A Church and a Railroad Come to Wittenberg

wittenberg
Wittenberg, Missouri

One of the ways you can tell the date of the above photo is by noting that the railroad tracks are there.  The Frisco railroad began operating in July of 1904.  The building of the rails began a year or two earlier.

One of things I find intriguing is the fact that while the railroad was in the process of coming to Wittenberg, a decision was made to make the church in Wittenberg a self=standing, self-sustaining congregation.

After the immigrants arrived in 1839, although there was a settlement in Wittenberg, a congregation was not started there.  Pastors, especially from Trinity in Altenburg, would travel down to Wittenberg to conduct worship services.  The church record for people living in Wittenberg were included in the Trinity, Altenburg church books.  Around 1880, a church and school building was built there.

1st-church-lehner-x

This building was described as a Kirchen und Schule.  During the week, school was operated in this building.  On Sunday, the school desks were moved to the side, an altar was placed in the front, and pews were arranged for a worship service.  That situation existed until 1903, when a new congregation was established in Wittenberg and was called St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.  They would continue using this building as both a school and a church until 1920 when a new brick building was constructed a little north of downtown Wittenberg.  The original building  continued until the 1940’s as a school building.

inside-1st-church-1905-x
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church/School interior

I happen to think that the Trinity congregation had a few concerns about the railroad coming to Wittenberg.  First, I think they realized that with the railroad’s arrival, Wittenberg was going to experience more growth.  With the railroad would come new people to reach with the Word and Sacraments.  I think they were looking at it as a new mission opportunity.  Secondly, Trinity had become quite a large congregation, and its pastor was experiencing quite a large work load.  Starting in the late 1800’s, there was a string of pastors who only stayed at Trinity for two or three years.  I am thinking that the amount of work they had to do was overwhelming and may have contributed to their rather quick departures.

In 1902-3, St. Paul’s was formed, and they called their first pastor, Rev. P.F. Albrecht.  The first records that show up in the St. Paul’s church books indicated events that took place in 1903.  One year later, trains started blowing their whistles as they traveled through town.  Steamboats were still landing at the riverfront, but the railroad would eventually contribute to their demise.

wittenberg-towards-1st-church-top-x

This photo shows the school/church building with the bridge for the train in the background during a flood.

The train depot was located north of town, not far from where the new brick church building would be built in 1920.  This would have been where Henry Steger, the main character of yesterday’s blog post, worked as a telegrapher.

gas-pump-mueller-store-x

The photo above shows a train coming through town in while some boys stand in front of the Mueller Store.  The photo is probably from the 1950’s.

We still occasionally hear the train whistle coming from the direction of Wittenberg as freight trains go through.  They now sadly find Wittenberg to be a very lonely place.

 

 


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