The History Of Emanuel Lutheran Church
Pastor Louis Damman, serving St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Hanover Settlement, first organized a Lutheran group in Napoleon, Ohio, and announced that a meeting be held on July 9th, 1882. At this meeting the first officers were elected and voted to organize the congregation permanently.
Some of the first members were Frederick Theek, Henry Rohrs, George Behrens, August Hirseland, Theodore Suhr, H.C. Groeschner, George H. Rohrs, Otto Kuntzner, Ferdinand Roessing, and Henry Holterman. These men and their families held the first services in their homes, in the court house, in the school house, and sometimes in the Episcopal Church. Later they rented the brick church building at the corner of West Clinton and Scott Streets, which had been built by an Evangelical group.
In 1883, this congregation purchased their first organ at the price of $25.00. This amount was obtained by pledges and contributions.
Pastor Damman served for sixteen years, and at the January 8th, 1898 meeting, he submitted his resignation. Pastor W.P. Wuebben was called to be the new pastor of the congregation with a salary of $500.00 per annum.
The congregation eventually bought the church building from Mr. Filling for $4450.00, and at the September 11th, 1898 meeting, decided to repair it.
In January 1911 Pastor Wuebben resigned, and Pastor George Haas accepted the call and served the Hanover Settlement Church and Emanuel Lutheran as a combined parish for eight years.
A flood occured in Napoleon in 1913, and at the April 6th congregational meeting it was decided to have a special collection for the flood victims of the congregation.
The following is part of a special report taken from the old church records. "The evening of October 28th, 1916, about 5 p.m. the fire sirens and bells indicated that there was a fire someplace in Napoleon. Much to their sorrow the Emanuel congregation found out that it was their dear old brick church. For an unknown reason the fire started in the Northeast corner. The quick acting fire department and other helpers brought the fire under control in a short time. However, it looked very bad in the corner. Our good pipe organ was completely ruined by fire and water. The chairs of the choir loft and a number of benches were also destroyed. The Northeast wall was damaged to the point that it very likely had to be taken down and rebuilt. The next day, Sunday the 29th day of October 1916, the congregation intended to celebrate the Reformation Festival (as it was the custom in all Lutheran congregations). But alas, this did not happen. A number of members came to the realization of the loss by spending the Sunday without a worship service. Some of our members were invited to partake in the worship service in the sister congregation, Hanover Settlement, by friendly members of that congregation. Our members were gotten and returned to their homes by the friendly people with their automobiles. On Sunday, November 5th, 1916, a small group gathered at the church to discuss the future of the church building. A few members wondered about the possibility of building a new church, and to have the old one torn down. The next Sunday, November 12th, 1916 at 2:00 p.m. we had our first worship service in the Evangelical Church about 200 feet west of our church. The congregation and pastor were kind enough to offer their edifice for our use on Sunday afternoons or other times when the need arose. The rent for each use should be $2.50. The congregation decided to give 5 cents for the collection of every service instead of the customary 1 cent, to be able to pay the rent regularly."
In November 1916, after pledges were received in excess of $10,000.00 and a fire insurance coverage settlement of $2,500.00, the congregation decided to build a new church and tear down the old building. In January of 1917 the congregation decided to move all furniture of value to suitable quarters in the old woolen mill warehouse between the canal and the river. These items were stored at a rental price of $3.00 per month.
The Church Council chose a building committee who then contacted Geo. B. Rheinfrank, Architect, from Toledo to come to Napoleon to work out a plan with them for the construction of the new church. He submitted his plans in May 1917 and they were approved.
The old church was dismantled by the able-bodied members and all usable material was cleaned and stored on Mary Gathman's lot, which had been offered to the congregation for that purpose. This material was to be used again in building the new church.
Reliable contractors were invited to view the plans and to submit bids for the construction. G.F. Tuttle of Napoleon was awarded the contract with his bid of $18,287.00.
The construction started at once, but due to the conditions brought about by the War, as demands were placed upon the railroads and factories, the church building process was slowed down considerably.
The cornerstone was laid on Sunday, September 2nd, 1917. The following items were enclosed in the cornerstone: the history of the congregation, one Bible, one Catechism, a complete list of church members, names of all acting church officers, names of the building committee members, a copy of all newspapers of that date as the Northwest, Henry County Signal, and German Democrat (later named Henry County Democrat). It was an excellent day, and in addition to the members, there were many friends present. The speaker for the day was Professor A. Pflinger, who gave a wonderful sermon in English. The offering for the Building Fund that day amountted to $162.10.
The congregation used the facilities of the Evangelical Congregation until November 17th, 1918, at which time the present House of Worship was dedicated for the service of the Triune God.
Pastor Haas resigned in 1919 and Pastor R.A. Born was called. He accepted and it was during his pastorate, in September of 1921, that a new organ which had been purchased for $3600.00, was dedicated.
The records showed the budget for 1927, and was listed as follows:
Pastor Born was serving in July 1932 when the congregation celebrated its 50th Anniversary. He resigned on July 1st, 1934 and the congregation called Pastor Bruno Brueckner. He was installed as pastor on December 16th, 1934 and served until October 27th, 1935, at which time he resigned to go to Capac, Michigan.
On June 8th, 1936, Pastor E.R. Moser of Steele, North Dakota, was called. He was installed on August 2nd, 1936.
On January 3, 1937, a resolution to give women the right to vote was brought before the congregation. The resolution was voted down.
The congregation celebrated its 60th Anniversary in July of 1942. In November of 1942, the Church Council decided to conduct an every-member canvas before gasoline rationing went into effect, and at the January 3, 1943 congregational meeting the survey showed a total of 487 baptized members.
In September of 1943 the congregation voted to buy the Gathman property located on the east side of the church which was owned by Mrs. A. Enz of Lima. The purchase was completed in December of that year and the house located on that property was sold and removed from the property in April 1948.
In 1949, the Bockelman property, which adjoined the church property was acquired and was given to the church as a gift from the Filling Brothers.
At the January 7th, 1945 annual meeting, the decision was made to build an educational unit on the newly acquired property. The total cost of the unit was estimated at approximately $90,000.00. The congregation resolved to raise $20,000.00 of this amount in fifteen months by free-will offerings. Later, a pledge system was set up to raise the balance of the $90,000.00. Ground breaking ceremonies for the new unit were held in July of 1949 and construction started at once. The dedication of the new unit was held on May 28th, 1950.
The large painting on the front wall of the sanctuary which shows Jesus walking on water and saving Peter from the water was removed in 1950.
At their January 1951 annual meeting, the congregation voted to join the American Lutheran Church. They were accepted into membership in the summer of 1951.
At a special meeting on March 10, 1954, the congregation voted to move the organ console up into the balcony and to also electrify the organ at that time. At the same time a corridor was constructed to connect the sanctuary to the new educational building. Cost of this project was estimated at $8,000.
The 75th Anniversary was celebrated in 1957 and to commemorate the occasion, the congregation pledged to gain seventy five new members.
Pastor Moser resigned in August of 1959 to accept the position of Superintendent at the Filling Memorial Home of Mercy near Napoleon. Pastor Waldo Egbert of Clawson, Michigan, accepted the call of Emanuel and was installed on January 10, 1960.
In June of 1960, at a special congregational meeting, it was decided to rid the church property of all the old remaining buildings, and to construct a parking lot at the east side of the Educational Unit.