Chicago Lutheran History: First Trinity Lutheran Church

In 1896, the Lutheran churches of Chicago published Geschichte der Gründung und Ausbreitung der zur Synode von Missouri, Ohio und Andern Staaten gehörenden Evangelisch-Lutherischen Gemeinden U. A. C. zu Chicago, Illinois, a history of their growth in the city beginning with First St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, now located on LaSalle and Goethe streets in Chicago. As far as I know, there is no English translation of this document, so I offer this translation to share this history with you. Follow me to get updates about the rest of this work.

The third church on the list is First Trinity Congregation, now located on 31st street on Chicago’s south side. When The Lutheran Church–– Missouri Synod went through years of controversy, First Trinity left the LCMS, and they eventually joined the Evangelical Lutheran Church In America (ELCA).

Translation: Ev.-Luth Trinity Congregation

Regarding the founding of this congregation it says in their first book of minutes: “At that time, it had become more and more apparent, that an independent German Evangelical Lutheran congregation form itself in South Chicago *), namely because of the vast distance between every Lutheran house of God, and because the church goers still had to traverse the river on top of that, which is often difficult, even sometimes impossible. So, one day in May 1865, a number of German Evangelical Lutheran Christians gathered by invitation in the school premises. They opened the meeting with a divine service, and the following came together to form an Evangelical Lutheran congregation.” (here followed the names of the founders, eleven in number) “The Congregation should have the name: The German Evangelical Lutheran Trinity Congregation of Chicago, Illinois. In May 1865.”

With these words, the current pastor of Immanuel, Pastor Paul Bener, who had organized this new congregation, gave the founding of the same in the first proceedings he hand wrote himself.

The small congregation was founded, now the third among the Evangelical Lutheran congregations of the city, but for the time being it had to hold its divine services in a private dwelling, in which Pastor Bener preached. In the Fall of the same year, the congregation bought the real estate on which the current church and school stands, 100 by 125 feet, for the sum of $1,000. A single-story wooden building, 24 by 50 feet, was built on this plot, which should serve for the purposes of the church and school. On the 24th of November 1865, the congregation took the step to call a pastor. The choice fell to Pastor Ferdinand Döderlein, who was at a congregation in Cape Girardeau, MO. And the same was installed into his office on the 2nd of August 1866 by Pastor P. Bener with the assistance of Pastors H. Wunder and J. Große, on the same day the newly built church building was dedicated.

Since the congregation now owned a church building and had a pastor in their midst, it grew rapidly in the number of members. Within a year, the original number of 12 voting members grew to 60. And so the congregation felt compelled, already in the second year of its existence, to rebuild the single-story frame building into a two-story one. School was held in the lower floor, and the church in the upper. At first, Pastor Döderlein managed the school. Later a seminarian helped out for a time. In June of 1867, the congregation called the teaching candidate D. W. Treide from Addison to their school.

Meanwhile, the number of members, who lived in so-called “Bridgeport,” was growing so much that the congregation felt compelled to open a school in this district (later the congregations main field of work). And for that purpose, two lots were purchased on Farrel street, near Archer Road, a single-story frame building was erected and it was dedicated on Easter Monday of the same year. Teacher Treide was placed in this new school, and Teacher Baisch was called to the congregation’s previous school near the church, but, already in 1869 Teacher Diersen followed in the office.

Pastor Ferdinand Döderlein

With the persistent growth of the congregation, the former church premises long ago had become too small, and so they had to seriously consider the construction of a church building, especially since a second class now had to be set up in the school near the church, at which a teacher was placed. The church building construction was resolved in God’s name, beginning immediately, and on the 31st of July 1870, the 17th Sunday after Trinity, the new church was dedicated. The city-pastors Bener and Wagner and the blessed Professor R. Lange, then at the High School at Fort Wayne Indiana, took the festival sermons. A slender, 150 foot tall tower adorned the church, which on the 3rd of May 1876, on one Sunday afternoon, was saved during a tornado.

Meanwhile, the congregation in the so-called “Hamburger” district had so multiplied that the opening of a school also had to be earnestly considered there. In the fall of 1871, the congregation acquired two lots on Emerald Ave between 36th and 37th Streets. It erected a single-story frame building and called Teacher C. H. Nagel, then teacher in Proviso IL. The same was installed at the occasion of the dedication of the new school.

In March of 1872, in the school near the church a male teacher was provisionally placed in the second class instead of a female teacher, and in the same year, the schoolhouse at Farrel Street was converted into a two story building, and Teacher Schmidt was placed in the second class. At the end of 1873, Teacher Treide took a call to Lancaster, Ohio, and Teacher Knäppel was called to his position. Also Teacher Diersen took a call issued to him, and Teacher R. H. Treiber, at that time a teacher in Quincy, IL. was called as his successor (1876).

In February 1877, Pastor Ferdinand Döberlein followed a call to St. John’s congregation in Cooper’s Grove, IL. Pastor L. Lochner, then the pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Bethlehem Congregation in Richmond, VA, was called in his place, and, on the last Sunday in August, 1877, he was installed by Professor Selle with the assistance of Pastor A. Wagner. Professor Selle had served the congregation during the vacancy.

In February 1879, Teacher Käppel followed a call to Proviso, Illinois, and Teacher J. Richter was his successor. In the fall of the same year, the school-teaching candidate, Mr. W. Schüter, was called to the second class of the Bridgeport school.

Sites of First Trinity and the branch schools. Purple: First Trinity. Green: First School. Blue Second School. Orange: Third School. Yellow Fourth School.

There, in the stockyard area, a small number of members and communing visitors had settled, and also here, the need of a school made itself apparent, so the congregation, mindful of their call to missions, immediately made preparations for the opening of a branch school. In the spring of 1880, they acquired four lots in Town Lake on 49th and Loomis streets, and built a single story frame school, which was dedicated on the 15th of August 1880. Teacher W. Schlüter worked in this school in the beginning. To his previous post at the Bridgeport school,, the congregation called the school-teaching candidate, A. Breuer from Addison. From then on, sermons were preached and Christian teaching was held on alternating Sundays at the school in Town Lake.

In the summer of 1881, Teacher G. Hillger, school-teaching candidate from Addison, joined the second class of the school near the church in place of the previous female teacher. Meanwhile, the Bridgeport school had become too small. The old school on Farrel street was therefore sold,
And a new four-class school building was built out of bricks at the corner of Arch and Lyman Streets. On the 9th Sunday after Trinity, 1882, this school was dedicated.

God had been extraordinarily rich up to that time in blessing the congregation, giving it growth in membership numbers, and — concerning the region — making it grow more quickly than anyone at the time of the founding of the congregation might have imagined. The work became too much for one pastor, and so the congregation called an associate pastor in the person of the pastor-candidate, Mr. F. C. Leeb from Springfield, IL. The same was ordained on Judica Sunday 1882 by Pastor Lochner with the assistance of Professor Selle. Then Pastor Leeb managed the school in Town Lake, so Teacher Schlüter was again placed at the Bridgeport school. In the fall of 1884, the congregation called the school-teaching candidate Mr. W. Helmkamp to the third class, and in March of 1884 they called Teacher W. Kammann to the fourth class at the above named school. In the fall of 1882 the single-story School on Emerald Ave, near 36th Street, was rebuilt into a two-story one, and a female teacher was placed in the set-up classroom.

In addition, a neighborhood, the so-called Brighton neighborhood, near the congregation made necessary the establishment of a new school. Convinced by the importance of this neighborhood, the congregation bought two lots at Wood near 36th street in the summer of 1883, and it built a single story brick school, which was dedicated in October of the same year. Teacher W. Diener was called to this school. From then on, also here were sermons preached and Christian teaching held on Sunday afternoons, like earlier in Town Lake.

In the beginning of the year 1884, the district in Town Lake was split off. By the 4th of February of the same year, the St. Martini congregation was organized, called thus because they celebrated the Luther Jubilee in this year. The previous associate pastor of the mother-congregation, Pastor F. C. Leeb was called as pastor. To his position, the Trinity congregation, together with the Zion congregation, called Pastor Gotthilf Löber as the shared associate pastor.

At the beginning of the year 1886, Teacher Hilliger followed a call to the St. Stephanus Congregation in Milwaukee, so the congregation called Teacher H. Burmeister to the second class of the school by the church.

In June of 1886, a second branching took place. Two thirds of the voting members in the Bridgeport District were released by their wish, organizing themselves as the congregation for the Holy Cross, and they called Pastor W. Uffenbeck as their pastor, who was pastor in Lemont IL at that time. The same was installed in the new congregation on the 19th Sunday after Trinity by Pastor L. Lochner with the assistance of Pastor G. Löber.

In the year 1888, the third congregation was branched off, namely the Brighton District. On the 4th of March, the members living there were dismissed and they were constituted as St. Andrew’s congregation. The new congregation called as its teacher the one who had been working in the local school from the beginning, Mr. W. Diener, and as their pastor, the then associate pastor of the St. James Congregation, Pastor W. Kohn. The same was installed on the 16th sunday after Trinity by Pastor Lochner with the assistance of Pastor Uffenbeck.

In the summer of 1888, Teacher Breuer followed a call to New York. Teacher G. Scholz was called as his successor to the first class of the school on 35th Court, and when the latter took a call to Milwaukee after approximately four years, his successor was Teacher L. Döring. The same followed a call after two years of activity to the St. Paul’s congregation in the same city, and Teacher A. Seefuhrt was called as his successor. Ms. Brüggemann taught in the second class of this school, and Teacher Nagel at the second class of the school.

On the 28th of July 1895, the congregation celebrated its 25th anniversary. Pastor L. Lochner preached in the morning divine service, Pastor F. Döberlein served in the afternoon divine service, and Pastor L. Hölter in the evening divine service.

The current situation of the congregation is: 177 voting members and 1093 communicant members. 2 schools with 3 male teachers and a female teacher. The current teachers are: R. H. Treiber, C. H. Nagel, A. Seefuhrt.

*) Thus the southern district of the city was named at that time [Note original]

Thank you to Jacob Corzine for helping me through a particularly difficult passage.

A pastor, writer, and geek who lives in Chicago.

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