Old Order Mennonites, Pennsylvania

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The Stauffer Mennonites began in 1845 under the leadership of Jacob Stauffer (1811-1855) in the congregation at Pike, Earl Township, Lancaster County Since its reorganization in 1916, the largest branch of this church is known as the Jacob Stauffer Church. The group is named after Jacob S. Stauffer (1889-1987), a leader for more than 60 years and grandson of the Jacob Stauffer mentioned above. In 1987 this group was located in Lancaster and Snyder Counties, Pennsylvania; St. Mary's County, Maryland; and Dallas County, Missouri, USA). In 1987 a settlement began in Kentucky. This group had about 500 members.

If the name Stauffer Mennonite is used in the broad sense of the word, it can refer to at least nine different groups, each of which had in a measure descended from the original 1845 Jacob Stauffer group. The groups usually were named after their founding bishops. These groups were the Jacob Stauffer, Phares Stauffer, Joseph Brubaker, Noah Hoover, Titus Hoover, Aaron Martin, Allen Martin, Martin Weaver, and Jonas Weaver groups.

Stauffer Mennonites in general hold to orthodox Mennonite beliefs, adhere to the 18 articles of the Dordrecht Confession of 1632, hold to rigid homemade dress patterns, and forbid the use of automobiles and modern farm machinery. Perhaps the most noticeable difference between them and other Old Order Mennonite groups is their more rigid view on shunning (avoidance).

Next to the Jacob S. Stauffer group in numerical strength in 1987 was the young and growing Noah Hoover group. It was located in Snyder County, Pennsylvania; Allen County, Kentucky; and Belize, Central America. They had an associated group in Huron County, Ontario. This group totaled about 150 members, having its largest settlement in Kentucky. This group in some ways was also the most conservative, as, for example, they permit no engine power at all.

Although there are no summary census figures available, the 1987 total of baptized members among the various Stauffer Mennonite groups was estimated at 800 (2,000 counting unbaptized children).

Weaverland Conference Mennonites are an Old Order Mennonite group that began in Weaverland, in East Earl Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The Weaverland group is also called the Horning Mennonites, after Bishop Moses Horning (1871-1955). It was founded on 6 October 1893, when Bishop Jonas H. Martin and Deacon Daniel Burkholder, with several hundred followers, withdrew from the Lancaster Mennonite Conference (MC). It was founded as a measure of protest against the innovations that came into the Mennonite Church at that time, especially Sunday schools, solemnizing marriages of nonmembers, church charters, and modern church furnishings and buildings. In 1987 the Weaverland conference still adhered to its founding principles. This group had made some concessions in favor of worship in the English language, modern farm machinery and black automobiles. Its members did, however, held to the usual Old Order Mennonite principles of nonresistance and nonconformity and used the Dordrecht Confession. This conference worked closely with the (Old Order) Mennonite conference of Ohio and Indiana (Wisler-Ramer group) and the Markham-Waterloo Mennonite Conference of Ontario. The Weaverland conference had daughter congregations in numerous counties in Pennsylvania, and also in the states of Virginia, Missouri, New York, and Wisconsin. In 1987 the Weaverland conference had 4,200 members, 69 ordained leaders, and 28 meetinghouses.

Groffdale Conference Mennonites were a body of Old Order Mennonites also known as Wenger Mennonites, so named after the group's first bishop, Joseph O. Wenger. The Groffdale Conference is often thought of as a sister conference to the Weaverland Conference. Both of these conferences share a common legacy, and many of the meetinghouses of both conferences are used in common. The Groffdale conference was founded on 8 April 1927 by the withdrawal of the conservative element of the Weaverland conference from the more progressive portion which had accepted automobiles. The Groffdale conference prefers horse and buggy for conveyance, and in 1987 excluded ownership of rubber-tire tractors and automobiles. They tenaciously adhered to the German language in worship and home life (dialect literature and speech).

The membership of this conference was estimated to be 4,200 in 1987. It had 32 meetinghouses and 65 ordained men. This conference had daughter settlements and was affiliated with similar groups of independent origins in numerous Pennsylvania counties and in the states of Missouri, Ohio, New York, Wisconsin, Kentucky and Indiana (Wisler-Martin group). Associate conferences exist in Virginia and Ontario.

For Old Order Mennonites in Ontario, Indiana, and elsewhere, including details on history, worship, and church life, see Mennonite World Handbook (1978), 374-81, and Cronk and Horst, in the bibliography. The total number of Old Order Mennonites in the Weaverland, Groffdale, Reidenbach, and related groups was estimated at 8,700 in 1987.

See also Conservative Mennonites; Ohio; Old Order Mennonites; Old Order Mennonites of VirginiaGroffdale Old Order Mennonite ConferenceWeaverland Mennonite Conference


Calendar of Meetings of the Groffdale Conference. 1987.

Eine Chronik oder Geschichtbüchlein . . . Durch J.(Jacob) St. (Stauffer). 1855.

Cronk, Sandra L. "Gelassenheit: The Rites of Redemptive Process in the Old Order Amish and Old Order Mennonite Communities." PhD dissertation, U. of Chicago, 1977. cf Mennonite Quarterly Review 55 (1981): 5-44.

Directory of the Weaverland Conerence Mennonite Churches. 1985.

Hoover, Amos B. Editor. The Jonas Martin Era. Denver, PA: the author, 1982.

Horst, Isaac R. Separate and Peculiar. Mt. Forest, ON: the author, 1979.

Kraybill, Paul N., ed. Mennonite World Handbook. Lombard, IL: Mennonite World Conference, 1978: 374-381.

Mennonite Calendar of Weaverland Conference. 1985.

Mennonite World Handbook Supplement. Strasbourg, France, and Lombard, IL: Mennonite World Conference, 1984: 135, 146.

Records of ordinations of the Old Order Mennonites, Groffdale Conference Churches, 1750-1980.

Records of ordinations of the Mennonites leading to and including the Weaverland Conference, 1750-1981.

Reimer, Margaret Loewen, ed. One Quilt, Many Pieces. Waterloo, ON: Mennonite Publishing Service, 1983: 10-13.

Schwartzberg, Joseph E. "A Geographic Analysis of Old Order Amish and Stauffer Mennonite Communities in Southern Maryland." Thesis, U. of Maryland, 1951.

Additional Information

"Plain People of Pennsylvania." Penn State On Demand panel discussion moderated by Patty Satalia with Donald Kraybill, Richard Page, David Weaver-Zercher, Stephen Scott and Julia Kasdorf. 58:45 minute streaming video in QuickTime or WindowsMedia.

Author(s) Amos B Hoover
Date Published 1987

Cite This Article

MLA style

Hoover, Amos B. "Old Order Mennonites, Pennsylvania." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1987. Web. 15 Aug 2020. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Old_Order_Mennonites,_Pennsylvania&oldid=121266.

APA style

Hoover, Amos B. (1987). Old Order Mennonites, Pennsylvania. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 15 August 2020, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Old_Order_Mennonites,_Pennsylvania&oldid=121266.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, p. 654. All rights reserved.

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