Kauffman, Jess Allen (1911-2000)

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Jess & Viola Kauffman. Photo courtesy Adalbert Goertz.

Jess Allan Kauffman: pastor, writer and camp director, was born 15 March 1911 in Kenmare, North Dakota to Joseph F. Kauffman (20 February 1890-28 February 1936) and Agnes Martha (Andrews) Kauffman (12 November 1891-11 July 1983). He was the second child in a family of six boys and three girls. On 12 September 1937 he married Viola Winn (1 February 1918- ) of Thurman, Colorado; they had one son and three daughters. Jess died 4 April 2000 in Sarasota, Florida of congestive heart failure.

The Kauffman family moved to Cheraw, Colorado when Jess was eight years old. Jess attended school in Cheraw, where he graduated from high school in 1932. He then attended Hesston College and Bible School in Kansas in 1933. He worked three years for the La Junta Tribune in La Junta, Colorado.

In 1934 the East Holbrook Mennonite Church ordained Jess Kauffman as its pastor, three years before he was married. Jess' interest in camping began in 1935 when he took the local Young People's Institute for an outdoor institute at Manitou Springs. In 1941 the family moved to Hesston, Kansas where Jess served as editor of the Hesston Record beginning in 1942. This was soon after Pearl Harbor and the local non-Mennonite population was not happy with a pacifist Mennonite minister editing their newspaper. One night a small mob painted the front of the newspaper office yellow. In 1942 he again attended Hesston College, then led by his cousin Milo Kauffman, for one year. Jess served as pastor of Hesston Mennonite Church from 1944-1949. In 1946 with a local relief committee he helped to build a portable meat canner which traveled to Mennonite farm communities preserving beef to be sent overseas for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). After several years of operation this canner was turned over to MCC for its use.

In 1950 Jess and Viola and their family moved to Colorado Springs, where in 1951 Jess was the founder of Rocky Mountain Mennonite Camp. He pastored First Mennonite Church until 1956, and was the founding pastor (1956-1958) of Beth-El Mennonite Church in Colorado Springs. In the 1950s and early 1960s Jess worked with camping programs for delinquent youth from the Denver area, and was involved in the formation of the Frontier Boys Camp and Brockhurst Boys Ranch.. During these years various Mennonite groups became more active in promoting camping, and inter-Mennonite cooperation among the various camps emerged. Jess Kauffman served as Secretary of Church Camps from 1955-1961 under the Mennonite Commission for Christian Education. He then took leadership in the formation of the Mennonite Camping Association which formally organized 7 August 1960. During his years of service with the church, he wrote a short booklet, Guideposts to Camp Programming (1958).

The year 1962 brought another move to Camp Friedenswald in Cassapolis, Michigan, where Jess and Viola served until 1973. In 1976 they became directors of Lakewood Retreat Center in Brookville, Florida. Jess "retired" in 1979 near Brooksville, and became a member of the Spring Lake United Methodist Church. He became active in prison ministry during these years, and he authored A Vision and a Legacy: The Story of Mennonite Camping, 1920-1980 for the Mennonite Camping Association.

Jess Kauffman is buried in the Brooksville Cemetery, Brooksville, Florida. His influence in shaping the Mennonite camping programs was profound and continuing.


Kauffman, Jess. Guideposts to Camp Programming. Scottdale, Pa: Mennonite Commission for Christian Education, 1958.

Kauffman, Jess. A Vision and a Legacy: The Story of Mennonite Camping, 1920-80. Newton, Kan: Faith and Life Press, 1984.

Goertz, Adalbert. "Rev Jess Allen Kauffman." Find a Grave. April 2007. Web. 9 April 2010. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=18742107

Hertzler, Silas. The Hertzler-Hartzler Family History. Berne, Ind: Printed by Economy Print. Concern, 1952: #6835.

Mennonite Central Committee. "Meat Canning: More History." Web. 9 April 2010. http://canning.mcc.org/canning/history/more.html

Warkentin, A. and Melvin Gingerich, compilers. Who's Who Among the Mennonites. North Newton, Kan.: Bethel College, 1943: 133.

Author(s) Adalbert Goertz
Samuel J. Steiner
Date Published April 2010

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MLA style

Goertz, Adalbert and Samuel J. Steiner. "Kauffman, Jess Allen (1911-2000)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. April 2010. Web. 18 Oct 2021. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Kauffman,_Jess_Allen_(1911-2000)&oldid=165661.

APA style

Goertz, Adalbert and Samuel J. Steiner. (April 2010). Kauffman, Jess Allen (1911-2000). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 October 2021, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Kauffman,_Jess_Allen_(1911-2000)&oldid=165661.

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