History of Holyoke's Churches

German Lutheran Church

Rev. August Brunn, Pastor

      For many years our city has been favored by having in it constituency a large number of Germans, most of whom are Protestants, and many of them were trained in the Lutheran confession. As long ago as 1866 religious services in the German language were held in a schoolhouse at the corner of Park and Sargeant streets, a building which was later turned into a tenement block. Mr. August Stursberg, owner of the Germania Mills, did much for the spiritual welfare of the Germans, for it was largely through his labors that ministers came to Holyoke to hold services in the German language, and he gave generously toward building the first church edifice. This building was erected in 1867 at a cot of $5,000, and the work was done under the leadership of Rev. Mr. Frankel, the first pastor of the society. It is pleasing to remember that for five years this organization, which preceded the present one, was aided by the Congregational home Missionary Society, while another interesting fact is that both the first pastors were Presbyterians, Pastor Schwartz as well as Pastor Frankel. Mr. Schwartz remained here nearly five years, and in additional to usual pastoral duties he taught week-day classes in German, and these classes continued until this day.

German Lutheran Church
German Lutheran Church

      Rev. W. R. Bueler, a Lutheran minister, next took charge of the work, and continued in charge for about four years. During his pastorate a parsonage, costing $2,000, was built, the money being provided by members of the congregation buying shares. This minister had traveled extensively and had been a missionary. Rev. Mr. Muelde is next on the list of pastors, but he remained only six months, to be followed by a Rev. Mr. Schwartz, brother of the other pastor of that name, and he remained three years.
      We now come to a pastorate of fourteen years, the incumbent being Rev. F.B. Hanle, who is remembered as a good preacher and faithful pastor, though sad to relate, the term of service came to an end amid unpleasantness, partly owing to financial misunderstanding and partly to the pastor's refusal to sanction some organization. This strife had as its result the organization of a church in place of a mere society, as it was felt that this step would render less probable similar difficulties in the future. September 3, 1888, a church was organized, and to this body the Holyoke Water Power Company deeded the land on which the church building stood. There were 70 charter members.
      For a long time it had been the desire of many that the church be a regular Lutheran church with a regular Lutheran pastor, and at last the dream was to come true, for in December, 1888, Rev. August Brunn began his work here which he has continued so aggressively up to the present time. Soon, under his leadership the church became self supporting; soon the building proved too small for the increasing congregations; so in 1891 the edifice was enlarged and thoroughly renovated, and in the basement were arranged pleasant quarters for the social life of the parish. Religious education was not neglected, and at every possible moment classes were held and are still held for instruction not only in religion but also in the German language. For twenty years the organist, John Wassel, has also performed the duties of teacher. Pastor Brunn, fired with the missionary spirit, labored untiringly in Springfield, Easthampton and Westfield, until today in each of these places there are Lutheran churches and pastors.
      A hard blow fell, when, on the 14th of February, 1899, on a cold night during a terrible blizzard, fire broke out in the church building, and soon the structure was totally destroyed, though the parsonage was saved.

Rev. August Brunn
Rev. August Brunn

      It was voted to build a new church, and during the construction of what is the present building, worship was held in one of the public schools.
      Just a year after the burning of the old building the new church was ready for dedication. It is a churchly building, constructed of red brick, with brown stone trimmings. It cost $26,000, and is a decided addition to the appearance of South Holyoke. The auditorium seats over 600, and the building is surmounted by a fine spire, 120 feet high. In the rear is another building, two stories in height, containing the school rooms, meeting room, and parsonage.
      By earnest effort the debt which rested upon this property has been paid, and the prospects are that the social rooms must soon be enlarged.
      In the parish at the present time there are some 1,000 souls, of whom 590 are communicants. There are 99 voting members, 153 children in the week-day school, and 397 in the Sunday school. The Ladies' Society has 115 members, the Young People's Society 200, the Young Men's 70, while connected with the church are two benefit societies which aid their members in case of illness, and which also make payments in case of death. For several years the church has been associated with the largest Lutheran synod in the United States, commonly known as the Missouri Synod, and is a generous contributor to the missionary and educational interests of that synod.

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