC); Mennonite Board of Missions (MC); Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission (GCM, EMB, EMCh, MB, EMMC); Oaklawn Psychiatric Center, Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries (GCM, MC). In Goshen: Mennonite Mutual Aid, Goshen College (MC); Greencroft Incorporated (Retirement Home). In Kokomo: Friendship Haven (Retirement Home, 1979, MC). In Berne: Swiss Village (Retirement Home, 1968, GCM).  --  Russell R. Krabill

See also articles on each Mennonite-related group mentioned in this article; Nappanee, IN., Old Order Amish Settlement; Lagrange-Elkhart, IN., Old Order Amish Settlement; Berne, IN., Old Order Amish Settlement; Grabill-New Haven, IN., Old Order Amish Settlement; Montgomery, IN., Old Order Amish Settlement.


Borntreger, J. E. Eine Geschichte der ersten Ansiedlung der Amischen Mennoniten und die Gründung ihrer ersten Gemeinde im Staate Indiana, nebst einer kurzen Erklärung fiber die Spaltung, die in dieser Gemeinde geschehen ist. Elkhart, 1907.

Gingerich, Eli E. Indiana Amish Directory of Elkhart and Lagrange Counties. Middlebury: the author, 1980.

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. II, 411-413.

History of Elkhart County, Indiana. Chicago, 1881.

Lageer, Eileen. Merging Streams. Elkhart, IN: Bethel Publishing Co., 1979.

Mennonite Brethren General Conference Yearbook (1988-89): 22-24.

Minutes of the Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference 1864-1929.

Nussbaum, Stan. Ye Must Be Born Again: A History of the Evangelical Mennonite Church. Ft. Wayne, IN: Evangelical Mennonite Church, 1980.

Sprunger. E. The First Hundred Years [of the Berne Swiss Community]. Berne, IN, 1938.

Wenger, J. C. The Mennonites in Indiana and Michigan. Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1961.

Wenger, J. C. The Yellow Creek Mennonites. Goshen, IN: Yellow Creek Mennonite Church, 1985.

Author(s) John C. Wenger
Russell R. Krabill
Date Published 1987

Cite This Article

MLA style

Wenger, John C. and Russell R. Krabill. "Indiana (USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Web. 7 Aug 2022.

APA style

Wenger, John C. and Russell R. Krabill. (1987). Indiana (USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 7 August 2022, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 23-29; vol. 5, pp. 430-432. All rights reserved.

©1996-2022 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.