The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod has declared this week to be National Lutheran Schools Week. This celebration until fairly recently has been celebrated during one of the first weeks in March. As a result, a lot of Lutheran schools are celebrating this week, while still others continue to celebrate this event in March. Regardless, around here we consider it a good thing to celebrate Lutheran schools. In fact, you could make a good argument that the East Perry County Lutheran community is one of the birthplaces of Lutheran schools in our synod. There are other areas around the country that were in the business of providing Lutheran education early on, but you would certainly have to include this area in any discussion of the beginnings of Lutheran schools in America.
When the Lutheran immigrants arrived in this area in 1839, they managed to build schools before they built churches. The first school building of any kind around here was the Log Cabin College, which was constructed during the first year that they were here. That building opened its door to its first eleven students on December 9, 1839.
The purpose of this educational institution was to prepare its students for full time work in the church. It eventually transitioned to become Concordia Seminary later in the 1840’s, and that institution moved to St. Louis in 1849 where it still exists.
At the beginning of the 1840’s, very primitive school buildings were also constructed to teach the children. They were built in the days long before photography, so we have to rely upon drawings to depict these early schools. Here is such a drawing of the first school built for the Altenburg congregation.
A similar building was constructed to house the school at Concordia in Frohna.
It wasn’t long before these Lutherans realized the need for bigger and better school buildings. Here are some of the first school buildings in East Perry County. First, we see the Kleine Schules (Little Schools) of Trinity in Altenburg and Concordia in Frohna.
Here is an old photo of students who attended the Kleine Schule in Altenburg. You can see the building in the background. The photo includes approximately 60 students from the lower grades with just one teacher. That was very typical back in those days.
Each of these congregations had another building known as the Grosse Schule (Big School) to house the older students. In Altenburg, when a new church sanctuary was built in 1867, the old church became the Grosse Schule. That building is now part of our museum.
In this photo of Concordia Lutheran in Frohna, we see the Grosse Schule next to the church.
The small outbuildings near the school were the wood shed and the outhouses. Both of these structures were important to a school’s functioning back in those days. The building behind the school was the teacherage. That is approximately where the present school stands now.
When Salem Lutheran Church was formed in Farrar, Missouri, it also started a Lutheran school. Here is one of their early school buildings.
Another one of the original congregations from the immigration was Grace Lutheran Church in Uniontown. They also operated a school for many, many years. In the very early years of this congregation, this building was used as a school.
For a long time, Grace Lutheran School was operated in the building behind the church in this photo which was built in 1906.
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Wittenberg operated a school beginning in the late 1800’s. In their first years, they conducted classes in the building that was also used as their church on Sundays.
Right now, there is a Lutheran school which is operated by three local congregations……Trinity, Altenburg, Concordia, Frohna, and Salem, Farrar. Grace, Uniontown has an arrangement in which they will assist children in their congregation in attending a local Lutheran school of their choice. The school, which is located in Frohna, is now called United in Christ Lutheran School.
While researching people who came from this area, I am often amazed that so many people from around here have achieved great levels of success both locally and elsewhere around the country and around the world. I firmly believe that one of the big factors that has contributed to this success is the educational foundation they received in these Lutheran schools.
Lutheran schools have always been about the mission of passing the Lutheran faith on to the next generation. In addition to that, these schools, from the very beginning, have provided an excellent education. They always have had high expectations for their students in a very disciplined yet loving environment. Despite the surrounding towns being very small in size and found in a very remote location, they are populated by folks who are very knowledgeable and culturally sophisticated. This culture is one that is interested in the arts, music, athletics, and academics. The Lutheran schools have reflected and perpetuated those values.
Lutheran schools in this area have a rich history. We can see the legacy that has been left behind by the people who have attended them. We at the museum are proud of our Lutheran schools and join in celebrating them.