Lapp, Mahlon Cassius (1872-1923)
Mahlon Cassius Lapp, a Mennonite Church (MC) missionary and bishop, was born in Line Lexington, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, on 4 February 1872, the son of Deacon Samuel Whistler and Sarah Gross Lapp, the eighth generation of the Lapp immigration from Europe. "Tradition has it that John Lapp, who landed in Philadelphia 29 September 1733, was raised Amish, fell in love with and married a Mennonite girl, and they became the progenitors of Bucks County branch of the Lapp family" (Mennonite Cyclopedic Dictionary, p. 204). Mahlon was the fourth of five children in the Lapp family. The oldest child was the only girl. In February 1878, at the age of six years, he moved with his parents to Roseland, Nebraska, where he grew up. As a boy he attended grade school at Roseland and later helped his father and brothers on the farm. For several years he worked as a constructionist in a bridge gang. After his conversion at the age of 21 he assisted Jacob Burkhard in conducting an extension Sunday school at Antioch, about 30 miles (50 km) distant from their home, traveling the distance each week by horse and buggy.
In 1899 Mahlon went to Chicago to serve as a missionary in the Mennonite Home Mission located at that time on West 18th Street. His city mission service continued until 1901, during which time he took a short business course at the Elkhart Institute, Elkhart, Indiana. On 10 June 1901 at the Home Mission he was united in marriage to Sarah Hahn of Clarence Center, New York. In the same month the Mennonite Evangelizing and Benevolent Board (later the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities) appointed Mahlon and Sarah Lapp missionaries to India. Before they sailed Mahlon was ordained to the ministry and to the office of bishop by Bishop Albrecht Schiffler in the Mennonite church at Roseland. They arrived in India in October 1901. He resided in that country until his death in 1923. He had no children.
During his missionary service in the American Mennonite Mission at Dhamtari, Central Provinces (now Madhya Pradesh), India, Mahlon served as co-bishop of the Mennonite Church with Bishop J. A. Ressler until the latter left India in 1908. Then he was the only bishop until the ordination of Peter A. Friesen on 2 April 1916. He continued his bishop responsibilities until his death. He also served for a short time as treasurer of the Mission and later as assistant superintendent until Ressler left in 1908, when he became superintendent and served in that capacity until about 1920. During his terms as superintendent he also served as agent of the Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities. He was the first moderator of the India Mennonite Conference when it was organized in 1912 and was frequently elected to that office afterwards.
The missionary life of Mahlon Lapp "was busy and strenuous from the beginning. A many-sided, able man placed in a land of many and urgent needs, he was constantly sought out for help and advice by Europeans and Indian people of all classes. He was farmer, doctor, builder, and minister. He became all things to all people that he might by all means save some. He loved the people and was loved by them" (annual report of the American Mennonite Mission, 1923). Although he was not a trained physician, one of his major contributions to India was along medical lines. Hundreds of people traveled many miles on foot and by cart to be treated at his clinic.
Mahlon Lapp's death occurred in Calcutta, India, on 30 May1923. He was interred in the Sunderganj Mennonite cemetery at Dhamtari. (Gospel Herald, 26 July 1923; Christian Monitor, June 1932.)
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 294-295. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Kaufman, John N. "Lapp, Mahlon Cassius (1872-1923)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 18 June 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/lapp_mahlon_cassius_1872_1923.
APA style: Kaufman, John N. (1957). Lapp, Mahlon Cassius (1872-1923). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 June 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/lapp_mahlon_cassius_1872_1923.