Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church

Long before churches were built the services were held in homes, schoolhouses or any place that was available.

The Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church of Holland, Grundy County, Iowa, was built on land donated by Asjen Freese and his wife, Hilke Freese. It was located on Lots Twenty-Two (22), Twenty-Three (23), and Twenty-Four (24); all in Block One (1) of the First Addition to the town of Holland.

A parsonage for the minister and his family was built near the church.

Zion Lutheran Church and Parsonage

Asjen Freese was born in Hanover, Germany, on Sept. 26, 1845, and settled in Grundy county in 1869. He died May 31, 1910. Mrs. Asjen Freese was born in Ostfriesland, Germany, on Sept. 20, 1851, and also settled in Grundy county in 1869. She died July 8, 1906. Both are buried in the Holland Cemetery on land they designated for a burial grounds.

The articles of incorporation for the church were as follows:
"Under the date of September 27th, 1892, there was formed at Holland, Grundy County, Iowa, an organization for religious purposes known as: Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church of Holland, Grundy County, Iowa. The particular object of said church shall be to teach, spread, uphold and defend Divine Truth according to our interpretation of the Holy Scriptures as set forth in Luther's small Catechism and the Augsburg confession.
"The officers of said Church duly elected on the same date, September 28th, 1892, are the following--Harm Kramer, Henry Conradi, Hermannus H. Frerichs and Henry Dirks Sr.
"The above names, last three, officers of said Church and their successors in office, duly elected, are authorized to act as a Board of Trustees for said Church, under the Rules and By-laws adopted by the same. Harm Kramer and Reverend P. Bieger who signed the foregoing instrument as Chairman and Secretary as stated within and acknowledged the instrument to be their voluntary act and deed by them as such Chairman and Secretary thereunto authorizes in behalf of the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church of Holland, Grundy County, Iowa, signed the above on October 1st, 1892 A.D. in the presence of John P. Suttman, Recorder of Grundy County."

When congregations were being organized into churches all services were conducted in the German language. Not only were Sunday school and church conducted in German, Catechism, Bible school and all the early records were too. In some churches, services were held once and sometimes twice on Sunday. The elders and deacons had special seats at the front of the church. The church was divided so that the women sat on one side and the men on the other. Very seldom did you see a woman in church without a hat or some covering over her head. The church was heated by two pot-bellied stoves, one on each side. The stove pipes went up toward the ceiling and clear across to the front of the church to get to the chimney. For light, kerosene lamps were placed throughout the church, later replaced by pressure gas lights.

Christmas was a happy time for young and old. The huge Christmas tree stood in one corner of the church nicely decorated with strings of popcorn and colored rings made from paper. Candles were used to light up the tree. A pail of water stood nearby in case of fire, as there were no fire departments. Sacks of candy, nuts, apples and other goodies were handed out after the Christmas program. There was also a gift exchange. The Sunday School would give each child a pretty card with a verse of scripture on it.

Sunday School picnics were great fun. They were usually held in a grove where the children could really get out and play. Families came with baskets filled with all kinds of good food. There were prizes for the ones who would win in the foot races, sack races, and any other games the children would choose to play. Some would play ball and others just sit and visit. It was a day of fun and relaxation for all. Mission feasts were special days. Everyone in the family laid aside his or her duties and headed for the church. People came from all over to partake of the delicious meals the ladies of the church had prepared. Potato salad, pork and beans, cold meats of all kinds, jello, tea and coffee were served at dinner and supper time. Ministers from other churches came from great distances to take part in the services, to renew acquaintances, and share experiences. Offerings were taken at each service for missions.

At the stroke of 12 on New Year's Eve the church bells would ring out the old and ring in the new. It was heart warming.

Then there were the weddings but few weddings were at the church. Most of them were held in the church parsonage or in the home of the bride's parents. It, too, was a day of feasting and celebration. It was like a family reunion. There was a feast after the wedding, a celebration and sometimes a dance lasting into the early morning hours. It was a tradition for the newlyweds to spend the first night in the home of the bride's parents. When one thought the party about over a lot of noise could be heard. Here were the neighbors, relatives and friends of the bride and groom. They had come with pots and pans, tin cans, bells, horns and shotguns to charivari the couple. They kept this up until the groom or the father of the bride came outside and paid them what they wanted. Sometimes they took the bride along and the groom would have to go look for her. They had a lot of fun.

Along with happy times there were also sad times. Funerals were conducted differently than now. When someone died the body was not taken to a funeral home and embalmed. Neighbor ladies of the deceased would go to the home, bathe and dress the body and prepare it for burial. The corpse was left in the home until the day of the funeral. Friends or relatives would come into the deceased's home and wake all night. In pioneer days there were no screens nor screen doors so they would stay awake all night to see that no animals would get into the house. The story is told that if one died of a contagious disease he was buried immediately.

Prayer services were held in the home. The casket was placed in a fancy horse-drawn hearse and taken to the church. When the janitor could see the funeral procession nearing the church he would start to ring the church bell as many times as the deceased was old. After they arrived at the church the casket was taken from the hearse and brought into the church, the relatives of the deceased following close behind. After the service the casket was taken into the hall, opened for final viewing, and taken to the cemetery for burial. Later relatives and friends returned to the home for lunch.

The Lord's Supper, one of the Holy Sacraments, was observed once every 3 months. It was a very sacred occasion. The worshippers went forward from their seats to the front of the church. The men always went first to receive the blessed bread and wine. The wine, which represents the blood of Christ, was served from a tall stemmed cup and was passed from one member to the other by the minister. After each member had partaken of the cup the minister wiped the cup with a white cloth and held it to the lips of the next in line. The broken bread, representing Christ's body, was served from a platter passed by the minister. After the men had received their blessing the women were asked to come forward to partake of this same bread and wine.

Baptism was another Holy Sacrament. As the Bible teaches "Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," so the parents of the church had their children baptized. The small children were held by the Godparents or Sponsors and taken to the front of the church where the minister administered the sacrament of baptism by sprinkling water on the infant's head. The Godparents promised to sponsor the children's training in case the parents should neglect it or should die. God and the church stood ready to help in the training of the children.

We must not forget the Ladies Aid. They were an active group, numbering between 10 and 15, who gathered in the homes of the ladies to sew quilts, do fancy work, make pillow cases with lots of fancy lace on them, also doilies. Some ladies tatted, crocheted and knit. Once a year a bazaar was held and an auctioneer would sell the articles for the ladies. Lunch was sold. The proceeds would go for church and parsonage expenses.

The minister's salary was very small compared to what they are paid today. Sometimes they got very little cash. Some ministers were lucky to have a place to keep a cow so he had his own milk, cream and butter, a pig to raise for meat and lard, and chickens for eggs. Most ministers had a place to grow a garden so they had vegetables, too. Some church members brought the minister produce from the farm.

The first minister of the church was Rev. P. Bieger who came from Sept. 27, 1892, to July 21, 1897. He was followed by the following: Rev. Otto Saalborn from Aug. 19, 1897, to July 3, 1907; Rev. Julius Muegge from Jan. 8, 1908, to April 2, 1913; Rev. Richard Pfieffer from March 29, 1913, to Sept. 29, 1915; Rev. H. R. Pontow from June 6, 1916, to Oct. 6, 1920; Rev. F. Athenstadt from Jan. 5, 1921, to April 10, 1929; Rev. R. Richter from Dec. 1, 1929, to Oct. 7, 1931; Rev. Athenstadt from Jan. 1, 1932, to April 4, 1934; Dr. Pedro Ilgen from Jan. 9, 1935, to Nov. 20, 1938; Rev. Edwin Grunewald from Dec. 4, 1938, to Feb. 19, 1939; and Rev. Fr. Freytag from Oct. 3, 1939, to Sept. 28, 1942.

During Rev. Grunewald's ministry services were still being conducted in German. Some of the members wished to have English so Rev. Grunewald canvassed the congregation in regard to German or English services, and the majority favored English. Some of the older members couldn't understand much English so Rev. Grunewald said he would preach German for the older members at times designated by the congregation. They compromised and one Sunday the service was German and the next it was English. This wasn't accepted by the young people, and when the service was in German they would stay home or go elsewhere.

In the meantime Rev. Grunewald became ill and could no longer attend to his duties so he resigned. Rev. Freytag was extended a call and he accepted. Attendance kept getting less and less during Rev. Freytag's ministry. Every thing seemed to get worse. The congregation couldn't make up enough money to pay his salary, and the other expenses in the church such as insurance, fuel, light, taxes, and necessary repairs. Rev. Freytag presented his resignation to the congregation on Oct. 1, 1942. He received and accepted a call to Russell, Kans.

The congregation and the Missouri Synod still didn't want to close the church doors so Rev. S. Albin Heinz from Saint Paul's Lutheran Church at Wellsburg was moderator from Oct. 1, 1942, until he received and accepted a call to another church. In 1943 Rev. Arthur Malin had become minister at Saint Paul's, and he became moderator and kept the church open until the fall of 1946.

On Nov. 7, 1946, a special meeting of the congregation of the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church was called for the purpose of forming a new corporation and dissolving the old. It was regularly moved and seconded that the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church of Holland, Iowa, merge with the American Lutheran Church of Grundy Center, Iowa; that the corporation of the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church be dissolved according to its articles. The new Articles of Incorporation were dated the 30th day of October, 1950. Some of the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church members joined the American Lutheran Church in Grundy Center, Iowa, while others joined neighboring churches of their choice.

The church edifice and grounds were purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Clarence W. Kruse. Clarence moved the church building along the north side of the Rock Island Railroad tracks west of the Holland Grain elevator which he owns. It is a modern feed mill and contains a mixer, grinder and bulk bins to hold grain, both corn and oats and bulk supplement to mix with the grain to be hauled to the farmer to feed to the livestock.

The pasture was sold to the school and later to the town and is used for a ball park and a nice little park with a large shelter house. A new and modern house was built by the Kruses on the church site, which is now the home of Mrs. Henry (Toma) Meester. A house was moved to town from the country and has made a nice home for Mrs. Herman (Claradean) Harrenstein on the remainder of the church property. Mr. and Mrs. Klaas C. Kruger and family bought the parsonage and have made a nice home for themselves.

--Holland Centennial Book, 1877-1977

List of Ministers

NameYears Served
Rev. P. Bieger1892-1897
Rev. Otto Saalborn1897-1907
Rev. Julius Muegge1908-1913
Rev. Richard Pfieffer1913-1915
Rev. H. R. Pontow1916-1920
Rev. F. Athenstadt1921-1929
Rev. R. Richter1929-1931
Rev. Athenstadt1932-1934
Dr. Pedro Ilgen1935-1938
Rev. Edwin Grunewald1938-1939
Rev. Fr. Freytag1939-1942