Walter, Elias, Jr. (1862-1938)
Elias Walter (1862-1938) was a Hutterite bishop of the Dariusleut. He was born in Russia and came to North America in 1874 when the family of Darius Walter settled at the Wolf Creek colony in South Dakota. He was ordained as a preacher in 1898 and served in this capacity for forty years; in 1928 he was elected bishop of the Dariusleut. He was among the first to establish a Bruderhof in Canada (1897-1905), and he himself migrated as the first Hutterite minister to Canada in 1918 when the harshness of the United States government during World War I drove the Brethren away from South Dakota. He then settled in the Stand-Off Colony in southern Alberta, near Lethbridge, where some of his descendants continued to live.
In 1888 Elias Walter came into contact with John Horsch, forming a friendship which proved most profitable to both. It was through Horsch that the European world first learned of the existence of the Hutterites in North America. In 1889 Walter discovered the original Hutterite Chronicle (Geschicht-Buch) at a neighboring colony of Hutterian Brethren who had come from Russia. This Chronicle he copied no less than three times; one copy he sent later to Rudolf Wolkan, a professor of German Literature in Vienna who studied Anabaptism and who published the book in 1923. The title page bears as publication place Vienna and Stand-Off Colony.
Walter was greatly dedicated to reviving the old, genuine Hutterite spirit. Not since Johannes Waldner, who died in 1824, had the brotherhood had a leader like Elias Walter. Without Andreas Ehrenpreis in the 17th century, Waldner in the 18th, and Walter in the 19th and 20th centuries, modern Hutteritism would be almost unthinkable. Walter was a man of indefatigable activity, a bishop in the true sense of the word, concerned at all times for the spiritual needs not only of the Dariusleut but of all Hutterites, in both good and bad times. In his lifetime he copied innumerable volumes of Hutterite literature: 21 sermon books, 12 epistle books, the Handbüchlein wider den Prozess, a commentary on the Book of Revelation, the Article Book,and many more. He also began the compilation of a fairly comprehensive catalog of all Hutterite writings.
In 1902 Walter published Riedemann's great Rechenschaft at Berne, Ind., using the rare copy from the library of the University of Chicago as his source. In 1914 he established a real precedent when he published the Lieder der Hutterischen Brüder at Scottdale, Pa.; this hymnal was generally accepted by all Hutterites. This work is based on the compilation of three old hymn codices of the 16th and 17th centuries. In 1919 he published the Gesangbüchlein . . . meistens aus alten Handschriften gesammelt (Scottdale), containing other hymns than the 1914 edition, but smaller in size. In 1920 he published Andreas Ehrenpreis' Sendbrief ... brüderliche Gemeinschaft, das höchste Gebot der Liebe, betreffend at Scottdale. In 1923 the great chronicle or Geschicht Buch (see above) appeared, in 1925 the Geschichte der zwölf Patriarchen, a smaller volume also edited by Walter.
In 1930 Eberhard Arnold, who made his first contact with Walter in 1926, came to North America, visited all colonies, and was finally ordained preacher by Elias Walter at Stand-Off Colony. Arnold then also received from Walter a number of most valuable old codices as well as a number of sermon books.
One special aspect of Walter's activities was his bookbindery at Stand-Off Colony. Here he bound the handwritten sermon books of practically all of the Hutterite preachers . He also bound innumerable copies of the Chronicle, as well as hymnbooks, tracts, etc., all with great skill and care. His son continued this activity.
Elias Walter married Elizabeth Hofer in 1886. They were blessed with a large family of 7 daughters and 3 sons. The youngest son, Jacob (b. 1910), was elected preacher after his father's death.
John Horsch and Elias Walter carried on a long and fruitful correspondence until Walter's death. Horsch was the actual editor of all the manuscripts that were printed at Berne and Scottdale. A long list of titles of the codices is published in Horsch's Kurzgefasste Geschichte der Mennoniten Gemeinden, sowie einem Verzeichnis der Literatur der Taufgesinnten (Elkhart, 1890). Horsch was also the liaison with Rudolf Wolkan. When the United States draft laws during World War I caused difficulties for the Hutterites, it was Elias Walter who represented the Hutterites in negotiations in Washington, and it was John Horsch who served as a go-between. A considerable file of Walter-Horsch correspondence has been preserved in the Goshen College Historical Library. The oldest Hutterite Epistle Book, a codex of 1566 which existed at one Hutterite Bruderhof, was sent to Horsch in Elkhart in 1888, and Horsch published a considerable number of epistles from it in the Herold der Wahrheit (1888-89).
A series of articles by Elias Walter under the title, "Wie kamen die Hutterischen Brüder nach Amerika?" appeared in the Mennonitische Blätter (1908): 49 f., 53-55, 61-63, 70, 87-89.
Zieglschmid, A. J. F. Das Klein-Geschichtsbuch der Hutterischen Brüder. Philadelphia: Carl Schurz Memorial Foundation, 1947: 494.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 882-883, 1148. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Friedmann, Robert and Harold S. Bender. "Walter, Elias, Jr. (1862-1938)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 24 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/W358ME.html.
APA style: Friedmann, Robert and Harold S. Bender. (1959). Walter, Elias, Jr. (1862-1938). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/W358ME.html.