Niagara United Mennonite Church (Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada)

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The first sanctuary of the Niagara United Mennonite Church.
Photo courtesy of Carolyn Derksen
Niagara United Mennonite Church, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON.
Source: Ontario's Places of Worship

The Niagara United Mennonite Church had its roots in the Depression of the 1930s. Many Mennonite families who had difficulty sustaining themselves on the Prairies began to move to the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario. The area around Virgil began to be developed for fruit farming, particularly through the efforts of Mennonite land developer, Peter Wall.

The first Mennonite settlers in the community began to meet in homes, barns and local businesses. Since there were no local ministers, the meetings focused on Bible study and prayer, sometimes accompanied by reading a sermon of a well-known minister. Visiting ministers from Vineland sometimes led the services. Both Mennonite Brethren and General Conference Mennonites were part of these services.

The first informal organization of the United Mennonites in the Virgil area took place on 4 October 1936 when a church council and Sunday school teachers were elected. In fall 1937 the decision was made to build a church on Stone Road on land donated by John Suderman. The basement and shell of the main floor were completed in January 1938. The sanctuary was completed in 1940. On 25 January 1938 the group decided to apply for a charter under the name of Niagara Mennonite Church. A formal organizational meeting took place 1 February 1938 with 38 charter members. Peter Kroeker was elected as the leading minister. C. K. Neufeld joined him later in 1938.

Anti-German feeling before and during World War II led to suspicions of the Virgil-area Mennonites. In 1938 an unknown person tried to burn down the new church building, but the fire was extinguished with minor damage. In 1940 the police searched the church building looking for supplies of dynamite, arms and ammunition.

Continued growth due to continuing immigration to the area by Mennonite refugees from Europe and South America led to construction of a new red brick building which was dedicated on 11 December 1949. The former frame building was sold to the Niagara Boy Scouts which moved it into town. The immigration of German-speaking Mennonite immigrants continued for several decades.

Use of English in Sunday school and worship was considered beginning in 1959. For several years in the early 1960s there were separate German and English Sunday school classes, and consecutive German and English worship services. In 1965 about 170 persons left the congregation to help form the Bethany Mennonite Church which used English only. David Janzen, then the leading minister, helped to make this a congenial separation. Both English and German worship services at the Niagara United Mennonite Church have continued to 2017.


Canadian Mennonite (12 July 1966): 16.

Friesen, C. Alfred. Memoirs of the Virgil-Niagara Mennonites. (1984): 39-42.

Klassen, Peter. "The Niagara United Mennonite Church." Research paper, Canadian Mennonite Bible College, 1957, 15 pp. Mennonite Heritage Centre.

The Niagara United Mennonite Church, 1938-1988. Niagara-on-the-Lake: Niagara United Mennonite Church, 1988, 196 pp.

Niagara United Mennonite Church history: Eben-Ezer 25 Jahre, 1938-1963. Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON: Niagara United Mennonite Church, 1963, 46 pp.

Rogalsky, Dave. "Called to be servants of Christ: Niagara United Mennonite Church celebrates 75 years." Canadian Mennonite 17, no. 4 (18 February 2013): 18.

Stobbe, Bernard. "Ein Geschichtlicher Ueberblick ueber die drei Gemeinden der Vereinigten Mennoniten in der Niagara Halbinsel." Research paper, Canadian Mennonite Bible College, 1956, 20 pp. Mennonite Heritage Centre.

Archival Records

Church records at the church.

Additional Information

Address: 1775 Niagara Stone Rd., Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario L0S 1J0

Location: 1 km northeast of Virgil on the south side of Niagara Stone Road

Phone: 905-468-3313


Denominational Affiliations:

Conference of United Mennonite Churches of Ontario (1938-1988)

Mennonite Church Eastern Canada (1988-present)

Conference of Mennonites in Canada / Mennonite Church Canada (1938-present)

General Conference Mennonite Church (1938-1999)

Niagara United Mennonite Church Leading Ministers

Minister Years of Service
Peter Kroeker 1938-1944
Cornelius K. Neufeld 1944-1946
Jacob A. Dyck, Aeltester 1947-1959
Cornelius K. Neufeld 1959-1961
Peter Klassen 1960-1962
David Janzen 1961-1972
Martin Sawatzky 1972-1975
Peter Falk 1975-1982
David Janzen & Werner Fast 1982-1983
Otto Dirks 1983-2000
Willard Shertzer 2000-2004
Rudy Dirks 2004-August 2016
David Lewis
(Intentional Interim)
September 2016-April 2018
Waldo Pauls
(Intentional Interim)
May 2018-August 2019
Daniel Janzen September 2019-present

Niagara United Mennonite Church Membership

Year Members
1938 87
1950 400
1965 704
1975 608
1985 745
1995 661
2000 625
2010 615
2015 602
2020 536


Map:Niagara United Mennonite Church (Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada)

Original Mennonite Encyclopedia Article

By Jacob A. Dyck. Copied by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, p. 869. All rights reserved.

Niagara United Mennonite Church (General Conference Mennonite), located in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, had its beginning in 1934, when Mennonite settlers came to the Niagara district as fruit farmers. In the fall of 1937 they built a church two miles from Niagara-on-the-Lake. On 1 February 1938, at a meeting in the new church under the leadership of Peter Kroeker, the Niagara United Mennonite Church was organized. Because of the rapid growth in membership it became necessary to build a larger church in 1949. In 1956 the membership of the congregation was 540. Most of the members are fruit farmers. Since 1947 J. A. Dyck has been the minister in charge of this congregation.

Author(s) Samuel J Steiner
Date Published January 2017

Cite This Article

MLA style

Steiner, Samuel J. "Niagara United Mennonite Church (Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. January 2017. Web. 13 Jun 2024.,_Ontario,_Canada)&oldid=178556.

APA style

Steiner, Samuel J. (January 2017). Niagara United Mennonite Church (Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 13 June 2024, from,_Ontario,_Canada)&oldid=178556.

©1996-2024 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.