Tenth and Lincoln Streets - Bay City, MI
Immanuel Lutheran Church had its beginning in 1852 through the nourishing support of Rev. Ferdinand Sievers, founder of St. Paul Lutheran Church of Frankenlust Township in 1848. Rev. Sievers attended to the pastoral needs of a small flock of German Lutheran immigrants that had settled in the village of Lower Saginaw (now, Bay City). He would make the trip to Lower Saginaw about every other week to perform church services in the homes of these German immigrants. The first service was held at the home of John Michael Feinauer, he was a foreman at the Catlin Mill, and his residence was at Tenth and Waters streets.
By 1854, these immigrants were ready to formalize their own church, and St. Michael’s Lutheran Church was organized that year. However, the new church didn't last long as a majority of the early settlers decided to move to Frankenlust and join the St. Paul Lutheran community. None the less, Rev. Sievers still continued to travel to Lower Saginaw to meet the pastoral needs of those who chose not to make the move to Frankenlust.
By 1861, a significant "new population" of German Lutheran immigrants had settled in Bay City, and the Immanuel Lutheran Church was organized with the help of Rev. Sievers. Recorded early members of the church were:
Gottfried ARNOLD, John ARNOLD, George LAETZ, Sr., Leonhard & George HEUMANN,
George SCHMIDT, John EDELMANN, George DUCHAINE, Fred RECHLIN, Fred VOIGHT,
August SCHWENN, Herman DOMMER, August ARNOLD, NIEDERMEYER, and George KEMPTER.
The church’s first house of worship was purchased in 1862. It was a small wood structure 18 x 30 feet costing $150.00 that was advanced by Rev. Sievers. It was located on the north west corner of Sixth and Madison. The deed dated, December 22, 1862, shows the seller of this building was James Fraser, a founding pioneer of this community. The church building seated about 48 people on benches.
In 1863, the congregation had grown to the point a Sunday school was needed for the children. That year the Christian Day School opened. It's first teacher was a student from the Concordia Seminary of St. Louis, who was helped along with the tutorship of Rev. Sievers.
In 1865, the congregation hired, Rev. Johannes Himmler as their first fulltime pastor giving much needed relief to Rev. Sievers. Not long thereafter, F.W. Lankenau was hired as teacher at wage of fifty-cents a month per child, and free a place to stay. He stayed only three months departing for payed better position. Rev. Himmler assumed the teaching responsibilities until he himself departed in 1867 to pastor a church in Therman, Huron County.
Rev. Sievers once again returned to service the needs of the congregation during this vacancy.
Rev. J.H.P. Partenfelder accepted the pulpit position in August 1868, and once again, Rev. Sievers, returned spend his full time duties at the Frankenlust church. This was Rev. Partenfelder first was pastorship having recenly graduated from the Concordia Seminary.
That year, Mr. Lankenau returned to once again as teacher. He served in that capacity until 1871, leaving to in the public school system. It took until December 1872 for the church to find a new teacher. He was W. Henry Graeber, a cousin of Rev. Partenfelder and was only 18 years old. Prior to taking up the position, Young Graebner was attending school at Teachers’ College in Addison, Illinois. An illness forced him to take time off from his education and it was during this time that he became actively involved with the church. During Sunday services he played the small melodeon and was popular among church members. Rev. Graeber and members of the church persuaded him to accept the teacher's postion. He received $250 per year, and free room and board. He served the church well, and was largely responsible for the church’s first pipe organ, a gift from the Young People’s Society under his leadership. In 1878, Mr. Graebner departed for Milwaukee, Wisconsin and J. Michael Helmreich was hired as his replacement.
During this period, the school was on the first floor of a house located directly behind the church building, facing Sixth Street, and the parsonage was on the second floor. In 1874, a new parsonage was built on the south east corner of Sixth and Monroe, and the old school building was moved onto that lot to make room for expansion of the church.
The rapid growth of the city and surrounding area kept the church membership growing. So much so, that their church building was far too small to accommodate attendance at Sunday services. In 1879, additions were complete on each side of the church building that included a new balcony with a seating capacity of 250 people. The church continued to grow forcing leaders to begin searching for a larger piece of property.
In 1883, the church purchased six lots on Tenth Street, between Lincoln and Sheridan were purchased in 1883. The first building erected on the new property was a two-room structure for a new school. The was moved onto this site as well. The old school was sold in 1910 and the owners moved it on property located at 249 N. Sheridan. The old parsonage at Sixth and Monroe was sold in 1883, and a new parsonage was built on the south lot of the new property off Lincoln Street.
Faced with a national depression, the leaders of the church decided to delay moving forward with a new church building. By 1889, things were looking much better and a committee was organized to plan for the new church building.
The building committee consisted of:
GUST, RECHLIN, George SCHMIDT, William PATENGE, William TAPERT,
A. NATZKE and John FRANK.
The committee consider structures made out both wood and brick structures, but opted for wood due to costs. A brick building had an estimated cost of $15,000 while wood was only about $10,000. On August 31, 1890, the dedicating ceremony took place of the new wooden church with a seating capacity of about 750 people.
Five years later (1895), a two-story addition to the school was completed to better meet the needs of students and teachers.
December 27, 1896, was a sad day for church members as it marked the end of 28 years of pastoral services provided by Rev. Partenfelder who died that day. The church had prospered greatly during his leadership and was now totally over 1,000 members. Rev Partenfelder also assisted in the organization of the Trinity Lutheran Church of Merritt Township and that of St. John’s in Pinconning.
The church continued its growth during the 20th century, and to play a important benevolent role within this community. The Lutheran Child and Family Service center is one fine example. Other notable activities of this period include:
1916: An eighth grade classes were added to the school program.
1918: An English service was added to Sunday worship, a first for the Lutheran churches of this area.
1926: Sunday services were broadcasted on WSKC, later known as WBCM.
1929: New school building erected at a cost $115,626. The old one was removed.
1936: Church renovation project up dating existing facilities and adding new features was completed.
1941: Missionary work in Essexville assists in the formation of the Pilgrim Lutheran Church with 65 members transferring their memberships in support of it.
1951: The church’s 50 year old organ was rebuilt to celebrate of the church’s 90th anniversary.
An important year of decision for the congregation was 1955. The old wood church building erected in 1890, was badly in need of extensive and costly repairs, and up dates of the school buildings were need to be done to relieve over crowding. After considerable discussions, debates, and thoughtful planning of future needs, it was decided that the future of the church would best be served by erecting new church structure. Building and canvass committees were established:
Charles H. PONITZ was honorary chairman,
and W.C. KNAKE was the general chairman.
Canvass leaders were:
R. Roy PECK, Mrs. Otto VOGEL, Mrs. Norman KRIEWALL, Mrs. Edward F. EICHINGER, Elmer G. PARTENFELDER, Conrad L. ROTH, Edward R. LIST and Raymond QUAST.
Building fund treasurers were:
Kenneth STIEGEMEYER and Raymond QUAST.
Building committee members were:
Mr. KNAKE, Richard REHMUS, Harvey MILLER, Albert MEYER, E.H. PRETZER, Ronald ANDERSON, Edward EICHINGER, Mr. DOREGEMUELLER, Mr. LIST and Mrs. HYDORN, as well as Pastor STIEGERMEYER and Pastor Thomas P. HINTZ.
Plans called for a contemporary church building to occupy the newly acquired property on Tenth Street, with a parish wing that would be attached to the existing school building and would be on the site of the old church at the south west corner of Lincoln and Tenth. Member, Eugene C. Starke, of Brysselbout, Starke and Associates, designed the complex.
On September 15, 1957, members flocked to attend their first Sunday service at the new church. The sound that beckoned them was familiar, as the bells from the old church were installed along with many other treasured items from old building.
In 1961, the church's Centennial Year, the congregation numbered 1,906 members. The Immanuel school enrollment was 246 students with eight full time teachers. Sunday school classes numbered 201 children who were being taught by 23 adults members of the church. Sunday services in the German language were now only two per month and these service were stopped in 1966.
Well into its second hundred years of existence, the Immanuel Lutheran Church community remains a strong source of spiritual inspiration for its members. , and a sound educational resource for is now in its 140th year of continuous operation. Their existence is rooted to the first German immigrants followed Rev. Sievers to this area in 1848, a date which preceeds the existence of Bay County which wasn't organized until 1857. Their arrival was only a decade after the first white settler here, Leon Trombley, built his log-cabin along the east bank of the Saginaw River near what is now Fourth Street in downtown Bay City.
The Immanuel Lutheran Church has withstood the test of time. It has a strong history of overcoming challenges that should serve it well in meeting those of tomorrow to the benefit themselves, and to the rich legacy of their home community.