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Taking a trip back in time to founding of Mennonite links

Meeting house of the Weaverland Conference Mennonites in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania [Irving Rusinow / U.S. National Archives and Records Administration via Wikimedia Commons]

The historical roots of Mennonite immigration to this area will be traced in a history-laden tour of Pennsylvania scheduled for later next month. Under the auspices of the Swiss Pioneer Preservation Associates, it will focus on the links forged with Woolwich Township by the relocation here of the Peter Martin family in 1819.

The October 24 bus tour will mark the 200th anniversary of the Martin family settlement in Canada by exploring a variety of landmarks that are related to the family and how they grew up in Weaverland Valley, PA.

“The main thrust of it is that so many of us are descendants of him and that’s considered to be interesting to see where they started,” says Ronald Martin, one of the organizers of the event.

Canadian historian Clair Frey will share the podium with Lloyd Weiler of Manheim to lead a special lecture on the Friday evening before the tour that will cover three parts of history. The first segment will focus on the immigration to Weaverland Valley in Northern Lancaster County by the Martins, then the lecture will flip its focus to Peter Martin’s new life in Pennsylvania, and the lecture will end off with a discussion about the family moving to Canada in 1819.

Starting early in the morning, the tour will commence at 8 a.m. on the Big Spring Farm and will stop at some 10 points of interests throughout the day that relate to the way the Martins lived in Weaverland. There will be a chance to see where Peter was born and will even include the birthplace of his wife, Anna Zimmerman. Followed by a stop to the log cabin that Peter and Anna moved into when they first married.

“Now it’s just a historic site, it’s been restored and rebuilt. They’ll show the newer house that the family built when they started to feel crowded,” explained Martin.

Frey and Weiler will be leading the tour, organized by the Swiss Pioneer Preservation Associates, to  provide historical background about all the locations. Given an itinerary filled with so much to see, the tour is an opportunity to really dig back into history and learn about the roots of the Mennonite community in Waterloo County, he notes.

After a full day of fun, the following day on Sunday will be dedicated to personal exploration and visitors will be allowed to do whatever they would like in their free time before returning back home on Monday.

Peter Martin was one of the main stalwarts for the Woolwich segments of the Mennonite migration, said Martin, noting the large family itself used up much of the land along the Woolwich-Waterloo line.  Peter and Anna had 17 children – two of his daughters got married and stayed back in Pennsylvania, while the rest immigrated to Canada starting a new life. With the hopes of a fresh start, their decision to leave was also based on “wanting a place to keep their religion and the faith alive without being persecuted for it,” said Martin.

Set for an October 24 departure and an October 28 return, the tour’s transportation costs have been set at $200. Lodging will be an additional cost, one Martin is still in the process of figuring out, since  Lancaster County in Pennsylvania has a historical Mennonite background and there will be some families that will be opening their doors to accommodate any visitors. More information about lodging can be determined through Martin.

Registration is open from now until October 1. Those interested in exploring more about the settlement of the Martin family can call Ronald Martin at 519-746-7666, who’ll also be taking registrations for the tour.

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