David Goerz.In reviewing the history of any community or state there are always a few names which stand preëminently above others, for those who bear them are men of superior ability, energy, judgment and intelligence; men who by fixedness of purpose and unfaltering pursuit of an ideal have made themselves the promoters of various enterprises which have a direct and important bearing upon the development and progress of their city or state. Such a citizen is David Goerz, of Newton, Kan., founder of Bethel College, and an astute business man, whose influence and achievements well entitle the Goerz family to recognition in this work. Mr. Goerz was born in Berdianak, near Odessa, southern Russia, June 2, 1849, and was there reared and given an excellent education. He was first engaged in surveying and later became a teacher in his native land, but the greater opportunities of the New World appealed to him so strongly that, in 1873, he immigrated to America and located in Summerfield, St. Clair county, Illinois, where he taught two years and established there in February, 1875, the "Zui Heimath," a Mennonite publication, of which he was the editor. In December, 1875, he removed to Halstead, Harvey county, Kansas, and there continued the publication of this paper and also established a book and stationery business.
Prior to leaving Russia he wedded, on June 21, 1871, Miss Helen Riesen, who was born, reared and educated in southern Russia. She is a daughter of Rudolph and Catherine (Friesen) Riesen, the former a native of Prussia and a cabinet maker by trade. These parents also came to America, in 1874, and settled in Marion county, Kansas, where the father engaged in farming, a pursuit in which he had had no previous experience. He was very successful, however, and thereby acquired financial independence. They were the parents of five sons and four daughters, all of whom were born in Russia, except the youngest son. Both parents died in 1893, within a few days of each other, the father at the age of seventy-one and the mother aged sixty-nine years. Rev. and Mrs. Goerz are the parents of nine children, of whom five sons and three daughters are still living. She is a woman of unusual sweetness and strength of character, of strong intellect, well educated and versatile, a fit companion and helpmeet to her husband in his work of founding and managing Bethel College. In December, 1875, Mr. and Mrs. Goerz came to Kansas and first located at Halstead, Harvey county, which was then the headquarters of the Emigrant Aid Colonization Society, of which he became secretary. In that capacity he spent some time at Castle Garden, New York harbor, where he received immigrants and conducted or sent them to their destination in Kansas or elsewhere in the West. Sixteen years were spent in that service, which brought to Harvey county and to central Kansas many good settlers who have become prosperous and substantial citizens of that section and own good homes there. In this work he was associated with the late Bernard Warkentin (see sketch).
Mr. Goerz' greatest work, however, was most probably the organization of the corporation which, in 1893, founded Bethel College, a sectarian school of the Mennonite denomination. At the time of its organization it was the only Mennonite college in the United States, its mission being not only educational training and implanting a genuine love of culture, but the moral and spiritual development of its students as well. Mr. Goerz solicited the funds for the college, amounting to over $100,000, and negotiated for the site which resulted in locating the college one mile north of Newton, on a beautiful site, the campus comprising several acres of ground. The main building of the college is a large stone edifice, of modern style of architecture and of imposing appearance, which, with its accompanying recitation buildings and dormitories, forms a pretty suburban village, so located on an eminence that it can be seen for miles across the prairies. Mr. Goerz has been secretary of the board of directors and business manager of the college since its organization, and to him more than anyone else is due the success of the institution. During the twenty years in which he was the controlling spirit in this institution he served practically without salary and was as well a generous supporter in a financial way. At no time during his administration was the college in debt, each step in its enlargement being financed before construction began. Possibly no educational institution within the borders of Kansas has such a record, and to Reverend Goerz and his financial policy this was due. Reverend Goerz was ordained to the Mennonite ministry at Halstead, in 1878, and became an elder in the church in 1890. Upon his removal to Newton, in 1893, he became pastor of the church there and was actively identified with the work of Bethel College until 1910, when his prodigious and varied labors so seriously impaired, his health as to compel him to retire from active labor and to seek recuperation of his health in California, where he is residing in Upland, San Bernardino county, at the present time (1911). He is a man of high culture and intellectual bearing, as well as the possessor of exceptional business acumen, and is well qualified in his own character and personality, as well as in his mere attainments, for the responsible positions he has held. To his energy and enterprise is largely due the building of the Bethel Hospital at Newton, and during the great famine in Russia, in 1900, he conveyed a train load of corn to the sufferers in that country, and it was distributed under his personal supervision. In 1880 he organized the Mennonite Mutual Fire Insurance Company of North America, of which he was secretary and general manager until 1897. It has grown until it now carries millions of dollars worth of insurance. He is also vice-president of the Newton Milling & Elevator Company and a large stockholder in that concern. He served as a member of the Halstead school board nearly twenty years.Pages 1270-1272 from volume III, part 2 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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