Chicago Lutheran History: St. Martini Evangelical Lutheran Church- 1884

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.

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St. Martini’s original wood-frame church

St. Martini (sadly not the gin or vodka kind) is named like the Latin name for Martin Luther. The church and school grew up in what is now the Back Of The Yards neighborhood. One of the fastest growing congregations in the city, and among the 10 largest in the Northern Illinois District, it increased from 17 members in 1884 to more than 2,000 in 1900. Like many Chicago congregations, St. Martini experienced a long decline after their peak in the early 1900’s. There is a marked decline in their numbers from their 1934 history booklet and their 1954 booklet in the size and scope of their clubs and groups photographs. St. Martini closed in 2005.

The second church building which the congregation used until it closed in 2005. Photo from St. Martini’s 1934 anniversary booklet.

Evangelical Lutheran St. Martini Congregation

In January 1884, the Trinity congregation released a number of members who lived in the “Town of Lake” to found an independent congregation there. In a meeting held on February 4th, they organized themselves as “The Evangelical Lutheran St. Martini Congregation U. A. C.” In this meeting, 17 members signed the constitution. Pastor F. C. Leeb, previously the associate pastor at Trinity congregation, was called to be their pastor, and he was installed into his new congregation by Pastor L. Lochner on Oculi Sunday, the 16th of March 1884.

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Pastor F. C. Leeb, first pastor of St. Martini. Photograph from St. Martini’s 1934 anniversary booklet.

They bought the school building from Trinity congregation for $1,300. The building proved to be impractical for setting up a church, because it was too close to the railroad. In April of 1884, the congregation bought 5 lots on the corner of 48th and Frazer Street for $1,300, and they decided to build a frame church, 40 feet by 60 feet, for the cost of $8,000. On the 15th of June 1884, the cornerstone was laid, at which Pastor L. Lochner took the opportunity for a celebratory address. The dedication of the church happened on the 16th Sunday after Trinity (the 28th of September) 1884. The parish pastor, F. C. Leeb, spoke the prayer of consecration, and the pastors L. Lochner and L. Hölter took the festival sermons.

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The school and confirmation classes in 1934. Photos taken from St. Martini’s 50th anniversary book.

Previously, the pastor administered the church’s school. Since the number of school children was growing so quickly that a second school classroom had to be set up, the congregation called the teaching candidate, F. Kringel, to the first class, while Pastor Leeb still taught the small class for three more years until the congregation called Teacher J. Döpke to the second class. As early as 1883, a number of Trinity congregation’s members who lived in Englewood wanted a school for their children. But it turned out that the number of children was still too small to set up a school, so the idea had to be disregarded at the time. Nevertheless, after three years, the newly created St. Martini congregation could construct a school in Englewood.

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St. Martini’s school building in 1934. The brick construction suggests that it is unlikely that this is the original school building. Photo taken from the congregation’s 50th anniversary booklet. The

In the spring of 1886, it was discussed. The result was that two lots on Green and 59th Street were purchased for $550, and a school building, 22 feet by 40 feet, was erected. Its dedication took place on the first Sunday of Advent, 1886, at which Pastor H. Engelbrecht held the festival address. They also took this opportunity to install the newly called teacher, Mr. H. Schulte, into his office, who began teaching the school on December 1st with some 25 children. From that time on, Pastor Leeb preached in the school every two weeks on Sunday afternoon, while the teacher held Christian doctrine classes every Sunday afternoon.

The demand to found a congregation in Englewood grew more and more every day. To promote the kingdom of God, St. Martini congregation released nine members on the 13th of January, 1889, who organized themselves as the Evangelical Lutheran St. Stephen Congregation U. A. C.” The mother congregation sold the school building at that place to the new congregation for $500, and they permitted their pastor, himself, to serve with word and sacrament until the newly called pastor, Pastor J. A. Bünger, came. He arrived on Easter, 1889.

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St. Martini was once one of the 10 largest churches in Northern Illinois, and this photo of the Sunday school helps us understand how big that is. Photo taken from the 50th anniversary book.

Before long, those in St. Martini Congregation knew that the church and school were not in the right place. So, in the summer of 1891, the congregation then decided to place themselves in a suitable site in the middle of their community. Such a place was found at the corner of 51st Street and Marshfield Avenue, where the congregation bought five lots for $3,500. In the fall of the same year, first the school building and then the church building were moved there, which cost the congregation $1,500. Unter the church 9 foot tall fellowship hall was set up, in which confirmation instruction is also being held. The church building was furnished with frescos, 9 lamps, carpets, and paraments for the altar and pulpit, and the newly renovated church was dedicated on the 21st of February, 1892, at which the pastors W. Kohn, P. Budach and P. Merbitz preached. The total cost of the move came to about $7500.

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The inside of the newly renovated church. Photo taken from St. Martini’s 75th anniversary booklet.

Presently, the congregation numbers 225 voting members and 1,050 communicant members. The school has four classes, at which the following three teachers and one female teacher instruct. 1st class: Teacher H. Eirich; 2nd Class: Teacher G. Bewie; 3rd Class: Teacher J. Grotheer; 4. Classe, Ms. J. Lange. The school is attended by 350 children.

A pastor, writer, and geek who lives in Chicago. https://jameshuenink.wordpress.com

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