Biography of Rev. John Walter Kliewer

Rev. John Walter Kliewer, president of Bethel College at Newton, one of the well ordered institutions at Kansas, referred to on other pages, grew up in one of the pioneer settlements of the Mennonite Church people in Western Kansas, and had spent his active career in the ministry of his church and as an educator.

Rev. Mr. Kliewer is a native of Russian Poland, born near Berdichieff June 8, 1869. His ancestry is partly German. His grandfather, Peter Kliewer, was born in Danzig, Germany, and moved into the vicinity of Berdichieff in Russian Poland, where he followed farming and where he reared his family. He died there before Rev. Mr. Kliewer was born.

The founder of the family in Kansas was John Kliewer, who was born at Berdichieff November 12, 1829, and grew up there. In 1874 he brought his family to America and in November of that year located at Peabody in Marion County, Kansas. After farming there two years he went to Harvey County and established a new farm eleven miles east of Newton, and remained in that community until he retired. He died on the old farm in March, 1912. After coming to America he identified himself with the republican party in politics and was always a loyal member of the Mennonite Church. John Kliewer married Aganetha Foth, who was born at Berdichieff in Russia in 1835 and died on the Kansas farm in August, 1877. These worthy people had a family of seven children, John W. being the fifth in point of age. Aganetha, the oldest, married Frank Ewert, and they live on a farm at Drake in the Province of Saskatchewan, Canada. Gerhard is a minister of the Missionary Church Association at Elbing, Kansas. Anna married Andrew Decker, owner of a beet farm at Artesia, California. Mary is the wife of J. J. Schmidt, a farmer at Whitewater in Harvey County. Henry is a missionary among the Cheyenne Indians at Hammon, Oklahoma. Maggie, the youngest of the family, is the wife of J. H. Harms, a physician and surgeon at Cordell, Oklahoma.

John Walter Kliewer was about five years of age when the family came to Kansas and he grew up on a farm and secured his early education in the rural schools of Marion and Harvey counties. He also attended the Mennonite Seminary at Halstead and was a student of Bethel College at Newton the first two years of its existence. From there he entered Northwestern University at Evanston, Illinois, where he was graduated in the Theological School with the degree S. T. B. in 1901. Ordained a minister, he served the Mennonite Church at Wadsworth, Ohio, as pastor from 1901 to 1903 and was stationed at Berne, Indiana, with a large and prosperous congregation from 1903 to 1911. He then responded to the call back to his alma mater, Bethel College, in the fall of 1911 and was its acting president until 1915, in which years he was formally installed as president.

Mr. Kliewer had done much to build up the college and extend its influence. He had a faculty of twenty instructors and professors and the enrollment of the college is 274. The chief buildings on the campus are a main hall, ladies’ dormitory, which was partly a gift from Mr. Carnegie, the alumni hall, containing gymnasium, and four dormitories for men, and a boarding hall.

Mr. Kliewer owned his residence on the college campus and is also owner of a farm of 160 acres in Haskell County, Kansas, and a tract of 320 acres of the rich farming land of Western Canada in the Province of Saskatchewan. Mr. Kliewer is independent in voting and political affiliations. He is president of the Mission Board of the Mennonite Church.

At Halsted, Kansas, in 1902, he married Miss Emma M. Ruth, a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John W. Ruth, her mother now deceased. Her father settled at Halstead on a farm in 1873 and is now retired. Mr. and Mrs. Kliewer have three children: Karl, born March 7, 1905; Ruth, born January 30, 1907; and Paul, born August 2, 1908.



Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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