Above: Marjorie Lehman, as a nine year old, was the first person to arrive on the first Sunday that Fifth Street Mennonite Church met for worship in 1913.
During the 1980s, in anticipation of the church’s 75th anniversary, Rachel Kreider researched the congregation’s history and wrote The History of the Eighth Street Mennonite Church, covering the years 1913-1978. This 480-page volume is a treasury of information and has been an indispensable source for the Centennial Committee. Rachel also gathered and organized early church records, which are now housed in the Mennonite Archives at Bluffton University.
Rachel Weaver Kreider (b.1909) joined Eighth Street Mennonite Church in 1922. Earlier her family had attended Forks [Amish] Mennonite Church in LaGrange County and College Mennonite Church in Goshen. Rachel attended Eighth Street for about a decade after 1922. Following marriage to Leonard Kreider (1910-2001), she lived in Ohio, New York, Kansas, and again in Ohio. In 1982 she and Leonard moved back to Goshen. (See Dorothy Yoder Nyce’s article, “Connected Centenarian: A Profile of Rachel Weaver Kreider,” in the May 2013 issue of The Mennonite.)
Here are several “Did you know?” items about people from Eighth Street Mennonite Church, drawn from a column Rachel submitted to the February 1988 issue of The Messenger. Did you know that …
- Marjorie Lehman (later Mack) was the first person to arrive at church on April 20, 1913, the very first Sunday the congregation met for worship. She was 9 at the time. Her mother had sent her and her older brother to walk to church ahead of the rest of the family, but when they approached the building he headed off to the home of one of their cousins, who would also be coming to church. Left alone, Marjorie let herself into the building, which the janitor had earlier unlocked when he lit the heating stoves, and she waited for everyone else to arrive.
- Agnes Smoker (later Scranage) [1914-2002] was the first baby born to an Eighth Street Church family following the formation of the congregation in 1913. Older girls would vie with one another to hold her after church.
- During the summer of 1926 a cast of over 50 characters performed the drama “Messiah’s Path,” which depicted five time cycles from Abraham to Jesus. It was directed by Wilma (Smoker) Hauder and was performed several times.
- Pastor I. R. Detwiler, who served from 1923 to 1930, had his own mimeograph machine on which he printed the church bulletins, often on Sunday morning. While the ink was drying, the family got ready for church and then on the way to church they would fold them for distribution.
- In the fall of 1931, in the depth of the Depression, the women of the church worked together to can, in one week, 917 jars of fruits and vegetables for distribution to the needy in Goshen.
- Helen A. Yoder (1908-2000) was a longest serving missionary from the congregation. She married Russell Schnell (1907-1998) in 1932 and they immediately left for Congo where they served with Congo Inland Mission (now Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission) until 1964. Her brother, Ernie Yoder, was a member of Eighth Street until his death in 2012.
- In the summer of 1932 the church successfully petitioned the city of Goshen not to allow a gas station to be built on the northwest corner of Purl and Eighth Streets. Later, that area became the Chandler Elementary School playground when the school was expanded.
- The church basketball team won the city league championship in 1933. The previous year the team had lost in the finals by only three points.
- Ten young people from the church were part of the Goshen High School orchestra that placed second in national competition in 1933. The finals were held in Elmhurst, Illinois on June 2, 1933, and two days later the GHS orchestra performed at the World’s Fair in Chicago.