History of Zion Lutheran Church in Wooster, Ohio

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Transcribed no author listed from 1840 to 1987


The village of Wooster was survey and platted in 1807 and until 1812 consisted of only a few scattered houses and perhaps a store. In 1812 a Block-house was erected on the site of the present Zion Lutheran Church. The Block-house was used by all religious groups for their meetings. The Baptists built their first little wooden church in 1814 on the present site of the Trinity United Church of Christ. In 1817 the Block-house was torn down, leaving only one meetingplace, the newly built Baptist Church. This congregation, with fine Christian courtesy, offered its facilities to visiting ministers of various denominations. Among these were three Lutheran ministers, Pastor E. Greenawald|Greenwald, Pastor George Leiter, and Pastor Francis Ruth. Sometime prior to 1840, the Lutherans purchased the Baptist building and moved it to the back of the lot, on the corner of Buckeye Street and Alley Square (directly east of in-lot No. 107 on North Market Street).

On September 18, 1840, Zion Lutheran Church was officially organized by Pastor Solomon Ritz. A constitution was adopted and signed by the following sixteen charter members: Solomon Ritz, George Reiner, John Lawrence, H. D. Miller, Israel Windel, Isaac Notoestine|Notestine, Abraham Fox, Conrad Oiler, Benjamen Lehman, M. A. Fox, Mary Johnson, Catherine A. Miller, Fred Hoke, Fanny Lehman, Mary Windel and Elizabeth Ritz.

The Reverend Ritz resigned as pastor of the Wooster church in March of 1843. The pulpit was vacant for seven months, although Pastor A. H. Meyer|Myer and Pastor Dixon occasion-ally led in worship.

Pastor George Leiter, who had done work in this area prior to 1840, returned to serve as pastor on November 1, 1843. In August of 1844, during the election of officers, the church added two more deacons to its council. The council, after election, consisted of the following: George Reiner, Abraham Fox, Elders; and Williams Bacher, Israel Windel, John Beall, and John A. Lawrence, Deacons.

Pastor Leiter resigned on November 1, 1844 after one year of service. The Reverend W. J. Sloan assumed the pastorate of the congregation on New Year's Day of 1845. Twenty-persons united with the congregation during the winter of 1846-1847. In January of 1849 the Elders were reelected, while J. A. Lawrence, Conrad Oiler, David Bissel and Alex Bivens were chosen as Deacons.

On April 1, 1851, after more than six years of dedication, Pastor W. J. Sloan severed his ministerial connections with the church. After this, The Reverend J. Hamilton served the church as supply pastor for six months. W. A. G. Emerson became the pastor in November of 1851, resigning in the same month of 1852. Since the founding of the church, eighty-nine members had been received by the original congregation of sixteen members.

The Reverend J. B. Baltzly was installed as pastor in June, 1853. Abraham Fox and J. A. Lawrence became Elders, and Alex Bivens and Martin Smith were elected to the office of Deacon.

In October of 1853, Simpson S. Goodspeed was excommunicated from the congregation for committing the crime of theft. Others were excommunicated for intemperance and other immoralities.

In order to comply with the Incorporate Act, Martin Weaver was chosen to be one of the three required trustees.

On March 28, 1855 the congregation sold their old church edifice and lot to Albert McFadden. Having no plans to worship during the erection of a new church, the congregation accepted the gracious invitation of the German Lutheran Church to worship in their building on the northwest corner of Henry and Grant Streets.

The congregation purchased a lot from Ephriam Quinby, located on the west side of North Market Street on the south side of the alley between North and Larwill Streets. The cornerstone fo the new church edifice was laid on September 13, 1855. Pastor Rutherraff|Ruthraff of Canton, Pastor Freeman of Mansfield, Pastor Lawson of Pittsburg, and Pastor Pope of Wooster attended the services which were conducted by Pastor John Crouse.

On June 1, 1856, services were first held in the lecture room of the new church. At these services, Pastor J. B. Baltzly was ordained and Pastor W. C. Weaver preached the first sermon. The congregation invited the East Ohio Synod to hold its Twenty-second Annual Convention in Wooster from September 24 to September 30, 1857.

The first sermon given in the new sanctuary was preached by Pastor Baltzly from Genesis XXXV, II, on July 3, 1859. The church was formally deducated on July 10, 1859. The sermon was preached by Pastor F. N. Conrad of Dayton with Pastor Baltzly and Pastor Freeman in assistance. J. H. Kesley, George Plumer, and M. Funk were elected Elders in 1860. Also chosen were A. Bechtel, J. Bechtel, and G. Walthouse, Deacons; Thomas F. Wilder, Secretary; and R. Bechtel, Treasurer.

The Wooster congregation and the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church of Franklin Township agreed, by preamble and resolution, to constitute themselves as one body, to be called the Wooster Charge, assenting and subscribing to various regulations and conditions, on February 11, 1860. On October 10, 1860, the East Ohio Synold voted in favor of the union. On April 10, 1864, Zion Lutheran Church, in order to make way for a union with St Paul's Church of Smithville, dissolved the union with Trinity Lutheran Church of FRanklin Township. Later, when Wooster constituted a Charge of its own, the Wooster-Smithville Charge was dissolved.

Forty members were taken into the church during the year ending April 1, 1866, Pastor Baltzly presented his resignation to the congregation, because of declining health. In August of 1868, the congregation invited The Reverend Ira C. Billman to fill the pastorate vacated by Pastor Baltzly. Pastor Billman accepted the call and was installed as minister.

In the year 1870, the members of the Church Council included J. A. Lawrence, Philip Wiler, Q. A. Kieffer, Elders; D. W. Matz, Z. L. Numbers, J. Ottman, Deacons; H. Rockey, William Bentz, L. C. hays|Hays, Trustees; and Lewsis Wenger, Treasurer.

Pastor Billman resigned as minister of the congregation on June 12, 1870. The Reverend H. L. Wiles, D.D. was chosen pastor by the congregation on April 23, 1871. The officers of the church in 1876 were as follows: Elders, Albert McFadden and Joseph Snyder; Deacons, S. N. Roller and Jacob Frick; and Trustees, Henry Rockey, Jesse Smith and Isaac Bechtel.

On March 21, 1878, the Church bought for $4,000 the present lot on the northeast corner of North Market and Larwill Streets. The laying of the cornerstone was on September 22, 1878. The deed eas made to Henry Rockey, Jesse Smith, and James L. Gray, Trustees for Zion Lutheran Church. The grantors were George M. Hippee and his wife, Eliza, of Polk County, Iowa. On April 18, 1881, the sactuary of the present church edifice was deciated.

The Women's Missionary Society was organized November 12, 1882. Charter members included: Mrs. H. L. Wiles, President; Mrs. Elizabeth Shelly Frick, Vice President; Mrs. Mina Myers Belnay, Recording Secretary; Mrs. David Nice, Corresponding Secretary, Mrs. Henry Rockey, Treasurer; Mrs. Jacob Barnard, Mrs. H. A. Ebinger, Mrs. J. L. Gray, Mrs. J. S. R. Overholt, Mrs. Jacob Palmer, Miss Rebecca A. Scheurer, and Mrs. R. B. Snyder.

In 1884, Pastor Wiles resigned after a service of thirteen years to take a charge in Mansfield. The Reverend George M. Heindel, D.D. became the next pastor.

According to the diary of John H. Taylor, early Wooster businessman, the following occured: "Feb. 11, 1887. Heavy wind. Blew cupola off the Lutheran Church."

In 1889, the present Sunday School chapel was built at a cost of slightly more than $9,800. The old church property was sold to W. D. Tyler in May of 1890. The Church Council of 1890 was composed of the following: George Steele, John Snyder, and David Thomas, Elders; J. S. R. Overholt, D. R. Firestone, Jacob Frick, and W. H. Wiler, Deacons; Henry Rockey, W. E. Rice, J. B. Myser|Myers, Trustees; John C. Boyd, Secretary; and O. M. Albright, Treasurer. In 1891, the membership of the congregation was 443.

The Reverend W. W. Criley, D. D. assumed the pastorate after the resignation of Pastor Heidel in 1891. Pastor G. C. Smith became the minister in 1898 replaceing Pastor Criley.

In 1901, the East Ohio Synod held its Sixty-sixth Annual Convention at the church.

Incorporation papers were filed with the Secretary of State in 1903. Pastor Smith resigned in 1905 and The Reverend Frank Heilman became pastor of the church. In 1912, The Reverend H. S. Bowers assumed the duties of pastor.

Henry Clack Frick presented the congregation with a pipe organ in 1913. This organ was in use until 1951. The Bethany English Lutheran Church of Cleveland received the old pipe organ as a gift of the congregation. Organist for the church during the early 1900's was Carl Miller.

In 1915, the congregation bought its first parsongage for the sum of $4,500. Extensive repairs, costing $4,600. were made to the building which stood on the norner of North Buckeye and Larwill Streets.

The Church Council of 1918 was composed of the following: Elders, J. S. B. Overholt, W. A. Weygandt, and G. C. Maurer; Trustees, A. S. Rahl, W. W. Herman, and H. T. Bechtel; Deacons, R. H. Bell, Harry Young, Clydle Miller, Johnson Sweeney, A. A. Barnard, T. R. Middaugh, W. H. Wiler, C. R. Lebold and A. C. McIntire; Secretary, Walter Major; and Treasurer, James B. Rahl. The choir director was Professor H. G. Hutchins and the organist was Miss Alice Firestone. Sunday evening Worship Services were held as were Wednesday evening Prayer Meetings. Socieities within the church included Ladies Aid Society, Woman's Home and Foreign Missionary Society, Young Ladies Missionary Society, Eisleben Society, Luther League, and Lutheran Brotherhood.

The Reverend Bowers resigned in 1918, the pastorate being filled by The Reverend Allen O. Becker, D.D. in 1919.

In 1919, the Church Council replaced retiring members with William Linn, Elder; Charles Fahr, Trustee; and J. B. Wile, Deacon. Secretary of the council was John Plasterer and Treasuer was William Gerlach. The choir director was Professor B. H. Burtt, and the organist was Miss Cora Sherrick.

The parsonage on Buckeye Street was sold to Dr. William Witherow for $4,500 in 1919, and a few months later a new parsonage was purchased on Park Avenue. The Reverend R. B. Petty, D.D., Ph.D., followed the Reverend Becker as pastor of the church in 1924.

In 1925, Walter D. Foss presented his home at 356 North Market Street to the church for use as a parsonage. The gift was made in memory of Mrs. Mame R. Foss, his deceased wife.

The Church Council in the year 1926 was composed of the following: Elders, R. T. Bechtel, Albin Rich, and A. M. Fombelle' Trustees, Theodore Bogner, George Krieger, and A. C. McIntire; Deacons, Clyde Thorley, F. C. Gerlach, C. H. Lebold, J. J. Plasterer, W. Q. Miller, A. H. Dice, J. B. Wile, W. H. Jolliff, and Ralph Wile. The Financial Secretary was C. H. Zimmerman; General Treasurer, Early Hoffman and Benevolent Treasurer, George Krieger. The choir director was Charles X. Hutchinson and the organist was Miss Mathilda Christman.

In November of 1927, a set of Deagan Tower Chimes was presented to Zion Lutheran Church by Mrs. J. S. R. Overholt|Overholt, Karl F. Overholt, and John D. Overholt in memory of their husband and father, J. S. R. Overholt. In the same year, extensive repairs were made to the church, including the construction of a new tower to accomodate the chimes, at a cost exceeding $40,000.

In 1928, the following were added to the Church Council to replace retiring members: G. C. Maurer, Elder; and Ira L. Theil, John T. Yoder, Ray W. Swinehart, and Neal F. Bowman, Deacons.

Boy Scot Troup 65, sponsored by Zion Lutheran Church, was organized in 1931. Clyde Thorley was the first scoutmaster, and charter members included Robert A. Anderson, Richard Bogner, William Dice and James Rahl. In 1930, through the generosity of Karl F. Overholt, the garage in the rear of the parsonage was remodeled to serve as a Boy Scout Lodge for the Lutheran Boy Scouts. The Lodge was still in use until the mid-1940's.

In 1930, the membership of the church was 625. The Reverend Paul Snowden Kelly became the pastor of the church in 1931, replacing Peery, who had served faithfully for more than seven years.

In 1933, the church dedicated the Religious Educational Services Addition to the church building. This three-story structure was a gift of Mrs. Overholt and her sons, Karl and John. This addition cost slightly more than $40,000. The formal deducation of the Religious Educational Services Addition was made to coincide with the holding of the Thirteenth Annual Convention of the Synod of Ohio, United Lutheran Church of America, in the Wooster church.

In 1940, after one hundred years of formal existence, the baptized membership of Zion was 1050. The number of confirmed members was 866, and the number of communicants was 642.

On the One Hundredth Anniversary of the church, April 28, 1940, the President of the Ohio Synod, The Reverend Joseph Sittler, D.D., gave the sermon. The Anniversary observance was continued throughout the week with a Birthday Party on May 1, and the May 5th sermon given by The Reverend Alvin E. Bell, D.D.

Wayne Frary assumed the position fo organist and choir director in 1941, a position which had been vacated by Mrs. Cleve Carroll. In 1943, when Mr. Frary entered the military service, Mrs. George McClarran served as organist and David Young as choir director.

The Church Council in 1942 was composed of Elders R. T. Bechtel, Ivan Steiner, Sr., William Barnard, Carl Yund, Earl V. Hoff, and Rufus Swainhart; Trustees, James B. Rahl, William W. Herman, and Harry H. Snure; and Deacons, Lloyd Geitgey, C. J. Hutchison, Chester Smamel|Shamel, Alfred Stellwagon, Clyde Thorley, T. V. Wynkoop, R. E. Andress, Byron Bell, Robert Ebert, Clyde Miller, Jr., Ivan Steiner, Jr., Ira Thiel, Neal Bowman, Albert Carillon, Bert France, Paul Jones, Roy Miller, and Kermit Yoder. The Financial Secretary was Harvey Beachy; General Treasurer, Roy W. Miller, and Benevolent Treasurer, C. E. Lebold.

Pastor Paul S. Kelly died in April of 1944, having served faithfully and ably as minister since 1931. Until a minister could be found to serve as pastor, Dr. Harold Ernsberger, D.D., Cleveland, Ohio, devotedly served the congregation as interim suppy pastor. In November of 1944, The Reverend John F. Kindsvatter, D.D. became the pastor Zion Lutheran Church.

Two Sunday morning church services were inaurgurated in 1945 for the summer months only. Mr. Frary returned from military service in 1945 and resumed his position as organist and choir director, and is still serving in this capacity.

In 1951, the chancel of the sanctuary was remodeled at a cost of $60,000, and a new organ, purchased by the congregation, was installed. In 1952, the Zion Lutheran congregation invited the Ohio Synod to hold its annual convention in the church. The Synod, of which Zion is a part, accepted the invitation.

In 1955, the land north of the church was enlarged by the purchase of property formerly owned by George C. Maurer. In 1957, all land to the north of the church was made into a parking lot.

The position of vicar of the church was first filled in 1956 by Donald Olson. After serving for a year, Mr. Olson was replaced by Charles Poulson in 1957.

The Matins Choir for young people of high school age was formed in 1957. This enabled the church to have tow Sunda morning services during the winter months as well as the summer months.

When Vicar Charles Poulson returned for his senior year at the seminary in 1958, The Reverend John Worth was installed as assistant pastor of the church in 1958.

A library was officially started in the church in 1960. The church acquired the property at 40 N. Bever Street for use as a parsonage as a gift of Mrs. Louis Snavelyat her death in 1960. The plot of land on the northwest corner of Buckeye and Larwill Streets was purchased from the C. L. Conrad family in 1960.

Pastor Worth (surname)Worth received a call from the First Lutheran Church, Plymouth, Ohio to serve as minister and left Zion in May, 1961. The recently purchased land on the corner of Buckeye and Larwill Streets was made into a parking lot for use by the church in 1962.

The Reverend John Hayner was installed as assistant pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in June of 1962. Pastor Hayner is serving in this position at the present time.

Pastor Kindsvatter, the present minister of Zion Lutheran Church, is serving as Dean of the Akron District of the Ohio Synod, a position he assumed in 1963 when Zion becae part of the Lutheran Church in America.

In addition to the organ of the church was installed in 1963. A new constitution was adopted by the congregation and put into effect in January, 1964. when Zion officially incorporated as "Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church of Wooster."

The present Church Council (1965) is composed of the following members who also serve as Trustees: Robert Anderson, Robert Crawford, William Gilson, William Johnson, George Nolt, Joseph Sigler, Howard Webb, Russell Wertz|Wetz, Foster Becker, Norman Bergman, Raymond Campbell, William Hofacre, Clifford Leighty, Lawrence Lintern, Don Parfitt, Rudy Rice, Gerhard Soesmann|Soesemann, John Johnstone|Johnston, Gernard Kaser, Mrs. Paul Kelly, George Marlow, Ivan Steiner, Jr., and Wilbert Vaughn. John Johnson|Johnston serves as President, Blaine Koble is the Congregational Treasurer, William Hofacre is the Secretary, Ralph Kane is the Endowment Treasurer, and Mrs. Russell Andress is Financial Secretary.

The Zion Lutherna Church is now making plans for the remodeling of the Sunday School portion of the building to coincide with the observance of the One Hundred Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of the Lutheran Church in Wooster. During the past 125 years, Zion Lutheran Church has established itself as a pillar in the community of Wooster, both as a religious institution and by the many contributions to society made by the members of its congregation.

1965 to 1987

Additional History

In 1965, Zion Lutheran Church added a new educational wing, called the Schmuch Education Services Wing. This includes a general office, two pastors' offices, a choir room, the music director's office, the Bogner Memorial Library, a working sacristy, a new kitchen, five new classrooms and additional restrooms. The existing dining room and Sunday School rooms, plus the balcony and large folding doors were all removed and remodeled to provide more Sunday School area and to make the area structurally safe. A lounge was added on the lower level. The acoustical ceiling in the sanctuary was removed and a beautiful new ceiling replaced it. New lighting was installed, and a cloth material was added to the walls and then painted. New carpeting and new light oak pews were added. The large folding doors at the east section were removed, part of the area was walled, and a row of stained glass windows was added. These windows can be opened for additional seating. The original doors remain throughout the sanctuary. This was all dedicated in 1966.

In 1972, Pastor John Kindsvatter retired after twenty-nine years of devoted service to Zion. He was made Pastor Emeritus.

In 1973, Zion Lutheran Church called The Reverend Daniel Keister as Senior Pastor.

In 1967, the congregation celebrated the One Hundreth Anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone of the present church.

In 1981, Zion Lutheran Church celebrated the One Hundredth Anniversary of the dedication of the present church, called at that time (1881) the ""Wooster Tabernacle of the Lutheran Church."

In 1986, two classrooms were completely remodeled to become the Zion Memorial Chapel.

Zion has had three Directors of Christian Educational Services: The Reverend Normal Schlegel, 1965-1969; Mrs. Glenda Enderly, 1969-1971; The Reverend Gerald Pierson, 1971-1973.

The Reverend Paul Heine was Assistant Pastor from 1975-1977.

There have been three Associate Pastors at Zion: The Reverend David Root, 1977-1978; The Reverend Jamie Lee, 1979-1981; and The Reverend J. William Pearch, 1982, who still serves.