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Oncken, Johann G. (1800–1884)

Proper Title

Johann G. Oncken collection

Dates of Creation

[186-?], 1958–1960, 1981

Physical Description

1 folder of textual records

Biographical Sketch

Johann Gerhard Oncken (1800–1884) was influenced by an American Baptist professor of theology, Barnabas Sears. Oncken developed a strong conviction of baptism by immersion as a requirement for church membership. He was working in Hamburg with Rev. Rautenburg, where the first German Sunday school was started in 1825. These influences led Oncken to found the European Continental Baptist movement in 1834.

During his time in Hamburg, he became acquainted with Jacob Gysbert van der Smissen, a deacon in the Mennonite church. Oncken visited some Mennonite churches in Poland in 1833, and preached in the area for six weeks.

When the new movement of the Mennonite Brethren Church began in the Chortitza colony, their leader, Abraham Unger, encouraged Oncken to become involved. Oncken accepted the invitation and visited the area in 1869. He assisted in the ordination of Elder Abraham Unger, Aron Lepp as minister, and Benjamin Nickel and Cornelius Unger as deacons. Oncken continued his contact with the group after he left through correspondence. A problem arose when the group wanted to impose a ban on tobacco use. Oncken used tobacco as did some influential church members. The church upheld its ban on tobacco use and was forced to excommunicate ten to twelve influential members because of this issue.

Custodial History

Most of the material in this collection has been collected and photocopied by the staff of the Centre. The letter from Unger was located by James Urry of New Zealand in the Hamburg archives. He sent a copy with a transcription of it to the Centre in March of 1981.

Scope and Content

The material in this collection consists predominantly of articles written about Oncken in the mid to later 20th century. Two articles are by Rudolf Donat. One item in this collection is a copy of a primary document, which is a letter written to Oncken in the mid-1800s, by Abraham Unger. Most of the material is in German.


  • Volume 1020.
  • Described by Conrad Stoesz December 13, 1999.
  • Accession nos.

File List

Volume 1020

  1. Excerpts from Rudolf Donat, Das Wachseade Werk: Ausbreitung der Deutschen Baptitsengemeinde durch Sechzig Jahre (1849–1909), Kassel: J.G. Oncken Verlag, 1960.
  2. Excerpts from Rudolf Donat, Wie das Werk Begann: Entstehung der Baptitsengemeinde in Deutschland, Kassel, J.G. Oncken, 1958.
  3. Copy of letter to Oncken from Abr. Unger with transcription by James Urry. – [186-?],1981.
  4. Copy of “Oncken, Johann Gerhard”, in Mennonitisches Lexikon, Band III, Karlsruhe: Heinrich Schneider, 1958.
  5. Copy of “Oncken, Johann Gerhard”, in, Mennonite Encyclopedia, IV, Scottdale, Pennsylvania: Mennonite Publishing House, 1959.
  6. Excepts from P.M. Friesen, The Mennonite Brotherhood in Russia (1789–1910), Translated by J.B. Toews, et. al., Fresno, California: Board of Christian Literature of the General Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, 1978.
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