Bertie Township (Welland County, Ontario, Canada)
Bertie Township, Ontario, the center of a now extinct Mennonite (Mennonite Church) settlement, called the Bertie congregation throughout most of its history and also known as the Sherkston Mennonite Church. Into this township lying west of Buffalo across the Niagara River in Ontario, Mennonites migrated from eastern Pennsylvania as early as 1788. The main center of worship was a church one mile east of Sherkston. Property deeded in 1828 from that time served for church building and cemetery purposes. The first church was a log building which served about 30 years. By 1860 the log meetinghouse had been replaced by a brick church, which served during the greater period of strength and decline. In 1916 another church was erected on the same grounds and from it dated a revival of interest and attendance for more than a decade, when decline again set in. In 1931 the Mennonites sold this Bertie church to the Brethren in Christ with burial privileges reserved for the Mennonite families and their descendants.
The first leader of the Bertie congregation was Preacher George Zavitz, son of pioneer Jacob Zavitz who came to Canada in 1788. Other preachers during the succeeding years were John Zavitz (1798-1872), John B. Hershey (1816-1904), Benjamin Hershey (1826-1888), Christian Hershey (1768-1845), Nelson Michael (1843-1923), Howard Stevanus, Noah Hunsberger, and Simon Martin. Bishop John Lapp of Clarence, New York made a definite contribution to the strength and life of this church by his visits and oversight. In 1865 he made a conference-wide appeal in behalf of the ministerial needs of the congregation.
Among the reasons for varying strength and loss was the problem of leadership and the problem of language. Bertie had a few strong leaders able to promote harmony and growth. Others were less capable and a few definitely incapable. Schism had its part and some leaders were interested in other groups and organizations. The General Conference Mennonites had a congregation for a time in the northern part of the township. The United Brethren Church took rise and grew in strength while the Mennonites hesitated on the use of the English language. The Brethren in Christ (Tunker, River Brethren) had their strong leader for Ontario in this area. And so the Mennonite church in its 100 years in Bertie Township experienced more loss than growth, until eventually all Mennonite families have withdrawn, or become absorbed in other local organizations.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 299-300. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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To cite this page:
MLA style: Fretz, Joseph C. "Bertie Township (Welland County, Ontario, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 19 June 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/B4792.html.
APA style: Fretz, Joseph C. (1953). Bertie Township (Welland County, Ontario, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 June 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/B4792.html.