Church: Granton – Zion Am. Lutheran Church 100th Anniv. (2014)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Schmidt, Moldenhauer, Lautenbach, Witte, Kuehn, Brookhart, Helm, Hales, Dahl, Wesenberg, Hillert, Jonas, Ganther, Nickel, Gertner, Engelstad, Hill, Ulrich, Lamb, Lueneburg, Wilford, Garbisch, Ruggles, Hoyme, Winter, Steiner, Braatz, Schutt, Thiede, Woodkey, Pannier, Rothenburger, Karnitz, Chriske, Grassman, Booske, Parker, Sternitzky, Brookhart, Beilke, Hillert, Haas, Wischulke, Kurth

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 7/09/2014

Granton – Zion Am. Luth. Church observes Anniversary (100th - 2014)

Zion American Lutheran Church Observes 150th Anniversary

The Zion American Lutheran Church building shown above was constructed in 1881 after a fire destroyed the previous structure in 1880. Contributed photo

By Todd Schmidt

Plans are coming together for the 150th anniversary celebration of Zion American Lutheran Church (ELCA) of Granton.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) congregation will observe God’s merciful kindness for 150 years Saturday, July 19, and Sunday, July 20.

Intern Pastor Ken Schmidt, members of the planning committee and several long-time members of ZALC met Thursday to discuss the upcoming sesquicentennial and share details about the rich heritage of the church.

The group pictured above met at Zion American Lutheran Church of Granton Thursday to share bits of history and plans for the 150th anniversary celebration scheduled July 19-20. Seated (l-r) are planning committee members: Katie Hales and CJ Wesenberg and church member Doris Moldenhauer; (standing, (l-r), church member Alene Lautenbach, intern Pastor Ken Schmidt and planning committee member and church secretary Sonya Brookhart. (Photo by Todd Schmidt/Clark County Press)

On Christmas Day in 1864, several Lutheran families gathered in Granton to discuss forming a church. Forty acres of land were purchased in the Town of Lynn.

Shortly thereafter, the parcel of land was sold, and another site was purchased in the Town of Grant, where the present church stands along picturesque Hill Road.

The first church was built with logs in 1871. A parsonage was constructed a few years later. In 1877, a wood frame church was erected to replace the original log one.

That church building burned down in 1880, and a new one was constructed a year later. A parochial school was added in 1886. The church was then expanded into a brick building.

In 1882, the congregation split due to a controversy over predestination. In 1927, it was decided to have English services twice per month in addition to the regular German services.

The first “Ladies Aid” was organized in February 1899. The circle was eventually named the “Ruth Circle.” The “Rebekah Circle,” an evening Bible study group, was started in Feb. 1963.

The ladies’ group is now called the “Women of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (W/ECLA). The membership of approximately 80 ladies and 50 youth conducts a lot of fundraising and event planning activities.

Their mission statement is, “We ask God to grant us the ability, grace, health and strength to continue to serve our families, neighbors and community. May the work of all these hands be a blessing to Him.”

In 1929, the teacher’s house was moved about 1/8-mile down the road. Doris Moldenhauer said her grandfather bought the unused building for $500. She continues to live in the house today.

Alene Lautenbach recalled how the church bells tolled.

“On Saturday nights, the bell rang for 15 minutes,” she said. “When someone passed away, the bells tolled once per year for the deceased person’s age.”

The Zion Lutheran Church of Granton 1906 confirmation class is pictured above (l-r) Lily Garbish, Agatha Beilke, Bertha Hillert, Helena Beilke, Rev. P. H. Haas, Walter Wischulke, Harry Beilke, Art Kurth, Oscar Lautenbach and Emil Garbisch. Contributed photo

Electricity was connected in 1939. A new parsonage was purchased in the 1970s.

Lightning struck the church steeple in 1926 and major repairs were made. In 1985, the lighted cross on the steeple was repaired after being struck by lightning.

A new Allan computer organ was installed in 1992. In 2001, a handicapped-accessible restroom was installed in the narthex. A Granton High School art student constructed a new cemetery sign in 2009. In 2014, a computer file was started for all church records.

ZALC donated its country school building to the Clark County Historical Society. The 24-foot x 40-foot wooden structure was moved in March 1989 to the Colby Rural Arts Museum grounds.

Included in the transfer were four of the original hand-made seats, several antique church pews, the teacher’s desk, a wall bookcase and the original blackboard. The lumber for the building came from a 40-acre parcel owned by the church.

Zion American Lutheran Church has shared a pastor with Zion Lutheran Church-Pine Valley of Neillsville since 1871, when Pastor J. H. Witte was installed. In 1952, Zion Lutheran Church-Pine Valley joined the Granton Luther League.

The 150th anniversary planning began at the January 2013 church annual meeting. A planning committee was formed consisting of co-chairpersons Londa Kuehn and Sony Brookhart, Pastor Schmidt, Doreen Helm, Katie Hales, Eileen Hales, Marjorie Dahl, CJ Wesenberg and Dave and Carol Hillert.

“I started praying that I would live long enough to attend the anniversary doings,” Lautenbach joked.

Jeanette Jonas made the 150th anniversary banner. Artist Shawn Ganther of the congregation provided a charcoal drawing for the cover of the Anniversary cookbook, which features over 1,000 recipes. Anniversary polo and t-shirts were designed. Irene Nickel is working on a display of confirmation group photos to be placed on the wall in the fellowship hall.

The beautiful sanctuary at Zion American Lutheran Church in Granton is accented by a 150th anniversary banner made by Jeanette Jonas. (Photo by Todd Schmidt/Clark County Press)

Decorative envelopes were made by Sunday School classes. The envelopes are marked from $1-$100, seeking donations to support the anniversary celebration. Behind each envelope is a church history question.

A church trust fund contribution was also earmarked for anniversary expenses.

The anniversary celebration opens with a “True Harmony” concert Saturday, July 19, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. The live vocal gospel music concert will be followed by a picnic meat (5:15 p.m. to 6:25 p.m.), campfire worship (6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.) and fellowship activities, including S’mores (7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.).

Activities Sunday, July 20, include traditional worship (9 a.m.), pastor’s share time with acknowledgements (10:30 a.m.) a luncheon catered by Roger’s Grocery (11:30 a.m.), intergenerational activities (12:30 p.m.) and a contemporary worship service at 2 p.m. featuring music by “Saturday at Ten.”

ZALC is only the second church in the Northwest synod to observe its 150th anniversary. Thirty-three pastors have served ZALC over the years.

Pastor Schmidt said a number of former ZALC pastors have confirmed their attendance at the anniversary service, including pastors Willis Gertner (1971), Stephen Engelstad (1974-1977), Alice (Hill) Ulrich (1986-1990), Jerry Lamb (1991-1997), Keith Lueneburg (2003-2012) Dale Wilford (2012), ken Schmidt (2013-2014) and supply pastor Bob Garbisch.

Pastor Peter Ruggles of Good Shepherd Lutheran, Marshfield, currently serves as Schmidt’s internship supervisor. Pastor Ruggles will participate in the church service. Bishop Richard Hoyme of the ELCA Northwest Synod w ill give the sermon at both ZALC and Pine Valley that morning.

Pastor Edward Winter, son of Mr. and Mrs. Louis Winter, was ordained at ZALC June 20, 1954. He is the only son of the congregation to be ordained in the church’s existence.

A number of organists have served the ZALC congregation over the years, including the incumbent Marjorie Dahl.

CJ Wesenberg said a number of former organists have been invited to attend the festivities, including Jeanette (Hales) Steiner, Joanne (Braatz) Schutt, Gary Thiede, Joyce (Winter) Woodkey, Marian (Winter) Pannier, June (Rothenburger) Karnitz, Rose Ann (Rose) Chriske, Joanne (Grassman) Booske, Jay Parker, Nancy Garbisch and Donna Sternitzky.

Currently, ZALC ministers to approximately 90 families with an average attendance of 45 at Sunday services. Intern Pastor Ken Schmidt will be leaving shortly to finish his final year of schooling, and another intern pastor is likely to follow.

“Through 150 years here, God has continued to bless many people,” Pastor Schmidt said. “Hundreds of disciples have been baptized and confirmed here. Many gifted pastors over the years have presided over countless weddings, funerals, celebrations and other life events. The congregation loves its community and has always been an important part of the community. It will be interesting to see what God has planned for this congregation moving forward.”

For more information, call 715-238-7269 or email

This photo of Zion American Lutheran Church of Granton was taken July 3, 2014. (Photo by Todd Schmidt/Clark County Press)



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