Detweiler Meetinghouse

Brubacher House. Conrad Grebel University College photo


The Detweiler meetinghouse is located near Roseville, Ontario and was built in 1855 in the traditional local style which was similar to Mennonite meetinghouses used in Pennsylvania. The Detweiler meetinghouse was built to replace an earlier log school and meetinghouse facility constructed in about 1830. The congregation at Roseville was organized by preacher Jacob F. Detweiler and deacon Jacob H. Detweiler, both ordained in the Funkite church in Pennsylvania.

In 1840 the Detweiler congregation united with the Waterloo District Mennonite Conference. A merger with Hallman's Mennonite congregation, also located near Roseville, brought the formation of the Roseville Mennonite congregation. From then until 1919, the Roseville, Blenheim, Biehn and Geiger's congregations held worship services on a four-week rotation as part of the Waterloo District Mennonite Conference.

In order to modernize the facility and reverse declining membership, Roseville Mennonite congregation at the Detweiler meetinghouse was renovated in 1921. Under the leadership of pastor Moses Bowman, the congregation grew and the meetinghouse was renovated again in 1956 to accommodate more Sunday School rooms and other church programs. When Moses Bowman died in 1964, the ownership of the meetinghouse and cemetery was transferred to the Mennonite Conference of Ontario. The remaining members of the Roseville church transferred to other Mennonite congregations in the area.

Between 1964 and 1984 the Detweiler meetinghouse began to deteriorate due to the lack of maintenance and use. There was still no water in the building and there was not adequate space for a congregation to use the building for regular worship. The conference was not willing to let the cemetery and building be separated which meant there was no reason for groups to purchase the property. The Mennonite Historical Society of Ontario also feared that if the property was sold, the historic features of the building would be altered. In 1987 various groups pushed to have the building resotred as an historical site. It was decided on November 4, 1987 that the Roseville church would be signed over to a non-profit historical corporation.

A number of year later, on March 30, 1992, the meetinghouse and cemetery ownership was transferred to a new non-profit corporation, Detweiler Meetinghouse Inc. The purpose of this group was to:

  • restore and preserve the meetinghouse and cemetery
  • research the history of the North Dumfries township and Mennonite community
  • promote public interest in the meetinghouse and cemetery
  • use and maintain the meetinghouse and cemetery.

Restoration process

One of the first projects to restore the Detweiler meetinghouse included making the structure watertight. The leaking asphalt shingles and rotting roof rafters were removed and replaced with matching construction. The stucco finish on the building was also removed to reveal the fieldstone underneath. The configuration of the mid-19th century building was restored from the reversal of the 1921 and 1956 renovations. The windows were replaced with 12-paned sash windows with antique glass and frames were repaired and sills replaced. Two original chimneys were also extended to restore the building. An addition was built onto the existing building with washrooms, an entrance, coat storage and basement storage. This addition was built to recall a wood whed structure that was once part of the building.

On the inside of the building, an original bench was found in the attic and "stolze banke" (benches built like risers) and hat racks were installed in the meetinghouse. The benches included hymnbook racks and are placed on floor blocks that allow them to be flipped for cleaning purposes. Along the south wall of the building is the "predigerstul" (platform) with a bench and pulpit, from whcih the preachers and deacons would have preached.

For more information, visit the Detweiler website.