Our History

It all began in 1874. First American Lutheran Church has a rich history in and around the community of Oconto, Wisconsin.  We continue to grow and learn in God’s love and look forward to an enriching future.

1874-1875

In the fall of 1873, Pastor Charles Lieb (1874-1875), a traveling missionary, came to Oconto for the first time.  He discovered that the evangelical Lutherans in the community were worshipping with a Methodist congregation served by a pastor from Green Bay.  When Pastor Leib offered to establish a Lutheran congregation here, the Lutherans gratefully accepted his offer and called him to be their pastor.

1874

The Evangelical Lutheran Immanuel’s congregation was formally organized on January 1, 1874.  A parsonage was purchased for the pastor’s residence, and also for a place of worship.  On November 22, 1874 the first church building was dedicated – a modest frame structure, thirty feet by forty feet.

1875-1879

Pastor Lieb stayed with the congregation until 1875.  Pastor W. Buehring (1875-1879) followed.  During his tenure, the Evangelical Lutheran Christuscongregation of Pensaukee was organized, which he also served.

1881-1886

Pastor C. W. Allbrecht (1879-1881) was followed by Pastor H. Burnmann (1881-1884), who was followed by Pastor G. F. Keller (1884-1886).  Pastor Keller organizedEvangelical Lutheran Zion congregation in Stiles.

1886-1891

After Pastor Keller’s death, Pastor C. M. Weltner (1886-1891) agreed to serve the congregation.  In 1889, the first church building was partially destroyed by fire.  The present brick structure, which still serves, was erected.

Church 1889

 1889

1891-1933

After Pastor Weltner accepted a call to Ohio, he was succeeded by Pastor John Luepke (1891-1892).  Pastor Luepke’s health forced him to resign within the year.  A call was then extended to Pastor Herman Eisenbach (1892-1933) of Van Dyne, Wisconsin.

Eisenbach

 Rev. Herman Eisenbach

1919

Up until this point, the worship services were in German.  In July of 1913, it was voted to hold one English service per month.  In April of 1919, it was voted to have two English services and three German services a month.

1921-1973

Other changes appeared, as well.  In 1921 the segregation of the sexes to opposite sides of the sanctuary was discontinued.  In 1935, women were given the right to vote on all church matters, though they were not eligible to hold church office.  A woman would not serve on the church council until 1973.

1930

In July of 1930, the church was badly damaged by a roof fire.  Worship was held atTrinity Lutheran Church until repairs could be completed.

 Church 1930

 1930 Fire

1933-1941

After Pastor Eisenbach’s retirement, Pastor E. T. Reiff (1933-1941) of Wausau was called.  On January 7, 1943, the congregation voted to use English at every 10:15 a.m. service, and German at every other 9:00 a.m. service.

Reiff

 Rev E. T. Reiff

1935

On April 7, 1935, the congregation voted to change the name of the church from the Evangelical Lutheran Immanuel’s congregation to “First American Lutheran Church”.

1941-1945

Pastor Reiff was succeeded by Pastor Herman Cronrath (1941-1945) of Nekimi,Wisconsin.  Pastor Cronrath’s ministry covered turbulent years of World War II.  After Pastor Cronrath left, there followed a frustrating period when several calls were extended and returned.

Cronrath

 Rev. Herman Cronrath

1945

In the interim, Pastor Frank Zaiser (1945) of Marinette served the needs of the congregation.

1945-1955

Pastor Rudolph Huget (1945-1955) of Calgary, Canada became the twelfth pastor of the congregation.  After Pastor Huget accepted another call, Pastor Frank Zaiser (1956) again served briefly as the interim pastor.

Huget

 Rev. Rudolph Huget

1956-1966

Pastor Ralph Hanusa (1956-1959) was followed by Pastor Wayne Keotz (1960-1961), who was followed by Pastor Leonard Domke (1942-1966) under whose leadership, plans were laid to build a new educational unit and parsonage. The old parsonage was sold in July of 1969 and moved off-site. The present parsonage was built at a cost of $25,000 and dedicated on April 9, 1967.

Hanusa

 Rev. Ralph Hanusa
Domke
Rev. Leonard Domke

1967-1975

When Pastor Fredrick Mai (1967-1975) arrived, the congregation was poised for the most extensive building project to date – a new educational unit with classrooms, offices, kitchen, lounge, nursery, and fellowship hall with gym facilities.  An ambitious stewardship campaign was launched and, with a timely bequest from the Hattie Steer estate, the dream became a reality.  The new educational wing was dedicated on August 30, 1970.

Mai

 Rev. Fredrick Mai

1976-1987

Pastor Harold Aasland (1976-1987)  Under Pastor Aasland’s guidance, the Bethel Series was started in 1980.  This was an intense study of the Bible.  Also, Lutheran Lay Renewal was introduced to our congregation.  In June 1983, Trinity Lutheran Church members formed a procession from their church a block away and joined with First American Lutheran.  In 1984 an addition was added to the front of the church to allow for a narthex and an elevator.

Aasland

 Rev. Harold Aasland

1988-1997

Pastor Merle Ries (1988-1996).  Pastor Jerry Kuehn (1997) served on an interim basis until Pastor DeBenedetto accepted the call.

Ries

 Rev. Merle Ries

  Kuehn

 Rev. Jerry Kuehn

1998-2008

Under Pastor Richard DeBenedetto, our church became a teaching congregation.  The Intern Program was started soon after his arrival and, to date, eight interns have each left their mark on our church.  Pastor Rick was the supervisor and mentor to each of them.  A contemporary weeknight chapel service was started and is still going strong today.  Traditional Sunday School was moved to Wednesday nights, with the new name of High 5 and a family meal being served before classes start.

Debenedetto

 Rev. Rick DeBennedetto

2008-2009

Pastor Ken Schlueter served as the interim pastor after the departure of Pastor Rick.

2009-Present

Pastor Mary Zupansic (2009-present)

PastorMary10.2015

 Rev. Mary Zupansic

 

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