Stemen, Henry (1775-1855)
Henry Stemen (Stehmann), (1775-1855), one of the first Mennonite settlers to move from Rockingham County, Virginia, to the Rush Creek region in Richland Township, Fairfield County, Ohio, was ordained preacher there in 1809 and bishop in 1820. Christian Stehmann, Henry's father, had moved to Rockingham County from Pennsylvania. Before leaving Rockingham County, Henry Sternen had married Mary Beery, whose brothers were among the charter members of the Dunkard congregation organized in Fairfield County in 1809. Henry and Mary Stemen followed the usual route traveled by Virginia settlers "going West"—up the Potomac and into Pennsylvania along "Braddock's trail," and after stopping for a year or two in Greene County, Pennsylvania, arrived in Fairfield County, Ohio, in 1803. The county grew rapidly; the first actual settlers arrived in 1798, and in 1806 the county listed 1,551 taxpayers. In 1841 Stemen moved to Allen County, Ohio, where a Mennonite congregation had been organized several years earlier. For a number of years he seems to have been the only Mennonite bishop in the central, western, and northwestern sections of the state. His ministry was noted for his earnest and expressive sermons. In a very real sense he became an itinerant preacher. Saddling one of his well-kept horses, he would ride through wilderness, mud, and storm from settlement to settlement in Wyandot, Wood, Seneca, Williams, Clark, Logan, Fairfield, and Franklin counties. On these tiring pastoral trips he preached, baptized, held communion services either with an outlying congregation or with a single family living far from a congregation of their own faith. He preached funeral sermons over the graves of those who had been quietly laid away months before because no minister could be called in time for the burial. He ordained bishops, preachers, and deacons and organized congregations on the frontier. In 1843-1844 he attended a church conference in the Chester meetinghouse, in Wayne County. On at least one occasion he rode horseback to the Ohio Mennonite Conference in Mahoning County. He made numerous trips to Fairfield County until he ordained John M. Brenneman bishop in Franklin County. In 1853 he ordained George Brenneman bishop as his successor, but shortly before his death in 1855 he persuaded John M. Brenneman to move to Allen County and formally installed him as his successor. Most of Henry Stemen's descendants, impatient with the conservative policies of the "unlearned" John M. Brenneman, united with other denominations and rose to prominent positions in the professions in Allen and Van Wert counties. His son Nicholas Stemen (1802-78), however, was a deacon in the Fairfield County Mennonite church.
History of the Stemen Family. Fort Wayne, 1881.
Umble, John. "The Fairfield County, Ohio, Background of the Allen County, Ohio, Mennonite Settlement." Mennonite Quarterly Review VI (1932): 5-29.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 628-629. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Umble, John S. "Stemen, Henry (1775-1855)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 20 June 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/stemen_henry_1775_1855.
APA style: Umble, John S. (1959). Stemen, Henry (1775-1855). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 20 June 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/stemen_henry_1775_1855.