In 1896, the German 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 Hegewisch neighborhood of Chicago began as company town, planned by Adolph Hegewisch after the model of Pullman. He wanted to build a community with thriving businesses and housing to support the factory for his company, United States Rolling Stock Company, whose headquarters was in Blue Island, IL at the time. He bought 100 acres and other investors an additional 1,500. The Hegewisch plan didn’t come together, so both the community and the church struggled for decades.
The first German Lutheran churches planted in Chicago experienced fantastic growth. Many Chicago churches were among the largest in Illinois, and First Bethlehem was the largest in the Synod. According to Frederrick Luebke in Germans in the New World: Essays in the History of Immigration, German immigration to the United States peaked at 1.4 million in 1880–1889. The next decade dropped to 579,000. As immigration slowed down and the settlement in Chicago spread out from the city center, German Lutheran church growth slowed dramatically.
For example, First Bethlehem began with 26 members in 1871. By 1883, their 1,000 seat sanctuary was just too small, so they built one with space for 2,000. By 1895, First Bethlehem was a mega-church with more than 5,000 members. Trinity, however, had only 16 voting members and 38 communicant members. I don’t know if Trinity is still open, but you can find the sanctuary on street view.
Evangelical Lutheran Trinity Congregation (Hegewisch.)
Where the eastern and western branch of the Calumet river meet, three miles from its mouth in Lake Michigan, at the so-called “Fort,” The “Rolling Stock Company” built a large railroad car factory in 1884 after the Pullman Plan. The chief investor was a certain Hegewisch, a German. He constructed a village there, which grew in an incredibly short time, and now comprises the south east corner of the City of Chicago. At that time, Chicago ended at 138th Street. There was a good outlook for lucrative work here, so Germans also settled here. Pastor C. Rock of Riverdale visited these German people, and he preached to them every second Sunday in the afternoon.
After that, Pastor Lübkert, who lived near Hegewisch in Hammond, Indiana, did the same. In the year 1877, from the 15th of September on, Pastor Theodor Bünger of Bremen, Ill., and Pastor J. Feiertag of Colehour, Ill. took over serving this congregation. Later, Pastor Feiertag performed the service alone. On the 1st of October 1887, the time came to organize the congregation. Shortly after that, a mission church building was built, the cost of which was defrayed in the largest part by the love of the Chicago brothers in faith. The bellmaker, Mr. H. Stuckstede of St. Louis, donated a bell to the church. On the fourth Sunday of Advent the dedication could be held. Pastor A. Reinke took the festival sermon and the brass choir from St. John accompanied the singing.
Ohioan machinations made it necessary that a public disputation had to be held here. The subject of the same was the doctrine of predestination. This disputation took place on the 9th of January 1888. Our side was lead by Pastor Theodor Bünger, but Ohio’s side was led by Pastor H. Dörmann, Jr., and the result was clear, that in the doctrine of predestination, we stand on the side of the scriptures, but the Ohioans stand against it.
The congregation got their own pastor in Pastor W. Herzberger. He was installed on the 22nd Sunday after Trinity, 1888, by Pastor Feiertag. Together with Hegewisch, Pastor Herzberger also served the congregation in Whiting, Ind. However, a year after that, he took a call to the congregation in Hammond, Ind. For six years, Pastor W. Brauer then served the congregation with word and sacrament, until the congregation again got their own pastor in the person of the Candidate M. Käppel.
Unfortunately, the expectations of the growth of the city, which were entertained at the time of the investment in this site, and with it the congregation’s hopes, have not yet been fulfilled, because the so magnificently designed factories had been active for only a short time and have been silent for several years. Therefore, the denizens of Hegewisch had to seek their living mostly in other areas. Under such conditions, the congregation’s growth was also small. However, for a short time now, the operations in the plant have been set in motion again. Let us hope that Hegewisch soon blossoms!
The situation of the congregation: 14 voting members and 38 communicant members. The newly called pastor will also open a congregational school.