Classification scheme: 

Title: The Mennonite Story, Inc. fonds

Dates of creation: 1976-2014
Note: Further accruals are expected

Physical description: 13 cm of textual records

Administrative history: With tourism increasing in the St. Jacobs and Elmira area in the 1970s, local entrepreneurs Laura and Milo Shantz were encouraged to develop an interpretive centre to describe Mennonite history and culture to visitors. Together with a group of interested people, they planned an information centre in a Shantz-owned building on King Street in St. Jacobs that would house a multi-media presentation. The centre opened in 1979.

The Shantzes provided most of the initial funding for the project. Jan Gleysteen and Glenn Fretz provided museum, exhibit and graphic design consultation. John L. Ruth and Burton Buller were commissioned to produce a documentary film, Mennonites of Ontario (1980), to be shown in the Meetingplace theatre. In its first 25 years of operation, the centre had 442,994 visitors.

In 1980, the centre came under the auspices of the Mission and Service Committee of St. Jacobs Mennonite Church. A Management Committee provided direction, and a board provided oversight. The centre has had five managers: Dave Brubacher (1980-1981), Gordon Hunsberger (1981-1982), Curtis Brubacher (1982-1994), Joe Snyder (1994-1999) and Del Gingrich (1999-). Volunteers and summer students have also helped staff the centre. In 1985, the board created a Meetingplace Association, which met annually for the purpose of generating more widespread interest in the centre in the Mennonite community. In 2011, St. Jacobs church relinquished its hold on the centre to the newly incorporated The Mennonite Story, Inc.

The centre was known as The Meetingplace until 1998, when it was called the Visitor Centre. In 2011, it formally took the name The Mennonite Story.

Custodial history: Received from The Mennonite Story by the Archives through Nelson Scheifele in 2015, and in subsequent installments.

Scope and content: Minutes, correspondence, financial records, brochures, and legal documents of The Mennonite Story and its predecessors, The Meetingplace and Visitor Centre. Early records document the creation and early development of the centre, from its initiation by Milo and Laura Shantz to its administration by St. Jacobs Mennonite Church, to it's incorporation. Sketches, plans and early drafts of texts for the exhibit areas are included. Correspondence and financial records document the production of the film Mennonites of Ontario.

Notes: For photographs related to The Mennonite Story search the Mennonite Archival Image Database.
Further materials related to The Mennonite Story may be found by searching the Archives or the Milton Good Library catalogue.
A copy of the film Mennonites of Ontario is housed in Hist.Mss.26.12.
Minutes of the centre before its incorporation are located in the St. Jacobs Mennonite Church fonds.
Original archival description created 2016 by Laureen Harder-Gissing.

File list:

  1. Correspondence, undated, 1976-1980
  2. Exhibit creation, 1979
  3. Mennonites of Ontario film production, 1978-1981
  4. Early financial records, 1979-1980
  5. Brochures
    Note: Includes a copy of "A Self-Guided Tour Through Mennonite Country," [2009?]
  6. The Mennonite Story
    1. Legal documents, 2010-2011
    2. Annual meetings, 2012-2021
    Note: Includes minutes of a special meeting of the members and directors, 15 Jul 2021
    3. Board meetings, 2010-2021
    4. Correspondence re Ephrata Martyrs Mirror
    5. In camera board minutes (restricted), 2014-2021
  7. Leah (Reist) Martin Bible genealogical pages
    Scope and content: Images of: the cover of the Bible; page listing genealogical information for Samuel E. Reist and Magdalena Gingrich (parents of Leah Reist) and their 6 children; and a page listing birth dates for nine of Leah (Reist) Martin and Elias B. Martin's 10 children. The Bible was on display at the Meetingplace with the following caption: "The Familiar Mennonite family names Reist and Martin can be traced back, respectively, to Montgomery and Lancaster Counties in Colonial Pennsylvania. Before that their origin can be found in the Swiss Cantons of Zurich (Reist) and Berne (Martin)."
  8. Photographs


Generally 8:30-4:30 Monday to Friday. An appointment in advance is recommended.


Mennonite Archives of Ontario
Conrad Grebel University College
140 Westmount Road North
Waterloo, ON N2L 3G6

Phone: 519-885-0220 x24238