Bearss, Gilbert (1848-1940)
Gilbert Bearss: pastor; born 4 July 1848 in Welland County, Ontario to Jacob and Eliza (Zavitts) Bearss. He was the youngest son in the family. On 9 March 1868 he married Louise Doan (6 July 1848-9 August 1934). They had three sons and one daughter. Gilbert died 31 March 1940 in Welland, Ontario at the home of his daughter. He was the younger brother of Brethren in Christ leader, Asa Bearss.
Bearss' vocational and educational background is not known. He grew up in a Quaker/Reformed Mennonite home. Bearss joined the Mennonite Church near Sherkston, Ontario as a young man, and was ordained as a minister in 1885. He served the small Mennonite community in the Sherkston area until 1895 when he moved to Campden, Ontario. He then served with other ministers at the Moyer (First Mennonite) Church in Vineland, as well as the Mountain Mennonite Church near his home in Campden. In 1917 Gilbert Bearss returned to Welland County, but no longer had a pastoral role. Beginning in 1928 he and his wife resided with his daughter in Welland.
Gilbert Bearss was one of the first Mennonite ministers in Ontario to preach only in English, probably because only English was spoken in his family of origin. In 1885 English in Ontario Mennonite congregations would still have been unusual, and doubtless contributed to the Old Order Mennonite division that occurred in the small Mennonite community at Sherkston in the late 1880s.
Bearss's 30 years of pastoral ministry were not widely noted because he served in small communities that were on the edge of the larger Mennonite settlements. His contribution to the language shift within the Ontario Mennonite church, however, merits notice.
"Bearss, Gilbert." Gospel Herald 33 (25 April 1940): 94. Reproduced in MennObits. "Gospel Herald Obituary - April 1940."(accessed 20 April 2009)
"Bearss, Louisa Doan."Gospel Herald 27 (11 October 1934). Reproduced in MennObits. "Gospel Herald Obituary - October 1934."(accessed 20 April 2009)
Burkholder, L. J. A Brief History of the Mennonites in Ontario. Kitchener, Ont.: Mennonite Conference of Ontario, 1935: 278, 315.
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MLA style: Steiner, Sam. "Bearss, Gilbert (1848-1940)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. April 2002. Web. 19 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/B4373.html.
APA style: Steiner, Sam. (April 2002). Bearss, Gilbert (1848-1940). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/B4373.html.