Litwiller, Peter (1809-1878)

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Peter Litwiller was born 8 January 1809, in Illfurth, Upper Alsace. His parents were Anna Maria (the name she went by) Maurer and Jacob Litwiller. Jacob died in 1814. Widow Maria, three married daughters and their families, two single daughters and Peter left France and arrived in New York on 12 July 1827.

On their arrival in Waterloo, they selected lots in the newly-surveyed center block in Wilmot Township and set to work. Young Peter selected Lot 7, on the north side of Erb's Road, but did little work on his own lot until after his marriage to Elizabeth Lichti in 1830. By 1835, however, he had completed his settlement duties and received his patent for the front fifty acres from the Crown.

In 1838 Peter bought a little notebook which he called his "Notizbuch." It illustrates the settlers' system of bartering goods and services. Litwiller frequently hired persons by the day or to do certain tasks. This may have been the labourer's only way to get a little needed cash as much as Litwiller's need for assistance. Goods supplied in exchange for work might be yarn for stockings, material for a coat, a pound of "dubock" (tobacco), or postage for a letter. A study of the names appearing in Litwiller's notebook is a veritable "who's who" of new Amish-Mennonite arrivals in Canada. Litwiller also had dealings with his non-Amish neighbours, most of whom were Roman Catholic.

Peter's compassionate business acumen won for himself the respect of his co-religionists and, at the age of 28, he was chosen for the ministry in the Wilmot Amish Mennonite congregation in 1845. That was also the year that he served as one of the trustees who purchased the school site which the Amish had established at the site of the present St. Agatha Mennonite Church.

Peter's brother-in-law, Rudolph Roth, a gifted preacher, had been ordained minister in 1835 and bishop in 1843. Family relationships during the next few years must have been very trying for Peter and his sisters and in-laws when Rudolph Roth, his wife Maria (nee Litwiller), Jacob and Barbara (Litwiller) Gardner, and Veronica (Litwiller) Gingerich (but not her husband) joined the Reformed Mennonites. Rudolph's early demise in 1853 removed him from any conflict which Peter might have had with him.

Rudolph's leaving the Amish-Mennonite fold and the deaths of both Bishop John Oesch in Hay and Bishop Christian Miller in Wilmot, left the aged Bishop Christian Wagler, recent immigrant from Alsace, as the only bishop for the whole Amish-Mennonite constituency. It must have been Bishop Wagler who ordained Peter Litwiller that same year, and after Wagler's death the following year, Peter was left with bishop oversight over the whole Amish-Mennonite community from Wilmot to Lake Huron.

Joseph Ruby was ordained bishop for the South Easthope-East Zorra congregation in 1853 and John Jantzi for the North Wilmot-Wellesley congregation in 1859. The Hay congregation, however, did not ordain a bishop, and were served by those in East Zorra or Wilmot for the next 100 years.

Peter Litwiller's farm buildings were across the street and up the road a short distance from the Catholic Church. In 1857, a dedicated young man by the name of Eugene Funcken arrived in St. Agatha to serve in the Congregation of the Resurrection. Father Funcken was full of zeal and energy. These two men might have had good reasons to ignore each other, at best, or engage in a running feud, at worst, but they did neither. According to family tradition, they met with each other regularly to discuss topics of a religious nature. They set the stage for a peaceful community, rather than one where various factions are in conflict.

Peter Litwiller died 7 July 1878. It is said that when the funeral cortege passed the Catholic church on its way to the Amish cemetery, Father Funcken had the bells tolled. A broadside printed at the time of his death is also attributed to Father Funcken. In it he extolled the bishop's character and his ministry.


Peter Litwiller Collection at Mennonite Archives of Ontario

Author(s) Lorraine Roth
Date Published October 2004

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Roth, Lorraine. "Litwiller, Peter (1809-1878)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. October 2004. Web. 1 Dec 2023.,_Peter_(1809-1878)&oldid=112136.

APA style

Roth, Lorraine. (October 2004). Litwiller, Peter (1809-1878). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 1 December 2023, from,_Peter_(1809-1878)&oldid=112136.

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