Rainham Mennonite Church (Rainham, ON)

Classification scheme: 

Dates of creation: 1839-2000
Note: Further accruals are expected

Physical description: 75 cm of textual records

Administrative history: The church is located 5 km east of Selkirk, Ont., on the west side of Fisherville Rd.

The Mennonite community began about 1793; it is not clear when regular worship began. The first Mennonite minister is identified in 1816. The first building was occupied by 1836, with a subsequent building program in 1873. Jacob Hoover (d. 1810) of York County, Pennsylvania settled in the community in 1790 with his family of five sons and three daughters. Early names in the settlement included Strickler, Shank, Swartz, Byers and Miller. Trouble apparently arose early in the church as the 1853 list of leadership was in sympathy with Daniel Hoch's movement based in Vineland, Ontario.

The profusion of cemeteries is also an indication of division. There are two small cemeteries south of Selkirk; there are also cemeteries in Walpole, Fisherville, Sweet's Corners and at Hoover's Point on Lake Erie. A settlement of Mennonites from Strickler church of Clarence, New York that settled here in the mid-1800s.

For a time Rainham shared a pastor with South Cayuga Mennonite Church. In 1965 the congregations amalgamated and began to meet at the Rainham meetinghouse.

Rainham has also been known as Stoney Creek Mennonite, Lake Shore Mennonite and Huberts meetinghouse. In 1989 about 30 members (including pastor Malcolm Eby) left to form the Living Word Christian Fellowship.

The congregation has been affiliated with the Mennonite Conference of Ontario (1836-1988), Mennonite Church (1898-), the Mennonite Conference of Eastern Canada (1988-) and the Conference of Mennonites in Canada (1995-). The language of worship is English. In 1925 there were 24 members; in 1950, 38; in 1965, 31; in 1975, 37; in 1985, 51; in 1995, 44.

Ministers with particular leadership roles at Rainham include (years of service indicated): Michael Shank (1816-?), Samuel Swartz (1825-1862); Bernhardt Werner (1864-1889); Leonard Hoover (1872-1877), Moses Hoover (1893-1921); B.B. Shantz (1924-1931); A. Lewis Fretz (1931-1963); Orrie Gingrich (1961-1972); Cyril Gingerich (1972-1983), Malcolm Eby (1984-1989), Orland Gingerich (Interim, 1989-1991), Rod Weber (1991-1996), Catherine Hunsberger (1997-2004), Karen Sheil (2005-2014), Doug Amstutz (Interim, (2014/15), Max Kennel (Interim supply, 2015/16)

For further information see: Rainham Mennonite Church: celebrating 190 years of service to our Lord (Rainham, Ont. : The Church, 1983); Mennonite Encyclopedia, "Rainham Mennonite Church"; L.J. Burkholder, A Brief History of the Mennonites in Ontario (1935)

Custodial history: The Rainham congregation made occasional donations to the Mennonite Archives of Ontario.

Notes: Original description created May 2000 by Sam Steiner

File list:

Series 1: Formal records

  1. Mortgage documents (1966-1967)
  2. Congregational meeting minutes
        1909, 1913, 1915, 1917, 1918-1922 (this book also contains some Sunday School reorganization meetings for the same years, as well as Young People's Meeting minutes, 1900-1906)
  3. Annual reports, 1971, 1973-1975, 1977, 1980, 1981, 1984-1986
  4. Church Council minutes, 1969-1981
  5. Membership records, 1920-1984 (includes records for South Cayuga)
  6. Minute book of conference committee discussions re: Rainham, 1920-1923
  7. Erie Sewing Circle record books
  8. Little Erie Sewing Circle record books
  9. Mennonite Youth Fellowship records
  10. Sunday school record books
  11. Sunday school attendance books, 1950s-1960s

Series 2: Informal records

  1. Misc. Programs
        1896-1934 (not just Rainham)
        1935-1950 (not just Rainham)
        1961-1983 (not just Rainham)
  2. "Families of Rainham Church" scrapbook, including family info, news clippings, some photos / compiled by Cyril Gingerich)
  3. Families of Rainham Church, 1980s
  4. "Scrapbook" of historical notes, clippings, gathered by Cyril Gingerich (1980s)
  5. Congregational Historian's reports, 1961-1972, 2000
  6. Funerals, 1967-1982, 2000
  7. Correspondence, 1923, 1973
  8. 190th anniversary pamphlet, 1983
  9. Letters to Sewing Circle from recipients of quilts in Europe, 1942-1948
  10. Family history notes on Jacob Hoover and descendants, 1960 / compiled by Jennie M. Yager; second book containing Hoover family notes, n.d.
  11. Poetry by Jennie M. Yager, n.d.
  12. Sunday school meeting notes, 1925-1932
  13. Mennonite Aid Union valuation of Rainham church, 1967

Series 3: Books used by congregation

    Die Gemeinschaftliche Lieder-Sammlung (Berlin, Canada : Boedecker u. Stuebing, 1857)
    Bible school hymns and sacred songs for Sunday schools and other religious services (Elkhart, Ind. : Mennonite Pub. Company, 1883)
    Das Neue Testament unsers Herrn und Heilandes Jesu Christi (Philadelphia : J.G. Ritter, 1828)
    Die Gemeinschaftliche Lieder-Sammlung (Lancaster, Pa. : Johann Bär's Söhnen, 1860)
    Erstes Lesebuch für Kinder (Neu-York : Amerikanischen Tractat-Gesellschaft, n.d.)
    Infant lesson book / by J.S. Coffman (Elkhart, Ind. : Mennonite Pub. Co., 1892)
    Gospel hymns, no. 5 and 6 combined: words only (Toronto : Copp, Clark Co., 1888)
    Kalender für der Versammlungen der Mennoniten-Gemeinden in Ontario, 1917 (Kitchener : Rittinger & Motz, 1917)(Old Order)
   Alexander Mackeith. The Story of Jesus in the Words of Scripture, Illustrated, for Lord's-Day Use in Home and School. (Glasgow: Maclure, Macdonald & Co., 1892). Stamp of Cressman & Hallman store in Berlin, Ontario. "Mennonite Sunday School" label pasted inside front cover as a reward to Elvin Warner, January 22, 1893. Signed by Lidia Hoover, Daniel Hoover and Joel Hoover. From the collection of Catharine H. Daley.

Series 4: Church Bulletins

1979-1993 (incomplete)

28 Oct 2001

Series 5: Realia

Lamp, belonging to a church "near Rainham" believed to be the Rainham Mennonite Church. Donated to the Archives in the 1990s. Associated name: Sam Rittenhouse.

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Mennonite Archives of Ontario
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