Herr, John (1782-1850)
(18 September 1782-3 May 1850). Founder of the Reformed Mennonite Church, John Herr was born as the son of Francis Herr (1748-1810) and Fanny Barr Herr. He died on 3 May 1850, in Humberstone Township, Welland County, ON. His father was expelled from the Mennonite Church in West Lampeter Township, Lancaster County, in about the year 1800. The Mennonite Church reported that the expulsion was for dishonesty in the sale of a horse, but the Reformed Mennonite Church believe that he withdrew from the church after being refused by the conference of his demands for reforms. He began to conduct religious services in his home as a lay brother. Francis Herr died in 1810, leaving a family of eight children, none of whom had been baptized as members in any church. Among those who associated with him in his lay services were Abraham Landis and David Buckwalter, both of whom had withdrawn from the Mennonite Church. After Francis Herr's death the meetings continued and his son John was asked to lead the services, although he was not yet baptized. In a meeting on 30 May 1812, at John Herr's home John was elected pastor and bishop, and Abraham Landis was elected to baptize him. Herr in turn baptized Landis and Abraham Groff, Groff being elected deacon. Soon thereafter Abraham Landis was chosen preacher, followed by John Groff as preacher. John Herr baptized 41 persons soon after May 22. On 7 November 1812, the first meetinghouse was dedicated, called Longenecker's.
Herr, a man of considerable gifts, became a vigorous leader of the new group. His attacks upon the old church from which his family and most if not all the members of his group had descended were vigorous and even bitter. He accused it of being spiritually dead and corrupt, and having departed from the teachings of Menno Simons, of having no real discipline. He himself professed to base his teachings on the Bible and Menno Simons. He traveled much, especially to Western New York and Ontario, where congregations of his group were established. It is clear that he built up his group almost exclusively from ex-Mennonites or proselytes from the Mennonite Church.
In his lifetime, Herr published six small books and pamphlets, which were collected and published in one volume in 1890 as John Herr's Works. The separate writings were: The True and Blessed Way (Harrisburg, 1816, German edition at Lancaster, 1815); A Brief and Apostolic Answer to a Letter Written by a Minister of the Moravian Church (Lancaster, 1842(?), German ed. 1819); The Illustrating Mirror (Lancaster, 1834, German ed. Lancaster, 1827); Letter from John Herr to a Number of Converts in Eric County N.Y. (1833); A Remarkable Vision (1835). Herr also published the first English edition of Menno Simons' Foundation at Lancaster in 1835. It is possible that he also had a hand in the publication of the first English edition of the Martyrs' Mirror, published at Lampeter Square in Lancaster County by David Miller in 1836.
The Life of John Herr is published as a reprint from John Herr's Works in 1890. It contains a brief autobiography (23 pp.) by Herr himself, first published as an appendix to the 1827 Erläterungsspiegel, as well as A Few Facts Concerning John Herr (6 pp.), taken from Daniel Musser's The Reformed Mennonite Church, Its Rise and Progress (Lancaster, 1873). Chapter VII of Musser's book (295-315) contains the only known account of the origin and organization of the Reformed Mennonite Church, giving certain information about Herr. John F. Funk's The Mennonite Church and Her Accusers (Elkhart, 1878) reports the attacks of John Herr, and especially Daniel Musser, upon the Mennonite Church and contains certain information about Francis Herr. I.D. Rupp, An Original History of the Religious Denominations at Present Existing in the United States (Philadelphia, 1844) contains a section entitled "Reformed Mennonite Society" (pp. 502-510), "which has the sanction of the Rev. John Herr of Strassburg, a bishop of this society." It contains meager items about John Herr and the origin of the Reformed Mennonites and their doctrines.
Mennonitisches Lexikon II "Herr, John."
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 712-713. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Bender, Harold S. "Herr, John (1782-1850)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 18 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/H4770ME.html.
APA style: Bender, Harold S. (1956). Herr, John (1782-1850). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/H4770ME.html.