Kanagy, Simon Menno (1869-1941)

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Simon M. Kanagy as a student at Northwestern University in early 1900s. Mennonite Archives of Ontario Photo 1988-1-50

Simon Menno "S. M." Kanagy: urban missionary, pastor and musician, was born in Port Royal, Pennsylvania on 17 April 1869 to David M. Kanagy (17 August 1824-10 March 1907) and Mary (Hartzler) Kanagy (31 December 1834-3 October 1911). He was the seventh child in a family of seven boys and four girls. He died in Blair on 9 September 1941.

S. M. studied Bible at Elkhart (Indiana) Institute, obtained a Bachelor of Science degree at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois in 1905 and taught high school in Illinois, Pennsylvania and Ohio. In 1914 he was called to Ontario to do pastoral work at the Toronto (Mennonite) Mission where he made his home. He also taught music and conducted choirs at Toronto Bible College (now Tyndale University College and Seminary). The mission board appointed him superintendent in April 1915. On 12 June 1916, he was ordained to the ministry and on 29 June 1916 he married Elizabeth Brown, a worker at the mission who had been acting superintendent for some months before S. M.'s arrival.

An urgent call from Hesston College and Bible School in 1920 sent the pair to Kansas where S. M. taught music. Three years later they returned to city mission work, this time at the Chicago Home Mission where S. M. served as superintendent. There, in addition to mission work, S. M. studied at Bethany Seminary, graduating with a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1925, the same year he was ordained a bishop on 7 April. During his nine-year tenure, the membership of the mission went from 48 to 120.

He and Elizabeth returned to Ontario in the summer of 1932, accepting a call to ministry at Wanner Mennonite Church, a rural congregation near Hespeler (Cambridge). It was a good move, away from smokey Chicago where Elizabeth had suffered ill health. 

S. M. and Elizabeth Kanagy in 1930s. Mennonite Archives of Ontario photo 1988-1-51

S. M. led singing schools in the wider community in addition to preaching and pastoral work at Wanner. As they had done in Chicago, Simon and Elizabeth, directed  a Vacation Bible School, the second in any Ontario Mennonite church. They packed 261 children into the closed-in horse shed and the small brick meetinghouse with no basement that first year (1933). One of his legacies was a motion at a church business meeting that led to the congregation beginning to keep accurate, written records of attendance and activities. S. M. played a key role in helping the church work through the many decisions around demolishing the old and constructing a new building in 1938 and in its dedication “to the extension of the Kingdom of God throughout the whole world.” 

S. M. also served the larger denomination. He was a member of the Mennonite Board of Missions & Charities for many years, and also served on the Mennonite Board of Education.

Typical of the times in Mennonite congregations, S. M. was not paid a salary. Living frugally and  resourcefully, the Kanagys, who had no children, survived on the congregation's generous food donations, love offerings and reduced rent on their home.

S. M. is remembered  lovingly for his gift of music, pastoral visits and also as a careful Bible scholar and preacher.


Bechtel, Ken. Strangers Within the Gates: Wanner Mennonite Church. Cambridge, Ont.: The Church, 1987.

"Kanagy, Simon Menno." Gospel Herald 34, no. 32 (6 November 1941): 679.  Reproduced in MennObits. “Gospel Herald Obituaries - November, 1941." Web. 25 April 2013. http://www.mcusa-archives.org/mennobits/41/nov1941.html.

Roth, Lorraine. Willing Service: Stories of Ontario Mennonite Women. Waterloo, Ont.: Mennonite Historical Society of Ontario and the Women's Missionary and Service Commission of Eastern Canada, 1992: 92-94.

Yoder, S. C. "Simon Menno Kanagy--an Appreciation." Mennonite Yearbook & Directory (1942): 22-23.

Author(s) Ferne Burkhardt
Date Published April 2013

Cite This Article

MLA style

Burkhardt, Ferne. "Kanagy, Simon Menno (1869-1941)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. April 2013. Web. 28 Sep 2022. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Kanagy,_Simon_Menno_(1869-1941)&oldid=143300.

APA style

Burkhardt, Ferne. (April 2013). Kanagy, Simon Menno (1869-1941). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 28 September 2022, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Kanagy,_Simon_Menno_(1869-1941)&oldid=143300.

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