Mellinger, John H. (1858-1952)

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John H. Mellinger (7 December 1858-13 May 1952) was an outstanding Mennonite Church (MC) lay leader and the father of the missionary movement among Lancaster Conference Mennonites. He was born in Paradise Township, Lancaster County, PA as the son of Jacob Mellinger, and Elizabeth Hershey and was married on 16 November 1882, to Barbara K. Denlinger. They started farming north of Vintage in 1883, and in the same year were baptized by Benjamin Herr at the Hershey meetinghouse. Here they farmed until 1895 when they purchased a smaller farm on Lincoln Highway East, retiring in 1912. In 1924, after his wife's death, Mellinger went to live with his son Jacob. His last days were spent in the home of Amos Mellinger. Of the six sons and one daughter, Jacob, John, Enos, and Jesse were still living at his death.

Sunday schools, approved by Conference in 1871, did not come into his district until 1887 when John was asked to be the superintendent at Paradise. Here he contributed by encouraging missionary initiatives which sent John M. Kreider to Missouri, Abram Metzler to Martinsburg, A. Hershey Leaman and Mary Denlinger to Chicago (the first MC home mission), and Jacob A. Ressler (the first MC foreign missionary) to India. On 15 September 1894, the Mission Advocates were organized in his home. With the organization of the Lancaster Sunday School Mission 16 months later, which he headed, the quarterly mission meetings were held in the Paradise-Kinzer district. Whenever any rural or city missions were started, regardless of the distance, he was personally interested. When the larger succeeding organization, the Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities, was organized in 1914 Mellinger was chosen to be the president, a post which he served until October 1934; thus he was chairman of the mission movement in America for over 38 years.

Although he passed through the lot for the ministry three times, his work was elsewhere. He and M. S. Steiner wrote the constitution for the forerunner of the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities. He aided in the organization of the Franconia Mennonite Mission Board. He helped to locate the Falfurrias (Texas) and the Tampa-Ybor City (Florida) mission fields. He turned the adverse tide in a Philadelphia Quaker meeting in 1919 (?) that caused the Quakers to work with Mennonite support to feed the German children following World War I (Quaker Child Feeding). He helped to organize the Mennonite Central Committee in 1920 and served as a member on it until his retirement in 1934. He was promoter of the Old People's Home and the Associated Sewing Circles, chairman of the board of the Millersville Mennonite Children's Home for 20 years from the beginning. He was the moving spirit in 1922 and 1924, when $65,000 were successfully loaned to the Russian Mennonite immigrants in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and elsewhere in Canada.

Mellinger's greatest contribution was in his outstanding leadership in the field of missions. Though a layman, he exercised extraordinary influence in the Lancaster Conference over a long period of time. The extensive program of foreign and home mission work owes very much to his effort.

Author(s) Ira D Landis
Date Published 1957

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MLA style

Landis, Ira D. "Mellinger, John H. (1858-1952)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 25 May 2022.,_John_H._(1858-1952)&oldid=122913.

APA style

Landis, Ira D. (1957). Mellinger, John H. (1858-1952). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 25 May 2022, from,_John_H._(1858-1952)&oldid=122913.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 566-567. All rights reserved.

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