In 1951, Donald E. Lauver (minister, later bishop) called together some men who had accumulated valuable historical items to discuss the importance of preserving their collections. Donald E. Lauver, J. Lloyd Gingrich, Noah L. Zimmerman and J. Roy Graybill met and organized the Juniata District Mennonite Historical Society on September 22, 1951,
The Society was enlarged in 1963 to include a delegate from each Mennonite congregation in the Juniata District as a representative of their home church. In more recent years, the board has chosen to include representatives from other Anabaptist groups in the area.
Donald's Lauver's vision included a building since the collections were housed in places that were not conducive for preservation. The site for the Center was chosen on the basis of its central location in the Juniata District, its scenic view of the early settlers' homesteads and the center of the first while man's settlement in the area. The Center was constructed to preserve the accumulated historical matierials from area churches and the surrounding communtiy. It was intended to make these collections accessible to the public, to serve the community and those from other areas who have an interest in history.
A dedication service was held on July 8, 1978 at the site of the newly constructed Juniata Mennonite Historical Center on a hill overlooking the beautiful Juniata Valley. The building adjoins the historic Shelley's (Brick) Mennonite Church along Rt 35, about 1 mile west of Richfield Pennsylvania. The nearby cemetery with about 350 graves is listed on Find-A-Grave website.
Noah L. Zimmerman's keen interest in history and genealogy made him well suited for the role of director where he served faithfully for nearly twenty-five years until his illness in 2003. He was much loved and is remembered as a man of faith and a walking encyclopedia. He was reclaimed by his Maker on January 20, 2004 at eighty years of age.
The most current director was Mary Alice (Graybill) Charlton of Richfield, Pennsylvania who passed away on February 10, 2022 at her residence.. She was the wife of the late Daniel Charlton, our former co-director.
Mary Alice Charlton, 68, of Richfield, passed
into eternal rest with Jesus at 11:45 p.m. on Thursday, February 10, 2022 at
her residence.Born on January 19, 1954, in Lewistown, Mifflin
County, she is a daughter of the late Glenn and Anna (Weaver) Graybill.On March 15, 1975, she married her late husband,
Daniel Wayne Charlton, with whom she was blessed to share over 42 years before
he preceded her in death on January 8, 2018.
She is survived by: five sons and six daughters,
Doris Hoover and her husband Jay, of Richfield, D. Wayne Charlton and his wife
Rachael, of Richfield, Mark Charlton of Richfield, Dorothy Widrick and her
husband Emmanuel, of Copenhagen, NY, Marlin Charlton and his wife Sharon of
McAlisterville, Janet Burkholder and her husband Dennis of Lowville, NY,
Marilyn Charlton of Tylertown, MS, Karen Charlton of Richfield, Jay Charlton
and his wife Aremina, of Lewisburg, John Charlton and his wife Rhoda of
McAlisterville, and Mary Zeiset and her husband Justin of Mifflinburg;
siblings, Esther Graybill, Edith Graybill, Gladys Gingrich and her husband
Dale, Timothy Graybill and his wife Amanda, David Graybill and his wife Marie,
Daniel Graybill and his wife Peg, Elizabeth Ann Zimmerman and her husband
Terry, and Leon Graybill and his wife Lisa; and twenty four grandchildren.
Mrs. Charlton was a member of the Goodwill
Mennonite Church, Thompsontown.
Funeral Services were held at 10:00 a.m. on
Saturday, February 19, 2022 at the Millerstown Mennonite Church, Millerstown, PA with the Goodwill Mennonite Ministry officiating.
Interment followed in the Goodwill Mennonite Cemetery, Thompsontown.
The assistant director is Betty Ann Landis of Liverpool, Pennsylvania, She was the wife of the late Marvin Landis. She has six children, two granddaughters chosen by love, seventeen grandchildren and one great-grandchild. She has resided at Liverpool since 1965 and is a member of the Word of Hope Mennonite Church (Mid-Atlantic Fellowship).
Janice Burkholder currently serves as archivist. She is the wife of Eugene Burkholder. They own the farm where Fort Pomfret is located. They have five sons, one daughter and eighteen grandchildren. They are members of the Cocolamus Mennonite Church (Hope Mennonite Fellowship) Lillian Weaver was employed in 2021 as an assistant. She is the wife of Donald Weaver and is a member of the Lost Creek Mennonite Church (Lancaster Mennonite Conference) where their son was recently installed as pastor.
The collection of historical materials continues to grow steadily. We currently have more than one thousand names in our surname files. Some of the more common names are Auker, Basom, Benner, Brubaker, Ferster, Graybill, Gingrich, Kauffman, Kurtz, Snyder, Shaffer, Shellenberger, Shelley, Shirk, Swartz, Wert, Winey and Zimmerman.
We have indexed more than 45,000 obituaries and 5600 photographs in our collection. We have accumulated about one hundred family Bibles with family records. We also have a valuable collection of old German Bibles and songbooks. The oldest book in our collection is the 1540 Froschauer Bible. Our collection grew to the bursting point!
Noah Zimmerman and others contributed funds from their estates. Generous donors blessed us with contributions to be used for an expansion. So in 2013 we majorly remodeled the existing historical building and added a 38x38 addition. We moved into the newly remodeled and expanded building in October 2013. An open house and dedication was held on May 17, 2014 at the adjoining Brick Mennonite Church.
We appreciate donations to help with the ongoing operating expenses of archival materials. Come visit us soon!