Wisler, Jacob (1808-1889)
Jacob Wisler (1808-1889), founder of the Old Order Mennonites, was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania on 31 October 1808, the eighth child of Christian Wisler and Susan Holdeman. He moved with his parents to Columbiana County, Ohio, about 1820. There on 19 November 1827, he married Mary Hoover (1808-1860). To this union were born at least seven children, including David (1830-1902), a deacon. In 1833 Jacob was ordained to the ministry in the Midway Mennonite (MC) Church near North Lima, Ohio, almost certainly by Bishop Jacob Nold. In 1848 he and his family moved to Elkhart County, Indiana, and settled on a farm one mile north of the present Yellow Creek church and two and three-fourths miles west. His second wife was Catherine Knopp; this union was childless. In 1851 Abraham Rohrer, a bishop of Medina County, Ohio, who had ordained Martin Hoover (d. 1850 at the age of 89) bishop just before he came to Elkhart County in 1845, came to Yellow Creek and ordained Wisler as his successor. Wisler's conservative attitudes caused Joseph Rohrer, a fellow minister, to leave the Mennonite Church and unite with the Evangelical Church. Wisler also had difficulty with Joseph Holdeman, a deacon of the near-by Holdeman congregation. Much more serious were his differences with Daniel Brenneman, a preacher of Fairfield County, Ohio, who settled in Elkhart County in 1864. Vain efforts were made annually in 1867-1871 to effect permanent peace among the ministers of western Elkhart County (considered as one bishop district west of Goshen), but Wisler was unwilling to accept the Sunday school and similar new institutions and practices. Following a decision against Wisler by an outside committee of six bishops to suspend his bishop office, John F. Funk, on behalf of the majority of the ministers, on 6 January 1872, announced that Wisler and his followers were no longer members of the church. Thereupon Wisler led a schism, establishing a continuing Yellow Creek congregation which came to be called the Old Order Mennonite Church. He was followed by similarly minded "old order" groups near Wadsworth, Orrville, and North Lima, Ohio. Wisler died on 1 May 1889, and was buried in the old Mennonite cemetery across the road from the Wisler Yellow Creek (frame) meetinghouse. Christian Shaum, Wisler's assistant bishop, and Martin A. Hoover preached at his funeral service.
A number of efforts toward healing the Wisler schism were made in 1872-89, but Wisler always felt that he and his group were a happy fellowship, much closer to the old Mennonite practices and attitudes than were the "Funk" Mennonites (Mennonite Church), and that therefore there was no reason to attempt a reunion. If the more progressive group wished to return to the old ways and drop the Sunday school, they could join the congregation in which he had been a preacher since 1848 and a bishop since 1851.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 965. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Wenger, John C. "Wisler, Jacob (1808-1889)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 19 June 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/wisler_jacob_1808_1889.
APA style: Wenger, John C. (1959). Wisler, Jacob (1808-1889). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 June 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/wisler_jacob_1808_1889.