One Hundredth Anniversary
Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church
A member of the Wartburg Synod of The United Lutheran church in America
Rural Route -- Elkader, Iowa
Clayton Center, Iowa
This book is dedicated to the memory of all the faithful departed who, for the love of God, worked together with Him to establish and maintain this congregation; and in a special sense it is dedicated to the memory of Catherine Seifert Buchheim (daughter of the first resident pastor), whose life in our midst was an eloquent testimony of her abiding faith in God.
One Hundred Years in Retrospect
One hundred years ago Iowa was a young state, sparsely settled, and in most respects still pioneer country. To this virgin prairie land came the fathers of this congregation, most of them immigrants from the provinces of northern Germany.
On Independence Day, in the year 1855, seventeen men and women of this community, together with Pastor J.M. Schueller, organized Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, then known in German as "die Evangelisch-Lutherische Zionsgemeinde". It was a momentous step for these people and they keenly felt their responsibility to establish a congregation and build a house of God in order to preserve for themselves and their children the most precious heritage of our civilization, namely, the Christian faith. These are the names of the men and women who gathered in the school house of Boardman Township on that Fourth of July to establish our congregation:
Mr. and Mrs. Fr. Hartmann
Mr. and Mrs. B. Hankammer
Mr. and Mrs. P. Michel
Mr. and Mrs. H.H. Lange
Mr. and Mrs. A. Hankammer
Mr. and Mrs. P. Kleinlein
Mr. and Mrs. J. Heger
Mr. A. Kratzer
German was the accepted language in the congregation. After World War I, English was gradually introduced into the Service as well as into the confirmation classes, but it was not until 1943 that German services were given up entirely.
In May 1856 the new congregation began to erect a stone church in Clayton Center, at the top of a gently sloping hill, overlooking woodlands and fertile fields. It was dedicated on July 26 of the same year. The steeple, however, was not completed until July 3, 1857. Fortunate for posterity was the inclusion in the steeple of a document bearing information of the beginnings of this congregation.
The first years were marked by periodic shifts in population, as large groups left to seek new farmland in Nebraska and around Andrew, Iowa. Pastor Schueller also was drawn westward and took up work among orphans in Andrew, and later in Tete des Morts. The early connection between this congregation and the old German synod was broken as a result of the great change in membership in those pioneering days.
Pastor Stockfeld of the Ceres church served this congregation until the Rev. Friedrich Wilhelm Seifert was called as pastor on May 18, 1862. For the next 42 years Pastor Seifert ministered to the spiritual needs of the congregation. It would be difficult to estimate the measure of his influence in the county or to determine all the fruits of his long service. These statistics from the church register give testimony of his labor; approximately 2230 baptisms, 857 confirmands, 543 marriages, 636 funerals. His name is still remembered and esteemed in the community. During his pastorate the parish school flourished, reaching an enrollment of 96 students during the winter months.
Owing to the growth of the congregation, it was deemed necessary to build a larger church in 1874. The old foundation was used and a white frame building was erected on it. It was dedicated on Dec. 1, 1874.
The clear, beautiful tones that peal out over the countryside each Lord's Day and on all church festivals come from the two bells which the congregaton acquired in 1897 from the Buckeye Bell Foundry in Cincinnati, Ohio. The larger bell, weighing one thousand pounds, bears this inscription: Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehre und Dank für seine Gnade (To God on high alone be praise and thanks for his mercy); the smaller one, weighing six hundred pounds, proclaims in eloquent simplicity: Höre meine Stimme wenn ich rufe (Hear my voice when I call). Many have answered the invitation of the bells over the years, hearing in their ringing the voice of God calling his children.
In 1900 the ground for our present "new" cemetery was acquired. A Ladies Aid Society, then called Frauenverein, was organized in 1898 with 111 members.
Rev. F.W. Seifert
Pastor Seifert resigned his pastorate in October of 1903 and retired from the active ministry; he and his family, however, continued to live in Clayton Center. A call was extended to the Rev. F. Linnenbuerger, who served until 1907. He devoted much effort to establishing a strong youth group. Upon his resignation two synods proposed candidates: Pastor Herlinger of the Evangelical Synod, and Pastor Johannes Burkhard of the Lutheran Synod. The congregation voted in favor of the Lutheran tradition, and so the Rev. Burkhard assumed office in 1907. During the six years of his pastorate, the parsonage was moved and enlarged, and in 1910 the first Mission Festival was held, an event which has since become a tradition in the congregation. In the same year also, the Rev. F.W. Seifert died and was laid to rest amid universal mourning.
Rev. F. Linnenbuerger
Rev. J. Burkhard
Rev. F. Athenstad
Rev. W. Wuestenberg
The Rev. F. Athenstad was called in November 1913 and began his duties in April 1914. With great devotion he guided the congregation through the diffcult war years. The sturdy oak pews which are still in use today were donated to the church by the Ladies Aid during that time.
The Rev. Gerhard Weise succeeded Pastor Athenstad in 1920, staying, however, little more than a year. Thereupon the Rev. Wilhelm Wuestenberg was called, and he served the congregation from 1922 to 1927. It was decided during this time to set aside one Sunday a month for an English worship service. The fiftieth anniversary of the second church building was observed in 1924. In February of 1925 the parsonage burned to the ground. The cause of the fire was never discovered. The members of the congregation immediately started work on a new house, giving generously of their money and personal labor, and the new parsonage was ready for occupancy by fall of the same year. The signature of the bulder, Mr. Otto Seifert, a son of the first resident pastor, can still be seen on one of the attic walls.
photo contributed by Judy Moyna
Rev. E.T. Ahrens
Rev. Berthold Korte
In 1927 Pastor Wuestenberg resigned his duties here to serve in the German Nebraska Synod, and the Rev. Ernst T. Ahrens was called as the next pastor. Even before his coming, electricity had been installed in the church and the parsonage. Under the guidance of Pastor Ahrens an adult choir and a children's choir were established. In order to keep step with the ever-increasing spread of English among the people, the Sunday School was henceforth conducted in both German and English.
Pastor Ahrens resigned in the winter of 1928. The following spring two pastors preached trial sermons, but the congregation could not come to a decision. Then on April 14, 1929 Candidate Berthold F. Korte of the Chicago Lutheran Theological Seminaray in Maywood, Illinois, preached and was thereupon called by the congregation. He had come to the United States from Schleswig-Holstein in Germany, after having been graduated from the Breklum and Kropp Seminaries. On May 26 of the same year he was ordained by Synod President Dr. R. Neumann and installed by the Rev. R.R. Belter, who was then pastor of our sister church in Guttenberg. A joyous event durning the first year of Pastor Korte's ministry was his marriage on July 9th to Miss Maria Koehler, who had just previously arrived from Leussow, Germany. the 400th anniversaries of Luther's Small Catechism and the Augsburg Confessions were commemorated during appropriate services in 1929 and 1930. On August 3, 1930 the Diamond Jubilee of our congregation was celebrated. Three services were held, two of which were in German, and the congregation gave a dinner and a supper. Participating clergymen were: the Rev. Hugo Beyer of Kimball, S.D., a son of the congregation; Dr. Robert Neumann, President of the Wartburg Synod; the Rev. R.B. Garten of Postville; and the Rev. K.W. Braun of Garnavillo.
An interesting observation is noted in the church Chronicle about the Annual Meeting in 1931: - it was voted to permit the pastor to attend the congregational meetings henceforth! On July 9, 1933 a second women's group was organized and called the Zion Guild. This society was conducted in English from its inception. Its purpose was to serve the church in much the same way as the Ladies Aid, and for many years, until their subsequent merger, the two societies worked hand in hand on all important projects. Also under Pastor Korte's guidance a Women's Missionary Society was begun.
Pastor Korte resigned in July of 1934 in order to accept a call from Zion Lutheran church in Bellwood, Illinois, where he is still serving.
The congregation next called the Rev. O.F. Melchert, who was their pastor from the fall of 1934 until February of 1937. During that period plumbing was installed in the parsonage. Following his resignation there was a vacancy of four months during which the Rev. M.J. Harder, pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Garnavillo, supplied this congregation.
On May 23, 1937 a call was extended to Candidate O.M. Meyer, which he accepted, and after being ordained in his home church, he became pastor of this congregation on June 13, 1937. Notable events in Pastor Meyer's ministry here were the organization of a Luther League in 1938 of some 35 young people, and the re-activation of the Women's Missionary Society in 1939. In January 1940 Pastor Meyer terminated his pastorate here in order to answer the call to Peace Lutheran Church in Chester, Illinois. He is still serving there.
Rev. O.F. Melchert
Rev. O.M. Meyer
Rev. D.A. Flesner
Rev. G.K. Mykland
Candidate Dorris A. Flesner of Hamma Divinity School, Springfield, Ohio was called in February 1940. He was licensed by the Wartburg Synod and served the congregation over weekends until he moved on the field following ordination in his home church in Golden, Illinois on June 30. On July 17 he married Miss Ruth Louise Flack. His installation and the 85th anniversary of the congregation were both observed at a special service on August 4, 1940.
During the following year, some important steps were taken to clarify and solidify the official position of the congregation. the constitution was revised and enlarged; the Articles of Incorporation were adopted; and the congregation entered into full membership in the Wartburg Synod of the United Lutheran church in America. The Council was increased from three to nine members. The Guild and the Ladies Aid merged in January 1941. Pastor Flesner worked diligently among the members toward a better understanding of the benevolent program of the church and succeeded in raising the benevolent giving appreciably. He bade farewell to the congregation on July 4, 1943 in order to accept the call of Grace Lutheran Church in Gary, Indiana.
In the absence of a resident pastor, the Rev. Victor Hackbarth of Garnavillo supplied the pulpit until November 1943, when the Rev. Gunnar K. Mykland began his pastorate. He remained until the end of June 1945, when he left to take up social work in Des Moines. The REv. V. Hackbarth again took over the pastoral duties until a new pastor could be called.
Our present pastor, the Rev. John H. Zerhusen, was called in November 1945. He took active charge of the congregation on December 1. Present at his installation service on January 20, 1946, were President of the Synod, Dr. R.R. Belter, the Rev. B.F. Korte from Bellwood, Illinois, and the Rev. Victor Hackbarth from Garnavillo.
Rev. J. H. Zerhusen
One of Pastor Zerhusen's first endeavors was to revitalize the Sunday School, and his efforts bore fruit in the steadily increasing enrollment. In 1947 two new groups were organized: a Brotherhood, under the guidance of the pastor, and a Choir under the leadership of Mrs. Ilse Zerhusen. The 50th anniversary of the Ladies Aid was observed during a worship service in May 1948.
As an aid toward the deepening of the spiritual life of the congregation, Pastor Zerhusen urged increased administrations of the Lord's Supper, and thus it was voted at the Annual Meeting in 1950 to add New Year's Day, Ash Wednesday, and the first Sunday in September to the other Communion days in the year. Later in January 1950 the congregation purchased a Hammond electric organ, which was dedicated on March 19. Prior to our building program there were other substantial improvements to the church property, namely, the installation of an automatic oil furnace and an electric hot water heater in the parsonage in 1948, and the laying of a new roof on the church in 1950.
A long cherished hope of many members was realized in 1952 when the congregation undertook an extensive building program that was to include such renovations and alterations as would be necessary to achieve a more beautiful and architecturally harmonious church edifice. Work began March 24, 1952 and went forward rapidly and with amazing good fortune during the spring and summer months. A great many men and women of the congregation gave liberally of their time and knowledge to further the work. The entire building program was competently administered by Vernon W. Diers who was then Treasurer of the congregation. The blueprints were furnished by Theodor Heimann, a carpenter of great ability and imagination, who was ably assisted by two other carpenters of the congregation: Herold Seifert and Otto Seifert. The whole enterprise, which amounted to $23,000, includes a basement under the church, with modern kitchen and rest rooms, a remodeled sanctuary with recessed altar, replastering of the entire church, a new ceiling with recessed lights, new carpeting throughout the church, and the addition of a sacristy, choir room, and meeting room. The Service of Rededication on September 21, 1952 was a day of joy and thanksgiving for all the members and friends of the congregation. The Rev. Dr. R.R. Belter, President of Synod, preached the dedication sermon. In July 1953 the old weather vane was removed from the steeple and a large cross of gold leaf was put in its place, and in the spring of 1955 the building program of our church was completed with the renovation and reshingling of the steeple.
In anticipation of our centennial year, the men of the congregation painted the exterior of the church in September of 1954. The opening months of 1955 have been spent in preparation for the centennial celebration. All groups of the church have participated in the plans under the direction of the Executive Committee.
An appropriate sentiment to close this brief survey might be the following quotation from the Chronicle of our church: "All thanks to Almighty God who has blessed us beyond measure."
Our oldest members - 1955
The Church Council - 1955
L-R: Harry Mueller, Ewald Fascher, Francis Behning (secretary), Oscar Troester (vice-president), Pastor Zerhusen (president), Erwin Fette (treasurer), Carl Kelpien, Karl Glawe & Theodore Glawe.
The Sunday School Teachers - 1955
Top row: Willis Ruhser, Marlene Heuer, Mrs. Elta Eberhardt, Mrs. Mabel Ruhser, Pastor Zerhusen, Mrs. Ilse Zerhusen
Front row: Mrs. Louise Gossman, Madonna Huebner, Marlene Wilke, Betsy Ann Fette.
~source of text & photos, unless otherwise
credited, are from the "One Hundredth Anniversary Centennial
Booklet - 1855-1955 - Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church"
~transcribed by S. Ferrall for Clayton co. IAGenWeb
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