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Book on Nobles County's Amish settlement to be released March 6

Book cover

WORTHINGTON -- A visit to a little-known Amish Mennonite Cemetery in Nobles County in 2004 has lead a group of Canadians to write a book about family members who settled near Wilmont between 1891 and 1910.

"Minnesota Meanderings" is set to be released in a March 6 book launch in Milverton, Ontario, Canada. The book is filled with information about the "settlement that failed" in Nobles County and another settlement of primarily Mennonite people that had settled in Jackson County between 1894 and 1901. Also included are genealogical lists of more than a dozen families in the Nobles County settlement, memories of life on the southwest Minnesota prairie and the stories about the local church scene.

Additional chapters are dedicated to economics, agriculture, travel and technology in that era, the Amish Mennonite Cemetery, maps and land records of the Nobles County settlement and tales of the bus trip organized six years ago that brought more than 70 people to Nobles County to erect a bronze plaque at the cemetery.

Earl Meyers, who along with his wife, Clara, and five other couples helped Bruce Jantzi in the research and compilation of information for the book.

Meyers said the Amish and Amish Mennonite people that settled in Nobles County had come mostly from Ontario.

"A number of them passed away during that time (in Minnesota)," said Meyers, as he described the small cemetery located a mile east of Wilmont. Over time, wooden crosses marking the graves had rotted away and the surrounding farm ground encroached ever so closely to the sacred place.

"The cemetery became kind of lost and the stone was lost," said Meyers. "People thought it would be nice if their relatives would have a decent marker there."

During the planning of the bus trip to Nobles County in 2004, Meyers said the group talked of creating a book about the cemetery and the families connected to it.

Jantzi took the lead on the book project, spending the next two years compiling information. Then, in 2006, he was sent to the Ukraine through the church, and in stepped the six couples willing to continue the work.

Via e-mail, the couples and Jantzi continued the process of gathering data and putting the chapters together. The final compilation was proofread by the committee last fall, and sent to the printers in Millbank, Ontario in December.

Meyers said one of the mysteries in writing the book was why the Amish Mennonite settlers left their homeland for the fertile soil of southwest Minnesota.

"One of the reasons is because the land was more readily available and it was less money than in other places," he said. "When they got there, it was just prairie land with prairie grass and they had to start from square one."

By about Chapter five or Chapter six, Meyers said the book explains why they left Nobles County in 1910.

"In that group of Amish or Amish Mennonite, there were differences of opinion," he said. "Eventually, some felt they wanted to move back to where they came from. As the group got smaller and smaller, they disbanded."

At 100 pages long, Chapter four is dedicated solely to the families who lived in the Nobles County settlement. Sections are written on the Bosharts, Gaschos, Gerbers, Jantzis, Jutzis, Kennels, Kropfs, Kuepfers, Millers, Schlabachs and Yoders.

Meyers said initial family information was gathered from the book, "The Amish in America: Settlements that Failed," which was written by David Luthy. More was added as the group did its research.

"The book is very interesting -- it talks about the good things and the tough things," said Meyers. "There's a really nice chapter about the cemetery, giving the history of it, finding the original small foot marker, the erection of the plaque, and photos of the people that were there and their family backgrounds."

Meyers said compiling the book was a great experience and it grew much bigger than they had anticipated. In its entirety, the book is nearly 300 pages.

They anticipate 200 to 300 people will attend the book launch on March 6. Among the attendees will be Roxann and Alfred Polzine of Brewster. Roxann was instrumental in gathering information and preparing for the group's visit to Nobles County in 2004.

The Polzines will make the nearly 1,500-mile trek by car, and are willing to take orders for the book and deliver them on the return trip. Anyone interested in a copy should contact Roxann at 370-4461. The books are considerably cheaper during the book launch than they will be if they are mailed to addresses in the United States.

Once they return, a copy of the book will be kept at the Nobles County Historical Society in Worthington, and a second copy will stay at the Heritage Room at Wilmont City Hall.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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