Our History

History for the 125th Anniversary:


In 1817, Frederick William III, forced German Lutherans to join with its Reformed churches, or face imprisonment. Against their beliefs and good conscience some Lutherans decided to flee the country and others agreed to join the “Prussian Union” while still holding tight to their faith in the Lutheran Confessions. Despite being frowned upon by Germany’s “old Lutherans”, who refused to join the Reformed, the “unionized Lutherans” quietly continued their Godly work and formed missions to send pastors overseas.

On Christmas Day in 1847, a group of German settlers founded “the German Lutheran and Reformed Church” of Granville Township, WI. By June of 1849 they had built the congregation a log church and later renamed it, Salem Lutheran Church. On December 8, 1849, three German pastors (from the determined “unionized Lutheran” mission society) met in Milwaukee to form a new church body: the First German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Wisconsin. In May of 1850, they held their first synod convention at Salem Lutheran church of Granville, and adopted a constitution beginning what is now the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. In celebration of 150 years, this landmark church opened its cornerstone metal box and among church papers found a church and home publication, ‘The Lutheran Herod’ whose motto read: “God’s word and Luther’s teachings will never pass away.”


The abundance of water, forests, and uninhabited land made the Upper Peninsula attractive to Native Americans and white settlers; highly desirable to fishermen, hunters and lumbermen. Escanaba, with its wide river, bay and great lake soon flourished with a growing lumber industry, commercial fishing and as an ideal shipping port for its abundance of the natural resources of iron ore, copper and timber. Escanaba was incorporated as a village in 1866; became a city in 1883. The population of the city on the Bay in 1884 was 4,335.

Joining many other denominations, immigrants from Germany came to settle in the 1880’s. Many of the German Lutherans came to Escanaba to carve out a better life for their families in a new land, which in many ways, was reminiscent of their native country. Only here there was the blessing of freedom to express and share their Lutheran beliefs without fear. They were soon noticed by Lutherans of similar backgrounds, giving them opportunities to speak of their religion in fellowship with faithful believers. Other German Lutherans arrived from the old country with invitations, promises of employment, and the extended helping hands of relatives and friends already here.


In 1880 the WI Lutheran Synod sent Pastor G. Theile, a traveling missionary, into the U.P. to search out German immigrants with Lutheran spiritual needs. His search found a great need and a promising, definite future. He began his mission field work serving twelve different preaching stations in the U.P., Escanaba included, and a few others in WI. His ordeal of such a challenging schedule and the difficulty of primitive travel was overwhelming and he was forced to resign in 1883.

Reverend Herman Monehart, a new graduate of the Seminary of WI synod, took over that same year. His first charge was the U.P. Mission Field and he centered his religious duties around Escanaba as he preached services and performed baptisms in seventeen other U.P. locations. A humble German hotel at 5th Street North and Ludington was his home base and where he held services when in Escanaba. This is where, on April 1884, he baptized the infant Fred Rudinger- the first Baptism recorded in Escanaba. While he was serving, three of his congregations became organized in the U.P.: St. Johns, Ford River: Holy Cross, Daggett: St. Peters, Stambaugh.

Reverend Monehart reported many of his U.P. travel adventures at some of the early WI Synod conventions. He relayed traveling on foot in sweltering heat and the winter travels by horse and sleigh over precarious lake ice and deep snow that sometimes buried his tracks, making him hopelessly lost on his return. He told stories of the great danger of travelers encountering wolves; crude passageways carved into wilderness mostly uninhabited except for the occasional spotting of an Indian wigwam. In 1885 Reverend Monehart was called to serve in Caledonia, WI. Reverend Johannes Ziebell took over his mission field duties. He continued to hold local services at the German Hotel, but on occasion borrowed the Augustana Lutheran Church (Bethany). With his hectic schedule, the Escanaba German Lutherans had his formal worship services only once every four weeks. Reverend Ziebell left in 1888 and for a few months a Seminary student, M. Busak, conducted Escanaba worship services twice a month. The average number of worshippers at the time was 30-40 individuals.


Our celebrative year of 1889 began with the July 15, 1889, arrival of Pastor H.L. Heidelberger of Hartland, WI. The new mission field U.P. pastor was serving the group of Escanaba Lutherans when they organized as a congregation. After a few months, poor health forced Pastor Heidelberger to retire. Pastor H. C. Zarwell was serving the congregation when thirty seven men adopted a constitution making “The German Evangelical Lutheran St. Paul’s Congregation” the first name, this great gift from God, was given our church. The membership continued to grow and soon plans were made to purchase a plot of land and build the church on the corner of Fourth Avenue South and Twelfth Street. The small white frame church was set up on cedar posts on what is believed to be land on the very edge of town. There are no records of the church building project. But it is recorded, that in 1890, each church member was asked to contribute $8 per year to help pay the Pastor’s salary. Pastor J. Rein served the congregation from 1891-1895. In 1892 the parsonage was built next door to the church at the cost of $655- $200 of which was borrowed to pay the builder. Because of increasing debt the $600 loan could not be paid and had to be renewed. A church member loaned the church the money, with a 5% interest rate for five years.

P. Korn, a traveling missionary served the congregation of St. Paul’s from 1895 to early 1896. Pastor Korn saw an increase of Lutheran farmers in the Hyde area who would benefit from a local church of worship that was eventually organized as ‘St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran of Hyde’ in 1900. On April 30th the first Ladies Aid organized and adopted a constitution.


State law required the church to reorganize on September 1st, 1895. At that time some of the church members belonged to anti-Christian Lodges. Pastor C. W. Wagner was serving the congregation. On January 1st, 1896, a meeting was held announcing all members affiliated with such organizations would lose their membership in an orthodox Evangelical Lutheran Church. This began a difficult, heart breaking time of division in our church history. Some preferred to take a liberal stand overlooking the entirety of God’s word, while conservative members who supported the newly formed Synodical Conferences, saw the lodge membership as disloyal. They believed one could not follow lodge rituals while claiming to confess salvation as Christ’s gift alone.

These anti-lodge faithful left St. Paul’s and held their own services, becoming Immanuel Ev. Lutheran Church, incorporated. They erected their own church on 1st Avenue S. and 18th Street, the former Lee’s Studio. A traveling missionary, Pastor Leonard Kaspar of the Wisconsin Synod served this new Immanuel congregation from July 9, 1899 to January of 1910, followed by Pastor Witte, of Dagget, from 1910-1913. Pastor Wagner served the St. Paul congregation until 1902 and William Peters took over services from June 17th 1902, until the Lord called him home on November 22, 1914.

On August 10 ,1913, Otto Hohenstein was installed as Pastor of Immanuel. The desire for both churches to reunite never ceased and numerous committees were formed and meetings called to discuss a reunion. The efforts were successful and the Lord blessed the reconciliation of St. Pauls and Immanuel which both dissolved to become one, “Friedens Ev. Lutheran Church”, with services again held in the original white frame church. Pastor Hohenstein served this reunited congregation who agreed to abide by the constitution, according to the Lutheran Confessions and the entire Word of God- in doctrine as well as in practice. They became a member of W.E.L.S. The German word Frieden, means Peace. With little money to operate on, the church asked married couples to contribute 75 cents a month, and each married woman 50 cents.

Organists from the early 1900’s to early 1920’s were Mrs. Emil (Paula) Newman, who played for the German service and Mrs. Irene Grabowski, the organist for the English service. The family of Kate Milenski (who later married Henry Ottensman) were invited by their relatives, the Grabowski’s, to leave Berlin, Germany, and come to Escanaba. Kate’s aunt, Irene Grabowski, gave Kate music books and taught her how to play the organ. She began filling in for Mrs. Newman, playing organ for the German service and at the age of seventeen took over as organist for Mrs. Laura Heinz. Kate Ottensman continued playing the organ for Salem for 65 years. In a special service celebrating those 65 years of dedicated service, Kate said, “It has been my privilege and joy to serve my Lord.” Other organists in the old church were Mrs. Gerald (Beatrice) Hannemann, Mrs. Bernard (Edna) Larson and Mrs. V. Anderson.

Pastor Hohenstein continued to serve until Rev. Christian A. F. Doehler was installed in a celebration on July 4th, 1920. Other changes at that time included Hyde (since 1900 served by Escanaba pastors), Powers, Wilson and Hermansville joining as a parish, served by a pastor residing in Powers.


With immigration nearly coming to an end, a new generation was growing up speaking very little German. It was harder to welcome new worshippers to church services where its language was becoming foreign. During World War One, German language was even sometimes frowned upon by outsiders. On June 30th, 1922, the new church name became “Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church”. English became the primary language for worship and instruction. In Hebrew, Salem, means Peace.

The church was enlarged and remodeled in 1925. Our congregation was blessed with ninety years of worship and fellowship there and the array of memories it holds for many of us still. The dark oak altar and the statue of Christ on the cross were installed. They were also moved into the new church in 1981.

In 1931, Reverend William Lutz began the longest consecutive years as Pastor of Salem. He served for 26 years until 1957 when Pastor Edwin C. Schmelzer took over until 1958. Pastor Armin Panning served the congregation from 1959-1962.


Pastor John J. Wendland came to Salem in September 1962. On September 13, 1964, he led the 75th Anniversary celebration of Salem Ev. Lutheran Church. Health reasons forced Pastor Wendland into retirement on September 1st, 1976, having served 48 years in God’s ministry. In 1968 our congregation purchased 5 and ½ acres of land on South 30th Street to build a new church. William Tabor became pastor in 1976 and un-expectantly resigned in June of 1978. Reverend Phillip Kuckhahn, of Hyde, officiated as Salem’s Vacancy Pastor until Pastor Paul H. Wilde was installed as the new pastor in a special Sunday service on May 6, 1979. Bea Hannemann was the organist for the service. She began playing organ at the age of 13 in Tigerton, WI, when services were still given in German. While in college she continued to play for Mt. Olive, in Appleton, WI, where she met and married Gerald Hannemann and they moved to Escanaba. In 1959 she began serving as organist at Salem Lutheran. On April 13, 2008, Bea was honored for her 75 years of faithful service- giving God all credit and glory for her years of musical dedication.


Since the 1968 acquisition of land, the congregation continued its hopeful plans for the new church. A contract was signed in 1977 with Tesch-Tesch-Bauer- Ramaker and Associates of Fond du Lac, WI, to design the new church. But record high interest rates (22%) delayed the construction until Aug. 1980, selecting T & L Construction of Fond du Lac, as General Contractor to build the church, education unit, and fellowship hall for $504,436. The groundbreaking ceremony was held on a September 9th, 1980.

Construction began and four committees worked together during the building project: The Building Construction Committee, The Design Detail Committee, The L.A.C.E. (Lutheran Association for Church Extension) Committee and The Dedication Committee. Many volunteers from the church donated their time, talents, and hard work to complete the project. The dedication services were held on Sunday, May 24, 1981 giving thanks to God and praising his name in our new church of worship. Pastor Wilde’s sermon text that celebratory morning was Psalm 96:1-10, “The Lord is great, and greatly to be praised.” Pastor Mark Hannemann, in the evening service, quoted the Gospel of Matthew 17:4, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.”

The new Salem Lutheran Church, made of brick and cedar siding, was 11,500 square feet (with no outside steps to access) and the basic floor plan in the shape of the capital letter “H”. The new classrooms were used that first week for the annual summer Vacation Bible School.

On September 1, 1981, the old church and parsonage were purchased by another church group and the building program for the new parsonage began. Construction, across the parking lot from church, began on October 4th and moving day was December 5th, with the parsonage open house on December 6th.

In appreciation for God’s great gift of the new church, members gladly volunteered their labor and skills towards landscaping, the planting of shrubbery, paving the parking lot, and building a canopy over the front entrance. Continued maintenance of the siding and the grounds and cleaning, repairs and the many improvements inside our beautiful church of worship constantly continued with the efforts of faithful worshippers and God’s continuous loving grace.


In 1989 Pastor Wilde officiated over the joyous 100 year Anniversary celebration of Salem Ev. Lutheran Church in a special service, on May 28, 1989. After fifteen years of faithfully serving our congregation, Pastor Wilde retired in 1994. Pastor Wierschke served as vacancy pastor.

On June 26, 1994, Reverend Richard Winters was installed as the new pastor of Salem Lutheran.

On October 8, 1995, 200 church members gathered together in celebration to witness the burning of the mortgage for Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church- six years ahead of schedule.


In 1997, after the eighteen years it took to pay for the church/educational complex, the Salem congregation began plans to install stained glass windows in the Nave, Chancel and Sacristy of the church. A committee was selected and within one year they had completed the project. Reinharts Stained Glass Studios, Inc., Winona MN, made and installed the 21 windows in the Nave and Sacristy and the 6 Chancel windows, which were designed exclusively for Salem. The total cost of the addition was $31,250. Generous donations by many family members of Salem Lutheran made this all possible. On Sunday morning, April 26, 1998, the window dedication service was held, with an invitation open to the public, to see this beautiful adornment to our church, yet another generous gift from our loving Savior.

On May 2, 1999 the new organ- a Rodgers 960D- was dedicated with a public concert and reception at 3 p.m. Pastor Charles Bonow was organist for this celebration service.

Reverend Richard Winters retired on April 10, 2005, but continues serving our Lord today by preaching in multiple WELS churches throughout the country. Pastor Brian Goens, from St. Pauls, Hyde, and Grace Lutheran, Powers, then took over as vacancy pastor.


Pastor Paul Doletzky arrived in November of 2005. He, his wife, Carrie, and young son, Titus, came to Salem from North Fort Myers, Florida. Pastor Doletzky was installed as pastor of Salem Lutheran on November 20, 2005. At this special service, Pastor David Waterstradt preached and Pastor Brian Goen officiated. In April 2012, Pastor Doletzky was elected as The Lake Superior Circuit Pastor.

He conducts Bible Study meetings twice a week and began holding a Monday evening worship service for those members unable to attend the Sunday 8:00 a.m. or 10:30 a.m. services. Over the years we have been blessed with Pastor Doletzky’s inspirational words and compassionate ways. By God’s grace, our church has seen an increase in church attendance and the formation of new church groups, committees, and fellowship activities.

Beginning in 2009, new carpet was installed in the church, office, hallway, and new pew cushions were put in place. The false wall behind the altar was taken out, allowing worshippers a better view of the stained glass windows. In 2014, with special donations by many church members, our Lord richly blessed us with a new sound system which provides those with hearing problems the opportunity to hear God’s word more clearly. It is a gift for us all with its new dimension of audio capabilities, which include the ability for recordings of weddings and special services. It will give the opportunity for sermons to be heard on the internet by members unable to attend church, and also for others in the community who may have never heard God’s word and the promises of salvation through Christ Jesus.


Our church members’ time, talents, and willingness to contribute have made Salem Ev. Lutheran Church unique, in many ways. We are grateful for the leaders of our church council and the diligent efforts provided by our special church groups. Also, our Women’s service group who does so much for the congregation, the Sunday School teachers who teach our young the importance of following God in their daily lives, the Vacation Bible School instructors and volunteers, The Lutheran Pioneers who reach out to the young about God’s saving grace and encourage fellowship within the congregation and the community. And everyone who lends a helping hand to repair, replace and renew our church and grounds. With much appreciation we thank everyone who routinely helps clean and maintain our beautiful church, both inside and out.

We are truly grateful for the talents of our church accompanists during all of our worship services. Our pianists, Carrie Doletzky, Jan Baker, Dianne Johnson, and our organist, Laura Johnson, along with special celebration trumpeter, Mr. Mark Kuehn, and some very gifted vocalists in our congregation.


In celebration of our 125th Anniversary, we are going to change out the church’s front entry doors. The three doors will be replaced by two larger, glass doors. The new doors will provide better safety with the ability to see if someone is standing in the way of the door opening, and a threshold without a ¾ inch lip that will make wheelchair entry safer. Both sets of doors will also have an operational button for easy handicap entry and exit. The new doors and the glass will be insulated for our winter weather and the glass will also be tempered and tinted bronze.

We are grateful for all the time and work of the Anniversary Committee who planned the special events and activities for our 125th Anniversary celebration. During our Anniversary month, the favorite hymns chosen by congregational members will be sung and we will have the enjoyment of hearing the praise-filled voices of a special Anniversary choir. There will be a display for us to see and enjoy an array of old photos, certificates and other special items from the 125 years of Salem’s history. Following the celebratory service on September 21, 2014, a fellowship dinner will be served. We will have the privilege to see and hear from special guests such as Pastor Winters and Pastor Hannemann.

Our 125th Anniversary of Salem Ev. Lutheran Church, will find many of us recalling family, friends, pastors and church members who have gone before us. Memories will abound. Gratitude will be abundant for the gift of Pastor Doletzky to lead and inspire us with his words, a gift by God’s grace, and all the blessings we now have because of God’s continuous love. We will look ahead with faith and hope, knowing that God still has much for us to learn, and to share with others His words of salvation through Christ Jesus. Our congregation will continue to hold tight to Our Mission Statement: “The members of Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church, united by faith in Jesus Christ, proclaim God’s Holy Word and Sacraments, to nurture and strengthen one another, while reaching out in love to our community and the world, all to the Glory of God.”



Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church was founded in 1889. We just celebrated our 125th anniversary in September of 2014. The congregation was first known as “German Evangelical Lutheran St. Paul’s Congregation.” The congregation was first formed by traveling missionaries gathering people to hear the Word of God and receive the Sacraments. These traveling missionaries were sent out by the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Though it’s roots are from a German background that served primarily German speaking immigrants settling in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. As English became the language of the nation and the area, English officially was adopted in 1922 in worship and instructions. The name of the congregation was changed also to its current name, Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church. Salem comes from the Hebrew word for peace.

For many years Salem was located at 502 S. 12th St. and the intersection of 4th Ave. South. They broke ground for a new facility at 615 S. 30th St. on September 9th, 1980. This is where we are currently located. Our current facility is much larger than the old facility and all areas of the building are handicap accessible.

We have continued to maintain and update the property. Recently we have installed a modern sound system that includes an audio loop for the hard of hearing. We have new handicap accessible doors with an automatic door opener for those who need it.

The members of Salem belong to a very special family, the family of God. Each member is blessed with a different personality, different gifts and abilities, yet they all struggle with life in a sinful world. Some struggles may be similar to yours, some very different. But what is special no matter the struggle, there is a joy in this family that can only be found through Jesus. We are a family joined by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ blood on the cross purchased each of us to be children of the Heavenly Father and brothers and sisters in Jesus’ family, the family of God.

You are welcome to join our family and grow in your love and knowledge of God. Salem is a place to grow in faith, in love, in service to our Savior! The blessings the Lord gives are for time and eternity.