David Martin Mennonites (Ontario, Canada)
On leaving the Old Order Mennonites in southern Ontario, the David Martin Church (also known as the David Martin Old Order Mennonites), established in 1917, attempted to revive the teachings and practices of the first Anabaptists—particularly including Menno Simons’ practice of the ban and avoidance, previously unpracticed among the Swiss-South German Mennonites in Canada.
Already in 1883, Jacob Martin of Lexington, Ontario, had published a booklet Ein Schifflein gegen den Wind gerichtet (A Ship Sailing Against the Wind), in which he expressed his conviction that Ontario Mennonites stood in need of revival, but not the kind of revival then taking place. Martin saw the influence of 19th-century Protestant revivalism as only another threat to the inner life of the church, to the Anabaptist ideal of brotherly community (Gemeinschaft) as he understood it. The revival he and his family hoped for, was one of returning to the Scriptures, to the teaching of the first Anabaptists, to the church in its original purity and power.
In the division of 1889 Jacob Martin and his family sided with the Old Order group where Jacob’s son David was promptly ordained to the ministry. But the Old Order movement did not satisfy the Martin family’s yearning for a return to original Anabaptist ways. In the spring of 1917, after a prolonged struggle about Mennonite involvement in municipal affairs, David Martin and around a dozen supporting families left the South Peel Old Order congregation (Jacob Martin was no longer living by this time).
Minister David Martin, and his son David W. Martin, a deacon, immediately began holding meetings. They asked for the use of the South Peel meetinghouse but were denied. So they began to meet at the Martin home in Wellesley Township, just east of the village of Wallenstein.
For three years the Martins co-operated with a small group led by Daniel M. Brubacher in neighboring Woolwich Township (known as the Daniel Brubacher Group). Meetinghouses were built in Wellesley Township, just east of Wallenstein, in 1919, and in Woolwich Township, northwest of St. Jacobs, in 1920.
In 1918 the David Martin Church chose Daniel Brubacher by lot as their bishop. Enoch Horst was ordained minister for the Wellesley Township congregation in September 1918, and Menno Brubacher for Woolwich in October 1918. But the Brubachers withdrew in 1920 and the Martin group, growing steadily after its first turbulent years, was left to pursue its reforms alone.
A number of families from the Rainham and South Cayuga congregations, including bishop Freeman Rittenhouse, joined the David Martin Church before 1920 (see Rainham Old Order Mennonites). The Hoover and Sherk families from those settlements became prominent in the group.
In 1921, after Daniel Brubacher left and Freeman Rittenhouse had died, Enoch Horst was ordained bishop and David W. Martin advanced to the ministry. David’s brother Solomon W. Martin became deacon and Amos Bearinger a minister. But the internal struggles to interpret and restore Menno Simons’ teaching and early Anabaptist practice continued to thin the ranks of the new group. Enoch Horst, following an even more radical line than that of the Martin Church, parted ways with a small group of supporters, in 1924.
In 1934 the David Martin Church ordained Elam S. Martin to the ministry and in 1941 Samuel Horst as deacon. A new meetinghouse was built near Linwood, in Wellesley Township in 1945.
In 1946 minister Paul Shank with a small group of members, formerly associated with the Old Order Mennonites in Rockingham County, Virginia, united with the David Martin Church. Most of these members, however, withdrew from the union in less than 10 years.
Not satisfied with the David Martin Church’s progress toward original Anabaptist practice, the extended Hoover family from Rainham, Ontario, also withdrew in 1954. A few of these members promptly joined the merged Titus Hoover and Amish Christian Church in Pennsylvania. Others, including Anson Hoover, later ordained to the ministry, merged with other small groups to form the Orthodox Mennonite Church in 1958.
In 1956 minister Elam S. Martin left the David Martin group and united with the Hoovers. He became their first ordained minister and acting bishop.
In 1957 eight families with a number of young people left the David Martin Church under the leadership of deacon Samuel Horst. A year later, on 6 April 1958, this group merged with the Hoover group, led by Elam S. Martin, and a splinter group of the Reidenbach Mennonites in Pennsylvania, led by Peter O. Nolt, to become the Orthodox Mennonite Church.
Since 1958 the David Martin Church has grown rapidly through natural increase. Members of the church do not use electricity or own automobiles and farm tractors. But through the use of stationary engines and power plants a high level of industrialization has been attained, and the group is on the forefront of area industry and commerce. David Martin Mennonites do not operate private schools nor interact with other Old Order groups. Settlements were expanded and new meetinghouses built near Crosshill, Ontario, in the 1980s, and at Maxwell, Grey County, Ontario, in the 1990s. Meeting at five locations, living primarily in the Waterloo Region, in Perth and Grey Counties, in southern Ontario, the David Martin Mennonites numbered around 3,500 people in 2010.
Burkholder, L. J. Brief History of Mennonites in Ontario. Toronto: Livingstone Press, 1935: 200, 208-209.
Martin, Donald. Old Order Mennonites of Ontario: Gelassenheit, Discipleship, Brotherhood. Kitchener, Ont: Pandora Press, 2003: 167-179.
Original Article from Mennonite Encyclopedia, vol. 4, p. 966, by Joseph C. Fretz
In 1917 the ultraconservative element of Old Order Mennonites in Ontario, located in Woolwich and Wellesley townships, Waterloo County, separated from the main body under the leadership of Deacon David W. Martin. They have practiced very exacting conservative methods. From a small number of families at first the group has grown to a membership of 116, in 1954, with three churches - Wellesley near Wallenstein, Martins near Hawkesville, and Conestoga near St. Jacobs. The group is not affiliated with any conference. At first they chose Daniel M. Brubacher as bishop. In 1920 a schism on the question of the ban gave rise to the Brubacher group and the Martin group. In 1921 Enoch Horst was chosen bishop of the Martin group. In 1924 Horst left the Martin group and has stood alone. In 1925 David W. Martin became bishop of the Martin group. The Brubacher group has practically lost out. In 1957 the ministers were Manasseh M. Frey, Martin B. Frey, and Elam Martin.
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To cite this page:
MLA style: Hoover, Peter. "David Martin Mennonites (Ontario, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. July 2010. Web. 23 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/wisler_mennonites_in_ontario.
APA style: Hoover, Peter. (July 2010). David Martin Mennonites (Ontario, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 23 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/wisler_mennonites_in_ontario.