Yoder, John Harvey (1881-1980)

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J. Harvey Yoder, ca. 1940.
Photo from
Neighborhood Profiles and Vistas

John Harvey "J. Harvey" Yoder, community leader, businessman, and dairy farmer, was born in Mottville, Michigan, USA on 11 July 1881 to Simon Peter Yoder (6 August 1847- 22 September 1926) and Mary (Metzler) Yoder (28 June 1850-17 March 1931). J. Harvey Yoder was the first child in a family of two sons and two daughters. On 18 February 1906, he married Irene Hertzler (5 May 1882-4 March 1941), and they had three sons and seven daughters. On 13 November 1951 J. Harvey married Myra Miller Hahn (30 May 1881-26 June 1972). J. Harvey died on 18 September 1980 in Denbigh, Newport News, Virginia. He is buried in the Warwick River Mennonite Church Cemetery.

When J. Harvey Yoder was three years old, the family moved to Mahoning County, Ohio. In 1902 when he was 21 years old, J. Harvey moved with his family to the recently established Warwick River Mennonite Colony in Denbigh, Virginia. He became a leader in the community soon after the family settled in Denbigh. J. Harvey became a teacher in the school for the church community and helped establish a literary society (1904) for the young people of the church. J. Harvey became known for his collaborative efforts in building up the Warwick River Mennonite Colony. He established a dairy farm and worked with other dairy farmers to build Colony Farms Cooperative Dairy (1933), a milk processing plant with retail delivery routes.

J. Harvey Yoder worked with other people in the Colony to modernize it and connect the Colony with the wider world. He served on the local school board for 25 years. He researched the feasibility of a telephone system (1910) and helped put his plan into effect. J. Harvey helped develop a farm loan association to help farmers manage debts. He initiated and helped establish a farmers’ market (1923) in downtown Newport News so the families could market their farm products and goods produced in the kitchens. Later he helped build a new market building (1940) with modern utilities. Harvey was also in the group which planned a farmers’ cooperative to buy seeds and fertilizer and sell the farm products they raised.

J. Harvey Yoder’s leadership achievements were in the business and secular areas of the Colony rather than in the Warwick River Mennonite Church. He withdrew from leadership positions in the church when Bishop George R. Brunk I made wearing regulation plain clothing, which many (Old) Mennonites wore at that time, a prerequisite for any responsibility in the church. J. Harvey remained faithful to the church and did not publicly disagree with the bishop. J. Harvey and Brunk continued to show respect for each other and cooperated on community projects.

Neighborhood Profiles and Vistas is the memoir of J. Harvey which he published in 1971. He was part of the team that put together the history of the first 50 years of the Warwick River Mennonite Colony, Fifty Years Building on the Warwick in 1947.

The fact the Warwick River Mennonite Colony succeeded when many other Mennonite efforts to establish colonies failed can be credited to a large extent to the work of J. Harvey Yoder. "In a real way J. Harvey functioned ex officio as a general project manager of the Warwick River Colony. He could take an idea, see the scope of it, break it into parts, research the unknowns, communicate what was required in a simple, clear directive whether in speech or in writing, delegate tasks, and manage the finances."[1]


  1. Jo Ann Kraus, Holy Experiment, The Warwick River Mennonite Colony, 1897-1970, Harrisonburg, Virginia, Herald Press, 2021: 140.


"J. Harvey Yoder.” SAGA (Swiss Anabaptist Genealogical Association) Genealogical Website. Web. 19 February 2022.

Kraus, Jo Ann. Holy Experiment, The Warwick River Mennonite Colony, 1897-1970. Harrisonburg, Virginia: Herald Press, 2021.

Warwick River Mennonite Church. Fifty Years Building on the Warwick. Nappanee, Indiana: E. V. Publishing House, 1947.

"Yoder, J. Harvey Archive Collection." Virginia Mennonite Conference Archives, Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Yoder, J. Harvey. Neighborhood Profiles and Vistas. New York, N.Y.: Vantage Press, 1971.

Author(s) Gary Smucker
Date Published February 2022

Cite This Article

MLA style

Smucker, Gary. "Yoder, John Harvey (1881-1980)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. February 2022. Web. 29 Sep 2022. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Yoder,_John_Harvey_(1881-1980)&oldid=173142.

APA style

Smucker, Gary. (February 2022). Yoder, John Harvey (1881-1980). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 29 September 2022, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Yoder,_John_Harvey_(1881-1980)&oldid=173142.

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