History of Saint Peter Lutheran Church, Deshler, Nebraska
St. Peter Lutheran Church was founded by members who formerly lived in the vicinity of Friedensau. In 1886, when Rock Island Railroad chose to run tracks through the area now known as the city of Deshler, the merchants and mechanics of Friedensau decided to move into Deshler. Other families came from the Kiowa neighborhood. This sudden influx of Lutherans brought about the organization of two congregations, Immanuel Lutheran two miles west of Deshler and St. Peter Lutheran in Deshler.
Records do not give the particular day of organization, but the first minutes on record are dated March 4, 1888, when Herman Struve was elected chairman; Julius Schoenfeld, secretary; and Ernest Koerwitz and John Aufderheide, elders. The charter members, in order as they signed the constitution are Julius Schoenfeld, J.H. Aufderheide, H.J. Struve, Ernst Koerwitz, August Juedes, Ernst H. Geisler, Carl Achterberg, Wm. Schultz, Valentine Kehres, and John Braun. Within the same year, Henry Werner, Sr., Fred Sorge, Richard Bruckert, Philip Werner, Wilhelm Koerwitz and J.H. Beckmann were also received into membership.
Our first permanent pastor was William Cholcher, who served the congregation for 50 years. Pastor Wm. R. Miessler then served the congregation until the end of 1942, H.F. Krohn served until 1950, Pastor Roland Hafner served until 1954, Pastor E.C. Werner served until 1963, and Pastor John D. Kovac served until 1975. Pastor James P. Moll served 20 years from 1977-1997; Pastor Duane Fahr served 5 years from 1998-2003, and Pastor Kurt A. Van Fossan served 1 ½ years from 2005-2006. Pastor Brian Francik, the present pastor, ordained June 1, 2008 at Grace Lutheran Church, Escondido, CA and installed June 22, 2008 at St. Peter Lutheran, Deshler, has served here five years.
Vacancy pastors include the following: Pastor Dan Heuer July 1997-March 1998; Pastor James Moll March 1998-July 1998; Pastor Paul Albrecht October 2003-May 2004; Pastor Richard Kelm October 2003-February 2005; Pastor Richard Kelm December 2006-June 2008.
Shortly after the founding of St. Peter congregation, Pastor Wm. Cholcher gathered a singing group of young men and women. There being no instrument such as a reed organ or piano available, Pastor Cholcher instructed and taught them by means of his violin. The group presented God’s Word through music in one voice, melody. When a teacher was hired for the school in 1900, another group was organized which sang four-part harmony. Eventually a pipe organ was obtained and organists were enabled to lead worshippers in singing God’s Word.
Today the congregation continues its heritage of music with the organists leading the singing of the hymns and the sung liturgy with our pipe organ. Our instrumental group, along with the organ, also leads the singing of God’s people for occasional services. Many music groups including Adult Choir, Men’s Choir, Small Group Choir, Deshler Lutheran School Choir, Sunday School Choir, and Handbell Choir also contribute music to our worship services.
The first church building was 20x40 feet in size. When the structure could no longer accommodate a growing congregation, the building was moved across the street and used as the school only.
A new and larger church was erected on the original church site. The second church was dedicated January 22, 1899. In 1913, a cross section was added to the second building to give still more room.
In 1944, Immanuel Lutheran Church disbanded and members were transferred to St. Peter congregation. In 1967, when Bethlehem Lutheran Church of (Kiowa) Davenport disbanded, many of those members also transferred to St. Peter congregation.
March 25, 1961, the Saturday afternoon before Palm Sunday, was a sad day for St. Peter congregation as well as for the entire community, when a fast-spreading fire destroyed the church structure. When smoke was first noticed pouring from the steeple, the fire was already roaring between the walls of the wooden structure. With the oldness of the wood and a very strong south wind, the firefighters were unable to save the building. A few items were salvaged including the altar, candelabra, altar curtain, vestry desk, and baptismal font. The pipe organ valued at $20,000 was lost in the flames.
The Palm Sunday confirmation service for twenty-three young people of the congregation the next day was moved a couple blocks down the street to Peace Lutheran Church. The confirmation service was held in the afternoon. By the next Sunday, the altar and furnishings, which had been carried out of the burning church, were set up in our Parish Hall where worship services were held until a new building was completed. Two weeks later, April 9, 1961, our congregation’s choirs appeared on “Choir Loft” on KOLN-TV in Lincoln singing praises to God.
On April 10, 1961, the voters’ assembly decided to proceed immediately with a reconstruction plan. Through prayer, cooperation, labor, and the blessings of God, a beautiful new building was erected and dedicated to the glory of God on December 16, 1962.
The congregation has always taken the responsibility of Christian education seriously. A Christian day school dates back to our beginning in the year 1888. When Pastor Cholcher came, he not only carried out his pastoral duties, but also taught the school four days a week. From 1888-1899, the church served as a school during the week, using homemade pews with shelves as desks. Water was kept in a cedar bucket with a brass rim, and a wood stove provided heat. When our second church was built in 1899, the old church/school was moved to the lot across the street to be used only as a school.
On June 14, 1953, a new and modern school and parish hall were dedicated.
In 1966, an association was formed between three church bodies. Trinity Lutheran of Friedensau and Bethlehem Lutheran of Kiowa joined with St. Peter Lutheran to form Deshler Lutheran School Association using the building in Deshler as its school.
April 10, 1978 the name of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church was officially changed to St. Peter Lutheran Church.
Centennial Celebration – 1988
1988 was a year of celebration for our congregation to give “Glory to God in the Highest” for 100 years. The year began with songs of praise as the choirs and musicians joined in an evening musical worship service in late March. Then little by little, each organization did its part in giving God glory in a variety of ways suited to the talents of its members. In April, the Ladies’ Aid had a special Sunday with Seminarian Dale Glawatz speaking and a congregational potluck dinner at noon. A pictorial directory was made. A centennial book was printed which included the history of the church along with group pictures. A confirmation reunion in June gave the groups that gathered an opportunity to remember their vows to the Lord. In August, the Lutheran Laymen’s League sponsored a Chicken BBQ for the whole congregation as well as a centennial float/sign for the county fair and churchyard. Also in August, the bluish-turquoise carpet was taken up and replaced with new mauve-colored carpet. The “grand finale” of the whole year was our daylong celebration in September with Dr. Eldor Meyer, Nebraska District president and Dr. Oswald Hoffmann, Lutheran Hour speaker sharing God’s Word with us. Who will ever forget Dr. Hoffmann leading the singing of, “How Great Thou Art”?
The following groups supplement Christian education: Sunday School, Adult Bible Class, Morning and Evening Bible Studies, Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML), Lutheran Laymen’s League (LLL), Junior High Youth, and Active Christian Teens (ACT).
St. Peter holds the church & cemetery records of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, (Kiowa), Davenport, Immanuel Lutheran Church, Deshler, and St. Paul Lutheran Church, Byron. We care for the Kiowa and Immanuel cemeteries.
Our 125th Anniversary Year - 2013
The theme for the year was, “Now thank we all our God with hearts and hands and voices.” The year was a blessing for our congregation to celebrate and reflect on 125 years of God’s blessings at St. Peter.
Special Events and Projects 2013
1. Concert for the community in January – Hands in Harmony (music and signing entertainment)
2. Former pastor, Rev. James Moll, preaching one Sunday in February
3. Banner made with anniversary theme
4. St. Peter Lutheran Music Concert April 14 (vocal choir and handbell choir)
5. Missionary Dr. Rosin and his wife Laine here April 20-21
6. Pictorial Directory completed
7. Float in Deshler’s Thayer County Parade in August
8. Memorabilia from the Past
Anniversary Celebration Day, September 15, 2013
9:00 a.m. Open House at Deshler Lutheran School
10:00 a.m. Worship service with vocal choir, instrumentalists, handbell choir, organ/piano duet, and Sunday school choir
Guest speaker, the Rev. Dr. Brian Friedrich, president of Concordia College, Seward, NE
12:00 noon Catered meal at Thayer County Activity Center, Deshler
A video of pictures from the past was shown during the meal
Statistics September 2013
Deshler Lutheran School currently has an enrollment of 49 students with five teachers. The Association includes the congregations of St. Peter and Trinity. However, students from other LCMS churches and area churches are enrolled. The staff as we begin the 2013-2014 school year is Mr. David Beikmann, principal and teacher of grades 7-8; Mrs. Michelle Prince, grades 5-6; Mrs. Pamela Werner, grades 3-4, Mrs. Betty Messing, grades 1-2; and Mrs. Linda Peters, Kindergarten.
St. Peter Lutheran has a baptized membership of 371.