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A Look Back: The Salem Lutheran Church

Lutheran

By Jolene Hawkins

Looking back to 1870 here in Springville, we had a large number of German Lutheran families who settled in and were established in business or engaged in farming.

In 1871, the Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church was officially organized. Rev. F.W. Schmidt was the pastor and a constitution was drawn up with the signatures of Carl Joerns, Henry Frubus, Henry Hilbert, Joachim Westendorf, Peter Hagelberger, Martin Hilbert, William Westendorf and Fred Schroder on it. Joerns, along with William Klein and Henry Wehling, were the first officers of the congregations.

From 1876 to 1879, Pastor J. Sieck traveled by horse from Boston to Springville to serve both churches.

There were several men who served as preacher as the church grew and, in 1883, Rev. J. Salinger became and stayed the minister for six years. He was at the deathbed of Fred Schaefer, who was a member and made a generous bequest of $1,000 so the congregation could at last construct a church building to call their own.

In 1886, on the corner of Spring and Maple Streets, construction of a building began. Henry Felton was awarded the contract, but that did not include the foundation for the building so members hauled stones from the fields and built the church’s foundation themselves.

On Aug. 28, 1887, there was a dedication of Springville’s first Lutheran Church. The interior was light wood with cherry trimming. Sun would shine through six stained glass windows. It sat about 200 people and there was a pulpit, elevated about 10 feet above the congregation, copying the tradition of the pulpits in Germany. The following year, the parsonage was built next to the church.

On June 24, 1888, Rev. George Reisinger was installed as pastor for both Springville and Morton Corners. An agreement was made between the two churches that the Sunday service would alternate in the morning and afternoon. One week, Salem service would be held in the morning and St. John’s in the afternoon, and it would be reversed the following week.

In 1902, the Ladies Aid Society was formed; Miss Edith Seedorf was the first church organist. Also during that year, Rev. Reisinger, while traveling from Morton Corners, contracted a severe cold which he never fully recovered from, forcing him to resign in April and, by May 22, he died.

From 1902 to 1907, Theodore Mackensen was the minister. In September 1907, Gotthold Kuehn was installed as the pastor. During his time, there were a lot of changes: a crucifix and candlesticks were placed on the altar, an addition was built to the parsonage, a larger organ replaced the small reed organ, and a bell was purchased for the tower. Under his leadership, a youth society was organized in 1922.

Another significant event came following the outbreak of World War I in Europe. At the time, America was flooded with a deluge of English war propaganda and was experiencing an emotional anti-German/American feeling. Pastor Kuehn began to conduct an English service every other Sunday and in 1915 instructed two confirmation classes — one in German and one in English.

Following Pastor Kuehn’s retirement in 1927, John Neeb became the preacher. It was during his time that the German language was discontinued. Pastor Neebs continued to serve until 1941.

On Christmas Day 1946, Mr. William Winkey, then Sunday School superintendent, handed Pastor Knueppel a check for $10,000 to begin the fund for the new building as the church had grown, prompting the need to move on to a bigger location. On the corner of West Main Street and Central Avenue, a lot was given to the congregation by Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Westfall and Mrs. Lyveter Westfall. On July 2, 1950, the groundbreaking service was held.

For 15 months, the members watched the church become a reality. Members who volunteer many hours of labor reduced the cost.

On Sept. 9, 1951, the building was dedicated. The sermon was presented by the sons of former pastor, Rev. John Neeb — in the morning, Dr. Martin J. Neeb preached and, in the evening another son, Rev. Victor Neeb preached.

In 1953, the parsonage was completed. In 1971, the Lutheran Church celebrated its 100th anniversary.

Now, 147 years later, it is still going strong — having hot dog and spaghetti dinners that are open to the public, day care center for young kids, as well as services.

We are fortunate to have so many churches still around. Come and learn more at the Lucy Bensley Center at 23 North Buffalo St. We are open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., email us at lucybensleycenter@gmail.com.

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