The early history of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church is actually a collection of stories gathered from the older members of the congregation and the community of New Memphis. Unfortunately, early church documents are few and written in Low German.
Around the year 1850 German Lutherans moved into the New Memphis area. They met in an old white-framed Methodist Church, which was located on the present county (township) cemetery at the southeast edge of town. In 1860 land was purchased one mile northwest of the original site from Joshua EASTWOOD for $115.00. The white-framed church was relocated by means of horse drawn skid to the new site. By 1861 the congregation had become organized and was given the name St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church.
In 1862 Pastor Robert KNOLL signed an agreement to collect money to build a new church for the rapidly growing congregation. The good lumber left from the old white church was used to build a lean-to onto a barn. The barn still remains standing today.
The building of the new church began in the winter of 1862. Sixty-foot logs were purchased in St. Louis and transported across a frozen Mississippi River. The bridge was not used because an additional 25Ë charge to wench each wagon and mule team up to the bridge. The logs were hewed, not sawed, to make the corner posts of the steeple. The posts were properly positioned using horses and mules. A special contractor was hired to build the steeple, but the men of the church built the remainder of the building themselves. In 1863 the new church was completed and dedicated. Eleven years later in 1874 a Kilgen organ was purchased for $685.00. In 1889 they celebrated their 25th Anniversary.
The church continued to grow as the years passed. By 1908 they realized the need for additional space. It was decided that a school house should be built for confirmation classes, Sunday School, Ladies Aid meetings and any other social meeting. The congregational business meeting was still held in the church. The old school house remains standing today and is being renovated by the Youth Group.
At this time a new bell was purchased for $270.70. The bell is still used today to call God’s people to worship.
A new parsonage was built in 1916. The precut home cost $2,128.79.
St. Peter’s joined the Missouri Synod in 1924. Prior to this the church held membership in the Iowa Synod. During this same year the congregation signed an agreement to have services every week alternating between German and English.
The Ladies Aid of the church organized the first Mulligan Supper in 1940. The original recipe has been handed down from generation to generation. The annual Chicken Mulligan Supper has become very popular, attracting people from all over the area on the fourth Sunday in September.
The original Kilgen organ purchased in 1874 was replaced by a two-rank pipe organ in 1948 at a cost of $3,000.00.
In 1956 the congregation agreed to remodel the church. Eight stained glass windows were installed, new lighting and two new entrance doors were added.
Pastor Almar MUELLER who served the congregation for thirty-three years was called home in February 1960. It was after this that the St. Peter’s Church of New Memphis and St. Salvator Lutheran Church of Venedy, Washington County, IL formed a dual parish.
Tragedy struck in June of 1960 when a tornado ripped through New Memphis. The beautiful church was almost completely demolished. Only the south wall, steeple and bells, and one stained glass window remained standing. A metal cross, which had been attached to the top of the steeple, was gone. Since the debris was not guarded many items were stolen. The wine colored dossal curtain, cross, candlesticks, a large altar Bible, common communion cup and communion ware and a few hymnals were salvaged.
Church services were held in the brick school building while a new church was constructed. Work began in September of 1960. The new church was dedicated in October 1961. The reconstruction cost was $23,450. The congregation celebrated its 100th Anniversary in the new church this same year. One year later the bell tower was added.
In January 1978 a new six-rank Wick pipe organ was purchased to replace the small electric organ they had been using. The dedication service was held April 2, 1978. The new organ cost $14, 250.
In 1988 there were 67 souls and 46 communicant members. St. Peter’s Lutheran Church is located 30 miles east of St. Louis.
The congregation of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church New Memphis, Clinton County, IL has been served by the following Pastors:
1859-1868 R. KNOLL
1868-1870 J. SCHILLES
1870-1873 Carl BECKER
1873-1876 H. P. BAUMAN
1877 - Student HEUMANN
1877 - A. H. WETZEL
1877-1878 R. KNOLL
1885-1887 F. A. REINMANN
1887-1893 C. BECKER
1893-1896 George MEIR
1896-1901 Henry FOELSCH
1901-(2mos) F. W. MENSING
1901-1909 J. G. BAUMGAERTNER
1909-1915 W. GEINSENDOEFER
1916-1917 J. C. TWELE
1917-1918 H. FINKE
1918-1924 Paul MALL
1924-1927 Students from Concordia Seminary (St. Louis, MO)
1927-1960 Almar MUELLER
1961-1964 J. SCHLICHTING
1964-1967 W. STELLWAGEN
1967-1972 W. SYMANK
1972-1974 E. WINKER
1974-1981 Dale MEYER
1981-1984 Richard SMITH
1985-present (2001) David G. L. FLETCHER
Source: St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church 125th Anniversary souvenir brochure furnished by Joyce Krausz.
St. Peter Lutheran Church Records 1863 - 1976
St. Peter Lutheran Church Cemetery
Clinton County Churches
Clinton County ILGenWeb Page