The New Student's Reference Work/Mennonites
|The New Student's Reference Work
Mennonites (men'non-its}; a body of Christian believers, named after Menno Simons, a religious reformer of the 16th century. As a sect they seem first to have drawn together in Switzerland about 1525, although they claim to be descendants of the Waldensians. Menno himself was born in Friesland about 1492. In 1536 he withdrew from the Roman church, identified himself with the Anabaptists, and became a bishop of their sect at Groeningen. He died in 1559. William of Orange befriended the Mennonites and gave them certain liberties in Holland, which the Dutch states afterwards withdrew. In 1786 Catharine II of Russia invited the Mennonites, with other German emigrants, to settle her dominions. They for a time were liberally aided in money, and granted perpetual exemption from military service. The privileges extended to them drew a large number to Russia and their towns increased in numbers and wealth. But in 1871 a policy of repression was introduced, and exemption from military duty was to be withdrawn after the expiration of ten years. The leaders began immediately to seek new homes for their people; and large colonies emigrated to the United States, whither smaller bodies had preceded them. The earlier comers for the most part settled in Pennsylvania; the later in the Dakotas. They already are divided into various minor sects, of which perhaps the Amish are most frequently mentioned on account of their peculiar abhorrence of buttons, using only hooks and eyes upon their heavier garments, Statistics show that in 1907 only 61 690 Mennonites were in the United States, although this number was divided into no less than 12 sects. Mennonites are sometimes classed with the Baptists on account of their practice of immersion; but more frequently with the Friends (Quakers) on account of their abhorrence of war.