Sprunger, Samuel Ferdinand (1848-1923)
Samuel Ferdinand Sprunger, the son of Abraham and Magdalena (Rüfenacht) Sprunger, was born on the Münsterberg in the Bernese Jura of Switzerland, 19 October 1848. His mother died when he was but fifteen months old leaving him, as the youngest of the family, with two other brothers and three sisters from a previous marriage, to the care of their father. In the spring of 1852 the family crossed the Atlantic and settled in Adams County, Indiana. Here "S. F." grew to maturity and on 2 October 1872 married Katherina Luginbill. To them there were born ten children—three sons and seven daughters. He died, after a lingering illness, on 16 November 1923; interment was in the Berne cemetery.
"Sammie," as he was called in the early years, spent only five short terms in country school before the age of twenty. He joined the church by baptism on 14 April 1865, at the age of seventeen. Three years later, on 23 August 1868, one of seventeen candidates, he was chosen by lot for the ministry and immediately ordained. His ordination as elder occurred several years later, on 5 March 1874, Christian Krehbiel officiating. In the meantime he had spent three school years at the new Mennonite educational institute just opened at Wadsworth, Ohio, and was graduated in the first class in the spring of 1871. With the Wadsworth emphasis on Sunday schools, missions, and heartfelt religion, he returned home to resume the ministry and became the center of disagreement and division regarding new methods of work. Through patience and wise conduct and a deeply spiritual ministry, the differing groups were in 15 years brought into a single unified congregation which became the largest in the General Conference Mennonite Church. His 33 years of active leadership of the Berne church (1871-1903) not only brought unity but introduced a new spirit into the congregation's life with a strong emphasis on inner religion, evangelical activities, and practical Christian service. Organizations for Sunday school, missions, higher education, young people's work, and temperance were actively promoted by him in the church and town.
In 1884 Sprunger's name was incorporated in the firm name of Welty and Sprunger, which became the publishing agent for the General Conference Mennonite Book Concern. In this connection he served as Business Manager of the Publication Board of the Conference 1884-1890. He also served as editor of the German Sunday School Quarterly 1889-1920, and editor of the Bundesbote Kalendar 1886-1922. Upon the organization of the Middle District Conference in 1888 he became its first president, continuing until 1895 and serving again in 1897 and 1898. Sprunger first attended the triennial General Conference as a delegate in 1872, and attended every one thereafter until 1911. He served the General Conference on committees in connection with the Wadsworth school in 1872, 1875, 1876, and in its closing year in 1878. He was a member of the Foreign Mission Board for 25 years (1884-87, 1896-1917), of the Publication Board 10 years (1884-93), of the Home Mission Board 3 years (1893-96), and was one of the General Conference trustees in 1887 and again 1893-1914. He also served as traveling minister (Reiseprediger) for the General Conference and was active in visiting churches, assisting in their organization, and, especially among the Swiss churches, in drawing them into conference connection.
Samuel F. Sprunger is described as a man of deep consecration, good judgment, unshakable conviction, remarkable organizing and executive ability, and prodigious memory. He was not too approachable in the intimate personal and pastoral relations, but was unusually strong in the pulpit and as a leader in church and social life. Probably no one was more highly respected in the history of his own congregation nor more influential among the 19th-century Swiss Mennonite immigrants of Ohio and Indiana.
Sprunger edited a collection of Mennonite sermons from Europe and the United States under the title Festklänge, Predigten von Mennoniten-Predigern aus den Vereinigten Staaten, Russland, Deutschland, Pfalz, Baiern und der Schweiz (Berne, 1891).
Christlicher Bundesbote XLII (29 November 1923): 5.
Mennonite Yearbook and Almanac 1925: 53.
Krehbiel, H. P History of the General Conference of the Mennonites of North America. Canton, 1898: 445.
Sprunger, Eva F. The First Hundred Years. Berne, 1938.
Sprunger, Eva F. "Samuel Ferdinand Sprunger, Pastor-Conference Worker." Mennonite Life VIII (October 1953).
The Mennonite (29 November 1923): 2.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 605-606. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Pannabecker, S. F. "Sprunger, Samuel Ferdinand (1848-1923)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 19 June 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/sprunger_samuel_ferdinand_1848_1923.
APA style: Pannabecker, S. F. (1959). Sprunger, Samuel Ferdinand (1848-1923). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 June 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/sprunger_samuel_ferdinand_1848_1923.