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Peace Research at the Mennonite Archives of Ontario: 1786-1913

Mennonite Archives of Ontario

Conrad Grebel University College
140 Westmount Rd N
Waterloo, ON  N2L 3G6

519-885-0220 x24238

Laureen Harder-Gissing MA MISt

8:30-4:30 Monday to Friday
Making an appointment is recommended

Archives is on the third floor of Conrad Grebel University College, within the Milton Good Library.

The Mennonite Archives of Ontario collects and preserves archival materials that reflect the Mennonite experience in Ontario and makes them available to anyone with a legitimate research interest.

Materials in many formats documenting predominantly local and provincial activities. Some materials also have national and international significance.

More information

From the Archives

Military exemption certificate for Moses Hunsperger, 1869

Military exemption certificate of Moses Hunsperger, St. Agatha, Ontario, 1869. Edna Hunsperger Bowman fonds, HM1.154/4. Click image to enlarge.

Copyright Information

All information on this guide is ©2013 by the Mennonite Archives of Ontario, Conrad Grebel University College, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

Permission is granted to include URL references to this information for noncommercial purposes, provided that proper attribution is given.

Photographs on this website cannot be reproduced without permission.

Citation example (Chicago style):

Harder-Gissing, Laureen. 'Introduction." Peace Research at the Mennonite Archives of Ontario, Mennonite Archives of Ontario. Accessed 17 Oct 2013.

Historical Orientation: From Early Immigration to the Eve of the First World War, 1786-1913

Gingerich Farm, 1909

Searching for new farmland, the first Mennonites to settle permanently in Canada came from Pennsylvania in 1786 to the Niagara area. The path to Upper Canada (Ontario) was eased by the Militia Act of 1793, stating that Quakers (Society of Friends), Mennonites and Tunkers (Brethren in Christ) would be exempt from militia service upon verification of their membership in one of these groups and an annual payment. Within a decade of the Act, major Mennonite settlements were also established in present-day Waterloo Region and Markham. Approximately 2,000 of these "Swiss Mennonites" (so-called because of their predominantly Swiss ancestry) settled in Upper Canada by 1836. Beginning in the 1820s, Amish immigrants from Europe began to settle in Waterloo, Perth and Oxford counties. The first organized annual meeting of Mennonite ministers was held in 1810. Known as the "Canada Conference," and later as the Mennonite Conference of Ontario and Quebec, it was the first and largest of several peace church conferences in Ontario.

In 1809, a statute took effect declaring that the Crown could "impress such horses, carriages, and oxen" required "in case of emergency, by actual invasion or otherwise." During the War of 1812, there is evidence that Mennonites were the subjects of such impressment. Following the war, Mennonites in Upper Canada actively lobbied to reduce the payments in lieu of militia service, arguing financial strain on larger families. The payment requirement was removed in 1849. When there was concern that the American Civil War (1861-1865) would spill across the border, Mennonite leaders again took the opportunity to remind the government of their exempt status.

In 1874, assisted by some Ontario Mennonites, Mennonites from Russia immigrated to Manitoba. The end of complete exemption from service in the Russian military and the introduction of an alternative service program for Russian Mennonites was a major factor in this migration. Approximately one-third of Russian Mennonites left for North America; the immigrants to Canada were assured of their exemption from military service. Bibliography

Photograph: The Gingerich homestead on Bleams Road in Wilmot Township, 1909. Credit: Mennonite Archives of Ontario (1987-1.5)


Click on linked titles to view archival finding aids.

Personal Collections

Jacob Oberholtzer fonds
Jacob Oberholtzer of Bertie Township was arrested during the War of 1812 and sentenced to death for High Treason.

Lewis J. Burkholder fonds
Militia exemption payment receipts, [1827?], 1835-1837.

Edna Hunsperger Bowman fonds
Military exemption certificate for Moses Hunsperger, 1869.

Moses Gingrich fonds
Military exemption certificate for Moses Gingrich, 1869.

Organizations and Institutions

Mennonite Peace and Arbitration Association
A Mennonite association for "advancing the cause of non-resistance," 1906-1922.

Local History Collections

Local History collection, Lincoln County
Contains several documents relating Mennonites to the early military history of the Niagara area.

Microfilm Collections

[Peace and social concerns statements by the Mennonites and Brethren in Christ in Canada, 1787-1982] microfilm collection
Includes military service acts and petitions to the government of Upper Canada to repeal the militia tax. A print guide, entited Where we stand : an index of peace and social concerns statements by the Mennonites and Brethren in Christ in Canada, 1787-1982, is located in the Milton Good Library: CGCref Z7845.M4F75 1986. The microfilm collection is also located in the library, with the call number G MIC A292.

Peter J. Braun Russian Mennonite Archive microfilm collection
Covering the period 1803-1920, this collection includes documentation of the Forestry Service (Forsteidienst), an alternative service program for Russian Mennonite men. The Forestry Service operated from 1880-1917.

St. Petersburg Archive microfilm collection
These films were obtained from the Central State Historical Archives of the USSR in 1962. Includes a petition from Mennonites and Hutterites for continued military exemption, 1872.

Government Records in the Mennonite Archives of Ontario

Mennonites in Canada microfilm collection
These films, obtained from the Public Archives of Canada (now Library Archives Canada) and the National Archives of the United States, contain records relating to Mennonite exemption from military service in Canada and Mennonites during the Civil War in the United States.

Mennonites in Canada vertical files - Public Archives of Canada
Photocopies of correspondence and other documents relating to Mennonites from the records of the Government of Canada, obtained from the Public Archives of Canada.