I will not relate the story of a birthday boy or girl today. Nor will I relate the story of a couple’s anniversary. Instead, I will be honoring the date that one of our cherished local congregations was established. I guess you could call it either a special birthday or a special anniversary. I will begin by displaying a sentence that appears in a history of Zion Lutheran Church in Longtown.
That makes today the day when Zion Lutheran Church was established 125 years ago. Zion is celebrating their 125th Anniversary throughout this year with special worship services and events. However, the exact date noted in their history for the beginning of their congregation is today, July 19th. Below is a photo of the Schade house, the location of the founding meeting.
The charter members of this congregation had been members of Peace Lutheran Church in Friedenberg prior to this event and had been granted a peaceful release from that church. They were given that church’s blessing to start their own church in Longtown. You could say that Zion, Longtown was a daughter congregation of the Friedenberg church.
The group of men who met on July 19, 1897 needed the guidance of a pastor. That leadership came from Rev. O.R. Hueschen, who was the pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Uniontown, which is located 5 miles south of Longtown on what is now called Highway 61. This committee of men managed to approve a constitution for this new church. There are 15 men listed as charter members of this congregation. I’m sure that if you also counted women and children, that number would be larger. Below is a list of the 15 men. Many of these names have been included in previous posts on this blog.
- Frederick Schade
- Herman Funke
- Andrew Hacker
- Christopher Hacker
- Emanuel Hacker
- George Krause
- August Meier
- Michael G. Funke
- Adolph Funke
- Theodore Ochs
- August Ochs
- William Klemp
- George Wirth
- Wilhelm Heise
- Emanuel Popp
Andrew Hacker had purchased some land in the Longtown Village earlier in 1897. Three days after the church was established, Andrew and his wife, Brigitta, granted the trustees of the congregation, Theodore Ochs, Adolph Funke, and Wilhelm Heise, about a half acre to the church for $50. That land is what is now found across the road from the present church including its present cemetery. It also included a brick building that had been used by a Baptist church that had operated in Longtown for a while. That brick building would become Zion’s first sanctuary and would be used until the present church was built in 1912.
It did not take long for this church to make the local news. On July 30th, the article below appeared in the Perry County Sun. Apparently, while Rev. Hueschen served this congregation, he traveled to Longtown to perform a worship service on Sunday evenings.
Another article appeared in that same newspaper a week later on August 6th. The image is a little fuzzy.
This congregation would issue a call to their first permanent pastor before that year ended. Rev. G.D. Hamm, who was likely a recent graduate of the seminary, was installed at Zion on September 12, 1897. Not even a week later, on September 17, Pastor Hamm opened this congregation’s school and was its first teacher. There were 17 students in his first class. By the end of 1897, this congregation had 26 voters, 75 communicants, and 133 souls. Perhaps it is these increasing numbers that explain a few articles that appeared in the Perry County Sun on December 10, 1897. The first one says the congregation is already thinking of expanding their little church.
We also have this amazing tidbit in that same issue from someone who was incredibly optimistic about the future of the village of Longtown.
Two years later, in 1899, Andrew Hacker and his wife granted the congregation another small portion of land for $100. That parcel of land was used to build a parsonage for the congregation. It would also eventually be the location of the present church.
Pastor Hamm married a local girl, Isabelle Metzner, in May of 1900, and that couple would be the first residents of this new parsonage. An early photo of that building is shown here.
I would also like to share a few of the “firsts” from the books of Zion Lutheran Church in Longtown. Below is the first baptism record found in those books. The child was Thekla Popp, born on September 12, 1897, the daughter of Emanuel and Clara Popp. Since Emanuel was one of the charter members, his wife must have been pregnant when he attended the meeting on July 19th. Thekla was also born on the same day as the installation of Pastor Hamm.
Next, we’ll take a look at the first marriage record included in these books. This marriage took place on May 30, 1898. Adolph Funke was the groom; Clara Hacker was the bride. Adolph was one of the charter members, as well as Clara’s father, Andrew Hacker.
I think it is somewhat debatable if this was the first marriage however. In a recent post, I speculated that the first marriage may have been the one between Oscar Koenig and Bertha Buettner, who were married on May 22, 1898. Their marriage license says Rev. Hamm conducted the wedding. This wedding took place 8 days before the Funke/Hacker wedding.
The first two death records are shown next. The first is that of a Klemp infant boy who only lived 2 days. The first adult death was that of Maria Schade, who was the wife of Fred Schade, at whose house the organizational meeting was held.
Since I was unable to find the infant’s grave site on Findagrave, perhaps the first burial in the Zion Lutheran Cemetery is that of Maria Schade, who is buried with her husband.
The first confirmation class was the class of 1898. It consisted of two students, Emma Oberndorfer and Maria Bohnert.
Just this past week, our museum received another copy of the Centennial Celebration booklet that was produced in 1997 from Bob and Carol Kassel. Much of the information for this story came from that document.
We at the museum hope that Zion produces another document like the one above for this year’s celebration. We also hope that if they do, our museum receives a copy of it to add to our document collection.
We wish Zion Lutheran Church a Happy 125th!