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Maple Grove Mennonite Church & Cemetery - Wilmington Twnp PA

In 1525 a small faction of radical reformers of the Christian faith in Switzerland split from their churches and founded the Anabaptist movement. One of the main beliefs of the Anabaptists was the rejection of child baptisms because they believed a person had to choose to be baptized and follow Christ. A decade later Anabaptist leader Menno Simons (1496-1561) broke away and formed the Mennonite Church, a pacifist group strongly opposed to rigid church organization. Another schism led Mennonite leader Jakob Ammann (1644-??) and others to form a subgroup known as the Amish Mennonites or simple Amish in the 1690’s. Amish families in Central Europe were generally persecuted for their beliefs and many relocated to Pennsylvania in the 1700’s.

1847 a group of Old Order Amish from Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, led by Abraham Zook, moved west and settled in the area of New Wilmington – then part of Mercer County until Lawrence County was formed in 1849. The newly established Amish community in New Wilmington split in 1850, due to various differences, and John Kanagy formed a separate Mennonite congregation that became known as the Amish Mennonite Church. The Mennonites shared the same basic religious beliefs as the Old Order Amish, but were less strict in accepting the ways of the modern world.

The Mennonites, numbering about sixty people, held their services in private homes for the next two decades. The Reverend Shem King soon took over as the first fulltime pastor and led the congregation until his death in 1876. In 1871 the congregation acquired property near Wilmington Junction and erected a small church there a year later. At some point as small cemetery was established as well. The congregation later became known as the Maple Grove Mennonite Church. The members of the church would become well-known for their involvement in various charitable programs and missionary work.

The small church was eventually replaced with a modern brick building that was dedicated on Easter Sunday, April 18, 1930. The members of the congregation donated their labor to erect the structure, which cost only about $3,500 for materials. The Reverend Eli B. Stultzfuse, the longtime pastor of the Mennonite Church in Aurora, Ohio, was on hand to deliver the dedicatory sermon. The congregation celebrated the 100th anniversary of the building of their church with special events held on the weekend of September 30-October 1, 1972.

In February 2002 there was a merger of the various Mennonite Church organizations on a national level and the local congregation became affiliated with the new Mennonite Church USA. The Maple Grove congregation, led by the Reverend Cheryl Vanatsky, is still in service today with several dozen active parishioners.


In 1846 a group of Old Order Amish from Mifflin County moved west and settled in the area of New Wilmington. In 1850 the newly established Amish community in New Wilmington split, due to various differences, and John Kanagy formed a separate Mennonite congregation that eventually became known as the Maple Grove Mennonite Church. The Mennonites shared the same basic religious beliefs as the Old Order Amish, but were less strict in accepting the ways of the modern world. In 1872 they erected a small church near Wilmington Junction, and later dedicated the present Maple Grove Mennonite Church (shown above) in April 1930. (c1975)


Singing events were once a very popular feature of the small church. (Jul 1965)


In general the Mennonite Church, founded on the principles of pacifism, is known for its relief work and various outreach programs. The Maple Grove Mennonite Church is located south on New Wilmington on Route 956. (Apr 2014)


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Comment

  1. Many of my relatives are buried in the Maple Grove cemetery. In fact, William Lehman is my great-grandfather on my mother’s side. My grandmother and grandfather, Norman and Katherine Zook Lehman, are also buried there. In fact, the photo with the church in the background and the headstone that has white stones around it and flowers in the vase, is their headstone. Both sets of my Great grandparents on my mother’s side are buried there as well as Bertha Zook, my mother’s aunt who was about 13 when she died, and Freda Lehman who was my mother’s sister. Freda was only three or four when she died. My mother and her cousin, Jane, used to love to go to the Maple Grove church when they had a “singing.”

    Joyce Sipe · 06/03/2016 01:45 AM · #