©Mennonite Heritage Centre 2003
Last updated 8 February 2007

Mennonite Heritage Centre Archives
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Title: First Mennonite Church (Kitchener) fonds
Dates: 1996-2006
Extent: 16 cm of textual records

Historical note

Mennonites from Pennsylvania began migrating to Upper Canada in 1786. Two factors were dominant, land and religion. They settled in the Niagara Peninsula and on a tract of land along the Grand River which became Waterloo township. The first settlers in the 1780s and 1790s settled mostly in the Niagara area starting with where present-day Beamsville is located. The second group settled along the Grand River beginning in 1799-1800. They included the extended families of Erb and Eby. Some of the latter settlers, especially the Reesor extended family settled in the York and Markham areas, present-day Toronto area and north. In 1808 an accident occurred which caused the first death of a Mennonite in the Waterloo township area. This person was buried on a site donated for that purpose and a place for worship. This became the cemetery of the First Mennonite Church in Kitchener, Ontario. A building on this site was used as a school and also on occasion for worship. Mostly though, the families met for worship in private homes. A meeting house was built in 1813 at the present-day Hagey cemetery, about 15 km. south-east of the First Mennonite Church cemetery in Kitchener. Benjamin Eby became the first bishop of the Waterloo area and was ordained by the other two bishops in Canada, Jacob Moyer of the Niagara area and Jacob Groff of the Markham area along with the blessing of his brother, Peter Eby of Pennsylvania. An addition was built to the school building to be used as the school and the original structure now became the meeting house for worship, usually known as the Benjamin Eby's meeting house. The land was officially acquired for meeting house purposes in 1816. A new and larger meeting house was completed on the same site in 1834. In 1841 Sunday schools were held at Eby's meeting house. Progressive reforms initiated by Eby and his successors caused divisions in the 1850s and 1870s in the Waterloo District Conference. The 1850s division was overcome in time but the 1870s division resulted in a new group, the Reformed Mennonites, later known as the Mennonite Brethren in Christ and eventually the Missionary Church. In 1889 the traditionalists could not accept continuing reform in the remaining group and so formed the Old Order Mennonite Church. Following this division, the remaining group experienced what became known as the Great Awakening, a revival and renewal in their spiritual lives. However, a generation later, this group became the traditionalists in that they attempted to codify their renewed vitality of earlier years. This led to another division which resulted in the formation of the Stirling Avenue congregation in 1924. First Mennonite Church had built a new meeting house in 1902. This building was expanded in 1927 and again in 1950 and 1985. During the 1930s, reform continued apace, even in the First Mennonite congregation. This led to greater congregational autonomy from the conference. It culminated in the congregation acting with its own leadership in 1956. This led to new issues of authority, leadership, and servanthood of the bishop and pastor of the congregation. They were slowly resolved over the next generation. The membership was 125 in 1925, 276 in 1933, 425 in 1943, 577 in 1956, 546 in 1971, 451 in 1991, and 417 in 2000. The leaders of the congregation were: Benjamin Eby (1812-1853), Joseph Hagey (1851-1876), Elias Weber (1879-1909), Samuel Bowman (1878-1924), Urias Weber (1907-1924), Manasseh Hallman (1910-), C. F. Derstine (1924-1967), Merle Shantz (1939-1949), John Hess (1950-1955), Edgar Metzler (1957-1962), Robert Johnson (1963-1976), Glenn Brubacher (1977-1989), Ernie Martin (1973-1976), Brice Balmer (1979-1996), Jean-Jacques Goulet (1984-1988), Ann Weber Becker (1987-1994), Rudy Baergen (1991-2000), Rebecca Yoder Neufeld (1995-2000), Dan Epp-Tiessen (1996-1998), Mark Diller Harder (1999- ), Tanya Dyck Steinmann (1998-2001), Joel Schmidt (2001- ).

Scope and content note

The fonds contains bulletins (1996-2002).

Finding aids

Inventory file list available.


Restrictions on access

No restrictions on access.

Other notes

Textual records have been deposited by the congregation at the Mennonite Heritage Centre on a regular basis since 1996. Described by Bert Friesen 14 March 2002.

First Mennonite Church (Kitchener) fonds file list:

Volume 4609

  1. First Mennonite Church bulletins (1996), directory (1996)
  2. First Mennonite Church bulletins (1997)
  3. First Mennonite Church bulletins (1998)
  4. First Mennonite Church bulletins (1999)

Volume 5009

  1. First Mennonite Church bulletins (2000)
  2. First Mennonite Church bulletins (2001)

Volume 1994

  1. First Mennonite Church bulletins (2002)
  2. First Mennonite Church bulletins; church council minutes, "First Forum" (2003)
  3. First Mennonite Church bulletins; church council minutes, "First Forum" (2004)
  4. First Mennonite Church bulletins (2005)
Volume 2759
First Mennonite Church bulletins (2006), annual report book (2006)