Out of Russia
Schill, Rev. Victor. "Out of Russia." Prairies 7, no. 7: June/July 1984, 90-110, 113.
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Since the history of St. John’s and St. Andrew’s of Zeeland and St. David’s of Ashley are intertwined, a general introduction will serve for all three parishes. With the limited space, history is necessarily sketchy. Yet the history of any parish would seem incomplete without some consideration of the causes and events which led to its beginnings.
With the degeneration of Christianity in Europe, many unfortunate things led to the split of Christianity in the 16th Century, followed by the Hugenot Wars in France, the revolt in the Low Countries, the 30 years of civil war in Germany, and the struggles for the British Isles, with the numerous squabbles and persecutions. With Christianity weakened and nothing to hold them in check, the rulers became absolute monarchs in the 17th century, recognizing no authority but their own, which led to further suppression of Christianity, the rapidly growing forces of atheism, and still more wars among the various rulers.
In the 17th century came the godless French Revolution with its attempt to suppress all religion, followed by the Napoleonic Wars which terrorized all Europe. People were simply fed up with the constant devastating wars, the increase in poverty, religious suppression and confusion, which gave them great incentive to immigrate to the new land of America. With America’s establishment of independence and the guarantee of religious freedom and freedom of speech, a new nation was born which offered a new life to the downtrodden and already overpopulated Europe. Vast numbers emigrated from Europe in search of a new life in America, and before too long the land east of the Mississippi was largely populated.
In the meantime, for almost four centuries, the Russians had fought many bitter battles with the Mongols who invaded Russia from the east, and eventually forced them to return to their own territory, which left vast areas of land with few inhabitants to the southeast. By the tame Catherine II came to the throne of Russia in 1762, overpopulated Europe needed more living space. She offered large areas of land north of the Black Sea for colonization, and the European countries gladly cooperated.
Catherine II offered each married couple about 160 acres of free land (single males, 80 acres) with the option of buying more. To those who were too poor to move, she offered government loans with low interest and 20 years to pay to provide transportation and to buy the basic necessities to get started. As an added incentive, they would become full citizens of the Russian Empire. They could form their own local government, without Russian interference, and would forever be free of military service. To avoid religious conflict, each separate colony would be formed on the basis of religious persuasion. With few exceptions all the original villages were either Evangelicals (mostly Lutheran), or Catholic, or Mennonite, plus a few smaller groups. This arrangement enabled them to retain their faith, culture, and language in peace. That trait they brought with them when they settled in colonies in America.
For many Europeans, this seemed to be an ideal opportunity and the young were encouraged by their families to make use of it. Consequently, as many Europeans were migrating to America, many of their blood relatives chose to go to southeastern Russia to settle in the regions north of the Black and Caspian seas, with miles and miles of open land. Little did they realize that their lives in cultured Europe had left them ill-prepared to start a new life from scratch in an open wilderness.
In their early years, they suffered extreme hardships, and by sheer necessity were compelled to work together in mutual support. During the course of a century they came to flourish, build up excellent farms, orchards, homes, and cities, which were the pride (and later the envy) of Russia. The Catholics who settled in the Volga and Odessa regions were mostly from the Palitinate, Alsace Loraine, North Baden, and Swabian regions.
Through their correspondence with blood relatives in both Europe and America, they learned that the Great Plains in North America were open for settlement, and some South America countries were also advertising land for settlement in the newspapers of Europe.
By the middle of the 18th century, the whole attitude of the Czars and Russian people had changed towards the Russian-Germans. With one stroke of the pen, all the guaranteed privileges were cancelled. In June of 1871, Czar Alexander II issued a decree that the Russian-Germans would be exempt from military service for only ten more years. In a later order, the drafting into the military service was to begin in November of 1874. Although usually shorter, the military service could last up to 20 years. With the appointment of Russian judges and magistrates in each village, many of their civil rights and freedoms were lost. The Russian attitudes were that if these people didn’t like it, they could pick up their belongings and move out. That is just what many of them did.
In the spring of 1874, emissaries from both Catholic and non-Catholic colonies were sent to both Americas in search of land settlements. Many chose to move to the more moderate climates of South America, especially in Argentina. The emissaries to North America came to New York, and received directions to go west. Since these people liked the arrangements they had in Russia, they sought large tracts of land to resettle in closed colonies with their own churches and schools. Finding no large tracts of land available east of the Mississippi, they came by the southern railroads to the more moderate climates of Kansas and Nebraska.
In the fall of 1874, 162 Catholic families settled in Kansas, where their numbers reached to a quarter million within a few years. A large group of Mennonites settled in Nebraska; and a large group of Lutherans south of Yankton, South Dakota. Aberdeen became a great Catholic settlement. In the summer of 1874, some moved to Menno and Freeman, South Dakota, a town which had just started as a result of railroad construction. Some Mennonites had already been settled in that area. Those first groups encouraged others to follow them. It was nothing unusual for 25,000 people to leave Russia in a single year. In the meantime, the Scandinavians had also established themselves in central South Dakota.
Although there was some truth in it, the malicious reports about the desert of Dakota Territory, with the highly exaggerated reports about its extreme temperatures, it being the natural home of the American Indian, coupled with the vicious reports of General Custer at Fort Lincoln at Mandan, discouraged early pioneers from moving north until the land of the Southern states had been taken. As the immigrants continued to come in ever-increasing numbers, the new settlers were forced to look for land west and north of Ipswich, South Dakota, which at that time was the end of the railroad.
Some settlements were made in Greenway, Roscoe, and Artas, South Dakota, almost reaching the site of the future Zeeland. Some settlements were made around Ashley and Wishek in 1886. At least three early pioneers had settled just south of Zeeland in the fall of 1884, namely Christian Bauers, Freidrich Ellwein, and Heinrich Haffner. The first Catholic families that moved into the Zeeland area in 1884 were Peter Mitzel, Carl Fischer, John Senger, John Werlinger, and Marcus Veigel. In the spring, they were joined by 30 other families who had wintered at Menno.
When North Dakota became a separate state in 1889 and offered three quarters of free land, instead of the usual one quarter offered by the southern states, the new immigrants rushed into North Dakota. As a result, North Dakota received about 85 percent of the new wave of Catholic immigrants. This brings us to the beginnings of the city of Zeeland.
The town site of Zeeland is part of the pre-emption claim of the above-mentioned Heinrich Ellwein, which had been sold to Christian Bauers on December 3, 1897. The Milwaukee Land Company platted the town site and conveyed the right-of-way to the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul, and the Pacific Railway Company. The railroad was brought in from the terminal at that time, Eureka, to Zeeland. By the time the railroad got there, some business places had already been established. Zeeland was organized into a village in 1905, when it received its first charter. The first Catholic church was built the same year. The first town board consisted of Frank Kraft (Catholic), Adolph Boschee (Protestant) and Adolph Feinstein (Jew). At a special election on January 29, 1946, the village voted to be incorporated as a city under the council form of government. In April, Martin Braun (Catholic) was elected its first mayor. The village population in 1906 was around 400.
Church of St. John the Baptist
The Catholic Church in this area did not have its beginnings in Zeeland, but in the country church of St. John the Baptist, five miles north of Zeeland, which is constantly referred to as the “Mother Church.” The real immigration into North Dakota began around 1885 when a group settled around the railroad terminal of Ipswich. From there, they expanded to the north and west.
Although many others too numerous to mention were involved, we must mention Abbot Martin Marty (later Bishop of Yankton, South Dakota) of St. Meinrad’s Benedictine Abbey in Indiana and his few companions who came as missionaries to work among the Indians at Fort Yates, North Dakota, in 1876. They were joined a few years later by Benedictines from Conception, Missouri, who took over the Fort Yates mission within a few years. Among the Benedictine Fathers who played an important role among the Catholic Russian-Germans in this area were Bede Marty, Marin Kenel, Claude Ebner, Bernard Strassmeier, and Francis Gerschweiler.
For over a year, the German settlers were without a priest. They gathered in private homes to recite the rosary and litany, sing some religious hymns, and read the Sunday Scriptures. Their presence became known to Fr. Martin Kenel (Superior) at Fort Yates, who sent Fr. Bede Marty to see if the people were really Catholics. In July he found the community, stayed a few days, celebrating Mass, preaching, giving instructions, and administering the sacraments. On July 7th he baptized Catherine Jangula, the first known Catholic child born in McIntosh County, plus several others. In September of 1886 Fr. Bede made a second visit, lasting 13 days, and baptized another 12 infants. Better days came when Fr. Bernard Strassmeier, beloved by both Indians and Germans, who became popularly known as “Good Fr. Bernard,” took the German settlement under wing and baptized 15 infants on November 1-3, 1887, and made six visits in 1888, seven more lengthy visits in 1889, and frequent visits in 1890, with the number of baptisms increasing from year to year.
During those first years the people were extremely poor and suffered great hardships, living under a wagon box until they got their small sod houses built.
They were able to break up from five to 10 acres of sod, which yielded 12-15 bushels per acres, and selling for around $1.65 per bushel. In 1886, a prairie fire destroyed many of their feed. In 1887, a fierce cyclone destroyed many of their sod houses, and grass hoppers devastated much of their late crops. In the fall, another prairie fire destroyed much of their hay and straw. The courage for them to persevere came from good Fr. Bernard, who made his first visit in November of that year. He organized St. John’s parish and promised to visit them every two months. The winter of 1888-1889 was one of the hardest winters they experienced, with a super-abundance of snow and terrific three-day blizzards.
However, the people were blessed with a good harvest in 1888 and were able to recuperate from some of their former losses. Now immigrants greatly increased the number of Catholics in St. John’s area. Gathering in a few small homes became impossible. The limited time that Fr. Bernard could spend with them made it next to impossible to give reasonable service to all in the small private homes. The people realized they needed a church, and promised to build one in 1888 if the crops were good in the fall. They kept their promise.
Adam Jangula offered ten acres of land for the church and cemetery. Balthasar Hoffart, an excellent carpenter, was put in charge of the construction. The lumber was hauled in from Eureka, about 30 miles away. The 30 x 50 ft. building got under roof that fall and finished in the spring at the cost of about $1,500, with all labor donated. At that time, it was the largest and best building in McIntosh County, which inspired other settlements to build churches, and also schools until public education became available. St. John’s Church was solemnly blessed by Fr. Bernard on May 12, 1889, amidst great rejoicing.
Bishop Marty from Yankton had promised to come for confirmation in October 1889. It was a great disappointment when he failed to arrive. While en route, the good Bishop received an urgent message to return to Yankton immediately. That year, North Dakota became a separate state, with its own diocese under Bishop John Shanley, located at Jamestown. That change of events was part of the reason for Bishop Marty’s return to Yankton.
With the year of 1890 came a complete crop failure with extreme suffering, which would have been far worse if Fr. Bernard had not gone to Iowa to beg for food, clothing, and seed grain. He returned with great supplies and about $1,200 which carried them through the winter. The federal Congress also appropriated some money for the purchase of seed wheat and a few bare necessities.
Suffering from the loss of territory, hunting grounds, and the drought, the Indians also became very restless at this time, with a great danger of an uprising, which might easily have happened if some government agents (inexcusably) had not killed Sitting Bull. A Painte Indian, Wovoka, had developed a mysterious cult among various Indian tribes, which seemed to have involved some satanic forces. He posed as a “Red Messiah.” According to Wovoka, by faithfully following his cult, the Indian and the Buffalo (through the work of the Great Spirit) would replace the white man and his cattle, leaving the white man annihilated. He had a large following. Although Sitting Bull had just been released from two years of imprisonment, the white man still considered Sitting Bull as a real power among the Indians. It seems very possible that Sitting Bull was considering using the cult to his advantage.
Whatever the case may be, an attempt was made to arrest Sitting Bull a second time. He refused to surrender peacefully and was suddenly killed in gunfire.
Although the uprising never took place, the rumors and fears were so great that the settlers around St. John’s all fled to Eureka, except for one woman who had bread in the oven and couldn’t leave. Although this may seem silly today, it does highlight the extreme poverty and pricelessness of a loaf of bread at that time.
On October 15, 1891, Bishop Shanley came to St. John’s and confirmed 220 children and adults. By addressing the congregation in the German language, he endeared himself to both young and old, who fell in love with their new Bishop. They also had a good crop that year. Bishop Shanley was so impressed when he saw the large number of settlers that he would gladly have sent them a resident pastor, if he had one to send. At that time he had only 32 priests in the whole state and 21 of them were from other dioceses who could leave at any time.
A resident pastor at St. John’s was not possible until 1893, when Fr. Henry Schmitz came as its first pastor and built a 24 x 24 ft. rectory under the supervision of the same Balthasar Hoffart at a cost of $600 to $600.
But before the house was finished, Fr. Schmitz had to go to the hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he died. At the end of 1893, Bishop Shanley sent Fr. Joachim Widmer, O.S.B. of St. Meinrad’s Abbey in Indiana as the second pastor of St. John’s, with the surrounding territory as his missions. But he was recalled by his supervisor in September 1895. The various interims were filled in mostly by Fr. Strassmeier and Fr. Gerschweiler from Fort Yates.
Those who succeeded Fr. Widmer were Fathers Joseph B. Wilhelm (1895), B. Fresenburg (1896), Claudius Ebner, O.S.B. (1897), and Stephen Stenger, O.S.B. (1898-1908). Under Fr. Stenger, various missions were founded: namely, Sts. Peter and Paul, Strasburg; St. Aloyisius on Beaver Creek; Holy Trinity at Grassna; St. Anthony and St. Boniface in Logan County; St. Philip Neir at Napoleon: and in 1905 St. Andrew’s Church in Zeeland, which was the first church in the village.
The rectory in Zeeland was built the following year. Having acquired much knowledge at the Abbey, Fr. Stenger was a great leader in improving farming methods and in developing better breeds of horses, cattle, hogs, poultry, and other to supplement the grain crops. The first church at St. John’s was built on the west side of the road. Soon it was too small for the increasing numbers. So, Fr. Stenger built the present building on the east side of the road, and the first church became the parish school and hall.
Succeeding Fr. Stenger were Fathers Stephen Landolt (1908), Nik. Paul Junger (1910), and Herman Decker (1911-1914), who built the second and most modern rectory on the prairie, also on the east side of the road, the former rectory becoming the residence of the school master.
Next came Fathers M.V. Mueller (1914), E.J. Steinach (1925), N. Fox (1926), J.P. Zimmerman (1930), J.C. Greiner (1935), Sigfried W. Heyl (1936), Conrad Ludwig (1943), Richard Fuetscher (9147), Anton Anzic (1949), Alois Zdolsek (1958), and the final pastor Victor Schill (1959-1968).
After many years of neglect, the buildings (especially the church) had become badly deteriorated. With good heart and courage and mostly all donated labor, the good people of St. John’s worked many long, hard hours to remedy the situation. After moving the church on a new, full basement, both interior and exterior were completely renovated, a new floor installed, the pews refinished, new furnaces installed, the basement finished off with a kitchen, removable walls provided classrooms for religious instructions, the grounds relandscaped for drainage, the parking lot filled with 80 loads of gravel, new sidewalks built, the rubble of former building foundations cleaned up, the land tilled, and a shelterbelt planted on three sides.
Due to a clerical shortage, the pastor was transferred to another parish, and St. John’s became a mission of St. Andrew’s until 1971, when St. John’s merged with St. Andrew’s and the church closed.
First Baptist Church: Ashley
By Beata Heitzmann
The origin of the First Baptist Church dates back to July 25, 1896 when the German Baptist Church of Jewell, McIntosh County, North Dakota, was organized. Later on January 30, 1912, it was reorganized as the First German Baptist Church.
On September 25, 1953, it was officially incorporated as the First Baptist Church of Ashley. Incorporators were Walter Bauer, Isadore Lang, and Gotthilf K. Zimmerman. Full and complete reorganization was consummated on February 12, 1954, with a membership of eighty-five. Because they had no permanent meeting place available, the Public Library was used for a limited time. They purchased the Nazarene Church building, which was later remodeled and enlarged to include a full basement with assembly, classrooms, and kitchen. The main auditorium, including the balcony provides seating for about 250 persons. Practically all the labor of constructing the building was donated by members and friends of the church. The lots were a gift from the Wishek Investment Company.
Dedication of the church was on November 11, 1956. Soon after, the church affiliated with the Baptist General Conference of America and its branch, the Dakota Baptist General Conference.
Rev. E. Robert Petersen served as pastor from September 1954 through December 1955. It was during his ministry that the property was obtained and the building erected. Rev. David Schwartz was pastor the next two years, from January 1956 to October 26, 1958. Other pastors were Rev. Paul Lemke, July 1959-October 1964; Rev. J.C. Kraenzler, interim for May 1965-September 1968; Rev. R. Daniel Olson, July 1968-March 1971; Rev. Paul can Gorkom (interim) May 1971-October 1976. Supply pastor John Reimer who is pastor of the Berlin Baptist Church near Fredonia, North Dakota, is presently serving the church.
Zion Lutheran Church: Ashley
What does Ashley have in common with the war-torn region of Southeast Asia?
The Phouta Khamsombat family from Laos was sponsored by Zion, and was one of several thousand families sponsored and aided by hundreds of churches and organizations, assisting in the resettlement of refugees in the U.S. The Khamsombats lived in Ashley for a few years and then moved to another region in the U.S.
Christian outreach such as helping a refugee family is the Biblical practice of hospitality. “Give and it will be given to you, heaped up and running over.”
Another recent high point in the congregation’s history was when its senior pastor, Marvin Schumacher, was elected Bishop of the Western District of North Dakota. The election was in April 1983 and he took office in January 1984.
Zion Lutheran’s beginnings date back to 1890 under the leadership of Rev. Brunn. The pioneers worshipped in homes and schoolhouses until 1904 when the first church building was dedicated to the glory of God. What a service of thanksgiving they held!
Pastors serving Zion: Rev. Wenninger, 1904; Rev. Schulz, 1907-1917; Rev. Boetke, 1917-1919; Rev. Briest, 1910-1922; Rev. Sprattler, 1922-1933; Rev. Jung, 1933-1043; Rev. Drewelow, 1943-1945; Rev. Lechner, 1945-1954.
During this time, two Danzig parishes and three country churches joined Zion Lutheran. Rev. F. Heupel served from 1954-1957; Rev. E. Groth, 1958-1961; Rev. John Kraemmerer, 1961-1973. The present church was built during his pastorate.
Rev. Marvin Schumacher served from 1973-1983 together with Rev. Timothy Johnson, 1975-1979, and Rev. Bruce Adamson, 1980-present, who were called as assistant pastors to Zion. With a large membership of approximately 1,100, two pastors can add a much greater dimension for evangelism outreach to the family of Zion and beyond.
Rev. Martin Simons became the senior pastor of the congregation in May 1984.
The women of Zion have always been active in the growth of the church, taking part in earlier years in the “Outlook Society” and “Lutheran Mission Circle.” These organizations studied the Bible and helped support missionaries here and abroad and also contributed time and money for charitable institutions, special programs, and activities and upkeep of the church.
In 1961, the women reorganized into Zion Lutheran Church Women, the twofold purpose: education and stewardship which include the support of American and foreign missionaries.
Bible studies using Scope Magazine has been and added dimension.
With a history of about 100 years, Zion men and women continue to strive to carry out the great commission: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you, and, lo, I am with you always, till the end of the earth.” Matthew 28: 19-20.
Printed in the June 10, 1984 Zion Bulletin: In the name of the Lord, count it as a privilege to share the Gospel message with others. May God fill your hearts with His Holy Spirit. The Christian steward has both hands wide open. One hand is open to receive God’s grace—forgiveness. The other hand, the giving hand, is also wide open as he administers God’s gifts and shares them with others.
Zion United Methodist Church: Formerly United Brethren Church and Evangelical Church, Lehr
By Vera Derheim
The very first Evangelical Church in McIntosh County was established in 1887 under the ministry of Rev. Henry Loewen. The church building was a sod structure with wooden roof, 20 ft. by 34 ft. by 10 ft., costing $190, and dedicated on November 13, 1887.the church was known as Zion Church.
After the town of Lehr was begun in 1898, it was decided to establish a church there. At first, services were in a public school house. Then, in 1904, a church was built, costing between $3,300 and $3,400. It was a frame structure, 26 ft. by 36 ft. with a 26 ft. by 16 ft. addition on the south side. Rev. E.C. Oeder was the minister at that time. In 1933, the building was extensively remodeled under the ministry of Rev. A.H. Ermel.
The United Brethren Church merged with the Evangelical Church in 1946, and the church was then known as the Evangelical United Brethren Church. In 1959, while Rev. Peter Ackerman served the church, a new church building was constructed. This is the present United Methodist church building.
Hope Evangelical Church of rural Lehr joined the Zion congregation in 1967.
In 1968, the Evangelical United Brethren Church merged with the Methodist Church, and in January 1969, when the uniting conference was in Jamestown, the church became known as the United Methodist Church.
The 75th anniversary of Zion was observed on September 9, 1979, with several former pastors returning to take part in the services.
Rev. Edward B. Parker is the present pastor, serving since 1970.
Pastors who served wither in the sod church or in the school house were: 1887-1893—Rev. H. Loewen, 1894—Rev. A. Herzberg, 1895—Rev. George Hoefs, 1896-1900—R.E. Strutz, and 1900-1904—F.H. Brockmueller.
The following pastors served in the Lehr Church: 1904-1907—E.C. Oeder, 1907-1910—Henry Loewen, 1910-1913—N. Nuetzmann, 1913-1915—Paul Krumbein, 1915-1917—E.C. Oeder, 1917—J.J. Schroeder (served out Oeder’s time, who died) 1917-1919—D. Bittner, 1919-1923—William Buschat, 1923-1927—John Fischer, 1927-1933—G.C. Theile, 1933-1937—A.H. Ermel, 1937-1941—E.A. Gruneich, 1941-1944—A.H. Marzolf, 1944-1945—J.M. Burkhard, 1945-1947—Oliver Ketterling, 1947-1950—M.F. Gruneich, 1950-1956—Walter Elmer, 1956-1960—Peter Ackerman, 1960-1964—Henry Vix, 1964-1966—Clifford Bergland, 1966—Floyd Breaw (completed Bergland’s year), 1966-1970—W.E. Janetzki, and 1970 to present—Edward B.Barker.
Wishek Assembly of God
By Rev. Raymond Rueb
At the turn of the century, waves of revival swept across the U.S. touching lives of men and women with an intense desire to know God experientially.
Those who were drawn into this spiritual awakening were known as “Pentecostal believers.” This awakening also touched the lives of believers in the area around Wishek, resulting in the birth of the assembly
The earliest pastors of this assembly, and responsible for its founding, were Rev. and Mrs. Gottlieb Rosien.
The first church was located on the southeast corner of Wishek, close to where Wishek Hospital is now situated. Some of the names on the early roster were Hilscher, Roth, Rattai, Rueb, and Sayler.
With the development and growth of the city, the church was relocated to its present position under the leadership of Rev. George Rueb.
For several years, the facility belonged to the Church of God in Cleveland, Tennessee, and, under the leadership of Rev. Hilsher, the facility was renovated and improved.
In 1982, it was purchased by the German District of the Assemblies of God of Benton Harbor, Michigan, and came under the leadership of Rev. Dennis M. Franklin, pastor of the Ashley Assembly.
As of January this year, it is being pastured by Rev. Steve Schumerth, who moved here from Denver, Colorado. Pastor Schumerth is heard twice weekly on the Wishek radio station.
Grace Lutheran Church: Lehr
Grace Lutheran Church of Lehr had its beginnings when a small group of Lutherans gathered together in the Logan County School to hold meetings. Rev. Von Gemmingen, pastor of the Kulm parish, was asked to conduct the services. This was in 1941.
The need for a regular congregation was felt, and in September of that year, a meeting was held to discuss organizing a Lutheran congregation in Lehr. Finally, on July 19, 1942, the congregation was organized and Grace Lutheran was chosen as its name.
The Logan County School continued to serve as the place for worship, services being held twice a month and in German. Later, English services were held along with the German.
The congregation grew rapidly, and in April 1947 a meeting was held for the purpose of buying a church building, located near Ashley. In the spring of 1948, members constructed the basement, and the church was moved in on the location near the present post office. On July 18, 1948, Grace Lutheran was dedicated, six years after it was founded on July 19, 1942.
The Lord continued to bless Grace Lutheran. In 1950, the Lehr, Napoleon, and King congregation (a rural church northwest of Lehr) were joined under one pastor.
King, Trinity Lutheran Church was founded in 1909. For many years this congregation enjoyed a healthy growth, but finally the membership of older people seemed to dominate, with fewer children attending Sunday school. This led to the discontinuance of Sunday school, and members began to move to new locations or join churches where their children could attend Sunday school. In 1957, it was voted to merge with Grace.
Paving the way for Grace Lutheran to become a full member of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod was translating the church constitution from German into English. Grace became a member of Missouri Synod in the summer of 1953.
Grace Lutheran was still growing rapidly and the church was becoming too small to accommodate all who came to worship.
So under the leadership of Rev. Pankow, plans for a larger church were begun. In July 1957, Rev. Pankow accepted a call to Michigan, and Rev. Hellman accepted our call to Grace. He wasted no time going forward with plans for a new church building. In October, 1957, it was definitely decided to build a new church. The church was completed during the winter of 1959, and was dedicated to the glory of God in May 10, 1959.
The present membership consists of 120 souls with 98 communicant members.
Pastors who have served Grace Lutheran since 1941 are Rev. Von Gemmingen, rev. Kuring, Rev. Pankow, Rev. Hellman, Rev. Elowsky, Rev. Quade, Rev. Bauer, Rev. Bramstedt, Rev. Youngman and Rev.Grimm. Our present pastor is Rev. Ron Wagner.
St. John’s Reformed Church: Zeeland
This congregation was founded in 1905 when a group of families organized a congregation known as St. John’s Reformed Church of Zeeland.
According to available records, the following contributed money toward the building of the present church: Michael Berreth, Gottlieb Link, Johann Weber, George Berreth, Adolph Boschee, Andrew Munsch, Jacob Beck, Peter Berreth, Adam Delzer, Adam Berreth, Michael Henne, Jacob Kranzler, Jacob Trautmann, Christian G. Link, Gottlieb Berreth, Heinrich Haffner, Wendolin Deibert, Christian Link, Johannes Pfeiffer, Bernhardt Kauk, Rudolph Scholtt, Gottlieb Krauz and the North Star Lumber Company.
In 1906, the church building was built at an approximate cost of $900. Lots 5-6, Block 9, on which the church is located, were obtained for $67.50 from Milwaukee Land Company’s first addition in Zeeland on July 7, 1906.
A certificate of incorporation from the state of North Dakota was issued the congregation on February 10, 1910, under the hand and seal of Alfred Blaisdell, secretary of state.
Trustees at that time were Gottlieb Link, Christian Link and John P. Schott, who filed the declaration of articles of incorporation to Evangelical Reformed St. John’s congregation in Zeeland.
In 1908, when a need for a parsonage was felt, plans were made and the structure was erected the same year through the cooperation of the members of the congregation.
How, or by whom, this congregation had been served up until 1909 cannot be stated as the records do not seem to contain any details as to part of its history.
From 1909 until the present, the following pastors have served: Rev. C.G. Zipf, 1909 to 1910; Rev. C.F. Nuss, 1911 to 1915; Rev. Peter Bauer, 1915 to 1926; Rev. Wilhelm Schmidt, 1926 to 1934; Rev. K. Krueger, 1936 to 1943. There was a vacancy until 1950.
During the summer of 1944, H.A. Hartmann (a student) served; in the summer and fall of 1945, Rev. H.T. Vriesen. From May 1946 until June 1950, Rev. John Bodenmann of Wishek served as supply pastor.
In June 1950, the congregation had a regular pastor, rev. Emil Roth. He came here from Iowa and served until 1955. Affiliated with this charge during that period was the New Kassel Reformed congregation, north of Zeeland.
Rev. Arno H. Neuhaus served the congregation from July 24, 1955 until April 23, 1957; Rev. Bryce Hecht from July 6, 1958 until May 24, 1962; Rev. Robert Grossman, June 2, 1963 to June 29, 1975; and Rev. Steven E. Work from September 7, 1975 until July 29, 1979.
On that date, St. John’s Reformed Church was dissolved and the members transferred to the Artas Reformed Church in Artas, South Dakota.
The parsonage was sold but the church building remains intact and belongs to the former members who were transferred to Artas.
Ashley Baptist Church
By Rev. Allan Gerber
The organization of this church took place at a school building in the Long Lake vicinity on July 25, 1896.
At that time, about 85 members who had separated from the Berlin Baptist Church near Fredonia formed a new church known as German Baptist Church of Jewell Township.
This church had as many as five or more stations at one time. The Johannesthal station began holding services around the turn of the century.
In 1909, the first meeting of the Dakota Conference of the North American Baptist General Conference was held at the Johannesthal station.
In 1912, the churches purchased the Ashley station from the parsonage from the Danzig Baptist Church, which later became the First Baptist Church of Wishek.
After some rearranging of stations with neighboring churches, it left this church with three stations, namely, Ashley, Johannesthal and Jewell.
The name of the church was changed to the First German Baptist Church. With the parsonage located in Ashley, this station became the nerve center of the organization. At a later date, the present name was adopted, Ashley Baptist Church.
In Ashley, our first church building was built in 1902. IN the year 1917, a new church was erected at a cost of $6,100. In 1919, a parsonage was built, which cost approximately $8,000.
In 1960, the church building was dismantled and the present one erected on the same site.
Over the years, a number of young people from this church have served as missionaries, pastors and pastors’ wives.
Also, conferences of Baptist churches in the Dakotas have been hosted several times, as well as two appearances of African choirs from Cameroon.
Pastors of the congregation were Rev. A. Kludt, 1896 to 1901; Rev. A. Guenther, 1902 to 1903; Rev. G. Burgdorf, 1905 to 1911; Rev. C.M. Knapp, 1912 to 1915;
Rev. A. Guenthner, 1915 to 1918; rev. F. Dobrovolny, 1919 to 1925; Rev. W.H. Buenning, 1926 to 1931;
Rev. W.J. Luebeck, 1932 to 1945; Rev. W. Stein, 1945 to 1950; Rev. J.J. Renz, 1951 to 1953; Rev. A.W. Bibelheimer, 1954 to 1961; Rev. Isador Faszer, 1962 to 1967; Rev. Etan Pelzer, 1968 to 1977; and Rev. Allan Gerber, from 1977 to present.
First Baptist Church: Wishek
Early in 1975, when the settling of McIntosh County was in its beginning, people from the village of Danzig, Russia, settled near Tyndall, South Dakota.
This created a desire for others from their homeland to follow, but finding the free land all taken, they were advised by federal land agents to go farther north into the Dakota Territory. They were not happy about having to move north, but nevertheless about 15 families did settle about nine miles south of the present city of Wishek.
Here they missed the church fellowship to which they had been accustomed in their homeland. They were devout and faithful people. By God’s leading, they organized their own congregation in 1886.
Fifteen families joined themselves together in this fellowship, naming John Brokofsky as chairman and William Koth as secretary.
They named the church “Danzig Baptist Church,” after their hometown in Russia. Those early settlers had a dialect of their own, known as “Platt Deutsch,” but they used the German Bible and language in their services.
The fellowship made progress, spiritually as well as financially. By 1903, it became self-supporting and was relinquished by the mission as a free church.
Meetings were held in homes for six years. They gained members from as west as the Beaver Creek area.
For the membership, the desire to build a house for worship became foremost. In 1892, they built a wooden structure 20 x 40 feet on a plat of three acres donated by John J. Giedt, nine miles south of Wishek.
The cost of the church was $800. Members raised $550, and they obtained a loan for $250 from the Baptist Home Mission Society in New York City.
Soon, a 15-acre tract was acquired one-quarter mile south of the church, which became the location of the first parsonage. Members built a house, barn, and other small buildings. There was a pasture for horses, since horses were the main means of travel in those days.
In 1908, several believers, living in the newly organized village of Wishek, expressed their desire to build their own house of worship. Jacob Herr, Sr. was the leader of this group.
Two lots, which are now the present site, were donated by John H. Wishek, Sr. On these was erected a wooden structure 24 x 40 feet, costing $2,162.
A sum of $330 was borrowed from the Baptist Home Mission Society, with the rest financed from donations.
By 1935, the wood church structure had become too small. It was decided to remove the old building and replace it with a larger basement building on the original site at a cost of $6,000.
Better automobiles and roads made traveling easier; therefore, the Danzig station was discontinued in 1940 and the Beaver Creek station in 1949.
In 1949, the name of the church was changed from the German Baptist Church to First Baptist Church of Wishek. That same year, the church decided to erect a new church, incorporating the basement structure. The cost was $78,520, which was financed by members’ donations. On July 2, 1950, the new building was dedicated to Christ as Lord, and for service to mankind as a spiritual haven.
In 1955, the old parsonage was replaced by a new modern ranch-type dwelling, which cost $31,181.
Eighteen pastors have served the church. Here they are:
Rev. Berthold Matzke, 1888-1892; Rev. J. Marks, 1892-1894; Rev. George Burgdorf (occasional visits), 1895-1896; Rev. Jacob Herman (ordained by the church following his arrival), 1897-1899; Rev. Edward Wolf, 1899-1901; Rev. H. Hilzinger (fifth Sunday from Eureka), 1902-1903;
Rev. Christian Bischof, 1903-1909; Rev. August Heringer, 1910-1927; Rev. C.M. Knapp, 1928-1932; Rev. B.W. Krentz, 1933-1937;
Rev. Albert Itterman, 1937-1942; Rev. J.C.Gunst, 1942-1944; Rev. Arthur Weisser, 1944-1948; Rev. Ervin J. Faul, 1949-1951;
Rev. Loran O. Wahl, 1952-1960; Rev. Carl R. Weisser, 1961-1968; Rev. Clemence Auch, 1968-1971; and Rev. Gordon Huisinga, from 1972 to present.
Assembly of God: Ashley
By Tina Eszlinger
In May 1937, Rev. and Mrs. Jakob Rosin of Bison, South Dakota, and Mr. and Mrs. George Rueb of Wishek came to Long Lake, South Dakota, to conduct revival meetings. Meetings were in different homes for a couple of years, and an Assembly of God church was founded 17 miles south of Ashley. It was called Ebenezer.
In 1939, Rev. and Mrs. Peter Heinisch and family came from St. Louis, Missouri, to serve a church in Wishek, Ashley had no Assembly of God church yet, but Heinisches moved to Ashley and purchased a small building from John Dobler of Danzig, moved it to town, and a church was organized the following year in 1940. They then served Wishek, Ebenezer and Ashley.
After five years, they moved to Fontana, California. During their absence of nine years, the following pastors served:
Rev. and Mrs. C.S. Staudt (1944 to 1949), Rev. and Mrs. Daniel Wagner (1949 to 1952), Missionary Emil Schniders filled in for six months.
In 1945, the residence of the late Edwin Layer of Ashley was purchased to serves as a parsonage.
Rev. P. Heinisch returned on December 6, 1953. The local congregation desired a larger place of worship, and so the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Danzig was purchased in 1954. A full basement was excavated, and the church was moved to its present location and was dedicated in October 1954.
Rev. Heinish served as pastor until his death in February 1955.
Rev. and Mrs. George H. Rueb of Medina, North Dakota, accepted the call, beginning here in September 1955. During their seven years of ministry, the Women’s Missionary Council and Christ Ambassadors were organized.
The Ebenezer Church was sold, and the following pastors have served the congregation:
Pastor and Mrs. Reinhold Mueller from Winnipeg, Ontario—1963 to 1965; Pastor and Mrs. David Rueb from Ashley—1965 to 1970; Pastor and Mrs. George H. Rueb from Ashley—1970 to 1973; Pastor and Mrs. Harvey Pratt from Benton Harbor, Michigan—1974 to 1979; Pastor and Mrs. Larry Metz from Trinity Bible Institute in Ellendale—1979 to 1982; and Pastor Mike and Kay Franklin from Montana—1982 to present.
United Church of Christ: Wishek
By Rev. William Moser
The United Church of Christ of Wishek is at the same time one of the newest and one of the oldest churches in McIntosh County.
It was one of the newest because it was formed in 1979 through the merger of three pre-existing congregations. It was one of the oldest because it can trace its ministry back to 1884, the year the Kassel Reformed Church was established.
A summary of the individual histories of each of the seven churches which have fed their energy and resources into one united ministry is presented in this article. Significant local history is thus being preserved for the benefit and the inspiration of those who continue this Christian ministry into the future.
Kassel Reformed Church. The Kassel Reformed Church was organized in Rosenfield Township in 1884. The exact date is unknown. The charter members of this congregation were Frederick Hochhalter, his son, Fred Hochhalter, Christoph Kramer, Jacob Villhauer, Sr., Karl Wiest, Peter Wiest and Henry Woehl.
The first pastor, Dr. Frank Grether, was called in 1885. The first church building was constructed in 1886. This building was moved south into Blumenthal Township in 1908.
Members of this congregation gradually joined Grace Reformed Church in Wishek. In 1952, the building was auctioned off. The high bidder was Emil Wiest. He tore down the building, hauled the lumber to the Wiest farm, constructed a house out of the wood, and moved to the house to Wishek in the spring of 1953. This house is still in use as his residence.
The pulpit and the pulpit chair originally used in this church are now owned by Emil Wiest. They were made by men of the congregation when the church building had been completed in 1886.
Neudorf Reformed Church. The Neudorf Reformed Church was organized in Rosenfield Township in 1890. As close as we can determine, the charter members were John Boschee, Jakob Hochhalter, Jacob Krein, Sr., Jacob Schauer and Frederick Springer.
Eleven men served as supply pastors through the years until the first resident pastor, Rev. John Klundt, began his ministry in 1920.
In 1896, a tract of land was donated by Jakob and Karolina Hochhalter for use by the church. A church building was then constructed. It contained a pulpit, a pedal organ, a coal stove, and chairs for the seating of the congregation. Each Sunday, the elders passed out the hymn books since there were no racks to hold them.
Members of this congregation also gradually joined Grace Reformed Church. At the beginning of 1944, five members were left. These five transferred their membership into Grace Church in January of that year.
The church building was then sold to St. John’s Lutheran Church, and was moved south into Section 21 of the township. In 1958, the building was sold at auction. It was moved into Wishek, where it is the current location of the Jesus of Nazareth Assembly of God Church.
New Kassel Reformed Church. The New Kassel Reformed Church traces its history back to meetings in homes of its members prior to 1900. A church building was constructed in 1905. It was located in Frieda Township ten miles north of Zeeland. The charter members were John Perman, Andreas Perman, Wilhelm Hieb, August Hieb, Christian Meidinger, Simon Schwind and Johann Meidinger. Signatures on the application for incorporation filed in 1911, were Andreas Perman, Wilhelm Hieb and Jacob Perman.
In the early days, this church was part of an 11-point charge served by Rev. H.W. Stienecker who lived in Ashley.
In addition to New Kassel, the other churches in his care included Kassel, Neudorf, Johannesthal, Ashley, Hoffnungstal (northeast of Venturia), Rohrbach (southeast of Zeeland), Friends (southwest of Zeeland), Bergdorf (south of Ashley), Sarons (northeast of Long Lake) and Ebensfield (near Streeter).
The first structure burned down in March 1938. Another building was built that summer and dedicated in the fall. During the years of 1958 to 1962, when Rev. Bryce Hecht was pastor, the Sunday school reached its peak enrollment of 36.
The congregation was affiliated with St. John’s Reformed Church of Zeeland until 1966, and then with the Strasburg Reformed Church.
In 1968, the church became yoked with Grace Reformed church in Wishek. The New Kassel building was sold and dismantled when the congregation merged with Grace Reformed Church and St. John Congregational Church to create The United Church of Christ of Wishek in 1979.
Johannesthal Reformed Church. The Johannesthal Reformed Church was organized in 1898 with the following charter members: Christian Krein, Sr., Christina Krein, Jr., Jacob Krein, Sr., Phillip Rueb, Frederick Rueb, Adam Eisinger, Frederick Lang, George Ackerman, Johanas Ackerman, Peter Ackerman and Jacob Boschee.
Two acres of land were donated to this congregation by Jacob and Katherine Boschee. This land was located in Johannesthal Township, Logan County, six miles northwest of Wishek. The church building was constructed on this property in 1905.
The interior of the church was typical of the country church buildings of its time. Members recall the chairs on which the congregation was seated, the pulpit from which the services were led, the pedal organ which provided accompaniment for the singing, and the potbelly stove to keep the worshippers warm in winter months.
There was also a barn north of the church in which the teams of horses were “parked” in inclement weather.
A cemetery was located to the east of the church building.
Members of this church gradually joined Grace Reformed Church in Wishek. The building was sold at auction to Leonard Kocher, who in turn sold it to John Sifferman for $300. He tore the structure down and reused the lumber in the construction of another building. Worms Congregational Church. For some insight into the history of the Worms Congregational Church, we turn to the comments of Henry Sayler of Wishek. He was interviewed in an oral history project on September 13, 1983.
“I was one of the first to be confirmed in this church,” explained Sayler. “That happened on April 9, 1909. These are the charter members when the church was first organized and was built.
“First of all, there was my dad (Frederick Sayler), John Gall, Chirstoph Hochhlater, Jacob Hochhatlter, John Hochhalter, Jacob Schauer, Christoph Dockter and Adam Weidenbach.
“The church building was about 24 feet wide and 30 feet long. There was no steeple, just a gable roof. It had about 3 windows on each side. The building was facing north and south, and the door was to the south. The pews were homemade, and, for the women, we had about a dozen chairs. The women sat to the left and the men sat to the right.
“My dad was the first deacon of that church, and John Gall was the first Sunday school superintendent. Jacob Schauer was the secretary-treasurer. When church started, we sang one or two hymns, had prayer, and then the sermon was read out of a German sermon book. As a rule, my dad read most of the sermons at the services.
“In the 30s, our church got weaker and weaker, and St. John Congregational Church in Wishek was kind of growing. We all had cars, and finally we decided to give up that country church and join the Wishek church. The building was finally sold for a house. Henry Reub’s house had burned down, and so he bought our old church and made a house out of it.”
St. John Congregational Church. Six families had been gathering in the Wishek school house for weekly meetings under the leadership of Rev. L. Ebertz. These families called a meeting on February 27, 1912 to organize a Congregational Church. Charter Members of this new congregation were Mr. and Mrs. Phillip G. Mueller, Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Huelscher, Mathilda Huelscher, Mr. and Mrs. F.J. Sayler, Mr. and Mrs. Adolph Hochhalter, Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Hochhalter and Mr. and Mrs. John Junkert.
The first church building erected by this congregation was located on Sixth Street South in Wishek. The final service in this church was on March 30, 1958.
The congregation then moved into its new church facilities, located at the corner of Fourth Avenue South and Fourth Street South. This new church building was paid for more speedily because of a highly successful God’s Acre Project made possible by the cooperation and labor of the church members.
Members of this congregation provided the leadership in the establishment of the Wishek Retirement and Nursing Home, now a truly community ministry. Rev. Orville Zimmerman, who grew up on a farm near New Leipzig, recently replaced Rev. Reinhold Klein as administrator of this facility.
The church building and parsonage built by the St. John Church continues to be used in the ministry of The United Church of Christ of Wishek. Other church properties were sold, with the proceeds being used to establish capital maintenance and cemetery upkeep accounts for the continuing work of the united church.
Grace Reformed Church. The Grace Reformed Church was organized on November 5, 1916 in Wishek. The charter members of this congregation were Christian Krein, Sr., Christian F. Krein, John Ackermann, Henry Becker, Fred Sprenger and Karl Wacker. The church building was dedicated on October 21, 1917.
The first resident pastor of the Wishek Charge was Rev. John Klundt, who served from 1920 to 1925. His successors were Rev. A.A. Depping (1926 to 1929), Rev. Erick Kaempchen (1930 to 1939), Rev. John Bodenmann (1939 to 1951), Rev. Alfred Reineking (1952 to 1957), Rev. Paul Otte (1958 to 1960), Rev. Armin Roemer (1960 to 1968) and Rev. A.J. House (1969 to 1979).
A women’s guild was organized on December 27, 1955 with the following charter members: Mrs. Theodore Boschee, Mrs. Victor Krein, Mrs. Alvin Krein, Carol Krein, Mrs. Sebastien Tuchscher, Mrs. Ellis Weber and Mrs. Alber Woehl.
A new church parsonage was erected by the men of the congregation in 1958.
When the merger was completed in 1979 that created the United Church of Christ of Wishek, the Grace church building was sold at an auction to a family who converted it into a home. It is still being used in this way.
Seventh Day Adventist Church
By Pastor J.A. Bahr
The history of the Lehr Seventh Day Adventist Church began in 1910 when a religious-book salesman, Frederick Reile, began selling books and magazines in the area. The first Adventist, Adam Leno, encouraged two ministers to come and hold meetings in Lehr. Pastors John Siebel and Carl Lehr worked for several years in the Lehr area.
On March 28, 1914, the Lehr Seventh Day Adventist Church was organized and established.
According to old, possibly incomplete records, 27 pastors have served the Lehr and surrounding Seventh Day Adventist churches to date.
The old records show up some interesting details about life in general, and church life in particular.
Preachers had to use a horse and buggy to travel, and one even came with a donkey.
Another interesting and surprising aspect of early pioneer life was the obvious interest in religious matters. As many as 1,000 people crowded the Adventist meetings, it is reported. The message of the soon-coming of our Lord Jesus Christ was a message for the time and still is. This is why the Adventists choose the name “Adventist,” meaning those who are waiting for the second coming of Christ.
The first church building was dedicated on October 25, 1914. Its cost was $2,500. The church paid its janitor $40 per year, and he had to furnish the kindling wood for the coal furnace (but he was freed from paying for church expense).
The new church building, as it stands today, was begun on May 30, 1960. It was completed in November of that year, and by December all the bills and debts were paid and a thankful congregation dedicated the new structure to the honor and glory of God.
The elders of the church for 1984 are Leo Flemmer, Steve Foerderer and Herbert Opp.
On the long list of pastors serving the church, Pastor John Bahr is presently serving the Lehr, Kulm and Linton Congregations. He has previously served in Canada, West Germany, and came recently from Valley City, North Dakota, to Lehr.
Salem Reformed Church: Ashley
In the territorial days of 1884, immigrants and settlers came pouring into this region to take up homesteads and to try to better themselves materially. They also felt a real concern for their spiritual well-being.
In spring 1892, the Reformed Church in the U.S. sent a call to Rev. H.W. Steinecker to settle in Ashley and serve the various groups of Reformed people in the area. Exactly when the Ashley Reformed Church was started is not known as it was in existence when he arrived.
According to statements of some of the pioneers of Ashley, the Reformed Church was one of the first churches to build in this town. The date of its construction is given as 1894.
With the coming of Rev. Steinecker, Ashley became the center of a charge from which he served at least 11 known congregations.
They were Ashley (town), Sarons (northeast of Long Lake, S.D.), Bergdorf (south of Ashley), Friends (southwest of Zeeland), Neu Kassel (north of Zeeland), Hoffnungstal (northeast of Venturia), Neudorf (southwest of Wishek), Johannestal (northwest of Wishek), and Ebensfeld (near Streeter, N.D.).
When the congregation did not get around to build him a parsonage, he built himself up a house. He also took up farming to partly sustain his temporal life. Considering the mode of transportation and the roads in those days, it is amazing the amount of work accomplished by this pioneer pastor. He was buried in the Ashley cemetery on December 22, 1929.
During the history of the Ashley charge, some of those congregations dissolved or left the charge to form new charges.
Thus, Ashley became the mother church of the Zeeland and Wishek charges, and contributed in part to the Artas, S.D., and the Streeter charges. Other churches at one time associated with the Ashley Charge were Kulm, N.D., Danzig, N.D., and Leola, S.D.
From 1937 to 1954, the charge consisted of four congregations: Ashley, Hoffnungstal (moved to Venturia in 1951), Sarons, and Leola.
In 1954, Sarons dissolved. Its members joined the Ashley and Leola churches. At the same time, Leola joined the mission work of Aberdeen to form another charge.
The Ashley Charge presently consists of the Ashley and Hoffnungstal churches. In 1972, Hoffnungstal transferred all its memberships to Ashley. Then they joined under a new charter as Salem Reformed Church. Hoffnungstal held its last service on September 3, 1972, and the first service as Salem was on September 10, 1972. It can thus be said that the Ashley church was the center from which its pastors took the word of God over a considerable territory to those desiring the Reformed faith.
Throughout its history, the Ashley Reformed and Hoffnungstal churches have been members of the Reformed Church in the U.S. When, 1940, the majority of two denominations joined the Evangelical and Reformed Union (now the United Church of Christ), the Ashley and Hoffnungstal congregations were counted among the minority which desired to maintain a distinctive Reformed witness as the continuing body of the Reformed Church in this nation. This denomination has a long background, reaching back to the Calvinistic reformation in Germany in the 16th Century.
Some of the founders of the Ashley Reformed Church were Conrad Mayer, George Mayer, Jakob Mayer, Philip Mayer, Gottlieb Metz, Jakob Mindt, Johann Schaeffer, and Christian Weber.
The congregation built its first building in 1894 at a cost of $399.95. It served its purpose till 1945, when a basement was put underneath and an alcove was added to the rear (east end).
The next major remodeling took place in 1973. At that time, the inside walls were paneled, floors carpeted, and an entrance built onto the front (west end). The newly remodeled church building was dedicated as Salem Reformed Church on April 28, 1974. The guest speaker was Rev. Paul H. Treick from Napoleon, Ohio.
Although minor and major improvements were made up to 1973, yet most of the lumber in the building was put there in 1894.
The following ministers have served the Ashley congregation and those associated with it:
Rev. H.W. Steinecker, 1892-1904; Rev. William Landsiedel, 1905-1909; Rev. Peter DeBuhr, 1910-1912; Rev. H.W. Steinecker (second term), 1912-1922; Rev. F.W. Herzog, 1922-1935; Rev. George Wolfe, 1937-1942;
Rev. Kasper Kruger, 1944-1949; Rev. Fred Herzog (son of Rev. F.W. Herzog), 1950-1953; in between 1953 and 1956, the Ashley church was served from Wishek by Rev. Alfred Reineking, and Hoffnungstal Church from Artas by Rev. Leirhaus.
Then came Rev. John Cooper, 1956-1959; Rev. Thomas Beech, February 1960-September 1963; Rev. Samuel Allison, February 1, 1964-November 11, 19667; Rev. Jefferson Duckett, September 1, 1968-July 27, 1969; Rev. Paul H. Treick, July 5, 1970-September 26, 1973; Rev. Dennis White, October 7, 1973-December 31, 1978; Rev. Barry Bostrom, June 24, 1979-January 31, 1981; Licentiate George Bancroft, October 31, 1982-June 1983. William Haddock is currently serving as stated supply since January 29, 1984.
The present membership of Salem is 92baptized, 79 confirmed. The object of this congregation has always been to edify its members by proclaiming the whole council of God, Old and New Testament, Law, and Gospel, and the faith that was once delivered to the saints. The Heidelberg Catechism is received as an authoritative expression of the truths taught in the Holy Scriptures.
St. Andrew’s Lutheran: Rural Zeeland
St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, a rural congregation is located 10 miles north and three miles east of Zeeland.
This congregation at one time was part of a five-point parish, and is the only one still in existence.
The beginning of the church goes back to 1885 when the territory which is now rural Zeeland was being settled mostly by people who were Germans from Russia. Many wished to worship their God in their traditional manner. Since there was no church in this newly settled area, the people gathered in the homes for worship services from the time of organization in 1885 by Rev. J. Koeppel until 1893.
At a meeting on October 18, 1892, the members of St. Andrew’s, inspired by the Holy Spirit, decided to build a church.
As far as we can determine from the records, those first families which built the church were: Adam Meidinger, Johann Thurn, Friedrich Thurn, George Just, Christoph Just, Friedrich Vossler, Jacob Pietz, Christian Maier, George Ketterling, Johann Ketterling, Adam Ketterling, and Johannes Vossler.
The sum of $385 was gathered from these families. It was agreed that each member would donate 15 days of labor to build the new church.
Building materials consisted of sandstone, which was brought from a hill about 10 miles northwest of the church’s site, and clay mixed with straw and water served as mortar between the stones.
The stone walls were built about two feet in thickness and were then sealed with clay and whitewashed.
The roof was built from lumber.
On March 21, 1893, the new church was dedicated to the glory of God by pastors Koeppel and Raun.
This first church is still standing and is occasionally used for various church activities.
In 1895, there were 82 children in the congregation, and a total of 146 souls.
The original church was soon too small to accommodate the members of the congregation, and so a new church, our present house of worship, was built in 1906. It was dedicated on June 2, 1907. The dedication sermon was preached by Rev. Koeppel.
On October 21, 1956, St. Andrew’s was privileged to celebrate its 50th anniversary of the building of the present church. Present for the occasion were Dr. George Landgrebe, Rev. John Mertz, Rev. Rudolf Heupel, and Rev. Marin Bieber. Rev. John Hoyer was pastor of the congregation at that time.
During Pastor Hoyer’s pastorate, the transition was made from the German language to English for the worship services.
In 1959, St. Andrew’s congregation again became a part of a parish. A meeting was with Zion Lutheran Church in Venturia. It was decided to join forces and work together as a single parish. This was the expedient thing to do since the membership of both congregations was small. The parsonage was located at St. Andrew’s. It is owned and maintained by that congregation. In 1969, this union was dissolved when Rev. John Schmierer became the pastor of St. Andrew’s.
In the summer of 1973, the 80th anniversary of the congregation and the building of the original church was celebrated. Since the archives of the American Lutheran Church shows its organization was in 1893, we recognize 1973 as our 80th anniversary.
On September 26, 1976, a heritage celebration was held in conjunction with the nation’s bicentennial. It included a reading of the history of the organization and building of the original church. A bicentennial plaque, which was presented to the congregation by the Zeeland Bicentennial Committee in recognition of St. Andrew’s as one of the first congregations to be organized in this area, was unveiled by John F. Riger and Otto Ketterling. They were the two oldest members of the congregation. The plaque had been mounted on the original church building.
In 1974, when Rev. John Schmierer retired, the congregation realized that it could not afford to call another pastor and pay a full time salary. Therefore, an agreement was made between St. Andrew’s and Pastor Otto Staehling, who was pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Kintyre, North Dakota, and that Pastor Staehling, while serving Trinity, would also serve St. Andrew’s as a supply pastor on a trial basis.
The trial arrangement grew into a closer partnership between the two churches until Pastor Staehling’s retirement. Then, St. Andrew’s and Trinity issued a joint call to Pastor Robert D. Berg. St. Andrew’s is still a two-point parish with the pastors living in Kintyre.
Pastors who have served this congregation from 1893 to the present are as follows:
Rev. J. Koeppel, Rev. O. Bruntsch in 1897; Rev. E. Moeckel in 1902; Rev. J. Melchert, Rev. A. Schormann, Rev. H. Riecke, Rev. A. Freymann, Rev. J. Graepp, Rev. A. Doering, Rev. A Freymann again, Rev. John Hoyer 1954-1958; Rev. Martin D. Lapp 1959-1968; Rev. John Schmierer 1969-1974; Rev. Otto Staehling 1974-1978; Rev. Robert D. Berg 1979-1982; and the present pastors, a husband-and-wife team, Rev. Alan Saugstad and Rev. Cheryl Matthews, who started here in 1982.
St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church Women was organized on December 2, 1975 with 10 members. One circle was formed, the Ruth Circle. The purpose of this organization is to study and better understand the word of God, to support the church and community with time, talents, and treasures, and also to promote the spreading of the gospel to the unchurched and unconverted in this country and throughout the world.
St. David’s Church: Ashley
By Rev. Victor Schill
Until 1944, the few Catholic families that lived in Ashley attended divine services on Sundays in the surrounding parishes, particularly St. Andrew’s in Zeeland, St. Mary’s at Hague, and St. Patrick’s of Wishek. So far as can be determined, the first Sacrifice of the Mass was offered in Ashley around Easter in 1920, in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Martin Ruemmele.
From 1920 to 1930, pastors from St. Andrew’s, St. John’s, or St. Phillip’s Church of Napoleon occasionally held services (mostly on weekdays) in the various homes of the parishioners. During that time, the Catholic families were few: the Martin Ruemmeles, Frank Ruemmeles, Nickalous Kautts, Steve Fischers, and H.L. Wolls.
From 1935 until 1944, the Rev. Victor Long, pastor of the Transfiguration Church in Edgeley, offered Mass once a month on weekdays in the large room of the Home Hotel, then owned by Attorney Franz Shubeck, and operated by Anna Kautt and her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Nickalaus Kautt. It was during this period that the first Catholic Mission was given, July 13-17, 1937, by the Rev. Thomas Jundt, O.S.B., then assistant pastor at Edgeley. Mass was celebrated each morning with the participants receiving Holy Communion. Sermons were preached both in the morning and at the evening services. In the afternoons, the children were given religious instruction by Sisters Louis Phillipe of St. Joseph’s Academy of St. Paul, Minn., and Sister Angela of St. John’s Academy of Jamestown, North Dakota.
In 1944, the Rev. Charles Veach of St. Helena’s Church in Ellendale began having Mass regularly every Sunday for the small group in Ashley. This continued until 1951, when the Rev. Anton Anzic, pastor of St. John’s Church replaced Father Veach, and Ashley became a station of St. John’s parish. In 1958, Father Anzic was forced to retire because of ill health and was succeeded by the Rev. Alois Zdolsek.
It must be noted here that the Catholic congregation through all these years was most fortunate in being able to use the room in the Home Hotel for its religious services. Louis Marek and her sister Anna Kautt, reserved this large room and faithfully maintained it as a chapel. In addition to the routine cleaning, these ladies cared for the vestments and altar linens and provided fresh flowers and plants for the altar. In these and other works, they gave freely of their time and energy.
The chapel in the hotel served very well and was quite adequate until about 1955. As a few more Catholic families moved into the community and with the children growing up, the chapel at times was quite crowded. Periodically the idea of securing a church building was discussed. It was always abandoned, as being too ambitious a project for so few to undertake.
In the early spring of 1959, during the administration of Father Zdolsek, the St. James Lutheran Church was advertised for sale by sealed bids. This church, located about seven and one-half miles southeast of Ashley, was admirably suited to the needs of St. Mary’s Mission, as the chapel was then known. On March 16, the members voted unanimously to submit a bid of $3,100 for the church and its contents. This bid was duly submitted on March 19, 1959 by Peter Goettle and Andrew Bosch, acting as parish directors. With permission and upon advice from Bishop Leo F. Dworschak of Fargo, the transaction was completed on April 16, 1959. In the purchase of the church, the congregation received financial aid from the Catholic Extension Society of Chicago, Ill., the Home Mission Fund of the diocese of Fargo and the David Walter family and B.M. Devaney family of Chicago, Ill. Then through the generosity of the late J.H. and Nina Farley Wishek heirs, three lots in the northeastern part of town were donated as a site for the church.
By the time the new pastor of St. John’s Church arrived in early July (Fr. Victor Schill), the basement was already over half finished, and the church was moved to town the same month. Under the direction and with the assistance of Father Schill, the men and the women of the parish spent that fall and winter in remodeling and redecorating the church.
With grateful hearts, the small parish at last saw the fulfillment of its dream for so many years. On March 9, 1960, St. David’s, the first Catholic Church of Ashley, was dedicated by the Most Rev. Lee F. Dworschak, Bishop of Fargo.
However, it was soon discovered that the high winds tended to shift the high steeple, so in the fall of 1961, the steeple was lowered by 14 feet and in the fall of 1962 an open entry was added to shelter the front door, and the streets by the church were blacktopped. A new organ was also purchased. In 1963, the interior of the church basement was finished and a small kitchen installed, and the exterior of the church was painted. The following year the basement was divided into temporary classrooms for religious instruction for the increasing number of children.
In 1971, St. John’s parish merged with St. Andrew’s, and St. David’s became a mission of St. Andrew’s, served successfully by Fathers Joseph Mentel, Valentine Gross, and Gregory Patejko until the fall of 1979 when Fr. Victor Schill became the present pastor of St. Andrew’s and St. David’s
With the generous cooperation of the parishioners who donated their time and labor, the basement was insulated and painted in the spring of 1983 at the modest cost of $750.
Zion Evangelical Lutheran: Zeeland
Pastor Timm O. Meyer
More than 90 years ago, Lutheran missionary, Pastor C. Boettcher, of Marshall, Minnesota, began canvassing the area in South Dakota from Elkton northward to Watertown and beyond. He traveled those many miles by horse and buggy. Visiting sod huts of the settlers living on the vast prairies, Pastor Boettcher conducted the first Lutheran services in the Dakotas.
The rapid expansion of the work in this territory made necessary the calling of more missionaries. Expansion to the west began soon.
At first, the home of the pastors had been in Germantown. But soon, a man by the name of Lahme, also a missionary, had moved 70 miles westward to Redfield.
By 1890, he had already been active in the neighborhood of what is now Zeeland.
From the 1880s until the beginning of the first World War, great numbers of immigrants moved into the Dakotas from South Russia and the Balkans.
The missionaries of the Lutheran church followed those groups westward in order to serve them the gospel of Christ.
Pastor Lahme, who was the first to do mission work for the Lutheran church in the vicinity of Zeeland, organized a large parish covering three counties in the present North and South Dakota. Pastors who lived in Mound City, South Dakota, served the Zeeland congregation and other congregations in this parish for many years.
On October 16, 1910, the following met at the Fred Ellwein home in Zeeland to consider the establishment of a Lutheran congregation: Henry Hafner, John R. Pfeifer, Jacob Mindt, Fred Ellwein, Andrew Ellwein, Henry Frecking, Jacob Huber, and Jacob Schiermeister, together with Rev. W.F. Sauer at Mound City.
At that meeting, it was proposed to take steps to organize a congregation, obtain property on the south side of Zeeland, and erect a school house to serve as a place of worship and as a Lutheran school.
On October 24 of the same year, the group again met and officially organized and incorporated as a congregation. The trustees were Rev. W.F. Sauer, Henry Hafner, Fred Ellwein, and Jacob Schiermeister. The newly organized congregation formed a parish with Emanuel Lutheran Church, located three miles southwest of Zeeland, and Friedens (Peace) Lutheran Church of Hague, North Dakota.
This tri-parish was served by Rev. W.F. Sauer until 1912, when, due to the rapid growth of the congregations, a resident pastor was called.
For several years, the congregation worshipped in the Sunday school building. As the congregation grew, the need for a new building became apparent. This was started on April 5, 1915, under the direction of Rev. Martin Keturakat. The building was dedicated on December 15, 1915. It served the congregation until April 1967, when work was begun on a new building, the congregation’s present house of worship. The new building was dedicated on October 22, 1967.
The present worship facility is basically of brick and cement-block construction, with a seating capacity of 160.
In 1919, Emanuel Lutheran Church merged with Zion. In 1958, after having discontinued services for several years, Friedens Lutheran Church dissolved and joined Zion. That same year, a ladies’ aid was also officially organized.
In 1916, Zion became a member of the Minnesota Synod of the Lutheran Church. In 1917, when the Minnesota Synod became a part of the Wisconsin Synod, Zion was accepted into the membership of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, Zion joined together with St. Paul’s of Mound city to form a dual parish served by one pastor.
The following pastors have served since 1910: Rev. W.F. Sauer, from 1910 to 1912; Rev. Marin Keturakat, January 1912 to 1921; Rev. E. Neumann, January 1922 to December 1923; Rev. E. Kolander, May 1924 to January 1925; Rev. Samuel Baer, February 1925 to April 1937; Rev. J.E. Bade, October 1937 to January 1942; Rev. Walter Hermann, February 1942 to March 1949; Rev. Philip Janke, July 1950 to August 1954; Rev. Ernest Klauszus, July 1955 to September 1959; Rev. Waldemar Loescher, July 1961 to November 1964; Rev. Arnold Lemke, July 1965 to September 1970; Rev. Donald Forss, September 1970 to July 1971; Rev. Robert Weimer, February 1972 to January 1980, and Rev. Timm O. Meyer, July 1980 to the present.
The following have also served the congregation as vacancy pastors when the congregation was without a resident pastor: Rev. A Blauert of Mound City; Prof K.G. Sievert of Mobridge, S.D.; Rev. P.G. Albrecht of Bowdle, S.D.; Rev. E.O. Schulz of Hazelton, N.D.; Rev. D. Buske; Rev. N. Engel of Hazelton; and Rev. A.P. Kell of Hazelton.
The present congregation consists of 192 baptized members, 162 communicant members, and 82 voting members.
The present church council comprises Herbert O. Wiest, president; Elmer Woehlhaff, vice-president; Duane Kilber, secretary; John M. Pfeifer, treasurer; Rubert Huber, financial secretary; Jerry Levi, head usher; Gerhardt Rutschke, sexton; Victor Reede and Elmer Rutschke.
Sunday school enrollment is 19. Teachers include Joyce Kilber, Denise Meyer, and Audrey Huber.
Present Ladies’ Aid officers include Idella Boschee, president; LaVonne Ketterling, vice-president; Lorraine Reiner, secretary; and Lillian Rutschke, treasurer.
In 1985, Zion will celebrate its 75th anniversary of its organization as a congregation.
Zion United Methodist Church: Wishek
By Rev. Edward Parker
Zion United Methodist Church began as a mission work of the Evangelical Church in 1905.
For a number of years, services were held in homes or school houses.
The Zion rural mission was established west of Wishek, the Ebenezer or “Gruebele” mission southwest of Wishek. At first they were served by pastors from Linton and Ashley.
A preaching place was established in Wishek in 1916, served by Rev. E.C. Oeder and Dan Bittner of Lehr. A church was built and dedicated in May 1918, under the leadership of Rev. W.L. Martin.
In 1919, Wishek was made a charge with the rural Zion and Ebenezer taken from Ashley and added to Wishek. The preaching place in Napoleon was also added, and served out of Wishek until 1933.
In 1919, a parsonage was built in Wishek, which served the charge until April 1976, when a new parsonage was built.
A women’s organization has been a part of the Wishek charge since 1924.
In the early 1940s, the Zion rural church closed. In 1964, the Ebenezer church closed. Most of the members transferred to the Wishek Zion church.
In 1950, the sanctuary of the church and the basement were enlarged. In 1968, a foyer was built onto the church.
In 1946, the Evangelical Church merged with the United Brethren Church to become the Evangelical United Brethren Church. In 1968, the Evangelical United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church merged to become the United Methodist Church. In June 1966, the Lehr and Wishek charges were united.
From our charge, four young men have gone into the Christian ministry. Kenneth Boschee and Royal Speidel became pastors, and Gideon Bader and Orville Wolf became missionaries.
Pastors who have served the church are W.L. Martin, from 1917; Alex Gehring, from 1919; R. Bloedau, from 1923; William Storkman, from 1924; C.E. Bach, from 1926; E.K. Heimer, from 1929; Karl Hirning, from 1933; A.H. Ermel, from 1938; Gideon Eberhart, from 1947; E.K. Heimer, from 1949; C.W. Ketterling, from 1959; W.E. Janetzki, from 1962; and Edward B. Parker from 1970 to present.
Berlin Baptist Church
In the territorial days of 1884, the immigrants and settlers came pouring into this region to take up homesteads and to try to better themselves materially. They also felt a concern for their spiritual well-being.
Gatherings for worship were in various homes and were at first non-denominational in character.
In 1888, a group of some 30 persons requested the rite of baptism by immersion. They organized themselves, under the direction of Rev. Reichle, as the Berlin Baptist Church. This was in the vicinity of Antelope Valley.
Among the early members were the Adam Meidingers, Gottlieb Meidingers, Jacob Meidingers, Mrs. Johann Meidinger, Johann Rotts, George Rott, Christoph Rott, H.G. Rott, Johann Koths, Adam Muellers, Johann Koenigs, Gottlieb Lautts, Johann Bosart, Christian Bentz, A. Bentz, J. Hildebrand, W. Hieb, Adam Kieser, the Sauers, Keckles, Breitlings, Staedings, and Renschlers.
Adam Meidinger was the first deacon and treasurer, and Johann Rott the first clerk and Sunday school superintendent.
Rev. B. Matzke was called to serve as the first minister. Under his leadership a small church was erected on the present church site at a cost of $911.
In the 1890’s, the church attained a membership of some 260 people.
During the ministry of Rev. Reichert, a parsonage was built at the Jewell Branch of the church.
The mission work kept expanding so that stations were established at Hoffnungstal, Friedensfeld, and Monango. At that time, Jewell became independent.
A church and parsonage were constructed at Kulm, and another branch, blumenfeld, came into being and spread out to Hoffnungstal and Lehr. A parsonage was built at Lehr, and they organized a church on their own, the Ebenezer Baptist Church., made up of Rosenfeld, George, and Lehr.
During the ministry of Rev. Bens, the original church building became inadequate and was replaced by a larger building.
Rev. S.J. Fuxa served the various churches from 1916 to 1921. It was during that time that the Ebenezer church of Lehr was organized and was later able to secure its own pastor. Rev. Fuxa continued his services with the Berlin, Fredonia and Hoffnungsfeld groups. He lived in Fredonia, where a parsonage had been built in 1918. This parsonage is still in use, and the pastor drives out to the country church every Sunday.
Rev. Huber served from 1923 to 1925. From then until 1930, the church was without a pastor until the coming of Rev. A. Krombein. His years of service (1930 to 1938) were marked by self-sacrifice and hardships brought on by drought and consequent harvest failures during the “dirty 30’s.”
Hoffnungsfeld station joined the main church during the service of Rev. William Jaster (1938 to 1943).
During Rev. Paul Hunsicker’s ministry (1943 to 1950), the church recovered from the effects of the Depression and again became self-supporting.
In 1949, the present church building was erected. While Rev. J.C. Kraenzler was pastor (1950 to 1952), the debt on the new church was paid off. During the next few years, led by Rev. V.H. Predinger (1952 to 1960), many necessary improvements were made to the parsonage at Fredonia.
The church thereafter had no pressing financial problems and has continued to enjoy a fruitful period of peace and growth under the leadership of Rev. David Littke (1960 to 1967), Rev. Kurt Brenner (1968 to 1970), Rev. Arthur Fischer (1970 to 1977), and the present pastor, Rev. John Reimer.
St. Luke Lutheran Church: Wishek
By Lori Abentroth
January 1, 1905, can be regarded as the birthdate of St. Luke Lutheran Church. The Rev. E. Moeckel, convener of the organizational meeting, was called as the first resident pastor.
By 1907, the possibility of building a church was considered. The congregation was divided into two groups, St. James congregation, located northeast of Wishek, and St. Luke congregation, relocated in Wishek. Pastor Schroeder served as interim pastor following the resignation of Rev. Moeckel in 1909.
Under the guidance of Pastor John Mayer from 1909 to 1911, the first church was built. Soon after the arrival of Rev. John Williams in July 1911, the first parsonage was purchased and the church was enlarged.
The first English service was on March 10, 1918. The congregation became self-supporting and had grown to 60 families.
Rev. A. Freymann, who has the distinction of serving the longest pastorate in the history of the congregation, began his duties in 1919. By 1926, the church building had to be enlarged and a south wing added.
In the same year, the parish built a new parsonage. When Freymann resigned in January 1936, the congregation numbered 100 families.
Pastor George C. Landgrebe became the next shepherd of the flock. English services were reintroduced and English was used in the parish education program. The Luther League was organized during that time. The congregation numbered 131 families in 1938 when Dr. Landgrebe resigned.
Later, in the same year, Pastor L.R. Schulz began a five-year pastorate. The congregation increased its membership to 165 families.
Rev. T.F. Doyen was installed as pastor in 1944. The “language issue” was resolved by that time and regular worship services were in both languages.
The apparent need for bigger and better facilities resulted in the appointment of a planning and building committee and the establishment of a church building fund. The membership roster listed 286 families, including the membership of the Salem congregation, which merged with St. Luke in 1950.
During the pastorate of Rev. John F. Mertz, beginning in 1951, the congregation constructed a new church with ample room for worship services and fine educational facilities. It was dedicated on July 10, 1955.
Rev. L.G. Sailer succeeded Pastor Mertz in 1958. A mortgage-burning ceremony was in 1960. Aside form Salem congregation, already mentioned, the Jehovah, St. James, Peace, St. Paul, and St. John congregations merged with St. Luke. The congregation now consisted of 1,200 souls.
A new parsonage was dedicated late in the fall of 1964. Rev. G.G. Neuberger served as pastor from April 1, 1965 to April 1979. He was assisted by Rev. W. Borchardt, who served as visitation pastor from May 1967 until July 1970.
During the next two years, intern D. Wissmann and intern M. Zamzow, students at Wartburg Theological Seminary, were part of the ministerial staff.
At a note-burning ceremony on April 15, 1972, the parsonage debt was liquidated.
St. Luke called Pastor Herman Heupel to serve as assistant pastor from April 1975 to November 20, 1977. Pastor Richard Kraiger succeeded Pastor Neuberger from July 1, 1979 to February 13, 1983.
On June 26, 1983, Pastor Guenter Kern began his ministry at St. Luke.
St. Luke’s membership roster currently lists 868 baptized , 740 confirmed and 397 families as members of the congregation.