Academic journal article Mennonite Quarterly Review

Edward Benjamin Krehbiel: Progressive Peace Advocate and "Professor of Eternal Peace"

Academic journal article Mennonite Quarterly Review

Edward Benjamin Krehbiel: Progressive Peace Advocate and "Professor of Eternal Peace"

Article excerpt

Abstract: Prior to World War I few North American Mennonites attended institutions of higher learning. Even fewer pursued graduate work or received advanced academic degrees. In 1906 Edward Benjamin Krehbiel completed a doctor's degree in history at the University of Chicago. In the next several years Krehbiel was one of the few Mennonites to teach at a major American institution of higher learning, Stanford University. At Stanford Krehbiel was a very popular lecturer and became a prominent peace activist on and off campus. In 1917-1918 he served as a member of the Inquiry, a body of scholars and experts that advised the Woodrow Wilson administration on the post-war peace settlement. This article--based on published and archival materials--will survey his academic career, peace activities and work for the Inquiry.


Edward Benjamin Krehbiel was born in 1878 in Summerfield, Illinois, the thirteenth of sixteen children of Christian Krehbiel and Susanna A. Ruth. Both Christian and Susanna were born in southern Germany and migrated at an early age with their parents to the United States. In 1860 the couple moved from a farm in Lee County, Iowa to settle in Summerfield, Illinois, where Christian helped organize the local Mennonite church, of which he became an elder and minister. In 1874 Christian played an important role in assisting "Russian" Mennonites who settled in Kansas. A few years later, in 1879, the Krehbiel family moved to Halstead, Kansas. There Christian helped to organize the Halstead Mennonite Church, where he served as minister for many years. He also energetically promoted Halstead Seminary, the predecessor of Bethel College, and was very active in conference and mission work. Three of his sons--Henry Peter, Christian Emmanuel and Jacob Samuel--followed him into the ministry. Henry was the founder of The Mennonite Weekly Review, while Christian played an important role in conference, mission and relief work. (1)

Edward, born shortly before the family's move to Kansas, attended elementary and high school in Halstead and was baptized there in 1893. (2) In high school he excelled in Latin and rhetoric and expressed a desire to study Greek. (3) After graduation in 1897 he worked on his father's farm and taught in a local German school. Although Edward enjoyed teaching, (4) in 1899 he decided to continue his studies at Bethel College, a Mennonite school in North Newton, Kansas organized in 1888. (5) Edward excelled at Bethel, but since the college did not offer a bachelor's degree he transferred a year later to the University of Kansas. (6) Here he graduated in 1902, majoring in history and elected to Phi Beta Kappa. At the university he ingratiated himself with historian Ephraim Adams who considered Edward "the best student he had known" in the department. (7)

Likely with Adam's encouragement Edward decided to pursue graduate work. Although he failed to secure a scholarship at Harvard, (8) he was admitted to the University of Chicago, a relatively new university that maintained a very strong Baptist connection and had quickly become one of the nation's premier institutions of higher learning. (9) At the time of Edward's enrollment John Franklin Jameson, one of the country's most respected historians and scholars of his day, was the head of the history department. Jameson was an innovative and energetic teacher and scholar, who attracted many new, able faculty and students during his short tenure at Chicago. (10)

Jameson became one of Krehbiel's "most ardent admirers." According to Jameson, Edward possessed a particularly "facile and quick intelligence," combined with an "energetic, capable," "accurate" and "distinctly brilliant mind." He also described Krehbiel as one of those few students whose mind ranged outside the "narrow circle of their immediate work and maintained a lively interest in every branch of knowledge." Finally, he praised this son of a "Mennonite pastor" for his "highest traits of character. …

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