In the winter of 1901 twenty family members of Christ Lutheran Church, Elm Creek, formed a nucleus to organize Immanuel Lutheran Church of La Vernia, Texas. In the communion records for Christmas, 1901, the following are mentioned as members:
- Julius Boeck
- Albert BuIgerin
- Ludwig Barkmeyer
- Wilhelm Boeck
- Albert Buider
- Mrs. Martha Gutz
- Carl Haese
- Mrs. Marie Hormuth
- Samuel Jachade
- E. W. Koepp
- Franz Koepp
- August Klatt
- Hugo Kott
- Mrs. Marie Lenz
- Heinrich Schwartz
- Gustav Schroeder
- Mrs. Louise Zunker
- Mrs. Lena Zittl
The first council (Vorsteher) included: E· W. Koepp, Carl Haese, Wilhelm Boeck, Gus Schroeder and Heinrich Schwartz.
At first a Pastor Hummel and a Pastor Heinrich Schmidt from Marion held services on Alternate Sundays. Then Pastor Schmidt was called. The congregation purchased two acres of land in La Vernia, on which to build a church. By October 8,1901, by the help of God, the building was completed and dedicated by the local pastor and by President W. Steinmann and Pastor Nad. The first child to be baptized was Franz Wilhelm Julius Schroeder, son of Gustav and Bertha Bulgerin Schroeder. He was born on Dec. 9, 1901, and baptized on March 2, 1902. The first confirmation recorded as an adult, Mrs. Hermine Zunker, on March 31, 1902, then followed a class on April 19, 1902:
- Mrs. Anna Klatt
- Lothar Schievelbein
- Edward Koepp
- Felix Duelm
- Lee Hormuth
- Lillie Brause
- Louise Stabenow
- Auguste Schroeder
- Martha Stabenow
- Thekla Schievelbein
- Meta Klatt
Gustav Schroeder donated two acres of land for a cemetery. The congregation placed a fence around the land and dedicated it for its designated purpose. The first funeral was held on October 22, 1902. Hedwig Gabriele Koepp, infant daughter of Franz Koepp and Augusta Schmidt Koepp was born October 14, 1902. She died October 21, 1902.
On October 14, 1903, when Pastor Schmidt accepted a call to Des Moines, Iowa, Immanuel Lutheran united with Christ Lutheran at Elm Creek to call a pastor for the dual parish. From 1904 to 1911 Pastor Christian Volk served the parish until he accepted a call to a congregation in Colorado.
In August, 1911, Pastor Nic Frueh of Beitel Memorial Lutheran of San Antonio accepted the call from both congregations. The family resided in Elm Creek until 1917 when they moved to the new parsonage in La Vernia. The building cost $1,550. By 1925 the membership had grown to 104 families and a budget of $1,437.
On December 12, 1926, the congregation observed the 25th Anniversary of the church’s dedication Dr. W. Steirnann delivered the morning sermon, Dr. Wl. Goerner of Seguin addressed the Confirmand Reunion in the afternoon. Over 400 people attended the dinner at noon.
In 1931, because the 30-year-old church edifice had deteriorated badly, the congregation decided to build a brick building, but the depression forced postponement of this project. The project was very quickly revived, however, after a strong wind during the 1932 Easter Service caused the building to sway dangerously. On April 13,1932, the congregation voted to build immediately and to use the old church’s materials in a new frame building. Cost, exclusive of the donated stained-glass windows, should not exceed $3,500. The dimensions were 80′ X 32′ with an addition of 36, X 13′. (This is the building we are in today, excepting the annex.)
Building Committee members were:
- Paul Dieckow
- Alfred Linne, Sr.
- Ewald Koepp
- Julius H. Lenz
- Louis Lenz
- Fritz Mueller
- Frido Rawe
- Herman Rauch
The contractor August Fuessel, who built the parsonage in 1917, supervised the building for $6 a day. Members of the congregation, working as carpenter helpers received $3 a day and others worked for $1.50 a day.
On May 13,1932, the first shovel of concrete was put into the ground in the name of the Triune God for the building of the new church. This was done in place of laying a cornerstone. The church was dedicated on July 24,1932 with the local minister officiating, assisted by President E. A. Sagebiel, Dr. Wm. Steinmann and Pastor Wm. Durkop. The morning, afternoon and night services were well attended.
Cost of the church edifice was a little over $4,500. The stained-glass windows, the pulpit, carpet, pulpit Bible and 10 benches were donated by individuals and organizations.
In August of 1936 the Elm Creek and La Vernia congregations surprised and honored Pastor Frueh with a special service and presented the pastor with gifts on the occasion of his 25th year of service in the parish.
Another unusual service was held in 1938 when Milton S. Frueh, son of Pastor and Mrs. Nic Frueh, was ordained into the Holy Ministry here in Immanuel Lutheran Church. Pastor Paul Geiger served as assistant pastor from 1943 to 1948, when he accepted a call to San Marcos.
Pastor E.G. Knaak of Immanuel Lutheran in Pflugerville succeeded Pastor Geiger and was installed on December 1, 1948. In 1950 the present Parish Hall was added to the church’s facilities. Pastor Knaak died on May 4, 1957.
Pastor Kurt C. Hartmann was installed on September 1, 1957 by Dr. Vernon Mohr. He and his family moved into the new three bedroom parsonage on Labor Day, September 2,1957. During his ministry with “Immanuel, the Annex was added, expanding the worship and adding additional classrooms. Also, new pews and church furniture, a heating/air conditioning system, and a public address system were installed. Also, added to the Parish Hall were a Study and office for the pastor and two additional classrooms, in memory of Wilson and Dora Perry.
On August 12 1962, the Church Annex was dedicated. Dr. George W. Krueger of San Antonio spoke at the dedication service in the morning and Dr. Otto Schawe of Poth spoke at the service of Thanksgiving in the afternoon. Pastor C. N. Roth was the architect, and the Oscar Mattke Lumber company of La Vernia was the general contractor. The annex includes overflow space for worship, four classrooms and restrooms. The cost of the addition was $12,838.
On Sunday, December 5,1966 the new church pews were dedicated. The total cost of the 28 pews plus three screens and a sedile for the chancel was $3,525. Most of the money for the pews came from memorials.
Pastor Hartmann, active in church and community, was honored, along with his wife Frances by the church and community when he retired in the summer of 1977.
Pastor Herbert E. Palmer was installed to serve with the people of Immanuel, in September, 1977. Since then the people of Immanuel have paved the parking lot, and have enhanced their worship with the Baldwin Pipe organ. The organ was dedicated June 28, 1981 in memory and honor of many members and friends of Immanuel. The pipes were given by Mr. & Mrs. O. W. Linne.
Also, there have been improvements on the parsonage with the installation of the central heat/central air conditioning system and the addition of a second bathroom, a patio, and carport. Also created was the Cemetery Association and the Perpetual Care of the cemetery for the more efficient care of this responsibility of the congregation.
In January of 1980, Immanuel expanded to two worship services, and began celebrating Holy communion twice a month. At the time of the 80th Anniversary Celebration, Immanuel had nearly 600 baptized members with a budget of $63,000.
In 1982 Pastor Palmer accepted a call to Brenham, and on October 3,1982 Pastor Gary Goodson was installed as Pastor of Immanuel. Pastor David Feller, Jr. officiated at the installation service.
In December of 1983 the Carillon Bells were installed in the Church, and were dedicated by Pastor Goodson on April 29,1984.
In September of 1985 the first Sunday of the month Potluck fellowship began, and to this day we continue to enjoy this fellowship at the beginning of each month.
During Pastor Goodson’s years here, there was much more cooperation in and among the different churches in the community. In 1986 a Good Samaritan Fund and Food Pantry were established, later to be renamed the Rev. Kurt Hartmann Good Samaritan Fund, in honor and memory of Pastor Hartmann. In 1988 the Christian Service Center opened its doors. It is open every Saturday morning and provides food and clothing for those persons in need in our community. A local Ministerial Alliance was also formed during this time, and they have shared in Thanksgiving services, community choirs, and in 1990 and ’91, brought the community together for several nights at the Gospel Celebration.
In January of 1987, Immanuel voted to approve of the upcoming merger of three National Lutheran Church bodies, the American Lutheran Church, the Lutheran Church in America, and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches. The merger officially took place on January 1, 1988, when we became a part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; the fourth largest protestant Church body in the United States.
In August of 1987, the Lutheran Social Service of Texas opened a satellite office in Seguin, with the support of the area Lutheran Churches. Pastor Goodson was a member of the board of the LLST office in Seguin.
In September of 1988, the Confirmation/Sr. Youth group reorganized, with a very strong core group of youth. This group worked hard on many projects, and took a trip to Sky Ranch Camp in Colorado in June of 1989.
In August of 1989 Saturday Evening Worship services were begun. These services were to be held on the first and third Saturday of the month. Holy Communion is offered at these services, and they are more informal in nature. The Saturday services dropped off for awhile in the first half of 1991 between pastors, but has picked up once again in September of 1991.
On November 18,1990 the Ground Breaking for the Parish Hall addition took place at the close of the 10:30 worship service that morning.
Pastor Goodson left in December of 1990, and took a call to serve as a Chaplain in the U.S. Army. Pastor David Priem accepted a call to serve Immanuel, and was installed on July 7, 1991. The Rev. Lawrence Bade, assistant to the Bishop of the Southwestern Texas Synod of the ELCA, presided at the installation service.
In 1992, Immanuel Lutheran purchased a computer for the church office. Additional office space was added in 1993. The builder was E. L. Kinsey.
September 16, 1997, Immanuel Lutheran Church purchased 1.27 acres of land from Bernie E. Ramzinski and wife, Laura F. Ramzinski and located on FM 1346 on the easterly corner of the Immanuel Lutheran Cemetery.
In the summer of 1997, during the time the church was being painted, a beautiful painting was found by one of the painters, stored in a closet behind the altar, rolled, wrapped in tissue paper, secured with metal bands and packed in a wooden box. It is the theory of the church that Pastor Nic Frueh may have brought this painting from Germany during a visit there in which he played the organ at one of the many beautiful churches. The painting is believed to be a turn of the century piece of art with over-lays of intensive colors. The art has a religious theme and the inscription on the bottom of the picture, written in the German language is taken from Luke 2:14 “glory to god in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men”. The parishioners agreed that this gorgeous piece of work should be framed and hung in the sanctuary. The picture was beautifully framed and sealed so that the glass does not touch the painting. It hangs on the east wall of the church sanctuary and is truly a beautiful masterpiece.
In October of 1998, another flood wreaked havoc on Immanuel Lutheran Church. Water had been two and one-half to three and one-half feet deep in all the buildings on the church grounds. The damage was extensive. Pews and chairs and office equipment and desks, along with hymnals, historic bibles and songbooks from the founding of the church were all damaged beyond use. Floors and walls were damaged in all buildings along with other furniture, as well as altar cloths and choir music.
All seemed hopeless for awhile, but by God’s grace and mercy, help arrived from all corners as we began the immediate task of clean-up. During the long process of rebuilding, members came forward to lend a hand and people we never knew stopped by to offer help, supplies and food for the weary workers.
Mr. Troy Finch, owner of our local funeral home, was kind enough to lend us use of his facilities for the following Sunday and extended the offer of continued use for as long as we needed the chapel. A couple of weeks after the flood, we were back in the church building, worshiping on folding chairs on top of the bare, ugly, wooden floor. It was a sign of determination for us as we set our sights on restoring this historic church to its former beauty. God was still with us, strengthening our faith and our resolve through this tragedy and making us better people because of it.
The building process began as we prioritized and set goals for rebuilding. Our obvious first choice was the church itself so that we could get our worship life back together. Our second priority was on classrooms so that we could get our Christian education back on line, and our final goal was the old parsonage, now also being used for classroom space because of our growth. All but a few minor things were completed within a years time and we had a re-dedication service on October 31, 1999 (Reformation Sunday) to give thanks and glory to God for everything.
In early 1997, the church council began to discuss the upcoming “100th Anniversary” of the church. Several comments were made to the effect of saying “how nice it would be to have beautiful wooden doors on the front of the church”. After much discussion among the church council, Rick Morgan, a member of the council, volunteered to help design the doors and to find a craftsman who would be willing to build the doors. A plan was presented to the church council for the construction of two heavy wooden doors with an emblem of a cross in the middle of each door, designed to match the stained glass windows already on the church, along with some clear beveled glass in the center of each cross so that ushers could see through the glass and open the doors for parishioners. It was decided to replace the arch above the doors with a stained glass design to match the stained glass pattern on the church windows and incorporate Martin Luther’s Seal (a black cross placed in a red heart upon a white rose in a sky-blue field surrounded by a golden ring).
The doors were to be installed by Easter of 1998. There were so many delays that we began to wonder about the reliability of the craftsman. The doors actually did not get installed until just before Christmas of 1998. Looking back, the whole situation almost seems a bit humbling as the “big flood of 1998” would have destroyed the doors along with the many other things which were lost in the flood. Even though we grumbled about the slowness of the craftsman, somehow God was watching over us from above and the beautiful doors became one of the first pieces of restoration in the church following the flood. Their beauty attests to the fact that God is indeed a very present help in time of need.
The summer of 2000 marked a first for the youth of Immanuel. 17 youth and 4 sponsors traveled to St. Louis to participate in the 2000 ELCA National Youth Convention. This was the first time Immanuel had been accepted to participate at the National Convention. The youth brought back a new perspective on Lutheran teachings and the beliefs of ELCA.
After ten wonderful years, Pastor David Priem left in June of 2001, and took a call to serve at Holy Ghost Lutheran Church in Fredericksburg, Texas.
In September of 2001 the State of Texas awarded the Immanuel Lutheran Church and Cemetery a State Historical Marker and Cemetery Medallion. The Historical marker is located in front of the Immanuel Lutheran Church Sanctuary Building. The cemetery medallion will be placed at the cemetery after it is manufactured.
After 100 faithful years of service, much more could be said of this congregation and its people. There have been many dedicated council members, organists, Sunday School teachers, choir members, and officers of organizations who have served the Lord over these many years.
The growth and love and dedication of all those people throughout the years is made evident by the fact that in 1901, fifty devoted Christians struggled with a budget of $225 for salary and benevolences. In 2001 Immanuel has a membership of over 600, and an annual budget of over $100,000.
May God, who has called these faithful members together over the past 100 years continue to call us to serve him in this congregation, this community, and throughout the world where people stand in need of hearing and seeing the Gospel of Jesus Christ in action.
(History translated from German minutes of this congregation and compiled by Mrs. Ursala Koepp, and Mrs. Kurt C Hartmann, 1976, and updated by Pastor Herbert E. Palmer, in 1981, updated again by Mrs. Adeline Linne and Pastor David Priem in 1991, and further updated in by Dora Wyatt and David Freeman in 2001.)