Warkentin House

211 E 1st Street

Newton, KS 67114

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The Warkentin House is a Queen Anne-style home built in 1887 by milling magnate, banker and Mennonite immigrant Bernhard Warkentin and his wife, Wilhelmina. Bernhard Warkentin, the son of a Mennonite miller, was born on June 18, 1847 in Crimea, Ukraine (Russia). He came to the United States in 1871 and, after traveling across several locations, he settled in Summerfield, Illinois. He was seeking possible colonization sites for other Mennonites. In 1873, he came to Kansas and settled in Halstead where he built the first grist mill in the county. In August 1875, he married Wilhelmina (Mina) Eisenmeyer of Summerfield, Illinois, the daughter of a miller. Together they would have two children, daughter Edna and son Carl. He was a close friend of David Goerz to whom he communicated with regarding his travels. Upon his arrival in Kansas, Warkentin found the climate similar to that of his home country and he encouraged the immigration of other Mennonites, asking them to bring the seed of the Turkey Red hard winter wheat. This simple act caused the production of wheat to increase. According to the 8 Wonders of Kansas website (found on the Kansas Sampler Foundation's website), Kansas produced less than 2.5 million bushels of spring wheat in 1870. By 1880, production had jumped to 17.3 million bushels of wheat, and by 1890, Kansas wheat production had risen even more to 30.3 million bushels that year. The website goes on to point out that in 1908, the year of Warkentin's death, 100 million bushels of wheat had been produced. This production is what gave Kansas the title of "Breadbasket of the World." Warkentin and his family moved to Newton in 1887 and resided in this home at 211 E 1st Street. He had purchased the Monarch Mills in 1885, renaming it Newton Milling & Elevator Company. He also worked with Goerz to establish Bethel College. Additionally, he opened and served as president of the Kansas State Bank in 1902 , was a director of the Halstead State Bank and was involved in the establishment of the Mennonite Mutual Fire Insurance Company. Together, Bernhard and Wilhelmina helped to establish the Bethel Deaconess Hospital. Warkentin died on April 1, 1908, while he and his wife were traveling through the Middle East. They were traveling by train from Damascus to Beirut when he was shot in the back. The bullet had come from an adjoining compartment when a pistol was accidentally fired. He survived long enough for the train to arrive in Beirut, but the wound proved fatal. It would take Wilhelmina nearly a month to return to Newton with his body. He was buried on May 5, 1908, in the family mausoleum located in Greenwood Cemetery. Wilhelmina remained in the home until her death in July 1932. Her children donated the home to the Bethel Deaconess sisters, whose work she had been passionate about. Today the home is a museum and is open to the public. It serves as a memorial to the Warkentin and his family, who had an important but little known impact to the community, county, state and nation. Guided tours are available.

 

 title= Today, the Warkentin House is a museum and is open for tours title= This side view of the Warkentin House shows the home in 1901 title= An undated photo shows Bernhard Warkentin title= This photo of Bernhard Warkentin was taken in the mid-1870s title= An undated photo of Wilhelmina Warkentin title=

 

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