Swiss Evangelical Reformed celebrates 150th anniversary Sunday

Swiss Evangelical Reformed Church traces its 150-year history to 1867 when the congregation was established by Rev. Apel as St. John’s Evangelical Church.

The first services were conducted in German and were held in a log shed on the Andrew Boesch farm, one mile north of Swiss, according to a history provided by the church.

Church members will observe the congregation’s 150th anniversary on Sunday during a 9 a.m. worship service conducted by  Rev. Leon Pannkuk. The congregation and visitors will share a meal afterward starting at 11 a.m. on Nov. 5. 

The congregation constructed a log church on the Boesch farm and their first resident pastor, Rev. Johnson, served until 1870. 

In 1888 the log church was destroyed by a fire. According to the church, “under the leadership of Rev. Zimmer, the congregation purchased six acres from William Sander for $40 and the present church building at Swiss was erected.  The only visible reminder of the original church are the walls of a cistern and a forgotten cemetery.”

Records show the congregation’s charter members were Christian Fluetsch, John Allemann, George Plattner, George Haeffner, Hans Lutz Kraettly, J. Henry Stephan, Henry Gruber, John Stortz, Kurt Kahle, Melchior Schindler, William Sander and Andrew Boesch.

The Sunday School dates to 1905 with a start-up enrollment of 37. Henry Gruber was president.

Starting in 1942, “women were allowed to vote and become church members in their own names, rather than their husband’s,” according to the church history. “Traditionally women sat on the right side of the aisle and the men on the left. In 1944 the old church bell, damaged by a tornado, was given to St. Jordan’s Church at Jeffriesburg and a new bell was purchased from the Nazareth Presbyterian Church near Swiss.”

Simpler times

Before the 1950s, the congregation’s annual “mission fest” was held outdoors “under a brush arbor with lunch consisting of coffee cake and apple butter.”

The early 1950s also marked the arrival of rural electrification for the Swiss congregation’s building.

“Prior to this,” the church history noted, “a generator owned by the congregation provided light.  Before the generator was used, kerosene lamps and candles were used.”

That created the responsibility of fire watch for the Sunday School superintendent. The history noted, “During the Christmas worship service the Sunday School superintendent had the added job of watching the Christmas tree in case the candles on it caused a fire.”

Fred Stephen hand crafted the pulpit and altar as they appear in the sanctuary today.

The public is invited to attend the service and the meal afterward.

The church is along Highway 19.