A VOLUME many times the size of this little booklet could easily have been written concerning the history of the Salem Evangelical Church from the earliest beginnings, in 1873, to the day when the sixtieth anniversary is being observed. For varied and obvious reasons the committee has thought it wise to condense the wealth of available material into the brief form in which it is herewith offered.
Through the sixty years of history Salem Church records the ministry of only three pastorates. This rather unique fact naturally divides the life of the church into three distinct periods. Accordingly, this booklet presents the story of Salem Church in three chapters, each of which deals with the ministry of one of the three pastorates.
In presenting this souvenir booklet to the members and the friends of Salem Church, the committee expresses the sincere desire that it may be accepted as a tribute of abiding love for the men and the women who by their services and by their sacrifices and by their prayers laid a firm foundation sixty years ago; that it may be received as an expression of deepest gratitude to those who through all the years have cheerfully built on this foundation; that it may be used as a challenge to us in the present day that we remain loyal to the church which our fathers built, and that we strive, by united and continued effort, to lead her into richer experiences in the Christian life and into greater achievements in the kingdom enterprise.
We would express our deepest gratitude to the special committee whose members searched diligently all available records and consulted carefully every known source of information for items of general interest and permanent value to be included in this brief historical sketch of Salem Evangelical church.
The Sixtieth Anniversary Committee
The Earliest Beginnings
In the year 1832, two years before Rochester was incorporated as a city, first church service for the German families residing in this community as held under the leadership of Pastor Mueller in the Brick Presbyterian Church. In the following year Pastor Welden, an itinerant missionary of the Evangelical Lutheran Ministerium of New York State, organized a congregation which was named "The United Evangelical Church." Although the total number of German residents in Rochester at this time was only three hundred, the register of this first German Protestant Church contained the names of forty-three heads of families.
The Zion Lutheran Church
Pastor Welden was succeeded by the Reverend W. A. Fetter, who had previously served a small congregation in the village of Rush, New York. He was elected as permanent pastor in 1836. In the same year the corner-stone of the first German Protestant house of Worship in Rochester was laid at the corner of Grove and Stillson Streets. Owing to a controversy between the Lutheran and the Evangelical elements in the newly organized congregation, the building operations were retarded for several months. With the coming of the Reverend John Muelhaeuser, harmony was restored, and soon thereafter the young congregation was privileged to worship in its own sanctuary, the Zion Lutheran Church.
The Trinity Evangelical Church
Objection to certain elements in the Lutheran form of doctrine led a group of members to withdraw from the Zion Church in 1842. The outgrowth of this secession was the formation of the Trinity Evangelical Church, the mother church of Salem. A paragraph in the constitution of this congregation indicates that the founders of Trinity desired not to be known as "Lutheran," or as "Reformed," but wanted to build a United Evangelical Protestant Church. The spirit which motivated them is expressed in the official seal of the year 1849, which carries in the center as a motto, the words Ephesians 4:5, "One Lord, one Faith, one Baptism," emphasizing the unity of the Christian church. This passage was later adopted as the motto of the Evangelical Synod of North America.
After worshipping for five years in rented buildings, first in Ford Street near West Avenue and later in Allen Street near State Street, the members of Trinity congregation laid the corner-stone of their own church building on the north side of Allen Street near Fitzhugh Street. Here a brick building, forty by seventy feet in size, was erected which served the people of Trinity as their sanctuary through fifty-eight years. The names of six pastors are mentioned in the early history of Trinity, prior to the year 1861. Of these the Reverend C. Haass, 1849-1852, and the Reverend C. G. Clausen, 1852-1861, experienced most fruitful ministries. Under the leadership of the former a parochial school was established which existed through many years. During both of these pastorates the congregation enjoyed a steady and healthy growth.
With the arrival of the Reverend Philip Conradi, in 1861, began an era of unrest and discord which culminated in the resignation of the pastor and in the withdrawal of many of his staunch supporters from membership in Trinity Church. Together they organized St. Paul Evangelical Church and erected a new building in Fitzhugh Street, only a short distance away from the mother church.
Into the midst of a badly disrupted congregation and a most discouraging situation came the man who was called of God to lead Trinity to the very heights of Christian service and into a commanding position of influence in the community life. This man was the Reverend Carl Siebenpfeiffer who assumed the pastorate in Trinity on February 25, 1862, and who became, twelve years later, the founder and the first pastor of the Salem Evangelical Church.
The first church building in which Evangelical people in Rochester worshipped. It was located in Allen Street and served Trinity congregations as their sanctuary through fifty-eight years.
The Ministry of the Reverend Carl Siebenpfeiffer
1862 - 1894
The Reverend Carl Siebenpfeiffer was born on May 17, 1832, at Wachenheim in the Palatinate in Germany. This was the period of various revolutions throughout Europe. In those days in the Palatinate and the Rhine Valley there was rather intense feeling both for and against revolution. It is narrated that someone fastened an emblem of the revolutionary colors to the baby's clothing. At any rate, recently in the spring of 1932 in certain Centennial celebrations in Germany, especially that held at Hambach, the orators referred also to one "Siebenpfeiffer", and as the name is rare he may have belonged to this family. However, when the more violent revolutions occurred in 1848, the youth of 16 years was quietly attending the Latin school and 'gymnasium' in Speyer, an historic town further up the Rhine valley, in a region in which the agitation ran high. After four years we find him at Erlangen attending the theological courses at the university. He was so fortunate as to win a scholarship in theology, and this required that he must attend the university at Utrecht, Holland. Finally he completed his education, so far as formal schooling is concerned, at Heidelberg, in the year 1856, at the age of twenty-four.
Almost immediately he came to America, having been in communication with two noted German clerymen, the Reverend J. Hartmann and the Reverend F. Vogt. Hewas assigned to serve a group of small congregations in the western part of New York State, at Bennington, Sheldon and Orangeville, all being near Attica and therefore some fifty miles from Buffalo, N.Y. In 1859 he accepted a call to come to Black Rock, usually called North Buffalo, but today a part of that city. In 1862 he came to Rochester, N.Y., where he remained the rest of his life, some thirty-two years. At first he served Trinity Church which soon grew so large in its membership that the number of listeners could no longer be accommodated.
The outcome was that a new congregation was founded on the east side of the river, where in the years 1873 and 1874 Pastor Siebenpfeiffer's followers built the Salem Church and called him as their minister. He served this church nearly twenty years until ill health caused his retirement and shortly afterward his death on August 19, 1894. His devotion to Salem Church was most active and intense. The words "Salem" and "Siebenpfeiffer" became synonymous. The touching regard in which the people of Salem held him was exemplified in many ways, perhaps most notably in the fact that even today, nearly forty years after his death, a certain society of the church still places flowers upon his grave upon each anniversary of his birth.
His interest in the Synod at large was manifested in that group which at the time of his early residence in America was known as "The United Evangelical Synod of the East," which organization he served as vice-president. His founding and editing of the monthly paper of this Synod called "Die Union," in 1859, is proof of his aspiration to unite the various small groups of churches in a strong and effective body. This was a gradual process requiring many years of persistent and patient effort. He resigned as editor of this paper in 1863, having served five years, but a few years later he again edited the paper and continued to do so until about 1871 or 1872, when "Die Union" was discontinued to make way for the larger and older monthly called "Der Friedensbote," which had been the organ of the larger western Synod with which a union had been effected. From 1875-1877 he held the office of District President and in 1877 he was chosen to be the Chairman of the "Synodical Board of Educational Institutions." Later, from 1880-1882, he served the Evangelical Synod as General President, and from 1885-1887 as Vice-President. Already at that time ill health began to make itself evident, so that he was compelled to restrict his labors to his own Salem Church in Rochester. It became necessary to rely more and more on assistant ministers, until at last he had to resign altogether. This retirement was followed very shortly by his death in 1894.
A description of the character of the Reverend Carl Siebenpfeiffer is gleaned from the printed accounts given at the time of his death by his intimate associates, Pastors Schild, Henckell and Helmkamp. He was a man of stately bearing and a facial expression of intelligence, kindness and friendliness. He was an able preacher of great spiritual power, a ready extemporaneous speaker and a faithful leader of debate at the district and general conferences. In his pastoral work he was untiring, enthusiastic and devoted. His noble, lovable character won the confidence and the esteem of his ministerial associates throughput the Synod. His home life was beautiful. He married early, and his wife proved a true helpmate, first in that group of scattered country congregations, then in the short period of his ministry in North Buffalo, and especially during the thirty-two years in Rochester. She survived him less than two years. There were a number of children of which three, a son and two daughters, grew into manhood and womanhood. There was much hospitality in that small house surrounded by fruit trees and vines near the falls of the Genesee. He grafted successfully various kinds of fruit on these trees and the grape vines were carefully pruned. The garden and the bees were a source of great pleasure to him.
His library consisted largely of German hooks. Besides those in theology, there were the great poets, Schiller, Goethe and others, histories of the world, and books on plant and animal life. He loved to quote proverbs and lines of poetry, and with great facility and dignity he recited the choicest Scriptural passages. The social and economic questions of the day interested him greatly. The marvels of scientific discoveries stirred his admiration. The training of youth in accomplishment and cultural refinement had a place near his heart. But foremost and pervading all his effects was his love for the church of God.
In Trinity, 1862 - 1814
The Golden Age
The pastorate of the Reverend Carl Siebenpfeiffer is known as the "golden age" in Trinity. He was an eloquent preacher, and soon every seat in the auditorium was filled at divine worship. Many people waited for months to rent a sitting. A gallery was built which was also filled to capacity in a very short time, and still the cry for more room was heard. The average yearly number of baptisms reached two hundred, of confirmands eighty, of weddings sixty-five, of funerals sixty, and of communicants nearly one thousand. The parochial school, which was held in the basement of the church building, flourished in unprecedented manner. Among the teachers who assisted Pastor Siebenpfeiffer in this ministry of education in the old Allen Street school were the following: L. Hoffman, L. Braun, W. Kornhaeuser, J. Glick, J. W. Bober, A. Oberlaender, L. Ritz, H. Miller, J. C. Gauger and C. Schoepper.
A Compelling Need
As early as 1867 it became apparent that additional room for worship, for educational purposes and for the various activities in the congregational life must be provided. Many of the members recognized the urgent need of larger and better facilities. Most of them were agreed that the location at Allen and Fitzhugh Streets was very unfavorable and that a relocation was greatly desired. But whenever the matter of choosing a new location was presented for consideration, no agreement could he reached. Astime went on, the question became disturbing and caused considerable unrest and anxiety.
By 1873 the problem had become acute and demanded immediate action. On the thirtieth day of January a group of members who lived on the east side of the Genesee River and who were led by Mr. Conrad W. Zimmer effected a temporary organization and purchased from Shadrach Parson, for the sum of $7,500.00, lot No. 70 in Franklin Street, to be used as the building site in the relocation of Trinity Church The size of this lot was sixty-six by one hundred and sixty-nine feet. (Later, in June of the same year, the adjoining lot No. 69, thirty-three by one hundred and sixty-nine feet, was purchased from E. James McMahon for the sum of $7,700.) However, when the proposal to relocate in Franklin Street was made and submitted for action to the congregation, a majority of the members voted NOT to move to the east side of the Genesee River.
The Beginning of Salem Church
Following this action, the members on the east side decided to organize a new congregation under the name "The German United Evangelical Salem Church of Rochester, New York." Incorporation was effected on April 15, 1873, with Mr. Conrad W. Zimmer and Mr. George Herzberger as incorporators. At a meeting held in the home of the Marburger family measures were taken to proceed energetically and enthusiastically with the new organization. It was voted to purchase the building site in Franklin Street which Mr. Conrad W. Zimmer had secured solely on his own responsibility, and thus a place was found where the new spiritual home could be established.
On Pentecost Sunday, 1873, a call to become the first pastor of the newly organized church was extended to the Reverend Carl Siebenpfeiffer. After due and careful deliberation he accepted and promised to begin his pastorate in Salem Church on April 1, 1874. The announcement of his acceptance on the Sunday following Pentecost contains this statement: "For many years I, too, have entertained the thought of establishing in some more suitable locality a new and larger spiritual home, and since we, as a church, have grown stronger I have sought, at various times, to awaken your interest in the matter. In this I was prompted not by vain glory, but purely by the desire to secure for my congregation such a place in the community as it well deserves. Because of your unwillingness to agree upon the selection of a more favorable location, either on the east or on the west side of the river, my hopes and aspirations have not been realized. Too long we have presented to the world a state of indecision and controversy. On both sides mistakes have been made, hut upon me the whole matter has rested as a disgrace. I became convinced that we should never attain our goal unless some other way could be found. Then it happened that a member of our church, without my will, purchased a lot in Franklin Street, and that several others joined with him to offer it to you as a building site for a new church. By so doing they placed themselves in a position where they were compelled to go forward, even if you should decide not to accept their offer." These words show clearly the far reaching significance of those first steps which Mr. Zimmer and his associates had taken. Surely, these men were the instruments in God's hand, and due credit for their share in the beginning of Salem Church must ever he given them.
The Building Project
On May 27, 1873, the congregation adopted a constitution. In the same month an architect, Mr. Charles Coats, was engaged to prepare plans for a church and school building, the cost of which was not to exceed the sum of fifty thousand dollars. Only meager records concerning this first building project are available, but according to the reports of the first treasurer, the following persons loaned sums of money ranging from two hundred to twelve thousand dollars to finance the building operations: Frederick Deininger, Samuel Dubelbeiss, John Jenny, Jacob Marburger, Frederick Morhardt, John Neun, Carl Rau, Frederick Roth, Adam Schake, Catharine Schmidt, Peter Schneider, Elizabeth Simrock, John Weis, Rudolph Weis, Conrad W. Zimmer, George Zimmer, Mrs. W. C. Zimmer.
Later a mortgage for ten thousand dollars was obtained from the Rochester Savings Bank. The total amount of these loans approximated the sum of sixty thousand dollars. Until the year 1880 interest was paid at the rate of 7%; after this year it was reduced to 6%. By 1882 the congregation had paid, in interest, the sum of $43,000, and by 1889 the interest on the Rochester Savings Bank mortgage amounted to $8,450. In the light of these facts and figures we can appreciate the indomitable courage and the unswerving loyalty of our forefathers who founded Salem Church. By the end of June, 1873, contracts had been let to Rauber & Vicinus for the cellar excavation, to John Strauchen for the building of the cellar wall and to Stade & Husmann for the carpenter work.
The Laying of the Corner-stone
The work on the new building progressed so satisfactorily that the corner-stone was laid on Sunday afternoon, July 27, 1873, with appropriate ceremonies. On the next day the following account of the joyful event appeared in the "Democrat and Chronicle":
"The corner-stone of the United Evangelical Salem Church was laid yesterday afternoon with appropriate exercises. A temporary floor had been laid over the foundation walls, but this did not accommodate more than a fraction of the immense assemblage drawn together by the occasion. Nearly all the German Protestant congregations of the city were represented in large numbers. The Salem Society was organized in April as a branch of the Allen Street Church, and about that edifice a procession was formed consisting of the 'Zion Society of St. Paul's Church,' the 'Zion Association of the Grove Street Lutheran Church' and the 'Benevolent Society of Allen Street Church.' Captain Heinrich's Military Band was in the van of the procession. At the new church a covered platform had been arranged for the speakers, and the stand was further protected from the sun by flags. The exercises opened with singing by the Rochester Swiss Society. Then followed a psalm and the singing of Luther's hymn, 'Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott,' by the whole gathering accompanied by the band. An address was delivered by Pastor Grotrian of St. Paul's Church. After singing by the 'Liedertafel', the corner-stone was laid by Pastor Siebenpfeiffer according to the ritual of the Evangelical Synod. In the corner-stone were placed copies of the Bible, the Catechism of the United Church, the Constitution and the history of the church, the names of all the contributors toward the building fund, the German newspaper of July 26, which announced the laying of the corner-stone and the program for the occasion, and a package containing German and American coins given by Messrs. Fichtner and Rohr. The choir of the Trinity Church sang, and then the Reverend Oskar Kraft of Newark, New Jersey, gave an address for which he had chosen the text Acts 20:32. A song by the 'Maennerchor' followed, after which Pastor Siebenpfeiffer made brief concluding remarks. Finally the gathering joined in singing 'Nun danket alle Gott.' The exercises throughout were of a highly interesting character, the addresses being impressive and peculiarly appropriate, while the singing was inspiring."
In addition to the contracts which had been let in June others were given to the following firms and individuals:
Masonry - John Mauder,
Stone - Halloway and Marnington, M. H. Fitz Simons,
Lumber - Crouch and Craig,
Heating - Gommenginger Allen Company,
Steeples - Dave Whalen,
Art Glass Windows - Bohn Riester Company,
Gas Installation - Herman Mutschler,
School Furniture - Jacob Suter.
The total contracts together with the cost of the building site amounted to $61,836. To this amount must be added various other expenditures, including the organ, which brought the entire cost of the building enterprise to approximately $65,000.
When we consider the value of the dollar in those days, these figures represent a large investment. They bear witness to the love of the founders for their church and to their willingness to make sacrifices in material things for the satisfaction of their spiritual needs.
In Salem, 1874-1894
Leaving the Mother Church
The Reverend Carl Siebenpfeiffer and the members of the new congregation severed their connection with Trinity Church on April 1, 1874. Until the new sanctuary was completed, church services were held in the Sunday school building which was dedicated on Easter Sunday, 1874. The first entry in the official records of the new church was made on April 3, 1874. During 1873 and the early months of 1874, Pastor Siebenpfeiffer held the singular position of being the minister of two congregations who worshipped together in the same building, Trinity Church. All the clerical functions such as christenings, weddings, funerals, et cetera, were recorded in the books of the mother church, until the time when the new congregation actually occupied its own building.
The new church was dedicated on May 3, 1874. The day was beautifully clear and comfortably warm, so that a throng of fifteen hundred people gathered early in the morning. At ten o'clock the procession which formed in the school house, in the rear of the church, proceeded toward the front entrance. It was led by the following clergymen:
The Reverend Carl Siebenpfeiffer,
The Reverend Philip Grotrian, St. Paul, Rochester,
The Reverend Carl Schild, St. Paul, Buffalo,
The Reverend C F. Soldan, Friedens, Syracuse,
The Reverend C. G. Claudius, West Turin, New York.
The church council was represented in the procession by three members, Messrs. William Wolff, Conrad W. Zimmer and John Schaeffer. Mr. Wolff carried the silver communion service, and each of the other two carried a Bible, one for the altar and the other for the pulpit. Then followed the school children, the members of the congregation and the many guests in order. The service was begun at the main entrance by Pastor Siebenpfeiffer with a three- fold knocking on the door in the name of the Holy Trinity, after which he spoke the words of Scripture: "Open wide ye gates that the King of Glory may come in." Then the procession entered the building which was fully completed. Not merely on the altar and the pulpit, but also throughout the entire auditorium there was an abundance of fragrant flowers. At ten-twenty-five o'clock a mixed chorus, led by the organist, Mr. Dettmar Poppen, opened the festive program with an inspiring anthem. Following the invocation Pastor Claudius read the 84th psalm. The prayer of dedication was offered with much feeling by Pastor Siebenpfeiffer and found a most grateful response in the hearts of the people. The Reverend Carl Schild of Buffalo delivered the principal address on the text Psalm 118:19, "Open to me the gates of righteousness, I will go into them and I will praise the Lord." He said in part: "This psalm expresses our deepest feelings upon this joyous occasion. We now have a new temple. Our earnest hopes have been fulfilled. This beautiful House of God is a memorial to Evangelical enthusiasm and sacrifice. Approach the ture in harmnony and with love for one another, and God will not withhold His blessings." Then followed the installation of Pastor Siebenpfeiffer as minister of the new church by the Reverend Philip Grotrian, assisted by the Reverend C. F. Soldan and Reverend C. G. Clausen. Thereupon the pastor conducted the installation of the newly elected church council which consisted of twelve members.
The other speakers in the dedicatory service were the Reverend Mr. Claudius who was formerly a minister of the local Reformed Church, and the Reverend J. B. Shaw, D.D., of the Brick Presbyterian Church, Rochester, who spoke in the English language. He encouraged the congregation not to be distressed by its heavy financial burdens, but to work together in the spirit of love and unity toward a glorious goal. The Reverend C. F. Soldan made the closing address. Some thirty-three years before the founding of Salem, at a time when there were but few German people in Rochester, this elderly man was a preacher here.
On the day of dedication the new congregation received as special gifts three large Bibles from Mrs. C. Rau, Mrs. S. Loescher and Mrs. C. Scholl respectively; a communion service and a carpet from the women of the church; two altar chairs from Frederick Roth; the altar and the black altar cloth from the Siebenpfeiffer family; and the white altar cloth from Mrs. J. Weis and Mrs. C. Meitzler. The baptismal font of Italian marble was made by Henry S. Hebard. It was to cost $100, but Mr. Hebard contributed $50 toward it, and the Young Ladies' Society paid the balance. The beautifully upholstered chair on the pulpit was made by Messrs. Fifrenberger and Einsfeld, who presented it to the church as their contribution. Mrs. A. Gruber had written a poem dedicated to the congregation which was read at the close of the service.
In the evening another service was held in which three other ministers, Pastors Berner, Feld and Zimmer who Had arrived in the afternoon, took part. The Reverend H. Zimmer, a son of the council member, George Zimmer, gave the principal address.
The Charter Members
The list of the charter members, as it appears in the early records of the church, contains the following seventy-nine names which represent the heads of families.
|Christ Aebersold||Frederick Imhof||Frederick Ruckdeschel|
|Christ Balke, Sr.||John Jenny||Conrad Senn|
|Christ Balke, Jr.||Ernest T. Kettwig||Carl Seitz|
|Henry Bender||Benjamin Kiefer||Jacob Suter|
|Frederick Deininger||John Keifhaber||Philip Schaad|
|Christ Dirn||John Kohler||John Schaeffer|
|Philip Dettmann||Jacob Laufer||Adam Schake|
|Matthew Dubelbeiss||Henry Lauterbach||Christ Schminke|
|Samuel Dubelbeiss||John Leffler||Peter Schneider|
|George Einsfeld||Benedict Lehman||Christ Schoenthaler|
|John Einsfeld||Samuel Loescher||Basil Schorer|
|Henry Eipp||Jacob Marburger||Adam Stauch|
|Nicolas Endres||Henry Mausnest||William Steul|
|John Faerber||Henry Mohrhardt||John Strauchen|
|Carl Fanner||William Miller||John R. Strauchen|
|Frank Fritzsche||Frederick Nelson||Otto Thenn|
|Valentine Fuchs||John Neun||August Ude|
|Christ Gieselbach||John Popp||Jacob Weible|
|Henry Grab||Dettmar Poppen||John Weis|
|George Heidrich||Christ Rapp||Rudolph Weis|
|Carl Hempel||Alfred Raeppel||Henry Weitzel|
|Christ Hempel||Carl Rau||William Wolff|
|John Herdt||Rudolph Rehbahn||Jacob Zieres|
|George Herzberger||Caspar Rehberger||Conrad W. Zimmer|
|Henry Hoffman||Christ Riess||George Zimmer|
|Henry Husmann||William Ritter||William Zimmer, Jr.|
The First Church Council
The following men constituted the first church council of the new congregation:
John Schaeffer, Samuel Dubelbeiss, William Wolff - Elders,
Conrad W. Zimmer, John Weis, John Kiefhaber - Trustees,
John Neun, Frederick Ruckdeschel, William Steul, Frederick Nelson, Henry Hoffman, George Zimmer - Deacons.
On May 7, 1874, this council held its first official meeting in which permanent organization with the election of the following officers was effected:
The Reverend Carl Siebenpfeiffer, president
Mr. John Neun, secretary
Mr. Conrad W. Zimmer, treasurer
Mr. John Kiefhaber, treasurer of benevolences
Mr. William Steul, treasurer of offerings.
The deed of the church property was transferred to the trustees on June 14, 1874.
Signs of Progress
The organ, a fine and adequate instrument, which served the congregation through many years, was dedicated on July 15, 1874.
On March 25, 1875, Salem Church became a member of the Evangelical Synod of North America.
During the year 1875 five hundred and eighty-eight of the available 1,018 sittings were rented.
A house to house canvass which was authorized by a special congregational meeting early in 1878 resulted in the collection of $8,825. By the end of that year the indebtedness of the church had been reduced to $37,500. At the close of Pastor Siebenpfeiffer's ministry the total debt was only $8,000.
The New York District Conference met in Salem Church in June, 1878, and again in 1891.
There was no bell in the tower of the church at the time of the dedication, and the absence of it was noted with deep regret by many. However, within one year a voice from the belfry summoned the people to worship on Sunday mornings. And it came about in this manner: Mr. and Mrs. Charles Priem, who were among the most loyal supporters of the new church, suffered the loss, by death, of their son, John, a boy of only thirteen years of age, in 1874. As a memorial for their beloved child, the bereaved parents placed a large bell in the tower of their church. It is of exceptionally fine tonal quality, weighs 2,500 pounds and cost a thousand dollars. Since 1875 this bell has sent forth its appealing message into the community and it still serves the purpose to which it was dedicated nearly sixty years ago.
In 1887 Trinity, St. Paul and Salem united in celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of Pastor Siebenpfeiffer's ministry in Rochester. More than two thousand persons participated in the impressive ceremonies. The decorations of the sanctuary under the direction of the Ladies' Society were most artistic and elaborate. A large portrait of the pastor framed in roses and forget-me-nots, a shield of ground moss and "everlasting" flowers, bearing the inscription "God with Us," a banner inscribed "To the Honor of our Faithful Pastor," and the motto "One Flock and One Shepherd" with the numerals 1862-1887, were suspended over the altar. The Pastors E. Jung, H. J. Henckell, P. Zeller, G. Kammerer and F. Schroeck escorted the beloved leader from his residence to the church. The Reverend Mr. Jung of Buffalo preached the anniversary sermon and the Reverend Mr. Henckell of Trinity Church made the presentation of a silver tea set on behalf of the congregation. At three o'clock in the afternoon a special Sunday school service was conducted in the church auditorium by the Reverend F. Schroeck of East Eden, N.Y. This service was missionary in character, and an attendance of 620 members was recorded. At the evening service addresses were made by Pastors G. Kammerer, F. Schroeck and P. Zeller. On the following Friday evening, the church officers and the choir members called at the pastor's home and presented him with $250.00 in gold and with handsomely framed portraits of the church officers.
As early as 1888 the decline in Pastor Siebenpfeiffer's health necessitated the co-operation of assistant pastors. In this position the following ministers rendered acceptable service:
The Reverend George Kern, September, 1888 - May, 1889.
The Reverend William Baur, June, 1889 - March, 1892.
The Reverend Carl Loos, November, 1892 - November, 1893.
The Final Summons
Year by year the condition of Pastor Siebenpfeiffer's health became more alarming. To his deepest regret and to the unspeakable sorrow of his beloved people he was compelled to tender his resignation on September 14, 1893. Through twenty significant years he had proved himself a faithful servant of the Lord Jesus Christ and a devoted minister to his fellowmen. In these twenty years he officiated at 3,608 baptisms, 1,341 weddings, 1,673 burials and received 1,603 young people into the fellowship of the Christian church through the solemn rite of confirmation.
The final summons into the higher life came on Sunday, August 19, 1894. On the following Wednesday morning, August 22, at nine o'clock, brief services of comfort were conducted at the family home, after which the body was taken to the church and placed in front of the altar. There it lay in state until the time of the funeral services at two-thirty o'clock in the afternoon. The members of the church council acted as guard of honor. Literally speaking, thousands of men and women in varied stations and walks of life came to cast a last look of love upon the face of their esteemed leader and friend. Long before the time set for the services to begin, the church was filled to the doors and hundreds who were unable to gain admittance stood outside on the steps and in the street. Expressions of tender affection and sincere appreciation came from the hearts and the lips of young and old, as they were conscious of the painful loss which they had sustained.
The services opened with a prayer by the Reverend J. F. W. Helmkamp who had become the successor to Pastor Siebenpfeiffer. The choir of the church honored their shepherd in the singing of several of his favorite hymns. In his funeral sermon on the text 2 Samuel 3: 38, Reverend Mr. Helmkamp paid a very touching and most eloquent tribute to the blessed life and the glorious ministry of his departed predecessor. He challenged the people of Salem at all times to remain faithful to the cause of Christ in order that they might meet their beloved pastor again, in the life which is eternal. He was followed by the Reverend Emil Henckell, who chose for his text 1 Peter 1:24- 25. The Reverend A. Berner of Buffalo and the Reverend P. Zeller of Rochester also participated in the services.
A vast throng of people accompanied the remains to the beautiful Mt. Hope Cemetery, where the body of Pastor Siebenpfeiffer found a quiet place of rest.
The men who served as bearers were Messrs. E. B. Beck, Charles Weis, Henry Husmann, John Schmidt, George Becker and Charles Hempel. The nearest surviving relatives were his devoted wife, Marie Hillenbrand Siebenpfeiffer; one son, William Siebenpfeiffer; two daughters, Mrs. Charles P. Henn and Mrs. J. George Kaelber; one sister, Mrs. Jacobine Lausterer; and four grandchildren.
And thus the first chapter in the history of the Salem Evangelical Church was written. A glorious chapter it is, and the man who wrote it has gone to his reward. But Pastor Siebenpfeiffer is not dead. He lives - in thousands of hearts and homes he lives. The streams of blessing which by word and deed he sent out into the world are flowing on and on; from generation to generation. We, who live in the present day, are inspired and challenged by the ministry of love which he rendered so faithfully unto the very end.
The Ministry of the Reverend J. F. W. Helmkamp
1894 - 1910
John Frederick William Helmkamp was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on November 7, 1857, the third son of John F. Helmkamp and Frederika, nee Penningroth. His mother died when he was but two years old, and he was reared by his godly step-mother, whose influence gave direction to his later life. When he was seven years of age, his parents moved to Moro, Illinois, where he attended the country school a few months each year to obtain a primitive elementary education. He was confirmed at the Evangelical Church near Moro. Until he was twenty-one years old he worked on his father's farm. He then entered Elmhurst College to prepare himself for parochial school teaching hut was encouraged to turn to the ministry instead. Upon completion of his course here in 1882, he entered Eden Seminary to obtain his theological training, and was graduated in 1885. His first pastorates were at West Waco, and Neu Braunfels, Texas. In 1887 he was married to Miss Emma A. M. Bohle of St. Louis, Missouri.
From 1889-94 he served as the first pastor of St. John's Church in Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania, and during this time the church and the parsonage were built. In 1894 he was called as the successor of Pastor Siebenpfeiffer to Salem Church in Rochester, New York, where he served until 1910. While under the heavy burden of this charge his health failed and he was obliged to give up this work. Thereupon he was able to serve, for short periods, Evangelical churches in Batavia, Westchester, and Lockport, New York. In 1913 he and his family moved to Kansas, where he served the congregations of Trinity at Highland, Immanuel at Newton, and Salem at Wichita. For a period he served these three churches at the same time. During 1918-20 he had charge of Immanuel Church in Sedalia, Missouri.
In 1921, at the request of the Central Board of Home Missions he went to California to organize an English Evangelical church in Los Angeles. He founded St. John's Church in that city and served it until his retirement in 1923. Even then his ministerial activity did not cease. For brief periods he was called upon to serve St. Matthew's Church at San Rafael and St. John's Church at Pomona, California.
He died at eleven o'clock Sunday morning, December 28, 1930, at the age of seventy-three years. His faithful wife followed him on June 29 of the present year (1933). Their union was blessed, with six sons: Albert of, New York City; Ralph of Rochester, New York; William of Los Angeles, California; Herbert of Denver, Colorado; Elmer of the U. S. S. Texas; George of Los Angeles, California.
Pastor Helmkamp was an active, aggressive spirit of more than average ability, which manifested itself in and outside his pulpit. His ability as an organizer and administrator found recognition outside the parishes he was privileged to serve. For several terms he acted as president of the New York District and for many years he was a member of the synodical Board of Foreign Missions. He will be remembered as the founder of St. John's Home for the Aged in Rochester, New York. His ordination text, St. John 7:38 ("He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his body shall flow rivers of living water"), found real significance in his life. It appears to be more than a mere coincidence that the two churches which he founded in Sharpsburg and Los Angeles, the one at the beginning and the other at the close of his active ministry, and also the Home for the Aged, founded during his long pastorate in Rochester, all bear the name of the disciple in whose gospel these words are found.
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