Anniversary-The Zion Lutheran Church of Peshtigo will celebrate their 150th anniversary Sunday, Sept.15. A day of activities is planned for the congregation. A free concert open to everyone will feature the Christian group KOINE' beginning at 1:30 pm at the church on South Ellis Ave. Remember to bring lawn chairs, if there is inclement weather the concert will be held indoors. Allen England, church secretary said, "A lot of planning has taken place for over a year and we hope a lot of people will come and join us for the celebration." Pictured left to right in front of the new church sign are Allen England, Les Gertz, Pastor Luke Myslik, Steve Rich and Charles Risner.
Peshtigo Zion Lutheran Church To Celebrate 150th AnniversaryIssue Date: September 13, 2018
A free concert featuring the Christian group Koine will take place Sunday, Sept. 16 at 1:30 p.m. at Zion Ev. Lutheran Church, 221 S. Ellis AVe., Peshtigo, to help celebrate their 150th anniversary. The concert will be on the front lawn, bring lawn chairs, rain or shine. The concert will move inside if inclement weather.
The earliest history of the Zion Lutheran Congregation of Peshtigo goes back to a time shortly after the American Civil War when the country surrounding Peshtigo was still a forest wilderness. The vast, untamed land beckoned to hardy pioneers from lands across the sea to come to America and make their homes here.
A good share of those pioneers left their homelands as the result of the great religious oppression and the heavy hand of the government. The great lumber mills of Peshtigo Village and Peshtigo Harbor, and of Marinette and Menominee, brought many immigrants to this part of the territory.
Finding no Lutheran Church or spiritual shepherd, the Lutheran immigrants at first gathered in each other's homes on Sunday as they took turns reading from their prayer and sermon books. Traveling pastors, known as "Circuit Riders" occasionally visited the various settlements in northern Wisconsin. The records, both Civil and Church, of those early years are incomplete, but recorded notes written in German script describe the earliest meetings, dating from before 1868. These are preserved in the library at Northwestern College, Watertown, Wis., and tell of an itinerant (circuit riding) preacher by the name of Pastor Carl Huebner, sent by the Wisconsin Synod, who gathered many of these people together into a congregation. Though he came but periodically, he conducted Divine Worship and administered the Sacraments whenever possible.
Rev. Huebner preached in the homes of people in that part of Marinette County which still is called Upper, Lower and Middle Sugarbush or Grover, and in Peshtigo Village. These services were well attended by Lutherans from near and far. Rev. Huebner organized these people into a congregation called "German Lutheran Congregation of Peshtigo and Surrounding Territory." The constitution of this congregation was signed on Sept. 11, 1870 by the pastor and the officers elected, including F.C. Bartels, Ed. Kittner, John Smith, Charles Lemke and August Scheelke.
To keep Rev. Huebner as permanent pastor in their midst, the young Congregation immediately proceeded to begin construction of a parsonage. This building was located five miles west of Peshtigo at "Baby's Corners". The new parsonage was destroyed by fire on Oct. 8, 1871, before it was completed or even fully paid for.
The Lutheran people living at Peshtigo Village and Peshtigo Harbor, and there were quite a few, did not care to walk the long distance out to Grover and prevailed on the pastor to hold services in the village, expressing their desire to form an independent congregation there. This was done, and Rev. Huebner held services in the Public School building which in 1871 was located on the east side of Peshtigo, opposite the former Congregational Church, on the spot now occupied by the home of the late Mr. and Mrs. John Skowlund on Maple Avenue. How often the Congregation met is not known. The Church records show that on the fateful 8th of October, 1871, Divine Services with Holy Communion were held in this school building, and the congregation reorganized as "Zion Lutheran Church of Peshtigo Village and Peshtigo Harbor," and affiliated with the Wisconsin Synod.
Hardly two hours had elapsed after the service when that terrible conflagration devoured all Peshtigo and surrounding territory with a great loss of human lives and the total destruction of all property. A goodly number of Zion members lost their lives that fateful night. According to reports, the Rev. Huebner was never seen again after that night and was presumed lost in the fire.
After the shock of the terrible fire had subsided a bit, the few remaining members augmented by immigrants who had just arrived, were gathered together by the Rev. Paul Lane, sent by the Wisconsin Synod. They reorganized and held services again.
Officers of the reorganized congregation were Johann Wenzel, August Groessler, William Dahnke, F.C. Schmidt and Franz Albrecht. Due to the fact that Rev. Huebner on May 18, 1871 had urged the Congregation to his care to affiliate with the Wisconsin Synod, which was in session that year at Manitowoc, substantial help was extended the Zion Lutheran Congregation here in Peshtigo. Visiting pastors came regularly to preach the Sunday sermons and to minister to the flock. Those who survived the disastrous fire felt that it was the judgment of the Lord, and was a call to repentance and renewed religious service. The texts chosen by several of the visiting pastors in the early years following the fire bore that out. One pastor who spoke several times in December, 1871, spoke on the two following passages of Holy Scripture-Lamentations, Chapter 1: portions of the 1st, 12th and the 13th verses, reading as follows: "How is she become as a widow! The Lord hath afflicted me in the day of His fierce anger. From above hath He sent fire into my bones, and it prevaileth against them."
The Pastor, the Rev. T. Gensicke, went on to apply the words to the sin of the carousing, boisterous, and "devil-may-care" attitude of the people residing in the booming, but sinful frontier lumber city, Peshtigo.
On the following Sunday, Pastor Gensicke, preached on Revelation 3:19-20. "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore and repent. Behold I stand at the door and knock; if any many hear My voice and open the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him and he with Me." Following the second sermon, many people spoke to the pastor in this vein, "Mr. Pastor, Peshtigo simply could not remain as it was - the sin was too great, What came upon us, came as a just payment for our sin."
Although the Wisconsin Synod was a mere 20 year old fledgling itself, it authorized the Rev. Goldammer of Green Bay to collect gifts of food and clothing from among the Lutheran congregations in Wisconsin, to share with the desolated community of Peshtigo. The congregation was given a sum of $2,216 to apply towards the building of a church and parsonage which were started upon immediately. Dedication of the first Lutheran Church in Peshtigo took place in 1872. This church was quite an imposing building and a familiar landmark to Peshtigo citizens for a long time. The building was moved further south on the property in 1896 to make room for a larger, new church building. The old church building was used as a "German" school and parish hall. Catechetical classes, along with the important three R's, were taught there. The building burned down in 1916 and was replaced with a new brick parish hall and school hall. A new parsonage was built in 1904 which served until 1965 when the new, present home was erected. It was in 1904 also, that the Ladies Aid society was organized.
The entire history of Zion is told through the following listing of dates of importance as they occurred.
1868-1871 The Rev. Carl Huebner, Pastor"What is now Zion Lutheran Congregation was first gathered together by the "Missionary at Large" of the Wisconsin Synod in 1868. Zion congregation joined the Wisconsin Synod on the night of the worst fire in the United States history, (Oct. 8, 1871).
1872-1874 The Rev. Paul Lange, Pastor"The Wisconsin Synod sent $2,200 toward the erection of a new parsonage and Church (1872).
1874-1880 The Rev. Adolph Toepel, Pastor"Like his predecessors, Rev. Toepel had great missionary zeal. Already before he came to Peshtigo, he had established small congregations or preaching stations at Stiles, Little River, and Menominee, Mich.
1991-1883 The Rev. C. Hillerman, Pastor served both Christ Lutheran Church in Menominee, Mich., and Zion Lutheran Church in Peshtigo. Following his departure in May, 1883, Seminary Professors came by train every weekend to serve Zion Congregation until autumn of the same year.
1883-1890 The Rev. Julius Voss, Pastor"He was called upon his graduation from the seminary. Zion was his first pastorate.
1890-1901 The Rev. Ernst Haese, Pastor"A new church was built and dedicated on the 25th remembrance of the Peshtigo Fire (Oct. 8, 1896). The total cost of the church including all furnishings, altar, pulpit, pews, bells, etc. was only $3,250.
1901-1906 The Rev. A. Dammann, Pastor"The parsonage was sold and moved to the corner of Emery and Green Streets. A new parsonage which served for 60 years until the beginning of 1965, was built at a cost of $1,570 (1904)k. Pastor Dammann was also instrumental in organizing the Ladies Aid Society. The first officers were Mrs. C. Neverman, president; Mrs. Emma Haese, secretary, and Mrs. Ida Wenzel, treasurer.
1906-1910 The Rev. A.C. Haase, Pastor.
1910-1915 The Rev. Henry Diehl, Pastor.
1915-1963 Rev. Kurt R.F. Geyer accepted Zion's call to become pastor on July 12, 1915. It was also the date of his acceptance into the Wisconsin Synod, by colloquy. No one including Rev. Geyer could have imagined on that hot summer day that he would become Zion's longest-tenured pastor.
Geyer was born Jan. 7, 1886 in Ratibor, Province of Silesia, Prussia (later, Germany). A 1908 graduate of the Royal Friedrich Wilhelm College, he emigrated to America in April of 1909 and matriculated at the Lutheran Seminary in Wauwatosa that same year. Upon graduation with honors from the seminary in June of 1912, he was called to serve the congregations at Abrams, Brookside and Little Suamico. His ordination was July 28, 1912 at Brookside. On Jan. 21, 1913 he married Elsa Kionka in Milwaukee. Her father, Rev. Martin Kionka, officiated at the service.
When Pastor Geyer came to Peshtigo in the summer of 1915 it was clear that he had definite plans for Zion to continue to prosper. Indeed, the church appeared to have a solid foundation from which to grow. The church building and parsonage had served the congregation well, and both church membership and finances were fairly satisfactory. Within a year of Geyer's arrival, however, adversity would confront both Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church and the City of Peshtigo.
When Zion's "new" church was constructed in 1896, the "old church" was moved to the southern most boundary of the property. The building was utilized extensively by the congregation as a "German School" and parish hall. It was also an ever-present symbol of how far the congregation had come since the fire.
Disaster struck on April 10, 1916, when fire reduced this much revered part of Zion's identity to ashes.
Quickly rebounding, Zion's members raised the funds necessary to build a new, block-construction "Educational Building" on the same site. Undoubtedly rallied by their new and energetic pastor, this school building would not only be used as a Sunday School, German Schoo and catechetical class room, but also as a congregational meeting place, church office and parish social center. The new building was dedicated to the service of God on Sept. 24, 1916.
On Oct. 9 , 1921, over 2,000 people attended services celebrating Zion's Golden Anniversary of membership in the Wisconsin Synod. At this fiftieth anniversary celebration, Zion's membership role included 72 families with 135 children enrolled in Sunday School.
Over the next several decades, Rev. Geyer and Zion's faithful used God's blessings to reach more souls and enhance worship in Peshtigo. Additions were made to the Parish Hall in 1935, 1951 and 1954.
The church itself was remodeled in 1941 and again in 1945. New chancel furniture was installed in 1941. In addition to these substantial war time improvements, beautiful, full-length stained-glass windows were also installed. As Rev. Geyer explained in the dedication service bulletin on April 30, 1944, "The Memorial Windows, replacing the old windows installed 48 years ago, were manufactured by the Marathon Art Glass Company of Marinette, George Phelps and Son, Mfgs. The center of each window is The Cross which an appropriate emblem setting forth Christian Faith and Life. The hand-painted emblems are the work of an old European artist, Mr. Kielborcher, now residing in Columbus, Ohio. Each emblem is permanently burned into the glass. The Cross in each window is a peculiar emblem, the "Fleur de Lis" representing the Holy Trinity."
Organ chimes and a modern amplification system were installed in 1945. In 1953, a brand-new Wick's pipe organ was installed.
Even in the later years of Rev. Geyer's pastorate, his efforts were ambitious. It had been realized for quite some time that the thrice-enlarged parish hall was becoming inadequate as the congregation continued to grow. Even with Rev. Geyer's retirement on the horizon, plans were made for a new "Educational Building" to be built between the parsonage and the expanded Parish Hall. Primarily intended for a much larger Sunday School, the new building would also have office space for the pastor and a secretary. Ground was broken in 1961 and the new Sunday School Building was dedicated later that year.
In 1963 Rev. Geyer retired from his divine calling and moved to Rockford, Ill. to be nearer to his children. A life-long servant of God, he was called to glory in 1965. Funeral services were held at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church. The church council served as pall bearers and included Martin W. Keller, Louis Meunier, Frank Schiner, Richard Meunier, Harris Prestine and August Goldsmith.
In 1963 Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church found itself in an unique and uncomfortable situation. For the first time since the spring of 1915, the congregation found itself in a position of calling a new pastor to lead them. The gravity of the circumstance was not lost on the faithful of Zion.
The successor to Rev. Geyer would be following a local religious icon. The difficulties inherent in this responsibility would be daunting.
With the help of the Wisconsin Synod, several divine calls were extended. In early 1964, Rev. Delton J. Tills accepted the church's call.
1963-1981 Rev. Delton John August Tills was born on June 8, 1918 in Rockville, Wisconsin, where he grew up on a holstein dairy farm. Inspired by his pastor, Tills attended Concordia College in Milwaukee and in 1943 graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon. As a senior at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, he married Lucille Krueger of Cedarburg at the WELS Seminary Chapel.
Prior to the Tills' move to Peshtigo in 1964, it became evident to the congregation that the parsonage built in 1904 was wholly inadequate for the families of zion's future clergymen. Ground was broken in the spring of 1965 for a new three-bedroom, ranch style parsonage. Located between the classic 1896 church and the modern Educational Building, Zion's new pastoral home was dedicated in late 1965. During the demolition of the ages parsonage and construction of the new parsonage, the Tills family lived in a small apartment on West Front Street.
Even while each of these extensive building plans were ongoing, Zion was also able to come to the aid of the city-at-large.
On Nov. 9, 1964, a ferocious fire of undetermined origin destroyed an entire wing of Peshtigo High School. This 1936 addition to the original Green Street high school contained the library, a study hall, science and home economics class rooms. In an effort to alleviate the emergency logistics such a tragedy necessitates, Zion offered its nearly new Educational Building to be used as temporary classrooms for the School District. Directly, the Peshtigo School District restructured its classes with this offer in mind. In short order, third and fourth grade classes were being taught at Zion's Educational Building. Zion shared its facilities with the Peshtigo School District for two years. The genial cooperation between church and the City of Peshtigo was reminiscent of the city's courtesy of allowing Zion to use the village's only school house for Sunday worship services in 1870.
Throughout all of this activity, it became obvious that Rev. Tills' plan for the congregation encompassed much more than obligatory brick and mortar improvements or civic cooperation. Spiritual and fellowship concerns were a priority and the perceived needs of the faithful were addressed with vigor. Assisted by his wife, who also acted as church secretary. Rev. Tills was ready for the challenge.
The "Teen League" was a revival of the long moribund "Young Peoples" organization. Created in 1964 by Rev. Tills, the monthly gatherings and outings were focused on keeping teenagers active and involved with the church. The traditional loss of young souls following their confirmation was as big a concern then as it is now.
In a similar vein, "Lutheran Boy and Girl Pioneer" groups were created to establish a theologically correct youth scouting program. The activities of both groups were extensive. There were camping trips to the Boundary Waters in Minnesota, on the banks of the Menominee River and at Rev. Tills personal acreage on the Peshtigo River.
A new church organization was also created in 1965 that had an entirely different focus. The "Mr. and Mrs. Club" was a social and spiritual organization that sought to bring together Lutheran Christian couples for enhanced fellowship and social interaction.
Throughout this active time of church reorganization, the church council continued to have a keen eye on Zion's properties. Considerable funds were expended to paint and redecorate the exterior of each church building in 1967.
Perhaps the highlight of the 1968 church calendar was Zion's 100th anniversary celebration on Oct. 13, 1968. The special worship service held that Sunday morning emphasized the blessings that God had granted to Zion during the past century. The guest preacher was Rev. Eldor Toepel of Jerusalem Lutheran Church in Milwaukee. Rev. Toepel was the grandson of Rev. Adolph William Toepel, pastor of Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church from 1874 to 1880. His sermon was titled "Onward with Joy in the Lord's Work."
Floral offerings for the service included an arrangement from Mrs. Emily Schwartz and Mr. and Mrs. Ervin Nelson. Their parents were married on Dec. 9, 1896, the very first couple to be married in Zion's then new church.
To continue the spiritual celebration, the entire membership came together at 6 p.m. in the "old gym" at Peshtigo High School for the anniversary gala. Rev. Harold E. Wicke, Executive Editor of Northwestern Publishing House and later, Executive Editor of the Northwestern Lutheran, acted as toastmaster for the festivities. The flickering flames of the eleven-armed candelabra represented the 11 pastors who had served Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church. A meal of roast sirloin tips with all the garnishings was followed by a puppet show, a sharing of memories, and a sing-along of old songs.
In 1981 Pastor Tills retired from Zion and later accepted a call to Payson, Az. where he served Rock of Ages Lutheran Church, and later retired from the ministry and moved to Sun City West, Az. Rev. Delton John August Tills passed on June 22, 1996 in Phoenix, Az.
1981-1990 Rev. Timothy Meier was Zion's next pastor. As shepherd of Zion, Rev. Meier was immediately thrust into the forefront of the "new church location" controversy.
As Pastor Meier later noted, "I knew before accepting the call that Zion was struggling with the difficult issue of building a new church, possibly on a different site. Although I was aware of this before my arrival, neither I nor probably anyone else realized that it would take several years to resolve this issue."
During Pastor Meier's first several years, it was clear to most of the congregation that the drams of erecting a beautiful new sanctuary and fellowship hall to the Glory of God were definitely going to be realized. Critically, the location of that house of worship had not yet been determined.As is proper, it was the 680 communicant members of Zion would favor the Ellis Avenue site.
That watershed decision would mark the beginning of the process to erect a new church and fellowship hall at the historic corner of Ellis Avenue and Thompson Street. In short order, the "Christensen property", including the pavilion and bridge was sold for $40,000 and the proceeds were deposited in the Building Fund.
Building Committee members included Howard R. Harper, Martin Keller, Jack Skowlund, Norman Marquardt, William Ruechel, Loren Polzin, Paul Borkovec, Steven Motkowski and Ronald Prestine. Finance Committee was composed of Joseph Beauclaire, Sr., Greg Johnson, Ervin Lindberg, Robert Place and Steven Rich.
The concern to where to worship while the new church was being constructed was dispatched in short order. Jack Skowlund, long-time Zion member, offered the use of his property at the former Pine View Health Care Center. The Pine View campus included Ganter Hall, a full-size gymnasium that was ideal for its impending transformation to a temporary worship place. The rent-free agreement was one of many in-kind contributions to Zion's building project.
Ground breaking ceremonies for the new Church followed on Sunday, Aug. 6, 1989. In October of 1989 Pastor Meier had accepted a call to be a WELS missionary in Taiwan.
Construction was accomplished on-time and in good order. By the summer of 1990, Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church would be worshiping God in a new church and fellowship facility.
1990-1999 Rev. Arthur Callies, a 1984 graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary was pastor at St. John Lutheran Church in Maribel when he accepted the call to Zion Evangelic Lutheran Church in the spring of 1990.
Throughout the construction phase of the church, it was dedicated on June 17, 1990.
It was through Rev. Callies encouragement that the church council was separated into distinct boards of responsibilities, reporting to the Church Council each month. This division of authority made the work of the parish leaders much more effective.
In an effort to assist Rev. Callies and to form a strong clerical team, Zion's church council extended a call to Rev. James Wuebben as a "Retirement Call Pastor" in 1998 A former Missouri Synod pastor, Rev. Wuebben was to share preaching responsibilities and other pastor functions.
When it became obvious that the impasse between the pastors was having a harmful effect on the faithful of the congregation, a congregational voters meeting was convened to resolve the conflict. Prior to the meeting, Rev. Wuebben submitted his resignation. Following a "vote of no confidence" by the congregation on July 31, 1999, Rev. Arthur Callies resigned his position "For the Good of the Ministry".
2000-2010 When Rev. David Zahn, a native of County Line (Oconto) accepted Zion's divine call in October of 1999, the congregation of 650 souls was in a distressing and troubling period of transition.
Pastor Zahn was a 1987 graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. Upon graduation he was assigned to St. Paul Lutheran Church in Stevensville, Mich. where he served until accepting the call to Zion.
He was truly the first pastor at Zion that was computer literate and was able to reap the benefits of that technology. He was also well-known for his organizational skills and his ability to successfully plan ahead to meet congregational goals.
Rev. Zahn opened an Early Childhood program in the Educational Building in 2001. The daycare was a source of many families joining Zion. In 2002 he instituted a Children's Devotion on every non-communion Sunday service. In 2003 the congregation approved funding to install a multi-media system that included a projector and large screen. The system was intended as an effort "to simplify and enhance worship and instruction."
On Oct. 11, 2003, Zion celebrated its 135th Anniversary. It would be the highlight of Rev. David Zahn's pastorate.
The rift was beginning to heal and a modest growth in attendance was noticed.
Upon resigning Zion's pulpit in 2009, Zahn continued to be involved in community affairs. He currently serves as the Parks and Recreation Director for the City of Peshtigo as well as a Marinette County Board member.
2010-present Pastor Luke Myslik was born in Abrams, and graduated from Fox Valley Lutheran High School in Appleton. He is a 2001 graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in Mequon.
When Pastor Myslik accepted the call to serve at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church in Peshtigo in 2010, he would continue to be proclaiming the Lord's Law and Gospel in a small mid-western city. With his wife of three years, Susan (A WELS grade school teacher), the pair were eager to proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ Crucified in Peshtigo.
Fellowship opportunities have increased considerably since Pastor Myslik's installation. Members of the congregation have attended several Packer Family nights together, lucky anglers have been able to show off their catches at the Zion Family Fishing Day and gardeners have been able to take advantage of the "Growing in God's Love" plant sale.
Pastor Myslik also served as Vacancy Pastor at St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church in Grover. This is looked upon by the congregation and Pastor Myslik alike as a great opportunity for the two churches to work together more closely to proclaim the Word of God. It also prompts both congregations to recall the selfsame origins.
According to Pastor Myslik, "In the Bible we are reminded that the Holy spirit works through the gospel as it comes to us in Word and Sacrament.
with that as our main encouragement, we look forward to another 150 years of trust in our gracious God as we share his Word and administer the Sacraments."
"In all the events over the past 150 years we can most certainly see the loving hand of our Lord guiding and protecting us. As we read the history of Zion Lutheran Church we are reminded that even in our ups and downs the Lord is in control, and Khruxate to euaggelion "Preach the Gospel', is and always will be our most important goal at Zion"
Recent stories, opinions and photos