St. Thomas Lutheran Church
St. Thomas Lutheran Church
OHIO CITY — St. Thomas Lutheran Church, 6299 German Church Road in Ohio City, is beginning a year-long celebration of the church’s 170 years of ministry to the local area.

The road, German Church, was named after St. Thomas because of its inception as a German church. Church services, as well as many of the early church records, were in German.

Some of the headstones, located in the Evangelical/Prostestant Cemetery, which is shared with St. Paul’s Reformed Church in America, are in German. The cornerstone of the current church structure is dated 1898.

The year of events will kick off with a fish fry this Saturday from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. The fry is a Thrivent financial action project. Proceeds will go to church ministries at three local schools, Crestview Heritage Board, Lincolnview Bible Board and Van Wert Cross Over the Hill.

The earliest roots of the church ministry were sown in 1839 when German immigrants that began to settle in the community and began to hold services in each other’s homes. One of the most noted preacher/missionaries that moved into the area was Frederick Wyneken, who came upon the German settlement at Schumm. As he served for a short time in Willshire Township, it is anticipated that some of the early pioneers of worship of the St. Thomas Church in Harrison Township may have also received their preaching from him.

In 1846, J.G. Burger came to Van Wert County from Marysville and organized Zion Lutheran in Schumm. At that time, the early beginning of St. Thomas Church was being held in a log cabin. Following the untimely death of Burger, John George Streckfuse was called to Zion Schumm. In the summer of 1947, 170 years ago, he organized St. Thomas congregation.

Under the leadership of candidate Erhardt Riedel, installed on Dec. 29, 1850, a constitution was adopted and signed on Oct. 6, 1854 by the pastor and nine members.

Initially, three congregations shared the same pastor, St. Thomas, Zion and St. John’s of Convoy. As the congregations began to grow, each began to offer their own teaching of children at different periods of the week. Early in 1876, St. Thomas purchased a public school building and continued to use it until 1899.

Records show that by the time St. Thomas celebrated its golden jubilee celebration, there were 189 souls, 113 communicants, 46 voting members and 38 children in the summer school. Steady growth continued and on the celebration of the diamond jubilee on Sept. 17, 1922, there were 239 souls, 176 communicants, 66 voting members and 35 children.

Over the years, various building and musical updates and the commitments of generations of faithful families have kept the church in consistent service to the community.

One such member, Greg Ilderton, is very active in planning this year’s celebration event. Ilderton’s wife, Marti, has been involved with the church for 60 years. Ilderton’s father told him of a time when there was a two-lane bowling alley associated with the church and young people would be paid 25 cents for setting up the pins.

The next immediate activity will be the annual seminarian recognition dinner on Sunday, March 26, at 11:30 a.m. Later in September, a former pastor, Robert D. Schuler, pastor from 1969-1982, will be giving a guest message.