In 1894 the first post-secondary school geared towards the Mennonite community opened when the Elkhart Institute of Science, Industry and the Arts was established. Shortly after its opening, the operation of the institute was taken over by the Mennonite Church growing to have 328 students enrolled. With this unexpected growth, a new location was needed so the school could sustain and later expand. With several sites under consideration, many business leaders in Goshen advocated for the school to move to the county seat. A wheat field owned by the Shoup family on the south end of Goshen was home to the groundbreaking of the new school, renamed Goshen College, in 1903. Today, about 38% of Goshen College students come from Elkhart County, and the school has alumni from over 85 countries.
Mennonites are a Christian faith group that falls under the Anabaptist denomination. The group takes its name from Menno Simons, a Catholic priest who aligned with Anabaptists in 1536. A similar Anabaptist group that has communities in Elkhart County are the Amish. The Amish are also a part of the Anabaptist denomination, and were formed in the late 1600s when Jakob Ammann broke off from the Mennonites and formed his own religious sect.
Mennonites have been tied to Elkhart County since the county’s early history. A group of Mennonites left Somerset County, Pennsylvania and traveled through Ohio, Iowa, and Illinois before arriving in the area and establishing a home near the Elkhart Prairie in 1841. One month later, a group of Amish, a similar Anabaptist group, moved into Elkhart County. Amish and Mennonite groups continued to move into the area. Today, Elkhart County ranks third among the Anabaptist population areas in the United States.