Monday, May 2, 2011
BRIEF HISTORY OF SALEM LUTHERAN CHURCH OF ROSEHILL
Proclaiming God’s Faithfulness for 160 years
1851 - 2011
Between 1849 and 1854, over one million people left Germany, the majority traveling to America. During this time, a small group of German Lutherans began gathering at Spring Creek in a community that was soon to be called Rose Hill. Compared to the glorious hilltops of Europe, it was only a simple hill, but from this hill, history was to be made.
The history of Salem Lutheran Church of Rosehill was impacted by the medieval community of Bettingen, Switzerland, near Basel, on the Rhine River where the borders of Switzerland, Germany, and France converge. Into this beautiful setting, God placed a man of vision who would change the course of history for a people he would never see. Christian Spittler had a heart burdened for service in the Kingdom of God. In 1840, he founded the Pilgermision St. Chrischona, located on the highest hill in Basel for the purpose of training missionaries to bring the Gospel to German-speaking people in Switzerland and elsewhere in the world.
The reality of a large German immigration, reportedly numbering 16,000, attracted to Texas with no Lutheran pastor in the entire state was the subject of numerous periodicals that requested clergy and echoed the grave concern about the state of German morality in the Texas wilderness. As these troubling messages tumbled onto his desk, Christian Spittler determined to focus the American mission efforts of St. Chrischona on Texas alone.
In 1851, the lives of Caspar Braun, a Chrischona graduate, and Heinrich Braschler, a Swiss teacher, intersected. After being instructed and ordained by Pastor Braun, Heinrich Braschler became the first pastor to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the settlers at Spring Creek. On July 20, 1851, Pastor Braschler preached his first sermon to the assembled people. On October 12, 1851, the first congregational assembly was held to plan and organize the church at Spring Creek. Significant days were just on the horizon as God was putting into place the people and the circumstances that would enlarge His Kingdom in this new state.
In 1853, Salem’s Pastor Johann Ebinger wrote to his professors at St. Chrischona that he was conducting school in a log cabin, our first documented record of the existence of a Lutheran school in the Salem congregation. German immigrants continued to arrive and make their homes among the Lutherans of Rose Hill. Pastor Ebinger wrote also of the missionary work he was doing in the Rose Hill/Brenham area. From Salem’s earliest days we read of the missionary spirit that, not only prompted the founding of Salem, but has been woven as a continuous thread throughout Salem’s history.
Salem’s history includes: the Civil War years that witnessed the explosion at Powder Mill; the Galveston storm of 1900; the founding of Tomball in 1907; World War I; the discovery of oil in Tomball in 1933; World War II; the fiery destruction in 1964 of the historic church of 1880; the Viet Nam War; rebuilding the Worship Center in 1966; dedication of the new Educational Center on Salem’s campus in 1990; dedication of the Community Center in 2008.
Then, in March 1978, Pastor Graumann came to Salem, joining Marty & Karen Paluch, teachers at Tomball Lutheran School as the only staff employed by Salem. God has blessed Salem richly under Pastor Graumann’s leadership. In August 1981, Pastor Dommer came on staff, and in March 2006, Pastor Niekerk began ministry at Salem.
In November 1995, the beautiful church that sat beside the current Family Center burned to the ground. One year later, at Thanksgiving 1996, the present 2,000-seat Worship Center was dedicated. Throughout its history, Salem Lutheran Church of Rosehill has been prompted by a missionary zeal and an enduring pioneer spirit that embraces the lost and hurting with the message of Jesus Christ. This is the spirit of Salem…a pioneer spirit that, by God’s grace, will endure from generation to generation as we “tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power, and the wonders He has done.” (Psalm 78:4)