We have yet another new guest blogger today. One of our own East Perry County citizens, Eunice Schlichting, is the author of today’s post. Eunice was raised in Wittenberg, Missouri. She later worked at the Putnam Musuem in Davenport, Iowa for 22 years. She fairly recently moved back home and is now the librarian at Riverside Regional Public Library. Eunice has ancestors who were part of the migration story she tells today.
We at the museum would also like to issue our congratulations to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Potter, Nebraska. They are celebrating a very special anniversary today, but that is the story Eunice is telling today. I will let her tell it.
Today, October 21, 2018, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Potter, Nebraska, is celebrating its 100th anniversary. In the early 1900s, several Perry County families moved to this part of western Nebraska to find farmland. This topic has discussed in the past blogs including Farrar Off to the Potter’s Field and Yet Another Photograph Story.
Typically, Perry County families became involved in the churches where they settled, and this was certainly the case in Cheyenne County, Nebraska. In fact, Perry County families were instrumental in founding the church at Potter as well as its parent congregation in Sidney.
In the early 1910s, several Perry County men moved to Cheyenne County. By 1913, Herman Schubarth, John Mueller and Otto Bergt were living in and around Potter. Others followed. Several worshiped at Salem Lutheran Church in Gurley, which was founded in September 1910. In 1915, the Mueller brothers, John, Frank and Arthur, were charter members of the Lutheran church in Sidney.
Several of the Potter men returned to Perry County for wives while other found their wives among the families that moved from Perry County. John Mueller and Natalie Theodora Fiehler were married at Concordia Lutheran Church in Frohna on April 6, 1913. The church record describes John as a farmer from Potter, Nebraska. All but one of the people in their wedding photograph lived in Potter for at least a short time. Meta Gemeinhardt, the flower girl on the left, moved to Nebraska with her family by 1918. Her father, C. G. (Gotthilf) Gemeinhardt, is one of the founders of the Potter congregation. Next are John and Theodora, the bride and groom. They lived in Potter for about 10 years before moving to Seward, Nebraska. Next is Gottfried Benjamin Mueller, who lived in Perry County his entire life. Clara Mueller, the first bridesmaid, is John’s sister. She married Wilson Wagner, another Perry County native. They were married in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1919 and lived at Potter for a few years before returning to Missouri. Pictured next is Frank Mueller, John’s brother who married Thekla Gemeinhardt (Meta’s sister) in 1921. According to the Mueller/Fiehler book at the museum in Altenburg, Frank and Thekla were the first couple married in the new church at Potter. And finally is Hugo Muller, another brother, who also lived in Potter.
While they worshiped in Sidney, these families really wanted their own congregation in Potter. Most of these families lived about 10 miles north of Potter. On Sunday mornings, they would go by horse or mule-drawn wagon to Potter, board the train and ride it into Sidney. You can imagine that this took dedication and a true desire to worship with follow Lutherans because this trip would not be easy during Nebraska’s cold winters and other periods of inclement weather. By 1918, they felt that the Sidney congregation had grown to a size that a congregation in Potter could be formed.
This map shows Cheyenne County, Nebraska in 1913. The arrow on the upper left is the approximate location of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. This also shows the railroad line between Potter and Sidney. Gurley is located north of Sidney.
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Potter was organized in November 24, 1918. The charter members were Benjamin Hilpert, John W. Mueller, Frank Mueller, Oscar Mueller, Arthur Mueller, Hugo Mueller, Arthur Oberndorfer, Arthur Schubarth, Theo J. Seibel, and Ray Wills. These men had been members of the Sidney congregation. Soon families from the Gurley congregation joined including Otto Bergt, C. G. Gemeinhardt, August Matthes, Arthur Schuessler, Herman Schubarth, Adolf Schubarth, and Albert Schlichting. August Matthes is the only man on this list that was not from Perry County. However, he was born in Wisner, Nebraska, where some Perry County people also lived.
My interest in this church’s history is closely connected to my family’s history because I have four great uncles on this list. Albert Schlichting was my grandfather Martin Schlichting’s brother. Arthur Schuessler was my grandfather Martin Schuessler’s brother. John Mueller was married to Natalie Theodora Fiehler and C. G. Gemeinhardt was married to Magdalena Juliane Fiehler. Theodora and Juliane were my grandmother Laura Fiehler Schlichting’s sisters. In 1937, my grandparents, Martin and Laura Schlichitng, their oldest daughter and her husband, Edna and Elmer Lichtenegger, their two youngest sons Vernon (my father) and Bernard, traveled from Wittenberg to Potter via St. Louis, Sylvan Grove, KS, and Seward, NE. They stayed with relatives at each place. But that’s, perhaps, a story for another blog.
The St Paul’s congregation dedicated its church on August 24, 1919. The church was constructed on land donated by August Matthes, located 12.5 miles northeast of Potter. The building committee consisted of Otto Bergt, August Matthes and Frank Mueller. While many of these families were farmers, some, such as the Mueller brothers also worked as carpenters. So the Muellers were, no doubt, instrumental in constructing the church building. In fact, John Mueller went on to primarily work as a carpenter and built churches all over the country.
Here is another photo of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Potter.
The 25th anniversary history of the congregation includes a list of members, which includes additional Perry County names such as Steffens, Fiehler, Gerler, Aurich and Mangels. The cemetery includes additional familiar names including Miesner, Kasten and Lorenz. This book credits these Perry County families for coming to the prairie to farm but not leaving their religion or their Bibles in Missouri. It states “The true Lutheran doctrine had to be preserved for themselves and their children if the Nebraska panhandle was to be their home.”