Eastfriesland Presbyterian Church


Eastfriesland Church Celebrates Diamond Anniversary

Church Was Established at Close of Civil War; It Has Been in Continuous Service Ever Since; Church Has Had 5 Pastors; Rev. F. W. Engelke Served 32 Years

The Eastfriesland Presbyterian Church of Grundy County is observing its Diamond Jubilee today. The church is located in German township and it has been serving the people of northwest Grundy continuously for 75 years.

This is the first diamond jubilee church service in the history of Grundy county and it marks the county's more memorable church event.

The memorable occasion is being observed most fittingly with religious and glorification services during the day and evening. The services are being attended not only by all of the present membership but many former members who have removed elsewhere have come back to join in the festivities and to enjoy the renewal of acquaintances with old friends.

Among the large gathering none are left who were present at the first service held in this church 75 years ago. The church has outlived all of its founders and its first attendants. The good work that was begun in this congregation so many years ago has been carried on from year to year and it will continue for more years than those who are taking part in today's festivities will live to remember this day. The church is proof of the adage that "the good that men do shall live after them."

Church Has Had 5 Pastors
During its 75 years this church has had but five pastors. Four of these served the church for a period of 73 years. Such a record of long service stands out as an unusual example of unity and the good judgment of those who were vested with the authority of selecting their shepherds.

Eastfreisland Church Honor Roll of Pastors
1865-1870 Rev. John Arends
1870-1886 Rev. John VanderLas
1886-1906 Rev. Heinrich Schmitt
1906-1938 Rev. F. W. Engelke
1938- Rev. Calvin F. Siemsen

Two of Pastors Living
Among the honor roll of pastors, but two are now living. They are Rev. F. W. Engelke and the present pastor, Rev. Calvin F. Siemsen.

All of the pastors excepting the first remained with this church until their death or until they retired from the ministry due to advanced years.

First Parsonage Now Tool Shed
The first parsonage for the pastor in 1866 is the only part of the original buildings now remaining. This building is now being used as a tool shed.

The first property owned by the congregation was four acres of ground. On this they erected a small frame building which served as the first church. This small building was replaced in 1880 by another measuring 40x60 which serves the congregation at this time.

Rev. Engelke Dean of Pastors
Rev. F. W. Engelke, the only former pastor of this church now living, was the dean of the line of ministers serving this church during the past 75 years. He accepted a call to become the church's pastor in 1906 and remained as spiritual leader and advisor in this congregation for 32 years until he retired two years ago at the age of 70, after having had 40 years of active service as a minister.

In a review of the history of the church prepared by Rev. Engelke, he states that when he came to this church there was a membership of 198 and a regular attendance of 350. The officers of the church during his first year were: Elders, Gerd Heinrichs, John Ludemann, Thomas Flessner and Dirk Kruse. The deacons were Lubertus VanderWerf, Ubbe Jutting, Anton Oelman; Trustees, Heye Boyenga, George Bleeker, Otto Wilts and William Lindaman.

Married 120 Couples
Rev. Engelke during the period of his pastorate married 120 couples. Twelve adults and 329 children were baptized; 88 members of the congregation died at whose funeral services the pastor officiated. The pastor prepared and delivered 1,926 sermons to his congregation. The pastor called on each of the homes of the members at least once each year.

Many From Church in Ministry
During Rev. Engelke's pastorate many members of his church entered the ministry. Among those listed by the pastor are Okko Peters, Henry Kruse, Mr. and Mrs. Fred J. Beving, Berhend Lindaman and John Ludeman. Others prior to 1906 from this church who entered ministerial work were Mr. and Mrs. H. N. Gerdes, Mr. and Mrs. O. B. Oltmans and Mr. and Mrs. Berend Swede.

Give Liberally For Benevolent Purposes
Rev. Engelke gives praise to the members of this church for their liberality in contributing to the support of the church and for benevolent purposes. Contributions given for benevolent purposes during his pastorate totaled $55,000. $77,000 additional was given for church maintenance and expenditures.

Present Pastor at Commencement Of His Career
Both Rev. and Mrs. Siemsen who came to this church two years ago are still young and the major part of their career is before them. They are following diligently in the footsteps of their beloved predecessors and they give promise of a helpful and successful future.

At present the Eastfriesland church has a membership of 212 and a regular attendance that taxes the capacity of the church at every regular service.

--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 20 June 1940, pg 11


East Friesland Church To Note 100th Anniversary

East Friesland Presbyterian Church of German township will observe its 100th anniversary with a series of special services and receptions next week which are expected to attract capacity turnouts.

The observation will begin with a choir concert at 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 23.

Thursday, June 24, there will be an open house at 2 p.m. in honor of Rev. and Mrs. C. R. Siemsen and Mrs. Pauline Engelke, followed at 8 p.m. Thursday with a mission service. The sermon will be delivered by Rev. Herbert Peters.

A family service is scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday, June 25, with Dr. Alan D. Martens to deliver the sermon.

Two services on Sunday, June 27, will bring the centennial observance to a close.

The morning worship service at 10 a.m. Sunday will include a return to the East Friesland pulpit by Rev. Siemsen, who served the church as pastor from 1938 to 1963. Following the morning service, lunch will be served.

That afternoon at 2 o'clock there will be an anniversary service, featuring the appearance of two Synod executives, Dr. Robert H. French of Des Moines will deliver the sermon and Dr. Fred J. Langenberg of Storm Lake will give the Anniversary Charge to the congregation. Dr. French is Synod Executive of the Presbyterian Synod of Iowa, and Dr. Langenberg is General Presbyter of the North Central Presbytery.

There will be a reception in the church parlors following the afternoon service.

East Friesland Presbyterin Church can trace its origin as far back as 1846 when Rev. Peter Flury of Switzerland came to the United States with the intention of becoming a missionary to the Indians.

But circumstances changed his plans, and instead he settled in Dubuque where he preached to his countrymen who preceded him to America.

Soon afterwards, Adrian VanVliet, a Hollander and a tailor by trade, resumed the work and ultimately united the pioneer Presbyterian Church of the frontier middle west. He also became founder of the first German Presbyterian educational institution in this country, the University of Dubuque.

By the late 1850's and early 1860's a flood of immigrants from Northern Germany and Holland arrived in this country, and many made their way to the rich soil farmland of Orcutt township in northwestern Grundy county. In 1867 the township was renamed German township.

Making his way west from Dubuque, Rev. VanVliet visited a number of families who had settled along Beaver Creek in German township, and after preaching to them for a short time, a small group of them decided to organize the East Friesland Church.

East Friesland Presbyterian Church was organized on the third Sunday after Pentecost in the year 1865 with 25 charter members.

They were Mr. and Mrs. G. Fokken, Mr. and Mrs. Christ Freese, Mr. and Mrs. Jans VanLoh, Mr. and Mrs. B. Willems, Mr. and Mrs. Christ Becker, Mr. and Mrs. B. DeVries, Mr. and Mrs. John Fischer, Mr. and Mrs. John Willemsen, Mr. and Mrs. M. Slight, Mr. and Mrs. A. Erdmoet, Mr. and Mrs. A. Arends, Mr. and Mrs. H. Primus, and Mrs. B. Janssen.

The name "East Friesland" was an appropriate one for the church because its members were immigrants from East Friesland, Germany.

In 1866 the newly organized congregation extended a call to Rev. John Arends, who had just been ordained into the ministry. Rev. Arends had already conducted services at the East Friesland Church while still a seminary student at what is now known as the University of Dubuque.

Rev. Arends remained with the congregation until the summer of 1870. During his pastorate a small, 20 by 60 foot, building was erected on the four acres of land the church had acquired in German township of northwest Grundy county.

This building, later to be used as a tool shed, was the first parsonage in which Rev. Arends lived.

The next pastor to serve the East Friesland Church was Rev. Jan Van der Las, who began his work with the congregation on November 13, 1870.

During his 16 year pastorage the congregation first enlarged the humbly small original church building, and then in 1880 the old structure was replaced by a new church.

This building, 40 by 60 feet in dimension, is still used as the church today although it has since been enlarged and modernized. Also in 1880 a new addition was built onto the old parsonage.

Also during Rev. Van der Las' tenure 173 new members were received into the church and 168 children were baptised.

Rev. Van der Las was finally forced to retire due to illness in 1886. He preached his farewell sermon on May 9, then moved to Ackley to live with his daughter. He passed away in April, 1907.

Rev. Heinrich Schmitt came to the East Friesland Church on September 20, 1886, from Mt. Pleasant and was installed on October 31.

Soon after he began his work with the congregation the Sunday School was reorganized, and both the main school and East Branch were given a constitution.

In 1888 the church was incorporated. Also during his pastorate new seats were installed in the church, six acres of additional land was secured as a gift from Heye Miller, and an addition was built on the north side of the parsonage.

During his 20 years with the East Friesland congregation 244 new members were received, 522 infants and adults were baptized, and $11,000 was contributed to mission work.

Rev. Schmitt died April 2, 1906 while still serving the church as pastor.

The next minister was Rev. F. W. Engelke, who answered a call by the congregation later in the year of 1906 and was to remain 32 years.

Rev. Engelke described his arrival at the church as follows:
"What we found here in 1906 was this present well built, well kept, commodious church edifice. A church membership of 198, a large and regular attendance of 35 persons. A well organized Sunday School, meeting at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, with an enrollment of 160 and a regular attendance of 125. An able body of cautious and careful church officers ..."
"In the church edifice we found expensive and good furniture, two large and tall stoves, big Bertha's, oil lamps and a beautiful chandelier ..."
"Facing the public highway just south of the church edifice stood a grimy coal shed, used also by the general public as a billboard. East of the church and west of the parsonage three rows of maple trees had just been planted. Just a bit northeast of the roomy, well kept six-gabled present day parsonage stood a long string of other useful little buildings, cob shed, coal shed, granary, corn crib and a pig sty ..."
"Just north of this long string of little buildings we found a low barn for two horses and two cows. East of the little barn a hay shed on stilts with a leanto for a hen house, all in delapidated condition. There was no sod or lawn around the parsonage, no cement sidewalks."
"No young people's society, no choir, or singing classes had been organized, but there was much material."
During the 32 years that followed, Rev. Engelke continued in his memoirs, many changes took place.

The cemetery was reorganized, incorporated and completely renovated.

The "big Bertha" stoves in the church were replaced with a modern furnace.

A Delco plant was installed, replacing the oil lamps, and which brought electricity to the church and parsonage for the first time.

All old outbuildings were replaced.

"Language changes came also," Rev. Engelke wrote, "Not when pro-British and anti-German outside elements clamored loudest, but when our people were ready for the change. The language change brought with it a complete change of books."

An apple orchard was started.

An annex was built on north end of the church, completely furnished with piano and chairs. A basement was built under the church. A pipe organ was installed. And 2,925 feet of cement sidewalk laid.

A large singing class was started and choirs were organized.

"Once long ago our choir rendered a distinctive service in our county seat, and in 1938 a Grundy Center choir returned the compliment by singing wholesome, Westminster Shorter Catechism Doctrines for our people." Rev. Engelke wrote, "This was a real musical treat for me."

A young peoples society was organized with 40 charter members.

Also during his pastorate 351 new members were received, 120 couples were married, 12 adults and 329 infants were baptized, and finally, the church gave $55,000 in mission offerings.

Rev. Engelke retired in the spring of 1938, and on June 30 of that same year another illustrious pastor, Rev. Calvin F. Siemsen, arrived at East Friesland Church.

During his pastorate the front entrance of the church was remodeled in 1947, and in 1948 the church basement was remodeled and a new ceiling and carpet installed.

A memorable improvement was made in 1950 when the present new manse was constructed.

In 1953 the church cemetery was enlarged, and this was followed in 1958 with the construction of an addition onto the church which resulted in an enlarged sanctuary and additional room for Sunday School classes.

After serving the East Friesland Presbyterian church for 25 years, Rev. Siemsen left in July, 1962, to accept a call to mission work at Spaulding, Nebraska. He currently is pastor of the Presbyterian church at Avon, South Dakota.

The sixth minister to serve the church in its 100 year history is Rev. Lee S. Feero, who was installed as pastor in July, 1953.

Like his predecessors, Rev. Feero is giving the church dynamic spiritual leadership, both to his congregation and the community.

But the history of his tenure remains to be written in the century that follows.

--The Grundy Register (Grundy Center, Iowa), 17 June 1965


also see: History of the German Presbyterian Church of Grundy County

List of Ministers

NameYears Served
Rev. Jan Arends1866-1870
Rev. Jan VanderLas1870-1886
Rev. Henry Schmitt1886-1906
Rev. F. W. Engelke1906-1938
Rev. Calvin J. Siemsen1938-1962
Rev. Lee Feero1963-1968
Rev. David V. Dupee1969-1981
Rev. Don Martin1982-1990
Rev. Tim Olsen1990-1993
Doug House (Student Pastor)1993-1997
Randy Russom1998-2003
Lynn Arends2003-