Church History – 100 Year Celebration
Salem E.U.B. Church History
Compiled by Mildred Noth
for the, Salem Church Centennial Celebration
Early church, family and township history are very closely woven. The townships of Sheldon and Ridgeville, where the Salem Evangelical Church work began, had their beginning in the early 1850’s. In the Township of Sheldon the first settlers came up the Kickapoo River, then followed the Moore’s Creek valley north, working in the lumber and opening farms bought from the U.S. Government. This valley was known as Moore’s Creek. The Township of Ridgeville, lying just north of Sheldon, was also settled by farming pioneers. Many of these came over the ridge on roads through Tomah. Manual Metzgar came directly from Germany to this area, settling on land just south of what is now the Village of Norwalk on the farm now owned by Harlan Ruskell. This valley was known as Metzgar’s Valley.
Most of these settlers were German people and talked in the German language. They had belonged to the Evangelical and Reformed Churches. Among the group who bought land in 1855 was Jacob Menn. Coming with the Menn family was their daughter, Mathilda and her husband, the Rev Henry Esch. Rev Esch had been a minister in the Illinois Conference of the Evangelican Church. Because of failing health, Rev Esch did not take an appointment, but came with the Menns and bought two hundred and eighty acres of land across the valley from their home. Missionaries coming through stopped at the Esch home and then held preaching services in the Menn home where Rev. Esch also did some preaching. Interest in the work grew rapidly and on July 27, 1856, the first Quarterly Conference was held in the Jacob Menn home. The officers of this meeting were George Esher, Presiding Elder; C.A. Schanake and Henry Esch, Pastors; Otto Kuderling and August Rath, Class Leaders; Jacob Menn and Fred Markgraf, Exorters. It was called the Kickapoo Mission of the Sauk Circuit. Ministers were appointed from Sauk. Although Rev. Esch was not an appointed pastor of this circuit, he was invited to sit at all the Quarterly Meetings until 1862 when he again took an appointment, the Hartford Circuit.
In 1863 a small log church was built, also a home for the pastors. These early ministers traveled over this area, often preaching in homes and schoolhouses until 1925. Oil City, Ridgeville, Rockton, La Farge, Viola, Brush Creek and Brecken Ridge were regular meeting places.
A cemetery was formed on land donated from such use by Jacob Men.. It is now known as Wanderers’ Rest.
In 1875 Jacob Menn donated one and one-half acres of land to be used for a church and pastor’s house, “said land to be surrounded by a board fence”. The present Salem Church of cream colored brick, was erected. Each family helped in the work so that they might have a beautiful house for worship. The bell was drawn to its place in the steeple by a horse. Since then its tones have announced each worship service, weddings, and in time of sorrow the tolling for some loved one gone to their External Rest. To old log church was taken apart and the logs used to build the Gottleib Stecker home. The pastor during this building was Rev. Christ Mueller.
History states that in 1878 the village of Norwalk was newly organized. In that year the Evangelical Church was started in the village. A wagon shop was bought to be used for Church Services. It was given the name Immanuel. Interest in this village church grew rapidly, and new parts were added to the building In 1930 the new church of brick veneer with large auditorium, Sunday School room, and choir loft were dedicated by Bishop L.H.Seager of Le Mars, Iowa. An electric organ and chime record system were dedicated later. The present membership of Immanuel Church is one hundred and eighty five.
The two churches, working together, were give the name Norwalk Circuit. Quarterly Meetings and Communion services were held jointly, alternating between the two churches. One pastor serves this field.
In 1907, at the time J.A. Siewert was pastor, a new parsonage was built in the village of Norwalk. The old parsonage adjoining Salem Church was sold. It s now the home of the Edwin Hoffman family.
Many improvements have been made in the Salem church building. In 1915 when Rev. C. E. Maves was pastor, new pews and pulpit were bought. The stained glass windows were also added at this time. The long windows of colored glass have a blue circle at the top, in the center of which are church symbols – the harp, Ten Commandments, open Bible, an anchor, communion cup, a crown, a jeweled cross and crown, and the HIS. In 1925 electric lights were installed to take the place of the kerosene lamps. In 1943 Nuwood was put on the walls and ceiling and a beautiful picture of “Christ in Gethsemane” was painted by Theron Dodd of Prairie du Chein.
The two oldest organizations in the church are the Sunday School and Youth Fellowship. Many Bible verses and stories have been learned in Sunday School with the reward of a Bible or Testament. Each year the Children’s Day and Christmas program were looked forward to and an offering taken for Missions and orphan children. The young people of Salem Church are now a part of Immanuel Y.F. Officers are from both churches, Devotions, Mission Study and Recreation are a part of their program. The women formed a Mission Society in 1926 under Rev. H.A. Block’s leadership, but since 1951 united with Immanuel W.S.W.S. The men are also members of Immanuel Brotherhood.
Norwalk Circuit entertained three Annual Conferences, the 47th session in 1903, 62nd session in 1918, and the 80th session in 1936.
As the Conferences of the Evangelical Church and the United Brethren in Christ joined on November 16, 1946, we are now part of this great Evangelical United Brethren Church.