“Pure” — the CBC Drama – Episode 2

Last week I commented after the first episode of “Pure.”

I said it succeeded as a crime drama, though I had a number of issues with the presentation in terms of Mennonites.


Source: CBC TV

This morning I watched episode 2. I’m much less certain about the quality of drama. Too many things don’t make sense — why would you make the Ontario drug “boss” someone as highly visible and slow moving as a farmer-preacher with no criminal experience? It boggles the mind.

The visual portrayal of the group is closer to Amish this week, though the women’s dresses do look somewhat “Old Colony.” The bonnets are definitely Amish. The Saturday night “sing” had an Amish feel.

Most Old Order Mennonites and even Old Order Amish use cell phones at time. They are not as ignorant about technology as Noah Funk was. Old Orders draw the line at smart phones, but have used cell phones for business for many years. Low German Mennonites also have no issues with cell phones.

Women do not say “amen” at the end of family prayer before a meal. That’s the role of the head of the family, who is male. Certainly if he is sitting there, the prayer does not end until he says so.

Noah Funk’s “sermon” was wrong on many levels. It must always be tied to scripture, even if trying to make the point about God living within us that he did.

The women working in the drug distribution shop (or whatever it was) is not possible. Married women don’t work away from home. They might operate a business from home, but that scene was strictly for looks.

The young peoples’ singing was nice, and seemed to follow the Amish pattern.

For now let’s change our assessment to an over-the-top crime drama, with limited relationship to any previous “true story.”

See also my comments after Episode 1.

Jacob Moyer–First Mennonite Bishop in Ontario

About a month ago we wrote about Valentine Kratz, the first Mennonite minister in Canada. Today we look at Jacob Moyer, also part of the first Mennonite congregation in Canada at Vineland, Ontario. Moyer was ordained as a minister in 1802, one year after Kratz. In 1807 he was ordained as a bishop, the most senior position in the Mennonite ministerial hierarchy.

Historically the bishop performed the rites of the church — marriages, baptisms, serving communion to members, ordinations of ministers, etc. He (in the age of bishops they have always been men) also gave oversight to church discipline, determining when a member might be “set back” from ability to take communion (indicating a good relationship with the church and fellow members), or even revoke membership.

Jacob Moyer was a more gifted leader than Valentine Kratz; at least he is remembered that way. After his death in 1833, divisions within the Ontario Mennonite community began to occur.

The full article and bibliography can be seen in the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online


Mennonite Bicentennial monument at The First Mennonite Church in Vineland, on Jacob Moyer’s original land. GAMEO photo

Jacob Moyer: bishop and farmer; born 24 November 1767 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania to Samuel and Catharine (Kolb) Meyer. He was the fifth child and third son in a family of nine children. On 1 September 1791 he married Magdalena Bechtel (24 March 1773-23 June 1816). They had ten sons and no daughters. After Magdalena died, he married Catherine Bechtel Hoch (14 April 1776-6 February 1851), the widow of immigrant, Daniel Hoch. Jacob died 5 June 1833 while on a trip to Pennsylvania, and was buried in Bucks County.

By vocation Jacob Moyer was a farmer. He, with several others, scouted for land on the Niagara Peninsula in 1799 and purchased 1000 acres. He returned later that year with a larger group of families to settle. In 1802 he was ordained as a minister in the Mennonite Church, the second Mennonite minister ordained in Canada (one year after Valentine Kratz). He was ordained as a bishop in 1807; the first Mennonite bishop in Canada. Jacob Moyer was a gifted peacemaker, and had a reputation for being a good speaker. Three of his sons — Jacob, Abraham and Dilman — also became ministers in the Moyer congregation at Vineland. Dilman also served as a bishop.

Jacob Moyer was one of the natural leaders of the Mennonite community, and himself the son of a minister. His Bible records the first meeting of ordained leaders in 1810 that became the Mennonite Conference of Ontario. His location near Jordan Station made his home a natural stop for new settlers moving on to the larger settlement developing in Waterloo County, Ontario. As bishop he also ordained the earliest ministers in Waterloo County, probably including Benjamin Eby. Along with his cousin, Samuel, who was the local schoolteacher in the Vineland area, Jacob Moyer successfully forged a lasting Mennonite community. — Sam Steiner


“Pure” — the CBC Drama

A new crime drama by the Canadian Broadcasting Company entitled “Pure” features drug-trafficking Mennonites in Southern Ontario. Interviews with cast members have emphasized the inspiration for the story comes from actual events that have been widely reported. A “Fifth Estate” telecast about  the Low German “Mennonite Mob” can be see at http://www.cbc.ca/fifth/episodes/40-years-of-the-fifth-estate/mennonite-mob. In April 2004 Saturday Night Magazine had a feature story on the Mennonite Mob (https://web.archive.org/web/20151006210521/http://caj.ca/wp-content/uploads/2010/mediamag/awards2005/(Andrew%20Mitrovica)%20Saturday%20Night%20Magazine.htm), and periodically news stories show up on the theme, for example the story from 2014 at: http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/mennonites-linked-to-mexican-cartels-established-cocaine-smuggling-pipeline-near-alberta-border-police.

pure-hero-2That brings us back to “Pure.” At the time of writing I have seen the trailer for the show and the first episode.

As my friend, Armin Wiebe, wrote in a Facebook post, “It’s a tightly written, relentless crime drama.” On that level I think it succeeds very well. I’m not embarrassed by the writing or the acting.

Others will have to speak to the “Low German” accent of the actors; I suspect it’s somewhat off. One “Pure” actor in an interview on CBC spoke of listening to Mennonites at a farmers’ market in Nova Scotia. Now there aren’t that many Mennonites in Nova Scotia; he may have been listening either to Holdeman Mennonites (two congregations near Waterville and Tatamagouche) or some Kleine Gemeinde Mennonites near Truro that came from Belize.

As a historian I do have some problems with numerous aspects of the presentation. Reading comments on the “Pure” Facebook page, it’s clear that many people are confused about Mennonites and their history. This drama doesn’t help the confusion. For Mennonites, the show has many distracting elements because of the obvious “mistakes” in confusing various Mennonite cultural and historical streams. The producers of “Pure” try to avoid the issue by identifying the group as “Edenthaler,” a group that doesn’t exist, though they are identified as Low German Mennonites with connections to Mexico. However the producers then proceed to mix the cultures of Low German Mennonites, Old Order Mennonites and Old Order Amish in many visual aspects of the drama.

For me the horses and buggies are a complete distraction from the story line. No Low German Mennonites in Canada use horses and buggies. I guess it makes a certain kind of visual statement, but only the Old Order Mennonite and Amish groups still use this form of transportation, and their history has no relationship to Mexico except for the most recent decades when some Amish schoolteachers have provided some assistance to Old Colony Mennonite schools.

Some of my concerns about the show lessened when I saw how pointless the horses and buggies were to the plot. I felt it less likely than I first feared that the general public will confuse this story with the “real” Old Order Mennonites and Amish in Southern Ontario.


Old Colony Mennonite women, Durango Colony, Mexico, 2013. Canadian Mennonite photo

By and large the physical appearance of the players is also confusing for anyone familiar with Mennonite culture. The men are clean shaven and sort of look like Old Order Mennonites, except that they’re wearing Amish-style straw hats. The women look much more Amish in their clothing and bonnets, with mostly solid color dresses. They look nothing like traditional Low German Mennonite women in their clothing or headgear.

I suspect this was done because Old Order Mennonites are more quickly identifiable as “Mennonite” in the wider Canadian culture than traditional Low German dress would be. Is that a good enough justification for deliberately “borrowing” Old Order Mennonite culture? I would say no.

There are more problems with the worship and polity of the Edenthalers. The senior clergyman in any traditional Mennonite group is the Bishop or Ältester. Among the Edenthalers it seems to be the “Preacher.” Interestingly, Noah Funk is chosen by lot, a practice not used by Low German Mennonites, but only by Mennonites of the Swiss-South German historical tradition. The way the lot process was run was also incorrect; only a Bishop ordains, and he would have been the person checking the books indicating which man had the slip of paper.

Additionally, although the Edenthaler appropriately located women on one side of the church and men on the other during worship services, they allowed women freedom to speak in the service. This would not happen in a traditional service, which is much more stylized and formal in how things are done than was indicated here.

Noah Funk’s ploy to introduce the child, Ezekiel, as a nephew, would not have worked in a traditional Mennonite community. People in close-knit Mennonite communities know relatives and family lines, and would have known of the existence of any such child.

I’m sorry the CBC didn’t adhere more closely to the research they must have done. Adulterating the Low German culture with Old Order Mennonite imagery doesn’t help the plot, and simply confuses the general public.

Through my experience with Gadfly: Sam Steiner dodges the Draft, I have some understanding of what dramas “based on a true story” can lead to — what was true and what was fiction? The CBC could have done a better job on that part of the production.

I’ll enjoy the rest of the series for the drama, but not for its informational value about Mennonites.

If you are interested in a more accurate historical account of Mennonites in Ontario, see In Search of Promised Lands: a Religious History of Mennonites in Ontario.

See also my comments after Episode 2.

Ilda Bauman–Unsung hero

Ilda Bauman was born in the wrong generation to get the recognition she deserved. It was classic case of being the person who made the institution operate smoothly, while her male boss got the public recognition.

Ilda was a single woman, born in 1898, who got an education at Toronto Bible College. However she did not go on to the mission field or work for years in city missions–places that would have a least brought modest recognition.

No, she was a founder of the House of Friendship in Kitchener, Ontario. It began as a mission to Jews, but quickly turned to the physical and spiritual needs of transients and immigrants.

Ferne Burkhardt’s short sketch of Ilda Bauman’s contribution to the House of Friendship was written for the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (GAMEO). Go there to see the article and bibliography.


Ruby Dettweiler, Joseph Cramer and Ilda Bauman, ca. 1940. Source: House of Friendship

Ilda Bauman: key leader in the launch and development of the House of Friendship in Kitchener, Ontario. She was born 26 August 1898 on the family farm to Ira S. Bauman (14 July 1865-13 October 1935) and Matilda (Groff) Bauman (29 April 1865-10 September 1949). She was the sixth child and fourth daughter in a family of eight children. Ilda died after lengthy illness on 2 April 1974.

The city of Waterloo now covers the farm where Ilda was born. At age 11, her parents moved the family into a town home near the Erb Street Mennonite Church where they attended. Ilda became a baptized member on 21 March 1913.

In 1923 Ilda graduated from Toronto Bible College (now Tyndale University College and Seminary). She served briefly with  her sister, Emma, at the Mennonite Orphans’ Home in West Liberty, Ohio, sometime between 1924 and 1927. She worked at House of Friendship from its beginning in 1939 until October 1949 as a co-worker of founding director Joseph Cramer. About 10 years later she suffered a stroke which paralysed her and kept her in Scott Pavilion for 13 years. Ilda was moved to Sunnyside Home in Kitchener where she died in 1974.

Ilda did not hold prominent church or public positions but she worked tirelessly at House of Friendship. In 1939 she was part of an interdenominational women’s prayer group in Waterloo intent on reaching Jewish people. When the women learned of Joseph Cramer, a Jewish teacher turned Christian, they sought him out to lead their vision. Cramer soon set up shop in rented quarters in downtown Kitchener. Ilda worked alongside Cramer, making hundreds of home and hospital visits, distributing books and thousands of pieces of literature in many languages, and helping with numerous worship services in the rented room. Ilda also cooked meals for clients from donated food in a small adjoining kitchen. The House of Friendship, which began as an interest in Jewish evangelism, quickly turned to attending the physical and spiritual needs of transients and immigrants, some of whom were Jewish.

Ilda’s signature appears with Cramer’s on formal reports and documents. People close to the mission saw her as the real manager, yet, after Cramer’s death, the all-male “Advisory Committee” did not consider inviting Ilda to become the new director. Rather, they gave her a month’s salary ($65.00) to  “help toward your waiting on the Lord for your next move.” It was a bitter end to her sacrificial service and her rejection may have contributed to the ill health which plagued her for the rest of her life.

Moses H. Roth–Mild-mannered Dissenter

Moses H. Roth was one of the founders of the Conservative Mennonite Church of Ontario. This group resulted from a division in the Mennonite Conference of Ontario in 1959 when a small group of ordained leaders believed the conference had become too lax in enforcing visible symbols of separation from the world. This included “innovations” like church weddings with flowers and veils, the wearing of wedding rings, women cutting their hair, and the wearing of less modest clothing.

Moses Roth was a more outgoing personality than his friend, Curtis Cressman, and had a more pastoral approach in personal relationships. He was founder of the congregation that became one of the largest conservative Mennonite congregations in Ontario–Countryside Mennonite Fellowship.

An interesting fact from the article reproduced below is that Moses Roth witnessed the last hanging in Stratford in 1954.

This article in the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online by Howard Bean was written in 2013, and can be seen there complete with bibliography.


Barbara & Moses Roth, early 1960s. Family photo

Moses H. Roth: bishop and farmer; born 1 February 1898 in Oxford County, Ontario, Canada to Rudolph “Rudy” Roth (10 December 1868-1 March 1943) and Lavina (Hostetler) Roth (7 August 1873-24 April 1927). He was the fourth child in a family of four boys and two girls. On 7 February 1923 he married Barbara Martin (3 April 1901-1 May 1991). They had one daughter, Gladys. Moses died on 24 December 1978, in New Hamburg, Ontario.

Moses farmed near New Hamburg, and was reasonably prosperous. It is said that Milo Shantz, prominent Waterloo County entrepreneur, got his first loan from his uncle, Moses.

Prior to his ordination, Moses Roth served regularly as Sunday school superintendent at Biehn Mennonite Church (now Nith Valley) near New Hamburg. In 1931 he was ordained minister to assist Ozias Cressman, at Geiger Mennonite Church (now Wilmot Mennonite Church). He was ordained bishop in the Mennonite Conference of Ontario in 1937 serving primarily at Geiger Mennonite Church but also in such places as Poole, Ontario (1949-1959) and Clarence Center, New York.

Moses believed strongly in missions. He planted the seed for the beginning of the London Rescue Mission and Nairn Mennonite Church through his teaching at a winter Bible school in Wellesley, Ontario. He was a long-time summer Bible school superintendent at the Baden mission. He gave supervision to such mission outposts as Markstay and Minden.

In the mid to late 1950s Moses became increasingly alarmed by what he saw as apostasy in the Ontario conference with the acceptance of the wedding ring, sisters in the church cutting their hair, and a weakening of dress restrictions. In 1959, Moses, along with Curtis Cressman (bishop), preachers Elmer Grove and Moses Baer, and deacons Andrew Axt and Clarence Huber withdrew from Ontario Conference and organized the New Hamburg Conservative Mennonite Church. This was the beginning of what became the Conservative Mennonite Church of Ontario and Midwest Mennonite Fellowship, together having approximately 2000 members (2013).

By the end of 1960, Moses began a second congregation in Heidelburg, the location of which changed in 1983 to Hawkesville and was renamed Countryside Mennonite Fellowship. Moses served as bishop at Heidelburg until 1968 when he withdrew his oversight due to difficulties in the congregation. Prior to his death in 1978, he made peace with the congregation and preached for them again at least once. From 1968 to 1978, Moses pastored a small independent Mennonite congregation at Crosshill for a year or so, and then a second congregation at Ethel.

In his ministry, Moses Roth earned a reputation for having the gift of healing as he prayed for the sick and anointed them with oil.

Moses was present on 16 February 1954 at the last hanging at the Stratford jail. Moses visited Reuben Norman, who was convicted of murder, in prison and led him to repentance.

Ron Sawatsky–Denominational Visionary

Today I’m recalling the GAMEO post of a contemporary–a friend with whom I shared many stimulating conversations. Ron Sawatsky was not born in Ontario, nor did he die in Ontario. But his greatest contribution to the Mennonite world occurred during the 20+ years he and Sue lived in Ontario during his graduate studies, and he gave leadership to the Mennonite Conference of Eastern Canada and Mennonite Church Canada during years of enormous change.

Ron had a creative mind administratively, seeing possibilities for moving forward when others saw obstacles. He also loved technology, and would introduce me to new “gadgets” acquired since the last time we had met.

This article and bibliography, written in 2014, can be seen in the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online.


Ron Sawatsky. Photo courtesy of Sue Sawatsky

Ronald “Ron” George Sawatsky: consultant, denominational leader and retirement community administrator, was born in Altona, Manitoba, Canada on 19 March 1950 to Bernhard “Ben” Sawatsky (26 January 1913-21 January 1998) and Susanna “Susie” Falk Sawatsky (25 April 1924-27 May 2014). He was the youngest of three children, and the second son. On 12 August 1972 Ron married Susanna “Sue” Thiessen (1950- ), daughter of Frank Thiessen (1928- ) and Aganetha Bergen Thiessen (1928- ). Ron and Sue Sawatsky had one son (Bevan) and one daughter (Laresa). Ron Sawatsky died 28 June 2014 in Warrington, Pennsylvania. His ashes are interred at the Cedar Grove Mennonite Cemetery in Markham, Ontario.

When Sawatsky was very young, his family moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he grew up. His father was an Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference minister, who also worked as a building contractor. Ron attended elementary school and high school in Winnipeg, though he graduated from Steinbach Bible Institute. He grew up in the Gospel Mennonite Church in Winnipeg. The Sawatsky family was a musical one that often performed together in local churches.

When his parents attended Eastern Mennonite College for two years in the late 1960s, Ron attended there for one year as well. He also obtained training in studio photography, and small equipment repair (cameras).

From 1975-1977 Ron and Sue Sawatsky served a Voluntary Service term with Mennonite Central Committee in Akron, Pennsylvania. Immediately after this they moved to Ontario where Sawatsky completed a BA (1979) and MA (1980) in Religious Studies at the University of Waterloo. He earned a PhD in Religious Studies at the University of Toronto in 1986. Ron found employment in various areas of interest during the next years, including retirement communities and their development. In 1993 the family moved to Waterloo, Ontario when Ron became Vice President, Administration and Finance for Conrad Grebel College. This was a time of severe financial constraints in Ontario higher education, and this position ended in 1995.

Ron then worked in management consulting, leading in 1998-99 to a consulting contract and then role as chief executive officer for Rockhill Mennonite Community (a continuing care retirement community in Sellersville, Pennsylvania), a position he held until December 2012. During these years he was actively engaged in expanding Rockhill’s program and operations, as well as participating in a variety of professional organizations related to long term care both within and beyond the Mennonite community. Ron’s Mennonite organizational leadership began in 1985. He chaired the steering committee for a three-day Canadian Mennonite Bicentennial event planned for the Harbourfront Centre in downtown Toronto. The event, which utilized up to 600 volunteers, featured music, food, art, crafts and literature, and brought Ron’s organizational skills to the attention of denominational leaders.

He became the assistant moderator (1990), then moderator (1991-1996) of the Mennonite Conference of Eastern Canada (MCEC). During his time as MCEC moderator he hired the first female executive secretary of a regional conference in the Mennonite Church.

His role as MCEC moderator placed him on the General Board of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada (CMC) at a time when the Mennonite Church and General Conference Mennonite Church merger and restructuring was a major issue in both denominations. Sawatsky’s election as moderator of CMC in 1996 allowed him to exercise his organizational gifts and his willingness to take calculated risks during CMC’s transformation into Mennonite Church Canada. As CMC moderator he was deeply engaged in the merger negotiations that led to the creation of Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada. His term as MC Canada moderator ended in 2002.

One of the challenges during Sawatsky’s time of leadership was the creation of the Mennonite Publishing Network (later MennoMedia) through the merger of Mennonite Publishing House (MPH) and Faith and Life Press. The merger revealed a serious financial crisis at MPH that required the downsizing of the new denomination’s publication program, and included the laying off of many staff. Ron was part of the leadership group that oversaw this transition as well as the fundraising required to address the liabilities. In 2002 he chaired the transition MPH board.

Sawatsky’s organizational gifts also extended to music. He was the founding president of the Pax Christi Chorale in Toronto, formed in 1987, and served on the executive of Menno Singers in the Kitchener-Waterloo area.

In 2009 Ron Sawatsky was diagnosed with Lyme disease, though he had begun to experience mobility concerns a few years previously. He engaged aggressive treatment programs with determination, but his health continued to decline and he died unexpectedly from cardiac arrest.

Helmut Harder, General Secretary of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada during the formation of Mennonite Church Canada, said Ron Sawatsky was a “born leader and a committed churchman. He was a keen observer of group dynamic, and he listened well. It was a joy to collaborate with him.” — Sam Steiner

Valentine Kratz–First Mennonite Minister in Canada

Although the first people who identified themselves as Mennonite came to what became Ontario by 1786, there was not an organized Mennonite Church for 15 years. Where did those early settlers worship? Some of them became Baptists, some of them joined the Brethren in Christ (Tunkers), some of them likely worshiped with the “high” churches like the Anglicans and Presbyterians, though this meant a switch in language to English as well as worship style.

Finally after a robust couple of years of immigration, recent settlers around “The Twenty” (Vineland) wrote back to Pennsylvania asking for a bishop to come and ordain a leader for the community. The bishops in Franconia, after also consulting with leaders in Lancaster County, wrote back and said no one could come, but encouraged the folks at The Twenty to ordain someone from among their midst as the preacher.

The person they ordained was Valentine Kratz. Valentine is a bit of mystery to us. He was a farmer, like his fellow church members, and faithfully served until his death. But we really don’t know much about him. His son-in-law, Daniel Hoch, became much better known in Ontario Mennonite history.

The article in the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online summarizes what we do know at present.


Valentine Kratz memorial in The First Mennonite Church cemetery, Vineland, Ontario. Photo by Carol Penner

Valentine Kratz: minister and farmer: born about 1760 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the son of John and Anna (Clemens) Kratz. He married a woman with the surname Lederach at an unknown date. They had eight daughters and two sons. The four youngest children were born in Canada. Valentine Kratz died about 1824.

Valentine Kratz immigrated to Canada in 1799 from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, as did many others, in search of greater financial opportunity and possibly because of greater comfort with British government. He settled in the Jordan Station area of the Niagara Peninsula. By vocation he was a farmer. The family’s first home was a log house with one room upstairs and one downstairs, with the only access to the upstairs by a ladder.  He was remembered as a strict disciplinarian by  his children.

In the first years in Canada, Mennonites did not hold worship services, but would hold occasional informal meetings. Finally the group asked the Mennonites in Pennsylvania to send leaders  who could ordain ministers and deacons from the small group in Canada. In September 1801 six ministers replied that after discussion at the local conference of Skippack (Franconia) ministers and deacons, as well as on the basis of correspondence with leaders in Conestoga (Lancaster), that none of the local bishops felt “armed with courage and strength” to venture to Canada for such a process. They encouraged the small group to proceed prayerfully with nominations, followed by the casting of lots, to select ministers and deacons. Valentine Kratz was ordained as a minister based on this procedure. He was the first Mennonite minister ordained in Canada and this ordination allowed the formation of the first Mennonite congregation in Canada at Vineland — the Moyer congregation, later known as The First Mennonite Church.

Little is known of Valentine Kratz’s ministry. Jacob Moyer, who was ordained the following year and subsequently became the local bishop, had a higher profile and a reputation as a strong leader. Nonetheless, Valentine Kratz willingly undertook a leadership role in shaping the earliest Mennonite community in Canada.

— Sam Steiner, 2002

Nicholas N. Fransen–Farmer Preacher

Nicholas N. Fransen came to Canada from the Soviet Union as a teenager. His father, also named Nicholas, had died of typhus in 1922 at the age of 42. His mother, with her eight children aged 5 to 20 came to Canada in 1926, coming first to Kitchener, Ontario, but then settling in Vineland.

When he was only 22 years old he was elected as a lay minister in the Vineland United Mennonite Church. For Nicholas, or “N. N.” as he was known in church circles, the rest of his life combined farming and service to the church in the Vineland community. This was typical of Mennonite leaders of that era. Many of Nicholas’ children also became prominent lay leaders, and one, Jake, also became a lay minister. Their professions ranged from farming to teaching to medicine.

This article, by his son Jake Fransen, can be seen with bibliography at http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Fransen,_Nicholas_N._(1907-2000).


Tina and Nicholas Fransen

Nicholas Fransen: churchman and farmer; born 5 September 1907 in Mariawohl, Molotschna Colony, Ukraine to Nicholai and Maria (Wichert) Fransen. Nicholas was the second child in a family of three sons and five daughters. He was baptized 1 June 1925 by Ältester David Nickel and became a member of the Rudnerweide Church. In 1928 he married Tina Klassen. They had two daughters and five sons. Following the death of his first wife Tina in 1970 he married Tina Martens who died in 1995. Nicholas died 12 November 2000 in Vineland, Ontario.

In 1926 Nicholas Fransen moved to Canada with his mother and siblings. They made Vineland, Ontario their home. It was at the Vineland United Mennonite church that he met Tina Klassen. At first he worked as a day laborer in Kitchener and Vineland. In 1933 they bought a small acreage at Jordan Harbour and added a second more productive farm near St. Catherines in 1947.

When he was 22 years old, the Vineland United Mennonite Church elected Nicholas to be one of its ministers. Five years later, in 1934, he was ordained there by Ältester D. H. Koop. From this point on his life included: being a husband and father of a growing family, farming, which he loved, and church and conference involvement which gave him much satisfaction.

In his church involvements Nicholas served at various times in different capacities in the conferences. Twice he was moderator of the Conference of United Mennonite Churches of Ontario. He was a founding board member of the United Mennonite Educational Institute. He also served on different committees in the Conference of Mennonites in Canada. The committee on which he served longest was the board of the Canadian Mennonite Bible College where he was also a member of the first board. For several years he spent the winter months visiting constituency churches in Canada, promoting the college and soliciting funds for the on-going program of the college. Nicholas also attended a number of sessions of the General Conference Mennonite Church and served on different committees of the conference. Following his retirement from farming Nicholas spent two years with his second wife as a worker in Mexico under the auspices of the General Conference Mennonite Church.

Nicholas was a strong member and promoter of faith in Jesus Christ and also of the projects of his denomination as well as of the Mennonite people as a whole. He firmly believed that young people should have opportunities to be educated in the Christian faith. His faith extended to a strong belief in the confession as enunciated by the Mennonite Church. On the other hand, Nicholas was also interested in the welfare of the Mennonite people and spent several terms as a member of the Canadian Mennonite Board of Colonization. He is remembered for his “down to earth” sermons. Nicholas was often invited to speak in churches away from his home.

Nicholas died in Vineland after a long life, with the assurance that Jesus Christ was his only hope.

C. N. Good–Firebrand in a small package

Cyrus N. Good was a little man with a big personality. He served as a minister and evangelist in the Mennonite Brethren in Christ denomination (today the Evangelical Missionary Church of Canada) for almost 50 years.

He and his second wife, “Livy”were generous hosts to many Mennonite immigrants from the Soviet Union in the 1920s, putting on Christmas parties for some of the families hosted by the Bethany Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church in Kitchener where he was then pastor.

The article and bibliography of “C. N.” Good can be read in the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online (GAMEO).


Cyrus N. Good. Photo from Gospel Banner (9 March 1967), p. 15

Cyrus Nathaniel “C. N.” Good: Mennonite Brethren in Christ pastor and church leader, was born on 19 November 1869 at Clarinda, Page County, Iowa to Jacob G. Good (9 March 1840-17 November 1914) and Rosina Frank Good (18 October 1842-29 June 1935). He was the third child in a family of two sons and two daughters. On 23 May 1894 he married Lovina Schneider (13 February 1873-16 February 1899); they had no children. On 2 October 1900 he married Olivia “Livy” C. Hallman (19 February 1877-22 December 1942); they had two sons and two daughters. After Livy’s death, on 3 October 1945 C. N. married Lina Brothers Sinden (1889-1954), the widow of fellow Mennonite Brethren in Christ pastor, Charles I. Sinden. C. N. Good died 17 February 1967 in Kitchener, Ontario.

Jacob and Rosina Good, who had lived earlier in the Roseville, Ontario area, returned to Ontario with their family in 1870 six months after Cyrus’s birth. Jacob was a blacksmith, and worked in a variety of villages around Waterloo County. According to the 1871 census the family was affiliated with the Evangelical Association. Cyrus had the usual elementary school education. He was always a short man, being five feet, four inches in height. Cyrus had a conversion experience at the age of 18 and became a member of the Bethany Mennonite Brethren in Christ Church in Berlin, Ontario, where the family began to attend in 1879 after moving to town. He worked for a time in the grocery business, but felt a call to ministry. C. N. (as he was always known as a minister) began to preach locally in 1893, and received a “Probationer’s” license in 1894 that saw him serve as a helper (assistant pastor) in the Bethany and Breslau congregations. In 1896 he was appointed to serve the Port Elgincongregation, and was also ordained as a minister. Over the years he also pastored the Conestoga, Elmwood, Aylmer, Toronto West, and Markham congregations. He held the first meetings in Hanover in 1901 that led to the formation of the Hanover congregation several years later. During his years in Markham, C. N. revived a congregation badly divided by the Pentecostal movement of the day. Good retired from active congregational ministry in 1943.

C. N. Good also served the Ontario Mennonite Brethren in Christ conference in many capacities. In 1913 he became President of the City Mission Committee, serving for six years at that time. Overall he served 20 years as the leader of the city mission work. He was a Presiding Elder for seven years, and chaired the annual conference four years. He also served as secretary-treasurer of the Ontario Conference for 13 years. He was a part-time or full-time evangelist for 18 years. He attended the Ontario district conference annual meetings 64 consecutive years (1895-1957). During his 50 years of active service he attended 2,829 Sunday school sessions, 3,469 prayer meetings, preached 9,434 sermons and made 22,084 pastoral visits. His average annual salary was $773.35. He was a popular preacher, and served widely in the Mennonite Brethren in Christ denomination as an evangelist. C. N. and Livy Good are buried at the Woodland Cemetery in Kitchener.

— Sam Steiner

Harvey Taves — a Entrepreneur of Service

Last week looked at the life of Iva Sherk Taves, an early female Mennonite medical doctor, who spent years as the pathologist at the public hospital in Kitchener-Waterloo. Iva had deep “Swiss Mennonite” roots, with a prominent Mennonite Brethren in Christ minister for a father.

Today we look at her husband, Harvey Taves, who came from a very different “Russian Mennonite” Kanadier background. Harvey was born in Steinbach, Manitoba to a family descended from 1870s immigrants; he father was a teacher.

Although he came from a theologically conservative background, Harvey showed himself as a creative thinker dedicated to Christian service. He became director of Mennonite Central Committee’s Canadian office in 1953 at age 27, and worked for MCC until his premature death in 1965.

In those 12 years he established homes for delinquent boys, placed school teachers in the outports of Newfoundland, and was a key proponent and organizer in the creation of Conrad Grebel University College.

This article by Lucille Marr on Harvey Taves was written for the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online in 2009. See the link for the full bibliography.


Harvey and Iva Toews with their two daughters, ca. 1960. Family photo

Harvey W. Taves: churchman; born 22 March 1926 in Steinbach, Manitoba, Canada to Julius G. Toews and Helen (Buhr) Toews. He was the eighth child in a family of six sons and two daughters. In June 1951 he married Iva Sherk, daughter of J. Harold (20 December 1903-28 February 1974) and Mila Senor Sherk (3 December 1900-13 January 1983) at the Bethany United Missionary Church, Kitchener, Ontario. Iva’s father J. Harold Sherk officiated. Harvey W. and Iva Sherk Taves had two daughters, Mila and Mary. Harvey died 11 May 1965, in Kitchener, Ontario when the children were eight and six years old.

Harvey was baptized as a teenager in the Steinbach Bergthaler Mennonite Church. He started High School in Steinbach, and at the age of 16 moved with his parents to Altona, Manitoba. After completing his secondary education he taught at Norway House Indian residential school for one year, then spent most of a year in charge of a United Church mission pastorate at Island Lake, Manitoba. There, he had a church base but visited his native Indian congregation using a canoe in summer and dog team in winter. The destruction of the church building, by fire, ended that phase of his ministry. It was followed by a period of teaching in the Mennonite community of Halbstadt, Manitoba.

In 1948, Harvey completed a year at Grace Bible Institute (later Grace University, Omaha, Nebraska). That summer, as one member in a three man Peace Team he met Iva at the first reunion of Canadian World War II conscientious objectors, held in Kitchener, Ontario. The reunion and peace rally had been arranged by J. Harold Sherk, and Iva had been assigned to help her father in the book tent.

In fall 1948 Harvey transferred to Goshen College, Indiana, where in early 1951 he completed his bachelor’s degree in History. Harvey worked in accounting in Toronto, Ontario from the spring of 1951 to the end of summer 1952. He and Iva, a medical student at the University of Toronto, married 2 June 1951. In fall 1952 Harvey entered Goshen Biblical Seminary while Iva undertook her internship in Toronto.

Harvey’s seminary plans were interrupted at the invitation of Orie Miller, Executive Secretary of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). Orie arranged for Harvey to manage the MCC’s Canadian office (then located in Waterloo and later in Kitchener). This assignment was taken up in February 1953.

Harvey’s church affiliation changed with his location and assignments. In Ontario he first joined Iva’s church (Bethany). Later, when he was asked to conduct Sunday evening services in German at Preston Mennonite Church (for the benefit of recent immigrants), he and Iva joined that congregation. When these services were no longer required Harvey and Iva joined the newly established Rockway Mennonite Church in Kitchener, fall 1960.

Harvey W. Taves would serve as director of Mennonite Central Committee’s Canadian office from 1953 to 1964, and director of MCC Ontario from 1964 to his death in 1965. Challenging older leaders who cautioned against taking risks, Taves moved ahead with enthusiasm. In his role on the executive of the Conference of Historic Peace Churches, for instance, he was able to convince them that establishing Ailsa Craig Boys’ Farm for juvenile delinquents was one way Mennonites could express their gratitude for the conscientious objector privileges granted them during World War II.

Harvey’s passion and vision for peace and service manifested itself as well in various innovations. These included Mennonite Disaster Service and Voluntary Service units, placing teachers and nurses in outport areas of Newfoundland, Canada. He also played a significant role in the creation of Conrad Grebel (University) College, established in 1963 on the campus of the University of Waterloo.

Harvey’s health became an increasing concern. In fall 1951, at age 25, he had his first asthmatic attack. In the early 1960s the attacks became more frequent and severe. During the last year of his life, trips to the hospital were frequent. His death at age 39 at the Kitchener-Waterloo Hospital on 11 May 1965 was caused by pneumonic complications in his asthmatic condition.

In the last year of his life, Harvey served as Executive Director of MCC Ontario, now a regional office of MCC Canada. Although the change which placed the Canadian head office in Winnipeg, Manitoba, was difficult for him to accept, he did so with grace. Agreeing to stay on as part-time director of the new MCC Ontario, Harvey also worked on a graduate degree in sociology at the University of New York at Buffalo (New York).

During this transition period, Harvey W. Taves wrote to a fellow administrator in the MCC: “It is wonderful to have been, and still to be, a part of the MCC program. It is my belief that this program is the most exciting part of the Mennonite witness.” The memorial plaque placed at the MCC Ontario headquarters articulates well Harvey W. Taves’ passion and his mission: “As one of Christ’s men, he devoted his life in the service of the church to the ministry of alleviating human suffering.”

See also Taves, Iva Ruth (1928-2011)

— Lucille Marr, 2009