A HISTORY OF ZION LUTHERAN CHURCH
In 1793 Joseph Johns (Schantz), a German Mennonite, left his farm near Berlin in Somerset County and built a blockhouse on present-day Levergood Street. He laid out a plan for a town at the confluence of the Stonycreek and Conemaugh Rivers and registered the name, Conemaugh, with the court in Somerset. Joseph Johns left the town in 1806, two years after Cambria County became a political entity, and settled on a farm near Davidsville where he died in 1810. In 1834 the citizens of Conemaugh changed the name of the town to Johnstown in honor of its founder.
Johnstown's iron and steel industry began in 1809 when John Holliday erected the first forge on Vine Street for which pig iron from the Juniata Valley was carried over the. Indian trails by horseback. In 1810 Robert Pierson established a nail manufacturing facility. Finished products were shipped by land and also by barge on the Conemaugh River to Pittsburgh.
In 1824 the state assembly authorized the construction of a canal between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and Johnstown was destined to become an important commercial center in the Commonwealth. After George King discovered a rich source of iron ore in the surrounding mountains, he built a smelting furnace near Millcreek and Benscreek in 1842. Four years later Peter Levergood erected a furnace in the town. When in 1852 the Pennsylvania Railroad line was laid between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh for commercial traffic, George King decided to manufacture rails- The same year, after tapping financial resources in New York and Boston, he founded the Cambria Iron Works and two years later shipped the first rails. With this development, Johnstown began a period of rapid industrial growth.
While Johnstown was developing into an important commercial center, the religious life of the community also developed. At the time there were three Lutheran churches in the county: First, Johnstown, organized in 1830 and originally both English and German; St. John, Summerhill, organized in 1832; and St. David, Davidsville, organized in 1839. .
In the early decades of the nineteenth century, political unrest gripped Europe. The Germans longed for civil liberty, freedom, and a united German state, and this led to rebellion. Many German men who joined the freedom fighters were forced to flee the fatherland and so in the later half of the 1840s the number of German immigrants to Johnstown increased rapidly. The spouses usually came later to join their husbands in establishing new homes here. The industry of the county began to expand and as opportunities for employment increased, so did the stream of newcomers.
The Germans who settled in Johnstown longed to be nurtured in the Word and the sacraments in their mother tongue, so they turned to Pastor Peter Sahm of First Lutheran Church who was fluent in the German language. At first he conducted German services for them every other week at two o'clock on Sunday afternoon. However, as the number of German immigrants increased, so did the number of services during the month.
In September, 1852 the Rev. Theobald Kleis came to Johnstown and a new era in the religious life of the Germans began. The German immigrants rented an old English Brethren Church building on the corner of Main and Jackson Streets for their first church home. It was there that the Zionsgemeinde was organized in early October, 1852 by about forty men. These men were employed in the iron works in Johnstown and in the coke ovens in Benscreek and Millcreek. Pastor Kleis immediately began a parochial record in which the official acts of the church were registered. The baptismal and marriage records are complete since 1852, but the confirmation and death records were probably lost in the 1889 flood. The first child baptized in Zion Church was Dorothy Amanda, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Karl Zimmerman, on December 27, 1852. The first marriage was that of Christ Wilhelm Strauss and Juliane Deuble on January 17, 1853.
Pastor Kleis had been a catechist in the St. Chrischona Institute near Basel. Upon an urgent request for missionaries to Texas, he studied theology and was ordained in order to serve in this state. He landed in Galveston in 1850 and organized churches in Sequin, San Antonio, Castorville, and Braunfels. At Quihi he founded Zion Lutheran Church, from which perhaps our congregation derives its name. In 1852 Pastor Kleis obtained permission to come north to solicit financial support for the work in Texas among the congregations of the Pittsburgh Synod. It is most likely that because of his success in Texas, he was persuaded by Dr. William A. Passavant, the great missionary pioneer of the Pittsburgh Synod, to look after the scattered German Lutherans in the Johnstown area.
Soon after the congregation was founded, it was decided to build a church. A piece of land was purchased for $400 at Jackson and Locust Streets from Mr. and Mrs. James McMillian and on March 25, 1853 the deed was recorded. The trustees named in the purchase document were Charles Zimmermann, Gottlieb Byerly, John Wehn, Conrad Suppes, and John Ludwig. Incorporation of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Johnstown was granted by the Court of Common Pleas of Cambria County on March 16, 1854 and the constitution and by-laws, in German script, were filed in the prothonotary's office.
The first Zion Church building was erected at the corner of Jackson and Locust Streets in 1853 with the entrance on Locust Street. On June 5, 1853 Pastor Kleis officiated at the cornerstone laying. According to the minutes of August 23, 1868 the cornerstone contained "a Bible, a song book (somewhat mildewed), some writing (illegible), and coins (a 1,3,5, 10,25, and 50 cent piece)". These items were later also enclosed in the cornerstone of the second church building.
THE FIRST CHURCH, 1853
Pastor Kleis did not live to see the completion of the building for he died on October 7, 1853. He was interred in the levergood Cemetery on Vine Street, but his remains were later moved to the Sandyvale Cemetery. After the death of Pastor Kleis, the Rev. Charles Brandt became the pastor. It was he who dedicated the new church structure to the glory of God on December 11, 1853. According to Pastor Erdmann, those who remembered the golden anniversary of Zion could not agree whether the building was constructed of wood or brick, but describe it as follows: to the left was a small room for the pastor in which memorial wreaths for the deceased were often hung; at the right was a hallway which led to a small balcony; two doors led into the nave; the altar and the pulpit were white and gold. Since there was no organ, August'
Danges led the congregation in its singing. The congregation did not have missionary status and so was not a member of a synod. In order to raise the necessary funds for the upkeep of the church, yearly pew rent was charged the members. It was noted by Pastor Brandt that baptisms were also administered at Half Way House, now known as Summerhill, and so Lutherans from that area were also affiliated with the congregation.
The pastorate of the Rev. Brandt was followed by that of Pastor Henry S. Lasor in April, 1855 and by that of the Rev. Karl Kress in the autumn of 1856. Regular services were held at 10 A.M. and 2 P.M. with the Sunday school at 1 o'clock. However, the afternoon service was discontinued due to the poor attendance, and the Sunday school was also discontinued after the death of Pastor Kress on August 12, 1859. Pastor Kress was succeeded by Dr. W. Sick who served the congregation until 1862. During his pastorate a small wooden parsonage was built next to the church and plans were made for the establishment of a parochial school.
In December of 1862, Doctor Karl Taubner, who held a degree in medicine, took over the leadership of the congregation. It is interesting to note that although Zion Church had five pastors during the first ten years of its existence, Pastor Taubner served Zion for fifteen years. During his ministry a keen interest in education developed. The first teacher employed by the congregation was Constanin Nenstiel who came to Johnstown in July, 1861. At the time there were no educational facilities, so the church rented a building at Railroad and Clinton Streets for this purpose. After funds for a school building were gathered in 1864, a lot next to the church on Jackson Street and Cover Alley was purchased from Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Fronheiser on which the congregation's first educational building was erected. Since the church building had become too small for the steadily growing congregation, it was decided to build a larger and more stately building. At the congregational meeting of July 13, 1868 a Building Committee was appointed consisting of Christian Kuckuck, Karl Zimmermann, J. Valentine Shaffer, William Mueller, Valentine Rippel, and Pastor Taubner. Pastor Taubner, Gottlieb Lessinger, Karl Hochstein, and John Bloch were appointed to gather funds for the building and Christian Kuckuck was named treasurer of the Building Fund. At a meeting on August 29, 1868 it was decided to include the following items in the cornerstone: a Bible, a song book, Luther's Small Catechism, German and English periodicals, a history of the congregation, a census of the city, the names of the presidents of the United States of America and the governor of the Commonwealth, and several coins valued up to a half-dollar. It is believed that the cornerstone laying occurred in early September, for the minutes of September 26, 1868 inform us that the offering at the cornerstone laying was $124.
Much difficulty was encountered in the erection of the steeple for the new church and this delayed the construction project until the end of 1869. The dedication of the second Zion Church building was finally held on January 2, 1870. Pastor R. A. Fink of First Lutheran Church took part in the service and Pastor Taubner preached the dedication sermon. As with the first building, the entrance to the church was on Locust Street. The nave, together with a balcony on three sides, had a seating capacity of eight hundred. The clergy stall, as was customary in that day, stood on a raised platform behind the altar, both of which were painted white and gold. The church and its furnishings cost $15,692 and a debt of$6,000 was incurred in the construction. After long and faithful service, Dr. Taubner resigned on August 20, 1876 and moved to California.
The Rev. Karl Knortz was called as pastor at the congregational meeting of November 18, 1876. In the summer of 1877, gas lighting was installed in the parsonage, and the church and educational building were painted. The congregation celebrated its Silver Anniversary on June 30, 1878.
Pastor Knortz submitted his resignation on April 29, 1882 to become pastor of St. Matthew Lutheran Church in Melrose, New York. On June 18, 1882 the Rev. Herman Veith was elected to succeed Pastor Knortz. He was founder of the Ladies Aid Society on September 3, 1882. The educational building of the congregation had become much too small and old, so in the spring of 1883 plans were made to replace the structure. Since estimates for a new brick structure amounted to $4,500, it was decided to renovate the old building and to make some improvements to the parsonage. In tbe summer of 1886, at the suggestion of the choir and the pastor, a large church organ was purchased and installed for $1,400.
At a congregational meeting of April 29, 1888 it was decided to redecorate the church and to add some new windows. To defray the cost each member was asked to donate two dollars. The expenses for the repairs and improvements to the building amounted to $1,660. Apparently the practice of extending pastors a term call must have been common then for on December 16, 1888 Pastor Veith was not reelected pastor. However, he continued to serve Zion Church until the middle of March, 1889. On May 5, 1889 after many attempts to secure another pastor, Pastor John Phillip Lichtenberg was extended a call and he preached his first sermon in Zion on May 12. Zion faced the future with hope and looked forward to years of continued growth and activity under the leadership of its new pastor.
On May 31, 1889 heavy rains caused the 450 acre dam on the property of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club to break. The lake leaped out of the breach like a living thing and roared down the 15 mile valley to Johnstown leaving death and destruction along its path. Pastor Lichtenberg, his wife, Anna, and their four children perished in the flood. Few families of the congregation did not mourn the loss of one or more members. The church, the educational building, and the parsonage were destroyed. All that remained of the church property was vacant ground and a mortgage of $3,000 to bear witness to the sacrifices of the past. Thousands of people who heard of the disaster opened their hearts and the devastated city received generous financial gifts for recovery operations. Zion Church received $10,440 from sister congregations near and far. Of this amount, $4,016 was given to the congregation on November 27, 1889 with the condition that Zion call a pastor who subscribed to the confessions of the Lutheran Church and that the congregation become affiliated with a duly accredited synod of the General Council.
The first congregational meeting after the flood was held on June 23, 1889 in the home of the secretary, Adam Rhode. Under the leadership of Karl Bader, president, the thirty members who were present decided to build a new church. Above all, however, a pastor was needed to gather and lead the scattered and stunned congregation and so the members turned to the Lutheran Synod of Pennsylvania for guidance. On the recommendation of Pastor J. J. Kuendig, the president of the German Conference, a call was extended to Pastor Paul Glasow of Tamaqua, Pennsylvania at a congregational meeting on June 27, 1889.
Hansmann's Hall on Bedford Street was rented by the congregation as a temporary facility. On July 7, a Building Committee was appointed to make plans for a new edifice. On September 8 the congregation voted to become a member of the Pittsburgh Synod and this new relationship was formalized during the following year. Since no records of incorporation could be found, new articles of incorporation were approved for Die Deutsche Evangelisch-Lutherische Zionsgemeinde by the county court on October 8, 1889.
The plans for new construction submitted by the Building Committee called for a two-story structure with the first floor designated for education and the second floor for worship services. The cost estimate, however, was too great for the congregation and so a new set of plans, those of our present church, were consequently adopted. The church measures 61 feet wide with the entrance on Jackson Street, is 82 feet in length, and has 27 foot-high side walls. At the center, the ceiling rises 42 feet above the floor of the nave. The educational building had two large rooms on the first floor and a large assembly room on the second. Those who served on the Building Committee were Pastor Glasow, Karl Bader, Adam Rhode, George Braun, Karl Goebert, and louis Stein. On August 17, 1890 the educational facilities were dedicated.
The congregation longed for a bell in the new church. One had been purchased for the second church, but it had been lost in the flood. One evening, however, a policeman heard some children banging on a bell in Cambria City, one and one-half miles west of the church property. He knew the sound of the bell and upon investigating discovered that it was the old church bell. On May 20, 1890 the bell was returned to the church by Konrad Bader and M. Mohr, in spite of the protests of the Irish lady in whose stable the bell had been found. The bell was first taken to Hansmann's Hall where it was temporarily installed in a tower erected in the school yard. It now hangs in the present church. This cherished reminder of Zion's past is called the Prayer Bell and bears the inscription: "Vivos, voco, mortus plango", which means, "The living I call, the dead I mourn".
On Sunday, October 5, 1890 at two o'clock in the afternoon, the cornerstone of the present church was laid. According to the program of that day the following clergy took part: P~tor P. Munsch of Pittsburgh, Pastor C. Mildner of Wilkinsburg, Pastor J. C. Kunzmann of Greensburg, Pastor R. M. Zimmermann of Jeannette, Pastor Kowala of Jeannette, and Pastor A. Shipman of the First English Lutheran Church of Johnstown. The choir of the latter church also participated in the service. In spite of the great losses that the members of the congregation had suffered in the flood, there was much cheerful and generous giving to the building fund. In the spring of 1891, the building was completed and on May 3 Pastor Glasow dedicated the church edifice to the service of the Holy Trinity. The total cost for the building and furnishings of the church and parish hall amounted to $29,716. The generous response of the members to the building effort left the congregation with an indebtedness of only $14,000 which included the $3,000 debt owed at the time of the flood.
The church was impressive.The Gothic altar immediately caught the attention of the worshipper. It was dedicated to Pastor Lichtenberg and his family by the brother and sister of the pastor's wife, Anna Blandner. On the left side of the altar was a memorial plaque listing the donors and the name of the deceased Lichtenberg family, and on the right side were the words of the 90th Psalm: "Thou dost sweep men away; they are like a dream, like grass which is renewed in the morning; in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers".
Up to this time the pews of the church had been rented to parishioners in order to meet the costs of maintaining the property. This was now changed and each member was asked to make an annual commitment. The young people who were not yet eligible to vote were also asked to contribute something toward the work of the church.
On April 8, 1897 the congregation was deeply moved by the death of Pastor Glasow who was laid to rest in Grandview Cemetery on Palm Sunday. A stone cross marks his grave near the plot for the unknown dead. The synodical president, Pastor Kunzmann, recommended that Pastor Johannes Luepke of California, Pennsylvania be retained as temporary pastor, but the congregation unanimously elected him pastor on May 9, 1897. The work of the church, however, proved too difficult for Pastor Luepke who was often ill. Because of his health problem, he decided that it would be impossible for him to continue to serve Zion Church as he thought he should and so on November 12, 1899 he preached his farewell sermon.
Pastor Luepke's successor was the Rev. Hugo R. Erdmann who was installed on February 4, 1900. At a congregational meeting on January 28, 1900 it was voted to purchase the property on the corner of Jackson and Locust Streets for $4,000 from the Cover Estate in order to erect a parsonage. The Camarata and Duca Funeral Home is now located on this lot. The pastor and his family moved into the eleven-room, brick parsonage on October 19, 1900. The property remained in the possession of the congregation until it was sold on December 27, 1923. In the spring of 1901, two new bells, molded by the Chaplin-Fulton Manufacturing Company of Pittsburgh, were installed. The small bell bears the inscription from Psalm 51 :20, "Do good to Zion in thy good pleasure". The inscription of the larger bell is from Psalm 50:2, "Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God shines forth".
In the summer of 1901, Mrs. Elizabeth Goenner presented the Good Shepherd Window to the congregation. Four years later the confirmands presented the window showing the sinking Peter and the saving Lord in memory of Pastor Glasow. The following windows were presented in recognition of the Golden Anniversary of the congregation: Christ and Mary Magdalene on Easter morning, by the Ladies Aid Society; Christ and the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, by Mr. and Mrs. August Mayer; Christ at the table with the two disciples in Emmaus, in memory of Christian and Barbara Brixner by their children; Christ blessing the children by the Sewing Society; the angel proclaiming the birth of the Savior to the shepherds, in memory of the John Frank Family by their children; Christ heals a sick child, in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Christian Kuckuck by their children; and the raising of Jairus' daughter, in memory of Mr. and Mrs. August Burggraf by their children. An altar window was installed, and a wall painting of Raphael's two angels was given in memory of William F. Mayer by his son. The old church windows were donated to a German congregation in Latrobe that was erecting its first church edifice.
In 1906 the church interior was remodeled and the seating capacity was increased by extending the balcony. In April a branch Sunday school was opened in Moxham. The following year ground was purchased and a chapel was erected. Worship services were held on Friday evenings until 1920 when Sunday evening services were instituted.
In May, 1913 plans were made for a new educational building. The $32,000 structure, known as Zion Parish Hall, was dedicated on May 10, 1914.
The 72nd Annual Convention of the Pittsburgh Synod was held in Zion Church during the week of June 11, 1914. The work of the preceding years had left its mark on Pastor Erdmann and so his friends arranged a vacation trip to Europe for him. He left the city on July 19 and eleven days later he died in England. Pastor Erdmann's body was brought home and laid to rest in Grandview Cemetery.
On October 18, 1914 the congregation extended Dr. Ernst A. Tappert, an old friend of Pastor Erdmann, a call to become Zion's thirteenth pastor. Under his leadership the duplex envelope system was introduced in both the church and Sunday school, the indebtedness was paid off, liberal offerings made to works of love and mercy, regular weekly English evening services introduced, an English department organized in the Sunday school, and a Lutheran Brotherhood organized. A branch Sunday school was started in Geistown. Later the Brethren Church building in Walnut Grove was purchased, and Bethany Chapel was founded. One hundred children were enrolled in the Sunday school at Bethany, and regular Monday evening worship services were held.
World War I touched the life of the congregation. Zion's service flag contained 203 stars, 5 of them gold. With the members of the congregation moving into the surrounding boroughs, the added pastoral responsibilities of the war years, and the desire for more attention to the English work of the congregation, the need for additional pastoral help was keenly felt. A call was extended to Wilfried Tappert, a son of the pastor, then a student at Mt. Airy Seminary. After his ordination he was installed as associate pastor on June 20, 1920. It then became possible to have two German and two English services each Sunday.
The property to the rear of the church, on which the present Parish House stands, was purchased on March 19, 1923 for a parsonage. In October the congregation was host to the German Conference of the United Lutheran Church in America.
'n the fall of 1924 some alterations were made in the parish hall to accommodate the growing English department of the Sunday School. In April, 1925 a Young People's League for youth above confirmation age was organized. In December of the same year, the Improvement Committee, appointed two years earlier, outlined its plans for providing additional classroom space for educational purposes and for property improvement.
Zion's Diamond Jubilee celebration was opened with an impressive service on Wednesday, November 9, 1927 in which Pastors Samuel Boerstler and Alexander Stremel, sons of the congregation, participated. A plaque honoring those of the congregation who had entered fulltime Christian service was unveiled by former Johnstown mayor, Charles Young, president of the congregation. On Friday, November 11, a social gathering was held in the parish hall with addresses in English and German. The celebration closed on Sunday, November 13, with sermons by Dr. F. F. Frye, secretary of the Board of American Missions of the ULCA and Dr. Ernst A. Tappert. At the close of the 10:45 A.M. service, the key to the former church, which had been presumed lost in the flood, was presented to the congregation by Mr. Young as a memento. The key had been found in the pocket of the deceased Pastor Lichtenberg by a Pittsburgh mortician who had assisted in relief work after the 1889 flood. At the evening service on November 13, Dr. Ellis B. Burgess, president of the Pittsburgh Synod, was the guest speaker.
New enthusiasm for the work of the Lord filled the hearts and minds of the pastors and people of Zion as they looked forward to the Centennial. The Rev. Wilfried Tappert resigned his duties effective October 31, 1928 to become pastor of Emmanuel Church in Meridian, Connecticut. A call was extended to seminarian Paul W. O. Heist and after his ordination he was installed as associate pastor on June 23, 1928.
Dr. Tappert resigned from his pastorate on December 31, 1929to accept the call of the Board of American Missions of the United Lutheran Church in America to become Divisional Secretary of Linguistic Interests. He explained to the congregation, "I am not leaving this congregation, I am entering a larger field of labor in which this congregation will be a part".
Upon acceptance of a call, Dr. Theodore Buch was installed as senior pastor on January 10, 1930. It was Pastor Buch who faithfully led the congregation through periods of depression, war, flood, and prosperity until his death on September 23, 1955. Pastor Buch and Heist visited the members of the congregation and instilled new life in Zion. Sixty-six children were confirmed in May, 1930 - fifty-six in English and ten in German. On July 27, the congregation approved the installation of a Kilgen pipe organ next to the chancel at a cost of $18,000. This necessitated some alterations and redecoration in the nave at an additional cost of $5,000.
The early years of the 30s marked the beginning of the Great Depression and the pastors and council struggled desperately to meet the church's obligations. The salaries of the pastors, the organist, the custodian, and the office secretary were decreased and the salary of the secretary-treasurer was eliminated entirely.
Pastor Heist resigned from his responsibilities on December 27, 1932 to accept the pastorate of St. John's Church in Martine; Ferry, Ohio. Due to the economic situation of the time, the congregation, though numbering over 3,600 confirmed members, was unable to call another associate pastor and Dr. Buch carried the full pastoral responsibilities for the work of the downtown church and the two chapels. Some changes were made in the worship schedules and educational activities to ease his load. At one time the treasurer reported a balance of $85 and unpaid bills of $1,275. Further reductions in salaries were again made as the congregation struggled to remain viable. On St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 1936 the city of Johnstown again experienced flood waters. All of the downtown area was under about 7 feet of water and damage to the church property was extensive. The residences of 172 families of the congregation also had suffered flood damage. On March 30, 1936 Pastor Buch reported to the council that the Works Progress Administration of the federal government had assisted in cleaning the church, the parish house, and the parsonage.
The 95th Annual Convention of the Pittsburgh Synod was held in Zion on May 24-28, 1937 with over 450 pastors and lay delegates in attendance.
In November, 1938 the council voted to have the annual financial report printed in English as well as in German. Since the contributions of the members were increasing, the congregation authorized the replacement of the linoleum in the church aisles, chancel, and choir loft with carpet. 'n December, 1939 the pastor's salary was increased to $250 monthly with a $25 monthly auto allowance. Other employees' salaries were also restored to pre-depression levels. Dr. Buch was assisted in his pastoral duties by Pastor John H. Deutschlander of St. Paul's Church in Morrellville who served as supply pastor at the Salem Chapel.
The annual Sunday school picnic was replaced by Lutheran Day for all Lutherans in the city. Such an outing was held on June 27, 1940 at Idlewild Park near Ligonier with the Johnstown Traction Company supplying the round-trip for 50<1.
Zion Church marked its 90th Anniversary with special services and activities from September 27 to October 4, 1942. Former Pastor Dr. E. A. Tappert preached at both the English and German services. Two former sons of the congregation, the Rev. Wilfried Tappert and the Rev. Theodore Erdmann were guest speakers at Homecoming Night on Thursday. Miss Susan Glatz, a daughter of the congregation who had returned from a tour of duty on the India mission field and then an instructor at Thiel College, addressed the children at a special missionary observance on Saturday afternoon. Twenty-six aged members of the congregation were given special recognition at one of the services. Of the group, six were over 90 years of age: Mrs. Julia Savering, William Schneehage, Mrs. l. C. Steuer, Mrs. Christine Lotz, Mrs. Elizabeth Jacob, and Mrs. Elizabeth Bueke.
In April, 1943 an Honor Roll listing the young men and women who had served in the armed forces was placed in the narthex by the English Brotherhood. To the 203 stars for service during World War I, 107 more stars were added for those who served in World War II. During the war- years, attendance at the German services in the Salem Chapel and at Zion Church began to decrease while attendance at the English services increased. During 1945, Dr. Buch conducted services for German war prisoners in a camp near Berkley Hills.
In 1946, Pastor Buch was appointed to a committee of local pastors to investigate the possibility of establishing a training camp for Lutheran youth. The result was the incorporation of the Lutheran Camping Association, the purchase of 124 acres of woodland just west of Jennerstown, and the founding of Camp Sequanota the same year.
In 1947, seven couples organized the Married Couples Class and chose Mrs. Ingeborg Calderwood as their teacher and she served in this capacity for 22 years. The class contributed to the support of Miss Susan Glatz, a member of the congregation who was engaged in educational work in the mission field in India. The fellowship engendered among the 108 couples during the 22 years of studying and working together is now continued in an Adult Fellowship Group which meets socially twice a year.
In 1947 two English services and one German service were scheduled each Sunday morning together with 0 Sunday church school session in English and one in German. English vespers were also held at 7:30 P.M. After having preached at both the German and English services, seminarian Andrew J. Rehbogen was extended a call to become associate pastor and was installed on September 25, 1950. A parsonage for the Rehbogen family was purchased at 525 Fronheiser Street.
In preparation for the 100th Anniversary, over $54,000 was expended for the renovation of the church; repairs to the parish house, the chapels and the parsonage; and to complete the erection of a church spire. Incidentally, when the decorator was preparing to clean the large chandelier in the nave which had been donated by the Goenner Family in 1906, it fell to the floor, barely missing Charles Young, president of the congregation.
The Centennial of Zion was marked by special services and activities for a ten day period beginning with a Rededication Service on
June 22 at which the Rev. George F. Harkins, Assistant to the President of the ULCA, was the guest speaker. That evening, a pageant, consisting of tableaus depicting the highlights of the past, was presented. On Monday evening, the founders of the congregation were honored at a service in which Dr. E. A. Tappert addressed the congregation in German and Dr. Paul Heist in English. Wednesday evening was Homecoming Night and members of the congregation who had entered into fulltime service in the Church spoke to the gathering. Friday evening was Good Neighbors' Night and the congregation received a bouquet of 100 roses from 26 businesses in the vicinity. Sunday, June 29 was Synod Day and Dr. G. Lawrence Himmelman, President of the Pittsburgh Synod, was the speaker at both the English and German services. The festivities were brought to a close after 'open house' was held at the Salem and Bethany Chapels on June 30 and July 2.
On June 26, 1953 George P. Umbach, II was elected secretary- treasurer of the congregation to replace Henry Fox who had served in that capacity since 1897. In August, The Messenger, a monthly newsletter, made its appearance.
In the latter part of 1953 the congregation adopted the following worship schedule: English services at 8:30 A.M. and 11 :00 A.M. and a
German service at 9:45 A.M. The congregation also changed the constitution to permit women to serve on the church council, limited the terms of church council members to two consecutive three-year terms, combined the office of secretary and treasurer, and authorized the office of vice president. It was decided that the annual election of council was to be conducted at all morning services so that more members of the congregation would have the opportunity to vote. It was also authorized that a committee of the church council prepare a list of "active" and "inactive" members annually. Active members were defined as those in good standing who had received communion at least once during the year and had financially contributed to the support of the church.
On Sunday, February 6, 1955 the congregation paid tribute to Dr. Buch for his twenty-fifth anniversary as pastor of Zion Church. The Reverend G. Lawrence Himmelman, D.D., President of the Pittsburgh Synod of the ULCA and the Reverend Andrew Rehbogen, Associate Pastor, were speakers at three services arranged in Pastor Buch's honor. The speakers reminded the congregation that Dr. Buch was also serving his twenty-fifth term as president of the German Conference of the Pittsburgh Synod. On April 19-20, 1955 the German Conference of the Pittsburgh Synod held its meeting at Zion. On July 25, Dr. Buch left for a European vacation trip to visit relatives and to observe the work of the church in foreign lands. He did not return to his congregation, for on September 23 he was injured fatally in an accident aboard ship. A memorial service was conducted aboard the steamship, Massdam, by Pastors Louis Henze and Louis Bucheimer. At the annual congregational meeting on December 11 Pastor Andrew J. Rehbogen was issued a call, which he accepted, to become senior pastor.
The Rev. Frederick Greninger began his service as assistant pastor of Zion Church on June 1, 1956. His duties included working with the young people, with the chapels, and assisting in the worship services. During the summer of 1956 Henry Hendel served as student pastor.
During Lent, 1957 Pastor Kurt Werner, an exchange student pastor from Germany assisted in the German work of the congregation. On December 2, Pastor Greninger submitted his resignation to assume the pastorate of St. John's Lutheran Church in Natrona, Pennsylvania. During the year Zion had many visitors from Germany, Poland, Austria, and South America. They came to Zion to preach and to lead discussion groups and brought many new insights into the work of God's Kingdom throughout the world. On December 15 Gene Abel, a son of the congregation, was ordained at a service in Zion Church and became pastor of St. Mark's Lutheran Church, Jeannete, Pennsylvania.
For some time it was felt that the existing facilities were inadequate for conducting the desired programs for the children, youth, and adults of the congregation since there was an enrollment of about 900 in the church school. In the light of this, Zion, the city's largest Protestant church, planned a one-day drive for $350,000 on November 24, 1957.
Karl V. Eckel accepted the position of general chairman for the campaign and George P. Umbach, II, co-chairman. Three "kick-off" dinners were held at the start of the campaign at which the Reverend William J. Welther, Pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, Rochester, Pa., was the guest speaker.
The Building Fund campaign was successful. The Sunday School Improvement Committee, composed of Edward Kuyat, Jr., chairman, George Nenstiel, Pastor Rehbogen, Miss Alice Dorris, William Dreikorn, Edward Koscan, Chester Myers, Herman Poehner, Karl Eckel, George Umbach, and Paul Schmidt, worked diligently with the architects, Kring and Ross, in the preparation of plans for a new educational building. At the council meeting of March 31, 1958 James Plymier, a student at Chicago Seminary, was engaged to serve as intern pastor for one
year. One May 26, the church council approved the action of the Pulpit Committee in engaging Eckhard Minthe, a German exchange student, during the months of June, July, and August to help with the ministerial duties of the church. On September 10, 1958 Sister Lois Stormfeltz arrived to serve as Director of Religious Education.
On June 1, 1959 William Oesterlein was approved as intern pastor for a period of one year. Dedicatory services for the new educational building were held during the week of November 15-22 and on February 20, 1960 the church council held its first meeting in the Lounge of the new Parish House.
Until now, only members of the congregation in good standing and 21 years of age or over were entitled to vote, but in February, 1961 this requirement was changed and members, 16 years of age and over, in good standing, who were properly received and had communed at least once during the preceding 12 months, were given the right to vote on all matters except the sale, purchase, and mortgaging of real estate, and matters concerning indebtedness or the borrowing of money.
1961 had its problems and difficulties for chronic unemployment in the community began to take its toll. Many of the promising young people had to leave Johnstown to find employment elsewhere in order to provide for their families. Still, for the first time in many years, Zion met both its Lutheran World Action quota and its apportioned benevolence.
Realizing that the operation of the Salem and Bethany chapels was costly, it was decided that the chapels should be sold. Salem Chapel was sold on June 22, 1961 to the Admiral Robert E. Peary Boy Scout Council and on September 26, Bethany Chapel was also sold. Mr. Warren Karshin, a son of the congregation, assisted Pastor Rehbogen during the summer months of 1961 and during the Christmas season. The Rev. Ira J. Wilson was officially installed as Associate Pastor by the Rev. William C. Hankey, D.D., President of the Pittsburgh Synod, on December 1O, 1961. The church council, realizing that major repairs were necessary to the parsonage on Fronheiser Street, decided to divest itself of this property and on January 27, 1962 the Fronheiser Street parsonage was sold to the Beulah Evangelical United Brethren Church, and on February 5 a new parsonage at 417 Slater Street, Westmont Borough, was purchased.
1962 was a year of many changes in the church. In the early months of the year new religious educational materials were introduced. The congregation, after being affiliated with the Pittsburgh Synod for 72 years, became a member of the Johnstown District of the Central Pennsylvania Synod of the newly founded Lutheran Church in America, a merger of the United Lutheran Church in America, the American Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church, and the United Lutheran Church in America.
In August, 1962 Pastor Rehbogen, upon invitation from the Lutheran World Federation, departed on a three-month trip to Germany to study "The Pastor in Church and Industrial Relations". During Pastor Rehbogen's absence Nehls Gaselmann from Hamburg, Germany, conducted German services. He also worked with the youth of the church and assisted Pastor Wilson in the pastoral ministry. Pastor Wilson resigned as Associate Pastor in April, 1963 and during the summer, Warren S. Karshin served as itern pastor. On June 14, 1964, Warren S. Karshin, a son of the congregation, was ordained into the ministry of the Lutheran Church. Richard Hane served his internship here during the summer of 1964.
On April 21, 1965 Pastor Andrew J. Rehbogen ended his long and faithful service to Zion to become pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He is remembered by the congregation for various programs initiated during his pastorate: the intern program, the hiring of the first director of religious education, and the establishment of the week-day church school. Pastor William J. Welther was installed as Senior Pastor by Dr. Dwight F. Putman, President of the Central Pennsylvania Synod, at the 11 :00 A.M. service on Sunday, August 22, 1965. In September, Sister Lois Stormfeltz, deaconess, and Richard Hane, intern pastor, left Zion to further their education. On September 11, 1966 the Reverend L. Alex Black, pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church of Beaver, Pennsylvania was installed as Associate Pastor.
In the spring of 1967 the adjoining property at 618-626 Railroad Street was placed on sale. On recommendation of the council the purchase of the property was approved by the congregation on July 26 for parking, a new facility, or for the relocation of existing facilities.
The Visitation Catholic Church in the Eighth Ward of the city of Johnstown was destroyed by fire on January 12, 1968. To show our concern for the welfare of a fellow Christian congregation, Pastor Welther presented to Monsignor Thomas M. Cawley, Pastor of the Visitation Church, a check for $650 consisting of free will offerings that were received at our services.
At a special congregational meeting on November 3, 1968 the members authorized the church council to appoint a Building Committee and to engage an architect to draw up a master plan for the renovation and replacement of our present building, utilizing the recently acquired properties in order to provide adequate facilities for worship, education, fellowship, and service as had been revealed in the studies of a previously appointed Task Force.
On Sunday afternoon, April 20, 1969 fire virtually destroyed the old parish hall. There was extensive water damage in the new Parish House, but the church itself was not damaged for firemen were able to contain the blaze.
On June 12, 1969 William Dreikorn, another son of the congregation, was ordained to the gospel ministry. Plans for the construction of a new church, the replacement of the burned out parish hall, and for the renovations to the Parish House were tabled by the council on December 8, 1970 due to the high costs involved. However, in January of the next year, it was decided that the burned out parish hall, with the exception of the boiler room, should be razed, the foundation filled, and the surface covered for a parking lot. At the congregational meeting of January 31, 1971 the council was authorized to make modified alterations to the chancel, narthex, and the nave in an amount not to exceed $60,000. An Alteration Committee was appointed consisting of: William Wilson, chairman, Margaret Sender, Robert Yarnick, Carl Snavely, and Karl Eckel.
Pastor Black resigned as of February 28, 1971 to become pastor of the Edgewood Lutheran Church in Wheeling, West Virginia. On July 11, William Paul Welther, son of Pastor and Mrs. Welther, was ordained at the morning worship service by Dr. Howard J. McCarney, President of the Central Pennsylvania Synod, to become pastor of St. Peter's Lutheran Church, Chester Springs, Pennsylvania.
In July, 1971 plans for the renovation of the church, the old parish hall and the Parish House, at an approximate cost of $220,000, were accepted. Oscar Zolbe was appointed general chairman of the Zion Renovation Fund Committee which conducted the fund raising campaign under the direction of the Kirby-Smith Associates. Since the cost of the repairs to the four manual Kilgen organ, installed in 1931, were prohibitive, upon recommendation of the Organ Committee, a Saville electronic organ was installed in the balcony. In early 1972 the renovation of the buildings got underway. The old parish hall was converted into a one-story activities area with a kitchenette, rest rooms, and a cloak room and was named the Alice Doris Memorial Hall in grateful recognition of a bequest Miss Doris left to the congregation. This new facility was connected to the narthex of the church by a hallway
which now enables members to conveniently use all the facilities without first going outside. Additional expenditures were also authorized to make possible the purchase of new pews.
At a special congregational meeting on April 23, 1972 the congregation voted to extend a call to J. Frederick Lehr to be assistant pastor, and following his ordination he was installed on July 23. In the summer of 1972 the council was authorized to have the warehouses on Railroad Street demolished for the erection of a parking lot. During the fall of 1972 Pastor Welther suffered a heart attack and during his absence Pastor lehr, with limited experience, performed all pastoral duties in commendable fashion. At the December, 1972 congregational meeting, renovation expenses of $193,793 for the rebuilding program were reported. The real estate owned by the congregation in 1972 included all of the property bounded by Jackson, locust, Railroad Streets and Lardin Place with the exception of a tavern fronting on Railroad Street. Therefore, at a special congregational meeting of May 13, 1973 the church council was authorized to purchase the property. After acquiring the property, the tavern was razed and the land added to the parking lot. Pastor Lehr left Zion on December 15 to become associate pastor of Christ Church in lancaster, Pennsylvania.
In April, 1974 the ground bounded by Lardin Place, Railroad and Jackson Streets was blacktopped for use as a parking area for members of the congregation. In November, 1974 the congregation extended a call to Pastor Warren S. Karshin to be Associate Pastor and he was installed on January 19, 1975 by the Rev. Charles lady, Assistant to the President of the Central Pennsylvania Synod. His responsibility was to share in the pastoral ministry and also to have particular oversight of parish education and youth work. In October, 1975 the council approved a revised catechetical program in which 5th graders were prepared for participation in Holy Communion, followed by a three- year period of concentrated study, beginning with the 7th grade, which culminated in the Rite of Confirmation.
At the annual congregational meeting on January 25, 1976 George P. Umbach, II was recognized for his 25 years of continuous service as secretary-treasurer of the congregation and was presented with a desk set commemorating the occasion. At its December meeting the council voted to withdraw from the Council of Churches of Christ in Greater Johnstown because of internal problems which the group seemed unable to resolve.
On July 4, 1976 the congregation joined the nation in celebrating its bi-centennial. The order for worship was a liturgy prepared in 1748 by Heinrich Melchior Muhlenberg, Peter Brunnholtz and John Handschuh for English-speaking people in the American colonies. The pastors wore black gowns embellished with a high collar and tabs; the ushers wore lacey shirts and brightly colored vests common to that early period; and, the acolyte wore knickers, a fancy shirt and vest. Many women of the congregation came to the service attired in 'old fashioned' dresses and bonnets.
The year 1977 proved eventful for the congregation. At the annual meeting on February 4, the congregation voted to sell the parsonage on Slater Street to Pastor and Mrs. Welther. An agreement was made with the Greater Johnstown School District to rent five rooms on the second floor of the Parish House during the 1977-78 school year for its Alternative Education Program designed to aid potential drop-outs to complete their secondary school education.
On July 20 the Johnstown area was devastated by its third flood caused by about 11 inches of rain which fell uninterruptedly during a
ten-hour period. Many homes of members of the congregation were severely damaged by the rushing water and the mud and debris left when the water receded. The home of Mrs. Warren Griffith, one of the church secretaries, was completely destroyed. Fortunately no lives were lost among the membership. Damage to the Fellowship Hall and the first floor of the Parish House was extensive. Members of the congregation and friends spent weeks in Operation Cleanup. The Rebuilding Committee, appointed to guide in the restoration of the property, consisted of George P. Umbach, II, chairman, Carl Snavely, Eugene Petry, Grace Coco, Mary Grasser, David Dawson, Sr., and Pastors Welther and Karshin. With $50,000 in flood insurance and voluntary gifts from members and friends in the community, and friends and congregations outside the area, together with funds on hand, it was possible to meet the $98,922 cost of rebuilding without conducting a special appeal.
October was designated Anniversary Month and the committee which guided the congregation in its celebration of the 125th
Anniversary consisted of Karl Eckel, chairman, Linda Hockenberry, secretary, George P. Umbach, Carl Snavely, Edward Kuyat, Jr., Robert Dittmar, Ingeborg Calderwood, Martha Barnhart, and Pastors Welther and Karshin. On October 9 the Rev. Andrew J. Rehbogen, a former pastor, was the guest speaker at a German and an English Service. He was also the speaker at the German banquet held in the Westmont United Presbyterian Church on October 12. On October 16 Dr. Howard J. McCarney, President of the Central Pennsylvania Synod, was the guest speaker at the worship service. The Rev. L. Alex Black, a former associate pastor, was the speaker at the anniversary banquet on October 19. Community Night was held on October 23 to which friends and congregations in the community were invited. Russell G. Wichmann, Minister of Music at the Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, presented an organ recital and the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Chorale, under the direction of T. K. Thompson, favored the audience with selections by J. S. Bach, Cesar Franck, and G. B. Pergolisi. Pamela Rose, our organist and a student at the University, was the accompanist. A fellowship hour in the Alice Doris Memorial Hall brought the evening's activities to a close. The services and activities of the month did much to lift the spirits of the congregation after some of the traumatic experiences of the 1977 Johnstown Flood.
The pages of this booklet reveal that Zion Church has and is playing a vital role in the service of the Lord. Many fine pastors and dedicated lay persons have left their mark on 125 years of its history. One of the accomplishments worthy of mention is that in spite of the testings by fire and water experienced by the membership, they never lost sight of the call to serve the Christ beyond the limits of the parish. Thus, even though heavy financial demands were made upon the membership to maintain, repair and improve the physical property, Zion Church has been a leader in the benevolent work of the Church, exceeding its apportionment to the Central Pennsylvania Synod and the Lutheran Church in America for the past 12 years. The 125th Anniversary year promises to be no exception. The joys of the people of Zion have been many and so have the difficulties, but Zion Church is determined to continue to let the light of the Gospel shine brightly at home and abroad as it looks forward to many more years of service to the Lord and Savior of us all.
Below is the Order of Service from the 125th Anniversary Celebration in 1977
9. Oktober, 1977 9:30 U hr
Das Vorspiel - "Praeludium et Fuga" . . . . . . . .. J. S. Bach Das Lied - "Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier" . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 5 Der Gottesdienst - Seite 3
Das Gebet um Gnade
Die Verkundigung der Gnade
DIE LlTURGIE DES WORTES GOTTES
Der Introitus - Seite 128
Das Gloria Patri
Das Gloria in Excelsis
Die Epistel - Epheser 5: 15-21
Das Evangelium - Matthaus 22: 1 -14
Das Apostolische Glaubensbekenntnis
Das Lied - "Ach wie heilig ist der Ort" . . (184.108.40.206.) 202 Die Predigt - Pfarrer Andreas J. Rehbogen
Die Einsammlung der Opfergaben
Das Chorlied - "Send' Jetzt Dein Licht" Gounod-Parks Das Offertorium (I) - Seite 16
Das Vater Unser
Das Lied - "Ach bleib mit deiner Gnade"12
Das Nachspiel - "Ciacona"D. Buxtehude