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Zion Lutheran Church
Zion Lutheran Church
1899 - 1999
© Zion Lutheran Church
Used by Permission
Transcribed by: Tammie Chada


church pic
© by: Zion Lutheran Church

Zion Lutheran Church of Guthrie, Oklahoma, was formally organized as a congregation in 1899 as an outgrowth of mission services begun by the Rev. J. V. Kauffeld in 1892 in the home of William Bakhaus. Rev. Kauffeld of Newton, Kansas, first came to the area in July 1890 to preach at Orlando at the request of former parishioners who had settled there. He then sought out Lutheran families in the vicinities of Guthrie, Oklahoma City, Okarche, and Kingfisher and convinced the Kansas District of the Missouri Synod that resident mission work should be done in the area.
In 1893, the Kansas District, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) appointed the first resident missionary to Oklahoma Territory--Rev. M. J. Von der Au. He was based at Okarche and served adjacent areas. An assistant, Rev. Claus Pape, was soon assigned to the Territory, Guthrie being one of his preaching stations. Rev. Von der Au moved to Iowa in 1895 and was succeeded by Rev. Julius Hamm and candidate Joseph Timken, the latter serving some 190 families scattered from Pauls Valley to Blackwell, including Guthrie.
Four additional missionaries were assigned to Oklahoma Territory in the next few years. One of these was Rev. Richard Neitzel, who primary station was at Anna/Langston, some twelve miles east of Guthrie, where Immanuel congregation was organized with sixteen families. He also guided the formation of the Zion congregation in Guthrie in 1899 and served both Immanuel and Zion. In 1901 he was reassigned to Kansas City, Kansas.
Rev. H. Halle replaced Rev. Neitzel in 1902. Although the Zion congregation had to meet in borrowed facilities ranging from Hirzel's Hall to the Episcopal Church and the county courthouse, the church grew. With the aid of a $500.00 loan from the Kansas District, the Guthrie congregation built a church edifice at 806 East Springer and called the Rev. Halle as its first resident minister in 1903. The church was dedicated July 19, 1903, with pioneer pastors Julius Hochthausen, Martin Graebner, and Johann Udo Reiniga officiating.
The Rev. Reiniga succeeded the Rev. Halle and served Zion in 1906-1907. In 1907, the Rev. Theo Iben accepted a call to Zion. He was followed in 1908 by the Rev. P. J. Danker, who served until 1913. Rev. F. T. Schoen ministered from 1915-1924. During these years Zion and Immanuel shared ministers. Pastor Schoen resided in Pleasant Valley, when the Anna/Langston congregation had moved after the railroad came through in 1902. A parsonage adjoined the frame church of Immanuel. The Rev. Schoen was present for the organizing convention of the Oklahoma District at Okarche in May 1924.
Since the Guthrie congregation, like almost all other Lutheran congregations in Oklahoma, consisted primarily of German immigrant families and their descendants, divine services were conducted in the German language. World War I, with its militant anti-German campaigns, changed that practice. Public meetings of all kinds, including church services, conducted in German were forbidden. Emphasis on German in parochial school work was discontinued. Also, members of the congregation, which had been identified in city directories as "German Lutheran Church," met and overcame some difficulties in convincing their neighbors of their loyalty to the United States.
In 1924, the Guthrie congregation called its own minister, the Rev. E. J. Otto, who remained until 1927. Under his leadership a new church edifice at Oak and Warner was built in 1925. A Christian Day School was started in a wing of the building in 1927.
Late in 1927, Pastor Otto was succeeded by the Rev. Waldo J. Heitzeberg, who served until his untimely death in 1931. He was followed by the Rev. I. E. Mencke, 1932-1941, and the Rev. Arthur F. Traugott, 1941-1947. It was during the Rev. Traugott's ministry that the congregation purchased a parsonage in 1946 at the corner of Park and Warner. Until then, pastors and their families had lived in rented dwellings. A site for a church edifice was purchased near the new parsonage in 1948, but was sold after the decision was made to retain and remodel the present church.
The years of World War II brought considerable strain to the congregation with thirty-three young members serving in the armed forces. Of these, Karl Hetzel and Albert Backhaus paid the supreme sacrifice. The Christian Day School was discontinued after 1946, primarily because of wartime hardships of tire and gasoline rationing. There was not, however, the severe anti-German persecution of World War I, likely because members were fully integrated into the community by the 1940's.
In 1947, the pastor of Immanuel of Pleasant Valley, the Rev. F. L. Scheibe, resigned. At this time both Zion and Immanuel voted to merge, which enable Zion to move from a District-supporting status to that of self-support. The church and parsonage at Pleasant Valley were sold and moved from the premisses. The Pleasant Valley church building still stands in Coyle.
The Rev. Louis E. Ulmer was called to Zion in 1947 and he guided the congregation in a period of unprecedented growth, confirming over 150 young people and adults during the years of his ministry. The church building was enlarged and remodeled in 1951 and the building finished with brick veneer. During the final years of his service, Rev. Ulmer also enjoyed serving St. Paul's of Orlando. He suffered a heart attack during a Sunday morning church service at Zion in the spring of 1961 and died on April 29, 1961.
The Rev. Norbert R. Wodtke was called as pastor in and served from 1961 until 1966. The Rev. Alan Holtz served as primary vacancy pastor until the arrival of the Rev. Vernon Bettermann, who served from 1967 until the closing months of 1971. It was during the Rev. Bettermann's ministry that the congregation built an education building just west of the church. It was dedicated May 11, 1970. The Rev. Leslie Ulrich served as primary vacancy pastor in 1972.
In July 1972, the Rev. Richard Drews was installed as pastor and served until December 1975. The Rev. Michael Holsten and the Rev. Robert Hausman served as vacancy pastors.
In the summer of 1977 the Rev. Rufus L. Young was installed and served until 1985. During this time the parsonage was sold and a housing allowance made to the pastor. In 1982 additional parking facilities were added on the street east of the church and a concrete ramp installed in front, insuring access to all. In 1984, beautiful stained glass windows were designed and constructed in the window apertures of the church nave by member Hazel Henke. These were primarily underwritten as memorials by various parishioners.
A significant change was made in the constitution on June 30, 1985, to allow women of the congregation to vote in the voters assembly. Women were then admitted equally with men at nineteen years of age. They were, however, restricted from holding offices specially involved with functions of the pastoral office, i.e., president, vice president, eloder. The Rev. Young resigned in 1985. The Rev. Rick Mensing served as primary vacancy pastor.
The Rev. Patrick Erickson was installed in 1986 and served until 1989. A parking lot north of the church was paved in 1986. This project was made possible by the generous bequest of Miss Selma Berk, member. The bequest also enabled the congregation to establish in 1987 a scholarship fund for deserving students entering the service of the church. When Pastor Erickson accepted a call to Uvalde, Texas, Pastor Glen Kollmeyer served as primary vacancy pastor.
The Rev. Walter Wehmeier served Zion as primary vacancy pastor in 1994-1995. The Rev. Martin Mohn served as interim pastor from 1995 to 1997.
On August 10, 1997, the Rev. Merlyn Lohrke was installed as pastor. His focus is on Bible study, with three adult Bible study classes being held weekly. It is during his ministry that centennial activities are taking place.
Projects of the Centennial Anniversary Committee include monthly fellowship/celebratory activities, production and sale of a Zion Lutheran Church cookbook (recipes of members and former members), three special services honoring each of the three churches who have merged or combined forces at various times during the past 100 years--St. Paul's of Orlando, April 11, 1999, the Rev. Barry Henke, guest speaker; Immanuel of Pleasant Valley, June 27, 1999, the Rev. Roy Karner, guest speaker; and Zion of Guthrie, October 30, 1999, reunion and vesper service, the Rev. Merlyn Lohrke, speaker; October 31, 1999, Sunday morning service, the Rev. Leroy Biesenthal, guest speaker; and post-luncheon "Down Memory Lane" program, the Rev. Norbert R. Wodtke, moderator.
The Historical Sub-Comm8ittee has typed and bound copies of the church records of each of these three churches, making them available to members, former members, and other interested persons at cost as valuable records of family church history. Also, a history of Zion Lutheran Church is being written and will be available with the next few months.
The major project of Zion Lutheran Church in its centennial year is the purchase of one and one-third lots northwest of the church, the removal of a house from these lots, and the beginning of construction of the Zion Lutheran Church Berk Fellowship Hall (named for the Berk family whose bequest is funding much of the construction cost).
One activity which has continued is the maintenance of the two Lutheran cemeteries originally kept by Immanuel of Pleasant Valley and the Lutheran cemetery near Orlando. The older smaller cemetery near the original Immanuel church site (two miles west of Langston, one-fourth mile north of Coop) is no longer used. The cemetery one-half mile south of the former Pleasant Valley church site is still used for interment of Lutherans on a family plot basis. Other Lutheran interments are usually in the Guthrie municipal cemetery without special designation.
According to the three registers of Zion Lutheran Church spanning the past 100 years, there have been a total of 529 baptisms, 432 confirmations, 157 weddings, and 218 funerals conducted by the church.
Present officers of the congregation are Rick Mudd, president; David Schneider, vice president; Brenda Goodrich, recording secretary; Jennifer Schneider; and Bill Walton, financial secretary.
Service on the Board of Elders are Ralph Fruendt, chairman, and Leon Anderson, David Goodrich, Ray E. Beck, and Fred Schneider, members. Trustees are Harold Flasch, Bob Lester and Paul Fruendt.
Other members of Boards are Nancy Mudd, Mary Beck, and Nelda Campbell, Education and Youth; Talleri Beck, Linda Fruendt, and Joy Flasch, Evangelism; and Ada Schneider, Agnes Schneider, and Betty Fitch, Human Care.
As Zion Lutheran Church celebrates 100 years of God's blessings and looks forward to its second 100 years, its strength lies int he dedication of its members to its mission and its reliance on the grace of God.


Zion Lutheran Church
Christian Education
© Zion Lutheran Church
Used by Permission


Christian Education has always been an important part of the effort of Zion Luther Church. As early as 1907 the Guthrie city directory listed a parochial school in connection with the church at 806 East Springer. This school apparently was held intermittently in the church itself, as was common for the period. It was conducted by the pastor as teacher.
Sunday School classes were instituted in the early 1920's after improved automobiles and better roads came into being, enabling parishioners to bring their children more easily to the house of worship for Christian instruction as an adjunct to divine services. Graded instructional materials were by then available from Missouri Synod's headquarters to assist in the work.
A Christian Day School was begun in 1927 in Guthrie under the ministry of the Rev. E. J. Otto with twelve pupils. Expansion followed under the ministry of the Rev. Waldo Heitzeberg, and in 1913 R. H. Nehrig was called as a full-time teacher for the school. he served until 1936 and was followed by E. J. Diers as teacher for one year.
In 1937, Herbert E. Kaiser came as teacher. He was joined in 1941 by Ralph Wetstein as teacher when enrollment reached a total of 46 children. Kaiser was principal of the school, serving until 1944. It may be noted that a considerable portion of the enrollment were children of non-Lutheran families who nonetheless wished a Christian-oriented education for their youth.
Teachers serving the school during the World War II years were G. P. Ueckers, 1944-1945; Mrs. R. Mills, 1945-1946; and Mrs. A. F. Traugott, 1945-1946. Hardships associated with the war, notably gasoline and tire rationing, forced closure of the school after 1946.
Since that time special weekly classes have been offered the children on a graded basis, leading to intensive instruction for confirmation. The classes, begun on Saturday mornings, were changed to Wednesday afternoons in the early 1960's with instruction time scheduled after closing of the public school day.
The first adult confirmation class of the congregation was held for Beulah Bohot, Sophia Bohot, and Louise Lester by Rev. Schoen in 1923. Instruction in the fundamentals of Christian doctrine and Lutheran beliefs for adults has been held since that time.
Additional outreach in the field of Christian education, the Vacation Bible School (VBS), was begun under the ministry of Rev. Louis E. Ulmer in 1948 with the Lutheran Women's Missionary League (LWML) as assisting sponsor. This venture, like that of the Day School, brought in many non-Lutheran children for the two weeks of classes and Christ-centered projects. VBS has now been shortened to one week of classes taught by volunteers from the congregation.
Zion has always maintained a strong Sunday School program for all ages of children and also Bible classes for adults and for teenagers. The classes are divided according to age groups, with instruction geared to appropriate educational levels. Currently there are thirty-four enrolled.
A Sunday School Rally Day or Education Sunday is on the church calendar for the first Sunday of September. Recognition is given at this time for faithful attendance and promotion is announced. A picnic follows in the afternoon, complete with sports activities and fellowship. This event, like the annual Easter egg hunt on Easter afternoon, is open to the entire congregation and guests. At times former members return with their families for these events.
In our centennial year, the Sunday School staff is Barbara Walton, superintendent; Cynthia Taylor, kindergarten; Martha Deter, primary; Betty Fitch, pre-teen; Bill Walton, junior high; Joy Flasch, high school; and Pastor Merlyn Lohrke, Adult Bible Class. Substitutes are Brenda Goodrich, Loetta Lohrke, Talleri Beck, Paul Fruendt, Melinda Fruendt, and Ada Schneider.

Zion Lutheran Church
Women's Groups
© Zion Lutheran Church
Used by Permission


As a service and mission group, the Ladies Aid Society of Zion was organized in 1925 with Mrs. E. J. Otto serving as the first president. The Lutheran Women's Missionary League (LWML) was organized May 2, 1945, at the parsonage with thirteen members present. Hester Wegner was the first president. Some years later the Ladies Aid became the second group of the LWML. The two groups worked together in all phases of congregation and mission duties. In 1994 the LWML groups merged. LWML now meets monthly on Thursday evenings.
The LWML combines regular Bible study lessons with monthly business sessions. LWML is affiliated with the Oklahoma District and through it the international organizations of Women's Missionary Leagues. Through these, LWML makes contributions to Synod-approved missionary projects state and world-wide.
Regular projects have been preparation of dinners for families of bereaved in the congregation, sponsorship of the Vacation Bible School, furnishing refreshments for VBS and mid-week school classes, sponsorship of soup and sandwich suppers before evening Lenten and Advent services, and serving of various congregational dinners. Regular contribution of "mites" donations are forwarded for district and international projects, and contributions of money, clothing, and quilts are sent to Lutheran World Relief.
Some special projects through the years have been purchase of equipment for the church kitchen, contributions to "This Is the Life" program, collection of washcloths for the Good Samaritan Home, making of "Quiet books" for the nursery, construction of Christmas ornaments for the church Christmas tree, and sending used Sunday School materials and Bibles to missionaries in foreign counties. One of the most recent projects is collecting and purchasing Christmas ornaments, cameras, and photograph albums to give to area families whose homes were destroyed by the devastating May 3, 1999, tornadoes which swept through central Oklahoma.
In this centennial year, three LWML officers, Pastor Lohrke, and the spouse of one member attended the national LWML convention in Minnesota.

Zion Lutheran Church
Youth Fellowship
© Zion Lutheran Church
Used by Permission


Youth work in Zion began with the organization of the Walther League in 1922 under the ministry of the Rev. Fred T. Schoen. Assisting in establishing the youth group were Louis Tisher, Fred Backhaus, and Ernest Bohot.
The local society participated in zone and district evens, as well as congregational activities. Meetings were held weekly for business, Bible and topic study, and social purposes and were open to confirmed youth. The name Walther League honored the Rev. C. F. Walther, one of the founding fathers of Missouri Synod Lutheranism
The Walther League continued active through the years. In 1980, however, a new youth organization, Lutheran Youth Fellowship (LYF), replaced in Synod the original Walther League. The present LYF was formed January 16, 1982. Meetings include devotions, business, recreation, and refreshments.
An annual project of the organization for many years has been providing Christmas treats for all children of the congregation and others present for the Christmas Eve service. The group sings carols for shut-ins during the holidays and present them with fruit baskets. The group also helps decorate the basement meeting room for dinners and socials and decorates the tree for Christmas. A favorite summer activity has been taking float trips down the Illinois River near Camp Lutherhoma in northeastern Oklahoma.
In 1984, the LYF raised funds for a mini-vacation trip of Christian fellowship to Six Flags Over Texas in Dallas. In 1986 fifteen members and two sponsors attended the national Lutheran Fellowship Conference in Washington, D. C. In 1998 four LYF members and two sponsors attended the national LYF conference. Both years the groups engaged in year-long fund-raising in order to underwrite expenses.

Zion Lutheran Church
Church Music
© Zion Lutheran Church
Used by Permission


Early records do not reveal the names of those who contributed to the music for worship services. Beginning in the late 1920's the teachers of the Day School, during their terms, were of help as organists and choir directors, again a volunteer activity.
Some of the organists who have served the congregation are Herbert E. Kaiser, Bernice Fruendt Flasch, Emma Hetzel Snipes, Lorena Ochs, Selma Henke Williams, Phyllis Freudenberger Pults, Mauritta Deahl Helberg, Jeanne Freudenberger Card, Rosalie Flasch Weber, Ann Williams Benson, Marcella Backhaus Meador, Helen Mae Gillett Story, Ruby Young and Linda Fruendt.

Zion Lutheran Church
Pastors who have served Zion Lutheran Church
1899-1999
© Zion Lutheran Church
Used by Permission


Early Travelling Missionaries
Pastors Shared by Zion and Immanuel of Pleasant Valley
Zion Lutheran Church Pastors and Vacancy Pastors


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Updated: Wednesday, 06-Aug-2008 21:57:57 CDT

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