In 1890 Hammond was a budding community southeast of Chicago of about 5,400 mostly German immigrant workers attracted there to find employment in the new, growing G. H. Hammond meat packing plant. Rev. Peter Weil came to Hammond with the intention of organizing an Evangelical church. He soon found a small group of men who were eager to co-operate with him, so they might have a church where they could worship God and where His Word could be taught and preached to them and their children. This group desired to worship in a church similar to the Evangelical Church of their Fatherland.
The small group faced not only financial problems but also opposition from some existing German churches that felt another church was unnecessary for such a small community. Disregarding the opposition, they met in a two story frame building on Hohman Street and the Calumet river, thought to be Prahlow’s Hall. On October 15th, 1890, the church was organized and chartered under the name of the Deutsche Evangelische Immanuels Gemeinde. The names of the charter members are William Evers, William Kahl, Rudolph Bluhm, William Prange, Carl Lindner, Henrich Elster, William Kuhn and Frank Peschke.
Subsequent meetings were held in Borchert’s Hall at State and Sohl Streets, and in a cottage at 627 State Street, both in Hammond. On July 27th, 1891, the original eight members of Immanuel filed a two page Articles of Association with the Recorder of Lake County Indiana, at Crown Point outlining the reasons for starting the church, the conditions for membership, setting forth the offices to be filled by election, the methods of these elections and certain financial plans.
During the summer of 1892, the members decided to build a house of worship. A frame church was erected and dedicated on October 16, 1892. The church was small and consisted of just one main auditorium but it symbolized the fulfillment of the hopes of the small congregation. Here, in simple but dignified surroundings, the members of the congregation listened to the word of God as presented by their beloved Pastor Weil.
On November 30, 1890, the pastor, obeying the words of Jesus when he said, “‘Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for to such belongs the Kingdom of Heaven,’ christened Georgina Louise Lenore Knabe, the first child to be baptized into the congregation. The first child to be christened in the new church building was Huldah Lydia Weil, the daughter of Pastor and Mrs. Weil, on January 29, 1893.
On Easter Sunday of 1892 the pastor issued an invitation for the members and friends of the con-gregation to come to the Lord’s table. Thirty-five people responded to this invitation for communion and were strengthened in their faith in the first service of this kind in this new congregation.
On January 12, 1893, Rev. Weil united in marriage Anna Sachs and John N. Weber. The ceremony was not performed in the church but in the home of friends, Mr. and Mrs. Hollenzer, who were also members of the congregation. Children and grandchildren of this mar-riage continued membership in the church. Their grandson John W. Stevesand was ordained in the church on June 19, 1955 and continued his ministry in Union Missouri, until his death in November of 1989.
The first marriage ceremony performed in the newly built church united Bertha Lucht and Frederick Sass on December 19, 1893. Decedents from this couple also continue as members of the congregation.
From February, 1892, until the fall of the same year, a parochial school was conducted in a private home. They taught the three R’s in both German and English.
In the spring of 1893 a need was felt for a parsonage. A one anda half story frame structure was erected, with Rev. Weil help-ing with the manual labor. He and his family movedin on August 28, 1893. The building has quite a history, serving as the home of eight succeeding pastors. It was sold in 1921 and moved to 5526 Beall Avenue in Hammond, where it is still being used asa residence by descendants of the original purchaser.
The ladies of the church started to meet in each other’s homes for social gatherings, feeling the necessity of closer association in their church work. It was on October 19, 1893, that they organized the Tabea Ladies Aid. The Tabea Ladies Aid The First Parsonage 1893 was destined to be one of the most sustaining factors in the history of our church. A history of the Tabea Women’s Guild is included in this book.
The church building, although completed in 1892 contained a belfry but lacked a bell. The members thought of the churches in their homeland, and in memory heard the song of the bells as they called the worshipers to church on Sunday morning. It was in 1894 that they purchased a bel! from the Hy Stuckstede BF Co. of St. Louis Missouri and they had the pleasure of dedicating it on August 19, 1894. This the same bell which was refurbished by Herbert Shaw, Paul Smith, Ed Hanish and Edward Behling and is mounted on a beautiful oak stand in the nar-thex of our church. It is rung at the opening The Guild – about 1894 of each service.
When the church was organized in 1890, it is believed that simultaneously the Sunday School was started, with an enrollment of six children. Throughout the history of the church it has been the means of educating our children in the work of the Lord and training them to act as workers in His Kingdom.
In 1897, an addition to the church building consisting of one room was added to the rear of the church, to be used as a school room. The church proper was also renovated and rededicated on August 29, 1897.
February 28, 1899 marked the farewell of Rev. Weil. He was succeeded on April 16, 1899 by Rev. Theodore Braun who was installed on May 19, 1899.
The new pastor recognized the need to improve the Christian Education of the youth and organized the Sunday School into a Christian Education Department, at a meeting on April 30, 1899. On September 8, 1898, the choir was organized to lend beauty to the services by its music and harmony. A history of the choir is included in this book.
The men of the congregation felt the need for an organization which would allow them to give assistance and support in times of illness and death. On August 2, 1899, they organized the Kranken Unterstitsungs Verein. This organization provided not only financial aid in times of distress but also spiritual comfort through their all night vigils and prayers at the bedside of a stricken fellow church members. This organization disbanded in 1926.
On January 19, 1900 the youth of the church united to form a Young People’s organization. The aim of the organization was to further the development of these young Christians as members of the church.
The parochial school which had been conducted as a daily school under the tutelage of the pastor, and in later years by teachers, was disbanded on April 1, 1901. Thereafter, the pastor conducted what was known as Saturday and summer school when children were not in the public schools.
The newest of the church organizations, the Young People’s League, thought an organ would greatly enhance the beauty of the services. The church’s first organ was purchased by the League and dedicated on September 22, 1901. It was then that the early members realized the fulfillment of their dreams—A House of God, with a bell to call the people to worship, a choir to sing His praises, and an organ to send forth majestic melodies.
With an eye to the future, In October, 1901, the congregation acquired fifty feet of land adjacent to the church property. They were especially jubilant because they were able to pay five sevenths of the purchase price as a down payment. As we today review the history of our church we appreciate the foresightedness of these early members.
The parsonage had been built without a basement, so in 1902 they excavated and added a basement under it.
September 2,1904 marked the end of the pastorate of Rev. Theodore Braun, who during his five years of faithful devotion, endeared himself to his congregation. He was succeeded by Rev. J. Lebart on October 2, 1904. The new church had received the influence of a single pastor for almost its first decade but the second decade was one of shorter service and rapid turnover of four pastorates. Rev. Lebart served for just over a year when he answered the call to another charge on December 5, 1905.
Rev. Val Ziemer came to Hammond February 1, 1906 and by June 28 1908, he too had answered the call of another congregation.
Rev. C. A. Heldberg and family came to Hammond August 1, 1908 and he too left by May 1910.