History of St. Paul's Evangelical Church, 1867-1967
"Our Church Turns the Century"
During the first half of the 19th century, 1800-1850 many German immigrants came to wheeling and established residence in the sections of Wheeling known to us as East, Center, and south Wheeling, extending from 16th to 43rd streets. A group of these German pioneers of the Protestant faith decided to establish a church to serve the German people of this city, and in 1836 Organized the First German Lutheran Church, known to us as St. John's Evangelical and Reformed Church, and constructed a church building at 129-18th street, the site now occupied by the Laughlin Memorial Chapel. In 1870 the congregation moved to the site now occupied by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Station, and in 1908 to its present location at 41-22nd Street.
From the year 1836 to 1867 the center of religious life for the Protestant families living in South Wheeling, called Ritchey Town, was at 129-18th Street. However, the continuing migration of people of German birth or family origin to South Wheeling, and the difficulty in getting the children to confirmation classes and home again, there being no public transportation facilities, prompted a number of families living in South Wheeling to promote the idea of a church of German Evangelical Protestant faith near their homes. Therefore, on September 6, 1867 twenty-two men met and organized St. Paul's Evangelical Protestant Church.
Family names of some of the charter members are remembered as follows: Zimmer, Hundt, Becker, Rosel, Dannenberg, Beckendorf, Zulanf, Meyer, Armbrecht, Schul, Honecker, Rietz, ToFaute, Koch, Dietrich.
During the organizational meeting the first officers were elected: Peter Zimmer, President; Galthasar Schul, Secretary; and L. Honecker, Treasurer. The Reverend Theodore A. Brueskner was appointed the first minister and was retained for a period of four years.
Early names commonly used in referring to St. Paul's Church were, St. Paul's Evangelical Protestant Church; St. Paul's Evangelical Church, German; St. Paul's German Evangelical Lutheran Church; St. Paul's Evangelical Church; St. Paul's Evangelical and Reformed Church and its present name since the merger of the Evangelical and Reformed Church with the Congregational Christian Church is St. Paul's United Church of Christ.
While the first Church building was being constructed on the corner of 38th and Wood Streets, both Sunday School and Worship Services were held in the old Methodist Church located on the corner of 37th and Jacob Streets, and later at the Third Presbyterian Church.
It was Reformation Sunday, October 31, 1868, when the Church building was dedicated to the glory of the Triune God. The clock in the Church tower was purchased in Strassburg, Germany; however, it was not installed until 1869. The pipe organ also came from Germany. The choir loft was located in the balcony at the rear of the Sanctuary, and the pulpit was located near the front, elevated as high as the balcony.
St. Paul's Church governed itself independently and separately from any denominational affiliation, securing its ministers independently, most of them migrating from Germany. The reason for this was that the early settlers were immigrants from Germany, speaking strictly the German language. At that time the Sunday School teachers taught the beginners their ABC's in German while the older children would learn and recite in class Bible stories taken from books brought over from Europe. Winter sessions of the school were held at 2:00 P.M. and the summers sessions at 9:00 A.M.
In 1871, the Reverend G. F. Muelder served our church, followed by Reverend E. Mueller in 1873.
During the year of 1875 a number of families severed their connection with the church and organized another German church, now known as St. Stephen's, located at 36th and Eoff Streets.
Still remaining independent, the Church served the growing community well. Always fulfilling its mission of helping people, it was during this period that the congregation saw the need to erect a parsonage in 1880 on the property next to the Church facing Wood Street.
St. Paul's grew spiritually and in numbers during this era under the guidance of Reverend Heinrich Baehr from 1885 to 1889 and Reverend Herman Haass from 1889 to 1904.
A new pastor, the Reverend Otto Eisle, was called and his pastorate began in 1904. He and his wife took up residence in the parsonage and during their period with us became the proud parents of three children.
Mr. Eisele was a brilliant young man, very much interested in the young people of the Church. He began teaching in English since the German language was no longer used exclusively. He played the organ and directed the choir. His ministry reached out into the community thru plays directed by him that were presented at Bishops Hall, 43rd and Jacob Streets. These plays were very popular with the people of South Wheeling.
Church picnics became popular at this time and St. Paul's began holding their picnics at the old Mozart Park. Members marched in a body to 43rd and Wetzel Streets, waving banners and flags. There they would ride up the steep hill to Mozart by the cable operated incline. There was always considerable anxiety lest the cable would break.
Many of us living today can recall the ministry from this period to our present day. We know that during this era we have fulfilled our ancestors' purpose of carrying out God's mission in the area and into the world.
This era began in the fall of 1909 when the Reverend August C. Rasche and Mrs. Rasche were made welcome. This young couple had charming personalities, and Mr. Rasche started his Christian ministry at St. Paul's with industry and courage. He became very popular with all who came in contact with him.
In was May of 1910 that our church became a member of the Evangelical Synod of North America. This was our first connection with a denomination. To support the Synod and the benevolences of the denomination, the congregation voted to adopt the Duplex envelope system.
Two church services were still being held, morning service in German and evening service in English. The Sunday School in 1910 voted to use the English language exclusively.
50 years of existence produced a membership from the original 22 members to a membership of 471 reported at this time. Sunday School enrollment was 469.
On January 10, 1924 'released time' programs of religious instruction was introduced into the State of West Virginia. This release time was made possible through the public school system by releasing pupils from their school one hour a week for bible study. Known as Week Day Bible School, this program was not solely for church related children but all children of the community to some religious education.
The need for a new building to house the larger Sunday School and growing congregation became apparent; therefore, action was taken at a congregational meeting in 1924. A resolution was submitted and adopted to construct a new church costing $125,000.00 on the site where the old Church building stood. The final service in the old church was held October 26, 1924. It was the Old Anderson building at 37th and Jacob Sts. That served as temporary quarters during this construction period.
The corner stone of the New Church was placed on Sunday, April 4, 1925 at 3:00 P.M. and was followed by an appropriate service with the people standing on the sidewalks and in the streets. Dedication was held December 13, 1925, thus giving the congregation a better opportunity to serve and witness the Lord's work.
In 1925, Mrs. Rasche was responsible for the organization of the Mary Martha Sunday School Class.
After 17 fruitful years at St. Paul's, Reverend Rasche accepted a call to St. Peter's church, St. Louis, Missouri. While in Wheeling the Rasches were blessed with three sons, Paul, Theodore and Carl. Their growth was keenly followed by their many friends here and how proud we are that they have become involved in the Christian ministry.
The congregation welcomed its twelfth minister on November 1, 1926, the Rev. John R. C. Haas, Mrs. Haas and daughter Margaret Ruth. They occupied the parsonage located next to the church for two years. It was decided at that time to use this parsonage for church school rooms, small meetings and week day bible school. Pastor Haas was then given a rental allowance which made it possible for him to build his own home in Bethlehem.
The Sixtieth Anniversary was celebrated in the customary manner in 1927; with four appropriate services, one in German.
In 1928 German services were held the second and fourth Sunday of the month at 9:00 A.M. By April 1933 the attendance at German services did not warrant holding them more than once a month and in June 1934 it was voted to have these services only twice a year, Easter and Christmas.
February, 1928, a set of four earphones were installed in the sanctuary.
The Good Will was inaugurated in September 1930. This fund is now known as our Building Maintenance Fund.
Pastor Haas was elected president of the Wheeling Ministerial Association in 1932.
It was Good Friday, 1934 that the manner of serving communion was changed from the customary altar communion to having the communicants served in their pews by the elders of the church.
April 1934 the Pennsylvania District of which St. Paul's was a member, elected Pastor Haas as its President.
There was talk in 1935 of discontinuing Sunday Evening services which finally took place in January, 1937.
In March, 1939 the worst flood in the history of the Ohio Valley occurred. Water rose to the ceiling of the Church basement and 6 ft. 2 inches in the Church House. This caused an estimated damage of $1,500. An appeal to the Evangelical Synod of North America brought a generous response of 1,345.25.
The debt on our new church was steadily reduced by the united efforts and sacrificial giving of pastor and members. This was illustrated by the busy days at St. Paul's during the days of the State Fair held on Wheeling Island. Both women and men of the Church in two shifts, worked all day and all night baking pies, preparing food, and hauling it to the Island for sale at our booth. Between $800 and $1,000 was taken in daily.
Once again the Ohio River came over its bank and in January, 1937 we had 8 feet of water in the church basement and in April the same year we had another 4 feet. Floods did not dampen the spirit of our members and the work of our church grew steadily. Upon the merger of the Evangelical Synod of North America and the Reformed Church of the United States, in 1937, the name of the church was changed to St. Paul's Evangelical and Reformed Church.
After this merger we became a member of the Southeast Ohio Synod and Pastor Haas served as its President for four years.
Chimes were installed in the church belfry and dedicated March 19, 1939.
Pastor Haas also played a major role in the promotion and organization of the Greater Wheeling Council of Churches in 1942 of which we have been a member since that time. The Seventy-fifth Anniversary was celebrated in 1942. This celebration afforded an opportunity for the members to hear again their former and dearly beloved pastor Dr. A. C. Rasche.
On December 24, 1942 the debt on the Church was finally liquidated and a mortgage burning service was held on May 26, 1943 with Pastor Haas officiating.
A coal stoker and coal bin was installed in 1943 at a cost of $1,345.25.
On March 22, 1944, Reverend Haas announced his resignation as pastor of St. Paul's. He had received a call to become minister of St. John's Church, Evansville, Indiana. Pastor Haas served St. Paul's for eighteen years with outspoken candor; he expressed his convictions and nobody was ever at a loss to know just where he stood on any subject. While many might differ with his opinion or plan, none questioned his utter sincerity and devotion to the church. Many brilliant achievements shine out from the years of his ministry in Wheeling. A farewell reception was given Reverend Haas, Mrs. Haas, and their children, Margaret Ruth, Dorothy Jane, Jean Ann and John.
Serving as interim minister for three months was a young seminary student, Mitchell Whiterabbit, of our Winnebago Indian Mission.
A call to become minister of St. Paul's was accepted by the Reverend Earnest E. Noll and he began his pastorate, September 12, 1944. In accepting the leadership of our congregation the new pastor, who had been raised in the Reformed tradition, felt very keenly the necessity of adopting himself to St. Paul's customs and respecting the traditions of the past. Any change to be made must be made gradually and only with the consent of the people themselves. He, also, began his ministry in the fever of World War II, when there was tension and restlessness in all departments of life, including the church. He set about quietly performing the ministries of his office and challenging the congregation to become servants of the Master. Steadily the people responded to this ministry and gained confidence. They accepted responsibility for the on-going work of the church.
The constitution of the church was rewritten in 1946. This brought about a change in the term of office of the President whereby he was limited to serve five consecutive years.
In 1947 the World War II Memorial Plaque was given by Dr. and Mrs. S. W. Trethway in memory of their son Samuel.
The Eightieth Anniversary was celebrated October 12, 1947 by the return of two former pastors, Dr. John R. C. Haas who presented the morning message and Dr. Augustus C. Rasche who spoke at the evening service. A reception was held after the evening service honoring both ministers and their wives.
The present parsonage located at 6 Cross Street, Mozart, was purchased in 1948. It was renovated, decorated and occupied by the Pastor and Mrs. Noll and their two sons, Frederick and Thomas Noll. A third son, David, was born August 23, 1959.
The Upper Room Bible Class was organized and the Chapel Room was provided and furnished by the Mary Martha Class in 1949.
In 1953, the out-door bulletin board was purchased and placed facing 38th Street.
Daily devotionals and the Messenger were provided for our church families in 1954.
St. Paul's witnessed its first ordination on June 17, 1957 with special services and a banquet. Dr. Haas, Dr. Rasche and Rev. Arthur Harsh, President of Southeast Ohio Synod were guest speakers.
Denominationally, the year 1957 was marked by the union of the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches of the United States. This formed the United Church of Christ on June 25, 1957.
The debt on the present parsonage was liquidated and a mortgage burning ceremony was held September 13, 1958.
The congregation on May 16, 1960 received word that its esteemed former pastor Dr. August C. Rasche, departed this life after a brief illness. Through a generous donation from the Rasche Family, Church Council established the Dr. Rasche Memorial Fund in 1964 to aid students entering church related vocations.
Almost a year later, Dr. John R. C. Haas was also called to eternal glory. His death occurred shortly after addressing the graduating class of Catawaba College on June 4, 1961 at Salisbury, North Carolina. He was serving at that time as Vice-President of the General Synod of the United Church of Christ.
The year 1961 was very active in improving our properties and adding to our equipment. A Concert Hammond Organ was purchased by memorial designations by members and friends, and the organ chimes were donated by Miss Hilda Seybold.
On October 8, 1961 the new church chancel, furniture, and organ were dedicated. The chancel was a gift from Mrs. Harry Waterhouse, Sr. and Mr. & Mrs. Harry Waterhouse in the memory of the late Harry Waterhouse. E. Ward Norris, now president of the Church, designed and supervised its construction.
Laymen and laywomen participated in the first 24 hour prayer vigil at the conclusion of the 1962 Lenten season.
The congregation honored Rev. & Mrs. Earnest E. Noll at a reception August 29, 1962. The occasion for the celebration was the Silver Anniversary of their marriage and the twenty-fifth year that Rev. Noll served in the Christian ministry.
October 14, 1962 marked the ninety-fifth anniversary observances with the return of two sons of the congregation. The Rev. Paul A. Rasche, pastor of the United Evangelical Reformed Church, United Church of Christ, Baltimore, Maryland, delivered the morning message 'Get In The Right Pew.' Mr. Rasche was born in St. Paul's church parsonage and received training at St. Paul's for the first 16 years of his life. Delivering the anniversary evening message 'Parking On Somebody Else's Nickle,' was the Rev. Harry W. Eberts, Jr. Mr. Eberts also grew up in St. Paul's and remained a member until he entered the ministry of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.
A gift of property across from the Church was accepted from the estate of Mrs. Minnie Nolte in 1963. This property is now being used as a parking lot for church functions.
In 1964, Rev. Noll who had served St. Paul's for twenty years, the longest period of pastoral service in the history of the congregation, submitted his resignation. He accepted a call to minister at St. John's Church, Holgate, Ohio. His farewell message was delivered on April 5, 1964. Shortly after the Noll's transferred the congregation was proud to hear that their son, Fred, was ordained a minister in the United Church of Christ on June 13, 1965. St. Paul's will follow Fred's Ministry with interest.
During the summer of 1964, Mr. Carold Welty was the interim preacher.
A young seminary student, Robert A. Coupe, Jr., accepted the call to become our fourteenth minister. Mr. Coupe graduated from Bangor Maine in June, 1964. Plans were made for his ordination and installation as our pastor and the combined service for this event was held August 16, 1964. Rev. Coupe, like our previous minister, was reared in a different tradition than accustomed at St. Paul's. His early training was from the Congregational background. When he arrived, St. Paul's was entering a new era of change. This change was taking place in our surrounding community, with most of our families moving to the suburbs. He began his ministry in a spirit of Christian love, therefore, any change made by him was readily accepted. Two years before he assumed leadership, leaders of the church realized that some of the churches in the area were moving to other locations in the city. This convinced the people of St. Paul's that their first duty was to South Wheeling. By choosing to remain there, a tradition extending back to 1867 will be extended. To back up its faith and commitment in South Wheeling the 450 member congregation voted a $65,000 building program. The slogan "DO IT NOW" was the spark of the church to do just that. The building program that included construction of a new educational unit and renovation of the two levels of the church building itself began in Mary, 1965. The dedication service with Rev. Coupe and laymen participating was held October 16, 1966, followed by an open house.
In 1965, Mr. Clarence E. Miller, a layman from St. Paul's, was elected to represent the Eastern Ohio Association and the Ohio Conference of the United Church of Christ as delegate to the Fifth General Synod held at Chicago, Illinois. Of the 738 Synod delegates Mr. Miller was the only delegate from West Virginia. His assignment as delegate was to serve on the committee for Christian Education.
January, 1966, the constitution of the church was up-dated to conform with our recent denominational affiliation. This revision brought about the opportunity for our young people to serve on the Church Council. To encourage responsibility and leadership from our youth, seven Junior Deacons and Deaconesses were elected at the 1967 congregation meeting.
Historically, St. Paul's has always lived up to its benevolent commitments presented by our denomination affiliation. It has also carried out its responsibility in its own locality. Many have remembered the help the church rendered to the people during the 1930 depression. Families in need have been furnished groceries, shoes, coal and many other helpful items throughout the years since the Great Depression.
As long as our leaders and congregation continue to support the benevolent program of the church, there is no fear that St. Paul's will not survive the future.