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Rivard, John T. / Triple centennial jubilee souvenir book : Somerset

A century of faith,   pp. [39]-108

Page 101

In June 1899, two and a half miles southwest of Somerset,
Wisconsin, a group of sturdy men had gathered to build a
church on some land donated by Fred Roettgar, a farmer. These
men with their families made up the early history of Christ
Lutheran congregation. The last days of the summer of 1896,
three years before, saw them working to organize, adopt a con,
stitution and secure pastors. Even in the eighties, pastors from
the Lutheran seminary at Afton, Minnesota had journeyed over
into Wisconsin to serve some of the German settlers here. And
since Stillwater had a Lutheran church, various pastors from
St. Paul's Lutheran, there, had brought their buggies and horses
over to teach and preach to these people. J. Siegrist was one
of these.
Actually though, it was the Rev. F. Ebert, also from
Stillwater, who helped the people to make a permanent organ-
ization in this area of Wisconsin outlined by the Apple River.
He was first aided substantially by Auguest Wegge, Frederick
Roettger and Konrad Koehler. At first, with no sanctuary erect-
ed, worship services were held in the schoolhouses. Education
classes for the children were usually conducted in the members
The faithful people were willing to donate amazingly large
sums of money to support their pastor and the pay for miscellan
eous expenses. One gave two hundred dollars in a single year;
others contributed fifty dollars; others, twentyfive - all start-
lingly generous gifts considering the value of such a sum of
money in that day! The church was put up. Near it was a
small shed where the traveling preachers kept their steeds. Ac-
tivity continued at a high pitch such as seems limited often to
early ventures and seems less true of such ventures once they
have grown into years. Names appeared on the constitution
pages, names such as Ernest Rehder, Paul Kluedtke, Christian
Simon, Ludwig Schrank, Lutzke, Kiekhoefer, Nagel, Rosenow,
Sontag and others. Fervently and steadily they kept the spiritu,
al fires glowing.  Students came in summer to instruct the
youngsters in the principles of Lutheran faith.  Often they
boarded at the Fred Roettger place.
Their church had been built well. It was solid in structure.
Furnishings consisted of eighteen benches, a beautiful altar
(which is still beautifying the church in town) and a fine reed
Most of these furnishings had been removed before a fire
in the spring of 1917 destroyed the building. Two neighbors
ran to the scene of the blaze and carried out most of the benches,
the altar and the organ, exhibiting, we are told, almost super,
human strength in so doing. But the congregation was without
a frame home and services again were held in homes until a new
structure could be raised.
Rev. A. C. Ernst was now their pastor, having come to
them from Chicago in 1904. He was to serve them almost up
to the time of his death in 1955. In addition to Christ con-
gregation, he took care of Redeemer congregation at Burkhardt.
His home was in Stillwater where he was pastor of St. Paul's
Lutheran congregation.
One thousand dollars was the estimate placed upon the value
of the old church ediface. After a few months fire insurance
payments were received in amount of $I025.oo. Now the
congregation prepared to build again. A plot of land on the
southern fringe of Somerset village in the vicinity of the Soo
Somerset, Wisconsin
Line Depot was secured from Charlie Koehler for a sum of
$3oo.oo. Friends in the village went to bat for the group
and raised over $oo.oo. Membership and other contribu-
tions neared $iooo.oo. The local Lutheran Ladies Aid do,
nated $4oo.oo and $8oo.oo was borrowed from the Bank
of Somerset.  In autumn, 1917, work was begun.     The
beautiful new worship house was finished in 1918. The work,
manship demonstrated but particularly the interior even at pres-
ent is a tribute to the thoroughness of the builders and of Emil
Wegge who was business manager of the whole project.
What makes a Lutheran congregation tick?  What takes
place?  How is business transacted?  These questions, if an,
swered only briefly could provide a background upon which the
picture of our church might be drawn.
The movement of any congregation is furnished by the peo,
ple themselves who compose it. They come from all the walks
of life, although largely in this case they are farm people.
Ideally a church should have a fair proportion of farmers with
doctors, lawyers, teachers, day laborers, tradesmen and others.
There should be a liberal sprinkling of bachelors, family groups,
men, women and children. Now, when all of these are given
an opportunity to use their talents in the activities of the church,
immediately a good deal of progress and gain is executed. Then
she really ticks, because Christ gave us all to each other to com,
plement each other and make His church.
Christ congregation has always had worship services where
men and women and children could gather to prayer, praise and
thanksgiving. Those services, however, have not been con,
stant, at the same time every week. For some time Rev. Ernst
was unable to come except in the afternoons on Sunday. More,
over, he couldn't make it every Sunday. It is the hope of the
present congregation to have more regularity in its program. A
step in that direction was taken in 1 950 when the Rev. Mar-
vin Grunke, formerly an instructor in the Christianity depart-
ment of Wartburg College, Waverly, Iowa, was asked to be-
come assistant pastor, helping Pastor Ernst.  Beginning with
his tenure of office and continuing until the present day, the
congregation has had morning worship every week. Pastor
Grunke helped organize a Siinday School which was self,
supporting. Among the first women to teach classes of this
school were Mrs. Ray Ostendorf, Mrs. Clarence Kiekhoefer,
Donna and Joyce Strohbeen, and Joyce Flandrick, with many

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