History of St. Mark's Congregation

It was about the time of the beginning of Wisconsin's statehood in 1848 when a great wave of German immigrants began to reach our American shores. This continued with little abatement for at least a decade. Leaving the old homeland largely because of religious and political intolerance, the new free land of America had offered its decisive challenge to these freedom-loving pioneers as they sought new homes and opportunities here. It meant many privations and sacrifices, leaving many of their families and friends behind, risking a hazardous journey of several months by sailboat across the ocean, finally arriving almost penniless, and without a home in the dense forests here on the western shores of Lake Michigan, where our particular group of pioneers chose to make their homes. Most of these had come from the southern Rhineland in the Mosel River valley in southwestern Germany. The fertile land of this northern part of Sheboygan County must have reminded them of the rolling hills and valleys of their old homes, for in this region they chose to settle and make their future livelihood. Among the first known settlers that came to Town Mosel in 1847 were Nicholaus Feld, Daniel Welsh, and Joseph and Friedrich Weiskopf. But every year brought a few more, and soon there was a considerable community of settlers, practically all from the same region, the Mosel Valley, and after this the Township was named.

The early years were rough indeed. It was hard labor to clear enough land to build their first log houses, and to have a few acres to provide for their meager provisions. It was some years before horses began to replace the oxen, and all the farm work was done the hard way. But theirs was a good land, and in their new-found freedom they soon enjoyed the rich rewards of their labors.

But they soon realized there also were spiritual needs to be met. When week after week of hard labor brought the well-earned Sabbath rest, yet no church bells to call to worship, no preaching of the Word of God, and no Sacraments, they must have felt like the exiled Israelites in Babylon, yearning for the courts of the Lord. And it wasn't long before they began to meet together in some of the homes, and to call in a neighboring minister whenever possible. The first of these that apparently came to minister to this group was a Pastor Erbe of Town Rhine, a former teacher in Germany, who as early as 1850 or 1851 came every few weeks to preach and administer the sacraments. By 1855 this group had grown so much that they began meeting in the District No. 1 School House. At this time Rev. H. A. Winter, who had just begun his pastorate at the newly organized Saron church in Town Sheboygan Falls, came every few weeks, walking the distance of a little over 12 miles. In 1856, when Rev. F. Lenschau became the first pastor at St. John's, Schwarzwald, he also began serving the Mosel group. In 1858, when both these men left their respective churches, Rev. Albert Zeller, the next pastor at St. John's and Rev. H. Muehlmeier of Immanuel church in Town Herman, appear to have alternately served the congregation. This continued until the latter part of 1859, when the first regular pastor, Dr. Rudolph O. Rockwitz apparently took over. He was however, also an itinerant preacher, who did not reside here.

Though there are no written church records in existance prior to 1859, the congregation was organized and incorporated in 1856, according to the record in the Sheboygan County Court House. They called themselves the Deutsche Evangelische St. Markus Gemeinde zu Town Mosel, Wisconsin. Charter members of the congregation were: Christoph Sixel, Jacob Wagner, Nicholaus Dippold, Friedrich Steinhaus, Peter Conrad, Christian Wesener, Friedrich Weiskopf, Heinrich Welsch, Johann Heisinger, Joachim Oswald, Peter Werner, Traugott Lautenschlager, Adam Moersch, Christian Welsch, Philip Feld, Gustav Sommer, Gottwerth Sommer, Joachim Kimme, Friedrich Krause, Jacob Sixel, Ernst Wilke, Friedrich Hasche, Adam Thies, Max Wollhaupt, Heinrich Conrad, Karl Wiegand, Friedrich Werner, Peter Marx, and Karl Siedel.

In 1857 they erected their first house of worship, a small log church which stood on the knoll just east of the former Elm Grove School, District No. 1. With the organization of the congregation and the building of a church accomplished, and a regular pastor serving them, the growth of the congregation was greatly accelerated. In 1861 a one-acre Cemetery Plot was donated to the congregation by William Wippermann.

On Aug. 10, 1863 the congregation called its first resident pastor, the Rev. Casper Viehe. They built for him the first log parsonage on a 2- acre site on the north-east corner of Section 8, Town Mosel. This was just across the corner to the southwest of where the district school house and the log church stood. For his support the members of the congregation pledged $120 per year as his salary. In addition every member was pledged to provide him with 15 pounds of flour, one half bushel potatoes, one half cord firewood, and whatever else he might need. That same year the original consitution was revised. Also the pator was granted the privilege of conducting services every two weeks at the Evangelical Church in Town Meeme, which was organized in that year, and this arrangement soon became permanent. To this day these two congregations have remained sister congregations, known as the Mosel-Meeme Charge. In 1864 the interior of the parsonage (consisting of 1 room upstairs and 2 downstairs) was whitewashed. Later that year a one-room addition to the parsonage was built. It was also decided that the pastor was to teach 3 months of summer school, 4 days per week, and was to receive 25 cents per month per child, except where there were more than two children in a family attending. In 1865 a stone foundation and basement were built under the parsonage.

In 1873 a new brick church was built on the Cemetery Site to replace the old log church which was only 15 years old, but which had become totally inadequate for the needs of the growing congregation. Total cost of the new church was $2,184, which was paid for by 38 regular and 12 new members.

In 1876 the first bell was purchased for calling the members to worship, and also the first organ was bought to accompany the singing. In 1904 a new and spacious parsonage was built. In 1906 telephone service was installed in the parsonage. In 1908 a new and larger tower was added to the church and a second bell was purchased. Also that year the entire interior of the church was redecorated. In 1913 a new artesian well was drilled near the parsonage, and in 1914 running water was installed in the parsonage. Electric lighting was installed in both the parsonage and Church in 1926.

The Ladies Aid Society was organized in 1919, and has continued to do much for the help and welfare of the local congregation. The first officers were Ida Conrad, Pres.; Augusta Sixel, Vice Pres.; Emma Oswald, Secretary; and Emelie Sixel, Treas. There were twelve charter members.

Anniversaires observed were the Golden Jubilee of the church building in 1923; the Diamond Julibee of the congregation in 1931; the 90th and 100th Anniversaries of the congregation in 1946 and 1956 respectively.

At the Annual Meeting in Jan. 1937, the congregation voted to proceed with the building of a new church that year. A building fund had already been started in 1928 when it had been decided to prepare for the buiding of a new structure rather than to renovate the old. Mr. Edgar A. Stubenrauch of Sheboygan was employed as architect, and a building committee was chosen composed of Arthur L. Wagner, chairman, Oscar Schmidt, Arwin Neumann, Louis Fischer, Edwin Hasche, and Rev. Carl G. Schmahl. Plans for the construction of an edifice of English Gothic architecture, of brick veneer construction, with full basement and a seating capacity of from 250 to 300 were adopted on July 13. The following Sunday, July 18, final farewell services were held in the old church and the next day razing operations were begun. On July 21 ground-breaking ceremonies were held on the site just south of the parsonage and excavation began. Cornerstone laying services were held on Oct. 10 at 2 p.m. Construction proceeded steadily throughout the fall, winter, and spring months, and was completed just a few days before Dedication Services on May 22, 1938. Worship Services during the interim were held in the Elm Grove School House. Total cost of the new church was $28,000. Pledges paid by members were $9,600. Special donations and offerings were $1,200, and memorials and gifts by organizations which covered all furnishings and windows amounted to $6,200. The remaining debt of $12,000 was liquidated in 1955. A total of 3,630 hours of labor was donated by the members during the building project.

A new Hammond Spinet Organ was purchased by the congregation the spring of 1956 as a memorial of the 100th Anniversary.

Since 1934, which marked the beginning of the pastorate of Rev. Carl G. Schmahl, there was a complete transition from the use of German to the English languages in the services. 1934 marked the beginning of regular English services, which were held once a month, the balance was held in German. After a few years it was changed to about even between the two and then for several years German services once a month. In January 1955, at the annual meeting, it was voted to discontinue the German services entirely.

Our Centennial was observed on June 10, 1956 with two worship services. Special speakers for the occasion were the Rev. Eugene P. Vandoske, the only son of our congregation serving in the Christian Ministry, and the Rev. Louis C. Boeker, the only living former pastor of the congregation. A special Centennial dinner and supper was served in conjunction with the event.

In February, 1959, Rev. Schmahl passed away suddenly, just four months short of observing his 25th anniversary as the congregation's pastor.

During 1960, the mortgage from the building of the present edifice was burned.

At the annual meeting in 1961, it was voted to rewrite the original Consitution from German into the English language. This was done and adopted the following year. Also in 1962, the front porch of the parsonage was rebuilt.

During 1963, a Building and Maintenance Fund was established. Also that year, the official name of the church was changed from "St. Markus Evangelical and Reformed Church of the Town of Mosel" to "St. Mark's United Church of Christ".

The old garage and schoolhouse on the church property was dismantled in 1964, followed by the construction of a new dual-purpose garage. That same year, a new outdoor church sign was erected.

Aluminum siding was installed on the parsonage during the summer of 1966, along with new doors and canopy.

In 1967, the first church secretary was hired to assist with general office work and preparation of the weekly and monthly bulletins. The church and parsonage roofs were also stained that year. The following year, new glass doors were installed on the church.

Hugo Vandoske retired after ringing the church bells for a period of at least 51 years in 1971.

A basement heating system was installed during 1972, completely separate from the church heating system.

The church constitution was amended in 1973 to read that all communicant members 18 years of age and older are entitled to hold office and vote on church legal and financial matters.

In 1975, new roofs were installed on both the church and parsonage. The following year carpeting was installed in the church basement and hallways and the parsonage was insulated. Our 120th Anniversary was also observed that year, 1976, in conjunction with the annual Mission Fesitval.

During 1977, the church driveways and parking lot area were reshaped and blacktopped. The main light fixtures in the sanctuary were also converted to produce more light, and were rewired. Ceiling fans were installed in three locations for more efficient use of the heating system and also for summer cooling in 1979.

A new two-furnace oil heating system was installed in the church in 1971. Also, all woodwork on the main floor was revarnished to bring out its beauty, and the main floor interior of the church was repainted.

The 125th Anniversary of St. Mark's was observed on Sunday, October 11, 1981. A morning and afternoon service were held. Special speakers for the day included Rev. Eugene P. Vandoske (a son of the congregation who also spoke at the 100th Anniversary), Rev. Jay T. Lemke and Rev. Robert H. Meyer (both former pastors of the congregation), and Dr. Reinhard Urich, who so graciously supplied our church during several pastoral vacanies.

...These items were copied from St. Mark's 125th Anniversary booklet...