Winger, John (Hans) (1756-1828)

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John Winger Memorial, 2006

John Winger (ca. 1756-1828) was a pioneer leader of the River Brethren (later Brethren in Christ, or Tunkers) in Canada. Probably born of Mennonite parents, he became one of the first members of the River Brethren at their place of origin in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He may have been one of the founders of that group, along with Jacob Engel.

In 1788, John Winger immigrated to Canada with his wife (the former Elizabeth Eschlemann), their six children, as well as his sister Anna, her husband (Jacob Sider), and their three children, and possibly others. The small group settled first in the Short Hills near what later became Welland, Ontario. They did not find the land suitable for farming, and in 1792 their buildings and crops were destroyed by a violent storm. This led Winger and Sider to petition successfully for crown land lying farther to the east, near the later town of Fort Erie.

Here they established the first permanent Brethren in Christ congregation in what later became Ontario. Winger was pastor of this small group and later was made overseer (bishop), possibly when Jacob Engel first visited Ontario. Winger helped to organize River Brethren congregations near Waterloo and Markham.

With Mennonites and Quakers, Winger petitioned the government of Upper Canada for release of church members from militia duty. The petition was granted by the legislature in 1793, but members of these groups were required to pay fines in order to retain their exemption.

John Winger was the father of ten children, one of whom, Jacob, succeeded him as minister and overseer.


Bearss, Asa. Origin and History of the Tunker Church in Canada. Ridgeway, ON: M.V. Disher, 1918: 1-7.

Climenhaga, Asa W. History of the Brethren in Christ Church. Nappanee, IN, 1942: 25-27.

Sider, E. Morris. Brethren in Christ in Canada: Two Hundred Years of Tradition and Change. Nappanee, IN, 1988: esp. 7-12, 37-39.

Wittlinger, Carlton O. Quest for Piety and Obedience: The Story of the Brethren in Christ. Nappanee, IN: Evangel Press, 1978: 15-39 passim.

Author(s) E. Morris Sider
Date Published 1989

Cite This Article

MLA style

Sider, E. Morris. "Winger, John (Hans) (1756-1828)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1989. Web. 25 Sep 2018.,_John_(Hans)_(1756-1828)&oldid=139725.

APA style

Sider, E. Morris. (1989). Winger, John (Hans) (1756-1828). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 25 September 2018, from,_John_(Hans)_(1756-1828)&oldid=139725.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, p. 931. All rights reserved.

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