MCC in 1920 and Alvin J. Miller

Alvin J. Miller

Casselman Historians Annual Meeting (Friday & Saturday, Sept. 20 & 21, 2019) This is a free public meeting—all are welcome!

Click the Next Meeting tab above for the schedule and beginning times.

Topic: One-hundred years ago, the Amish and Mennonite people of America responded to drastic international events. The aftermath of World War I called for relief and reconstruction in Europe. In Russia, the World War was followed by civil war and the Bolshevik Revolution with its social and economic upset, and severe famine. Mennonite organizations responded to those needs with programs of relief and reconstruction.

By 1920, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) was founded in an effort toward Mennonite unified effort and efficiency. With the MCC centennial year approaching, the Casselman Historians are planning to recognize that milestone next year. But this is the year to note early Casselman Valley involvements in relief efforts that preceded MCC, that related to the founding of MCC and the earliest program of MCC in Russia

A significant contribution from the Casselman Valley to the international relief effort of the period was the involvement of one of its sons, Alvin J. Miller (1883-1981). He was overseas from 1919 to 1927, and that without home furlough. These eight years were an intense part of his ninety-seven years. His work included interaction with persons and communities in dire need, as well as negotiations with top government officials.  His organizational umbrellas included the Society of Friends (Quaker), Red Cross, and, most extensively after its founding, MCC.


James W. Lowry and John L. Ruth to speak at September 2018 Historians meeting

“It was Pyrrhic victory,” wrote James W. Lowry. He was referring to the execution of Hans Landis in Zurich, Switzerland, in the year 1614. The state church meant to impress the citizens with its seriousness about eradicating Anabaptism from its territory. But it backfired – it was too much for the citizens. In addition, a Reformed man from Holland was present, saw the execution of the seventy-year-old man by beheading, went home to Holland, generated protests from himself, others of the Dutch Reformed, the Dutch Mennonites, and even involved the Dutch government.

The Swiss government in Zurich then changed its tactics. Though Hans Landis was the last to be executed there, persecution was accelerated in other ways – imprisonments, confiscation of property, and exile. Many Swiss Anabaptists (Swiss Brethren) emigrated to Germany, Holland, and Alsace (now in France). Having been forced to leave behind many of their possessions and finding themselves in a strange land, they suffered severe poverty.

The Dutch Mennonites and others not only protested the Swiss treatment of the Swiss Brethren, but also extended benevolence in response to their need. This resulted in a long series of letters between the Dutch and the Swiss. Those letters have been lying in the archives of Europe ever since. They have been available to scholars with credentials to gain access and linguistic ability to read those documents handwritten in early Dutch, German, and Latin and to decipher the writings with their varied penmanship and old vocabulary.

To the rescue: James W. Lowry. Three books2 with a combined total of more than 2,200 pages represent Lowry’s work transcribing and translating the documents. This set of three books contains nearly 325 documents extending from the years of 1608 to 1711.

Next Annual Meeting of the Casselman Historians

WHEN: September 14 & 15, 2018

Friday Evening
   7:00 – Business Meeting
   7:30 – Historical Program

   9:00 A.M. – Historical Program
   12:00 Noon – Lunch Served in Basement
Afternoon – Tour or other activity if announced

WHERE: At Maple Glen Mennonite Church, Grantsville, Md. (see Google map below)
SUBJECT: The Oppresssion of the Early Swiss Anabaptists and the Dutch Response of Aid.
GUEST SPEAKERs: James W. Lowry and John L. Ruth

Extant Historic Structures Built from 1800 – 1825

In the lead article in the April 2018 issue of The Historian, David I. Miller remembers:

The stone house of Abraham Beachy (1757 – 1833), West Salisbury, Penn., built in 1809, with stones found in the farm.

Growing up near Grantsville, Maryland, I was aware of some of the historic places of the area. I associated in some way with the historical reminders featured in this article. I frequented Stanton’s Mill, at Little Crossings, with its services of milling livestock feed, dealing in commercial feeds, and producing its own brand of buckwheat flour. I had occasions of being on the homestead where the John Hochstetler house stood on its original foundation on the Omar Bender farm near Summit Mills; I played there with my cousins. Frequent drives on State Route 669 took us past the admirable Abraham Beachy house near West Salisbury; even a child could sense that it was not an ordinary house. The stone arch bridge across the Casselman River was admired for its structure and historicity and is remembered for the deep-down-gut feel when crossing its zenith even at a reasonable speed in a car. The bridge was a challenge when my father pastured our cattle in the adjoining woods; we stretched a wire fence across the river under the bridge (with its acoustical echo) to keep the cattle from wandering upstream when the water was low.

The structures noted in this article date back to the period of 1800 to 1825. Our taking notice of these structures relates to the current focus of the Casselman Historians and The Historian on the Amish Mennonite experience in the Casselman Valley in that period. The two residential houses were built by Amish families, one by about 1800 and the other in 1809. The mill and the bridge are not of Amish origin, but each represents usage and culture that relates to the historical experience of the time.

These structures represent housing, industry, and transportation. Each has been preserved through the stewardship of those who had or took responsibility for maintenance and restoration at crucial points of time. After more then two centuries, we have standing today Stanton’s Mill of 1797, the John Hochstetler house of circa 1800, the Abraham Beachy house of 1809, and the Casselman River Bridge of 1813. [Click here for the entire article]