Preston Mennonite Church (Cambridge, Ontario, Canada)

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Preston Mennonite Church
Source: Brian L. Shantz Website

The Preston, Ontario area (now part of the city of Cambridge) was the oldest Mennonite community in the Waterloo Region, tracing its origin to the first Caucasian settlers to arrive in this part of Ontario. In 1800 four family groups immigrated here from Pennsylvania and included an ordained deacon, Jacob Bechtel. Joseph Bechtel arrived in 1802 and was ordained as the first minister in 1804. This group of Anabaptists met in homes or barns until 1814 when they built a union or free house meetinghouse. Religious groups other than the Church of England were not allowed to build places of worship in Upper Canada until 1828 or later, thus before this time community meetinghouses were available to everyone. Because of disagreements in the early 1820's, the Anabaptists were locked out of this building by another church group using the same facility. In 1824 the Bechtel group relocated and built a new union meetinghouse. It was known as the Bechtel Appointment because of the surnames of its leadership. In 1842 this group became formally organized when a red brick meetinghouse was built just up the road beside the already established cemetery. By 1848 this congregation became known as Hageys, since two of its spiritual leaders were Jacob and Joseph Hagey.

In 1840 the first Mennonite Sunday School in North America was organized at Hagey Mennonite, but it closed after a few years due to conservative opposition. In 1891 a permanent Sunday School was organized and classes were taught in German and English. The first English sermon was preached at Hageys in 1890 and German was not used after the 1890's.

The Hagey church was extensively renovated in 1896, and after a fire in 1950. In 1954, after a second disastrous fire, a new church was built at the present location and it was renamed Preston Mennonite Church. The congregation joined the Mennonite Conference of Eastern Canada in 1988, and in 1995 it also became part of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada.

The Preston congregation has been active in local outreach for many years. In 1943 its members were instrumental in opening Braeside Home, a senior's residence, which was described as the first of its kind in Canada and the fourth in North America. This institution relocated next door to Preston Mennonite Church in 1956 and was renamed Fairview Mennonite Home. Residents are able to attend functions at Preston Church or listen to worship services over a public address system. Many of the church members have been employed there, and many of the church's seniors reside there.

In 1974 a nursery school was begun in Preston Church basement, primarily to serve the high density area know as Lang's Farm Village located just east of the church property. It continued until 1995. In 2003 the church's mission involvement continued in Lang's Farm Village, and many church members volunteered in this part of the community.

The Preston congregation has experienced four name changes and four site changes. In 2000 it celebrated 200 years as a faithful Mennonite presence in this community.


Bergey, Lorna. "Hagey Mennonite Church 1842-1953." Waterloo Historical Society 58 (1970): 33-34.

"From the Files of Leslie D. Witmer." Hespeler, Ontario, 1967, 89 pp.

Groh, Anson. "The Sunday Schools of Hagey and Wanner Congregations." 1915, 8 pp.

Mennonite Reporter (25 June 1979): 4; (June, 1989): 13.

Mennonites in Canada Collection, "MC (1800-Preston)", Mennonite Archives of Ontario.

Steinman, Carol M. Refined by Fire - The Story of Hagey/Preston Mennonite Church 1800-2000. Kitchener, Ontario: Pandora Press, 2000.

Witmer, Leslie D. Pioneers of Christendom in Waterloo County, 1800-1967: History of the Hagey-Preston Mennonite Church. Preston, Ontario: The Church, 1967, 64 pp.

Archival Records

Church archival records in Mennonite Archives of Ontario. Other records, documents and artifacts are maintained in the offices at Preston Mennonite Church.

Additional Information

Preston Mennonite Church Pastoral Leaders

Minister Position Years
Jacob Bechtel Deacon 1800-1838
Joseph Bechtel Minister 1804-1838
Martin Baer Minister 1808-1845
Benjamin Eby Bishop 1812-1853
Johannes Cressman Deacon 1815-1818
Abraham L. Clemens Deacon 1815-1845
Joseph Bauman Minister 1816-1840
David Sherk Deacon
John Baer Minister 1838-1874
Jacob Hagey Deacon 1838-1893
Joseph Hagey Minister
Jacob B. Gingrich Minister 1878-1908
Abraham Oberholtzer Deacon 1889-1907
David Wismer Minister 1902-1908
Daniel Shantz Deacon 1907-1943
Benjamin Shantz Minister
Chester Buschert Deacon 1944-1946
Amos Martin Deacon 1947-1950
Howard L. Good Minister 1948-1961
Rufus Jutzi Minister 1964-1974
Willis Breckbill Minister 1975-1982
Brian Bauman Minister 1983-1988
Amzie Brubacher Minister 1989-2001
Gerry Vandeworp Minister
Marianne Mellinger Minister
Claire Osinkosky Minister 2003-

Preston Mennonite Church Membership

Year Members
1900 60
1925 84
1950 114
1975 166
2000 134
2011 81

Author(s) Carol M Steinman
Date Published August 2003

Cite This Article

MLA style

Steinman, Carol M. "Preston Mennonite Church (Cambridge, Ontario, Canada)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. August 2003. Web. 19 Sep 2018.,_Ontario,_Canada)&oldid=105128.

APA style

Steinman, Carol M. (August 2003). Preston Mennonite Church (Cambridge, Ontario, Canada). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 19 September 2018, from,_Ontario,_Canada)&oldid=105128.

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