The history of St. Peter's Evangelical Lutheran Church
How Did St. Peter’s Come into Being?
It’s a long story, and it begins in Prussia, a part of Germany, in the 1840’s and even before that…
European Background and American Beginnings
Prussia, a large state in eastern Germany, had relative religious freedom for many years. Families that had been persecuted for their beliefs in other lands, such as Austria, found sanctuary in the districts of Brandenburg and Pomerania. Townships like Trechel, villages along the Oderbruech lived peacefully. Then a new ruler, Wilhelm Ill, ordered the Lutheran and Reformed churches to combine. This union became the State Church of Prussia.
A new synod was formed and the Breslau Synod Constitution, authored by Dr. Phillip Huschke, became the authority over pastors and congregations alike. Many pastors and people rebelled at this authoritarian approach to church matters. Brandenburgers and Pomeranians were especially incensed. One group that organized around Pastors Kindermann and Ehrenstroem felt that only the Word of God could decide religious issues, not a constitution of men. They formed the Evangelical Lutheran lmmanuel Society In 1843 and made plans to emigrate to America. Disposing of their property and goods, 150 of them made their way to Hamburg and boarded ships. These set sail on June 20, 1843. The ocean voyage lasted six or seven weeks. One ship reported that six infants and children died en route and were buried at sea. Landing in New York harbor, most continued on to Buffalo. It is likely that they stopped there for awhile. Rev. Grabow had already brought immigrants to that city after suffering persecution and imprisonment in Germany. The large group there later formed the Buffalo Synod.
Our forefathers continued across the Great Lakes now to Milwaukee, where they bought government land grants. Pastor Kindermann led part of the group to their land holdings in Washington County and settled there. The remainder trudged west for a week or more in wagons and with supplies purchased in Milwaukee. Their land lay In Ixonia and Lebanon townships; most of them were from Oderbruech in Pomerania.
Sleeping in the open at first, they quickly built log cabins for their first homes in the New World. Rev. Kindermann traveled from Washington County every month or so to minister to them in various homes, then In John Korth’s home for a year. Hearing about the St. Louis Saxons, who had preceded them to American in 1839, they petitioned them for a minister and in November, 1844, Ludwig Geyer became the pastor of Immanuel congregation.
Year after year, more immigrants came to join the 30 families who had called Pastor Geyer. The Gottlieb Schoenikes came in 1844 and so did the William Braasch, Sr. family. Eighty acres were purchased for $100 for church use, and in 1845 they erected a log church and parsonage under one roof, which served also as a school. Merlin Braasch was the first to teach, followed by Erdmann Pankow.
A description of the church property records it full of “giant oak trees, 3-6 feet In diameter . . . with undergrowth and wild fruit trees thick enough to make it difficult even to walk through.” These were “days of sorrow and grief.” Yet, “unlike the average Lutheran layperson today, these old Lutheran laymen were intimately acquainted with their Bibles, read the Lutheran confessional writings regularly, and perused Luther’s writings. They knew when something was out of line with God’s Biblical directives.”
In 1854 Immanuel joined the fledgling German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States. The congregation thrived despite many splinterings resulting in groups of families leaving to begin new congregations in the area, especially in the late 1840’s and 1850’s. When their Pastor Allwardt’s views led to a split in 1881, about one fourth of the congregation, 43 families, left to form St. Peter’s and remain In the Missouri Synod, while Immanuel became part of an independent Ohio Synod.
In The Good Old Days …
After crossing an ocean and wending their way up the Hudson River, through the Erie Canal, and across the Great Lakes, the Oderbruecher group was still willing to travel farther west. Judson Prentice, the pioneer surveyor of Dodge and Jefferson Counties, made a practice of sending Irish settlers north and west, the English “Americans” south, and the Germans east. The Germans from Pomerania and Brandenburg were given government grants in the “hilly and less attractive tracts of Lebanon, Dodge County. But the sturdy peasants, disgusted with the petty tyranny of Prussian kings, were not discouraged by the hills of Lebanon. Their perseverance and Industry soon transformed the wilderness into a garden, and today there is no more valuable land or finer improved farms in Wisconsin. The Lebanon settlement was made up largely of people who had been small proprietors in their native land and brought sufficient money with them to buy land, not only for themselves, but for their children also…
The wealthiest of them, a man named Arndt, brought $25,000 in gold with him and at one time owned nearly 1000 acres of good farm land in Dodge County.” So writes W.F. Whyte, an early historian of our area, for the Wisconsin Historical Society.
After a seven-day journey of forty-odd miles from Milwaukee, our pioneers found their hilly homesites and camped on them in the open until log huts could be built. Henry Braasch had preceded them on a “prospecting tour” and approved the area because it offered both “wood and hay.” Oak, ash, and basswood were plentiful. Part of the holdings were in the area called “Zucker Island,” now Sugar Island, a 4500 acre parcel of higher land with maples abounding, surrounded by lower marshlands. The trip to Watertown from this area took two days, via Hustisford, because of the marshes and lack of roadways.
William Woltmann, leader of this Immigration group, named the area Lebanon after the hilly wooded lands of the Bible. W.F. Whyte goes on to say that the farm families often lived in their log houses until after a commodius basement barn could be erected to shelter the stock. Another interesting characteristic was liberality: “Among the Lebanon settler, wealthier men contributed to the needs of the less fortunate.” John Moldenhauer, one of the well-to-do, gave $500 toward aiding poor brethren to emigrate in 1843. That was a large sum of money in those days when passage could be bought for perhaps $25.
Prices paid for supplies were not cheap to the immigrants. Buying a farm and getting acreage into production was a first priority after shelter, or perhaps along with shelter. In 1837, some half-dozen years before our forefathers began to emigrate, a peck of oats cost a dollar, pork was $21, flour $41 a barrel. A yoke of oxen brought $150, cows $40 apiece. Horses were scarce.
Land which was sold by the government for $1.25 an acre in 1837 and for a while thereafter, jumped to $9 per acre by 1850 when pieces began to change hands. By 1860, it was up to $16 an acre. The original price gave rise to the popular term, “a $100 farm,” as a good-sized 80-acre plot could be purchased for that amount in the early days.
Early farmers found Indians coming back frequently to the lands they had sold by treaty. They would hang around farms, help themselves to provisions, sometimes looking for something to steal. Fences were an affront to them, so they took them down as they came across them.
The first post office in the territory was informally begun in 1839 by Benjamin Piper, first settler in Pipersville. Letters cost 25 cents to send, and did not have to be postpaid. Sometimes it took several days for the receiver to find the 25 cents to pay for the letter waiting for him at the post office cubbyhole in the general store!
Wisconsin was a territory until 1848 before becoming a state. Lebanon Township voted against statehood when the state constitution and incorporation came up for a vote the first time in 1846. The township had just been organized that year and had many English officials – a number of English people held land in the north of the township – they were the ones who could speak the language used in local and state government. But the Germans could vote.
The year 1859 brought a severe crop failure, due to a late frost on June 10. Wheat and corn were poor, yielding only ten bushels to the acre. Homes and barns were often destroyed by fire. Lightning was the most common cause. The first thresher in Lebanon Township was bought in 1860. Despite many hardships involved in making a new home in a new world, becoming part of a new country, overcoming natural disasters and disease, there were times for fun too. Many people skated on the ice of rivers and ponds and boating was popular then as now. There were feather strippings, barn dances, and candy pulls. Bees of many kinds were held. Husking bees and quilting bees; carpet rag and apple-peeling bees; singing and spelling bees. Pared apples were strung and then hung from the rafters for drying, to be eaten long afterward.
How many of these activities the mothers, fathers, and children of early St. Peter’s took part in is hard to tell. But there was more to do socially than we today realize, beside the hard work of daily chores that we cannot even imagine for the most part.
It is interesting to note some of the actual causes of death in our own congregation from 1881 on. Some of them were: diptheria, heart failure, too early born, croup, tonsilltis, flu and pneumonia (especially in 1918), bronchItis, still born, silo-filler accident, old age, poison, weak twin, stomach problems, convulsion, lung fever, drowning, and hit by train.
Lebanon Station or New Lebanon
“Trechel” was the name, the name of our present Lebanon Station, at least until 1910 when the railroad came through. The “Trechel people” were considered to be the ones who broke the peace at Immanuel in 1881. (Actually it was part of a long strong synodical disagreement.) The name is supposed to have come from the town in Germany whence these settlers came.
St. Peter’s – 1881
Our Own Beginnings
While some of the story of the origin of our congregation is shrouded in fog, we do know that something very important happened In August of 1881. Then our church became a historical entity and even the lack of good records cannot deny that we existed and moved and had our being. Record Book No. 1 for our congregation gives the date of Aug. 6, 1881, over and over again in the “Zeit bei Eintritts in die Gemeinde” – date of entry into membership – in its Soul Register section. This was a full three weeks before Rev. Alwardt was suspended from the Missouri Synod, taking his Immanuel congregation with him except for 43 families who severed their connections that day. These families were the nucleus of St. Peter’s, the founding fathers and mothers and children of our congregation.
Rev. Carl Strasen of St. John’s Watertown, was district president at the time and had presided over the hotly contested Predestination Controversy in our area. The arguments had raged through the 1870’s and 1880’s over Dr. C.F.W. Walther’s interpretation of predestination. The Synod had adopted his view officially, but Rev. Allwardt, also a very learned man, disagreed, and this is what caused the rupture and suspension.
Those who left Immanuel first asked to use the church building in the afternoon, but were refused. They then took themselves down to New Lebanon (it was called Trechel then), their stand locally unpopular, and became St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod. They took over the old North School, then empty, for their own use and to house a pastor: Rev. Strasen agreed, and was given permission by St. John’s to minister to them temporarily until they could call a pastor of their own. This he did for two years, until Rev. M. Albrecht accepted their Call in 1883.
Services were held in the school, we are told, a natural place to meet. Other sources claim that Fred Uttech’s farm was the meeting place for the first three years. lmmanuel’s two teachers came along with the group, we are told, but there is no evidence that either one ever taught or took leadership in the new church. The group’s recent experience was reflected in the Constitution’s clause that the property of the church will always remain with the Missouri Synod: “the group remaining faithful to the Synod shall retain possession of the property.” Dr. Walther’s Lehre und Wehre is believed to have influenced the people who founded St. Peter’s to some extent, giving them the courage to start anew. A copy of this booklet was found in the cornerstone box when it was opened, along with the constitution.
The Land We Own
Christian Neitzel was the earliest owner of the property on which our buildings stand. He bought section 4 of Lebanon Township in 1846. Carl Uttech bought it from him in 1863. However, in February of 1859, two men signed articles of incorporation for the “Lutheran Church of St. Peter.” They named Frederick Uttech, Carl Maas, and William Braunschweig as trustees. A Quit Claim Deed was written on the same date from August Neitzel to the trustees of St. Peter, now assembling at the house of Frederick Uttech. This was for six-and-a-half acres. These papers were recorded in April, 1859, and again in April of 1893.
Here we have a mystery, since we are observing our 100th anniversary only now, in 1981. Was there a small nucleus congregation earlier, beginning in 1859 as indicated? Did they meet only at the Uttech house for a few years and then disband? Were they a quite separate group of immigrants from the original Immanuel and Ixonia group? Why are their surnames the same as those found in the other groups then?
These do not, at this stage of research, appear to be answerable questions. Nor does it seem as if we ever will know the story of a St. Peter’s in these early years. Even the 1881 – 1884 membership records were written in Rev. Albrecht’s hand, and he did not come here until later in 1883. Sacraments and marriages were recorded from 1881 on. There is nothing earlier except those land titles.
A quit claim deed is not necessarily permanent, and this one and others were issued or reaffirmed. In 1902 the land was deeded to “all trustees of said church forever.” Surrounding land was sold to Theodore Schllewe in 1925. Eventually it came into the hands of Edgar Nass, who sold 24 acres to St. Peter’s in 1965 for $3500. This may have been the only substantial amount of money paid for any of our land. Bits and pieces have been sold and traded to straighten land lines and for county highway purposes.
Constitution Laws and By-Laws
The original German Constitution, probably written in 1883 or 1884, is bound into the same large brown leather book that holds the membership list of the early years and all other early records except for minutes of meetings. Fifty-eight voters signed with the same brown ink that was used to write the constitution. It is written in the fine script of Rev. Albrecht, first called pastor of St. Peter’s. Voters up through 1952 continued to sign their names on the pages following. Rev. Albrecht wrote out an identical copy to place in the cornerstone. Each has 16 articles, and both are legible to anyone who can read German script.
The Constitution was rewritten into English in 1952, in the same book. Signatures from that date to this follow. At least one minor revision of the document has taken place. Ten of the sixteen articles are unalterable.
Article fifteen states that in case of doctrinal division between parts of the congregation, those remaining true to God’s divine Word and the Confessions of the Lutheran Church shall retain title to the property. Furthermore, this matter shall never go before a court of law, but be settled by a court of pastors of the Missouri Synod and laymen of the congregation. This article seems to have been written as a direct response to the type of problem which caused the founders of St. Peter’s to leave Immanuel Congregation in 1881.
Our One and Only Church
The record of our church building begins with the lists of monetary donations made in 1884. This is also the date on our cornerstone. The building was going up as the donations poured in. Forty-five founding fathers donated the generous sum of $2426.24 that first year, paying for 80% of the building’s cost before it was finished. No further funds were collected in 1885. The building may have been finished in that year because the first recorded church wedding took place in November, 1885. Members had donated all the lumber used and built the church themselves.
In 1886 and 1887 many smaller donations were made, until the grand sum of $3443.84 had been collected. All bills, totaling $2954.26 could then be paid. Previously, in 1883, the congregation was able to re-roof the log school and add a kitchen for $273, and to pay for a stalled stable and land for a cemetery for $207.43. When they were finished, they had $9.15 left in January, 1888.
Details of collections include:
Cornerstone laying: $ 51.00
Dedication of church: $109.30
Surplus from bell treasury: $ 20.94
Individual gifts up to: $125.00
Details from costs of building:
Pulpit – Altar: $230.00
plus a dozen smaller items.
Today’s church is the same as it was then, except for the addition of a furnace room, which balances the sacristy in the rear, and the new narthex. The dimensions of the church are 31 feet wide by 65½ feet long. Chancel, balcony, pillars – remain in 1981 as they were built in 1884.
Originally the building was lighted with kerosene lamps. The large one hanging from the center nave had four or five lamps. Each pillar had a chimney lamp with silver reflector backing it. Because the church windows were of clear glass, it was not necessary to use the lamps for morning services. And even Lenten services were held in the morning some years. For evening services, the elder mounted a ladder to light the central fixture.
Pews made of light-colored solid oak, stretched from the middle aisle to each side wall. One slab of oak formed the seat, another the back rest. Attached to the entire top length of the pew was a book rack for resting or propping the hymn books. Foot benches, or kneelers, were provided also.
There were no pews under the rear balcony on the east side of the church. That space was taken by the wood stove. Two long pipes extended upwards from the stove and followed under the balcony on both sides all the way to the front, where each exited up its own chimney. Condensation caused by quick heating in a cold building, would form at the pipe joints and drip down on congregation members, displeasing especially the ladies. At their insistence, specially fitted syrup buckets were hung just below each joint to catch the unappreciated drippings.
Our altar is believed to have been hand-carved by Rev. Albrecht’s father, who was a skillful carpenter. The pulpit was set on a pedestal as was the fashion in earlier days, thus giving balcony-sitters a better view of their pastor during his sermon. A canopy top was in place well above the pulpit. This was removed in Rev. Egger’s time. At first no lectern was used. Baptisms were performed at a square table from a glass basin. Water would be brought over from the parsonage.
Band Instruments provided background for congregational singing until the pipe organ was bought in 1897. Long before this, in 1886, a fifty-foot-long stable was built behind the church. It must have been quite a sight to see all those horses and wagons coming in on a Sunday morning, pausing while family members stepped down, greeting their friends and neighbors as they made their way into church, while the men guided their animals into the empty stalls. Imagine the commotion on a winter Sunday following a heavy snow!
Church and School About 1920
Over the years, certain changes had to take place. Painting the building inside and out in 1897, installing a box stove donated by Fred Gnewuch in 1918. 1926 was another redecorating year, and a new floor was put in the church and a cement sidewalk in front. Electricity was installed in the 1920’s too. The new chandelier was a chain-hung circle, which held numerous bare bulbs. Another source says the first electric nave light was a large globe with fan blades above. In 1931, by necessity and not by plan, the steeple was replaced with the tower we know so well. Trees were planted behind the church and school the next year.
The belfry was lighted in 1940 and new furnaces were installed in church and school in 1941. This may be the date of the added brick furnace room. Julius Groth built a table with drawers for the sacristy.
August Radtke and Otto Uttech built a lectern from the wood of the old pipe organ. This lectern is now used in the Confirmation-meeting room of the school. An earlier baptismal font was in use also, as shown in a 1965 picture taken before the major renovation and redecorating of 1966.
The old pipe-organ served faithfully for over fifty years. Many a boy developed some of his muscles operating the pump lever to activate the bellows necessary to produce beautiful sounds from its six-and-a-half registers. But in 1949 the aging instrument was replaced with a Hammond electric organ.
By 1952 moisture in the walls and ceiling caused peeling paint and other problems that left the church interior in a poor condition. Podolske & Sons successfully bid to strip old finishes, canvass the deteriorated surfaces, and repaint and redecorate all. This was the wonderful year when the clear windows were replaced with stained glass, new pews were installed, lighting and many other additions and improvements made.
The chancel windows depicting Jesus Knocking at the Door and the Good Shepherd beautifully frame our altar. Other windows show scenes and symbols from the Life of Christ. These windows inspire worshippers with their intensely lovely hues, which change with weather conditions and time of day, but never lose their outstanding beauty.
The pulpit retained its lofty height until 1966 when the Ladies Aid remodeled and redecorated. Rev. Broecker was pastor at that time. The present lectern and baptismal font were bought and placed, the pulpit cut down. The communion railing was also, constructed. Sand-blasting of the church exterior restored its appearance to almost-new.
The narthex addition was built on in 1973, dedicated in 1974. The most recent redecoration was done at that time. The mellow cream bricks of our St. Peter’s church structure were laid down and mortared together some 97 years ago. It is a measure of God’s blessing that they still remain firmly cemented in a building which serves us now as well as it did then. In our day and age the structure is not a large one, but to anyone who saw it or worshipped in it in the 1880’s, it must have been impressive. Churches were decorated in loving fashion in a much more ornate and artistic fashion than can be afforded today. Statues and wall paintings were hand carved, hand-painted by local or imported craftsmen. Intricate scrollwork outlined arches and accented two-tones walls and baseboards. Our church has been redecorated at least a half dozen times in 96 years.
In the old days “men folks sat upstairs. Women and only the three Vorstehers sat downstairs.” To determine the order of leaving after services, it was decided that men should be allowed to leave first. “Men went out first and untied the horses. Then the women came out.” “When they had communion, man and wife didn’t go together. First the men, then the women.” They all rose about the same time and made their way forward and eventually reached the step where they knelt before the altar. Communion was held six times a year. “They had a tin box standing there every time; you took a little money along and put it in there. They bought the wine with that.” Contributions were called dues in many of the congregational minutes. Members who had not “paid their dues” for several years were visited and admonished. Sometimes they were assessed a given amount which would bring them back into good standing, along with more faithful church attendance.
Pastors of St. Peter’s Lebanon
Rev. C. Strasen 1881 – 1883
Rev. Max Albrecht 1883 – 1888
Rev. H.F. Proehl 1889 – 1895
Rev. H.A. Brandt 1895 – 1905
Rev. G. Gerike 1906 – 1913
Rev. C. Bretscher 1914 – 1923
Rev. Theodore Eggers 1924 – 1944
Rev. William A. Reitz 1944 – 1949
Rev. John F. Boerger, Jr. 1949 – 1951
Rev. H.H. Laabs 1951 – 1955
Rev. Otto Hoffman 1956 – 1962
Rev. Carl F. Broecker 1963 – 1967
Rev. H. William Jordan 1969 – 1972
Rev. Conrad J. Seegers 1973 – 1980
Rev. Milton G. Haack 1980 – 1987
Rev. Roger Stauffer 1987 – 1999
Rev. Charles Werth 1999 – 2007
Rev. John Kelling 2008 – 2014
Rev. Douglas Bergelin 2015 –
Notes on some of the pastors:
Rev. Strasen was officially pastor at St. John’s in Watertown, but served as pastor to our beginning congregation.
Rev. AIbrecht, who later become president of Concordia College in Milwaukee, lived in a house attached to the log cabin school while serving St. Peter’s.
Rev. Proehl directed the building of the present parsonage in 1892.
Rev. Brandt taught school four days a week. Irene Radtke and Emil Schoenike are his still-living pupils of the early 1900’s. Five children were born to the Brandt’s here. His salary of $400 per year was raised to $500, but he would no longer receive $30 for oats for his horses. Rev. Brandt stayed ten years, then left after a bitter dispute with the congregation and Synod.
Rev. Gerike received $100 extra for teaching school. He is still remembered as a strict disciplinarian by several who were his students. As often as his rods were “accidentally” broken, he pulled new willow switches from a seemingly endless supply at the back of the property.
Property improvements, fencing, and cement walk were put in during Rev. Bretscher’s years. World War I came and went during his tenure.
Rev. Eggers was called at a salary of $600 per year. He taught school for three years, five days a week. In 1926, the congregation bought him a car, likely a model-T Ford. He was the guiding spirit for the 50th anniversary celebration, was called “a good minister and friend.” Good use was made of his musical talents.
Rev. Reitz left copies of funeral sermons and obituaries behind. They now provide historical information on aged members who died in the 1940’s.
The teacher shortage was in evidence during Rev. Boerger’s time. The school had been closed, but re-opened when his son-in-law, Mr. Lindeman, was procured to teach in the emergency. Both left in 1951.
A small additional piece of land was purchased during Rev. Laabs’ tenure. He received several calls while here; after one of these, the congregation offered to pay fuel and light if he would stay on.
Rev. Hoffman was our pastor in the years preceding building of the new school when the question of Improving the old school or building a new one was under discussion. The year following the dedication of the new building, he resigned and retired.
The years of Rev. Broecker’s service were busy ones. William Uecker’s bequest paid for the sand-blasting of the church exterior. Inside renovation included a new lectern and baptismal font, ceiling lights, and carpeting. Synod paid for a vacancy pastor while Rev. Broecker served as a missionary to seamen on a freighter of the Poseidon Line, known to carry mostly German Lutheran sailors.
The next pastor was Rev. Jordan, who came to us from Canada. During his stay, he was given permission to preach for Good Shepherd, the new mission congregation in Watertown.
Rev. Seegers came in 1972 and helped bring about the building of the Narthex addition. The cemetery acquired new land after many years of bargaining. The first $50,000 budget was adopted. He retired in August, 1980.
Rev. Haack is our new shepherd, arriving in time to help us celebrate the 100th anniversary of St. Peter’s.
Thank God for a hundred years of faithful pastors!
Our Place of Learning School
St. Peter’s established its school as soon as it organized, it seems. The “bei Nacht und Nebel”, story told by old-timers, says that the “Trechel” settlers (the old name for New Lebanon) took over the old North School of Immanuel Church by “night and fog.” The school was not in use that late summer of 1881, and the new congregation could secure ownership by furnishing It with a teacher. Someone went through foggy night to Milwaukee and came back with a student-teacher. Two pupils, Pauline Strunschweig and August Gnewuch, were enrolled, and school began.
At the annual meeting in January, 1902, the voters decided to build a new school. It would be built of cream brick to match the church, have a graceful bell-tower and porch & one classroom with a hall across the front. This hall later served as a small second classroom.
In 1908, at Pastor Gerike’s request, no school sessions were held from Christmas to Easter. He felt that the work of teaching so many pupils and preaching besides, would be too strenuous. Especially during Lent, his health should not be undermined, and school attendance was so irregular that he could not accomplish much in spite of his hard work. He suggested that it would be better to send the children to English (public) school during those months. They could learn to speak English which would benefit them later in life. There would also be four weeks vacation from the middle of July to the middle of August.
The new school had a basement, which was cemented in 1914. This room was used for Confirmation classes.
A pipeless “one-lunger” furnace was installed in the basement in 1922. This replaced the wood stove upstairs, burned coal or wood, and had a grate on top. When the spring floods came, the basement might flood to a depth of a foot. Not until a sump pump was installed was the problem solved, and the students no longer got free days out of school.
The year after, electricity, paid for by the Young People’s Society, was the latest marvel.
Pastors or students from River Forest had been teaching up until 1928, even though attempts to get a Called teacher had been made earlier. Now the congregation tried again and were rewarded when Mr. Chris Roediger accepted their Call. Then the decision was made to add the eighth grade to keep our children under Christian influence another year. Mr. Roediger made a long report to the voters, apparently finding his pupils lacking in discipline. He spoke to the effect that it was up to parents to take their children in hand and to be a good example themselves.
The next year, after much discussion, it was decided to enlarge the school to two rooms in 1930. A bid of $5891 was received, but the project was postponed until all old debts were paid and half of the money for the new school was raised. That took quite a while – until 1937 when a 26’ by 18’ room was built on the back of the old school. Folding doors replaced the original back wall and enabled the whole building to be opened up into a hall for dinners. The basement under the new section became the Confirmation room. This room stayed dry. The 35th anniversary of the brick school was celebrated with the building of this addition.
Two new outhouses for $110 – that was the bargain offered St. Peter’s by the WPA In 1939.
During WWII, 1942, the county superintendent of Schools asked for school sessions on Saturdays to permit earlier closing in spring so that the children could help on the farms. The first and third Saturdays were decided on. By 1955 the school had serious heating problems. Four years later a long discussion started about enlarging the school and putting toilets in the basement. Several meetings brought varying ideas and cost figures. $3000 for indoor plumbing was voted down. Then a ballot vote was taken: to enlarge the old school or build a new one. The vote was 29 to 11 to build a new school and solve the problems of crowding and non-modern facilities.
In the beginning of 1960, voters decided to raise $15,000 before starting to build the new school. Contracts were awarded early in 1961, after several plans had been put forward and the best one chosen. Edwin Schliewe headed the building committee, which kept a careful eye on the work until the school was completed and furnished. Dedication took place on Sept. 10, 1961. Now St. Peter’s had a fine facility to serve their needs: two classrooms, a Confirmation-meeting room, large parish hall, modern kitchen, and storage space. A mortgage of $40,000 was the first large debt undertaken by the congregation and was paid off after a dozen years.
School Days, School Daze
Personal memories of some of our senior members “tell Ii like it was.” Yes, school was different 80 years ago, and maybe the “good old days” weren’t always that good. Emil Schoenike recalls: School life was much different, with a five-mile walk across marshes and hills. Upon arrival, a morning chore was assigned to each boy before lessons began. This might include firing the stove, cleaning pastor’s horse stall, or churning butter for the pastor’s wife. Often, he and Otto Uttech went together. Lessons were taught in German. After Confirmation, he attended the public English school nearer home. “We wanted to learn English and the teacher wanted to learn German.”
Irene Kolberg Radtke says: Two pupils were enrolled the first year (in the old log school). They had no books, not even slates. They learned to read from their Bibles; other subjects they memorized by “Kopf Rechnung,” keeping it in their heads. She herself went to school for two years in this first log cabin school, then two more years in the “new” school of 1902. By this time they were supplied with books, which she still has in her possession now, but no paper. Slates were used for writing and figuring. School was held four days a week, Monday through Thursday, taught by the pastors, Rev. Brandt being her teacher in both buildings, the wood stove stood in the room’s center, students sat on double benches, and the teacher’s desk was on a raised platform.
Mrs. Radtke’s father, Julius Kolberg, had gone to the same log school before her. It was situated near where the pastor’s garden is presently located.
When pastors taught, school days were not always regularly scheduled. In Rev. Bretscher’s time, he would announce each day whether the students should appear the following day or perhaps two or three days hence, depending on his pastoral duties, according to Lydia Schliewe. During the 1920’s, school was closed entirely at times when teachers or student-teachers were not available.
When Rev. Eggers taught for three years, school was held five days a week. Present pupils of St. Peter’s school interviewed older family members for information. Memories included one-room schools, wood sheds or coal sheds, horse sheds and outhouses, recess games, even taking the milk-wagon to school by way of “busing.” Confirmation class was the most remembered church activity plus the annual picnics.
Home chores were often like those today on a farm, although few bring in bushels of corn cobs every night in order to start the fire in the morning anymore! Good times included sleigh rides, family celebrations, band concerts, and parades. The Depression was mentioned as a “hard time,” “Sometimes there wasn’t enough food.” WWII ration stamps were part of less pleasant times too.
Alex Braunschweig finished school in 1911 under Rev. Gerike. He says they had all the subjects and the pastor knew plenty to teach them all. Nor did they spare the rod and spoil the child; the stick was used often. For recess fun they played hide-and-seek and tag, but best of all was the chasing around in the long horse-sheds behind the school – up in the rafters too.
Ray Raether remembers: Rev. Bretscher was my teacher. He didn’t use the stick or willow branches used by Rev. Gericke, but when the students behaved too badly, would say, “I give up! I’m going home,” and walk out. Students did not check to see where he really went, home or just outdoors. The pastor’s eyesight wasn’t too good, and often he did not see the rolled-up paper blowguns the boys were using. The students also used magnifying lenses to focus the sun’s rays and set paper burning – or even the back of someone’s neck!
Later on Geography was taught in English. That was interesting: “We found out that there was others in the world beside ourselves.”
Student Lueck 1881-1883
Pastor Albrecht 1883-1889
Pastor Proehl 1889-1895
Pastor Brandt 1895-1905
Pastor Gerike 1906-1913
Pastor Bretscher 1913-1919
Student Stahmer 1919-1920
Student G. Seeboid 1920-1921
Student F. Kuehnert 1921-1922
Student M. Gerike 1922-1923
Student E. Fritz 1923
Pastor Eggers 1924-1927
Chr. H. Roedige r 1927-1931
Frieda Krohn 1929-1930
P.G. Hinz 1931-1944
Student A. Bach 1944-1945
Wm. H. Tetting 1945-1946
- Schmiel 1947-1948
- Lindemann 1949-1951
Clara Wendland 1949-1954
Vera Johnson 1951-1954
Paul Peters and
Clara Peters 1954-1967
Myron Sternberg 1967-1977
Doris Sternberg 1967-1971
Kathy Schneider 1971-1972
Betty Grosnick 1972-
Albert Dede 1977-
Kathy Fortlage 1990 – 1994, 2014 –
Pam Bartee 2004 –
Kiki Damrow 2005 –
Jennie Berken 2006 – 2014, 2015 –
Julia Wackt 2014 –
Notes: Paul Peters had been called to St. Peter’s once before, back in 1923. By not coming here then, he was able to meet and marry Clara Haasz, and they both came here in 1954.
In 1932, a girl offered to help Mr. Hinz in school for $25 a month; instead, she was paid by free-will offerings. At one time students paid 50 cents a month each as a school fee. This went to the teacher. Mrs. Hinz was paid $100 a year for her help in school, a few years later. A number of husband and wife teams have taught here. Mrs. Schmiel helped her husband too.
School was closed for lack of a teacher in 1948 – 1949 and at shorter intervals in earlier days. Vera Johnson taught upper grades, the only woman to do so here. She lived in the teacherage with her children and was an excellent choir director.
Housing: Parsonage, Teacherage
Proper housing has always been a concern of Christian congregations. Pastors and teachers need suitable living quarters for themselves and families. St. Peter’s first parsonage was built on to the original school building.
In 1892, Rev. Proehl designed a brick home to fit his needs. After long discussion, the congregation decided to build this home. Records show both cash donations and brick donations toward the building, which cost $1498. On Dec. 1, the Proehls moved in. The basement had been put in with provisions for raising chickens. One wet spring the basement flooded and the chickens were all found floating on the water.
The old house was detached from the school and sold for $42. During those years the congregation owned or used several acres around Lebanon where grain was raised to feed the pastor’s livestock. Members carried hay to church on Sundays for their horses and the pastor’s. “Since he received almost no money, the pastor was paid with meat and vegetables from the farms of members.”
In 1899 it was necessary to build a new barn or stable for the pastor because the old one was too full of holes, cold, and too small. The basement was cemented in 1910 and cement steps were built. By 1927 the porch was dilapidated and had to be rebuilt. It was arranged to put a bathroom into the house. Through the years many items have been repaired, added replaced, removed: built in a buffet, painted the Inside and out, took care of wells, cisterns, fencing, pressure pump, half-bath, furnaces.
In 1927 a full-time teacher was called. It was necessary to buy or build another home. Building seemed most practical to the voters, and the men would do it themselves, they thought. In the end, they accepted a bid of $6355 and had the home built. A garage was constructed from old lumber from parsonage remodeling, and the good boards left over from tearing down the old sheds behind school.
Records of baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and burials were well-kept from the first days. Two baptisms took place In 1881, the first being that of Johannes August Herman Bliese on Sept. 29, 1981.
No confirmations took place until 1884, after Rev. Aibrecht was called. This first class included: Julius Uttech, Carl Maass, Arnold Wagner, Emilie Schoenicke, Emma Look, Ferdinand Gnewuch, Amanda Braunschweig, Theresa Bublitz, and Alwine Maass.
Emilie Maass and Heinrich Wolfgram were married on June 1, 1883, probably in the log schoolhouse-church. William Grulke married Johanna Uttech in the first marriage to be celebrated in our church building, this on Nov. 15, 1885.
Six burials took place in 1882, the first three being infants of a few days to a few months in age. Carl Braunschweig died Feb. 4, 1882, was buried 4 days later, had lived only 4 days. Diptheria took Lydia Dobbratz at one month, cramps took Pauline Maass at three months. Henrietta Braunschweig was the first adult to be buried, aged 41 years, on Nov. 11, 1882.
All official acts prior to 1884 were conducted by Rev. C. Strasen, pastor of St. John’s In Watertown. He served St. Peter’s faithfully for about three years, as much as if he had been our own pastor.
In almost 100 years, lacking but a few months, there have been 1,069 baptisms, 786 confirmations, 307 marriages, and 260 burials performed at St. Peter’s. Baptisms were heaviest in the very early years, Confirmations a few years later, with weddings and burials holding a steady rate. The 1918 influenza and pneumonia outbreak was felt in a heavy rate. The heavy incidence of infant deaths was often caused by premature birth, or even, as in 1903, “child died in parsonage after baptism, of cramps.” We have much to be thankful for today!
Fire! Steeple’s Burning!
In a day when public buildings as well as homes burned down regularly as the result of lightning strikes, it was no wonder that St. Peter’s too, was once the victim. Fortunately, this was not a disastrous fire, just dramatic.
On July 1, 1931, as if to announce the upcoming 50th anniversary, a fireball appeared around the middle of the steeple as it was struck by lightning. The Schliewes saw this while they were eating supper across the street.
The resulting fire badly damaged the steeple. Young Roy Krebs dared to climb up the outside and extinguish the flames. The congregation later voted to send Krebs $5 in appreciation of his valiant effort. The participating fire departments, Hustisford and Watertown, were also sent cash gifts and letters of thanks.
Due to the hole burned in the mid-section, the steeple had to be torn town. The voters quickly decided to replace it with a brick tower, which was completed before the anniversary services, and still holds our bell today.
A Banner Year – 1952
A special spirit seemed to move the people of the congregation in 1952, singling it out as a banner year, though not a special anniversary on the calendar. The question was posed at the Annual Meeting in January, “What can be done to improve our church?” Possibilities: decorating, new pews, new windows. They did them all!
2/29: special meeting to redecorate; moved to “go ahead with colored-window project – to buy them complete, including storm glass.”
3/27: voted to buy new pews also, for $1530. Checked heating and approved setting a price on Nu-wood for redecorating.
4/18: Podolske bid $2682. for complete redecoration, canvas on wails, nu-wood, painting, etc.
7/31: voted for a new furnace. Set date to auction off benches, lumber, windows, and for rededication Sept. 28. Decided to rewrite Constitution in English. Permitted Young People to place cross atop church.
German to English: Languages
The depth of St. Peter’s German heritage is easily understood when we find that it was not until 1929 that the first English services were to be conducted once a month on a trial basis, in the afternoon or evening. Rev. Eggers led the members in this bold move.
By 1935 two services were being held monthly, one of them in the morning. Two years later, one Sunday was limited to English only, and in 1943, German and English alternated. At the same time, it was decided to conduct religious instruction in school in English also. Through the 1940’s, Confirmations were conducted in both languages, by family choice, and are so listed in the records.
In the 1960’s, ability to preach German was still part of the pastor’s call. It is possible that Rev. Broecker was the last to use both languages in services.
Church records and congregational minutes continued in German until mid-1949 when Sec. Edgar Braasch made the switch permanently to English.
And The World Kept Turning ….
Fifty years later we were in a Depression. Banks had closed. The church’s check to pay a paint bill was not honored. Rev. Eggers was directed to write the bank examiners in Madison to seek release of our funds, a method used “in other cases where deposits were tied up for three years.” Our church may have resorted to “cash and carry” for a while. But we had “won” World War I.
Showers of Blessings
The Golden Jubilee was perhaps the greatest festival in our congregation to precede the present one. It was celebrated on Aug. 16 of 1931. The “festivities attracted a large throng of people.”
Some three hundred were seated in the church with several hundred more outdoors when Prof. Walter Albrecht, of Concordia, Springfield, preached in the morning service. His father, Rev. Martin Albrecht, had been our first called pastor, and was also present. Music was provided by the Lebanon Band, directed by H. Schumacher, the mixed choir, and the children’s choir of over 50 voices, both directed by A.B. Seefeidt. These groups performed in both services.
The church interior had been redecorated for the occasion and “evergreen branches formed the background of the setting,” probably for the outdoor service. Some 600 persons ate the chicken dinner served in the school between services.
The Nachmittags – Fest Gottesdienst (afternoon service) was held outside in front of the parsonage. At that service another former minister, Rev. C. Bretscher, was the speaker. Mrs. Gustav Jeske, daughter of Rev. Albrecht, sang a solo.
Eight founding members of the congregation were present for this celebration. To add to the joys of the day, the good news was received that Mr. Hinz had accepted the call to be teacher for the coming school year.
Ten years later the sixtieth anniversary was celebrated in October of 1941. Three charter members were still living then. The adult and children’s choirs sang. Services were conducted in German and English, Rev’s. Huebner and Grote participating in the morning and Rev. Boerger, Sr., in the afternoon.
The church had been renovated for the occasion. The anniversary offering of $902 almost paid for the cost in one day. In addition, new heating had been put in both, church and school, the first furnaces to replace the old wood stoves. That year, annual receipts besides the special offering totaled $2240.
The 80th year was also the time of dedication for our new school on Sept. 10, 1961. Former pastors Laabs and Eggers preached in the morning and afternoon services. Paul Peters was organist and choir director. A potluck dinner was served at noon.
One of our former pastors, Rev. Reitz, left his funeral sermons with our records. The following gleanings are about those who died in the 1940’s.
August Uttech, born in Lebanon in 1866, was a very young man in 1884, but “helped zealously to build the church.” His father was a founder of St. Peter’s.
Louis Maas, age 29, died when struck by Northwest 400 train after visiting his mother.
Johanna Grulke (nee Uttech) was the first girl married in the new church by Rev. Aibrecht. Much later she wrote what seemed to be her own obituary in German script, now part of church records.
Bertha Andrae Tessmann was born in 1873 on the place where our church now stands.
Johann Kintopp, born in Poland, came to America in 1889. His homesteading “began with extremely difficult conditions to fight.” Two soldier sons died in WWI.
Friedrich Maas, “dahier auch getauft” in 1872, presents a puzzle which may be involved with the uncertainty over St. Peter’s true beginning: 1859 or 1881? Confirmed in 1886 by Rev. Albrecht.
Christian Neitzel, the original owner of our property, deeded land to his son In 1851, with conditions for himself and wife: “grantors during life have use of ¼ acre, necessary fuel, feed for one cow, one hog, and one sheep; yearly three barrels of flour, two bushels unshelled corn, ten bushels potatoes, ½ bushel salt.” NE ¼ of NW
The Schoenike history by Charles Werth reveals: The first concern of farm life was to raise enough food for the family and to raise a few head of cattle. Whatever might be left over could be sold for cash or traded for needed goods. Wheat was raised for grinding into flour. Two cows were kept for milk, butter, and cheese. The women did the milking by hand. Men folks didn’t milk at all. Grain was threshed by beating it with a flail on the barn floor…Netting an income of $150 in one year was considered a modest but comfortable living. Hard work was the predominant part of life. Dancing was enjoyed at weddings, home, and with neighbors… but some didn’t like it.
Synodical and Charitable Programs The Lord Loveth A Cheerful Giver
St. Peter’s has had its share of financial tight corners and unmet budgets. We’ve watched our pennies and spent carefully. But when it comes to helping others, we have always been willing and able. Causes in the 1920’s included a collection for the Poor in Germany, where people were suffering from post-WWI famine. In 1928 a door collection provided $200 for an Indian Mission in Red Spring, Wis. Two years later, our Easter collection went for China’s great hunger needs. We gave $315 for the 1939 One-Hundredth Anniversary of Saxon Immigration.
The 40’s were great years of giving: to Lutheran Deaconess Hospital in Beaver Dam and the Lutheran Children’s Friend Society, both by membership subscription. Before WWII was over, a Peace Thank offering had been proposed for those in need in war-torn lands. We also sent clothes for relief, books for German “Kriegsgefangene.” 1945 was also the year for an Army-Navy Commission collection. The following year we donated to RELIEF: UNRRA for Europe and Asia. Synod’s Centennial was observed in 1947, and we helped raise that Thank offering. We heeded the plea to help the Displaced Persons of Germany in 1948, victims of post-WWII communist upheavals. There have been other large offerings, such as Ebenezer in 1973 and now, the FORWARD IN REMEMBRANCE campaign, to which we have recently pledged over $14,000. The Lord blesses us in proportion to our willing gifts to Him, full and overflowing beyond our needs.
Music – Songs and Sounds
“As people from other countries emigrated to America, they brought with them few material possessions, but all of their traditions and love of things beautiful. Our German forefathers brought with them a great love of music.” The church had no organ in its early days, so the hymn singing was led by the band. In 1897, after collecting $725.50, St. Peter’s bought a Hinners pipe organ for the church and a reed organ for the school. These cost $670 and $40, respectively. Not wishing to leave money in the fund, they hired a horse and buggy for $1.50 to bring organist H. Schumann out to dedicate the organ. With the remaining dollars, they bought two globes and other items for the school, until every penny was gone. Whether the organist was paid, we do not know. This organ, with six and a half registers, was used until 1949. William Tietz was an early organist. In 1899, he received a gift of $10 for his services. William Braasch and Theodore Schliewe were long-time organists before teachers were called to play the services. They took over again between teachers. The younger boys of the congregation helped them out by pumping the lever that operated the organ bellows. A motor and blower were installed in 1929. In the 1940’s pipes began to fall from the organ case. The organ was replaced by a Hammond electric in 1949, and we are still using this instrument today.
The band which led early singing was directed by William Tietz until he was succeeded by Rev. Theodore Eggers when he was our pastor. In 1939, St. Peter’s Band merged with Immanuel’s to form the Lebanon Band. This group has been active from the time of its twin beginnings to the present, with a reputation greater than its small-town heritage. It is interesting to note that the band included several multi-generation families. Three generations of the Braasch family have played basshorn. There have been three generations of Schliewes also, Theodore, Edwin, and Wayne. One can hardly find a better example of the German people’s love for music than in the Lebanon Band.
From its official beginning in 1881 with about 43 persons or families who left Immanuel, St. Peter’s has grown to about 400.
Early records indicated that money collected, especially for specific purposes, was spent down to the last penny. The church building and organ collections are examples of this exactitude, from the 1800’s. By 1912 and continuing into the 1920’s, deficits seemed to be the rule – from $20 to $76 per year – and these were considered “schwere” or severe! In the 1930’s, special debt collections were taken on Sundays. Choir funds of about $100 were turned over for school use in 1934. This paid for the decorating of the school and organists’ books, with about $20 left over for the building fund. Gas bills then were around $2 per month, and phone, $1.25. A few years later a large bill for school benches came to $198. Prof. Bartling was paid $3 as guest preacher. Trustees had to go around and try to collect from members who were not contributing. By 1938 the annual budget was up to $600. Current expenses for 1937 had been $232, but the church was over $1300 in debt. Perhaps this amount included costs of adding on another room to the school. Highest contributions in 1945 was a little over $200, and barely a half dozen families made the $100 mark. In 1980, a dozen went over the $1000 mark. Changing times, better salaries, and the Lord’s blessings are reflected in the figures.
St. Peter’s Lutheran Cemetery
The land for our cemetery was purchased in 1883. Records show that, together with a stable, it cost the congregation $207. It may have been bought from one of the Uttechs, since they owned most of the land hereabouts in the 1880’s. The first stones bear 1885 dates. In June of that year, Fredericke L. Gnewuch, age 71, and Pauline Albrecht, age 6 (daughter of Pastor Albrecht), were buried. They were followed by Pauline Uttech, age 14, in October. Earlier dates of 1873 and 1977 appear on stones of later origin; their namesakes may have been interred here at any time between the earlier date or the mid-1880’s. The many infant gravesites tell the story of high mortality in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. After that time, the incidence of these tiny graves drops sharply. Medical care had improved greatly by then. In the cold December of 1933, thirty-five men helped level off the cemetery, donating from one-half to three days work each, as exact records show. At this time, the cemetery still needed a road. The present road presents problems even today. After five years of effort, three and one-half acres were added to the property in 1976. Earlier, a Cemetery Association was formed and a system of Perpetual Care put into effect. Up-to-date rules have been printed in a booklet. All members may purchase rights of burial in the cemetery.
After 24 women had signed their names as being interested in a Ladies Aid for St. Peter’s, the society was organized in June, 1948. The first officers were: Mrs. Ernest Raether, President Mrs. Emil Maas, Vice-President
Mrs. Otto Uttech, Secretary Mrs. Edgar Gnewuch, Treasurer
Their first activity was an Ice Cream Social. Devotions and topics have been a vital part of meetings. Several basic committees have been in operation through the years. The Sunshine Committee visits the sick and sends cards monthly. The Bethesda Committee plans services to be given, such as baking cakes, working In the Thrift Shop, sending money and gifts, and work bees when needed. The flower committee changes each month and provides flowers for the altar each Sunday. They maintain a flower list in the narthex for congregational members to sign and donate special occasion memorials. On Easter a special display is arranged, featuring several dozen lily plants at the foot of the cross in the chancel.
Other activities such as chill suppers, serving for funerals, weddings, anniversaries & special groups, bake sales, and sales of cards and condiments provide funds for projects. Altar covers were made in 1949 and Irene Radtke embroidered their designs. New white and green coverings were made in the 1970’s by Mrs. Seegers. The group holds a Christmas pot-luck for members and spouses annually and takes a bus tour each June. Recent trips have included outstanding tours to Fond du Lac, Madison, and Janesville areas.
Projects have been numerous: missal stand and candlesticks for our church in 1949. Light fixtures in ‘51, a large stained window and candelabras in ‘52, lanterns outdoors In ‘53. 1966 was a banner year: redecoration of the church, remodeling of the houses – furnace in one and a half-bath in the other. In ‘61 they equipped the new school kitchen, in ‘74 carpeted the church downstairs and put old carpeting in the balcony. $3000 was donated toward the cost of the school roof in 1980. Through the years many charities have received annual gifts. Banners were made this year for the 100th anniversaries of both Concordia College, Milwaukee and our own St. Peter’s.
Lutheran Women’s Missionary League
St. Peter’s LWML was organized in 1959. The first officers were Clara Peters, president, and Frieda Braasch, secretary-treasurer. Since that time meetings have been held on the third Monday of January, April, July, and October. The purpose of the organization, together with others around the United States, is to promote Mission causes wherever the need is greatest. A topic and discussion are presented at every meeting. Money is collected by each member through her mite box. These funds, gathered together, have helped to complete hundreds of mission projects throughout our state, country, and the world. Members may attend workshops and rallies twice a year, retreats at Green Lake, and state or International conventions. This year the International Convention is being held in our own district, in Milwaukee. In 1980 we helped to make some of the 10,000 tote bags the Wisconsin District will present to each Convention visitor. Our society’s projects, 1959 – 1981, have included making bandages, assembling layettes, making quilts and blankets, collecting soap, assembling kits and donating money for World Relief. For Bethesda we bought a tricycle, made a quilt, collected coupons, donated Christmas gifts and money, and sent cards and gifts to Bethesda pen pals. We have sent religious reading material to foreign countries; food packages, airmail stamps, and money to missionaries; collected stamps for missions and plastic sacks for a TB institution; and sent a bolt of unbleached muslin to the Eket Lutheran Hospital In Nigeria. Bible verses taped to walnut halves were handed out at the State Fair, and we donated money to support and members to work at the Fair booth.
Young People’s Society
As far back as 1923, our young people have been doing things for the church. That year they got permission from the voters to have the school wired for electric light. Records do not tell us if it was a do-it-yourself job, but some young-at-heart members may remember being part of that 1923 group. In the 1950’s they were ambitious too, placing a cross on the church tower. A few years later they took on the bulletin board project, placing one on the grounds in 1956. An active group existed when Rev. Eggers was pastor. According to the 1938 printed program, a selection of short plays and musical numbers was performed at Grulke’s Hall in the merry month of May. Performing that evening were; Edna Tietz, Edgar Braasch, Dorothy Eggers, Max Drachenberg, Margaret Bauman, Arnold Tietz, Gerald Uttech, Marles Uttech, Carol Maas, Gertrude Loeck, Ray Uttech, Lorina Grulke, Waldemar Uttech, and Edna Schllewe. Car washes and chili suppers have been other activities. Most successful recently has been the annual Easter breakfast.
Since 1965, St. Peter’s has had a dartbaIl team. They joined the Lutheran Men’s Dartball League as its twelfth team. The League, organized in 1948, now has 18 teams. The number of men playing fluctuates, new member’s darts sometimes bite the dust, but the sport is one enjoyed by all who participate.
Mini – Minutes 1883 – 1981: Highlights
MINUTES OF CONGREGATIONAL MEETINGS OF
- PETER’S LUTHERAN CHURCH
1883 – Receipts of summer kitchen and school roof: $273.00; for stable stall and cemetery: $212.10.
1884 – Receipts for building of church: $2426.24;
Collection at Cornerstone laying $51.00;
Collection at dedication of church $109.30;
Surplus from bell treasury $20.94.
1886 – Pastor Albrecht’s salary and fruit trees:
$406. Built 50-foot stable behind church.
1892 – After long discussion, decided to build a new parsonage. Dec. 1 – Rev. Proehl moved into new house built at cost of $1498.
1896 – Decided to buy pipe organ for the church and a reed organ for the school.
1899 – Built new stable for pastor because old one was too full of holes and too small. Wm. Tietz received $10 gift for playing organ.
1900 – Janitor received $35 a year. Pastor raised from $400 to $500 but would have to buy own oats.
1902 – At annual meeting, decided to build new school. Did so.
1904 – To determine order of leaving service, it was decided that men should leave first.
1907 – Pastor Gerike allowed $100 raise for teaching school.
1908 – At Pastor Gerike’s request, it was decided to have no school session from Christmas to Easter. Reasons: strenuous work preaching and teaching; with Lent coming up, his health could be undermined.
1910 – Began to pay salary monthly. Cemented parsonage basement.
1914 – Decided to cement school basement.
1917 – Decided to build a new fence around property of church and school.
1918 – Fred Gnewuch donated box stove for church since installing stove in a basement would be too expensive.
1919 – Decided to call a teacher. Being unsuccessful, they received Vicar Stahmer from River Forest for one year.
1920 – 23 – Students taught year by year, from River Forest. Young people were permitted to put electric lights In school.
1924 – Ask that Pastor Eggers teach school one year; he taught three years.
1926 – Church redecorated and new floor laid down,
1927 – Built teacherage next to parsonage. Mr. Chr. Roedlger Installed as teacher. Tore down sheds behind school.
1928 – Added eighth grade to school to keep students under Christian influence.
1929 – On trial basis, English services conducted once a month.
1931 – Fiftieth anniversary celebration. Church steeple hit by lightning. Tower built.
1934 – Decided to have collections on Sunday to pay debts.
1936 – Mrs. Hinz should receive $100 salary for helping in school.
1937 – Thirty-fifth anniversary of school. Built a second room onto school, 26’ x 18’.
1941 – Furnaces Installed in church and school.
60th anniversary celebrated.
1942 – County Supt. of Schools asked for school session on Saturdays to permit earlier closing, so children could help on farms.
1943 – Decided that religious instruction in school would be in English.
1944 – Teacher Hinz accepted Call to Colorado; William Braasch played organ.
1945 – 1949 – Teachers stayed only a year or less, were hard to get. School closed part of ‘48 –‘49.
1949 – New Hammond organ for church.
1951 – I’-Ieeded both new pastor and teachers. Rev. Laabs came, and Mrs. Johnson was hired to teach. Clara Wendlandt was other teacher.
1954 – Paul Peters accepted Call to teach and Mrs. Peters agreed to teach lower grades.
1956 – Pastor Hoffman was called and accepted.
1959 – Long discussion about school and modernization. Indoor plumbing for $3000 finally voted down, and decision made to build new school.
1960 – Worked to raise $15,000 before building school. Construction began.
1961 – New school dedicated.
1963 – Rev. Broecker accepted Call a year after Rev. Hoffman resigned.
1964 – School and church yard blacktopped.
1965 – Bought 24 acres of land west of school from Edgar Nass.
1966 – Ladies Aid given permission to remodel church.
1967 – Mr. and Mrs. Peters retired. Myron Sternberg and wife replace them.
1968 – Rev. H. Jordan accepts Call.
1971 – Consider getting more land for cemetery from Mr. Hem or Arthur Groeler.
1972 – Rev. Jordan leaves. Voted to build new narthex. Betty Grosnick arrives to teach lower grades.
1973 – Cemetery Association formed. Narthex built on front of church. School mortgage paid off. Rev. Seegers Installed In January.
1974 – Church redecorated. Narthex dedicated in June. Parking lot blacktopped.
1975 – Rev. Seegers commends feeling of peace and harmony In working with officers, teachers, organists.
1976 – Annual budget reaches $50,000 for first time.
1977 – Albert Dede called as teacher-principal when Mr. Sternberg takes call as DCE.
1978 – Teacherage rented out. School buys new science and reading texts.
1979 – New furnace installed in church; special one month collection pays the cost. School purchases excellent used piano. 39 used school desks donated by Racine school.
1980 – 1979 Mission commitment is exceeded. Parent-Teacher League is organized. Rev. Seegers retires in August, Is honored and feted Oct. 12. Centennial Committee goes into action for 1981 celebration. Rev. Milton Haack becomes pastor of St. Peters.
1981 – Our CENTENNIAL YEAR! Special services, special speakers, old times display in school hall.
The World: Still Turning
Another fifty years and it is 1981. World War II has come and gone, our enemies become our friends. Fifty-four hostages have recently been released from Iran after fifteen months of captivity. Our country is in the grip of a recession and trying to find a sound financial footing with a new president. War threatens in the Mid-east; uneasy peace hangs over much of the world.
Only God knows what our future holds.
Cornerstone Opening – In 1981, A Page From The Past
About ninety-seven years ago a small copper box was carefully filled with papers. A close-fitting lid was pressed down over it. The box was set into a cavity just its size, carefully cut out of the top part of a large stone, and then cemented lightly over. This stone, our St. Peter’s cornerstone, carved simply with the large numerals 1884 was then mortared into its proper position at the north-west corner of the structure barely rising above ground level.
On the morning of May 25, 1981, that stone was removed by a much newer generation in preparation for the 100th anniversary. With no knowledge that there would be a box in the stone, a small group of men carefully removed bricks from above. A bit soon struck metal, ensuring that the search was not in vain. The stone and box yielded their contents easily. The unsealed box-top slid off, and contents buried so long were revealed and lifted out. Except for dampness, the items were in good condition: yellowed papers and booklets.
Careful examination unfolded these items:
- Luther’s small catechism
- Lehre und Wehre booklet, used by pastors
- Der Lutheraner, 1884
- Lutherisches Kinderblatt, an illustrated children’s magazine, 1884
- The Lutheran Witness, July 1883, in English!
- The church Constitution, handwritten in Rev. M. Albrecht’s fine script
- Missions Taube, 1884
No personal or historical records were enclosed, no list of charter members – only the documents of importance to our forefathers at that time.
Centennial Committee Sources
Werth, Charles, THESE THINGS I HAVE SEEN
HISTORY OF DODGE COUNTY, 1980
FREDRICH, Edwin, WHY TWO CHURCHES IN
- PETER’S CHURCH RECORDS HERITAGE OF IXONiA – 1976
Whyte, W.F., “SETTLEMENT OF THE TOWN OF
LEBANON” from WISCONSIN HISTORICAL
The Centennial Committee extends heartfelt thanks and gratitude to the many persons, named and unnamed, who have contributed so much to the success of our Centennial Anniversary Year — those of you who lent pictures and other articles, those who recalled the old times and old happenings, those who helped “put things together,” and those who lent encouragement and support in any way.