HISTORY OF IMMANUEL
LAST UPDATED 09/01/2004
1900's - 1930's |
1940's - 1950's |
Beginnings -- 1890's
As a result of a small gathering of Lutherans in the fall of 1880, a
Lutheran congregation was born in Marshfield, Wisconsin, eight years
after the founding of Marshfield. The setting for the organizational
meeting was the home of H. J. Pankow. The new congregation was named
"The Evangelical Lutheran Congregation of Marshfield and vicinity."
The first church officers elected were: H. Scharmann, president; H.J.
Pankow, secretary and F. Zirbel, treasurer. The first church building
was erected in 1881.
Marshfield was only a small village in 1880 surrounded by dense
forest. Because the congregation grew very slowly, five years went by
before a pastor was called. Until then, a number of pastors shared
their time and leadership with the first congregation. Pastors who
divided their time with their own congregations and the new Lutheran
church in Marshfield were: M. Denninger, E. Meyerhoff, G. Thiele,
Prof. A. Graebner, Wm. Rader and B. Ungrodt.
Reverend L. Th. Thom from the Lutheran church in Eldorado, WI was
called to be resident pastor in 1885. By that time the congregation
had grown to approximately 25 families.
Soon after the arrival of Rev. Thom, the training of the children in
the elementary grades became a concern of the congregation. As a
result, Immanuel Lutheran School officially started in 1886. The
school met in the church and the pastor taught the classes until
1889 when Professor Otto Hellermann was called and served as the
first principal. Early teachers in the school included Emma Kionka,
Martha Perlowitz, Hattie Kehrberg, and Irmgard Hensel.
In its early days, the German immigrants that were coming to our
community used the school as an alternative to the English speaking
public schools. The newly arrived German families were very
interested in preserving their cultural and religious heritage, and
their church supported school was very important to them for
maintaining their language and tradition. In 1892, the church
building was moved to the corner of Chestnut Avenue and West Sixth
Street and became the Christian Day School. A new church was built
adjacent to the school in 1892 for a total cost of $10,000.00.
First School Building Built In 1906 for $7,000
Several lots south of this new church were purchased in 1905. A
three-story school building was constructed in 1906 at a cost of
$7,000.00. This school building was located on the corner of Seventh
and Chestnut, and classes were held there after the dedication on Oct.
28, 1906. It had an impressive tower incorporated into its design, but
the tower was destroyed by fire and not replaced. The teachers and
students continued to speak German. It wasn't until the time of World
War I (1914-1918) when America was at war with Germany that some
English began to be spoken at Immanuel.
During the 36 year pastorate of Rev. Thom, services were conducted
exclusively in the German language. Seeing the need for English
services and regular instruction to meet the needs of the younger
generation, Pastor Thom resigned in 1921, recommending a call be
extended to a younger man than himself. His resignation was followed
by an accepted call by Rev. Oswald Hensel, a missionary in Wausau,
WI. Rev. Hensel was installed in October of 1921 and served the
congregation until 1932.
In the fall of 1929, a ninth grade class was added to the school for
interested students. Six students made up that class: Paul Hensel,
William Korth, Regina Kiesling, Chester Seehafer, Anita Hintz and
Martha Wendt. Grade nine was offered again in 1930, but discontinued
after that school year due to increasing financial difficulties. The
pastor at that time taught Latin while Rev. Gieschen served as
principal and 7th and 8th grade teacher.
In 1932, Rev. G. M. Krueger (succeeding Rev. Hensel) became pastor
of Immanuel. Economic conditions during the Depression forced the
school to close in 1932.
Prior to 1932, the congregation was affiliated with the Wisconsin
Evangelical Lutheran Church. In 1932 Immanuel members voted to join
The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. The church building was remodeled
and redecorated in 1938.
School Closes, Reopens Again In Fall Of 1941
In 1941, nine years after the school had closed, a decision was made
to re-open the school. In the fall of 1941, Mr. Erich Albers was called
as principal. He taught the upper grades, directed the choirs, and
also served as the church organist. Miss Martha Wendt, a former
student, taught the lower grades. Mr. Albers remained at Immanuel for
three years and then resigned to accept a position as Director of
Christian Education and Music at Sheboygan Falls, WI. Roy Knack who
served just one year (1944) replaced him. Mr. George Pingel of
Milwaukee arrived in 1945 and was the principal and a teacher for
Immanuel until 1964 at which time he accepted a call to Clyman, WI.
In February of 1952 the gym, or "Parish Hall" as it was called then,
was completed. It was not connected to the school, however, so
students had to go outside to get from the school to the gym. The
Zinthefer property, located west of the gym, was purchased, and in
1958 the tall, red school building was razed to make way for a new
Christian Day School which was built around the existing gym.
Day School Adds First Kindergarten Class In 1964
Five classrooms were included in the new school building, and the
building was completed and dedicated on January 24, 1960. To help
fund the building, congregational members fulfilled pledges for
"Building For Christ". While the new school was being built, Immanuel
students attended classes at the old Lincoln School which was located
where the current fire station is now located on East Fourth Street.
By this time, enrollment was up to 83 students. The early 60's saw a
number of changes at the school. A school lunch program was started
under the direction of Mrs. Clarence Jacobson. The Parent-Teacher
League was formed in 1961. In 1964, the first kindergarten was
started with Jane Fohrman as the teacher. Eugene Brunow, then of
St. Mark's, Wausau, WI, accepted the call to serve as principal of
the Day School and Director of Christian Education. He replaced Mr.
George Pingel, who had accepted a call to Clyman, WI. Mr. Brunow
served as principal and teacher of grades 7 and 8 until June of
1971 when he accepted a call to Sheboygan, WI. He was succeeded
by Mr. Franklin C. Martens of Janesville, MN in July of 1971.
Pastor Krueger retired in 1963 after 31 years of service. A former
vicar of the congregation, Rev. Daniel Ahrens, accepted a call to
fill the pastorate vacated by Pastor Krueger. Pastor Ahrens served
the congregation from 1964 to 1966 when he accepted a call to St.
Paul's Lutheran Church, Birnamwood, WI.
During this time Rev. Ronald Goetsch, chaplain at King Veteran's Home
and St. Joseph's Hospital and also a member of Immanuel, was often
called on to assist during pastoral vacancies and to relieve the
pastor of the growing workload. A call was extended to Rev. Eldore
Messerschmidt, then serving St. John's Lutheran Church in Ladysmith,
WI. Pastor Messerschmidt accepted the call and was installed on
November 6, 1966.
In the 1960's it appeared that the expanding Marshfield Clinic was
going to purchase Immanuel's properties. To prepare for eventually
vacating the downtown area, 20 acres of land on the northern outskirts
of Marshfield near McMillan Road were obtained to carry on the
In 1966, a new position was added as Music Director for both the
church and school. Mr. Paul H. Muehl of Lester Prairie, MN was the
first one called to serve in this capacity. He served Immanuel until
July of 1979 when he accepted a call to Trinity Lutheran Church of
As duties and workload increased, Immanuel voted to call an associate
pastor. Rev. Theodore Krueger, serving in Fall Creek, accepted the
call and was installed on July 28, 1968. A new position of
Youth/Sports Director was created in 1969. Mr. Daryle Behnke was
called from Concordia College, St. Paul, MN and served until 1972
when he accepted a call to Readlyn, IA. Mr. James Henning of Detroit,
MI then served in this position until June of 1978 when he accepted
a call to Oshkosh, WI. Mr. Vern Wolff, of Seward, NE then filled
During the late 1960's, Immanuel School experienced rapid growth in
its enrollment. Due to a shortage of classroom space, a portion of the
Purdy building was rented to house Immanuel's kindergarten.
Kindergarten classes were held at that site for a total of seven
Congregation Feels Best To Stay At Midtown Location;
Bible Study, Fellowship, Worship Participation Grows
The Marshfield Clinic made the decision to relocate adjacent to St.
Joseph's Hospital in the late 1970's. Immanuel gradually came to the
realization that it would be best to continue its ministry from its
original midtown location.
Associate Pastors Messerschmidt and Krueger shared the pastorate until
1973 when the Kruegers moved to Westfield, WI to serve Immanuel
Lutheran congregation. The associate pastor position was vacant until
a call was extended to Rev. James Murray who was installed on June 2,
1974. Rev. and Mrs. Murray and family were with our congregation until
January 31, 1977 when Pastor Murray accepted a call to Mt. Calvary at
Red Oak, IA. Rev. Ronald A. Jansen, then serving Zion Lutheran in
Albert Lea, MN, joined Immanuel to fill the vacancy as associate
pastor. He was installed on May 28, 1978.
During the 1970's and 1980's, Immanuel grew in its ministries and
became better organized in serving the mission of Christ. Participation
in worship, Bible Study, and fellowship increased. Along with this
growth, Immanuel School was gaining more recognition for excellence
Mr. Bruce Jensema, replacing Mr. Paul H. Muehl, served as a teacher
and Music Director until September of 1988. Mr. James Henning of
Detroit, MI served as the Youth and Sports Director from 1972 until
June of 1978 when he accepted a call to Oshkosh, WI. Mr. Vern Wolff
of Seward, NE then filled this position. The addition of a pre-school
program and active recruitment efforts in the lower grades
significantly increased enrollment.
Rev. Messerschmidt Retires Due to Health Reasons
"Let's Build Immanuel Together" Building Theme
On July 8, 1980, Rev. Messerschmidt retired for health reasons. A
call was extended to Rev. Robert C. Reinhardt of Christ of the Bay,
Green Bay, WI. He accepted the call and was installed on November 23,
In June of 1983, Mr. Martens, the school's principal, accepted a call
to Rose of Sharon Lutheran Church, Cottage Grove, MN. He was replaced
in the summer of 1983 when Mr. Gary Beyer became principal after
serving at St. Peter-Immanuel, Milwaukee, WI. Mr. Beyer left Immanuel
in July of 1987 to become the District Education Counselor for the
North Wisconsin District located at Wausau, WI.
Mr. Kevin Greatens, from Christ Lutheran Church, Weyauwega, WI was
called to replace Mr. Beyer. Mr. Greatens served Immanuel as
principal and teacher until 1991 when he accepted a call to be
principal at Immanuel Lutheran School, Colorado Springs, CO.
In 1981, the job of youth director and sports director was divided.
Miss Robin Schultz was called as a teacher and accepted the position
of youth director from 1981 to 1984. Mr. Karl Schmidt was called as
a teacher and sports director from 1981 until 1991.
In 1984, Immanuel opened a pre-school with Mrs. Marlee Boson as the
teacher. Certification by the North Wisconsin District of the
Lutheran Church Missouri Synod was achieved for Immanuel in 1986
under the leadership of Mr. Gary Beyer, the principal at that time.
A before and after school care program was started, providing
supervision for students from 6:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
In the late 1980's, plans to build a new church connected to the
school began to be studied. The congregation realized that their
facilities were not meeting their needs. On February 1, 1987, it
was voted to remain at the present location, subdivide and sell
the McMillan property, and engage the services of an architect and
fundraiser to complete the building project. A building committee
was formed and on September 26, 1988 a building resolution was
passed that included plans for the McMillan property and the new
facility. Plans then began for the fund raising drive under the
theme of "Let's Build Immanuel Together."
Commitment Sunday was held April 16, 1989 for the fundraiser. By the
end of the day, $552,282.25 was pledged for the project. By May 22,
1989, pledges had grown to $607,006.00.
Rev. Jansen served Immanuel from May of 1978 to April of 1989 when
he accepted a call to Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Collinsville, IL.
During the pastoral vacancy (July 1989 to 1990) Alan Montgomery, a
trainee in the LCMS Professional Lay Ministry Program, assisted Rev.
Realizing the importance in serving the youth of Immanuel, Miss Terri
Fennern was called as a teacher and also served as youth director
from 1988 to 1990. Miss Ruth Fick, replacing Mr. Bruce Jensema,
accepted a call to be a teacher and Music Director at our school. She
served from July of 1989 to July of 1991.
Immanuel Begins Decade With Many Staff Changes
In April of 1990, Rev. John Schenck of St. Paul Lutheran Church at
Tomahawk, WI accepted the call to Immanuel. He was installed on
April 29, 1990.
Miss Lori Potratz, also a former teacher at Immanuel, replaced Miss
Fennern as youth director and served until 1991, when she was replaced
by Miss Debra Bergdolt, who was also a teacher. Mr. Chris Baxter
replaced Miss Bergdolt and served as youth director and a teacher
from 1992 to 1994. His wife, Julie served as Music Director and a
teacher at Immanuel from August of 1992 to June of 1996, when she
accepted a call to Watertown, WI.
On May 10, 1990, the congregation voted approval of a $1 million
building project. The McMillan Street property was subdivided into
lots and offered for sale to help finance construction. Along with
a new church, fellowship area, and offices, two new classrooms were
added to the school. Ground breaking was held July 29, 1990 and the
razing of the old church began August 21. The stained glass windows
and chancel furnishings were used in the new church and chapel.
As the building continued, the cornerstone was laid March 24, 1991
and dedication was set for June 16, 1991.
In June of 1991, Mr. Karl Schmidt, then sports director and teacher,
accepted the call of principal to replace Mr. Greatens. Mr. Jeff
Damrau replaced Mr. Schmidt as sports director and also served as
a teacher at Immanuel from 1991 to 1994.
Rev. Reinhardt served Immanuel until February 1992 when he accepted
a call to Our Savior Lutheran Church at Mayfield Heights, OH.
In October of 1992, Rev. Gary Albert of Hope Lutheran Church at
Land-O-Lakes, WI accepted a call to serve Immanuel. He served as
a pastor until June of 1996 when he resigned as full-time pastor
to also serve as a fifth and sixth grade teacher at Immanuel School.
The following year Rev. Albert resigned his position as part-time
pastor and devoted his gifts to full-time teaching.
In 1995, Immanuel School, under the dedicated leadership of Mr.
Karl Schmidt, completed a strenuous two-year self-study and became
one of a select number of Lutheran Schools to receive national
accreditation. Mr. Schmidt served faithfully as principal until
June of 1995 when he stepped down and continued to serve as a
teacher at Immanuel.
In July of 1995, Mr. James Henning, serving at Trinity of Oshkosh,
WI returned to Immanuel to serve as principal and teacher in our
day school, replacing Mr. Schmidt. Mr. Henning's wife, Donna, was
hired the following year as a teacher.
A canopy was added to the front of the church in the spring of 1995
thanks to the gifts and memorials of our members. The original church
bells were incorporated in the tower design and can be rung by the
ushers in the sanctuary. A sign was placed at the corner of Sixth
and Chestnut in 1996 and a large stainless steel cross was erected
on the canopy tower in May of 1998.
In January of 1996, the school remodeled the old school offices into
a computer lab and installed the wiring to link each of the classrooms
to a central file server. This was accomplished with a grant from the
State of Wisconsin. The church and school web page went online on May
16, 1996 and a computer curriculum was added for grades K-8 in 1996.
Upon the departure of Julie Baxter in 1996, the Board of Lay Ministry
decided not to hire a full-time music director and to divide the
music responsibilities into three areas. Jolene Albert was hired as
head organist and director of the hand bells; Edie Lauterbach was
named choir director; and Phyllis Ann Huber was hired as music
leader for the 5 p.m. Saturday contemporary service.
In the mid-1990's, the gym, hallways, and library were extensively
remodeled. A new boiler was installed and the old office space was
converted to a computer lab. New desks greeted the students at the
start of the 1996 school year as a result of a $10,000 gift from a
long-time Immanuel member. Mr. Schmidt and his wife, Frances, also
a teacher at Immanuel, accepted a call in July of 1997 to serve at
St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Omaha, NE.
A Child Care Center, under the supervision and direction of Mrs.
Pam Schmidt, opened for 3, 4 and 5-year olds in the fall of 1997.
Curriculum and instruction were strengthened by the addition of
specialized part-time teachers in the areas of computer, art, and
Rev. Schenck continued to serve as Administrative Pastor with the
help of Rev. Steve Sutterer and the part-time services of Pastor
Albert. In June of 1998, Rev. Schenck accepted a call to St. Luke's
in New Richmond, WI. Rev. Robert Brandt was installed at Immanuel
on August 2, 1998. Rev. Brandt had been serving as associate pastor
at St. John's Lutheran Church in Merrill, WI.
In the Fall of 1999, new playground equipment was installed and the
school kitchen was remodeled. A new networked 14-station school
computer lab opened in the Spring of 2000.
Future Plans Include Developing Entire City Block;
Immanuel Installs New Family Ministries Director
Beginning in the late 1990's Immanuel started purchasing houses on the
block where it is located. Realizing that parking in the area as well
as land for future expansion were both very limited, plans were set to
purchase every house on the block when the parcel was listed for sale.
By the end of 1999, all 7 houses on the entire block had been purchased
After years of planning, meetings and prayers, ground was broken on
April 27, 2003 for a $600,000 construction project. Pastor Robert
Brandt led the brief groundbreaking ceremony following the Sunday
10:30 a.m. traditional worship service.
Included in the project was a parking lot on the West side of the
church and school for approximately 75 cars, the addition of a west
entrance from the present Fellowship Hall to the new parking area,
expansion of the Fellowship Hall, new storage rooms, and the addition
of a new classroom to house an all-day kindergarten program at
Immanuel's day school. The new addition was completed ahead of
schedule and, to celebrate this building project, a special dedication
ceremony, tours of the new facility and a potluck dinner were all
held on Sunday, September 28, 2003.
The 2004-05 Immanuel Lutheran School year opened with many staff
changes. Jim and Donna Henning resigned as principal and first grade
teacher, respectively. Mr. Henning was replaced by Karen Bahn, who
was our fourth grade teacher. Mrs. Bahn was hired as an interim
principal for a one-year term. Elizabeth Marshall became our new
first grade teacher and Katie Laubenstein was hired as our new fourth
grade teacher. Pastor Gary Albert, former pastor at Immanuel and
currently our fifth and sixth grades teacher, resigned to accept
a call as the first full-time teacher at the new Wisconsin Valley
Lutheran High School located near Mosinee, WI . Pastor Albert
was replaced by Jonathan Bernau.
Midway through the 2004-05 school year, John Bernau resigned as the
fifth and sixth grades teacher and was replaced by first grade
teacher Elizabeth Marshall. Lori Tatkenhorst was called as the new
first grade teacher starting in January of 2005.
In mid-2005, the church hand bells choir was re-organized under
the direction of Lori Tatkenhorst.
For the 2005-06 school year, staff changes continued at the school.
Due to a decrease in enrollment and the combination of grades three
and four taught by Jolene Albert, the call of grade four teacher
Katie Laubenstein was not renewed. Amanda Weil was called as the
new preschool teacher to replace Joan Anderson who switched from
the preschool teaching position to replace Kim Majerus who resigned
as the kindergarten teacher to move with her family out of the area.
Uncertain enrollment numbers again forced more changes at the school
for 2006-07. A new middle school concept of grades six, seven, and
eight was introduced with Principal Karen Bahn as the teacher. As a
result of this implementation of a middle school, Elizabeth Marshall
was released from her call and the new lower grades teacher
assignments were: Jolene Albert - grade one; Jill Helgerson - grades
two and three, and Lori Tatkenhorst - grades four and five.
Feel free to contact us with questions and/or comments.