IAGenWeb Project - Allamakee co. Church records
updated 03/02/2011

Zalmona 'German' Presbyterian Church,

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Zalmona Presbyterian Church - 'Waukon Standard' photo

Zalmona "German" Presbyterian Church gives thanks for turning 150 years old

by Dorothy "Dottie" Winke

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,
Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations." ~ Psalm 100

As the parishioners of the Zalmona Presbyterian Church of Ludlow, Waukon, Iowa prepare to celebrate 150 years as a congregation, they look back at the many blessings the congregation has received during the church's history.

A missionary who visited German immigrant families in Eastern Iowa in 1852 reported their "spiritual and moral condition" to be at a "low Ebb." ("Ebb" in German actually means, low tide.) But these determined pioneers, who endured great hardships to claim their piece of virgin soil, had not abandoned their religious heritage.

From a study of the religious lives of members of this congregation, much is learned of the attitude of their pioneer fathers toward church life 150 years ago. In those early days the people had to walk long distances to church, but they were happy to do so, coming with their hymn books under their arms as they formerly had done in Germany. Later those who could afford it, used their oxen to make the journey to church. Old timers often used to enjoy telling of their journeys afoot, comparing their experiences with later days when horses and buggies, and even later automobiles came into use.

In addition to the regular church services, these pioneer fathers and mothers frequently held religious meetings in their private homes, for they loved God's word, and in their home groups found pleasure in the study and meditation of His teachings.

August 11, 1856, 14 men and women formed what was then called the German Presbyterian Church, also known as "the Church of Waukon," under the leadership of Rev. Adrian Van Vliet, who four years earlier had established the school for pastors that later became the "University of Dubuque".

When the church was organized in 1856, it made it the second oldest church in Allamakee County, the third oldest German Presbyterian Church in Iowa, and one of the oldest churches in the synod of which it was a member, including a number of "prairie states." This was stated in the "Waukon Republican and Standard" August 5, 1936 newspaper, where it also stated that the "Ludlow Congregation Once Was the Largest in German Presbyterian Synod".

In April 1865, Zalmona German Presbyterian Church still belonged to the "German Reformed Church Synod", but also recorded in the minutes of the General Assembly of the "Presbyterian Church Synod". In 1870, the "General Synod of the German Reformed Church" revised its liturgical practices to such an extent that January 24, 1870 the Zalmona congregation unanimously rejected the change and joined the "Presbyterian Church Synod". Today, in 2006, Zalmona Presbyterian Church belongs to the "Presbyterian Church USA Synod" and the "John Knox Presbytery".

Even though the church was organized in 1856 with very few members (14 in 1856) - of whom Simon, Conrad, and August Helming were very active, it increased very rapidly, and in 1882 the number of active members was 233, and the Sunday School membership (including adults) was between 200 and 225.

It was also found in this author's research, that the first location of the German Presbyterian Church was in Waukon. In 1860, a frame church was built on block 13, Delafield's addition, northeast of the college grounds, approximately where the Allamakee Community School District Bus Barn stands today. In 1864, a division of the church occurred, those living east of Waukon organized themselves in the German Reformed Church and built a place of worship there (Ebenezer Church), and the German Presbyterian Church (Zalmona Church) moved to Ludlow.

The first church, built in Ludlow by the members and under the administration of Rev. Solomon Elliker in 1864-1865, is what later became used as a Parochial German Summer School, or what is referred to now as the "University of Ludlow". The author's grandfather, Ben Winke, remembers when "The University" had both pews and school desks in it. This first church, being small, was quickly outgrown and replaced by the second church, a 50 by 36 foot frame building, erected in 1871. It was under Rev. Henry Knell's pastorate that this second church was erected. It no longer stands, but the third church, built in 1899, serves to this day. A Christian Education wing was added in the early 1960's, completing the structure as it stands today in 2006.

Zalmona church, late 1800's - 'Waukon Standard' photo
Zalmona Presbyterian church, Ludlow - ca1899

The original manse was built at the time the Zalmona congregation moved to Ludlow, with a second brick home erected in 1888, to which a large new kitchen was added in 1908. The brick manse still stands today, although there was a new manse constructed in 1971, just west of the church. Zalmona was under the pastorate of Rev. Edward Hancock and Margaret during this time.

The history of the Zalmona congregation is linked inseparably with the growth and development of Iowa, especially the northeastern portion, including Allamakee County. The congregation, according to history, is made up largely of immigrants from Lippe-Detmold, Germany, and has been in existence nearly as long as Allamakee County. In 1847, the first of these immigrants, 150 in number, left their homeland, and after a long and difficult journey, reached Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Their destination from the outset was Iowa, but they were influenced by land agents to remain in Wisconsin, where they founded Lipper Colony, which since has become well known through the Reformed Mission House near Sheboygan, Wisconsin. However, one branch of the colony was transplanted to Iowa, near Waukon, and this colony rapidly grew in strength through reinforcements from Wisconsin and further immigration from Germany.

Rev. Adrian Van Vliet organized these new Americans into a congregation August 11, 1856 and Rev. J. Renskers served the congregation until 1864. Since 1856 there have been 25 pastors, with the newest addition being Pastor Tom Buresh in 2006 as the 26th pastor. Being a country church and also associated so closely to the "University of Dubuque" Seminary, the church has received a great deal of pastors right out of seminary.

It was also noted that, when Rev. M.C. Buettell came in June, 1895, German school, then in progress, was being conducted by Will Krieger, a student from Dubuque Seminary. In the following years, each spring German School was conducted by Dubuque Seminary students Hecker, Agena, Kramer and others. They stayed at the manse during the usual six-week course. Needless to say, the congregation members feel blessed by the guidance they have had over the years by the pastors that God supplied for the Zalmona Presbyterian Church.

Some interesting names found while researching were, the first ten children baptized into the Zalmona congregation: Simon Henrich Helming, June 1, 1857; Karl Friederich Helming, June 25, 1857; Sophie Emma Helming, January 12, 1858; Simon Friederich Helming, December 25, 1858; Marie Sophie Hager, June 12, 1859; George August Helming, September 11, 1859; Anna Karolina Helming, September 9, 1860; Louisa Charlotte Ludeking, September 23, 1860; and Julius Alexander Helming, March 31, 1861.

The first ten couples associated with Zalmona who were married were: Friedrich Haeger and Wilhelmina Helming, July 8, 1858; August Simonsmeier and Wilhelmina Haeger, October 31, 1860; Henrich Wieneke and Louisa Dalpsmeier, May 3, 1861; Conrad Sandermann and Caroline Haeger, April 2, 1862; August Helming and Mina Siekmeier, April 7, 1865; Henrich Selberg and Mina Greiber, July 21, 1865; Bernhardt Deiter and Mina Molthaup, October 6, 1865; Rev. Salomon Elliker and Dorothea Langjahn, December 20, 1865; Herman Reutkenmeier and Charlotte Boeger, January 17, 1867; Jacob Rupp and Maria Nagel, August 3, 1867.

The author is very proud and honored to know that, of these first ten couples married at Zalmona, she has two sets of great, great grandparents from the Winke and Selberg side, whom are her forefathers. Henrich Wieneke (Henry Winkie) and Louisa Dalpsmeier (Louisa Dolphman), May 3, 1861, would be her dad's (Richard "Butch" Winke) father (or her grandfather) Ben Winke's grandparents on his father's side; while Henrich (Henry) Selberg and Mina (Wilhelmina) Greiber, July 21, 1865, would be her dad's (Richard "Butch") mother (or her grandmother) Amy Winke's grandparents on her father's side.

Zalmona should be very proud of its heritage and members; many of whom are very dedicated and their contributions and talents are blessings. It is also quite astonishing the number of members, as well as families, some of which are the sixth and seventh generations worshipping in the church of their forefathers.

Several other interesting facts about Zalmona remain to be told. From the beginning, the church never went into debt; and at all times the members of the congregation have liberally supported missionary causes; Rev. F. Zissler served two terms; from 1856 until December 1936 the only language spoken in Church was German; in January 1937, it was voted to conduct the morning service in the American language each last Sunday of the month and in 1939 the American language was used three Sundays a month; during church service men sat on the west side of the church, women and children sat on the east side, and younger married couples sat together in the middle - Mary Kay Winke remembers the sermon at the end of Rev. H. Johnson's pastorate for the congregation to reconsider this arrangement when the next pastor came to Zalmona; Fourth of July Celebrations - first at the Hager Woods, later at Picnic Woods and now, at the Salem UCC Church; although the "Presbyterian Church USA" had granted permission for women to be Elders as early as 1932, it was not until 1972 that two women were elected - these two women were Harriet Snitker and Delores Van Horn; Zalmona was the "mother church" to both Bethlehem Presbyterian Church and Salem United Church of Christ; and in 2006 there was a major remodeling project for the kitchen in the church.

The congregation at Zalmona Presbyterian Church has been very busy, and is proud to be getting ready for its 150th Sesquicentennial Anniversary. The community is invited to join in the celebration of giving thanks. Special events are planned and some former pastors will be visiting and speaking during the weekend.

The celebrating begins this Saturday, Aug. 12 at 2 p.m. and continues until fireworks in the evening. Some of the activities include reminiscing, cemetery walk, picnic style supper, games for the youngsters and an evening program where the past pastors will talk about "Zalmona Memories". The Sunday morning, Aug. 13 activities will begin at 10:30 a.m. with Dr. Bullock, President of the "University of Dubuque", as the main speaker. There will be a catered dinner at noon followed by an afternoon program of music.

The Zalmona congregation is very proud of its forefathers and the history of the church, and so has created a "150th Sesquicentennial Anniversary Booklet" with loads of history and photos. A Christmas Ornament has also been designed commemorating such a special event as the "Zalmona Presbyterian Church's 150th Anniversary". Both of these items will be for sale at this weekend's anniversary celebration or by contacting Mary Kay Winke at [deleted].

The congregation members thank their loving God, Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit for guiding not only their forefathers and the reverends/pastors who guided them through all the years, but also the more recent members, near and far, for the rich history of members who have stayed and who have also gone out from Allamakee County to many states and parts of the country but still think of Zalmona Presbyterian Church, Waukon, Iowa as their home church - first enjoyed and appreciated as this quiet, white country church on the hill comfortably situated among the prosperous farms of Ludlow Township. God Bless All.

~ Waukon Standard news article from the 08/09/2006 issue, written by by Dorothy "Dottie" Winke

1928 Confirmation Class

At the Salamona [sic Zalmona] church Rev. Zissler confirmed Walter Winke, Reuben Hager, Reuben Krueger, Ralph Krueger, Edward Opfer and Emma Meier.

~Postville Herald, April 5, 1928

Rev. Henry Johnson 1885-1986

The Rev. Henry Johnson, age 100, former pastor at Zalmona Presbyterian Church for 16 years, died Sunday morning April 13, 1986 at the Webster City Hospital in Webster City, Iowa. He was born December 22, 1885 in Holland. Funeral arrangements were set for Thursday, April 17 at 1:30 in Webster City, Iowa.

~contributed by Connie Ellis

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