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Erie County (PA) Genealogy

City of Erie - St John's Lutheran Church History - Chapter 4

Contributed by Bill Klauk

The information below has been scanned and edited from a book titled "...History of... St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church ---at--- Erie, Pa. A.D. 1808 -- A.D. 1908 --- In remembrance of its Centennial August 16--21st, 1908" by the pastor Rev. Gustave A. Benze, A. M.

The scanning, editing, and any digital photography is being done by Bill Klauk; however, Bill Klauk has no association with this church, or with this religion, so he would not be able to answer any questions concerning this work.

Click here to return to Table of Contents. Chapter 4 is presented below.


The Pastorate of the Sainted Rev. Adolph Leopold Benze, A. D. 1872 to A. D. 1891.

Now a new era was to begin for the congregation in the gracious providence of the heavenly Father. Owing to its special importance, a separate chapter is devoted to this era of the congregation's history. The spring of 1872, after the withdrawal of Rev. C. F. Boehner as pastor of the church, found the congregation in a sad condition indeed. It was in part scattered, rent by dissensions; and on the other hand filled with distrust of the Gospel ministry. Then, too, Rev. C. F. Boehner had started an Opposition congregation, which however ceased to exist after a short time.

Under such conditions it demanded great trust in God on the part of him, who accepted the call, if he be a conscientious man. Such faith the Rev. Adolph Leopold Benze to whom the urgent call came, possessed in an eminent degree. He had served his first congregation at Warren, Pa., for eight years under signal blessings. It had grown under his judicious guidance into a large congregation, possessing a beautiful new church and parsonage. But now came the urgent call from Erie, and summoned Rev. A. L. Benze from his blessed activity at Warren, Pa. He assumed charge of St. John's on Easter Sunday, 1872, and faithfully served the congregation until his lamentable death, Jan. 18th, 1891, -- the longest pastorate thus far in the history of the congregation.

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Rev. A. L. Benze, during his pastorate of nearly nineteen years exerted a wide influence over a great part of Erie County. Under his wise leadership the congregation became one of the largest and most respected Protestant churches of the city. The church passed beyond the period of its early and later struggles and peace and prosperity reigned within its walls. Naturally the old brick church, which had served since 1862, became too small and no longer answered the demands made upon it. To provide funds for the building operations, which had become necessary, Rev. A. L. Benze organized a woman's society and a Young People's society (the latter at first separately into young men's and young women's societies), antedating the present Luther League movement.

The original object of these societies at their formation was "by regular, small monthly contributions to increase the income of the congregation and thus create a building fund!"

After the old debt had been entirely paid, the remodelling and enlarging of the old church was decided on in a congregational meeting, held July 1st, 1883. Rev. A. L. Benze made the preliminary sketch which was the basis of the plans later furnished by architect E. Schneider. This plan provided for an entirely new front to the Church, the removing of the old galleries, the building of an organ loft and the remodelling of the entire interior of the old church.

The building committee consisted of Rev A. L. Benze, Adam Meyer, Christoph Bloeser, Henry Herbst and Edward Bauschardt.

The contract was awarded to Louis Albracht. The entire cost of these improvements as at first contemplated, amounted to $21,837.41. Including the new bell, which was also purchased at this time, and other changes determined on during the building operations, the total costs came close to $23,000. The cornerstone laying took place on the first Sunday after Trinity, June 15th; A. D. 1884. Rev. A. L. Benze performed the solemn act of corner-stone laying, assisted by Rev. I. O. Baker, pastor of Luther Memorial Church, and Rev. Philipp Doerr, pastor of the Lutheran Church at Warren, Pa.

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The new church was solemnly dedicated to its use by Rev. A. L. Benze, May 3d, 1885. It was a day of joy to the whole congregation. Rev. Philipp Doerr preached the German dedicatory sermon and Rev. I. O. Baker made the English address.

Rev. Benze in the subsequent years of his pastorate increased the efficiency of the Sunday school and made it more and more a spiritual power for the good of the congregation. He also laid the foundation of the active missionary work in which the congregation later engaged.

It could justly be said of him, "that he lived continually for his congregation, and consumed himself in its service." As far as his arduous pastoral labors permitted, he occupied his time in literary pursuits, as his numerous contributions to the "Welt-Bote" show. Endowed with great musical ability, he enriched the confirmation and other festival services with hymns of his own composition, which are collected in a modest volume, "The Pilgerlieder", published by his sons, Revs. C. Theodore and Gustave A. Benze.

He fell asleep in the Lord, whom he had faithfully served, after a brief illness, January 18th, 1891. His funeral was one of the largest ever held in Erie, and members and friends honored his memory by the erection of the handsome monument which marks his last resting place in Erie Cemetery.

Rev. L. A. Benze performed the following ministerial acts in his Erie pastorate:
Confirmations 1,090
Weddings . 625
Burials 1,127

The total income of the congregation during his pastorate was $55,926.72.

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Change History: Nov 29, 2002. Original page posted, Chapter 4 only, with two images.


This page was last updated on  Friday, November 29, 2002 .

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