The Peace United Church of Christ of Walnut, Iowa
by Karen Hansen
Before 1897, ministerial needs for these people were supplied by German pastors from neighboring towns who held services occasionally, and especially by a young man from Germany named Heinrich Emil Hansen, who was visiting his sister in Atlantic. He had completed theology studies at the University of Kiel in Germany and was teaching Walnut children of German immigrants their parents’ mother tongue.
In November 1897, a group met to discuss the possibility of establishing their own church in Walnut. A group of solicitors was appointed to collect funds to establish this church. The first contributor was Henry Ohrt. Donations made ranged from $5 to $75.
By January 1, 1898, $3000 had been collected, enough to vote on the erection of a church building. There were 88 votes in favor and 2 votes against. On January 16, 1898, approximately 50 contributing members met and the congregation organized and incorporated under the name “German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Walnut, Iowa”.
The following were officers: P. Karstens, John Andresen, Chris Rossmann, P. F. Hansen, Otto Rapenn, and A. Jacobsen.
The secretary’s minutes were written in German rather than English until 1923.
The members of the Building Committee were: Julius Beyer, H. Paasch, J. F. Ronna, C. L. Lebeck, Nic Petersen, and Max Reimer.
From the March 25, 1898 Walnut Bureau Newspaper:
“The contract for building the Evangelical-Lutheran church was let Wednesday to Tom Schnider, of Avoca. There were four bids submitted, two from Walnut firms and two from Avoca. Work will be commenced as soon as the ground is in condition for the foundation and will be pushed as rapidly as possible. The building will be 32×50 with a side room fitted up for a school room 14×24, and will cost in the neighborhood of $4000; according to the terms of the contract, it is to be completed by July 1.”
The beautiful new building was dedicated with an all-day program on Sunday, August 21, 1898. It commenced at 9 a.m. with a short farewell service in the Presbyterian Church, where they had been meeting for three years.
The congregation then marched to the new church, where sermons were presented by Rev. Werning, of Lowden, president of the Iowa district of the German Evangelical Synod of North America , and by Rev. Hansen.
Rev. Werning conducted Rev. Hansen’s ordination at an afternoon service, beginning at 1:30 p.m. at which Rev. Koehler, of Creston and Rev. Krafft, of Lyman, addressed the audience.
Music for the services was furnished by a choir of Walnut young people, singing in both the German and English languages, lead by W. H. Lebeck.
The day services closed with a sermon in English by Rev. Mercer, of the Methodist Church, at 4:30 p.m. The Methodist Church choir furnished the music for this service.
The first German Evangelical-Lutheran Church stood at the corner of School and Walnut Streets; now it is the site of a Walnut Housing apartment building.
Five young people were confirmed at the first confirmation services, on Palm Sunday, March 26, 1899: Bertha Fischer (Mrs. John Koehrsen), Emma Fischer (Mrs. Fred Koehrsen), Margaretha Paulsen, Hans Paulsen and Johnny Andresen.
The first pastor, H. E. Hansen, served the congregation until 1901. (The last listing found with his name was in the July 19, 1901 Walnut Bureau.)
The church did not have a resident pastor for the next 20 years, but was supplied by pastors from the Shelby church, namely F. Leonhard (1901-1905) and Rev. Albert Dettmann (1905-1921). During the year of 1907, the church became debt free.
Rev. Fred H. Doellefeld became resident pastor in March, 1922. He and his wife, moving into the Mrs. Frank Kensler residence property, the home rented for them by the congregation. (Rev. Doellefeld served in Stillwater, Minnesota, the previous five years, during which time he was instrumental in building a new church and parsonage.)
In 1924, a permanent residence, across the street, north the church, was purchased for a parsonage for $5400. It was dedicated June 14, 1925 and was used until 1957.
The Evangelical Church celebrated its 25th anniversary on August 19, 1923. The newspaper article called it “one of the landmarks of Pottawattamie County.”
The membership consisted of “approximately 100 families and a number of individual members. The Sunday School had an enrollment of over 150 active scholars and teachers. The choir had a membership of 18 and the Sunday School Circle had a membership of 160.”
The Sunday School Circle was the first formal women’s group at the church, organized in 1907. Its purpose was to encourage greater interest for religious education among the young people. The group raised money for the Sunday School Fund, which financed the Christian Education Department and also provided entertainment for the Sunday School, barring dancing and card playing.
In 1924 the congregation took the name of “Evangelical Lutheran Church.”
On December 24, 1924, Rev. Walter F. Kieker came to serve and was with the church until 1935.
From the January 15, 1925 Walnut Bureau,
“Baptized by the pastor during the course of the week: Ronald Ray Rossmann, Rondo Roy Rossmann, Henry Rossmann, Clarence Reimer, Viola Reimer, Elenor Reimer. Burials, Jacob Diedricksen.”
In 1926, the confirmation class and Rev. Kieker suggested purchasing an art glass window. The idea was so favorably received that others in the congregation purchased memorial windows and they were dedicated on March 21, 1926.
The need for more room for the educational department prompted the congregation to excavate the basement. The Sunday School had grown to 182 pupils by the end of 1927. A junior choir was organized in January of 1928.
A new baptismal font was installed in 1930 and steps to the basement were improved.
In 1932, a movement was started to remove the large tower from the church. This project was completed.
The Walnut Bureau, January 1, 1931,
“The third of a series of Bible Dramas will be presented next Sunday evening. . . The subject is the familiar story matter concerning ‘Cain and Abel.’ The following cast will take part: Cain, Howard Meier; Abel, Alvin Koehrsen; Woman, Mrs. Howard Meier; Voices of Conscience and Greed, Orvy Koos. Ushers, Mabel Scheef, Lillian Jacobs, Lois Felker, Anna Paasch. Stage Hands, Otto Reimer, Everett Sievers, Orvy Koos, Drexel Thoning, Roland Sievers. Electricians, Emanuel Thoning, Art Jacobsen. Announcer, Gus Sievers.”
Mrs. H. P. Jacobsen, Mrs. Earl Thoning, Gus Sievers and Bernhard Sornsen were re-elected officers, succeeding themselves, at the January 1931 annual meeting.
Also approved at that meeting was the affiliation with the Evangelical Synod of North America. However, the proposal to change the name of the church was defeated.
In 1934, the Evangelical Churches merged with the Reformed Churches on the national level and the name of the Walnut church became “Evangelical and Reformed Church of Walnut, Iowa.”
The 35th anniversary of the founding of the congregation was celebrated with morning, afternoon and evening services, plus a special Sunday School session on Sunday, November 5, 1933.
The choir sang several numbers, two of which had been used at the original dedication of the church.
Since its beginning, the church had seen remarkable growth; participating membership was about 375 and total membership approximately 800. The Sunday School had 144 members. The Circle had 144 members and the recently organized Brotherhood had 41 members.
Miss Katherine Sell directed the choir and Mrs. Howard Larsen played the organ. Miss Catherine Carstensen was the Sunday School pianist. Wilbert Rossmann was the superintendent of the Sunday School and Arthur Koehrsen was the assistant.
Edward Fisher was the head of the intermediate and junior classes, Mrs. Kite was in primary and beginners, while Mrs. A. J. L. Lebeck had an enrollment in the cradle roll of 50 babies.
Officers of the ladies organization were Mrs. Ronna, Presidnt; Mrs. J. Eggerstedt, Vice-President; Mrs. R. Lafrentz, Treasurer; Miss C. Vollstedt, Secretary.
Mrs. Albert Sievers and Mrs. H. Rossmann served on the Soliciting Committee.
The “head man” for the Brotherhood was Emanuel Thoning, the vice president was J. H. Eggerstedt, Mayor of Walnut, and Arthur Koehrsen was Secretary-Treasurer.
The following were serving on the Church Council: August Fischer, President; Mrs. Margaret Ronna, Treasurer; Mrs. Adolph Moritz, Secretary; D. C. Jacobsen, Henry Matthies and John Eggerstedt.
The Evangelical Lutheran column in the Thursday, November 23, 1933 Walnut Bureau:
“Memorial services, for those who have departed from our midst, will be conducted in the English language next Sunday morning. Burials for the following were conducted through the offices of the Church during the course of the past Church year, John Kruse, Jr., Leola Hulda Tramm, Christina Wilkins, Emma Louisa Kock, Johannis Heinrich Sornsen, Nicolaus Christiansen, Otto Henry Krohn, Fred Krambeck, Paul Friedrich Karstens, Elizabeth Dryer.”
Rev. Kieker received a call to St. John’s Evangelical Church in Omaha on December 23, 1934.
Rev. William Krummel accepted the call to be pastor of the Walnut church on March 1, 1935 and was installed on April 14.
The next five years were progressive years in that a new piano was obtained, youth hymnals were purchased for the Sunday School, the east end of the basement excavated, walled and cemented. Gas, sewer and city water were added. Restrooms and the furnace were moved, a blower system was installed, new lights were added, the kitchen was partitioned off, painted and equipped, and a new choir loft was built.
Rev. Krummel served the church for the last time on July 27, 1941. He then served for 19 years at Zion Evangelical and Reformed Church in Baroda, Michigan.
An article about his retirement appeared in the Walnut Bureau on May 12, 1960.
The Rev. Carl E. Gabler began his pastoral service on November 2, 1941.
By now World War II was well upon us. With many of our young people in the service of our country, the churches of the community joined forces and union worship services and communion services became common.
At a special meeting of the congregation on Sunday, February 15, 1942, the church adopted the official name “Peace Evangelical and Reformed Church.”
The Churchmen’s Brotherhood had accepted the challenge to sponsor a local Boy Scoot Troop.
Due to a lack of attendance, it was voted to no longer hold German services. A new order of service and printed bulletins were introduced.
The congregation had planned to observe its 45thanniversary in 1943 but could not secure the proper materials to complete a renovation for the celebration. Therefore, the 46th anniversary was celebrated on January 16, 1944.
By this time, Peace Church had become a great asset to Walnut, serving in the baptism of 796 individuals, 415 confirmations, 188 couples were united in marriage, 476 burials, and 4,692 were administered Holy Communion.
Rev. Gabler said farewell on January 30, 1944.
On July 2, 1944, Rev. Theodore Thomas became pastor. During his pastorate the church celebrated its 50th anniversary with a morning service and an afternoon service on August 22, 1948.
A former pastor, the Rev. William Krummel of Baroda, Michigan, gave the afternoon message.
Their first pastor, the Rev. H. E. Hansen, was not able to attend, due to the ill health of his wife. He had retired at Elmhurst, Illinois, where he spent two decades of his life as a professor of languages at Elmhurst College.
The church was remodeled and redecorated for the 50th anniversary.
The building committee was: A. M. Jacobsen, Chairman, Art Kock, Wilbert Rossmann, Herbert Koehrsen, President of the congregation, ex officio. The finance committee was Ervin Koos, Chairman, Lewis Fredrechsen, and Henry Krueger.
At that time, there were four organizations in the church: the Sunday School, the Ladies’ Circle, the Churchmen’s Brotherhood, and the choir, which was directed by Mrs. Joe Bigelow.
An organ was purchased for this church in 1950.
Rev. Thomas resigned in July 1956.
Also in 1956, the congregation voted to build a new parsonage. The present two-story parsonage was sold to George Clausen for $1,600 and moved to his farm north of Walnut (501 Road M47). In the Spring of 1973, it was purchased by Arnold and Helen Dey. They made it their home for many years and it is now the home of their grandson, Clint Smith.
A new one-story parsonage was built on a vacated lot at 601 Walnut Street. The new home, costing approximately $13,000, was completed in the fall of 1957. It continues today as the present church parsonage.
Rev. F. E. Fieker began his pastorate in January of 1958.
A special congregational meeting was held at the church on July 30, 1959, to hear the report of a study committee on the possibility of having a home for the elderly in the Walnut community. The congregation decided to accept the sponsorship of Peace Haven Retirement Home.
A youth choir was started at the church in 1959. Mrs. Joe Bigelow was director and Mrs. Melvin Jacobsen was organist in 1960.
From the April 7, 1960 Walnut Bureau,
“Choir members include Vivian Anderson, Vena Rossmann, Juanita Keller, Patsy Keller, Linda Keller, Barbara Keller, Janice Boll, Arlene Buttenschon, Iris Luth, Carol Bussow, Donna Harris, Janis Holst, Karen Ploen, Craig Woltmann, Ward Koos, Robert Jacobsen, Larry Anderson, Dale Andersen, Robert Andersen and Loren Luth.”
Students were in the 5th through 9th grades and wore white robes, made and given to them by the Women’s Guild of the church. The choir had been organized about a year before this date.
In 1960, the sanctuary was extensively remodeled.
In 1957 the congregation became part of the United Church of Christ, due to the merger of the Evangelical and Reformed Churches and the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States.
In 1961 the Iowa Conference of the United Church of Christ was organized and “Peace United Church of Christ of Walnut, Iowa” became the official new name of this church.
Groundbreaking ceremonies for Peace Haven Home were held April 19, 1963, and the building was formally dedicated on June 28, 1964.
Rev. Fieker resigned in November 1966.
Rev. Edwin C. Meineker, Sr. served the congregation from February 1967 until January 15, 1969. During this time, Mrs. Lorene Bigelow purchased a new organ for the church.
Rev. Robert Elkin began his pastorate in June of 1969.
A United Parish Proposal to unite Peace Church and the First Presbyterian Church of Walnut was defeated early in 1971.
In September 1971, the Building Committee submitted plans for a new building to be constructed on the same site as the original church building. A financial drive was held and $43,000 was pledged. This made a total of $94,000 with the money already in the Building Fund.
On September 16, 1971 at a congregational meeting the church voted to erect a new church on the same site. The vote was 66 in favor and 3 against building a new church.
On November 7, 1971, another special meeting was called. Mr. C. A. Osler had offered Peace Church congregation a plot of ground south of Peace Haven Home to be used as a building site.
His offer was accepted and a new building was erected at a cost of $101,000. The new building was dedicated on November 19, 1972 with the placing of a time capsule and laying of the cornerstone.
Milton Mueller, as chairman of the church council, recognized the following persons: Cal Hersom of the C. I. Hersom Construction Company from Laurens, Iowa, contractor; the Church Council, Clifford Heyne, Vice Chairman, Mrs. Robert Anderson, Secretary; Mrs. Kenneth Fredrechsen, Treasurer, Larry Kay, Donald Hansen, and Robert Holst. The Building Committee consisted of: Dale Hansen, Chairman; Robert Lafrentz, 1st Vice Chairman; Edward Holst, 2nd Vice Chairman; Irwin Hansen, Secretary; and Milton Mueller, Treasurer.
In 1973, the east portion of the Osler land was purchased for parking and further development in the future, if needed.
The 75th anniversary of the church was observed June 10, 1973, with Rev. Fred Fieker delivering the anniversary message at the morning service and Rev. Ed Meineker giving the afternoon sermon.
After Rev. Elkin’s last day, July 29, 1973, joint services were held with the Presbyterians until Rev. Edwin Meineker again served Peace Church as supply pastor. This was from November 1, 1973 until June 1, 1974 when Rev. Roger Grow began.
Rev. Grow resigned in September 1975 and Rev. Wayne Selsor of Bellevue, Nebraska served as interim pastor from October 1975 until July of 1976.
Rev. Bruno Romanowski began his ministry at Peace Church on July 4, 1976.
Dedication of the Bell Tower Plaza and church identification was held on September 25, 1977 as a memorial to A. N. Paasch. Rev. Selsor and Rev Romanowski dedicated this plaza and the ringing of the bell.
Stained glass windows were installed in the church in 1979 as memorials to former members of the congregation. A lighted window in the Fellowship Hall was made from windows of the old church building.
Rev. Romanowski submitted his resignation to be effective October 31, 1986 and moved to York, Nebraska.
Rev. Wayne Selsor once again served as interim pastor and served faithfully until Rev. Michele Scott became pastor from December 10, 1987 until December 31, 1991.
In 1987, 56 people who had been members of the congregation for at least 50 years were honored. Thirty-three of these people attended the service.
Rev. Neil Schroeder served as interim pastor from March 1, 1992 to June 27, 1993 and resided in the parsonage.
Darlene Kern from Shelby was the instructor for the confirmation class of 1992.
In 1993 a solution for the problem of the flat roof over the educational part of the church building was sought. It was decided to put a pitched roof on the entire area at a cost of $22,500.
In 1994 the 25-year old organ was replaced with an electronic organ.
On March 29, 1993, the congregation called Rev. Doris Ruben.
Rev. Schroeder’s last service was June 17, 1993 and Rev. Ruben arrived in Walnut on June 28, 1993.
She was installed on October 10, 1993 and continues as the present pastor.
Sources for this article:
· The Walnut Bureau newspaper
· Peace United Church of Christ Directory, “Celebrating Our First 100 Years”, Olan Mills, Inc., October 1998.
· Pottawattamie County, Iowa History, Taylor Publishing Co., Dallas, TX, 1978.
· A Walk Down Memory Lane by the Quasqui Book Committee, Walnut, IA, 1996.
· Walnut Memoirs by Roma Arndt, General Publishing and Binding, Iowa Falls, IA, 1987.
[Thank you to Pastor Doris Ruben for providing pictures of the first church building.
I have made copies of many articles from the local newspaper microfilm. If you are interested in reading them, they will be in our genealogy files at the Walnut Public Library.]
[The beautiful stained glass art window that had been in the north window of the original church was reframed and placed in the narthex of the present church.]