Bontreger, Eli J. (1868-1958)
Eli J. Bontreger was a bishop of the Old Order Amish Mennonite Church, who lived in his latter years near Shipshewana, Indiana. He was the third child of John E. (Hansi) and Barbara Mishler Bontreger, whose immigrant ancestor, Martin Bornträger of Switzerland, arrived at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 5 October 1767. Eli was born 19 January 1868 near Shipshewana. He was married 18 December 1890, to Mattie Miller, to whom were born five sons and three daughters. After her death in 1918, he was married on 5 December 1920 to Amanda Miller. One son was born to them. Eli's first 27 years were spent near Shipshewana, the next 15 in North Dakota , and over six years in northern Wisconsin, before he again returned to Shipshewana. He was ordained minister 13 May 1894, at Shipshewana, and bishop near Mylo, North Dakota on 18 June 1901. In his 64-year ministry Bontreger baptized 437 persons, married 197 couples, preached over 2,600 times, ordained 36 ministers and deacons and 15 bishops, and traveled a total of over 520,000 miles by 1953.
Not only was he instrumental in the organization of the two colonies in North Dakota and Wisconsin, of which he was a part, but he was often asked to assist in the establishment of other colonies. His sincere desire to be impartial in all his dealings both in and out of the church won for him many lasting friendships.
As a writer Bontreger produced many articles for religious and secular papers. He became editor and co-founder of the present Herold der Wahrheit in 1912, and in 1923 he finished collecting and compiling material for the Bontreger History, which he had published the same year.
During both world wars he gave much valuable assistance to draftees both before and after induction. Also as a member of the Mennonite Central Committee (1942-1952) he visited most of the Civilian Public Service camps in the United States as well as units at mental hospitals and men on detached service.
He died 15 February 1958 at Sarasota, Florida, and was buried in the cemetery on his farm near Shipshewana, Indiana. His mimeographed autobiography (up to 1955) is available at the Mennonite Historical Library (Goshen, Indiana).
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 1067. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
©1996-2013 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.
MLA style: Bauman, Mary E. "Bontreger, Eli J. (1868-1958)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 25 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/B6691.html.
APA style: Bauman, Mary E. (1959). Bontreger, Eli J. (1868-1958). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 25 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/B6691.html.