Just over one hundered and two years ago, the community of St. Matthews Evangelical Lutheran church published a booklet commemorating their newly built church and its consecration on December 19, 1909. The church was located on the corner of 10th and Garfield streets in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The pastor at that time was August C. Bendler.
The booklet provides a brief history of the congregation’s buildings and members from the beginning through 1909.
The first picture of a building, dated 1865, depicts the small Erstes Gotteshaus (first church — the entire booklet is written in German). It was situated between 10th and 11th Streets on Beaubien Street, which was renamed Garfield shortly after that president’s assassination in 1881.
A second picture, dated 1870, shows a larger, two story structure with the church above and a schoolroom underneath.
Another photograph, dated 1875, shows an even more classically church-like building complete with a handsome steeple and rectory behind the church.
Finally there is a photograph from 1909, showing the subject of the booklet, the new church, with a tall clock steeple and bell tower. A pencilled notation on the photograph points out a water tower “200 ft high” in the distance behind the church.
I don’t know if any more church buildings were erected on that lot, but the congregation survived there for almost another fifty years. A Milwaukee Sentinal article, dated September 6, 1958, documents the closing of the church and its move west to North 84th and West Melvina Streets. According to the article, the Rev. Arthur Halboth succeeded his father-in-law, August Bendler as pastor in 1929 and cared for the congregation there for another three decades. (Bendler was pastor when the 1909 church was built).
St Phillip’s Lutheran church took over the 10th and Garfield property in 1958 and opened a church and school, which it maintained until that congregation moved again in 1965.
There is a St. Mathews Evangelical Lutheran Church in Wauwatosa, but it does not appear to be a descendent of the original St. Matthäus-kirche because the Wauwatosa church was founded in 1920, at which time the Milwaukee congregation was still going strong.
And apparently they still are, according to their facebook page, which gives the current address of St. Matthew Evangelical Lutheran Church & School as 8444 W Melvina St, Milwaukee, WI 53222. Their current building has eschewed the skyscraping spire for a more modern, low-profile building, but a school is still part of the proposition.
I wonder if the founding members, almost 150 years ago, could ever envision the progress and travels of their church, as it grew and moved across the city. In 1909, the community created a booklet to commemorate their history and progress. Today, it’s recorded in facebook and Google.
We’ve come a long way, grandma!