CHRIST LUTHERAN CHURCH
Oconto County, Wisconsin
A History of Christ Lutheran Church
Town of UnderhillLutheranism in this section of Oconto County dates back to the pioneer missionary days of the venerable Pastor Peter Dicke, who labored unremittingly in behalf of the Kingdom of God, organizing congregations wherever possible. Our Christus Evangelical Lutheran Church, (founding name of Christ Lutheran Church) is one of the congregations organized by this faithful servant of God. It seems, however, according to early unauthentic records that there were two groups out of which an organization was affected, one in the neighborhood of Berry Lake, served by various pastors and the other in the territory north of the present church property, served by Pastor Dicke of the Town of Washington, Shawano County, both begun in the year 1891.
Founded in 1892
Men present at the first meeting of the group at Berry Lake were: Gottfried Buchholz, William Albrecht, Gottfried Dirks, William Dirks, August Kobs, Carl Ohm and Gustav Spohn. Due to prevailing circumstances this group was unable to continue and the above names gradually appeared in the records of the groups served by Pastor Dicke.
As stated, Pastor Dicke’s zeal for the Kingdom brought him into this forest-laden and sparsely- settled territory, the majority of acres owned by the state of Wisconsin. It was in 1891 when Pastor Dicke first conducted services in the home of his eldest son, Henry Dicke, and later in the schoolhouse near the Jacob Holl homestead. Families served here included the following: Fred Tolzmann, Henry Dicke, John Runge, Albert Jeske, C. Koehler, John Kolberg, and Martin Koeppen. Services were held on Sunday afternoon, every six weeks, after Pastor Dicke conducted the service at Town of How (Hayes). This continued from the spring of 1891 until the spring of 1893, when Pastor Huchthausen accepted the call of the congregations in the Town of Gillett (Immanuel) and of St. John’s in the Town of How. However, after a short period they without the services of a pastor, until the fall of 1893, when Pastor Otto List followed a call to the Town of Washington (Shawano County). Faithfully did he serve this little flock, conducting the services in the home of Gottfried Dirks.
In 1892, under the able leadership of Pastor Dicke, the present congregation was organized and incorporated, first adopting the name Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church. Charter members were: Henry Dicke, John Runge, Martin Koeppen, Fred Tolzman and Charles Koehler.
From 1893 - 1898 there seems to be very little history and activities were curtailed, though pastors of Town of Washington served this group conscientiously. When Pastor List accepted a call into another parish, Pastor Charles Droegemueller. also of Town of Washington, succeeded him in serving here, conducting services in various schoolhouses until the year 1898. In the first recorded meeting of Sept. 26, 1897, led by Pastor Droegemueller, it was decided to reorganize the congregation and this time adopt the name Christus Evangelical Lutheran Church, Town of Underhill, Wis., this resolution being carried out in 1898, after Pastor W. T. Naumann was called to minister to the few members. Trustees elected in the first recorded meeting were: Gottifried Bucholz, August Kobs and Carl Wilke. On Oct. 24, 1897 it was decided to build a church of pine logs, dimensions 22X30X14, on land donated by Albert Schutt. However, two months later the motion seems to have been overthrown and the congregation decided to build on the old Town of How road, on land donated by Pastor Dicke
Conditions seem to have been settled with the arrival of Pastor Naumann, who came sometime between March and Dec. of 1898. In a meeting of Dec. 11, 1898 it was again reconsidered and finally Henry Dicke’s offer to donate 5 acres of land was accepted, which is still the church site. From this time the congregation began to grow rapidly, more new families migrating to the area and added to the church each year. On Dec. 26, 1898 it was decided to build a frame church 40X26X18, the building committee consisting of Frank Runge and William Braun. These two together with Carl Wilke, Henry Dicke, Martin Koeppen and Fred Tolzman proceeded to cut logs, to be used in the “new” church. Humble as this building seemed, it was completed in the year 1900. Pastor Naumann served this little congregation for $50 annually. When William Braun left this area, Henry Dicke was elected to fill the spot created on the Building Committee and was also elected treasurer, which office he filled faithfully for 32 years.
As early as 1903 and 1904 the congregation realized the great need of training its children in the nurture of the Lord, deciding to employ a student to teach summer school for two months, a certain student Koenig accepting the position.
During these early years the following families were accepted for membership: Adolph Neumann and Robert Froemming in 1900; Herman Buchholz, Michael Braun, Ernest Wildt, Ed Behlke, and Herman Giese in 1901; Fred Runge and William Strei in 1902; Edward Bublitz and Carl Jaeger in 1903; Christ Quast and Carl Pacholke in 1904; Carl Ohm in 1905; Anton Braun and Herman Hinkfuss in 1906; Carl Natzke in 1909; Ludwig Kossmann in 1911; Gustav Giese and August Strei sometime previous; Henry Albrecht, August Kobs and William Dirks in 1912; August Schuettpelz in 1913 and a number of others.
In 1906 the cemetery was laid out in lots. On Jan. 19, 1908 Pastor Naumann received his peaceful dismissal to accept the call extended to him by the sister congregation in West Bloomfield. The congregation then extended a solemn call to Pastor A. Plass, then pastor of St. John’s (Hayes). This call was accepted by Pastor Plass, annual salary fixed at $100. On April 14, 1908 Fred Runge was elected secretary, serving for 25 years, until 1933. In a meeting of the voters held Dec. 13, 1908 it was resolved to build an addition to the old church, present Quarters being to limited. This improvement consisted of brick veneering the structure, adding a schoolroom and erecting a steeple. Under the guidance of Pastor Plass this work was completed in 1909, the building committee including Henry Dicke, Martin Koeppen, Adolph Neumann and Frank Runge. The entire cost of this project was $1092.89.
Pastor Plass served the congregation faithfully until August 12, 1920 at which time Pastor D. Markworth of Town of Gillett was called. This call was declined and Pastor H. F. Braun of White Clay Lake was called, the call being accepted. Pastor Braun began his work here in Sept. 1920. In the following year English services were introduced, such services being held once a month.
Great distress befell the congregation when, on July 22, 1922 the church was completely destroyed by fire of an unknown origin. God’s grace and mercy was again evident when on Jan. 2, 1923, it was decided to rebuild, dimensions 60X32, excluding the sanctuary. The building committee include4d the following: Fred Runge, Henry Dicke, Martin Koeppen, Paul Wasmund and Frank Runge. On Sept. 2, 1923 the cornerstone of this new brick building was laid and dedicated to the service of the Lord on June 15, 1924. The expenditures of this present church were $10,931.16.
Due to ill heath Pastor Braun was forced to resign in June 1934, at which time a successor was called in the person of Pastor L. I. Going, who was serving St. John’s at Pulcifer. Pastor Going was installed several weeks later and served with zeal until he accepted the call of the congregation in Fremont, Wi., preaching his farewell sermon in May 1940.
On June 4, 1940 L. F. Schneider, then pastor of Zion Lutheran in Oconto was duly called to become pastor of both St. John’s Pulcifer and Christ Church. He was installed by the Vacancy Pastor, K. R. Going, on July 8, 1940.
In Jan. of 1943 the congregation decided to decorate the interior of the church at a cost of $600. A few months later the need arose to replace the roof with asbestos shingles and to make general repairs, the total of these projects amounting to $1400.
The Golden Jubilee Celebration was held on June 6, 1943. A German worship service was held at 10 a. m. with Pastor Henry Naumann as the guest Pastor. He is the son of our former Pastor W. T. Naumann. An English service was held at 3 p.m. with Pastor Martin N. Dicke, a grandson of Pastor Peter Dicke, as the guest Pastor. The offerings from the services were used to buy war bonds.
Pastor L. F. Schneider remained with us throughout the dark days of WWII. Sugar, shoes, gas, and many other necessities were rationed. The auto industry was converted to making war material, instead of civilian vehicles. Car parts and tires were almost impossible to get; so, by war’s end, almost everyone’s car was in a sad state, including our Pastor’s. When automobiles did become available again, Christ congregation brought Pastor Schneider a new car.
In 1949 Pastor Schneider accepted a call to the new mission of Saint Luke in Wisconsin Rapids and was installed there on Aug. 7, 1949.
There were a number of children who had regular attendance at Sat. School because Pastor Schneider took the long route from Pulcifer to Hintz. He drove by the Berry Lake area to pick up a carload of Children.
During these years, the main floor of the church and balcony remained much the same, except for painting. The basement changed the most. The multi-purpose room was the schoolroom, complete with desks and a small wood-burning stove. The blackboards are still used to this day.
What is now the kitchen was the furnace room and had a large coal/wood-burning furnace in the center. What is today the furnace room was a storage room. The small windows in the present kitchen were formally coal chutes. Where the restrooms are now was originally the kitchen-pantry.
Since the church was not heated during the week, the janitor had to arrive well before the service started to warm up the building.
Pastor Martin F. Sengele was serving in Illinois in 1949, when he accepted the call to serve our congregations. The Sengele family had lived in Germany during WWII and returned to the U. S. after the war. Pastor Sengele kept us well aware of our freedom in Christ, as well as the blessings of living in a land where freedom is our birthright.
During his time here, Sat. School was replaced with Sunday School. Adult Bible class was taught by the pastor and all Sunday School teachers were required to attend.
At that time, Christ congregation was not a member of the Lutheran Church -Missouri Synod. We called Pastors from the Synod, supported the mission work and used LC-MS materials to teach our members.
During Pastor Sengele’s time here, the members voted to become a member of the LC-MS in the North Wis. District, Circuit #2.
In the early 1950’s, we had ushers, retired the long handled wicker offering baskets, and brought new offering plates. These are still used today. The outside lighted cross was installed on the top of the bell tower in 1953.
Zion, the Swedish Lutheran Church in Mosling, closed in 1959, because they could not get a pastor. And, as a result, Christ congregation was pleased to welcome the following families into its membership: Fred and Verona Carlson and family, Richard and Pat Reinke and family, Alfred (Swede) and Jeannette Nelson and family, and Walter and Hildegrade Nelson.
There was a District realignment of Circuits in 1961. As a result of the realignment, Pulcifer and Hintz would no longer be a parish. St. John’s, Green Valley, became a duel parish with St. John’s Pulcifer. Christ became a dual parish with Immanuel in the Town of Gillett. Pastor Sengele bid us a fond farewell and continued to Pulcifer and Green Valley until his retirement in 1974. Our congregation then welcome Pastor J. R. Westphal who had been serving Immanuel Town of Gillett.
We observed our 70th anniversary and the 40th anniversary of the church building on June 30, 1963. Former Pastor Louis Going was the guest speaker and the offering to mission.
Also in 1963, we purchased a fuel oil furnace from Gehrke-Montour of Shawano for $1350. Then we had automatic heat in the church.
The interior of the building was painted and redecorated by R. F. Umland of Shawano in 1964 at a cost of $2056. In 1966, a well was drilled and pump installed.
Pastor Westphal diligently served our duel parish until his retirement in 1973. He and his wife then moved to Midland, Mich. where he served part-time, helping his son, Pastor Leroy Westphal. Pastor Westphal died in 1982 and is buried in Bonduel, Wi., his childhood home.
Immanuel and Christ extended a call to Pastor Roger Eden of Indianapolis, Ind. He accepted the call and was installed on Jan. 13, 1974. Pastor Eden and his wife, Carolyn, left in Jan. 1976to serve a church in Louisville, Kentucky and later moved back to Wisconsin.
In 1977, Pastor Edward Steyer of Hamilton, Texas accepted the call to be our Pastor. During the years that Pastor Steyer served Christ Church, he confirmed many adults.
At a meeting in 1980 it was voted to construct an addition to the front of the church and put in bathroom. The James Druckrey Const. Co. was engaged to do the work. The Trustees were the building committee, Irving Brandemuehl, Alfred Strei, and Ralph Fischer.
On July 5, 1981, the voting members approved the change officially from “Christus” Lutheran Church to “Christ” Lutheran Church and it was registered and recorded as “Christ”.
On Sunday, December 9, 1984, Pastor Steyer baptized Melissa Ladwig and went into semi-retirement in Arkansas.
The old bell in the bell tower was retired in 1985, and a Schulmerich electric carillion was installed.
Pastor Karl Rose of North Branch, Minnesota was called and accepted the call to serve our congregations. He was installed on March 17th, 1985and faithfully served until 1996, at which time he left to serve his home congregation.
In 1997, we extended a call to Pastor Ronald Andresen, which he accepted and was installed in June of 1997. He served our congregation until the fall of 1999, at which time to moved to Col.
We are presently being served by Deacon Ralph Beversdorf, who has served us since the fall of 1999. He is presently working to be ordained and is a native of Shawano, WI. Before serving us, he was a teacher for many years and often was a guest speaker in our church.
(Much of information taken from Centennial Book the was published in 1992)