History of Peace Reformed Church,
Curtiss, Clark County Wisconsin
Contributed by Eva Schiszik
The first services in the Reformed faith were held in what was known as 'Boehm's Hall' early in the spring of 1905. Rev. Theophile Schildknecht and Rev. W. A. Arpke alternating as pastors. It was soon decided that a hall was inadequate for a church so on August 6th, 1905 they organized with the following charter members: August Ecke, Rudolph Bartels, Christ Kiessig, Adolph Hake, Henry Gosse, Charles Smith, Carl Schulz, Johan Schumacker, Winzeng Boehm, Moritz Koerner, August Erier, John Mahisted, Louis Horn and John Miller Jr. The first church officers were Moritz Koerner and Christ Klessig, elders; August Ecke and Adolph Hake, trustees; August Ecke was chosen secretary and Adolph Hake treasurer. John Mahisted was superintendent of the Sunday School. The sum of $2,000.00 was borrowed from the Sheboygan Classis with which to build the church. Articles of Incorporation were filed with the Register of Deeds on September 30, 1905. Since this was a German speaking community it was given the name 'Reformed Friedens Gemeinde'.
In addition to the names on the charter the following have been prominent members of the congregation: Mr. and Mrs. Charles Miller, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Kraut, Mr. and Mrs. Gerhard Neuhaus, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Strade, Mr. and Mrs. H. J. Peissig and Mr. and Mrs. Ervin Koerner.
Much lumber and labor was donated and on December 2nd, 1905 the church edifice was dedicated and plans were made for the first Christmas in the new church. Young people made trimmings for the Christmas Tree. It was a beautiful sight when the tree was being lit with real wax candies while the children sang "Der Christbaum is der Schonste Baum". The elders stood ready with water in case of fire but none ever occurred.
To the right: Interior of Reformed Church - Christmas, 1905. >
In March 1906 pastor W. H. Lahr came to serve the congregation. He and his wife had 5 children: Cordelia, Edith, Marie, Franklin and Evelyn. They were capable leaders and a choir and young people's society were organized. The young people met once a month in the homes or the entrance of the church which was also known as the school room. After devotions were held, games were played. Once a year they had a 'Basket Social'.
Summer Vacation Bible School was organized, all children of school age attending. The pastor taught all classes. School lasted six weeks with regular school hours. Not only did they study the Bible but the German language as well. The hard part was translating from English into German. At the end of summer school there was a 'Kinderfest', a picnic in the woods on the corner of E and 29. The highway has taken away most of the picnic grounds. Ball throwing games were played. There was always a fish pond or grab bag and plenty of fresh home- made ice cream. Men took turns turning the hand-cranked ice cream freezer and chipping ice from large cakes which had been cut from a river in winter and packed in sawdust for summer use. Ice cream sold for 5 cents a dish or cone, pop 5 cents a bottle. Cracker jacks 5 cents a box - the prize in each box nearly worth the price paid for it! Men had a bratwurst stand.
Pastor W. H. Lahr and family, 1906 - 1911 (Enlarge)
Life those early years was far different from today. There were no automobiles, no electricity, no snow-plowed roads in winter. Most people walked to church. Some lived too far away or had small children. They used horse drawn vehicles, a big sleigh in winter and a surrey in summer. Bad weather never stopped them!
Times were hard those first years. Early settlers starting on unimproved cut-over land had little money but shared everything with their pastor. At butchering time there was always a basket of meat and sausage. During the year a chicken, roll of butter, or even an occasional loaf of home baked rye bread. An excerpt from the annual meeting notes of 1906 read "Each family furnished one cord of wood or paid $1.00".
In 1906 the Ladies Aid was organized. They met in the homes once a month, each member paying 10 cents whether they at- tended or not. The pastor always had short devotions and the ladies would sew carpet rags for rugs and do other handiwork. Each lady made a quilt block which was set together for a quilt and raffled off at a fall bazaar.
Mission fest dinners were served in what was the old school house at that time (The white building just south of the Alliance Church). There was an old wood cook stove but no dishes or cooking utensils so everything had to be brought from home. Men carried water in milk cans. Most everyone raised chickens so a chicken dinner was served. Everything that could be prepared at home was brought in ready cooked. There was no set price for the dinner, but a free will offering was taken. Money went to Missions or Mission House in Plymouth.
For the Sunday collection a coin was placed in the 'Kiingel Beutel', sort of a bag on a stick, but at the end of the year every family gave a donation of $10.00 or more according to their means. $2.50 per confirmed member was sent to the Synod. Upon confirmation, members that paid their dues could vote. Men sat on the right side of the church, women and children on the left.
When a member died the bell would toll and again the day of the funeral when the horse drawn hearse was sighted it would toll until all were in the church.
Members of the confirmation class of 1907 were Elizabeth Buss, Tina Gosse, Hulda Gosse, Alma Kiessig, Edgar Ecke, Walter Hake and Albert Zenzil.
In 1908 Bethany Reformed Church in the Township of hoard was organized with pastors of the Reformed Church of Curtiss also conducting services there. Early pastors had no transportation so they walked. On occasions like funerals they would borrow a horse and vehicle from a member of the congregation.
In 1910, 2 1/2 acres of land was bought from Jake Lapp for $350.00 for the purpose of a cemetery. Members wishing lots were to pay $10.00 per lot. Each member would also work one day or pay $1.00. This is the present Pine Hill Cemetery. On November 22, 1911, a call was extended to Pastor A. George Schmidt to succeed pastor Lahr.
In 1912 the Louis Horn residence was bought for $1300.00 for a parsonage. At the January meeting in 1914 it was voted to put a basement under the parsonage.
In the summer of 1915 all the pastors of the Sheboygan Classis held their convention in Curtiss. The ladies of the congregation served dinners and suppers in the village hall (old school house). Nights were spent with the members.
Up to this time pastors from Curtiss also conducted services at Trinity Reformed Church in Thorp. Many trains passed through Curtiss, both passenger and freight, so the trip to Thorp was made by train. Since this was inconvenient it was decided to discontinue going to Thorp.
In 1916 a call was extended to pastor N. F. Janssen to succeed Pastor Schmidt. In 1917 there was an English service in the evening of the first Sunday of every month, Bethany of Hoard to have forenoon service.
In 1918 Pastor Wm. Huenernan came to serve the congregation. He was the first pastor to own an automobile. By 1921 the envelope system was introduced and collection plates were used in place of the 'Klingel Beutel'. It was also noted that Bethany Reformed Church was to pay the Curtiss congregation $100.00 per year as their share towards the pastor's salary. Pastor Hueneman stayed until the end of 1921.
In March 1922 Pastor J. M. Bauer took up duties to serve the congregation. During this time Peace Church joined with Irnrnanuel Reformed Church in Colby and pastors lived in Colby.
In 1925 the Curtiss congregation voted to pay $350.00 as their share of the pastor's salary. The next year it was increased to $400.00. The organist and the janitor were each to receive $10.00 per year.
Student pastor Julius Rosenau served from July I st, 1925 until September 1927.
In 1927 Rev. Herman Hartman served all three congregations. By now most sermons were in English, but the older members still wanted one Sunday a month in the German language. The last record written in German was of the annual meeting of January, 1930.
1930 Confirmation class with Pastor W. H. Hartman
In 1931 it was voted to charge nonmembers $25.00 for the use of the church for funerals. The same year Bethany congregation was granted a release from the Colby, Curtiss charge to become an independent congregation calling Rev. Paul Franzmier of Greenwood to hold services once a month for $8.00 per Sunday. They continued this way until the summer of 1952 when they dissolved the congregation.
In 1932 the parsonage was sold to Otto Sturner for $500.00. The English language was declared the official language.
In 1937 Rev. Siegfried Schmiechen was called. At this time the Evangelical Churches and the Reformed Churches merged. A new constitution was adopted and the name changed to Peace Evangelical and Reformed Church.
In May 1942 Rev. David Gruther carne to serve the congregation.
The Ladies Aid bought a large cupboard and donated dishes. In bad weather they would meet in the village hall instead of the homes in the country. In the fall there was a Harvest Festival. Members brought all kinds of produce, apples, canned fruits of every kind and good clothing to the church which was taken to the Winnebago Indian Mission School in Neillsville. Rev. Gruther died suddenly of a heart attack in 1945. Rev. Robert Leonhardt served from December 1945 until July 1947.
|In September 1947 Rev. Franz Paul Puhlman accepted the call from the
congregation. During his pastorate a furnace was installed in the church, the
money having been given in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Christ Klessig. An electric
chancel cross was given in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Kraut. A large picture,
'In His Presence' was given in memory of Charles and Elmer Jakel. The
congregation bought a new electric organ and 1 00 new hymnals. The church was
painted, insulated and the roof reshingled.
< Pastor Paul Puhlman, 1947 - 1952.
In 1952 Pastor Puhlman was granted his release and Rev. Siegried Dietrich was called. He died the following year so Peace Church was without a pastor. In the winter of 1952 Rev. Otis Odland of the Evangelical Lutheran Church held joint services for the two congregations. In May 1953 Peace church disbanded and joined the Evangelical Lutheran church to make a stronger parish. Services in the church a mile west were discontinued and Peace church was used.
At first they decided to remodel Peace church but after careful consideration of what it would cost they voted to dismantle the old church and build new. Most material was used in the construction of the new church. Money from the Evangelical Reformed Women's Guild and other donations was turned over to the new parish.
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