Jonathan Yoder (1795-1869)
Jonathan (Yony) Yoder (Joder) was born in Berks County, Pennsylvania, on September 2, 1795. It is not known when he was baptized or by whom, but he entered the Amish Mennonite Church when a young man about 20 years old. Yoder had two brothers and 5 sisters. His mother, Jacobina Esh, was born in Switzerland about 1760 and his father, David Yoder, in Berks County, Pennsylvania.
He had little schooling except that which he obtained at a subscription school while he lived in Berks County. Although a carpenter and a farmer, he latter gained sufficient education to enable him to become a teacher in the subscription schools of the day. He could read and write both English and German. Jonathan Yoder was married in 1816 to Magdalena Wagner who came from Hesse, Germany.
To this union eleven children were born. They are Leah, Joash, Elias, Elizabeth, Sarah, Amos, Jonathan, Magdalena, Asa, Catherine, and Anna. Yoder lived in a number of different places including Berks, Mifflin and Juniata Counties, Pennsylvania, and McLean County, Illinois, near Carlock.
He was chosen preacher in 1825 and latter bishop. In 1849 two sons, Elias and Amos, and his brother Joseph came to McLean County, Illinois. Elias settled in Dry Grove Township what is now the Kinsinger farm. His brother Amos came to the same place. In the spring of 1851 Yoder and the rest of the family came to Dry Grove Township, McLean County. Illinois.
Mr John Ritter, a friend of Yoder, who lived in the same county in Pennsylvania, came to McLean County, Illinois, for a few years and moved to Oregon. Mr. Ritter wrote to Yoder encouraging him to come to Illinois. Partly because of this encouragement and also because some of his family were here he came to this state.
He bought a forty acre farm not far from his son, Elias, and engaged in farming till about 1860 when he and his wife went to live with his son, Amos. Here Mrs. Yoder died February 2, 1869. Yoder then went to live with his daughter Mrs. John Sharp near Congerville, Illinois. When Yoder came to McLean County, he became a leader of the Amish people of Danvers and Dry Grove Townships. He also had quite a large following of his own people from Pennsylvania who came about the same time he did. Soon after his arrival he organized a congregation and they held meetings in the homes of members.
In the spring of 1853, a church house was built at Rock Creek, where are now the Rock Creek Fair Grounds, about five miles north of Danvers. Yoder was not only a leader of his congregation, but also are cognized leader in the Amish conferences in America that were held throughout the United States. He was a moderator of the first Amish conference held in Wayne County, Ohio in 1862 and active in those that followed. He was a man of great physical strength and endurance. He was able to earn a living for a large family in addition performed the ministerial duties that devolved upon him. He was a man of more than ordinary intelligence, of reason and excellent judgment. He was of a generous and peaceful nature and yet firm in his convictions. Although he was rather reserved, yet he had a kind and jovial disposition which made him beloved by all who became acquainted with him. He was a typical Amish man from Pennsylvania and was conservative in his views. He believed in the conventional form of Amish dress, bonnets and veils for women, hooks and eyes and long hair for men. Yet he was progressive when compared to other Amish bishops of his day. He very often showed a liberal attitude toward new things that came up.
The story is told that he met with a number of Amish bishops in central Illinois to discuss the question as to whether young men should be allowed to wear neckties. After the bishops assemble some of them brought the pipes and tobacco and gave a pipe to Yoder. He held it for a while and then threw it down and said to the other Bishops: "We have met to consider whether the young men can wear neckties and yet we ourselves engage in this most filthy habit of smoking." It is said that the meeting adjourned without discussing the question of neckties.
Yoder, Judging by the work he accomplished, was a man of executive ability, an original thinker and had great initiative. He had the marks of leadership. He filled a large place in his day because the Amish of Dry Grove and Danvers Townships were in need of a leader at this time. He fills a large place in the history of the Central Conference Mennonite Church. His death came in rather an unusual way.
A minister's meeting was held at the home of his daughter, Mrs. John Sharp, in the latter part of January, 1869. At the noon hour when Mrs. Sharp invited the ministers to the dinning room, Rev. Yoder said he did not care to eat and would rather lie down and rest. The other ministers went to the table and after dinner when they came back into the room they found he was passing away.
He died January 28, 1869, at the age of 74 years, and was buried on Simon Lantz,s farm now the Lantz Cemetery a few miles southeast of Carlock. Jacob Zehr, Christian Risser, and Joseph Stuckey gave appropriate remarks at the funeral. He died before the Stuckey schism which led to the Central conference.
-- From the "Centennial History of the Mennonites of Illinois1829- 1929" by Harry F. Weber. Published by The Mennonite Historical Society, Goshen Indiana,1931