IAGenWeb Project - Allamakee co. Church records
updated 04/08/2013

The German Lutheran Church
  ...the beginnings of Lutheranism in the village of Postville, Iowa

St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church

St. Paul's Lutheran Church - undated

The German Lutheran Church was organized early in March 1871, and a small church built and equipped at a cost of $1,045.19.  It was dedicated in the fall of the same year under the leadership of Pastor Wachtel of New Hampton.  The leaders in this commendable undertaking were Conrad Thoma, Jacob Leui, E. Ruckdaschel, Fred Thoma, Carl Schultz, Leithold Brothers and Carl Knodt. (1)

The German Lutheran Church - 1871
German Lutheran Church 1871


January 1883 - Stone is being hauled for the German Lutheran church, to be erected next season.

March 1883 - The material is on the ground for the new German parsonage, at the foot of Lawler street.  The structure will be of white brick.

July 1890 - The corner stone of the German Lutheran church will be laid on Saturday afternoon, Aug. 2nd at 3 o'clock with proper ceremonies.


August 1890 - The corner stone was laid at the German Lutheran Church on Saturday afternoon last. The day was very warm, windy and disagreeable, and on this account, and also for the reason that it was in the midst of harvest the crowd was not as large as it otherwise would have been, though a fair turnout was in attendance.  The cornet band funished the music and Rev. GASS delivered an earnest and impressive address in German, followed by a few remarks by Mayor McEWEN commendatory of the work.  He was followed by Rev. LEASE, who, as usual delivered a very fine and appropriate address.  Frank SCHOULTE, of Clayton  county, was called upon and also made a very neat and appropriate little speech.  During the exercises and while the band was playing, the corner stone was laid, and thus the main work of the building of this temple of worship was inaugurated.  It is hoped that is will go on to completion unimpeded, and that it may stand a monument to the credit of its founders for ages to come.  It will be a massive structure, but none too large for this repidly growing church organization, which is by far the largest of any in our midst.  The erection of this church will fix Postville as the church home of this denomination for miles around and can beut be a very important factor in the future growth and prosperity of our town.  We have no personal interest in any church and no feeling for one above another, but we want to see them all prosper because we know that where churches abound and are well supported the town grows in population and all temporal as well as spiritual interests are promoted. The articles deposited in the corner stone were some church papers, a copy of the Postville Review, a historical account of the settlement of Postville and surrounding country, history of the Lutheran church organization here from its inception in 1871 to the present, with the names of the membership, present population of Postville, number of houses in town, with the business represented, present value of lands and other matter of historical interest that some coming generation that shall open the receptacle would be interested in.

St. Paul Lutheran church, 1890
St. Paul Lutheran, 1890/91


November 1890 - Joe NICOLAY has done a splendid job on the new church spire. It is made of galvanized iron and is a beauty, showing very fine workmanship. The bells (two of them) are in position, one for church use and one for the clock.  They are both of very fine tone.  The clock will be here and be set up next week.


November 1891 - Little Eveline MOETSCH is the first child that was baptised in the new German Lutheran church.

  Completed and dedicated.

December 1891 - Sunday, Nov. 22nd, was a notable day for the German people, not only of Postville, but for miles around, it being the day set apart for the dedication of the elegant new church which has been in course of construction for the past 2 years.  From the first stone in the basement to the top of the spire the aim was to have the best and most substantial structure that could be built. According to the first contract it was to have been completed a year ago, but it was found to be too great a work to do well in so short a time.  The basement rests on a very thick curse of rock from Williams' quarry three feet and a half broad, which gradually diminishes in thickness until the top of the wall is reached, where it is two feet thick, and all of the best selected stone.  The walls are simply able to hold a solid three story brick building.

The dimensions of the main building are 84X42 feet, but with the porch projection the building is just 100 feet in length and 43 feet in height.  The tower is 120 feet in height from the ground.  The building is a heavy frame veneered with brick, and covered with tin shingles.  Mr. SCHUTTE [of McGregor] had the contract for the building.

The internal work was done as follows:  The plastering by HAISLET Bros., of McGregor.  The frescoing by Mr. JONES, of Minneapolis, and the other inside painting by Nelson Bros. of McGregor.  The altar and pulpit were made at Charles City and the chairs, which are very comfortable twenty inch opera chairs, 350 in number, were furnished by Thos KAND & Co. of Chicago, at an expense of $500.  Mrs. Fred THOMA contributed a beautiful terra cotta baptismal fount at a cost of $75.  The stained glass windows were from a Minneapolis firm.  The town clock that surmounts the church was made in Michigan, at a cost of something over $500 and the chime of bells, three in number, were manufactured in St. Louis.

While there are but 350 chairs placed in the church, this does not represent the capacity of the building by any means.  On the day of dedication it is estimated that fully 600 people were present, and this number can be quite comfortably accommodated.  A furnace costing $250 is placed in the basement, but like all other hot air furnaces is causing some trouble to manage successfully at all times.

The total expense of the church has not been definitely arrived at as yet.  The building committee will meet today, when the exact amount can be ascertained.  All indebtedness has been paid except about $700.  This will be a very light burden on so large and able a congregation, and they will not be long in raising it. This is the largest and best church in the state owned by that denomination, and is the only one having a town clock.  The business men and citizens raised the necessary funds to buy the clock and one bell, we believe.

The erection of this church, more than any other cause, has tended to raise the price of land around Postville. It has brought large numbers of wealthy Germans here, and they all want a home within reach of this elegant house of worship, and they are willing to pay more than anybody else for lands in this vicinity.  The result is that nearly every farm that is sold is sold to a German, and it will not be long before it will be a rarity to find an American born farmer in this section.  There is no more honest, industrious or thrifty class of citizens anywhere than they, and we congratulate them on the enterprise that has built up in Postville the finest church of their faith in all the great state of Iowa. (2)

St. Paul's Lutheran church - 1908 postcard
- 1908 -
This postcard was hand-colored, the church was built of white brick

~text sources:
1. St. Paul Lutheran Church history booklet, pg. 4
2. Postville Review articles from misc. issues 1883-1891

~photo sources: St. Paul Lutheran Church history booklet & from the personal collection of S. Ferrall
~compiled by Sharyl Ferrall for Allamakee co. IAGenWeb 2002 Sharyl Ferrall

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At the annual meeting of the St. Paul's Lutheran congregation the following officers were elected. These officers will be installed next Sunday.

Vice President  -  Wm. Heins
Secretary - Arthur Behrens
Treasurer - C. W. Meier
Elder - Wilhelm Schlie
Trustee - Carl Schroeder

~Postville Herald, Friday, January 10, 1919 (Church Notes column)
~contributed by Reid R. Johnson

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Brief Historical Sketch of the St. Paul's Lutheran church - Showing It's Steady and Sturdy Growth During the Past 55 Years
~from the Postville Herald, Thursday, May 13, 1926

The early settlers of this vicinity, Lutherans by descendency and choice conducted services in a local school building and were served by certain Rev. Stockfeld, who came from Garnavillo, Iowa, whenever road and weather conditions permitted.

In March 1871 the organization of a congregation was finally effected under the leadership of Rev. Mr. Wachtel, member of the German Iowa synod, who at the time was residing in New Hampton. In 1872 the Rev. Mr. Jansen, who had no synodical affiliation, was called as a resident pastor; he remained a year and was succeeded by the Rev. J. Hayer, who served as pastor until 1875. The next pastor, was Rev. Mr. Reichenbeher, a member of the Wisconsin Synod, he terminated his pastorate in 1879 and the Rev. John Knie took up the work. April 20, 1881, he abandoned the work and the parish was without a pastor.

In July 1882 the now sainted Rev. John Gass, a member of the German Iowa Synod again resumed the work. Under his leadership the congregation developed a sturdy church. A Sunday school was immediately organized and the congregation having outgrown the old church which was located on the northwest side, decided to erect a parsonage and a larger church building. The highest location of the village was selected for the building site and in 1883 the present parsonage was erected.

In the memorable year 1891, the congregation also proceeded to the erection of a splendid House of Worship and also moved the old church on to the new premises to serve as school building. The newly-erected church was one of the finest and largest in this section of the state at that time. The steeple with a altitude of 120 feet with its three sweet-toned bells can be seen for a distance of several miles.

After twelve years of hard labor Rev. Mr. Gass resigned as pastor of the congregation to occupy his farm.

Rev. Robert Neumann became the next incumbent of St. Paul’s pulpit, he remained for only two years.

In 1896 the Rev. H. Schumann of the Lutheran Augsburg synod became its pastor. During his two years pastorate the Ladies’ Aid was organized.
September 8, 1898, until July 1905 the Rev. Emil Bockelmann, then a member of the Wartburg Synod of the Ev. Lutheran District Synod of North America, labored in the parish. He was instrumental in getting the beautiful pipe organ which still graces the church.

During the Vacancy which followed Rev. Mr. Bockelmann’s resignation the pulpit was supplied by Rev. Mr. Paulsen, a neighboring pastor.

October 1, 1905 the Rev. M.O. Puhl assumed charge. During his time the cement walks were constructed on the premises. In October 1907 Mr. Puhl resigned to accept another offer.

The Rev. R. Kuehne was then called and he accepted. He was affiliated with the Wartburg Synod. The indebtedness of $1,500 was paid during his pastorate, a barn was built, the parsonage was reroofed, the church was re-decorated and other repairs were made totaling $1,000. The Rev. R. Kuehne tendered his resignation as pastor of the local congregation April 17, 1914, the Rev. E. Schmidt was called on the 23rd of the same month he was officially installed as pastor of St. Paul’s church. Under his leadership the congregation, in 1915, built a new addition to the parsonage and installed a new heating plant in the same and also replaced the old hot air heating system of the church by a modern steam-heating plant. The Lutheran League installed an electric motor organ blower and purchased a new piano during the pastorate of the Rev. E. Schmidt. April 6th, he tendered his resignation as pastor of St. Paul’s to take effect October 1, 1924.

The vacancy which was caused by Rev. Schmidt’s leaving was finally filled when the present incumbent of the pulpit, the Rev. E. T. Finck, accepted a unanimous call to the same in January 1925. Mr. Finck at the time was pastor in Guttenberg to which place he had been called from Chicago in 1921 to establish an English Lutheran Church. In Guttenberg he erected a church which is an architectural triumph and the congregation disliked to see the family leave but the strong desire to see St. Paul’s congregation of Postville prosper induced Rev. Mr. Finck to tender his resignation as pastor of beautiful St. Paul’s in Guttenberg and to become pastor of the local congregation. Since his coming marvelous changes for the better of the congregation have come about. The Sunday School was completely re-organized, the graded system was introduced and the most modern methods of S.S. management were innovated. The enrollment now is approximately two-hundred and fifty scholars and thirteen teachers.

The congregation for the first time had the every member canvas and the voluntary system of financial contribution was inaugurated. More than one hundred and forty new accessions have been reported to the communicant membership.

In May 1925 the Young People’s Society was organized and today it numbers more than one hundred and fifty members – all workers and no shirkers.
In August 1925 the Young Women’s Missionary Society was organized and in April this year St. Paul’s Lutheran Brotherhood was effected.

First steps for a parish hall for the local St. Paul’s church were taken last fall when the congregation at a meeting, especially called for that purpose, unanimously decided to build a parish hall in which to hold S.S. and vacation school and in which the various organizations within the church, such as the Ladies’ Aid, the Y.P.S., the Women’s Missionary Societies and various others, could conduct their meetings and have their social gatherings.

Plans were drawn up and after due consideration a building committee, consisting of Rev. E.T. Finck, Louis H. Schroeder, Wm. Foels, C.W. Meier, Albert Zieman, Louis Meyer, Fred Brandt, Chas. Hoth, Will Baltz, John Weihe and Fred Meyer, was appointed by the congregational president and instructed to proceed. Almost immediately our ever-willing rural members assembled and excavated for the foundation, practically all labor being donated. Geo. Schroeder, local contractor contracted for the carpenter work and Frank Rounds and John Palas were awarded the foundation work. Tony Wille of Guttenberg contracted for the brick and tile work. John Palas plastered the building and Henry Huebner, local painter and decorator did the painting. Hill’s Hardware Co., installed the heating plant and the plumbing. Henry Sebastian, the Lights. John Palas had the contract for the sidewalks.

Materials used in the construction of the building were procured from the following: Postville Lumber Co., furnished the lumber. Clermont Brick Co., furnished the brick. Geo. P. Smith, Sash and Door Co., of Charles City, millwork, pews and paneling. Thom. J. Gaytee Studios of Minneapolis, the art windows. (to be installed later)

To the endeavors of the Rev. E.T. Finck, the church council and building committee, and Geo. Schroeder and his carpenter gang, who pushed the work along, must go a large amount of the credit and in this our willing members of the Ladies’ Aid share equally. All have worked tirelessly to give the local congregation and community a church of which we can well be proud.

The parish hall is a building 40x80 feet with an entrance on the north and west side. On the basement floor are located the boiler and fuel rooms, lavatories, a ladies rest room, a large dining room, accommodating about 180 dinner guests at a time, a commodious kitchen with an exit to the south, a desert, cake and pastry room and small class room. On the main floor is a narthex with wardrobe and drinking fountain, an assembly room with a seating capacity of 270, a stage with nineteen foot opening and two class rooms. Accordion doors separating the church from the parish hall when thrown open, enable the congregation gathered in either building to hear the speaker and unite in the service.

The church, likewise has undergone a great change, the entire old chancel was torn out and chancel floor was raised. The altar has been rebuilt and Hoffman’s statue of the Christ extending His arms in benediction now adorns it; above the altar is an electrically-illumined window with Hofman’s masterpiece, “Christ in Gethsemane.” New light fixtures and new pews have also been installed, new rugs and new aisle runners have been laid, several new windows (Hoffman’s painting of Christ, the Good shepherd and Christ on the Water) have been put in and the entire interior has been beautifully decorated.

The first sermon by the pastor in the newly arranged church will be Sunday morning, May 23rd, when a special class of young people will unite with the church by the rite of Confirmation and at 7:45 p.m. when baccalaureate services will be held for the H.S. graduating class.

New Parish Hall to be Dedicated on Next Sunday
St. Paul’s Congregation Will Sacredly Rejoice in Sermon and Song at Three Special Services

After six months of building activity, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church will dedicate one of the best equipped parish halls in this section of the state and rededicate its remodeled church, indubitably one of the most beautiful architectural accomplishments in Iowa, on Sunday, May sixteenth.

Three special dedicatory services will be held on the opening day of the week’s festivities, the first to begin at 10:30 o’clock a.m. when the Rev. Prof. S.G. Hefelbower, Ph. D. of Carthage College, Carthage, Illinois, will occupy the pulpit. The choir and the Vested Boys’ Chorus will render appropriate anthems and several renowned soloists will also be heard.

At 2:30 in the afternoon there will be a German service at which the Rev. Carl Heinrich of Wellsburg, Iowa and the Rev. Stube of Ludlow, will be the principal speakers. The mixed choir of the church will sing.

The third service of the day takes place at 7:45 p.m. at which the Rev. Prof. Wm. Eckert of the English Lutheran Theological Seminary at Maywood, Chicago, Illinois, and the Rev. Frederick Motzkus of Medford, Wisconsin, will be the principal speakers. Several anthems and vocal and instrumental solos will be rendered also at this service.

On Monday evening at 8:00 o’clock the celebrated blind impersonator and reader, Walter Clarence Gran will appear in recital and impersonate Channing Pollock’s wonderful three-act drama, “The fool.”

On Tuesday evening at eight the Women’s and Young Women’s Missionary Societies will produce the life service pageant, “The Key.” By Mrs. Laura S. Copenhaver. Several vocal and instrumental numbers are also scheduled.

On Wednesday evening the Ladies’ Aid will entertain the congregation and its various organizations with a luncheon and miscellaneous program.

On Thursday evening at the stroke of eight the Young People’s Society will give a program. The same will be featured by a two-act drama of great educational value for students and young people in general. Be sure to hear “The Witness.”

~Postville Herald, May 13, 1926 Pg1
~transcribed for Allamakee co. IAGenWeb by Diana Henry Diedrich


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