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Voth, Heinrich (1851–1918)

Cottonwood County Historical Society
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Black and white photograph of Elder Heinrich Voth (right) and his wife, Sara Voth (left), ca. 1910.

Elder Heinrich Voth (right) and his wife, Sara Voth (left), ca. 1910.

Heinrich Voth, the first lay minister of Mennonite Brethren Church in Delft, baptized over 700 parishioners during his nearly forty years of ministry. Respected as an educator, he shared leadership with members of the congregation, freeing himself for evangelistic visits and travels to places in northern Minnesota and Canada.

Voth was born on February 18, 1851, to Heinrich and Helena Fast Voth in the village of Gnadenheim in Russia’s Molotschna Colony. He lived most of his childhood five miles southwest in the village of Ruekenau, only later moving to Friedensdorf along the Regemtschrockrak River. Sick with a serious fever for most of his childhood but recognized for his ability to learn, Voth attended school until he was eighteen years old—four years longer than was considered normal for that time.

Voth married Sara Kornelsen on June 12, 1873. The couple, both Mennonites, had seven sons and four daughters. When the Russian government threatened Mennonite settlers with military conscription, the Voths searched for land where they could live without fear of being forced to participate in the military against their beliefs.

Voth left Russia with his wife, their two infant daughters (Helena, age two, and Sara, age six months), his parents, five siblings, and other Mennonite families on the Red Star Liner S. S. Vaderland. They arrived in Pennsylvania on July 28, 1876, and in Mountain Lake in August. One month later, Sara died. The family’s first home was an earth-sheltered dwelling on the south bank of Rat Lake in section twenty of Carson Township.

The Voths were baptized upon confession of their faith on June 10, 1877. Heinrich was chosen to serve as minister of the Bingham Lake Mennonite Brethren Church congregation, later known as the Carson Mennonite Brethren Church, in Delft. He served the congregation from 1877 until 1916.

A knowledge and understanding of the scriptures, combined with a spirit of evangelism and mission-building, made Voth a revered speaker at church conferences in the United States and Canada. In 1883, the Mennonite Brethren Conference commissioned him as an itinerant preacher and evangelist. His work resulted in the creation of multiple churches. After an initial trip to Manitoba, he returned numerous times and eventually included Saskatchewan in his travel itinerary. On November 1, 1885, he received ordination as an elder by Abraham Schellenberg of Buhler, Kansas.

On March 2, 1887, Voth raised concerns of a need for humanitarian aid in India caused by a widespread famine. The church responded by donating money and by sending missionaries Nicholas N. and Susanna Hiebert to India in 1899. This resulted in the creation of the largest Mennonite Brethren Conference in the world.

Voth organized a singing program in 1883 that officially became a choir in 1885. A year later, in 1886, he organized adult Bible classes held on Sunday afternoons. In 1895, he baptized sixty-seven men and women. He traveled to northern Minnesota in 1899 and succeeding years for evangelistic purposes, sometimes staying abroad for months at a time. He established a concentrated Bible course in the church in 1901.

Concern for young people led Voth to start a group for young men in 1887, a women’g group in 1902, and Jungenverein, a young men and women’s society, in 1910. They met monthly for singing, recitations, and presentations on spiritual topics.

During his forty-year ministry, one of sacrifice and placing preaching and evangelism above his farming occupation, Voth baptized over 700 men and women. He organized Bible conferences at the local church and spoke at schools throughout the United States, including Tabor College, a Mennonite Brethren institution of higher learning. He served as chairperson or assistant chairperson for the Mennonite Brethren Conference from 1901 until his death in 1918.

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  • Related Resources

Froese, J. A. Witness Extraordinary. Winnipeg, MB: Christian Press Ltd., 1975.

Hiebert, Clarence. Brothers in Deed to Brothers in Need: A Scrapbook About Mennonite Immigrants from Russia, 1870–1885. Newton, KS: Faith and Life, 1974.

Kroeker, Elaine Ewert. A Culture of Call: The Story of the Carson Mennonite Brethren Church. Hillsboro, KS: Free Press Books, 2014.

Kroeker, Wes. “Elder Heinrich Voth.” Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies at Tabor College (CMBS) no. 39 (Spring 2015): 1–6.

Mountain Lake Mennonite Brethren Church and Carson Mennonite Brethren Church Record Book, 1877–1944. Hillsboro, KS: Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies (CMBS), 1980.

Schroeder, William, and Helmut T. Huebert. Mennonite Historical Atlas. Winnipeg: Springfield Publishers, 1990.

Related Images

Black and white photograph of Elder Heinrich Voth (right) and his wife, Sara Voth (left), ca. 1910.
Black and white photograph of Elder Heinrich Voth (right) and his wife, Sara Voth (left), ca. 1910.

Turning Point

Heinrich Voth is chosen in 1877 as the first lay minister of the fledgling Mennonite Brethren Church congregation in Delft.



Heinrich Voth is born in Russia to Heinrich and Helena Fast Voth on February 18.


Voth marries Sara Kornelson on June 12 in Klippenfeld, Russia.


After immigrating to Minnesota with his family, Voth is baptized on June 10 and becomes a member of Bingham Lake Mennonite Brethren Church.


Voth leads a delegation of three to formally join with the Mennonite Brethren Conference at the MB Conference in Henderson, Nebraska.


Voth goes on his first trip to Manitoba for evangelistic services.


Voth is ordained as elder of the Bingham Lake Mennonite Brethren Church on November 1.


Voth initiates a Fourth of July Missions Festival as an alternative to local nationalistic celebrations.


Voth is elected chairman of the Mennonite Brethren Church Conference.


Voth is elected to the German School (Mt. Lake) Board.


Voth is elected assistant chairman of Mennonite Brethren Church Conference.


Voth chooses his successors, N. N. Hiebert (for Mt. Lake Congregation) and A. J. Wiebe (for Bingham Lake MB North Church), on November 25.


Voth helps start a theological education department at Tabor College in Hillsboro, Kansas, on November 25.


Voth resigns as leader and elder of the church.


Voth spends a final Sunday in Minnesota before moving to Vanderhoof, British Columbia, on March 24.


Voth dies on November 26.