Schowalter, Christian (1828/9-1907)

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Christian Schowalter (1828/9-1907) was born in Assenheim, Palatinate, Germany, of Swiss ancestry, on 11 November 1828 (1829?). In 1845-1846 he attended a Bible school at Beuggen and then for three years the normal school at Schiers, Switzerland, from which he was graduated in 1849. After teaching for one year at Deutschhof, Bavaria, he immigrated to Ohio. After three years of teaching in Ohio he was called to the parochial school of the Zion Mennonite Church at Donnellson, Iowa, and served as teacher here, which position he filled for thirty-six years, 1853-1889, with an interruption of two years. Here he married Rosina Heffner (Haffner) on 25 October 1855.

In 1858 a movement arose for greater unity among Mennonite churches. Schowalter, then a teacher, was one of the promoters of this vision. In 1860 he was chosen as secretary of a meeting held at West Point, Iowa, to outline steps for such a unification. He became a member of the committee that drew up the "Plan of Union" which was the beginning of the General Conference Mennonite Church. He was a member of the committee that prepared the handbook for ministers, and served as the president of the Foreign Mission Board 1896-1902.

When the question of higher education for Mennonite youth came up in Conference circles Schowalter mapped out a course of instruction and principles on which a school could be conducted. His plans met with favor and on 2 January 1868, he was induced to become principal of the Wadsworth Mennonite School, Ohio, and was the first man ever to head a Mennonite institution of higher learning in America. He held this position nearly two years and at the end of his principalship visited Germany with his family.

In 1861 Schowalter was chosen by lot to succeed the pastor of the Zion Mennonite Church and was ordained to the ministry by David Ruth in 1862. He introduced the Sunday school in his church as well as a young people's society. He wrote a German catechism for the General Conference in 1871 which was accepted in 1881. In 1907 he retired from the ministry because of failing health, and died 13 April 1907.


Gingerich, Melvin. The Mennonites in Iowa. Iowa City, 1939: 81-82.

Krehbiel, H. P. The History of the General Conference of the Mennonites of North America I. Canton, 1898: 417-21.

"Rev. Christian Schowalter, A Memorial Biography." Bethel College Bulletin (April 20, 1938).

Author(s) Cornelius Krahn
Date Published 1959

Cite This Article

MLA style

Krahn, Cornelius. "Schowalter, Christian (1828/9-1907)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 2 Aug 2021.,_Christian_(1828/9-1907)&oldid=113625.

APA style

Krahn, Cornelius. (1959). Schowalter, Christian (1828/9-1907). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 2 August 2021, from,_Christian_(1828/9-1907)&oldid=113625.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 479-480. All rights reserved.

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