Facts About That Amish Conference

A few weeks ago I posted a 1912 article from the Meyersdale Republican that reported on the second annual Conservative Amish Mennonite Conference held in Grantsville, Maryland.  I have since discovered that a participant at that conference – Jonas B. Miller of Grantsville – did write a letter to the editor correcting some errors that were noted in the newspaper story.  This letter to the editor appeared the following week in the June 13, 1912 issue.

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FACTS ABOUT THAT AMISH CONFERENCE

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One of the Participants Corrects Errors in Published Report

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GRANTSVILLE Md., June 10, 1912.

Editor Meyersdale Republican:

As a participant of the Amish Mennonite conference held near this place and reported in your paper of last week, I wish to make some corrections.  The first statement to which I take exception is that wherein it is asserted that this conference was of the “progressive branch” of the church.  I certainly would be surprised to find a single participating minister who would not repudiate the statement, as this was undoubtedly a “conservative” conference, as the term is usually applied.  The conference of the eastern district of the progressive branch of the church was held the same week near Newcastle, Pa.

As the list of participants was not complete and also inaccurate, I herewith submit corrected list of bishops and ministers present:  Joshua King and Joseph Miller, Hartville, O.; John L. Mast and Jonas D. Yoder, Belleville, Pa.; Jacob F. Swartzendruber and Peter Brenneman, Kalona, Iowa; Jacob S. Yoder, David Reber and Gideon Yoder, Wellman, Iowa; S. J. Swartzendruber, Bayport, Mich.; M.S. Zehr Elkton, Mich.; Jonathan Troyer, Topeka, Ind.; John Zimmerman, Centralia, Mo.; J. J. Miller, J. S. Miller and J. B. Miller, Grantsville, Md.

A church paper is being published, its editor being E. J. Bontrager, of Exland, Wisconsin, and it is printed at Elkhart, Ind., by the Mennonite publishing company.

The secretaries of the conference were Jacob D. Guengerich, of Missouri and Samuel B. Miller, of Iowa.

The eighteen principal articles of the confession of faith, as well as minor ones, were adopted at a conference held in the city of Dort in Holland on April 21, 1632, which confession of declaration of faith was signed by fifty-one ministers.  Historians say that later all the churches of Germany and Alsace unanimously adopted the aforesaid articles.

As early as 1557 it appears there were fifty congregations of the faith, some having as high as 500 members, which congregations were located from the Eyfelt to Moravia.  But differences of opinion arose among them and finally to effect union upon an evangelical basis, the “peace convention” as it was termed, was called at Dort.  Later those differences again grew and multiplied until the church, of which Menno Simon was the most prominent organizer and aggressive builder – not founder – was divided into a number of sects, of which the Amish Mennonite church is one.

The conservative body of Amish Mennonites professes the eighteen articles of faith to be held as acceptable and in force at the present day.

Please observe that I have written this, part as correction and part as imparted data for all who may be interested.

Candor compels me to add that your reporter did our people an injustice by doing them more than justice in lauding their virtues without exception, and as I assumed the function of correcting the article in question in other respects, were not this protest added this article would also be unjust.

Yours for the Master, J. B. MILLER

Editor’s Note – We regret very much our report of the Amish Mennonite conference was not accurate.  However, we must absolve our reporter from culpability, at least so far as making the mistake of designating it as a conference of the “progressive branch” of the church.  The term “progressive” was inserted editorially under a misapprehension.  We are very thankful to Mr. Miller for setting us right in this matter.  The historical data given is much appreciated, and coming from the source it does we have no doubt of its reliability.  We trust our correspondent will be pardoned for doing the Amish Mennonites an “injustice” by “lauding their virtues without exception.”  We believe we are not exaggerating the facts when we say we have never known a more worthy and virtuous people as a whole than the professors of this peculiar faith. [1]

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I suspect the editor – W.S. Livengood – might have been comparing the Conservative Amish Mennonites with the Old Order Amish when he designated them as a “progressive branch.”

Below is the Find a Grave link for the writer, Jonas B. Miller.

Jonas B. Miller (1870-1952)

Click on thumbnail to view a copy of his obituary from the Herold der Wahrheit. Sixty-three years of Amish and Amish Mennonite obituaries are also available at the following link.

Herold der Wahrheit Obituaries 1912 – 1940 & 1941 – 1975

END NOTES

[1] The Republic (Meyersdale, Pennsylvania) 13 Jun 1912, Thu  • Page 1 & 4.  I corrected several misspelled words in this article that appeared to be typesetting errors.

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  1. David I Miller says:

    How fortunate it is that Keith Yoder discovered the follow-up article by Jonas B. Miller with its corrective statements. I endorse Keith’s observation that the author and editor of the original article must have compared the local Conservative Amish Mennonite congregation of Garrett County, Maryland, and Somerset County, Pennsylvania, with the Old Order Amish Mennonite congregation. Both congregations shared a common Amish Mennonite heritage that experienced a schism only seventeen years before the convening of the reported-on conference sessions. In 1895, two identities developed within the Amish Mennonite community: Old Order Amish Mennonite and Conservative Amish Mennonite, the later having been the more progressive. But not locally visible were the Amish Mennonite conferences of the eastern United States and the mid-west. These conferences were active at that time and were “progressive” to the extent that the newly formed Amish Mennonite Conference felt a need to include “Conservative” in its name. Thank you, Keith, for your contribution. I enjoyed reading the explanations and the picture of Jonas B. Miller, my grandfather.

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