St. Peter's Lutheran Brethren
316 Thompson Street at Bryant Street
St. Peter’s Lutheran Brethren Church
St. Peter’s Lutheran Brethren Church, located on the northeast corner of Bryant Street at Thompson Street, was organized in 1887. Organized in the Martinsville home of August Papke in June 1887, the founding pastor was Helmuth Kaufman of the Evangelical Joint Synod of Ohio and Other States. Charles Papke, August’s son, was the first person to be baptized in this fellowship on August 5, 1887. The first recorded celebration of Holy Communion took place at an old schoolhouse on Beach Ridge Road, with thirteen individuals sharing the Lord’s Supper there on Reformation Day, October 31, 1887. This is considered to be the “official” founding day.
Services were soon moved to the Village of North Tonawanda, from which many early worshipers came. Fred Zimmerman allowed the congregation to worship in a vacant store owned by him at the corner of Payne Avenue and Thompson Street. When this store was sold, Philip Fredricks hosted St. Peter’s in his home.
In November 1887, the congregation’s first buildings took shape on Schenck Street near Bryant. After two years, the church relocate to its present location at the corner of Thompson and Bryant Streets.
St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of North Tonawanda, New York, became a corporate entity in September 1890, as recorded in the Niagara County Clerk’s office in Lockport. North Tonawanda had not yet become a city. Additional land was purchased that year on Erie Avenue for a cemetery. It can still be seen at the corner of Walck Road.
The present sanctuary was constructed in 1894. Pastor Kaufman instituted a parochial school in the original building, which continued in operation until 1911. By then, the high point of membership had been reached. The sanctuary was redecorated and rededicated in 1922. In 1925 the former school was remodeled into the present parish hall.
St. Peter’s, along with the Joint Synod of Ohio, became part of the (old) American Lutheran Church in 1930. The Iowa and Buffalo Synods were the other parties in this merger. The American Lutheran Church, St. Peter’s affiliation at its 100 th anniversary in 1987, began in 1960, and in 1988 became part of the Church of the Lutheran Bretheren. St. Peter’s has been in the mainstream of Lutheran cooperation throughout its history.
Many Lutheran congregations having been established in North Tonawanda through the years, Pastor Kaufman served jointly as pastor of St. Paul’s in Gratwick from 1888 to 1890. Various groups started congregations so near to already established ones that members were being drawn as much from these sister congregations as from the unchurched in the community. When the region’s economy began to waver and population began to move south to follow employment, support for the several congregations became more difficult. Since the 1960’s, there have been possibilities that St. Peter’s might come “full circle” by merging with another congregation or by sharing with them a pastor’s services. Another route, however, had been chosen by the congregation in 1986, planning to disband during the centennial year of 1987.
However, in 2007, there is still a St. Peter’s, now St. Peter’s Lutheran Brethren Church.
Photos and other materials courtesy of St. Peter's Lutheran Brethren Church
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