Memories abound for 'The Little Church' in Wykoff
I appreciate readers sending me faith-related ideas for this weekly column. Several months ago, my cousin, Marge (Schmidt) Baier, of Chatfield mailed me a package of history about Wykoff’s Immanuel Lutheran Church, where she grew up. Even though she left that church many years ago when she married George Baier and moved to Chatfield, the memories of her early days stay with her.
The 50th anniversary of the church (1896–1946) is the first booklet, followed by the 80th anniversary celebration booklet and later, their centennial anniversary booklet in 1996.
As in many church histories, a small group of community residents gets together and calls a neighboring pastor to serve the Holy Sacraments. In July 1896, a small group of Evangelical Lutheran Christians consulted the Rev. Claus Eckoff of the Dr. Martin Luther Church in Spring Valley to lead them.
They began by meeting in a school house in District 63 east of Wykoff. It took time to decide where the new church building should be built.
A difference of opinions found three locations to be studied. One would be south and east of town. Another suggestion was north and east. The last and final decision, dated Feb. 21, 1900, was the present location on the east side of Main Street, a little ways south of the Methodist church.
Land was purchased for church and parsonage. More land was secured as a burial site east of town.
Seven days later on Feb. 28, 1900, a building committee was selected. They were W. Affeldt, H. Raabe (my great uncle Herman Raabe), F. Sabatke, A. Fligge and W. Lenz.
Labor and materials cost $2,946.48. The cornerstone was laid Aug. 5, 1900. A 589-pound copper tin bell from St. Louis, Mo., was purchased for $148.52. That went into the church tower.
On April 21, 1901, the second Sunday after Easter, the church was dedicated, but the debts of $765.91 proved to be a burden. Some of the 24 church families left to go to neighboring churches. Eventually some families returned.
In October 1901, Spring Valley’s Zion Lutheran representatives came to Immanuel to talk about sharing a pastor. Zion would later become Our Savior’s Lutheran, as it remains today.
Back then, the two congregations promised the pastors $150 each per year — the two would preach on alternate Sundays. Both church congregations requested that a future pastor preach the Gospel in both German and English.
Pastor J. Hafermann from Williamstown, Iowa, was called to serve both congregations. Each paid him $175. He began his 5 1/2-year ministry at Immanuel Church with about 18 families.
When he arrived, the church debt was $1,600. With hard work they lowered the debt. In 1907, the congregation felt they were financially strong enough to support their own pastor. He would be there only eight months.
Through the years, pastors came, preached and moved on. And improvements were made.
Immanuel Lutheran Church escaped the 1952 Wykoff tornado, but at 7 p.m. on July 14, 1977, a tornado ripped through Wykoff again, damaging the church steeple beyond repair. Trees were toppled. The Wykoff community and members from Good Earth Village completed the cleanup.
Present church member Lyle Affeldt told me the steeple was once made of wood. It was replaced with a fiber glass steeple, as was St. John’s Lutheran Church on the west side of town.
Immanuel was called "The Little Church" and St. John’s was "The Big Church." Lyle said his grandfather, Henry Affeldt, a founding member, started the fire in the church on Sunday mornings for many years.
Today, there are 265 members at Immanuel, but it seems the group is getting smaller, said Lyle.
The pastor is Becky Timm, both ordained and also a registered nurse.
Lyle, now 74, is a retired farmer. He was born in Wykoff and baptized at Immanuel. He and wife, Marilyn, as so many others, love the Immanuel Lutheran Church and their Lord.