Zion Mennonite Church (Donnellson, Iowa, USA)

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In 1850 several families decided to emigrate from Germany to Lee County, Iowa. These included the families of Jacob Krehbiel(I) and Jacob Galle. After an initial exploratory visit from their temporary stop in Ashland County, Ohio, three families moved to Lee County in the spring of 1851.

That fall, they organized church services with Henry Ellenberger as the preacher. Initially, the group met in Franklin Township District School #4, northwest of the present town of Donnellson. On 20 May 1852, four young persons were baptized into the church.

Seven Mennonite families joined the settlement in 1852, including three preachers--Jacob Krehbiel(II), Jacob Schnebele, and David Ruth. The congregation adopted its first Constitution in 1853. By 1854 the schoolhouse no longer held the group, so it arranged to hold services on alternate Sundays in the St. Paul Evangelical Church just north of Donnellson. On 28 January 1854, the congregation decided to construct its own church building. It conducted a school in the church basement, with Christian Schowalter as the first teacher. Schowalter taught until 1880 except for two years he led the Wadsworth Mennonite School in Ohio.

The first church building, located two miles northwest of Donnellson, was built of stone and intentionally included a basement to be used as a school. The congregation dedicated the building on 21 October 1855. In 1880 the congregation rebuilt the church a short distance away. The following year, it constructed a frame schoolhouse nearby. The new church building also became inadequate, so the congregation built a new church in Donnellson in 1908, dedicating it on 2 February 1909. The country schoolhouse was discontinued in 1917 and torn down in 1921. The 1880 stone church building was dismantled in 1913, and the lot was used as the congregation's cemetery.

In 1853 the new congregation agreed to work in harmony with the Mennonite congregation near West Point, also in Lee County, Iowa. These two congregations agreed on 21 March 1859 to invite other Mennonite congregations to join their union. Four congregations, Zion and West Point, together with Polk County, Iowa, and the West Swamp Mennonite Church of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, met on 28-29 May 1860 and resolved to invite the fellowship of all branches of Mennonites with a joint focus on missions. This was the beginning of the General Conference of the Mennonite Church of North America.

Zion Mennonite Church was yoked with the Donnellson Presbyterian Church from 1970–2010, and from 1974–2010 the two congregations held joint Sunday worship services. Each congregation kept its denominational identity, but the congregation functioned as one church family. Members of both congregations grieved when the Donnellson Presbyterian Church closed on 31 January 2010. The yoked years are an important part of Zion's history. Many former members of Donnellson Presbyterian Church remained part of the Zion Mennonite family.

In 2000 when the Northern District of the General Conference Mennonite Church and the Iowa-Nebraska Conference of the Mennonite Church (MC) merged to form the Central Plains Mennonite Conference of Mennonite Church USA, Zion Mennonite shifted from the Central District Conference to the new Central Plains Conference. It remained part of the Central Plains Conference in 2023.


Faulkner, Chris. "Donnellson [United Presbyterian] church to close after 138 years." Fort Madison Daily Democrat 4 December 2009. Web. 3 March 2023. https://www.mississippivalleypublishing.com/daily_democrat/news/donnellson-church-to-close-after-138-years/article_7b220d14-852f-5619-b8ab-4a9b46ec3d47.html.

Gingerich, Melvin. The Mennonites in Iowa. Iowa City, Iowa: The State Historical Society of Iowa, 1939: 76-85, 285-291.

Hilty, P. P. "The Zion Mennonite Church" Mennonite Year Book and Almanac (1910): 37-38.

"Our church history." Zion Mennonite Church. 2014. Web. 24 February 2023. https://zionmennonitedonnellson.org/welcome/history/.

Raid, Howard D. "The church in the world." The Mennonite 76, no. 6 (7 February 1961): 85, 93.

_____. "Whence have we come?" The Mennonite 75, no. 2 (12 January 1960): 21-22; 75, no. 3 (19 January 1960): 38-39; 75, no.4 (26 January 1960): 52-53.

Rich, Elaine Sommers, ed. Walking Together in Faith: The Central District Conference, 1957-1990. Bluffton, Ohio: The Conference, 2003.

Additional Information

Address: 720 Park Street, Donnellson, Iowa 52625

Phone: 319-835-9420

Website: https://zionmennonitedonnellson.org/

Denominational Affiliations: Central Plains Mennonite Conference

Mennonite Church USA

Pastoral Leaders at Zion Mennonite Church

Name Years
of Service
Henry Ellenberger (1784-1869) 1851-1869
Jacob Krehbiel (1803-1861) 1852-1861
Jacob Schnebele (1799-1878) 1852-?
David Ruth (1808-1867) 1852-1860s?
Christian Schowalter (1828-1907) 1861-1867
Daniel Krehbiel (1836-1901) 1868-1869
Peter P. "P. P." Hilty (1871-1959) 1905-1919
Elmer Basinger (1882-1958) 1920-1924
John E. "J. E." Kaufman (1898-1953) 1924-1929
Delbert E. Welty (1896-1979) 1930-1936
Adolf Friesen (1897-1978) 1936-1941
Harvey E. "H. E." Nunemaker (1893-1972) 1941-1946
Arnold T. Nickel (Interim)(1920-1971) 1946-1948
Vernon H. Neufeld (1920-2008) 1951-1955
Harold P. Thiessen (1922-1986) 1955-1960
Orlando H. Wiebe (1919-1971) 1960-1963
Ernest E. Porzelius 1963-1969
Alvin D. Kleinsasser 1970-1976
Raymond Wallace 1977-1981
Timothy Rhodes 1982-1988
Richard A. Bentzinger (1920-2010) 1988-2005
Alice Hawes (Interim) 2005-2007
Audrey Ratzlaff 2007-2010
Marcia Yoder-Schrock 2010?-2016
Pamela Gerig Unruh 2016-2023
Rachelle Luitjens 2023-

Membership at Zion Mennonite Church

Year Membership
1898 142
1906 160
1910 178
1922 213
1930 200
1940 223
1950 223
1960 205
1970 186
1980 164
1990 148
2000 135
2009 127
2020 127

Original Mennonite Encyclopedia Article

By Vernon H. Neufeld. Copied by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 1031. All rights reserved.

Zion Mennonite Church (General Conference Mennonite) of Donnellson, Lee County, Iowa, a member of the Middle District Conference, was organized in the autumn of 1851, and constructed a combined school and church building in 1855, two miles north and one mile west of Donnellson. This building was replaced in 1880 by separate buildings. The present edifice in Donnellson was built in 1909 and the old site is used as a cemetery. The parochial school, begun in 1853, which gradually evolved into a summer German school, was discontinued in 1917.

In 1859 the Zion and West Point congregations invited all Mennonites of North America to a general conference, resulting in the formation in 1860 of the General Conference Mennonite Church. The Zion congregation co-operated in organizing the Central District Conference (then Western) in 1868. The Iowa churches helped in founding the Wadsworth Mennonite School, Ohio, 1868; Christian Schowalter, Zion pastor and teacher, served as its first principal. The membership in 1957 was 208; the pastor was Harold Thiessen.

Author(s) Samuel J Steiner
Date Published March 2023

Cite This Article

MLA style

Steiner, Samuel J. "Zion Mennonite Church (Donnellson, Iowa, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. March 2023. Web. 17 Apr 2024. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Zion_Mennonite_Church_(Donnellson,_Iowa,_USA)&oldid=176341.

APA style

Steiner, Samuel J. (March 2023). Zion Mennonite Church (Donnellson, Iowa, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 17 April 2024, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Zion_Mennonite_Church_(Donnellson,_Iowa,_USA)&oldid=176341.

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