Immanuel Lutheran Church & School History

Marshfield, Wisconsin



Surnames: Albers, Behnke, Brunow, Denninger, Fohrman, Gieschen, Goetsch, Graebner, Hellerman, Hensel, Hintz, hrens, Kehrberg, Kiesling, Kionka, Knack, Korth, Krueger, McMillan, Messerschmidt, Meyerhoff, Muehl, Pankow, Perlowitz, Pingel, Scharmann, Seehafer, Thiele, Thom,Wendt, Wolff,Zinthefer, Zirbel.


Beginnings -- 1890's

As a result of a small gathering of Lutherans in the fall of 1880, a Lutheran congregation was born in Marshfield, Wisconsin, eight years after the founding of Marshfield. The setting for the organizational meeting was the home of H. J. Pankow. The new congregation was named "The Evangelical Lutheran Congregation of Marshfield and vicinity." The first church officers elected were: H. Scharmann, president; H.J. Pankow, secretary and F. Zirbel, treasurer. The first church building was erected in 1881.




Marshfield was only a small village in 1880 surrounded by dense forest. Because the congregation grew very slowly, five years went by before a pastor was called. Until then, a number of pastors shared their time and leadership with the first congregation. Pastors who divided their time with their own congregations and the new Lutheran church in Marshfield were: M. Denninger, E. Meyerhoff, G. Thiele, Prof. A. Graebner, Wm. Rader and B. Ungrodt.

Reverend L. Th. Thom from the Lutheran church in Eldorado, WI was called to be resident pastor in 1885. By that time the congregation had grown to approximately 25 families.

Soon after the arrival of Rev. Thom, the training of the children in the elementary grades became a concern of the congregation. As a result, Immanuel Lutheran School officially started in 1886. The school met in the church and the pastor taught the classes until 1889 when Professor Otto Hellermann was called and served as the first principal. Early teachers in the school included Emma Kionka, Martha Perlowitz, Hattie Kehrberg, and Irmgard Hensel.

In its early days, the German immigrants that were coming to our community used the school as an alternative to the English speaking public schools. The newly arrived German families were very interested in preserving their cultural and religious heritage, and their church supported school was very important to them for maintaining their language and tradition. In 1892, the church building was moved to the corner of Chestnut Avenue and West Sixth Street and became the Christian Day School. A new church was built adjacent to the school in 1892 for a total cost of $10,000.00.

First School Building Built In 1906 for $7,000

Several lots south of this new church were purchased in 1905. A three-story school building was constructed in 1906 at a cost of $7,000.00. This school building was located on the corner of Seventh and Chestnut, and classes were held there after the dedication on Oct. 28, 1906. It had an impressive tower incorporated into its design, but the tower was destroyed by fire and not replaced. The teachers and students continued to speak German. It wasn't until the time of World War I (1914-1918) when America was at war with Germany that some English began to be spoken at Immanuel.

During the 36 year pastorate of Rev. Thom, services were conducted exclusively in the German language. Seeing the need for English services and regular instruction to meet the needs of the younger generation, Pastor Thom resigned in 1921, recommending a call be extended to a younger man than himself. His resignation was followed by an accepted call by Rev. Oswald Hensel, a missionary in Wausau, WI. Rev. Hensel was installed in October of 1921 and served the congregation until 1932.

In the fall of 1929, a ninth grade class was added to the school for interested students. Six students made up that class: Paul Hensel, William Korth, Regina Kiesling, Chester Seehafer, Anita Hintz and Martha Wendt. Grade nine was offered again in 1930, but discontinued after that school year due to increasing financial difficulties. The pastor at that time taught Latin while Rev. Gieschen served as principal and 7th and 8th grade teacher.

In 1932, Rev. G. M. Krueger (succeeding Rev. Hensel) became pastor of Immanuel. Economic conditions during the Depression forced the school to close in 1932.

Prior to 1932, the congregation was affiliated with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Church. In 1932 Immanuel members voted to join The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. The church building was remodeled and redecorated in 1938.

School Closes, Reopens Again In Fall Of 1941

In 1941, nine years after the school had closed, a decision was made to re-open the school. In the fall of 1941, Mr. Erich Albers was called as principal. He taught the upper grades, directed the choirs, and also served as the church organist. Miss Martha Wendt, a former student, taught the lower grades. Mr. Albers remained at Immanuel for three years and then resigned to accept a position as Director of Christian Education and Music at Sheboygan Falls, WI. Roy Knack who served just one year (1944) replaced him. Mr. George Pingel of Milwaukee arrived in 1945 and was the principal and a teacher for Immanuel until 1964 at which time he accepted a call to Clyman, WI.

In February of 1952 the gym, or "Parish Hall" as it was called then, was completed. It was not connected to the school, however, so students had to go outside to get from the school to the gym. The Zinthefer property, located west of the gym, was purchased, and in 1958 the tall, red school building was razed to make way for a new Christian Day School which was built around the existing gym.

Day School Adds First Kindergarten Class In 1964




Five classrooms were included in the new school building, and the building was completed and dedicated on January 24, 1960. To help fund the building, congregational members fulfilled pledges for "Building For Christ". While the new school was being built, Immanuel students attended classes at the old Lincoln School which was located where the current fire station is now located on East Fourth Street. By this time, enrollment was up to 83 students. The early 60's saw a number of changes at the school. A school lunch program was started under the direction of Mrs. Clarence Jacobson. The Parent-Teacher League was formed in 1961. In 1964, the first kindergarten was started with Jane Fohrman as the teacher. Eugene Brunow, then of St. Mark's, Wausau, WI, accepted the call to serve as principal of the Day School and Director of Christian Education. He replaced Mr. George Pingel, who had accepted a call to Clyman, WI. Mr. Brunow served as principal and teacher of grades 7 and 8 until June of 1971 when he accepted a call to Sheboygan, WI. He was succeeded by Mr. Franklin C. Martens of Janesville, MN in July of 1971.

Pastor Krueger retired in 1963 after 31 years of service. A former vicar of the congregation, Rev. Daniel Ahrens, accepted a call to fill the pastorate vacated by Pastor Krueger. Pastor Ahrens served the congregation from 1964 to 1966 when he accepted a call to St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Birnamwood, WI.

During this time Rev. Ronald Goetsch, chaplain at King Veteran's Home and St. Joseph's Hospital and also a member of Immanuel, was often called on to assist during pastoral vacancies and to relieve the pastor of the growing workload. A call was extended to Rev. Eldore Messerschmidt, then serving St. John's Lutheran Church in Ladysmith, WI. Pastor Messerschmidt accepted the call and was installed on November 6, 1966.

In the 1960's it appeared that the expanding Marshfield Clinic was going to purchase Immanuel's properties. To prepare for eventually vacating the downtown area, 20 acres of land on the northern outskirts of Marshfield near McMillan Road were obtained to carry on the congregation's ministry.

In 1966, a new position was added as Music Director for both the church and school. Mr. Paul H. Muehl of Lester Prairie, MN was the first one called to serve in this capacity. He served Immanuel until July of 1979 when he accepted a call to Trinity Lutheran Church of Danville, IL.

As duties and workload increased, Immanuel voted to call an associate pastor. Rev. Theodore Krueger, serving in Fall Creek, accepted the call and was installed on July 28, 1968. A new position of Youth/Sports Director was created in 1969. Mr. Daryle Behnke was called from Concordia College, St. Paul, MN and served until 1972 when he accepted a call to Readlyn, IA. Mr. James Henning of Detroit, MI then served in this position until June of 1978 when he accepted a call to Oshkosh, WI. Mr. Vern Wolff, of Seward, NE then filled this position.

During the late 1960's, Immanuel School experienced rapid growth in its enrollment. Due to a shortage of classroom space, a portion of the Purdy building was rented to house Immanuel's kindergarten. Kindergarten classes were held at that site for a total of seven years.

Excerpt from the Marshfield Immanuel Lutheran Church Website.