A Brief History of Salem Lutheran Church of Stillwater, Minnesota.

Picture of the the old Salem Church buildingSalem congregation was born in September 1882. The root of Salem's existence begins many years prior at the very beginning of the Lutheran Church in Minnesota. In fact, Minnesota was not yet a state when the families that would later bring Salem into existence made efforts to form a Christian community in the St. Croix Valley.

About 1851, during the term of Governor Alexander Ramsey, a number of families from Baden, Germany, settled near Stillwater. They were Lutheran people, but found no Lutheran pastor or church anywhere in the surrounding territory.

In 1855, Pastor F. Wilhelm Wier, came to St. Paul. Hearing of the need for a Lutheran pastor in Stillwater, he set out on horseback to visit and preach to the new settlers. Pastor Wier arrived on August 17. In his diary, he made this notation on August 19, "I preached the first Lutheran sermon in Washington County in the house of farmer Albert Boese who had the best house suited for this purpose."

The congregation, under the spiritual care of Pastor Weir, soon purchased two acres of land on the Stillwater Road. This is the current home of St. John's Lutheran Church of Baytown, located across Highway 5 from the Stillwater High School. Worship services were held in member's homes until 1861, when a church building was completed. This building still exists today, it is the sturdy little white building behind St. John's Lutheran Church.

A disagreement over mandatory private confession lead to a split in the congregation in 1862. Rev. Friederich W. Hoffman, deacon of St. Elizabeth's Church of Berlin, Germany, accepted a call to serve as new pastor of St. John's. Rev. Hoffman also organized congregations in Horseshoe Lake, East Farmington (Wisconsin) and Stillwater. This new Stillwater congregation formed St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Again controversy split a congregation. The Predestination Controversy in 1882, caused St. Paul's pastor Rev. Friederich Siegrist and a large number of the congregation to withdraw from St. Paul Lutheran Church. The remaining members held firm to the doctrine of the Minnesota Synod. They called the Rev. Leonard F. Frey of Shakopee as pastor and formed the Salem Congregation.



The following is a brief synopsis of happenings of Salem Lutheran Church
beginning with its inception in September 1882.


Chronological History of Salem Lutheran Church

1882 (September 12) Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church is offically organized. The "Swedish Church" located at 4th and Oak Streets is purchased. A parsonage is obtained at West Pine Street. Later the same year, Pastor Leonard F. Frey is called as the first resident pastor. The church also offers a Christian school.
1888 Pastor Frey accepts a position as solicitor for the Minnesota Synod. Pastor P. Burkholz serves for a brief time.
1889 Pastor Henry Siech is installed.
1893 Pastor A.F. Winter is installed.
1899 (February 12) The church is severely damaged by fire. (April 2) A decision is made to rebuild and enlarge the structure. (December 3) Rebuilt church and school as well as a new pipe organ are dedicated. John Gieschen is installed as teacher in the Christian Day School.
1903 Pastor M. Sprengling is installed.
1905 Pastor W. J. Schulze is installed. Art glass windows are installed in the old church.
1914 Pastor J. W. F. Pieper is installed. He would serve 30 years.
1918 Salem's elementary school closes it doors. The lumber boom is over and families depart the Stillwater area leaving the school without the finances to operate with the few children remaining.
1924 (May) A new pipe organ is purchased.
1948 (June) Pastor P. R. Kurth is installed. He would serve 29 years.
1952 A new parsonage is built at 610 West Pine Street.
1957 A poor location and the need for expansion spur plans for a new church building.
1958 Salem joins with 11 other WELS churches to form the Twin City Lutheran High School Association. Plans proceed for purchasing land and construction of a new Christian school to be named St. Croix Lutheran High School. A Lutheran Pioneer group, Train 73, is organized at Salem.
1960 Plans are laid for a new church. A building drive begins.
1962 (May 20) Ground breaking ceremony for the new church on 62nd Street.
1963 (May 19) The new church complex is dedicated.
1972 (August) The first vicar begins his work.
1974 The Christian Elementary School reopens to students K-5.
1977 The church mortgage is completely paid. A mortgage burning ceremony takes place. A home adjoining the church property is purchase as a teacherage for the school principal. (December) Pastor D. M. Gosdeck is installed.
1980 (January) A centennial committee is authorized. (July) The first part-time church secretary begins work. (December) A decision is made to expand the present organ by adding a third set of pipes.
1981 (April) The parsonage at 610 West Pine Street is sold to allow the pastor to purchase his own home. The mortgage on the teacherage is paid in full.
1985 (October) Parsonage is purchased at 1520 West Linden Street. (November) Pastor Marcus Birkholz is installed and moves into the new parsonage.
1996 A major building expansion adds 3 large classrooms, the Family Center, Media Center and a conference room. Salem's first website pages are on-line, maintained by Wally Raleigh.
1999 Teacherage on the east end of the church property is converted to a preschool. At the completion of a remodeling project, the little red preschool opens to 3 & 4 year olds for the 1999-2000 school year.
2000 Salem discontinues vicar program and calls Rev. Joel Lintner as full-time associate pastor of Outreach & Family Ministry. Mr. Dave Noack assumes position of Salem School principal.
2001 (January) Barbara Miller joins Salem as parish nurse. (May) Salem continues it plans for school growth by calling an additional teacher. Mr. Jason Snodie joins Salem as a 4th grade teacher for the 2001-2002 academic year.
2002 Mrs. Ann Gutzke (Kindergarten) and Mr. John Dorn (grade 5) join the teaching staff of Salem School for the 2002-2003 academic year.

Today, Salem Lutheran Church is a congregation numbering over 800 members with a school serving children ranging from age 3 to grade 8. Salem is a member of the St. Croix Conference of the Minnesota District of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

Our Heavenly Father has preserved Salem congregation through financial hardships, wartime, the Depression and controversy. The congregation has also witnessed times of terrific blessing. Through it all, the message of Christ crucified has remained at the heart of this ministry. High on the wall of our church sanctuary hangs a cross representing the sacrifice Jesus made to save our souls. Jesus Christ is our source of strength, assurance of forgiveness and motivation for the Christian life that leads to an eternal fellowship with our Father and Brother in heaven.