Rivard, John T. / Triple centennial jubilee souvenir book : Somerset
A century of faith, pp. -108
HISTORY OF CHRIST CONGREGATION 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 homes. FIRST CHURCH IS BUILT 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 organ. CHURCH BURNS DOWN 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 CHRIST LUTHERAN CHURCH 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. SOCIETIES 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 others.
© Copyright 1956 by John T. Rivard