Mennonite Historical Association of North America

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The Mennonite Historical Association (Society) of North America was founded at the General Conference Mennonite Church sessions at Bluffton, Ohio, 2 September 1911, by individuals interested in collecting and preserving historical material pertaining to the Mennonites. Those present at this first meeting were N. B. Grubb, H. P. Krehbiel, Eddison Mosiman, C. H. Regier, J. R. Toews, Gerhard Penner, C. H. A. van der Smissen, S. M. Grubb, H. D. Penner, N. W. Bahnmann, H. A. Bachmann, S. K. Mosiman, J. H. Langenwalter, J. S. Krehbiel, A. J. Krehbiel, G. Wiebe, H. H. Ewert, G. A. Haury, J. W. Kliewer, John H. von Steen, Hermann Wiebe, and D. C. Welty. A second meeting was held on 5 September, at which time N. B. Grubb was elected president; S. K. Mosiman, vice-president; H. P. Krehbiel, secretary; G. A. Haury, treasurer. Twenty-two charter members joined the newly founded organization, each one paying one dollar membership dues.

The next meeting of the Association took place in connection with the General Conference Mennonite Church sessions at Meno, Oklahoma, at which time S. M. Grubb presented a paper, "The Importance of Collecting Historical Material of Our Denomination." H. R. Voth was elected president; S. K. Mosiman, vice-president; H. P. Krehbiel, secretary; and G. A. Haury, treasurer. The executive committee was given authority to make changes in organization in line with the needs and to ask the Conference to set aside at the next session a whole evening for the Mennonite Historical Association. During the General Conference sessions in Reedley, California, in 1917 the Association presented its first report. From then on the reports were printed with the Conference minutes. A constitution had been printed in German and in English. The dues were now one dollar for five years, and ten dollars for a lifetime. Membership was 117. H. R. Voth, who had done most in collecting materials, was chairman at this time. The classification of some 6,400 items was under way. G. A. Haury was also actively engaged in collecting materials. Some of the material was kept in the vault of the Herald Publishing Company and some at Bethel College, both at Newton, Kansas. Periodicals, books, photographs, manuscripts were being collected, filed, and catalogued "during the late hours of the night" in the home of the chairman, H. R. Voth. At the Freeman Conference sessions in 1923, the officers H. R. Voth, H. P. Krehbiel, and G. A. Haury reported that 2,110 items of the 10,240 objects collected had been catalogued. The pressing question as to where to place and make available the collected material was answered when Bethel College offered space in the newly erected Science Hall.

The reports of the Association for 1925 indicate that plans were under way to establish a Mennonite Memorial Museum on the Bethel College campus to house the collection. The reports of 1926 and 1929 also emphasized this need. When the report of 1933 was given, the chairman, H. R. Voth, had passed away and the work came to a near standstill. The executive committee of the Association, consisting of P. H. Richert, P. H. Unruh, A. J. Dyck, and H. P. Krehbiel, stated that "the extensive collection of the historical material continues to be stored rent-free in a fireproof vault owned by H. P. Krehbiel." The latter was the chief promoter of the Association at this time. In 1938 he proposed the erection of a Mennonite Historical Institute. C. E. Krehbiel also became active in the Association at this time. However, meanwhile the Mennonite historical libraries at Bethel College, under the able direction of A. Warkentin, and at Bluffton College, under the senior historian C. Henry Smith, had become the chief centers of collection and preservation of Mennonite materials within the General Conference Mennonite Church.

The special Historical Committee, which gave its first report at the Conference sessions in 1941, was now appointed by the Executive Committee of the General Conference, consisting of J. R. Thierstein, H. P. Krehbiel, A. Warkentin, and H. A. Fast. This interim committee worked in close harmony with the Bethel College Historical Library. The bulk of the material remained in the H. P. Krehbiel vault but material received at this time was placed in the Bethel College Historical Library with a college or conference label. The Conference made $25.00 available monthly for the cataloguing of such materials. The members appointed to this special committee at the 1941 Conference were A. Warkentin, H. A. Dyck, P. A. Penner, E. E. Leisy, and C. Henry Smith. In 1947 a permanent Historical Committee of the General Conference Mennonite Church was appointed, with A. Warkentin as chairman, Cornelius Krahn as secretary, and C. Henry Smith, A. J. Dyck, E. E. Leisy, and Paul R. Shelly as members, which took over the responsibility of the old Mennonite Historical Association, and the latter was dissolved. The collection of the Association located in the H. P. Krehbiel vault at Newton was transferred to the Bethel College Historical Library, some of which was later transferred to the Mennonite Biblical Seminary Library, Chicago, and other Mennonite libraries.

The Mennonite Historical Association was the first organization among the Mennonites of North America to pioneer in the preservation of valuable Mennonite documents. C. H. Wedel, who died when this organization was coming into being, had laid the foundation, and inspired the younger generation to preserve records of the heritage which would have otherwise been lost. A list of the materials collected by the Association is to be found in the Mennonite Library and Archives at Bethel College.


Minute Book of the Mennonite Historical Society (Association), 1911-1931, kept by H. P. Krehbiel, contains constitution, minutes, membership lists, and articles received (Mennonite Library and Archives, Bethel College (North Newton, Kansas, USA) ).

Reports of the Mennonite Historical Association in Minutes and Reports of General Conference Mennonite Church. (1917); (1920); (1923); (1926); etc.

Author(s) Cornelius Krahn
Date Published 1957

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Krahn, Cornelius. "Mennonite Historical Association of North America." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1957. Web. 6 Apr 2020.

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Krahn, Cornelius. (1957). Mennonite Historical Association of North America. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 6 April 2020, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, pp. 624-625. All rights reserved.

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