Dohner, Amanda (1852-1919)

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Amanda Dohner: orphanage manager for the Krimmer Mennonite Brethren church; born 9 November 1852 in Montgomery County, Ohio, to Joseph H. Dohner (1818-1892) and Mary (Hostetter) Dohner (1816-1897). She was the seventh of ten children in the family. Her baptism took place in September 1868. Amanda worked for many years in a home for orphans near Hillsboro, Kansas. In the late 1890s, Amanda Dohner gave up her work due to failing health, and she died of her illness on 1 October 1919 in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania.

Early in Amanda’s childhood, she and her family moved from Ohio to Franklin County, Pennsylvania, where they attended a Brethren in Christ church which was also called "River Brethren." In 1868, when Amanda was 16 years old, she made a commitment to Christ and was baptized. Ten years later, she left Orrstown, Pennsylvania, where she had been living, and went to live in Marion County, Kansas, near where her brother and several cousins lived. She began attending Bible studies with the Krimmer Mennonite Brethren in Gnadenau and was soon offered a job of teaching English to the children in the group.

In 1882, Amanda felt a spiritual call to care for and train children. While she waited to find opportunities to serve in this area, she sewed bed linens for families and looked for other people who shared her vision. Finally, Tobias Martin of the River Brethren in Pennsylvania offered to supply funding to start a home for orphans in Gnadenau, southeast of Hillsboro. When the orphan’s home officially opened in March 1889, Amanda Dohner was chosen as its first matron.

The first children arrived in November 1889. On 15 September 1890, The Industrial School and Hygienic Home for Friendless Persons Association received its official charter from the state of Kansas. Tobias Martin and the Krimmer Mennonite Brethren continued to fund the project, including the construction of a four-story stone building which replaced the old wooden structure in 1896. Later, the focus changed to helping the elderly and ill instead of orphans, with seventeen churches supporting the work.

Dohner continued in her role as matron of the orphans’ home until the late 1890s, sometimes working without assistance because of a lack of staff members. Part of the orphanage’s mandate was to make the home self-supporting, and Amanda worked to achieve this aim and also to try to find Christian families to provide homes for the orphans.

Dohner regularly ate with the residents and shared many aspects of their daily lives. At times, 60 to 80 children lived there, including a boy and a girl whom Amanda counted as her adopted children. She had suffered from ill health for some time when she finally retired and moved to Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. She died there on 1 October 1919 at the age of almost 67 years and was buried at the Air Hill Cemetery in Chambersburg, Franklin County, Pennsylvania.

Amanda Dohner’s compassion for people in need led her to years of dedicated service in caring for orphans. Although her work was not always easy, she tried to be faithful and to leave a legacy of service for future generations.

Bibliography "Joseph Dohner." Web. 14 August 2013.

Find a "Amanda Dohner." Web. 13 August 2013.

Goertzen, Peggy. "Amanda Dohner: Mother to Orphans." Web. 14 August 2013.

GRANDMA (The Genealogical Registry and Database of Mennonite Ancestry) Database, 4.19 ed. Fresno, CA: California Mennonite Historical Society, 2005: #55858.

Harder, Menno S. and Melvin Gingerich. "Industrial School and Hygiene Home for Friendless Persons (Hillsboro, Kansas, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1959. Web. 13 August 2013.

Pantle, Alberta. "Settlement of the Krimmer Mennonite Brethren." Kansas Historical Quarterly. Web. 13 August 2013.

Salem Home. "History." Web. 20 August 2013.

Author(s) Susan Huebert
Date Published April 2016

Cite This Article

MLA style

Huebert, Susan. "Dohner, Amanda (1852-1919)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. April 2016. Web. 14 Dec 2018.,_Amanda_(1852-1919)&oldid=134103.

APA style

Huebert, Susan. (April 2016). Dohner, Amanda (1852-1919). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 14 December 2018, from,_Amanda_(1852-1919)&oldid=134103.

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