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Emmanuel Lutheran Church

Emmanuel Lutheran Church image Emmanuel Lutheran Church image Emmanuel Lutheran Church image
Jason Birchmeier
Rights Held By
Ypsilanti Historical Society
OCR Text

High atop the eastern bluffs of the Huron River, overlooking Riverside Park, an unassuming parking lot fills with cars every Sunday morning. The street address, 201 North River Boulevard, is located at the intersection of North Street, about halfway between Side-track Bar & Grill, on the corner of East Cross Street, and Kentucky Fried Chicken, on the corner of East Michigan Avenue.

There is little traffic here between Cross St. and Michigan Ave., yet cars have filled the parking lot at 201 River every Sunday for decades. Whenever these cars rest there by the dozens, filling practically every available space of the slick blacktop, a diverse assembly of worshipers congregates inside the adjacent Emmanuel Lutheran Church.

If the parking lot is unassuming, the church is quite the opposite. There, on its perch atop the river bluffs, Emmanuel Lutheran Church hovers above Ypsilanti. The Gothic-style church reaches toward Heaven, with walls of Sandusky gray limestone and stained-glass windows highlighting its mighty facade. At its highest peak, a 1,000-pound bell inscribed “Evangelische Lutherische St. Immanuels Kirche. 1892.” rings at 8:15 and 10:45 am each Sunday. It has for generations.

Inside the 87½-foot-long and 54-foot-wide exterior, church members sit among one another in wooden pews within a sanctuary fit for 400. They sit beside their families, they greet those nearby, they smile and laugh with one another, they listen to Pastor Hendricks and admire his humor, they sing hymns, they pray, they read from the Bible, they receive the sacrament of Holy Communion, they usher their children off to Sunday school — in sum, they do as Lutherans do. And they do as they've done here at Emmanuel Lutheran Church for well over a century.

Actually, make that about a century and a half. While the towering structure perched atop the eastern bluffs of the Huron River dates back only to 1923, Emmanuel Lutheran Church itself dates back another six decades, to 1859, when it was established in the home of Mr. and Mrs. George Ehman. This Ypsilanti congregation, at that time comprised of 16 charter members, was one of about 20 established by the Rev. Friedrich Schmid, the first Lutheran pastor in Michigan.

“…the story of Emmanuel is partly the story of 19th century Germans who emmigrated to Washtenaw County in search of a better life and religious freedom.”

The story of Emmanuel Lutheran Church is therefore interwoven with the story of Pastor Schmid, a most legendary missionary, as well as that of other nearby Lutheran congregations, chief among them Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church in Scio Township. Too, the story of Emmanuel is partly the story of 19th century Germans who emmigrated to Washtenaw County in search of a better life and religious freedom. For while Emmanuel today is a diverse and unquestionably “American” congregation (opposed to strictly German-American), its roots reach clearly back to Germany, more specifically Württemberg, a southwestern region of that country which most notably encompasses Stuttgart and is now part of the larger state of Baden-Württemberg.

It was from Württemberg that the initial German Lutheran families came to Washtenaw County. Key among them was the family of Johnathan Heinrich Mann, a Württemberger who had immigrated to Reading, Pennsylvania. Along with Daniel Allmendinger and Abraham Kromann, Mann traveled to Washtenaw County in the summer 1829 in search of good land on which to establish a farm for himself and his family. These men found promising farmland in Scio Township, west of Ann Arbor, which by that time was beginning to develop as a city, with the establishment of the University of Michigan over a decade earlier, in 1817. Once these men had secured their land, they returned for their families, with whom they returned the subsequent spring, in 1830.

The completion of the 360-mile-long Erie Canal in 1825 permitted easy travel from New York to Michigan — relatively easy, that is. Rather than cross the densely forested countryside from the Atlantic coastline to Michigan by foot, horse, or wagon — or most likely, a combination of the three — pioneers could board a steamboat in New York City, travel 160 miles up the Hudson River to Albany, and switch to a horse-pulled canal boat for the remainder of the trip to Buffalo, before boarding a lake steamer that would traverse Lake Erie all the way to either Monroe or Detroit. Then from there it was only a hop, skip, and a jump to Washtenaw County. Not only was this route via the Erie Canal much faster, but it was also considerably safer than crossing the countryside.

Moreover, homestead grants of 160 acres of land in Michigan around this time were here for the taking, so long as the land would be settled properly. Additional acres were sold for $1.25 each, as if the grants alone weren't incentive enough. Needless to say, this created a rush for land in Michigan Territory; statehood wouldn't be admitted until 1837. The first significant wave of settlers in Washtenaw County arrived in the early 1820s and claimed much of the best land (i.e., the higher, more level land, especially along the major pathways such as what is now Michigan Avenue). These settlers were generally Englishmen from the Atlantic coastal states. Hence English-language town names like Chelsea, Manchester, Bridgewater, Saline, and Ann Arbor (originally spelled in the British manner, Ann Arbour).

The Germans came to Washtenaw County, and America at large, a little later. The Napoleonic wars gripped Continental Europe until 1815, resulting in little to no emmigration, and their aftermath brought about significant change, including the abolishment of feudalism and serfdom. In particular, these wars ravished the southwestern region of Germany, which borders France along the Rhine River. This ravishment, along with crop failures, drove thousands of Germans to emmigrate, primarily beginning in the 1830s, in order to escape famine. Later generations emmigrated also for political and religious reasons, for instance following the failed German Revolution of 1848 and the post-unification of Germany in 1871 under the reign of the Iron Chancellor, Prince Otto Edward Leopold von Bismarck.

Between 1820 and 1900 nearly five million Germans settled in the United States. By 1850 approximately 4,102 German-born pioneers were listed in the U.S. Census for Washtenaw County. Keep in mind, however, that until 1871 Germany as a unified country didn't exist. German immigrants listed their place of birth not as “Germany,” but as Württemberg, Bavaria, Baden, Prussia, et al. Variations in language and religion, in addition to other cultural practices, distinguished Germans from one another. “Chain migration” was partly a consequence of this, as Germans tended to emmigrate to places where they could be among others who shared their customs, chief among them dialect and faith.

Washtenaw County attracted Germans who spoke the Swabian dialect, which is characteristic of the southwestern region of the country (i.e., Wüttemberg), and who were Lutheran. This was the case of the aforementioned Mann family, and it tended to be the case of the several thousand German settlers who arrived in Washtenaw County afterward, in the 1830s and 1840s. Most of these Germans settled in the heavily wooded, rolling plains southwest of Ann Arbor, where they could farm and live among themselves: southern Scio Township, northern Lodi Township, southeastern Lima Township, and northeastern Freedom Township were the epicenter of settlement.

Upon the arrival of the initial Württembergers in Scio Township in 1830, there was no Lutheran church in the entire Michigan Territory. This didn't prohibit these early German settlers from worshiping, however, for every Sunday they would congregate in someone's home to read the Bible, pray, and sing hymns together. After a couple years of this practice, Mann, in company of his fellow Lutheran settlers, wrote a letter to the Rev. C.C. Blumhardt of the Evangelical Missionary Society of Basel. Mann requested that the Missionary Society send a Lutheran pastor to Michigan to accomodate the increasing number of German immigrants.

Now known simply as the Basel Mission, the Evangelical Missionary Society of Basel had been founded as the German Missionary Society on September 26, 1815. The Mission was begun by a group of six Christians, some of whom were Lutherans from Württemberg, as a seminary for the training of missionaries. With the permission of the overruling government, the Mission opened on August 26, 1816, with seven students overseen by the Rev. Blumhardt. Today it's one of the biggest and oldest German-speaking Protestant missionary societies in the world. In addition, it's international as well as interdenominational, with established centers in West Africa (1828), India (1834), China (1847), Cameroon (1886), Borneo (1921), Nigeria (1951), and Sudan (1973).

Per Mr. Mann's request, the Mission agreed during a January 1833 meeting to dispatch the Rev. Friedrich Schmid to Michigan. Born September 6, 1807, in Walddorf, Württemberg, Schmid was the son of the little village's blacksmith. His parents, Friedrich and Katharina Schmid, were not only pious but evangelical. As a child, Friedrich Jr. was enthralled by the stories of missionaries who traveled overseas to Christianize heathen peoples. At the age of 17, in 1823, Schmid expressed his interest in missionary work to the village schoolmaster, who in turn passed it along to the Basel Mission. The young man, who exhibited a strong acumen for learning and physical fitness on account of his daily blacksmithing, was granted an interview with the Mission following the schoolmaster's recommendation.

With the consent of his parents, Schmid was admitted to the Mission and began preparing for overseas work. He was ordained on April 8, 1833, accepted the call of Mr. Mann, and left Basel two days later, bound for the Michigan Territory, where he would join his fellow Swabian-dialect Lutherans. Schmid left Europe on June 8 on the vessel Florida, which set sail from Le Havre, France, bound for New York. He arrived in Detroit about ten weeks later, on August 16, becoming the first Lutheran pastor of Michigan.

Schmid was greeted rapturously in Detroit by his fellow Lutherans, and August Kunz welcomed the pastor to stay at his home. The following Sunday, August 18, 1833, in a carpenter shop of John Hais (the present-day site of the Ford Auditorium), Schmid held the first Lutheran church service in Michigan. A dry-goods box ornamented with pine boughs was used as a pulpit, and several children were baptized. This congregation, established as the German Protestant Church, would evolve over the years into what is today known as Old St. John's.

On Tuesday morning Schmid left on foot for Ann Arbor, and the following day he arrived at the home of Mann, where he would reside. That Sunday, August 26, 1833, the first Lutheran church service in Washtenaw County was held, in a country schoolhouse on Territorial Road, about four miles west of Ann Arbor. This schoolhouse was little more than a crude log cabin. The sermon was based on 1 Corinthian 3:11 (“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ”).

A collection of Schmid's letters to the Mission were translated from German to English in 1953 by Emerson Hutzel, and among their many wonders is this revealing passage about the original settlement of Germans west of Ann Arbor, as well as the Native Americans with whom he took great interest and hoped to Christianize:

“Ann Arbor is a little village, mainly of English people, only a few German families are in the city, the remaining families, perhaps four to fourty-six, live out in the woods and forest. Everyone has his house upon his property, and for that reason the Germans often live as much as six miles from one another. Often there are many houses that are not far apart, so that one can see from one to the other. The little village lies upon a very beautiful and healthy elevation.”

“The Germans are looked upon as heathen that do not have a pastor, a gathering house, or a school. As the non-Germans heard that I was here, many of them came to our meeting in order to see what our services were like. They expected to find something entirely new, and since that was not the case, they left one after another, because they couldn't understand German.”

“There are also a few Indians about here, but some forty-five miles from here, there are many. They are brown in color, have silver and lead rings hanging from their ears and their noses, and have long black hair. Most of them are quite naked, some entirely. They are very accommodating and will do a great deal for a single glass of brandy. Pitiful creatures they are.”

A month later, on September 20, 1833, what is now the congregation of Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church, was established, comprised of 33 families in its first year. At the first meeting of this newly established congregation, it was decided that a church would be constructed. The aforementioned Daniel Allmendinger donated an acre of his land for the construction. The schoolhouse would be used for worship in the meantime, as work began immediately on a church, called Zion. Dedication services were held not long thereafter, on the second Sunday in Advent, December 15, 1833. The following year the church was incorporated as “Die Erste Deutsche Evangelische Gesellschaft zu Scio” (The First German Evangelical Society of Scio). It was 26-feet wide, 32-feet long, constructed entirely of wood.

“The Germans are looked upon as heathen that do not have a pastor, a gathering house, or a school. As the non-Germans heard that I was here, many of them came to our meeting in order to see what our services were like. They expected to find something entirely new, and since that was not the case, they left one after another, because they couldn't understand German.” — Pastor Schmid

Zion Church stood a mile and a half west of Ann Arbor, on the northeast corner of what is now Bethlehem Cemetery (2801 Jackson Avenue, just west of the I-94 overpass — a stone marker can be seen from the road). It was the first to be built by Germans in the Michigan Territory. The total cost of construction was $265.32, and the first year's offerings amounted to a modest $13.29. As the years passed and the congregation grew, the Lutherans of Scio built a larger church, Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church, on what is now Scio Church Road. The old church was sold for $40 in 1881 and subsequently torn down, to the dismay of many today.

Schmid remained close to the Lutherans of Scio for years to come. He even married Mann's 17-year-old daughter, Sophie Louise, in September 1834. This union resulted in 12 children: Emanuel, Louise, Frederick, Marie, Lydia, Elizabeth, Jonathan, Timothy, Sophia, Nathaniel, Anna Catherine, and Theophilus. Schmid lived in a house across from the church, and it was from there that church business was conducted. Consequently, Salem became a magnet for German Lutheran immigrants, as they were offered shelter and assistance with securing land, in addition to spiritual guidance. Schmid remained pastor of Salem until 1867, when he relocated to Bethlehem Lutheran Church, on the Old West Side of Ann Arbor, where he preached until 1871, when bodily ills finally forced him to resign.

Schmid may have been based in Ann Arbor throughout his career as a pastor, but make no mistake, his missionary work was wide-ranging. He regularly traveled back and forth to Detroit, stopping at Lutheran settlements along the way, including Northfield Township, Plymouth, Wayne, and Monroe. In addition to establishing congregations in these settlements, he had a circuit to the west that included Chelsea, Waterloo, Freedom Township, Roger's Corner, Bridgewater, and Saline. And once his father-in-law supplied him with a riding horse, Schmid was able to establish even further congregations, including Adrian, Marshall, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Saginaw, and even a Native American missionary outpost in Sebewaing, way up in the Thumb, along Saginaw Bay.

You might imagine the zealousness that must have propelled Schmid on these far-flung preaching circuits. Whether on foot or, in later years, horseback, he traversed the forested wilderness of Michigan alone. He carried with him an axe to clear the path when necessary, a candle-lit lantern to illuminate the darkness, and a blanket to warm him as he slept along the way. He traveled along Native American trails and made an effort to study the Ojibwa (i.e., Chippewa) language, for he harbored a deep-rooted passion to Christianize those nomadic forest dwellers with whom he came into contact over the course of his frequent travels.

Schmid often traveled through Ypsilanti en route to or from Detroit, and over time he became aquainted with a growing community of German Lutherans on the city's east side. These Ypsilanti Lutherans had no church of their own; however, they congregated regularly in the home of Mr. and Mrs. George Ehman, much like how the Germans of Scio Township had once congregated in the Mann home. Indeed, with the guidance of Schmid, it was in the Ehman home that St. Emmanuels Evangelische Lutherishe Geminde was established in 1859. In English, the church was known as Emmanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church.

The 16 charter members of Emmanuel were N. Bamor, C. Breining, G. Ehman, F. Dergler, J. Collins, G. Erich, Y. Hartman, G. Franz, C. Kohler, O. Lang, G. Otto, L. Schade, C. Siegmund, G. Schweizer, A. Thumm, and G. Warner, Descendants of these charter members comprise the church's present-day congregation. It's presumed that most of these charter members were German immigrants from Württemberg. For example, Census data from 1880 confirms that this in the case of George Ehman (or Georg, as it's spelled in the Census), who evidently emigrated from Württemberg to Scio Township in 1842, before moving to Ypsilanti. In addition, 1880 Census data for Breining, Hartmann, Kohler, Lang, Schweitzer, and Thum, if not the others, further confirms the Württemberg roots of the charter members of Emmanuel.

The Emmanuel congregation continued meeting at the Ehman home until a church was built. This took place in 1860, a year after the congregation was established, and the church was erected at the corner of East Michigan Avenue and North Grove Street. (Today, this is the location of Kluck's Drive-In, an increasingly novel 50s-style “drive-in” food establishment that remains popular, if outwardly dilapidated.) At the time of its silver anniversary in 1884, Emmanuel counted 52 families among its membership. In 1886 a day school was built beside the church, and in 1892 came electricity.

An undated photo titled simply “The Lutheran Church,” in The Story of Ypsilanti, published in 1923 to commemorate the city's centennial, shows a rather impressive white frame church with a tall spire, surrounded to the east by fenced-off open land. The author of this hard-to-find book (reprinted in 1976 by the Ypsilanti Bi-Centennial Commission), the Rev. Harvey C. Colburn, made initial mention of Emmanuel as such:

“In the early Fifties a Lutheran pastor, Reverend Frederick Schmid, labored in Washtenaw County, travelling from place to place, preaching and administering the means of grace as he found groups of his brethren in the faith. Under his leadership, in 1859, the Emmanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized…. The first officers were George Ehman, J. Collier, Martin Ehrich and George Otto. The lot on the corner of Michigan Avenue and Grove Street was donated by Mark Norris for church purposes…. The German language was used exclusively for many years in the services of worship, and the children of the parish were required to learn to read and write German before confirmation.”

Between its 1859 establishment and 1890, Emmanuel was led by a series of pastors — the Revs. Husbaum, Marchand, Stein, Miller, Lederer, Turk, Schoensperlen, Abelmann, and Konka — before the calling of the Rev. Henri Luetjen, who served the congregation for 22 years, beginning in 1890. When Pastor Leutjen finally retired in 1912 for health reasons, he was succeeded by the Rev. Hugo Fenker, who also served the congregation for a long period, all the way until 1944. Pastor Fenker remained at Emmanel until his death on the first Sunday in December of that year; fittingly for a man of such committment, he passed away suddenly with his hat on his head and his Bible in hand, on his way out the door for that morning's service.

Pastor Fenker's 32 years of service were pivotal. His arrival alone triggered a period of significant change for Emmanuel. His calling in 1912 had been partly on account of Pastor Leutjen, who upon his retirement urged the congregation to call a pastor who could preach in English as well as German. After all, from the establishment of the church in 1859 until that point in 1912, worship services were strictly conducted in German. Moreover, they were conducted in Hochdeutsch (high German), the standard dialect associated with literature, including the Bible. In fact, it was Martin Luther's translation of the Old Testament from the original Hebrew, published in 1532, that initiated the spread of Hochdeutsch as the standard literary dialect.

Hochdeutsch is markedly different from the nonstandard dialect that most members of the Emmanuel congregation spoke at home, which generally would have been the Schwäbisch (Swabian) dialect of southwestern German. Unlike the various dialects of English — say, Southern opposed to East Coast, or British for that matter — which are distinct yet mutually comprehendible, Hochdeutsch is practically a different language, not only in terms of vocabulary but especially pronunciation. This presented a major hurdle: the church services of Emmanuel would be incomprehensible for those of the congregation who weren't schooled in Hochdeutsch. Hence the church's day school, where pupils — children as well as non-German-speaking spouses — were taught Standard German, so that they could understand the worship services and ultimately read the Bible as translated by Luther.

And so with the arrival of Pastor Fenker in 1912 came the arrival of English, as he began holding alternate services in each language, with the German one reserved for those older congregation members who were more comfortable with their mother tongue. In addition, Pastor Fenker broke the custom of men and boys sitting on the left side of the church, with women and girls on the right; henceforth, families sat together, as they do today. Plus, a number of groups were formed within the church: the Ladies Aid organization, the Dorcas Society Circle, Junior and Senior Luther Leagues, the Men's Brotherhood, the Deaconess Girls, the Altar Guild, a children's Mission Band, a Junior and Senior Choir, and the Mary Martha Missionary Society, among others. Several of these were organized by Mrs. Fenker, who was heavily involved with church happenings, as was the pastor's son, Luther, who directed the Senior Choir, and daughter, Betty, who directed the Junior Choir and served as the church's organist until her passing in 1970.

The culmination of these new practices within the church, above all the introduction of English, led to a surge in the membership of Emmanuel. A new, larger church consequently was built in accommodation, the one that stands today on North River Boulevard. To again reference the Rev. Colburn's The Story of Ypsilanti:

“After the change of language [to English] the number of members steadily increased. The old church building was quite outgrown. In 1912, the Luther League and Ladies' Aid Society began the work of gathering funds for a new building. Final resolution to proceed with the erection of a new house of worship was made in 1921. On [Sunday, August 27], 1922, the cornerstone of a beautiful stone building on River Street was laid and now the edifice is rapidly rising toward its completion.”

The plot of land at 201 North River was given to Emmanuel by a longtime congregation member, John Engel. The location was ideal — in roughly the center of the congretation, near downtown yet apart from the business section, sloping toward the river, with street frontage of 66 feet, and 180 feet along the Huron.

The building committee included Pastor Fenker, Emil Lidke, Louis Stein, Mrs. Louis Stein, Charles Hipp, Joseph Beach, Ottmar Koch, Louis Wolter, Albert Esslinger, John Magle, Mrs. John Magle, John Engel, Anna Schaner, and Clara Schmid. This committee chose an architect (Frederick Spier of Spier & Gehrke, Detroit) and contractor (J.E. Scott & Co.); Lewis Wenzel & Co. of Ypsilanti furnished the stained glass and painting; Theodore Kundtz Co. of Cleveland designed, built, and installed the pews and chancel furniture; Washtenaw Electric Shop installed the wiring; Barnes-Gayney Co. of Detroit manufactured and installed the lighting fixtures; Ypsilanti Sheet Metal Works furnished the roof and sheet metal work. The total cost, including all the furnishings, was about $55,000.

Construction of the new church was completed in 1923, not long after the centennial of Ypsilanti and the publication of Colburn's book. A dedication was held on December 23, 1923. Per tradition, the design of the church was planned in the form of a cross: the nave forms the body of the cross; the chancel its head; and the two transcepts the two arms. The auditorium seats 400; the balcony over the narthax seats an additional 100. The chancel measures 18 feet by 30 feet and boasted a top-of-the-line Moeller pipe organ.

As originally planned, the church included a basement that housed the Sunday School meeting area, rest rooms, and a small kitchen. The Emmanuel ladies' groups held some wonderful fundraising dinners in this cramped area, while the Men's Brotherhood group held famous fish fries. Later, following the influx of families after World War II, the congregation saw the need for more educational and meeting space as well as larger kitchen and restroom facilities. Local architect Ralph Gerganoff designed the educational wing as it exists today. Pledges of $200,000 led to groundbreaking in 1956, with a dedication on October 6, 1957. A lounge with a small kitchen was added to the main level as part of this redesign project, as were offices, Sunday School rooms, restrooms, a nursery, and a gathering space.

After Pastor Fenker's passing in 1944, the Rev. Harley Sipe (1945–1963) assumed leadership and oversaw Emmanuel's peak membership. The pastor's son, Theodore, was later ordinated on June 19, 1955. Soon after, in 1959, Emmanuel celebrated its centennial, and a pageant comprised of nearly 200 members was staged at the Ypsilanti High School auditorium by Luther Fenker, the late pastor's son. In 1960 Emmanuel joined the American Lutheran Church denomination as a result of the ALC's merger with other Lutheran synods.

Several pastors served at Emmanuel between 1963 and 1974 before the Rev. Carl Leach restored stability upon his arrival on November 4, 1974. On his watch, congregation membership increased greatly, and five vicars from Trinity Lutheran Seminary trained for one year each. Pastor Leach's time at Emmanuel, which lasted until 1991, remains greatly valued.

In 1984 Emmanuel celebrated its 125th anniversary, and the church underwent a remodeling shortly thereafter. The office areas were enlarged and brought up to date, with the purchase of a computer, printer, and copier; in addition, Sue Sukach and Russel Witte wrote and installed software particular to the church's needs. The Moeller organ was replaced with a modern one that uses some of the original pipes. Furthermore, the church roof underwent repairs, the sanctuary was redecorated, new carpet was laid, and a new sound system was installed.

In 1996 the basement-level kitchen was refurbished with new cooking, refrigeration, and dishwashing equipment, new cabinets, and a ceramic tile floor at a cost of $85,000. Initiated with a substantial sum given in memory of a former kitchen and hospitality chairperson, members of the congregation gave generously to complete this project.

Presently, the Rev. David Hendricks serves as interim pastor while Emmanuel engages in a call process for a permanent leader. The congregation seems hopeful and looks forward to the church's sesquicentennial in 2009. In the meantime, the church's calendar is full of activity. Besides worship services on Sunday mornings, Emmanuel is home to a number of thriving organizations, including Sunday School, Boy Scout Troop 290, Emmanuel Lutheran Church Women, Retired Men's Group, and Ypsilanti Community Choir.

Moreover, Emmanuel assumes responsibility for a number of social concerns: a pantry that issues emergency groceries, a regular series of Tuesday dinners, a clothes closet, and a medical loan closet.

As a result of the merger of the American Lutheran Church, the Lutheran Church in America, and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches in 1988, Emmanuel is now a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Further information about Emmanuel itself can be found at the church's website (http://www.emmanuelypsi. org). Membership classes are offered for any interested parties and can be arranged through the church office (734–482–7121).

Much of the history specific to Emmanuel that has been chronicled above was originally compiled by Edith Lidke, a lifelong member of the congregation. She wrote an article, “Brief History of Our Church,” dated April 4, 1976, that has been most invaluable for the purposes of this article. Barbara Miller, presently a member of Emmanuel since 1958, also provided valuable insight and commentary.

Acknowledgements must be made also to Emerson Hutzel, whose 1953 translations of the Rev. Schmid's letters to Basel were likewise invaluable. Anyone interested in the life of Pastor Schmid, or 19th century missionary activity for that matter, is recommended to seek out these letters, for they're a fascinating read. Their account of Schmid's passage from Germany to the New World is detailed, and his several accounts of Native American activity throughout the area are especially interesting. These letters can be found at the Ann Arbor District Library (AADL R977.435 Hu) as well as at the Bentley Historical Library on the North Campus of the University of Michigan (

The Bentley Historical Library houses a number of key texts that were referenced for this article: A Short Sketch of the Missionary Activity of the First Lutheran Pastor in Michigan, the Rev. Fredrick Schmid from 1833 to 1871, which includes a first-hand biography of the pastor by his son, Friedrich Schmid, Jr., originally written in German in 1908, later translated into English by H. Rittmeyer, and eventually published by Robt. E. Erickson in 1932; History of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Washtenaw County: A Short Sketch of the Missionary Activity of the First Lutheran Pastor in Michigan, the Rev. Fredrick Schmid, which is a related text, published in 1932, that includes capsule histories of area Lutheran churches founded by Schmid, including emmanuel; Faith in the Forest: A True Story of Pioneer Lutheran Missionaries, Laboring Among the Chippew Indians in Michigan, 1833–1868, originally written and published by Charles F. Luckhard, Sebewaing, MI, in 1952, and reprinted by Walt J. Rummel, Red Flannel Underwear Press, in 1999; “The Michigan Spirit,” an article written by Edgar H. Hoenecke that is part of Michigan Memories: Things Our Fathers Have Told Us, published by the Michigan District of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod in 1985.

Lastly, an acknowledgement must be made also to the tireless research of Terry Stoll-steimer. He maintains an extensive database of the genealogy of most of the German settlers of the United States. He, along with Dale Herter, recently authored “A History of the German Settlers in Washtenaw County, 1830–1930,” published on If you're at all interested in geneology, you should give it a look — it's a standard-setter. Also on the Web, Linda Gorlitz, the archivist of St. Thomas Lutheran Church, Ann Arbor, published a helpful bibliography listing a wealth of sources related to the history of the Lutheran Church in Washtenaw County (http://personal.cuaa. edu/~lcthomas/archivist.htm).

Given the array of sources referenced for this article, errors were likely made and incorrect information was likely cited. Often, different sources offered different accounts, especially in the case of dates and names; moreover, the older the time frame, the greater the likelihood for competing accounts. So certain decisions had to be made with reasonability, taking into account the authority and reliability of each source. Corrections and comments can be directed to the author (birchmeier@gmail. com), who is not Lutheran, nor a member of the Emmanuel congregation, but is of German ancestry and presently resides in Ypsilanti. His family is part of the Saginaw-area settlement of German Catholics generally associated with Frankenmuth.


Ypsilanti Gleanings