Next Annual Meeting of the Casselman Historians (Friday evening & Saturday, Sept. 17 & 18, 2021)

search for grain MCC
The 2021 annual meeting or the Casselman Historians is scheduled for September 17 and 18, 2021, at the  Maple Glen Mennonite church. The focus of this meeting goes back one-hundred years in recognition of the founding of MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) and the successive decades of involvement of the Mennonite and Amish churches of the Casselman Valley in MCC relief ministries.

Speakers include Kenneth Sensenig of MCC-East Coast. Local speakers will be working on local memories and documentation on activities during the time of post-World War II relief efforts. Relief efforts included food-canning and preparing clothing and bedding by sewing circles for shipment abroad. Young men participated in restoration work in war-torn Europe through the MCC Pax program. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the centennial recognition of the 1920 founding of MCC was postponed a year. See the next issues of The Historian for further information.

Membership/Subscription Update
Check your expiration date by your name on the address label. If this is your final issue, find a card enclosed for renewal. The following options are available:

Membership includes subscription to The Historian ($15 value) and subscription to Mennonite Family History ($25 value). Rate: $30 one year or $80 three years.

Subscription only brings The Historian to your mail box each quarter. Rate: $15/yr. or $40 for three years.

For membership with subscription or for subscription only (new or renewal) send, with card if available, your choice of option, address, and check  to The Casselman Historians, P.O. Box 591, Grantsville, MD 21536.

The benefits of membership: (1) subscription to The Historian, (2) subscription to the quarterly Mennonite Family History, (3) free use of the archives by appointment, (4) voting privileges at business meetings, and (5) satisfaction in supporting the cause.

For on-line membership/subscription, go to

The July 2020 Historian Is Available

In This Issue

This is the year of the coronavirus pandemic, necessitating cancellation of the Casselman Historians annual meeting of 2020 in Grantsville, Maryland. See the announcement on page 8.

This is the centennial year of the founding of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). That organization was brought forth on July 27, 1920. in a meeting in Elkhart, Indiana. The organization was founded in response to a specific need and a plea for help. The result was sending tons of food and clothing to Ukrainian Russia and, eventually, fifty Fordson tractors, with fifty Oliver plows, to replace horses that were confiscated by the armies or had died of hunger. See an early report of the meeting that brought MCC into being on page 4.

The article on post-WWI relief in France recognizes the urge of the Mennonite and Amish people of the Casselman Valley of Somerset (PA) and Garrett Counties (MD) to respond to the needs of war-stricken peoples. That same sense of urgency was expressed in the response in 1920 to needs caused by war and famine in Russia and the eventual formation of Mennonite Central Committee. See page 5.

The lead article in this issue deals with MCC’s first ministry of compassion, i.e. relief to Russia, a country stricken by war and famine. Kenneth Sensenig and his wife, Karen, live in Ephrata, Pennsylvania. Kenneth serves as assistant director of MCC-East Coast. His article reflects material presented at the historical meeting of the Casselman Historians in September 2019 at Grantsville, Maryland.


When Alvin J. Miller Met with Lev Kamenov

Lenin addressing soldiers of the Red Army accompanied by Leon Trotsky and Lev Kamenev (face partially seen behind Trotsky’s hat) at Sverdlov Square in Moscow, May 5, 1920.
Lenin addressing soldiers of the Red Army accompanied by Leon Trotsky and Lev Kamenev (face partially visible behind Trotsky’s hat) at Sverdlov Square in Moscow, May 5, 1920.

The cover article of the January 2020 issue of The Historian relates to the aftermath of World War I and, more specifically, to that of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia where millions were

starving in the early 1920s. Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) then was a newly formed agency, organized for the purpose of sending relief materials to Russia.  Alvin J. Miller served as field director of that effort and served a significant role in opening the door for relief to be taken into Russia. This article deals with that aspect of the MCC relief ministry in Russia in the early 1920s and represents the material presented by the author at the annual meeting of the Casselman Historians in September 2019.

Alvin was born and raised on a farm by the north border of the town of Grantsville, Maryland, along present-day Dorsey Hotel Rd. For biographical information on Alvin J. Miller, see The Historian of October 2019. Anticipate more in issues to follow on the relief program of MCC in Russia after the door was opened.

Lev Kamenev – The official who signed the Agreement, with Alvin J. Miller, between the Soviets and American Mennonite Relief on October 1, 1921. Kamenev was a political colleague of Stalin under Lenin in 1921 and, as chairman of the Moscow Soviet, was “party boss.”

Lowell Bender, a great-nephew of Alvin J. Miller, lives at Accident, Maryland, with his wife Verna. He is retired from a staff position at Garrett Community College at McHenry, Maryland, and currently serves on the Board of Directors of MCC-East Coast.  The article largely follows P. C. Hiebert, ed., and Orie O. Miller, assoc. ed., Feeding the Hungry – Russian Famine 1919-1925, (Scottdale, PA: Mennonite Central Committee, 1929), chapter IV – “Unsealing the Closed Door of the Soviet Republic,” Part 2, “The Door Opens for Relief in Russia,” by Alvin J. Miller. The book is out of print, but is available in some libraries.  Reference to page numbers in this work is given in parentheses throughout the article.

The lead article is followed by extracts from Feeding the Hungry, selected for their depiction of need in Russia at the time of MCC’s effort to enter with relief. These selections contribute to understanding Alvin J. Miller’s sense of urgency when dealing with governmental red tape in opening the door to bring  to Russia MCC food stored and waiting in Constantinople.