A Brief History of Salem Lutheran Church, 1886-1993

Taken from "Feeding the Flock", a Salem cookbook published in 1993

Fifteen families of German Lutheran immigrants officially organized the "German Evangelical Lutheran Church," now known as Salem Lutheran Church, on Sunday, June 6, 1886. The men who signed the original German constitution were: Alex Radke, E. Meyer, A. Neumann, G. Krueger, H. Klinkert, F. G. Lentz, Rudolph Piel, F. W. Reincke, F. Huse, L. Mantey, Johan Krueger, Jacob Klein, Gustav Huse, Charles Dietz, and L. Dagner. These settlers originally came from Germany, settling in Washington Co., seeking religious freedom. They continued migrating north, stopping in the newly formed Hill County. here they settled near Ash Creek at Rienzi because of the adequate water supply and fertile farmland. As settlers moved into this undeveloped section of Hill County, communities sprang up: Rienzi, Savage, Cottonwood, and Walling Village. The city of Malone was not yet to be for another eighteen years. "Salem" was identified by Ash Creek (1886), Rienzi, Walling, Hubbard, Brandon (1928) and finally Malone.

Rev. J. C. Rieger traveled by horse from West, a distance of about 16 miles, to conduct German services in their homes until their first church could be built. Six acres of land were purchased from A. D. Walling in Oct. 1886 for $75.00. Mr. Walling donated four additional acres to be used as a cemetery. A church was built at a cost of $150.00. After some trouble and a court battle, a new constitution was adopted in 1888. Pastor Henry Bartel was serving the congregation at that time and continued until 1889 when he accepted a call to Houston. Pastors F. Wunderlich, J. A. Seils, W. H. Kramer, and H. R. Oertel served during the vacancy. The first resident pastor, Rev. Herman Hopman, came in 1892. He served as pastor (175 souls, 85 communicants, 25 voting members), principal and only school teacher (35 pupils) until 1902 when he accepted a call to Nebraska.

Rev. W. Hodde served as pastor from 1902 until 1915. On Dec. 10, 1906, Fritz and Augusta Geltmeier deeded 1/2 acre, more or less, on the west edge of the property for the sum of $1.00. A new church building was erected shortly thereafter in 1907. The old structure served as a school building from 1907 until 1921. Statistics of 1912 show: 478 souls, 286 communicants, 62 voting members, and 66 school children. E. F. Wilkening answered the April 17, 1910 call for a full-time teacher. He remained until 1920.

Rev. H. C. Gaertner accepted Salem's call in July 1915. During his stay, Salem hosted the Texas Synod convention during the World War in 1916 and also immediately after 1919. The Texas District met at Salem on July 4-10, 1928. A new school building was erected in 1921. Salem joined the Missouri Synod on Jan. 1, 1922. On Dec. 10, 1924, Salem purchased an additional four acres from W. H. Huse for the sum of $400.00. Rev. Gaertner resigned in 1940 due to ill health.

In 1941, Salem called Rev. George Heinemeier. During his stay, it was resolved to write the constitution and minutes in English. A butane heating system was purchased for the church. Voters resolved to have one German service each month. The young folks were granted the right to start a Walther League in March 1943. There was some discussion and a little preparation toward building a new church in early 1942, but decided in Sept. 1943 to wait until after the war. Preparations started again in 1946. It was resolved in Dec. 1946 to permit the organization of a daughter congregation in Hillsboro. Pastor accepted a call in Dec. 1947.

In Jan. 1948 a call was sent to and accepted by Rev. A. C. Liefer of Aleman, TX. The congregation agreed to pay the deposit on electrical service at the parsonage. The congregation purchased a new organ, power lawn mowers, and also built the present church building in 1949. They also voted overwhelmingly to change to individual communion cups. Pastor Liefer accepted a call in Aug. 1950.

A call was once again extended to Rev. Heinemeier in 1951 which he accepted and served until 1955. During these years, the present school building was built. After Heinemeier left, a recommendation was accepted regarding "Divine calls": "No longer would the congregation demand preaching in German!"

Salem was served by vacancy pastors until Rev. Francis Machine accepted the call in May 1956. It was during this time, the voters reluctantly decided to discontinue the school. Many teachers faithfully served during the school's existence, including: E. Manthey, M. Schuetze, L. W. Meissner, Esther Gaertner, Annie Mae Schmidt, Mrs. George Heinemeier, M/M Carl Boriack, H. Hartfield, and M/M A. F. Lehmann. Pastor Machina remained until June 1963 when he left to serve in the Wisconsin Synod.

Rev. Alvin A. Walter accepted the call in Sept. 1963. During this time, air conditioning was installed in the church and church/parsonage/school house were connected to Brandon Water System. Pastor Walter stayed until 1969.

Rev. Roland Fined served from Feb. 1971 until Feb. 1975. The church building underwent a major renovation during these years. Rev. ARnold Mueller served from 1975 until 1978. In 1980, Rev. Scott Stallings came and served until the summer of 1983. During this time a new organ was purchased. Rev. David Jeske was installed in December 1983 and served until May 1990. Rev. Joseph Ardy was ordained and installed at Salem on July 7, 1991. The congregation has voted to build a new worship/fellowship facility.