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July 1984 · Vol. 13 No. 3 · p. 56 

Book Review

Pioneer Publisher: The Life and Times of John F. Harms, 1855-1945

Orlando Harms. Winnipeg, MB and Hillsboro, KS: Kindred, 1984. xiv + 116 pages.

Reviewed by Allen R. Guenther

Pioneer Publisher: The Life and Times of John F. Harms, 1855-1945 is the title of a book which offers another informative treatise on the early history of the North American Mennonite Brethren Conference. The manuscript was prepared by Orlando Harms, former Manager of the MB Publishing House and editor of the Christian Leader for many years. It will be published in the near future.

Rev. John F. Harms, for many years one of the most influential men in Hillsboro and in the MB Conference, died at the age of 90 years, January 7, 1945. He was born in Kleefeld, South Russia and emigrated to the United States in 1878 settling in Mountain Lake, Minnesota. In 1879 he was invited by John F. Funk to serve as editor of the Mennonitische Rundschau, then in Elkhart, Indiana. In 1884 he moved to Kansas where he was influenced by the French Creek revival north of Hillsboro, was baptized by immersion and joined the MB Church.

In 1884 Harms was appointed the first editor and publisher of the Zionsbote. He held this position for some 20 years. In addition to his journalistic writings he also wrote short stories, essays, poems, tracts and the Geschichte der Mennoniten Bruedergemeinde (1924). He was influential in helping found Tabor College, Herbert Bible School and various mission projects, particularly among the Comanche Indians of Oklahoma and the Doukhobors of North Dakota.

In writing this biography the author states that John F. Harms was a “driving force” in the development of the MB Conference. “His life and personal experience helped define the nature of his time.” This book represents an important contribution to MB Studies.

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