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 sixth church in Chicago was St. James Lutheran Church, called St. Jacobi in German. The original building made it through the great fire, but the congregation saw how dangerous it was to have a sanctuary built out of wood. They built a brick building just before World War I, which is where the congregation worships today. St. James still has a vibrant Pre-K through 8th grade school in the Lincoln Park Neighborhood.
Evangelical Lutheran St. James Congregation
The St. James congregation is the fifth congregation in Chicago by age. Already in the year 1857, a German Lutheran school association was founded north of North Avenue, whose members, for the most part, belonged to the St Paul congregation of Pastor Wunder. These members also have become the founders of St. James Congregation.
Teacher F. Beghard taught first in the school on Willow and Burling Street. After this, teacher C. Laufer; also Teacher J. R Haase — who later died as a beloved and respected teacher of St. Paul congregation at their school on Larrabee street — and teacher W. Läsch. The above named school (Willow and Burling Streets) was a three class school when St. James congregation was founded. In the schoolhouse, Pastor Wunder preached every Wednesday evening for 13 years.
Very quickly the population on the north side increased as a result of immigration; and the already long cherished plan to found a new congregation in the north of the city was now going forward. In the fall of 1869, the Evangelical Lutheran St. James Congregation began its life. Pastor W. Bartling, in Springfield, Ill., Was called as the pastor of the new congregation. The same accepted the call with the permission of his previous congregation, and was installed into his office by Pastor H. Wunder on the Sunday of Misericordia Domini, the 1st of May 1870. Pastor Bartling was, as the record reports, the sixth pastor in Chicago and the 19th in Cook County.
The new congregation received the school on Willow and Burling Street as a dowry from the St. Paul congregation. They decided immediately to build a church and they bought a suitable plot at Fremont Street and Garfield Ave. Without hesitation, the church building was undertaken with zeal, and already in the fall of 1870, the beautiful St. James Church was finished and dedicated by Professor Sell, Pastor Wunder, and Director Lindemann.
Since the population, namely in Lake View, grew quickly, the congregation soon had to think about receiving the Lutheran Christians near the church, winning others, and erecting a school in that area. Therefore, they bought a plot on Fullerton Ave. and High Street, and erected a schoolhouse on the same, where they later also had their schoolhouse brought to Southport Ave, because the number of students increased so much that a two-class school had to be set up. Later, in the year 1884, it even became a three class school.
However, because even more Lutherans settled in the area of Hoyne and Belmont Ave, and the path for their children to the school on Fullerton Ave was too far — also danger was present that false Lutherans would occupy that area, so the congregation decided to buy a plot on Hoyne Ave and to found a school there. After considering all the circumstances, the congregation decided not to call a teacher but an associate pastor, who took the school during the week and would preach every Sunday alternating with Pastor Bartling. The candidate J. E. A. Müller from the Seminary in Springfield Ill. was called, and he was ordained and installed on the feast of the Epiphany, 1882. The St. James congregation had eleven school classes at the same time. In addition, a school class was erected on Racine and Oakdale Avenues, and the Seminarian F. Reick was called. These schools were served by nine teachers and two female teachers.
At this time, sermons were preached during the week in the schoolhouses on Home Ave, Fullerton, and High Street, also on Willow and Burling Street. Because the congregation grew more and more in Lake View, so the members living in the same prepared a request to allow them to found a new congregation. The request was granted. And so the Evangelical Lutheran St. Luke Congregation was birthed, which called the previous associate pastor of the St. James congregation, Pastor J. E. A. Müller as their pastor. The mother congregation gave their daughter the school on Hoyne Ave as a dowry.
In the following year, 1895, on the first Sunday in July, the St. James congregation had the joy to celebrate their 25th anniversary. In the morning, Professor F. Lindemann of the teacher seminary in Addison preached, whose blessed father had helped dedicate the church 25 years ago. He preached about Revelation 3:11, “Hold what you have, so that no one takes your crown.” His theme was: What makes a correct anniversary festival for an evangelical Lutheran congregation? Answer: 1. In this, that they gratefully recognize and praise what they have through God’s grace and 2. In this, that they are henceforth determined to keep what they have. A festival was organized with the school kids in the afternoon, wherein Pastor Bartling spoke about Psalm 148. Director M. Albrecht from Milwaukee, who grew up in the congregation and had been supported by the congregation during his studies, preached in the evening. He preached about John 10:27–28: “My sheep hear my voice” and following. His theme was: The characteristics of the blessedness of Jesus’ flock, and he showed 1. What the characteristics are, and 2. What the blessedness of Jesus’ flock is. Both sermons were wonderful and exquisite, and the congregation has printed them.
So far, 18 preachers and teachers have come out of the congregation, while five are still in the different institutions of the synod.
The Illinois District of our synod has already met twice in the St. James Church building. The first time was in 1886, from the 16th to the 22nd of June. Vice-president of the whole synod, Pastor C. Groß, took the opening sermon about Psalm 126:5–6 and demonstrated that sowing seed is our work in the kingdom of God, from which the harvest follows. There were 401 synodical guests present. The doctrine of Hell and everlasting damnation was discussed in the meeting. The second time the same synod met there was 1894, from the 12th to the 22nd of May. The president of the synod, H. C. Schwan, preached about Luke 2:34–35. There were 525 synodical guests present. Theses about the majesty of the Lord’s Prayer were discussed.
Since its beginning, the congregation has had three associate pastors alongside Pastor W. Bartling, namely the pastors J. E. A. Müller, W. C. Kohn, and Albert Bartling. C. Baufer, C. W. Läsch, W. Hoppe, who entered his blessed rest in Fort Wayne, Ind., G. Drener, who died here, August Roß, B. Tessmann, J. Groschmann, dead, C. Schliebe, F. Zimmermann, who died here, Wilhelm Ernst, who had to retire from his office because of illness, Paul Appelt, and Louis Döring.
The current teachers are: Friedrich Kringel, Louis Heitbrink, Christian Schwarz, Friedrich Rieck, and Gustav Niethammer.
The congregation possesses a church 50 feet by 87 feet with a 113 foot high tower, a building for the young people, a school building on Willow and Burking Street with two lots, one at Fullerton Av. with two lots, two lots on Southport ave, and a house and a lot on Clark Street.
The congregation presently numbers 303 voting members and 1560 communicant members, and it has a school with 5 teachers and 360 students.