The St. Paul Lutheran Church in Farmington is reaching a significant milestone on Sunday as it celebrates 150 years of ministry to the residents of St. Francois County. The church has had a long and storied history of growth and community service through the years that continues to this day.
A long history
According to church records, the congregation began as a “preaching station” around 1859. Services were held in the public school building in the Copenhagen community. After that school burned, the organizational meeting was held in Philip Lorenz’s tailor shop on Columbia Street. When the Rev. Obermeyer, the first resident pastor, arrived, services were held in several locations, including the Northern Methodist Church on Henry Street, the Southern Methodist Church, a public school building and the St. Francois County Courthouse.
In October 1874, the congregation purchased one acre of land for $175 located on the south corner of Columbia and Carleton streets. The first church, a 30 x 50-foot wooden structure with a steeple, was built for $2,800 on the northwest corner of that plot. A man named Fred Reuter mortgaged his home to raise the funds. This structure served as the church’s house of worship for 33 years, as well as serving as the school and parish hall. At the same site, a three-room parsonage facing Carleton Street was erected in 1875 and later enlarged in 1896.
The first school was held in a house rented from M.P. Cayce for $8 a month. As the school grew, the church was also used for classes. Soon, it became apparent that a building was needed to house the school. A two-room building was erected just east of the church; however, it soon proved to be too small, so it was moved adjacent to the parsonage and annexed to it.
During the pastorate of Rev. Klug, land across Columbia Street was purchased. Along with church member William Brockmiller, Klug solicited funds to build the church at a cost of $16,000 that still stands at the north corner of Columbia and Carleton streets. It was built in a Gothic architectural style of red-pressed brick trimmed with Bedford stone and a slate roof. The steeple rises to a height of 80 feet and is home to a bell that weighs more than 1,400 pounds.
The main auditorium seated 350. There were classrooms across the rear of the sanctuary that, when the partitions were moved, enlarged the seating capacity to 500. The organ used in the old-frame church was moved to the left of the altar. The church was heated by a furnace and was one of the first in town to be powered by electricity since electrical power had come to Farmington only a day or two before the church was dedicated. Lightning and high winds damaged the steeple in 1939, requiring repairs.
By 1949, the congregation had grown to the extent that plans were made to enlarge the church, redecorate it and purchase a new organ. The choir loft was added, and the organ was placed in it. A communion rail was also added. The décor of the pulpit, altar and lectern was changed to woodgrain, and the front entrance was moved from the corner of the building to the very front of the church facing Carleton Street. During the renovation, services were held in the school auditorium. The church was dedicated in 1949.
The church was redecorated in 1965, and air conditioning was added. In 1987, a meeting space, crying room and restrooms were added on the main level of the church, and on the basement level, a meeting room, small kitchen and restroom were added. The school was expanded in 1955 when, at a cost of $62,000, two first-floor classrooms and restrooms were added, along with a cafeteria in the basement.
With the school building built in 1926 bursting at the seams, a new school was planned to be built in two phases. Phase one was placed east of the old school. It consisted of three classrooms, restrooms and a multipurpose building. It was dedicated in January 1992. Phase two added 10 classrooms, restrooms, office space for the school, and a kitchen. Some of the classrooms were used for a library, music, science, and computer studies. It was dedicated in August 1998. With the demolition of the 1926 school in 1999, the present parking lot was built on the site. The school’s current enrollment is more than 300 students.
With continued growth in enrollment, seven additional classrooms, the Commons, and addition additional office space were added in 2011. Then, in 2012, the Schramm house, which had been purchased earlier by the congregation, was remodeled to house the new St. Paul High School. The school remained there for three years. The house was then used as the elementary school library before being used for other purposes. The building at 4337 Showplace Drive was purchased in 2014, and the high school was moved there.
According to St. Paul’s pastor, the Rev. Stephen Constien, the congregation is planning several special events on Sunday in recognition of the church’s 150th anniversary.
“Normally, over the weekend, we have three different services, but we’re just going to have one service on Sunday,” he said. “It’ll be at 10 o’clock. That will be followed by a big meal and celebration time. Some former pastors will be returning, and the president of the Missouri District of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, will be preaching. Some of our former church members and friends will be returning, so it will be kind of a homecoming. Some local officials have also been invited.”
Sharon Sherrill, a long-time teacher at the church’s elementary school, added that some of the school children will be performing during the service as well.
Asked what message the church wants to convey to the community, Constien said, “So many people in town have been touched by the service and ministry of the church, as well as our school, which has reached out to so many families —even beyond our church family — who have been touched by that ministry.
“Our church has deep roots in the community. It has a lot of impact spiritually, educationally, and service-wise. We’re thankful to God for all that and hope by his grace that that continues and increases. Everybody’s welcome to join us and rejoice in Jesus and all of God’s gifts he has given to us. We’re thankful for the support and love of the neighbors and community around us, too. Everybody’s welcome to join us and rejoice in Jesus and all of God’s gifts to us. We’re thankful for the support and love of the neighbors and community around us, too.”
Tag: Kevin R. Jenkins is the editor of the Daily Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.