Wenger, Joseph O. (1868-1956)

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Joseph O. Wenger: school teacher, farmer, and Old Order Mennonite minister; born 18 August 1868, the son of Joseph B. Wenger and Susanna W. (Oberholtzer) Wenger. He was married to Susanna G. Nolt (14 July 1864–4 November1933), daughter of Jacob W. Nolt and Susanna N. (Gable) Nolt. They had no children. Joseph O. Wenger died 30 June 1956; he is buried in the Groffdale Old Order Mennonite Church Cemetery.

Joseph was a local school teacher in the Groffdale community, West Earl Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He had an older brother, John O. Wenger, who left the Mennonite church, became educated through Millersville Normal School and later attended college in Canton, Ohio.  For a time John taught at the University of Chicago. In 1896 John contacted meningitis from which he died. The thought of John experiencing death outside the Mennonite church haunted Joseph for the rest of his life.

Joseph O. Wenger was ordained a minister for the Groffdale congregation of the Weaverland Mennonite Conference on 14 May 1896. He was the first minister ordained by Bishop Jonas H. Martin’s new Weaverland Mennonite Conference. Once ordained, Wenger pursued farming. He was a man of biblical simplicity and plainness, and a strong advocate of using the German language, which he referenced as the "Mother Tongue."

In 1927 issues over the use of automobiles and English-language preaching became heated in Weaverland Mennonite Conference. Some members strongly opposed these things, while others were willing to tolerate them. Moses G. Horning, the bishop at the time, attempted to maintain peace. When the conference met on 8 April 1927, Horning could not in good conscience announce that the automobile was now accepted, so he remained at home.

Minister Frank Hurst consented to go to the conference and make the announcement. The church then split about half and half. The conservative half retained the horse and buggy and the German language and assumed the name Groffdale Mennonite Conference. Joseph O. Wenger assumed the leadership role of the conservative group, and was ordained as bishop on 13 September 1927. He served the church faithfully until old age began to weaken his mental capacity, at which time he retired and left the office to Aaron Z. Sensenig, the youngest man among the ministry.


Kraybill, Donald B, and James P. Hurd. Horse-and-buggy Mennonites: Hoofbeats of Humility in a Postmodern World. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006.

Wenger, Samuel S., ed. The Wenger Book: A Foundation Book of American Wengers. Lancaster, PA: Pennsylvania German Heritage History, 1978.

Archival Records

Muddy Creek Farm Library Archives, 296 Wheat Ridge Drive, Ephrata, PA 17522-8557.

Author(s) Jonathan H Martin
Date Published October 2011

Cite This Article

MLA style

Martin, Jonathan H. "Wenger, Joseph O. (1868-1956)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. October 2011. Web. 23 Jan 2022. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Wenger,_Joseph_O._(1868-1956)&oldid=69057.

APA style

Martin, Jonathan H. (October 2011). Wenger, Joseph O. (1868-1956). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 23 January 2022, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Wenger,_Joseph_O._(1868-1956)&oldid=69057.

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