Editor’s Note: The story that Glen shares below, commemorates the 100th anniversary year of the experience John S Kehler had. Thanks Glen!
My father, John Schultz Kehler, was not a farmer, however he stayed on the Ebenfeld farm until the younger brothers took over. He traveled beyond the family farm to find work and went harvesting in Saskatchewan, where he had many Schultz uncles, aunts and cousins. From there, John went threshing in Alberta and ended up in Lethbridge, AB.
One day, as he was walking down the street he met two uniformed soldiers, who abruptly stop him and questioned why he was not in uniform. His reply was that being a Mennonite, he was exempt from the army. The soldiers laughed, they had never heard of this before. This was 1915 and the war was raging in Europe. The king needed more cannon fodder. The soldiers marched him to the Recruiting Office where he was inspected, injected and inducted into the Canadian Armed Forces to fight for King and country.
John S. Kehler was aghast and promptly sent a telegram to his father, Berliner Kehler. The Chortitzer Church Bishop Peter Toews was then contacted, who gathered the exemption documents and together they went to Giroux, MB , where they caught the train to Winnipeg, connecting to another train to Lethbridge.
Berliner Kehler and the Bishop Toews were granted a hearing, and were able to present documents to the Judge stating that exemption from conscription during the war depended on membership in a faith group that had been recognized as pacifist, this included the Mennonites. This persuaded the Judge to release the new recruit. John S. Kehler was happy to take off his uniform, but not before he had many pictures taken which he could show his friends and tell stretched stories about being in the Canadian Armed Forces .
Glen Kehler, a Berliner Kehler, resides in Winnipeg, Manitoba.