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Funk, John F. (John Fretz) (1835-1930) | Mennonite Archival Commons

Name: Funk, John F. (John Fretz) (1835-1930)

Historical Note:

Funk was an outstanding leader in the Mennonite Church, and served as a publisher, a Mennonite bishop, and was a major organizer of Mennonite Board of Guardians for Russian immigration.

John Fretz Funk, 1835-1930, was one of the most important leaders among (Old) Mennonites in the 19th century.  He served as a publisher beginning in 1864-, a Mennonite Bishop beginning in 1892, and was a major organizer of the Mennonite Board of Guardians for Russian Mennonite immigrants in the 1870?s.

Funk was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and lived there until he was 22 years old.  He was trained as a school teacher at Freeland Seminary (now Ursinus College).  He taught in his home community, but after two years, he moved to Chicago in 1857 to work in the lumber business with his brother-in-law, Jacob Beidler.

In January of 1864, John Funk started a printing and publishing business in Chicago.  He decided to move himself and his publishing house to Elkhart, Indiana, in 1867, after ten years in Chicago.  John Funk lived the rest of his years in Elkhart.  He belonged to the Prairie Street Mennonite Church and was buried there in 1930.  He died at the age of 95.

Funk's well-known Herald of Truth was published in Elkhart at the Mennonite Publishing Company.  In 1908 "the Herald," as it was called, merged with the Gospel Witness to create the Gospel Herald, which was published in Scottdale until 1998.  Also published by Funk were Mennonitische Rundschau, and Mennonite Sunday School Quarterly.  In 1908 Funk sold many of his publications to the Mennonite Church and the Publication Board in Scottdale, Pennsylvania.

Dutch-Russian Mennonites met Funk as they passed through Elkhart and Prairie Street Mennonite Church on their way to new homes in Minnesota, Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas.  John Funk was an organizer and supporter of the Mennonite Board of Guardians, an agency to assist Mennonites to immigrate from Russia to America in the 1870s.

Sources: Goshen Archival Inventory

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