brief history has been taken
St. Paul’s 125th
Anniversary historical booklet,
One Hundred and Twenty-five Years:
Looking Back . . .
The history of
goes back through many generations. Although the congregation considers its
founding date as 1849, when it called its first resident pastor, Rev. Johann
Adam Ernst of the
Synod, its roots go back to the 1830’s.
. . .
The town of
’s earliest congregation containing Lutherans was formed shortly after 1830.
This was twenty-two years after
’s first settler, traveling with a team of oxen along the lake shore and up
Eighteen Mile Creek and its South Branch, arrived at
. In 1808 the valley was surrounded on all sides by wild timberland, some of the
giants of this forest measuring as much as seven feet in diameter. By 1822 the
settlers’ axes had cleared the land for farms. Small hamlets were to be found
(now spanned by the lofty U.S. Route 62 bridge), and
. Eight years later many of the settlers’ log cabins had been replaced by
frame houses, and farms were now well established.
Beginning about 1830 immigrants from
, perhaps attracted by the countryside’s promising farm land, found their way
and began to settle in the eastern section of the town. They were a tiny part
of the two major waves of German immigrants to come to
in the 19th century, the second major German immigration occurring about 1848.
These immigrants came to the
to escape the religious bondage many of their congregations were experiencing.
Others came to escape political persecution because of their faith.
Soon after the immigrant families settled in
, many of them gathered together as a congregation, meeting in private homes and
schools whenever they could. Though 1836 is the date most commonly used for the
erection of their church in East Eden, land records show that after their
“burial ground” was acquired, Balthasar Zittel deeded a lot to the
congregation for a church structure and school in May 1840. Property for a
parsonage was not secured until 1872.
The Missouri Synod officially came into being in 1847.
It is the date of August 1849 that our present congregation recognizes as
its founding date when the existing congregation had called its first resident
pastor, Pastor Johann Adam Ernst. Adam Ernst, a cobbler’s apprentice from
, had come to
in 1842 at the age of 27 and was trained as a Lutheran parochial schoolteacher.
He was a charter member of the Missouri Synod and was instrumental in its
When Pastor Ernst came to
, it was a period of prosperity and what some historians called a “golden age
of agriculture” in
. One farm after another lined
’s fertile valley and the old Indian trail, now known as
Gowanda State Road
. The center of the East Eden German Protestant population had begun to shift
westward, moving onto the richer, more productive farms of the valley. These
people were thankful to be well out of the strife and disturbances that had
taken place in
in 1848. Here in
they had found religious freedom, freedom to form their own congregations and
determine their synodical affiliations.
One of the notable figures in the history of the Eastern District,
Missouri Synod, Pastor Ernst was known as a man of “vigorous action.” When
the Eastern District, Missouri Synod, was founded in 1854 there were only ten
Missouri Synod pastors in the East. Pastor Ernst was one of these.
The first thirty-eight years in the history of
’s Lutheran congregations had been filled with troubles. Families and friends
had been alienated from one another because of disagreements within their
congregations, congregations had divided and separated,
had become one of the battlegrounds for doctrinal disputes between synods,
pastors had left one synod for another, and painful legal action had stripped
the united Missourians of a place of worship. It could only be hoped that time
would fade the memories of strife, hard feelings, and bitterness. These years
belonged to the past. It was now time to plan for the future.
Meeting on June 3, 1878 at District Schoolhouse Number 7, located on
not far from the site of the present
’s Church, the founders of the
’s congregation attacked their current problems with determination and their
plans for the future with optimism and vigor. It was decided at this time to
name themselves “
’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eden, NY.”
At their second meeting, on June 16, 1878 the founding fathers decided to
build a church. The trustees were empowered to buy as much land as necessary for
the church, school, parsonage, and cemetery. The site agreed upon for the church
property was on the southwest corner of
North Boston Road
. The land was secured from the Jacob Hickman farm. The school was the first
In February lots for the cemetery were laid out in the following pattern,
according to the church minutes: “one row for older people, one row for young
people, and one row for children.” Although some older graves were moved to
’s from other cemeteries, the first burial in the new cemetery was Mary Bley,
who died in 1879 at the age of 17.
A roomy two-story frame parsonage, large enough to accommodate a pastor,
his family, and the occasional visitor was built. Construction work on the
church, which was attached to and in front of the school building, was well
underway by early spring 1879. On
May 4, 1879 the dedication services were held with much jubilation. Gathering at
the church on this festive Sunday, the men, women and children of the
congregation filed into their new freshly painted white frame church edifice.
They entered through the doorway beneath the centered bell tower, which was
topped by a high pointed steeple. Once inside, according to the custom of the
day, the ladies were seated on the left side of the nave, facing the altar; the
men sat on the right. The children did not sit with their parents, but were
required to sit in the front pews.
Until World War I, the German language had been used almost exclusively
in church at
’s. However, recognizing that the younger generations would increasingly have
more and more difficulty, as the years passed, understanding the liturgy and
sermons in German, Pastor Wehrs (1901-1905) had introduced for the first time at
’s a regular English service. This was held once a month, in the evening, and
was intended especially for the young people of the congregation. After 1915 use
of the German language in the parochial school was discontinued, and all
subjects, including catechism, were taught in English. The Sunday school,
established during the war years in 1917, was an English Sunday school.
In 1916 use of the English language was introduced in the regular Sunday
services. By 1924 there was only one German service a month. In 1929 the
congregation resolved to introduce the full English form of service, and finally
in January 1940 the last service in German was held.
The postwar years of World War I brought to
’s various building improvements. These years also brought an optimistic
outlook on the future and new plans for growth. On January 7, 1930 the
congregation unanimously resolved to build a new church, and on April 1, 1930
the architect’s plans were approved and accepted.
On July 27, 1930 the cornerstone of the new
’s church was laid. By January 1931 construction on the building was well
enough advanced so that services could be held in the basement of the new
church. The last service in the old frame was held January 18. The new church
was dedicated on
April 12, 1931
In its history,
's has been served by seventeen Pastors, starting with Rev. J. Adam Ernst, who
was Pastor from 1849 until 1857. The longest Pastorate was that of Rev.
Louis D. Zimmerman, serving from 1915 to 1950 and then Rev. Fred C. Jacobi,
serving from 1971 to 2004. Currently serving as Pastor is the Rev. Thomas S.
Looking Ahead . . .
St. Paul’s congregation continues to
carry on its ministry to the Lord, Jesus Christ. The care of the building and
the well-kept grounds are a testimony of the concern of all its members.
Many of the younger generations and
newer families are not aware of the struggles that our congregation had to go
through. It is our hope that this history will serve to remind us of our rich
Although there were disputes and
doctrinal disagreements in the past, there is nothing of which we should be
ashamed. It is an inspiring history. The conflicts in our early period did not
bring total despair. Instead they produced strength and character. Despite the
many obstacles that were in its path, the congregation survived where many
others might have dissolved or disappeared from the scene. It always seemed as
if there was a core of faithful men and women who were ready to build and
The long history of
’s is not the product and planning of men. But, it is God’s history - His
guiding of our congregation and His working in our individual lives.
Understanding the past will bring us a
great blessing as we look to the future. The same Lord who led us through all
these years will guide, direct and strengthen us, so that more and more we
become a congregation that reflects His love for us.
Many chapters of our history are behind
us. God willing, there will be many more chapters to come. The important chapter
for us is the one in which we are now involved. May we continue to show the same
vision and courage as the long line of members who preceded us. We, too, have a
glorious Gospel to share with those in our generation. We have a legacy to give
to those who will follow in our steps.
Thelma Winter -
paintings of church