Local News

Ohio First Lutheran Church celebrating 100 years

OHIO - It began as a group of 35 Lutherans in the vicinity of Van Orin, Illinois, who met at the Molln School building on Sunday afternoons. They adopted the name “The First Evangelical Lutheran Church of Van Orin, Ill.” The early Lutherans had familiar names to those of us in the area today: Fischer, Molln, Zimmerlein, Esterday, Fetzer, Krieger, Fahs, King, Jensen, Johnson, Smith. Then in 1921, Mr. Wm. Fischer was delegated to buy the Ross Church in Ohio, IL which he did at a cost of approximately $1,700 and became the “First Lutheran Church of Ohio.”

Member Chuck Fischer recalls that the old Molln School was eventually bought by Claude Bailey and moved two miles west of Mendota which was then known as “The Triangle” just off of route 34 across from what is now “Sip n Snack.” It was used as a tavern until it was abandoned.

Over the years, the Ohio church building has expanded. In 1931 an old school house was moved to the church property for a Parish Hall; 1956, a 40-foot addition was added for Sunday School rooms and the church basement excavated; 1973, a new educational building was constructed.

Nineteen pastors have served First Lutheran Church of Ohio. Some in the congregation can remember back to Rev J. Burritt. He was then followed by Reverends Doerman, Blobaum, Carlson, Ufkes, Russell, Mains, Johnson, Eckhoff, Harbaugh, and Vincent.

Janet Grossman, church organist for over 60 years, shares that church choirs have been organized for a good part of the last 30 years. The choir presented Cantatas, Lenten and Easter specials, and sang at regular Sunday services.

From 1983 to 2003, the Living Last Supper was presented at area churches by the men of First Lutheran Church, Ohio. Marc Schulte, presented the idea at a church meeting and it was immediately accepted by Pastor Mains, who said, “I know you men probably don’t like drama, but I do and think we can do this.” The plan was to only do it once as a church skit, but Schulte explained, “God worked through Pastor to work through us,” and for the next 20 years the Living Last Supper was presented at area churches, community services at Ohio and Walnut High Schools, long-term care facilities, and even Dixon Prison.

Church history documents the contributions of women’s groups throughout the years. Christmas Bazaars, Sandwich Suppers, and Mother-Daughter Banquets, etc. kept them busy. One local outreach project was acting as Room Mothers for the students at Nachusa Lutheran School. For 20 years the church women supplied treats for holidays, school supplies, and money to be used for the children who needed gym shoes, clothing, graduation dresses, glasses, etc. It is recalled that their gratitude was unending. The women of the church expressed, “After so many years of monthly meetings we truly felt like ‘sisters’ and had too much fun serving God and Ohio First Lutheran.”

The first youth organization was formed in 1928 with Mabel Norden, Alice Krieger, Henrietta Kramer, and Julius Kramer as officers. Although originally “Wartburg League” the name later changed to “Luther League” and is now referred to as ”LYO.” Devotions, fun times, and service have been and continue to be the purpose of youth gathering. Church members recall hayrides at Inez Norden’s home with homemade pizza and boat rides by Dean Geldean and Elliott Bruce at Lowell Park.

Memories of Sunday School abound as church members visit about their experiences. “My favorite songs were ‘I will Make You Fishers of Men’, ‘The B-I-B-L-E’, ‘Jesus Loves Me’, ‘Zacchaeus’, and ‘This Little Light of Mine’.” “Birthdays were special as with excitement you put your birthday money into the ‘church’ bank while the other kids sang to us.” “Sunday School Christmas programs were a magical night – all of us in our costumes, saying our memorized parts, and a box of Christmas (hard) candy that was handed out to us after the program finished.” “We spent 2 weeks at Vacation Bible School, and even ate lunch there.” “Every summer, we looked forward to our annual worship and Sunday School picnic held at Anderson’s Pond.”

On Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021, a special church anniversary service will be held from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Northern Illinois Synod Bishop Jeffrey Clements will give the message with several former pastors assisting in worship. The community is invited to attend.

Church History Books are available for $7 by contacting the church office at 815-376-7431.