About the year 1720, Barbara Yoder, whose husband died at sea on his way from Switzerland to this country, arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Hers was one of the first Amish Mennonite families to come to Pennsylvania from the old country. They located somewhere in the eastern part of the state, either Lancaster or Berks County. She was the mother of eight sons and one daughter. The daughter was married to Christian Byler. Seven of Barbara's Sons were married and had families. One of her sons, Christian, had eleven children, namely: Barbara, Jacob, Anna, Christian, John, Fannie, Elizabeth Henry, Yost, Joseph and David.

David Yoder married Jacobin Esh, who came from Switzerland, a maiden, and arrived in Philadelphia about 1780, after a long and perilous passage, being on the ocean over six weeks. She was a good woman and did not live to a great age. She became the mother of three sons and five daughters as follows:

  • Daniel, born (it is thought) in the latter part of 1791;

  • Rebecca, born October 18, 1793, and married to Jacob Zook;

  • Jonathan, born September 2, 1795 in Berks County, Pa., and married to Magdalena Wagner, whose father Zacharias Wagner was brought to this country from Hessen (or Hesse), Germany, during the Revolutionary War (he died at a ripe age, in Berks County, Pa.);

  • Joseph (Joder), born September 13, 1797, and married to Catharine Lantz of Mifflin County, Pa., where he lived many years and taught English and German schools (about 1836 he removed with his family to Juniata County, Pa., and about 1846 he immigrated to to McLean County, Ill., where he went to farming, dying there in February, 1888);

  • Magdalena, born April 23, 1799, married to John Lantz, lived in Mifflin County, Pa., and died there about 1833;

  • Fannie, born April 11, 1802, married to Joel Yoder of Centre County, Pa.;

  • Maria, born April 11, 1804, and married to John Yoder of Centre County, Pa.;

  • Leah, born December 8, 1806, and married to Yost Yoder of Centre County, Pa., about 1832 (she and her family removed to Juniata County, Pa. about 1849 and from there to McLean County, Ill., but more recently to Kansas).

David Yoder, with his family; removed from Berks County To Mifflin County, Pa. about 1811, and there he bought a large farm. He there met with reverses, his wife died and he became financially involved. His land title not being good, he lost his farm and died about 1820 insolvent.

Jonathan Yoder, second son of David, was a man of great physical strength and more than ordinary intelligence. Although he received only a few months of schooling, he was able to read and write both English and German, and without having studied any rules of the arithmetic taught in the subscription schools of those days. He could solve many of the most difficult questions found in the books. He was of generous and peaceful disposition, yet firm in what he considered right. His kind and jovial disposition made him beloved by all with whom he became acquainted.

When about thirty years old he was called to the ministry of the Amish Mennonite Church, to which he belonged, and in this capacity he served the church until the end of his life, with considerable ability and without salary or compensation. He reared a large family (eleven children) with the labor of his hands, when wages for ordinary laborers was only 50 cents a day; yet by industry and the prudent and economical management of his wife, they lived comfortably and became possessors of a small home four miles west of Lewiston, Mifflin County, Pa. A while after he was married he learned the carpenter's trade, and to some extent followed the business of framing barns.

As before stated, Magdalena Yoder was the daughter of Zacharias Wagner, who came from Hesse, Germany and located in the eastern part of Pennsylvania. She was born in 1798. When yet quite small she was bound to Christian Schmucker of Lancaster County, Pa. When she was about fourteen years of age, Mr. Schmucker removed to Mifflin County, Pa., and took her with him. She served with him until she was eighteen years of age. She, too, became a member of the Amish Mennonite Church, and lived and died in the faith of that communion.

She was a kind and benevolent woman, and her chief aim was to rear her children in the love and fear of God. She was very industrious and frugal, a good helpmate to her husband, and always managed to make things in and around the house appear neat and comfortable. She spun all the cloth the family wore, from shirts to overcoats and made nearly all the clothes with her own hands. Sewing machines were not then in use, but the children were always clean and well dressed. She was a mother in the true sense of the word.

About the year 1828 Jonathan removed to Half-Moon township, Centre County, Pa., and there bought one hundred acres of land, a little south of a village called Stormstown, where he lived eight years. He then removed to Tuscarora township, Juniata County. Two children died while he lived in Centre County, and nine were married and reared children. They were born as follows:

  • Leah, March 28, 1818;

  • Joash, December 23, 1819;

  • Elias, October 16, 1821;

  • Elizabeth, January 5, 1825;

  • Sarah, December 7, 1826;

  • Amos, December 17, 1828;

  • Jonathan, September 21, 1820;

  • Magdalena, July 13, 1832; (the last two named died in Centre County)

  • Asa, January 24, 1835;

  • Catherine, September 10, 1836;

  • Annie, February 7, 1840.

Soon after the last child was born, the oldest of the children began to marry, and the family became gradually larger. About 1846, Elias, the third born, removed to McLean County, Ill., near Bloomington, the county seat of McLean County, now a thriving city and railroad center, which then had only a few houses and no railroad at all. Soon after some other members of the family moved to McLean County, and about 1850 Jonathan and his wife followed, taking the remainder of the family with them. There these parents lived until their deaths, and are buried in a cemetery on a farm belonging to Simon Lantz, about two miles east of Carlock Station, on the Lakie (sic) Erie & Western Railroad.

---Taken from a paper Joash Yoder his Ancestors and Descendants Compiled and Published by Blaine Yoder July, 1948

Rev. Jonathan Yoder

By 1850 there were enough Amish in the northwestern part of McLean County to establish a congregation separate from the Mackinaw Church. All that was needed was a leader to organize the group. This leader was found in Rev. Jonathan Yoder of Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, who came to McLean County in the spring of 1851 and settled in Dry Grove Township. Since he was the leader of the church for the next twenty years and also organized the congregation from which came the Central Conference Mennonite Church, it is important to consider the history of his life at some length. Emerson says: "Biography is the only true history." So we may from the biography of Rev. Yoder get considerable history regarding the mother church of the Central Conference Mennonites.

The ancestry of Rev. Jonathan Yoder can be traced back to the year 1720 when his great-grandparents left Switzerland for America. While on the sea the great- grandfather died and the great-grandmother, Barbara Yoder came to the eastern part of Pennsylvania. She was the mother of eight sons and one daughter. Her son Christian, who had eleven children, was the grandfather of Rev. Yoder. Jonathan's father's name was David Yoder. His mother's name was Jacobina Esh who came from Switzerland while young and arrived in Philadelphia about 1780. David and his wife were the parents of three sons and five daughters, Jonathan being the third child.

Jonathan Yoder was born September 2, 1795, in Berks County Pennsylvania. When he was sixteen his father moved from Berks County to Mifflin County and bought a large farm. Here Jonathan's mother died about 1817 and his father in 1820. He received most of his training in the home and through his own efforts. He received only a few months' actual schooling in a subscription school in Mifflin County. He was able however, to read and write both English and German.

He was married in 1816 to Magdalene Wagner. Her parents were Hessian Mennonites and came to America during the Revolutionary War. Her father died at a ripe old age in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Rev. Yoder and his wife had eleven children. Two died while quite young while nine were married and reared families. Rev. Yoder raised his large family with the labor of his hands when wages for ordinary laborers were only fifty cents a day. Yet by industry and the prudent and economical management of his wife, they lived comfortably and became the possessors of a small home four miles west of Lewistown in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania. He spent a part of his time at carpenter work and followed the business of framing barns but in the year 1828 he moved to Center County, Pennsylvania, and there bought one hundred acres of land in Half Moon Township, a little south of the village called Stormstown. He lived here eight years and then in 1836 moved to Tuscareras Township, Juniata County, Pennsylvania. He was ordained as a minister in Berks County in the Amish Church in about 1827. He was later ordained as a bishop. He served the church from his ordination until his death without salary or compensation.

In 1848 his two sons, Elias and Amos, and his brother Joseph came to McLean County, Illinois. Elias settled in Dry Grove Township on what is now known as the Kinsinger farm. His brother Amos came to the same place. In the spring of 1851 Rev. Yoder and the rest of the family came to Dry Grove Township, McLean County.

Mr. John Ritter, a friend of Rev. Yoder, who lived in the same county with him in Pennsylvania, came to McLean County, Illinois, for a few years and then moved to Oregon. Mr. Ritter wrote to Rev. Yoder encouraging him to come to Illinois. Partly because of this encouragement and also because several of his children were here, he came to this state. He bought a forty-acre farm not far from his son, Elias, and engaged in farming until about 1860 when he and his wife went to live with his son, Amos. Here Mrs. Yoder died February 2, 1866. Rev, Yoder then went to live with his daughter Mrs. John Sharp near Congerville, Illinois, where he died January 28, 1869.

Rev. Jonathan Yoder being a bishop when he came to McLean County, soon became the 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 here about the same time he did. Soon after his arrival he organized a congregation and they held meetings in the homes of the 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.

Rev. Yoder was not only a leader in his own congregation, but also a recognized leader in the Amish Conferences in America that were held throughout the United States. He was moderator of the first Amish Conference held in Wayne County, Ohio, in 1862. He was a man of great physical strength and endurance. He was able to earn a living for a large family and in addition perform 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 very firm in his convictions. Although he was rather reserved, yet he had a kind arid jovial disposition which made him beloved by all who became acquainted with him.

He was a typical Amishman 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 with the 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 had assembled one of them brought the pipes and tobacco and gave a pipe to Rev. Yoder. He held it 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 filthy habit of smoking." It is said that the meeting adjourned without discussing the question of neckties. Rev. 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 ministers' 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 dining 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 that he was passing away. He died January 28, 1869, at the age of seventy-four years and was buried in the Lantz Cemetery a few miles southeast of Carlock.

From William B. Weaver, History of the Central Conference Mennonite Church (1926) Pp 56-59.

-One of the most important sources of material for the life of Rev. Yoder is a biographical sketch written by his son Joash in 1875 and printed in 1900.

Joseph Joder

One branch of the Yoders changed his name to Joder. He was Joseph Joder, brother of Reverend Jonathan Yoder. Joseph Joder was a scholar and teacher with an intimate knowledge of German and English and a passion for precision. His contention was that in writing the name, the German spelling and not the German sound should govern the English spelling; hence, we have "J-od" instead of "Y-od", making the name "joder".

None of the numerous families, however, going back to the first American ancestor, Barbara Yoder, would accept the revised spelling. Iddo, his only son continued the revised spelling and pronunciation. The three sons of Iddo Joder adhere to the same style, one of whom has six sons, hence the name Joder gives some promise of being perpetuated.

In the early spring of 1848 he departed with his family (from Pa), in company with two other families, those of Elias Yoder, his nephew, and Yose Yoder, his brother-in-law, for the region of Central Illinois. The families disposed of all of their livestock and other property, except a minimum of household effects, and went by canal and tramway, known as the "Pennsylvania System," to Pittsburgh, where they took passage on an Ohio River steamboat, Belle of the West, to St. Louis and there transferred to another boat which took them up the Illinois River to Pekin. From here about the middle of May the families of Joseph Joder and his brother-in-law were hauled to Woodford County.

This traditional route and mode of travel is supported by a reminiscent letter of 7/28/29, from Isaac H. Yoder of Lilly, Illinois, son of Elias Yoder, in recounting his father's conversation during the Civil War, upon his return from Cairo, Ill: "--when he came home he told us he had seen the old steamboat, Belle of the West, anchored at the wharf and went aboard her just for old acquaintance sake."

      ---From Illinois State Historical Publication 1929




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