Bethlehem Lutheran Church

Endearing Memories
By Edwin Saeger

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. At this time He also knew that the Bethlehem Lutheran Congregation would be formed. Its origin was not unlike the beginning of most of our sister-congregations in the great northwest of our country. It's beginning reaches back into the last pioneer days of Lyon County, when this part of the state was sparsely settled. When as ambitious people braving the hardships of those days bent on earning their livelihood, laid the foundation of a prosperous enterprise, which, today presents itself before our eyes on every side and which we have inherited.

Among those were also found the organizers of Bethlehem congregation. In the eighties there was an influx of settlers from Germany and other parts of our country that formed the beginning of this congregation. Driven on by ambition of securing their own homes, they turned their eyes toward a region where land was plentiful and reasonable in price. Their choice fell upon this territory in Lyon County.

However, bearing not only a desire to find a home for their families, but also and primarily being imbued with a Christian spirit, the early missionaries that traversed this territory found an open door in the homes, and warm welcome by the members of their families.

The first missionary that labored here in Lyon County and who was instrumental in gathering the scattered Lutheran families into congregation, was Rev. Schuessler. Having heard that families of Lutheran Faith were also residing in this vicinity, he traversed this territory, not with a Ford, but with a horse and a two-wheel cart. In the year 1888 he had succeeded in gathering a number of families in and around the Wheeler Township for divine services. These services were conducted in a public school house. It was also in 1888 that the minister and members thought of organizing into a congregation and on the memorable day August 5, 1888 the organization of Bethlehem Evangical Lutheran congregation in Wheeler Township, Lyon County, Iowa was affected under the leadership of Rev. Schuessler. The charter members of the congregation were: F. Rudloff, H. Weckel, H. Schutt, Geo. Finck, W. Geick, H. Mueller, W. Bruening, K. Kock, C. Rudloff and John Rhode.

Rev. Schuessler served the congregation from 1888 to 1892. He was succeeded by Rev. Domsch, who served from 1892 to 1894. On May 6, 1894, the congregation changed their location of services from Wheeler Township to the public school house on Section 4 in Garfield township. Rev. Henry Markworth became pastor of this congregation in 1895 and labored here until 1898. After a vacancy of one year which the congregation was occasionally served by Rev. Christ Daemler of Ocheyedan, Iowa. The congregation with thankful hearts welcomed into its midst candidate Max Friedrich, who was inducted into his office here in 1899. His labor here came to a close when in August 1906 he accepted a call to the congregation near Cylinder, Iowa. In December a call was extended to Rev. C. Born, who accepted and was pastor during the years 1906 to 1910. When in 1910 Rev. Born accepted a call to Humbolt, Iowa, the Rev. F.O. Clausen took the call extended to him and served from 1911 to 1921. After Rev. Clausen left, a call was sent out to Rev. Grimm, who came and was installed July 10, 1921. He served until May, 1923. A call was now tendered to Rev. G. Hoelscher. He was installed in July 1923.

During all these years from 1888 to 1923 divine services had been conducted in public school houses. However, in the fall of 1923 an opportunity came to the congregation to come in possession of a church. The Iowa Synod congregation at George, Iowa, having decided to move one of their country churches into town, offered their church in George for sale. The members of Bethlehem congregation in Lakewood were not slow in grasping this opportunity. They bought the church for $500 including the organ and a few smaller buildings. The alter, pulpit and other fixtures were not included in the sale. That same fall the church was moved to Lakewood, all the work being done by the members.

The building situated on lot 7, block 28, in George, Iowa. This building is to be used for church purposes, and includes the organ and stove in the purchase price. The building to be moved to Lakewood, Iowa as soon as possible, and not later than March 1, 1924. Signed, sealed and delivered in the presence of: Trustees; Wm. F. Klein, W.C. Saeger and Henry Steinbrink.

The lot on which the church was to stand was donated for the church by Chris Schneph as long as it would be used as a church. Should the church building ever be moved, the lot would go back to the owner or their heirs.

Within the past decade the influence of changing times left its mark and slowly the membership began to dwindle. Among the reasons were the change of farm ownership in the area, and death, which took a heavy toll. It gradually became apparent that to function as a separate group was becoming more and more a problem. With the sudden death of Rev. Harold Dueker, a new situation arose. There was a vacancy and this seemed to be the logical time to make a change. A meeting was called by the congregation on October 25, 1955 and a decision was made to dissolve the church organization at Lakewood.

This is a portion of the article written by Edwin Saeger in the Peace Lutheran Church History Book. This beautiful book may be purchased from Evelyn Halverson - Phone: 712-472-3101.

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