CMBS set to host 2024 Dinner & Mennonite Heritage Tour

Drawing of Gnadenau Settlement

Tabor College’s Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies (CMBS) will lead a Mennonite Heritage Tour on Saturday, April 20, and host its Annual Dinner on Sunday, April 21.  

The Mennonite Heritage Tour, set for 11:45 a.m.-5 p.m., is part of celebrating 150 years since the first arrival of Russian Mennonite immigrants in August 1874. Sites will include Brunk Cemetery, Gnadenau Orphanage and Village, Ebenfeld Mennonite Brethren Church and Cemetery, Peabody Train Station, and Prisoner of War (P.O.W.) Building, Hillcrest Cemetery in Florence, Kan., and Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church.

The tour will cost $40 and leave from the Historic Church on the Tabor College campus. A Faspa lunch is included. 

Gnadenau Orphanage
Gnadenau Orphanage, early 1900s

The Annual Dinner is $25 and will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Franz Family Heritage Lobby of the Shari Flaming Center for the Arts. It will include a keynote address from Benjamin Schmidt (g’16), who teaches History, English, and Greek at The Classical School in Wichita, Kan. He will present “Forerunners of Faithfulness: The Gnadenau Krimmer Mennonite Brethren Settlement in Marion County, Kan.”

A children’s ABC book, highlighting Mennonites immigrating to Marion County, will be available for presale and support the work of CMBS. The book will highlight the significance of items families brought to begin life in a new land. Under the direction of Derek Hamm, associate professor of graphic design, the illustrations will highlight the work of Tabor students in Advanced Graphic Design.

The finalists for the Dr. Wilmer A. Harms Anabaptist Contest will also be announced at the dinner. The competition is for full-time Tabor students who submit essays, poetry, or other works of art or media that engage and discuss forms of Anabaptist history.

Tour and dinner/program reservations are due April 15. Contact Peggy Goertzen, CMBS director, at or 620-947-3121 (ext. 1211/1212) to reserve your seat(s).

Benjamin Schmidt (g'16)
Benjamin Schmidt (g’16)

His academic background at Tabor College, Westminster Theological Seminary, and Emporia State University and previous archival and museum work at the Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies and Mennonite Heritage and Agricultural Museum fuels an interest in preserving and sharing the stories of his Mennonite ancestors.

He is a descendant of the Schmidt and Gossen families of Corn, Okla. He has a deep connection and appreciation for integrating his knowledge of history and culture into the classroom. He lives in Wichita, Kan., with his wife Courtney (Reed g’17), and two children.

Gnadenau, Kansas, founded in 1874, was the earliest settlement of Mennonite Brethren in Kansas. Under the leadership of Jacob A. Wiebe, 40 members of the Gnadenau Krimmer Mennonite Brethren Church (now Parkview Mennonite Brethren Church) immigrated from Crimea, Russia, to the United States, settling in Marion County, Kansas. They left Russia to escape mandatory military service and persecution. They sought a place to practice their faith. A firm belief in the teaching of Scripture established not only their church but also their social life. Translated “Grace Meadow,” Gnadenau represents the resilience of pioneers and faithfulness in God’s grace. The Krimmer MB opened the door to further Mennonite immigration and established a faithful legacy to build upon for those of us who follow after them.