Although it may seem like a very ordinary day, today is a very special day in the history of Trinity Lutheran Church in Altenburg, Missouri. There were even some plans that were in the works to celebrate this special event, but the virus threat put an end to them. So, I am going to make an effort to provide a small visual tribute to the 175th anniversary of the dedication of the first permanent church sanctuary at Trinity.
I would daresay that most Lutheran congregations that have been around for over 100 years can no longer visit their first church because it has been demolished. This is not so with Trinity’s first church. In fact, it is now part of the Lutheran Heritage Center & Museum.
After arriving in Perry County in 1839, the Altenburg congregation constructed a few school buildings, but it would be six years before they would complete a building that was strictly used for worship services. For the first six years, worship had been conducted in the second floor of Rev. Loeber’s parsonage.
A building committee was formed to oversee the process of building a church. I am proud to say that my great great grandfather, Joachim Schmidt, was a part of that group.
Then on March 14, 1844, a cornerstone was laid for a new church sanctuary. It would be constructed by local craftsmen. Limestone rocks would be hauled from a local creek bed. We know there were stonemasons among the congregation members at that time. Johann Schmidt, a member of the building committee, was a glazier and may have been involved in working on the windows. We also know that the original floor was dirt. “Ziegel” (Tiler) Mueller may have been asked to locate some good clay and had it hauled to the building site.
The documentation for the dedication of this new building only says that it took place on Pentecost Sunday. If you look at an 1845 calendar, you find that Pentecost took place on May 11th during that year. Pentecost Sunday, a day on which we celebrate the birthday of the Christian church, was certainly an appropriate day to dedicate a new church building.
I have gathered photographs of the first church (Erste Kirche) and put them into a short video. I wish I could provide some narration for the video, but I do not know how. Instead, I will give a short description of how I organized the photos in the video.
- I started by displaying some of the oldest photographs of the exterior of this building that I could find. We have no photos showing it when it was used as a church.
- Next, there are a few images of students being photographed outside the building when it was used as a school. For a long time, this building was known as the Big School (Grosse Schule). You can see the type of masonry that was used in its construction.
- A few photos show Trinity’s choir, led by Vernon Meyr, practicing for a Christmas concert in this building. They are dated 1968, probably the last time this school was used for this purpose. A new school building was dedicated in 1969.
- After this building was no longer used as a school, it eventually began being a museum that displayed artifacts used to explain the history of the immigration and its early years. A series of photos are shown in this video of exhibits that were once part of that museum.
- In 2005, a new addition was attached to the 1845 structure. This is the present structure that makes up our present museum, with the “Big School” being one of our galleries used for exhibits. Some photos are included of what it looks like now which I took yesterday. I included a photo of the tool that was once used to tamp down the dirt floor of the original church. I also selfishly included a few photos of some locks found on some doors along with the church key. I like to think that my great great grandfather, the locksmith, may have produced those locks and key.
- I also took photos of the exterior of this building yesterday. They provide the last images you will see in the video.
It just so happens that today is not just special because of the 175th anniversary of the Erste Kirche. Two other construction sites are active today. For a while now, construction has been going on with the new addition to our museum. In addition, another crew is beginning the process of putting a new roof on the pavilion that protects the Log Cabin College. The Perry County Lutheran Historical Society continues its efforts to carry out its mission plan of preserving the history of East Perry County Lutheranism.
It certainly is a beautiful day to get some work done. Here are a few images taken before the workers showed up this morning.
Work is underway on both the museum addition…
…and the Log Cabin College pavilion roof.
If you happen to be in Altenburg today, stop by to remember a special anniversary and watch some important work being done. We wish you could come into the museum to visit the Erste Kirche, but alas…
I do not do this often, but I am going to urge you to share this post with your friends and relatives. It’s a special event we can only celebrate digitally.