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 current director is Mary Alice (Graybill) Charlton of McAlisterville, Pennsylvania. She was the wife of Daniel Charlton, our former co-director. Mary Alice and Daniel had eleven children and there is a growing number of grandchildren. She is a member of the Goodwill Mennonite Church (Eastern Pennsylvania Mennonite).
The assistant director is Betty Ann Landis of Liverpool, Pennsylvania, She was the wife of Marvin Landis. They had six children, two daughters chosen by love and sixteen grandchildren. She has resided at Liverpool since 1965 and is a member of the Millmont Mennonite Church (Mid-Atlantic Fellowship).
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!