A Brief History of Zion
Part I -- 1882-1911
A Congregation is Established

Part II -- 1912-1942 | Part III -- 1943-69 | Part IV -- 1969-1991 | 1992-Present

[Pastor Bess]1882 - Pastor F. B. Bess (left) of St. Paul Lutheran Church and his assistant, Pastor Carl Lotz, establish a parochial and Sunday school on the South Side of Peoria. That fall a small schoolhouse is built and dedicated on rented land at the corner of Easton and Hayes. Professor G. Fritschel of Wartburg Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa, preaches the dedicatory sermon. Pastor Lotz serves as teacher for the 28 children of the day school and the 38 in the Sunday School.

1883 - The Zweig Industry (the old Sugar House), the chief industry on the South Side, burns to the ground and many families leave the area. Pastor Lotz accepts a call to Brazelton, Kansas.

1884 - Pastor R. Lange of Emden, Illinos, becomes a new assistant at St. Paul's and takes over as teacher at the mission school. He also preaches every Sunday to South Side Lutherans at the schoolhouse.

1885 - Pastor Lange resigns. The parochial school closes, but a small Sunday school continues to meet.

1890 - St. Paul's and the Board of Home Missions of the Iowa Synod move to re-establish the parochial school. A lot is purchased on Faraday Street (one block west of Easton) and the schoolhouse is moved there. Mr. Hermann Krueger is called as teacher and the school re-opens with 28 children.

1891 - Pastor John G. Oltmann is called by St. Paul's and the Iowa Synod to further develop this South Side mission and offer regular services. He begins July 1, but leaves a year later.

1892 - Pastor Bess and a teacher, Miss Gentes, from St. Paul's keep the struggling mission going.

1893 - A theological student named Poehlmann briefly leads the mission and school, then Wilhelm Schmitt, interning at St. Paul's, is given charge of the mission. [Pastor Schmitt - Zion's founder]Upon his ordination, Pastor Schmitt (right) is called to establish a congregation on the South Side.

1894 - The lot of the northeast corner of Easton and Hayes (where the school had been first established 12 years earlier) is purchased. The mission congregation resolves to build a church on that site and affiliate with the Iowa Synod. (Meanwhile, just a few blocks away, the South Side mission and school of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church downtown, organizes as Christ Lutheran Church, a congregation of the Missouri Synod.)

Die Deutsche Evangelisch Lutherische Zions Gemeinde is formally organized on Reformation Day, meeting at the schoolhouse on Faraday Street. Illness prevents Pastor Schmitt from ministering, so Pastor J. A. Grueber is called to assist him as construction of the new church commences. The Kirchenbuch (Parish Register) lists 87 souls when it is started on 11 November 1894. In it baptisms, marriages, deaths, and communions dated from July 1893 are recorded.

[Pastor Grueber][The Church on Sand Hill, with parsonage]1895 - Pastor Schmitt resigns and Pastor Grueber (left) becomes Zion's sole pastor. What would become known as "The Church on Sand Hill" (right) is consecrated January 26 and the congregation sells the old schoolhouse. Zion records her first Confirmation.

1896 - Pastor Grueber accepts a new call at the end of the year. Pastor C. G. Prottengeier, who is developing Redeemer Lutheran Church (another mission of St. Paul's and the Iowa Synod) on the north side of Peoria, fills the pulpit as the congregation seeks its own pastor. (Note, this Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, located at Mary and Glendale on the north side of Peoria, will disband circa 1926. In 1949, a Missouri Synod congregation will be established in the far northern part of Peoria and take the name Redeemer Lutheran Church for herself.)

[Pastor Rausch]1897 - Pastor Emil H. Rausch (left) is called and begins in July. While at Zion Pastor Rausch will introduce the first English-language services and do much to beautify the building, including use of a bare Altar with Crucifix and candles.

1899 - The Ladies' Aid is organized. Over the years this society will provide significant financial support for the congregation, as well as provide for service projects both within the parish and for missions.

1900 - In January, Pastor Rausch accepts a call to Marine City, Michigan. Pastor C. August Decker is called and arrives in June. Among his accomplishments for the growing congregation will be the decoration of the church interior, including the installation of stained glass windows, and beginning Sunday School in English.

[Pastor Decker]1902 - The first small pipe organ is purchased for $100. Construction begins on a parsonage right next to the church. Pastor Decker (right) personally raises half of the $1615 cost, and he and Mrs. Decker move in February 9, 1903.

1905 - The young people of the church organize the Zion Luther League of Peoria, Ill. Membership is for all confirmed youth, while other young people may become associate members. Years later, when the (Iowa) Synodical Federation of Young People adopts the name "Wartburg League," Zion's League will change its name to the Zion Wartburg League.

1907 - Pastor Decker begins work in the village of Bartonville to establish a new mission. From this mission Bethel Lutheran Church will be organized in 1909. Pastor Decker will serve both congregations.

1910 - Pastor Decker accepts a call to Trinity Lutheran Church, Chenoa, Illinois. Zion and Bethel are unsuccessful in quickly calling a new pastor, so over the next 9 months Pastor Decker supplies the pulpit as best as the 50-mile distance in pre-auto days permits.

1911 - Pastor Sebastian J. Altpeter of Elkton, Minnesota, is called to the Zion-Bethel parish. His inaugural sermon on October 15 is preached to 13 people at Zion and 7 at Bethel. His $700 annual salary is to come from Zion ($375), Bethel ($125), and the Mission Committee of the Iowa Synod Southern District ($200).

The Brief History continues with Part II -- 1912-1942: The Altpeter Years.

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Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church
1534 S. Easton Avenue
Peoria, IL 61605-3407
(309) 637-9150

Copyright © 2005-2011 Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church of Peoria. All rights reserved.
Created -- 1 February 2005
Last Revised -- 17 September 2011

URL: www.zionpeoria.org/history.html