Brief Historical Sketch


Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran
Church, U.A.C.

Center Township, Calhoun County, Iowa


The Rev. W. C. H. Schaefer, Pastor

for the


"Write this as a memorial in a book." Exodus 17, 14.

This historical sketch is dedicated to the founders of Immanuel Lutheran Church, whose foresight, loyalty, faith, and courage have preserved for posterity the blessings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the Lutheran Confessions,


To the pastors, especially the sainted pastors, Theodore Mattfeld, Fred Ehlers, Walter Georg, and G. Rickels, who have faithfully and unselfishly dedicated their lives and services to the ministration of their fellowmen.

"Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the Word of God; consider the outcome of their life, and imitate their faith." Hebrews 13,7.


The original impetus to the eventual organization of Immanuel congregation did not come from any effort of a missionary, but came from a member of the congregation. It happened in this manner: A daughter had been born to Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Zierke, Sr. These parents desired a Lutheran pastor to baptize their infant. They heard of a Lutheran pastor residing northeast of Manson on the Lizard Creek. The Zierke family had an acquaintance living north of Manson. These two families met north of Manson, arranged to attend church services north of Manson, to meet the missionary and had the infant baptized. The missionary was then invited to come to the southern part of Calhoun County to preach to the Lutheran families residing in Center Township. This child was Helen Zierke, now Mrs. August Ausborn of Storm Lake, Iowa. In that manner the people found the missionary and he began serving the fathers of Immanuel congregation.

In the chronicles of Immanuel congregation we read: "It was in the year 1875 that a member of Lutheran families moved from Illinois to the region five miles east of the town of Rockwell City, Iowa and settled there. They brought with them little money. The money they brought with them supported them with the necessities of life and shelter. From the very beginning they had to contend with want."

The first to come here to purchase land were: Fred Ramthun, Fred Berner and Frank Wendt. They came from Lindenwod, Ill. In the summer of 1874. They returned home with glowing reports of the wonderful land, so that in 1875 five more families joined the first three. They were Carl Berner, Carl Bahls, Joachim Lembke, Sr., and John Wendt.

This migration took place prior to the removal of the county seat from Lake City to Rockwell City. This latter event occurred in 1877. In his history of Calhoun County Mr. B. F. Stonebraker wrote: "The court house in Rockwell City had a stimulating effect on Center Township by attracting new immigrants and adding to the population of Center Township."

The first three fathers who visited this region in Calhoun County, each purchased a 160-acre farm at the price of $5.00 per acre. At that time and for the following twenty years this region was rich in natural resources: frog ponds, mosquitoes, and muskrats. There were no straight roads, as we know them, no fences, no drainage ditches, and no bridges over the creeks. Trails over the high places in the field were the best avenues of travel. Traveling to town on foot was the safest way.


During this time the other group of Lutherans residing northeast of Manson, who were served spiritually by Pastor Mattfeld, spoke of erecting a church. Some of them wanted the church placed near the Lizard Creek, northeast of Manson; others wanted it placed north of the present town of Knierim. Into this debate the people of Immanuel entered with the suggestion that the church be placed about four miles north of the present site of Immanuel church, and therby unite the three groups. But this suggestion was rejected. Each group built its own church. Immanuel was organized in the fall of 1878. Twelve men affixed their signatures to the constitution. They were Fred Ramthun, Fred Berner, Theodore Zierke, Sr., Carl Berner, Joachim Lembke, Sr., Joachim Lembke, Jr., William Pohl, Frank Wendt, William Kretlow, Carl Bahls, Christian Gross, and John Wendt.

Pastor Mattfeld continued to serve the people of Immanuel congregation. For seventeen years he not only served Trinity at Knierim and Immanuel, but missionary. After serving these two congregations, Pastor Mattfeld accepted a call to the congregation at Crozier, Buena Vista county, Iowa, northeast of Storm Lake. This was in 1892. The first child confirmed at Immanuel by Pastor Mattfeld was Jennie Zierke on March 12, 1892. She was confirmed in the parental home, two miles south of the church. During these years, 1875-1894 services were held in the various homes or school houses.

Of the original settlers none are living, but these children of original members are still members of the congregation: Theodore Zierke, Jr., Mrs. Emma Zierke Kretlow, and Otto Kretlow. Alfred Gleason and Otto Kretlow have been members since 1885.

Rev. Theodore Mattfeld

Rev. Theodore Mattfeld

Rev. Fred Ehlers

Rev. Fred Ehlers

The same year, 1892, a call was jointly extended by Trinity congregation at Knierim and Immanuel congregation to the Rev. Fred Ehlers, who accepted the call. Since Pastor Ehlers had charge of only two congregations, he could and did devote more time to the development of Immanuel. Two years after his induction into the ministry here, 1894, our present church edifice was erected for the actual cost of $1,557.00. The present generation will marvel at the cost. Five acres of land was purchased from Mr. Carl Bahls for $200.00. The festival preachers for the dedication of the new church were: The Rev. Theodore Schliepsiek, Pomeroy, the Rev. Theodore Mattfeld, Crozier, and the Rev. Jobst, Dayton. After only seven years Pastor Ehlers was compelled for reasons of health to relinquish his office. He retired to Storm Lake. During the pastorates of Mattfeld and Ehlers the children of Immanuel were instructed in Christian doctrine at Knierim. Most of the children were boarded in the homes of members of Trinity.

Sixteen years have now passed since the organization of Immanuel in the fall of 1878. This was four years before Rockwell City was incorporated as a town on May 2, 1882.

Other families settled in this community. They were Joachim Lembke, Jr., William Pohl, William Kretlow, and Christian Gross.


Prior to his removal to Storm Lake, Pastor Ehlers had the pleasure of installing his successor, the ministerial candidate, Walter F. Georg, on September 3, 1899.

Immanuel received new inspiration in having its own pastor. A parsonage was erected during the summer of 1899. However, in his history of Calhoun County, Mr. B. E. Stonebraker reported on page 249: "The great storm of June 7, 1899 practically destroyed the parsonage of Immanuel Lutheran church and injured the church building." While the parsonage was under construction a great windstorm blew down the walls which had to be rebuilt. That was a severe blow to the small group. However, before the new pastor arrived in the fall, the parsonage was completed.

Believing in an indoctrinated membership, Pastor Georg convinced the congregation to erect a school house in 1901. Up till that time the older children were instructed in Christian doctrine in the large room in the upstairs of the parsonage. The members of the first class to be confirmed by Pastor Georg on April 8, 1900 were: Louis Hildebrand, Alfred Gleason, John Good, Henry Martens, Bertha Martens, Rose Wendt, Anna Ramthun and August Blaas.

Rev. Walter Georg

Rev. Walter Georg

Rev. G. Rickels

Rev. G. Rickels

Immanuel has been affiliated with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod since 1901 and has annually sent representatives to state and national conventions and liberally contributed toward the requirements of the church for missions and other purposes. Last year the congregation contributed over $4,000.00 for the Conquest for Christ effort of the Synod.

After five years of service here, Pastor Georg was released to become the pastor of our sister congregation at Webster City, Iowa. Pastor G. Rickels of Farnhamville became his successor. He was installed into his office on May 12, 1905 by the Rev. H. Schwenk of Knierim. During the pastorate of Rev. Rickels, services in English were introduced. These services were held on Sunday evenings. The charge is invalid that the Lutheran church was opposed to the use of the English language. The fact is that the members understood the German language better, because they had been instructed through the medium of the German language and were unfamiliar with the Biblical terms of the English language. As time went along they soon adopted the language of the land. Pastor Rickels faithfully served Immanuel from 1905-1920. He was released to accept the call to a sister congregation at Atkins, Iowa.

Rev. Walter Huebner

Rev. Walter Huebner

Rev. W. C. H. Schaefer

Rev. W. C. H. Schaefer

Pastor Walter Huebner from Wisconsin succeeded Pastor Rickels. He was installed by the Rev. L. A. Mueller of Trinity, Knierim, on August 8, 1920. After serving Immanuel until June 5, 1821, Pastor Huebner returned to Wisconsin to serve the Lord in the ministry. He is the only surviving former pastor of Immanuel. During his pastorate the Ladies' Aid was organized.

In the early part of October of 1921 Pastor W. C. H. Schaefer from Martinsburg, Nebr. Had been extended the call to become the successor to Pastor Huebner. He accepted the call and was installed into his office by the Rev. L. A. Mueller on November 6, 1921.


At the time Pastor Schaefer entered upon his work here, the congregation had a membership of about 50 families. Today there are 103 families affiliated with the congregation. Naturally, most of the growth comes from children of the congregation marrying and having families. Some families have been received by transfer from sister congregations and some have become members by public profession. At the present time 319 souls are united with the congregation; of this number 220 are communicant members. A new parsonage was erected in 1922.

1953 Parochial School

1953 Parochial School Children and Teacher, Miss Viola Bahls

A parochial school was opened in the fall of 1922. Since then the school has flourished. Its graduates have won or earned scholastic honors in High School and a number are in the professional fields. The Pastor taught school for 16 years in addition to his regular pastoral work. The work became too heavy for him and then the congregation engaged several woman teachers. Among them were Ada Schaefer, Lorna Schaefer, Bertha Schoepke, and Lydia Ramthun. Miss Ramthun, now Mrs. Leonard Egli, taught eight years, while the others taught only one year each. Later the theological student, Herbert Berner, a member of Immanuel, spent his year of internship teaching our school. He is now pastor at Concordia congregation in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was followed by Normal students Gertrude Brun, Edward Schapsmeier, and Henry Krohn, and Theological student Frederick Bieversdorf. Since 1951 Miss Viola Bahls has been teaching our school. The enrollment for the 1852-1953 term was 23 pupils. The three eighth graders of the 1953 class completed the course for graduation.

The golden anniversary of the congregation was commemorated in 1928 with the former pastors, W. Georg and G. Rickels, as guest speakers.

A Hinner's pipe organ was installed in 1929. Teacher William Dittmar of Fort Dodge served as organist at the dedication. Organists have been: Ada and Lorna Shaefer, and Mrs. Emil Bahls since 1937.

The sixtieth anniversary was celebrated in 1938. The guest speakers were Pastors G. Rickels and Walter Huebner. During the summer of 1941 the new basement was built at the cost of $3750.00 with many other improvements which totaled $7000.00. These included: art glass window in the chancel, extension of the church to the south, new front, new chancel, new furnace, new kitchen, new organ chamber. New pews were purchased in 1948 as a memorial to the sons and daughters of the congregation who served during the Second World War and new art glass windows were installed as gifts or memorials by various members of the church. One of the windows was dedicated by an anonymous member as a memorial to the sainted Pastor Theodore Mattfeld.

New Parsonage, Erected 1922

New Parsonage, Erected 1922


August 20, 1950 was a very cold Sunday. Much of the soybeans and corn was frozen in the fields. A fire was started in the parsonage furnace. It is thought that sparks from the furnace fire ignited the roof. The whole roof was burned off and the remainder of the house was water soaked. The Rockwell City fire department did heroic work in saving the rest of the house. The plaster had to be removed and replastered. During the period of the rebuilding, the pastor and his wife lived in the church basement. Some improvements were added to the house. A new forced air furnace and kitchen cabinets were installed. Several doors were changed into archways.

During the summer of 1952 preparations were begun for the diamond jubilee of the congregation. The old plaster and wainscoting in the church were removed and new plaster and woodwork and a new ceiling of celotex were applied. Two new narthex doors were hung, being the gift of two members. Most of the work was performed by members.

The present members of the congregation hold office: Elders: Albert Schaefer, Lester Pritchard, Lewis Rodewald; Trustees: Edgar Peterson, Raymond Hepp, Loyd Ashbrook; Treasurer: Otto Schoepke; Financial Secretary: Roger Bahls; Finance Committee: Arthur Ramthun, Arnold Schoepke, Kenneth Gleason, Richard Weiss; Chairman: Floyd Rodewald; Ushers: Elmer Vosberg, Edward Ludwig, Kermit Rodewald, Kenneth Martin.

Old Parsonage

Old Parsonage


A Ladies' Aid was organized during the pastorage of Rev. W. Huebner in 1929. It has been active in many ways. Charter members still in membership are: Mrs. Louise Berner, Mrs. Therese Lenz, Mrs. Tobe Rodewald, Mrs. Alfred Gleason, Mrs. Emil Blaas, Mrs. Herman Schoepke, and Mrs. Fred Volk. The Aid has a membership of 54 at the present. The first officers of the Aid were: Mrs. Fred Hepp, Mrs. Louise Berner, and Mrs. Walter Huebner. The aid has been helpful toward the congregation in providing many items for the church, and supporting charitable endeavors of the church. The Aid is a member of the Lutheran Women's Missionary League and supports its program with contributions through Mite Boxes.

The officials of the Aid are: President, Mrs. Carl Ramthun; Secretary, Mrs. Richard Rossing; Treasurer, Mrs. Tobe Rodewald; Assistant Treasurer, Mrs. Albert Schaefer.

The Walther League for the youth of the church was organized in 1922. The activities of this society are principally educational and social. Bible study has been the most important in the educational field. Other topics are discussed as the occasion arises. The league is affiliated with the International Walther League. The present officers are: President, Viola Bahls; Vice President, Charles Lenz; Secretary, Scheryl Rodewald; Treasurer, Edward Ludwig.

Church Council

Church Council. Back row, left ot right: Arnold Schoepke, Loyd Ashbrook, Floyd Rodwald, Kenneth Gleason, Albert Schaefer, Otto Schoepke, Lewis Rodewald. Front row: Raymond Hepp, Arthur Ramthun, Roger Bahls, Edgar Peterson, Lester Pritchard, Lloyd Hinners, Richard Weiss

Sunday School Pupils

Sunday School Pupils

Jubilee Commitee

Jubilee Comittee. Left to right: Mr. and Mrs. Fred Tapps, August Sittig, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Gleason, Mr. and Mrs. Emil Bahls.

The Sunday School was organized on April 3, 1938. At present it enjoys its highest enrollment, 62 pupils. The school is taught by eight teachers. They are: Beginners class: Mrs. Edgar Peterson and Mrs. Virlin Reynolds; Primary classes: Mrs. Arnold Ludwig and Viola Bahls; Junior Classes: Mrs. Walter Volk and Leola Volk; Intermediate class: Walter Volk; Senior Class: Arnold Ludwig; Bible Class: Pastor Shaefer.

Diamond Jubilee Committee: Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Gleason, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Tapps, Mr. and Mrs. Emil Bahls, and Mr. August Sittig, honorary member.

Loyal Membership

The history of any organization and especially of a Christian congregation would be incomplete without referring to the loyalty and co-operation of the total membership, the rank and file, of the congregation and its officials during the many years. The membership has always been willing to undertake any project it was convinced was for the improvement or strengthening of the congregation.


Octogenarians of the Congregation. Left to right: Anton Schofield, Mrs. Marie Ramthun, Mrs. E. O. Lenz, August Sittig, Herman Schoepke.

Ladies' Aid

Ladies' Aid

Therefore, in conclusion, we lift our hearts and voices to the Heavens above to praise and worship the Triune God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

One fact should be mentioned at this time and place. Formerly, twenty or thirty years ago, the membership of the congregation was composed mostly of descendants of the founders, having the same desires, aspirations, the same language and the same customs. That has all nearly disappeared, because the membership of the congregation today comes from different national ancestries, languages, and customs. The "German" people have readily assimilated with the other national groups. Neither is the membership all rural, as years ago, but it is about half rural and half urban and some reside quite a distance from the church.

May God continue to bless, guide, and protect Immanuel, which means, God with us, and grant her many more anniversaries.


"Hitherto hath the Lord helped us," 1 Sam. 7, 12.

Sons and Daughters of the Congregation Who Served During World War II

Sons and Daughters Serving During the Korean War

Walther League

Walther League

Sunday School Staff

Sunday School Staff. Left ot right: Mrs. Virlin Reynolds, Mrs. and Mr. Walter Volk, Mrs. Edgar Peterson, Arnold Ludwig, Mrs. Leonard Egli, Leola Volk, Viola Bahls, Mrs. Arnold Ludwig.

Rev. Herbert Berner

Rev. Herbert Berner

1953 Confirmation Class

1953 Confirmation Class. Back row: Gene Dischler, Ronald Ramthun, Sharon Schoepke, Dennis Dischler. Front row: Allen Kretlow, Bette Berner, Glen Reynolds.