Thomas Reesor (1867-1954) family

Classification scheme: 
Hist. Mss. 1.225

Title: Thomas Reesor family fonds

Dates of creation: 1888-1989
Note: Further accruals are expected

Physical description: 13 cm of textual records; 57 friendship cards; 19 photographs; 2 books

Biographical sketch: Thomas Reesor was a minister, a founding member of the Non-Resistant Relief Organization of Ontario, a Mennonite immigration leader, and a farmer.  Born on March 18, 1867 in Scarborough Township, Ontario, Thomas was the fourth child of Christian Reesor and Esther (Hoover) Reesor. 

In 1916, Reesor was ordained to the ministry. He was an Old Order Mennonite of the Markham branch and served in the ministry of the Reesor Mennonite Church in Scarborough Township, Ontario. 

At the onset of the First World War, Reesor wrote letters to members of Parliament, ministers and deputy ministers on behalf of the young Mennonite men who were conscripted to the war effort.  After receiving conscientious objector status for the conscripts, Reesor established a relief fund for war widows and orphans.  The development of this relief fund became a broader initiative in the Mennonite church.  Reesor helped to establish the Ontario branch of the Non-Resistant Relief Organization.  The larger branch of this organization soon became the Mennonite Central Committee.  Reesor’s work with the government on matters of conscription continued during the Second World War.

During the 1920s, Reesor spent much time and effort in helping to settle a colony of Mennonites who had fled Russia after the 1917 revolution.  Reesor wrote many letters to the Canadian Pacific Railway and the Department of Lands and Forests to establish transportation routes and an area of settlement for the immigrants.  While many of the immigrants scattered to various parts of Ontario and Manitoba, a group of some 100 people chose to pioneer in virgin territory near Hearst and in his honour name the settlement “Reesor”.

Reesor married Adeline Grove in 1891 and together they had five children.
Thomas Reesor died on March 20, 1954.

Annie (Reesor) Baker, born December 14, 1898, was the fourth daughter of Thomas Reesor.  In 1928, Annie married Isaac Baker and they had four children together. Annie died on died February 6, 1963.

Ruth (Baker) Reesor, granddaughter of Thomas Reesor, did research in the 1980s on her grandfather’s life.  She is the daughter of Annie (Reesor) Baker and Isaac Baker and was born on March 8, 1932.

Custodial history: After Thomas Reesor’s death, custody of the fonds was passed to his son, Amos Reesor. From Amos Reesor, the fond was given to Amos’ son George Reesor.  The materials in the Thomas Reesor fonds were lent to Ruth (Baker) Reesor for research purposes. Ruth Reesor who made photocopies of much of the information from the fonds and these photocopies constitute the majority of the archival fonds. These were donated by George Reesor to the Mennonite Archives of Ontario in approximately 2003. Several additional letters received from George Reesor in 2018 were interfiled with Hist.Mss.1.225.3/1 - Noah Bearinger correspondence.

Scope and content: Fonds consists primarily of Thomas Reesor’s personal and business records as well as Annie (Baker) Reesor’s correspondence, and Ruth (Baker) Reesor’s research work. Includes letters, personal papers, correspondence, interviews, manuscript, research, newspaper clippings, conference reports, poetry, obituaries, receipts, friendship cards, photographs, and books.

Notes: Description created December 2007 by Bethany Leis.

File list:

The fonds consists of seven series: 1)  Correspondence; 2) Personal Papers; 3) Ruth (Baker) Reesor; 4)Miscellaneous Old Papers; 5) Friendship Cards; 6) Photographs; 7) Books

Series 1 Correspondence (1888-ca. 1951)

Scope & Content: 
Series consists of letters written by numerous people to Thomas Reesor as well as correspondence about the settlement of Reesor, Ontario, and letters from Ada (Barkey) Reesor (the wife of Amos Reesor) to Annie (Reesor) Baker and Isaac Baker. The series is arranged chronologically.

Additional correspondence has been published in Whether by word or epistle : letters of Frank W. Hurst and other Weaverland Conference Mennonites of Pennsylvania to Thomas Reesor of Ontario, 1920-1948 / Hurst, Franklin W., 1863-1940.; Hoover, Amos B.; Reesor, Thomas, 1867-1954, recipient. -- Ephrata, PA : Muddy Creek Farm Library, 2006

Hist. Mss 1.225.1/1 - Thomas Reesor
1888 April 13 – Christian Reesor (Salunga, PA) to Thomas Reesor
1889 November 12 – Amos F. Eby (Salunga, PA) to Thomas Reesor
1890 December y – Amos F. Eby (Mount Joy, PA) to Thomas Reesor
1891 April 5 – Elmer W. Strickler (Mount Joy, PA) to Thomas Reesor
1904 June 3 – H. A. (Henry Arthur?) Reesor (Toronto, ON) to Thomas Reesor
1908 August 31 – Receipt for James Malcom & Sons General Merchants to 
Thomas Reesor
1927 April 5 – David Pactkour to Thomas Reesor (German)
1932 October 2 – Paul and Myrtle Hoover (Goshen, IN) to Thomas and Adeline Reesor
1935 January 10 – S. Goudie (Toronto, ON) to Thomas Reesor
1936 April 27 – Joseph C. and Maria P. Hostetter (Ephrata, PA) to Thomas 
1945 May 5 – Adam M. and Ada R. Zimmerman (Ephrata, PA) to Thomas Reesor and family
1947 March 7 – Sarah and Amsey Martin (Wallenstein, ON) to Thomas Reesor
1952 April – Fred and Ada M. (Stouffville, ON) to Thomas Reesor
Undated – Incomplete letter from J. Huber
Undated – 7 letters from Susanna Beare to Thomas Reesor
Hist. Mss. 1.225.1/2 - Annie (Reesor) Baker
1934 February 26 – Ada Reesor to Annie and Isaac Baker
1950 November 13-- Ada Reesor to Annie and Isaac Baker
1950 December 5 -- Ada Reesor to Annie and Isaac Baker
1951 April 9 -- Ada Reesor to Annie and Isaac Baker
1951 July 27 – Ada Reesor to Annie and Isaac Baker
? October 22 – Mother to Children
Date unknown -- Ada Reesor to Annie Baker
Date unknown  -- Ada Reesor to Annie and Isaac Baker

Hist.Mss. 1.225.1/3 - Thomas Reesor : Reesor, Ont. correspondence, 1924-1944

Custodial history: One file (1935-1936) was donated to the Archives by George Reesor in 2010. The others were donated to the Archives by George Reesor about 2013. This second group of files was discovered by Clare Frey in Elmira. For more information see: Reesor, George. "The role of shoebox historians," Ontario Mennonite History, v.XXXII,n.1, June 2014.

Scope and Content: Includes Thomas Reesor's original correspondence, plus George Reesor's notes on letters of particular importance and English translations of German letters.

Note: Additional records about the settlement of Reesor can be found in several fonds and collections. Larger groups of records are found in the Reesor United Mennonite Church fonds, the Markham-Waterloo Mennonite Conference fonds and the John H. Enns collection.

1. Lists of correspondence by George Reesor
2. Correspondence, undated, 1924-1936, 1938, 1942-1944

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Series 2: Personal Papers (ca. 1920s)

Scope & Content:
Series consists of two papers written by Thomas Reesor. The first paper reflects on Reesor’s experience on the executive committee of the Non-Resistant Relief Organization during the First World War, and the second paper discusses Reesor’s involvement in the development of the Mennonite Settlement in Mattice, Ontario.

Hist. Mss. 1.225.2/1 
A Brief Account of My Experience as Member of Executive Committee During the War 1914-1918
Note: A digital copy of this file is available here.

Hist. Mss. 1.225.2/2
Narrative of My Experience in Starting the Mennonite Settlement at Mattice (with Ruth (Baker) Reesor’s commentary)

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Series 3: Ruth (Baker) Reesor (1918-1980s) 

Scope & Content: Series consists of photocopies of Thomas Reesor’s correspondence, the research that Ruth (Baker) Reesor accumulated on Thomas Reesor, an interview, and a typed edition of Ruth (Baker) Reesor’s manuscript.

Hist. Mss. 1.225.3/1 - Correspondence

  1. 1918-1924 – Thomas Reesor’s Correspondence with S. F. Coffman
  2. 1924-1925 – Thomas Reesor’s Correspondence with the Canadian Pacific Railway Company
  3. 1926-1932 – Thomas Reesor’s General Correspondence
  4. 1928-1935 – Thomas Reesor’s Correspondence with the Department of Lands and Forests over settlement issues
  5. 1939-1941 – Thomas Reesor’s Correspondence and Documents from the Non-Resistant Relief Organization
  6. 1940-1944 – Letters from Noah M. Bearinger to Thomas Reesor

Hist. Mss. 1.225.3/2 - Research

  1. General Research and Notes
  2. Transcribed interview of Ernie J. Swalm by Ruth (Baker) Reesor
  3. 1977-1989 Correspondence for research
  4. Typed and edited edition of Ruth (Baker) Reesor’s manuscript

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Series 4Miscellaneous Old Papers (1889, ca. 1920s, 1928, 1930, 1936, 1952, 1954, 1957, 1983)

Scope & Content: Series consists of different old papers that were part of Thomas Reesor’s collection and includes newspaper clippings, a conference report, poetry obituaries, a receipt, and writings by different authors.

Hist. Mss. 1.225.4

The division of 1889, in Ontario by L. J. Burkholder
1930 November 14 – Conference Report : discussing Bishop Abraham Grove and Reesors church
Four poems – Our Trip to Pennsylvania by Annie R. Baker; A Sequel to Annie’s Poem by Vera H. Garber; A Greater Need by unknown poet; Young in Heart by unknown poet
1957 November 1 – History of Cedar Grove by Vera Reesor Taylor
1952 August 28 – History of Reesor Mennonite Church, Markham by George Cober
The Late John Eby Reesor by Vera Reesor Taylor
1936 August 1 – Letter to Thomas Reesor from Moses G. Horning following the ordination of Abram Smith as Bishop
Second page of writing on Reesor Church and family
1928 June 30 – Thomas Reesor’s statement of expenses for travelling with Canadian National Railways
1954? – Newspaper clipping, undated, source unknown – Cedar Grove obituary for Thomas Reesor
1954? – Newspaper clipping, undated, source unknown – “Thos. Reesor, Farmer and Mennonite Minister, Dead”
1982 October 31 -- Newspaper clipping on Scarborough farmers, interviews Amos, George and Ernie Reesor

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Series 5: Friendship Cards (ca. 1920s) 
57 cards

Series consists of 57 friendship cards from Thomas Reesor’s collection.

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Series 6: Photographs (19--?)

Scope & Content: Series consists of photographs of the Reesor, Grove, and Barkey families; Risser Pennsylvania homesteads, the Risser Church in Pennslyvania, and the Risser cemetery in Pennsylvania.

19 photographs housed with Photograph Database 2000-1.106-125. See Photos for search access.

Series 7: Books (1874, 1941)

Scope & Content: Series consists of a German Old Testament and a book on the history of the Mennonites. These books were part of Thomas Reesor’s collection.

Das Neue Testament… Berlin: Bibelgesellschaft, 1874. Given to Thomas Reesor on November 28, 1883.  Creative writing inside the front cover of the Bible.

Smith, C. Henry. The Story of Mennonites. Berne, Indiana: Mennonite Book Concern: 1941. “Thos. Reesor R.R. #2 Pickering, Ont.” stamped on opening page of book.

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

Phone: 519-885-0220 x24238