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Saint Paul's Lutheran Church Records

Identifier: R-0042

Scope and Contents

The St Paul's Lutheran Church Papers is a manuscript collection consisting of correspondence, administrative records, church publications, orders of worship, various record and ledger books, newspaper clippings, and photographs.

The collection is divided into eight series:

Series I, Administrative Records: Copies of the various constitutions, by-laws, and other founding documents that relate to the organizational structure of the church throughout its history; records of various church organizations; records of construction and expansion projects; personnel and search committee files; and correspondence relation to administrative matters.

Series II, Voter and council Meetings: Records of the governing bodies of the church; these records complement the administrative records described above. The Church Council is elected from the congregation and oversees the general operation of the church in cooperation with the pastor and his assistants; the Council is in fact responsible for selecting and hiring pastors. Thus many of the Administrative Records in Series I were created by the church council. The Voters' Assembly consists of all full members of the church; council; members come from their ranks.

Series III, Membership and Attendance Records: Communion and Baptismal records, dating from the early days of the Church, some in German; attendance records for Sunday School, Vacation Bible School and related activities; membership records include some illustrated church directories from the 1970s.

Series IV, Orders of Worship, 1955-1993: Weekly bulletins giving the schedule for each Sunday’s service, plus announcements on church activates for the coming week, as well as announcements of births, deaths, weddings, funerals, etc.

Series V, Publications: produced by, or collected by St. Paul's, including the monthly parish news paper produced from 1954 to 1993.

Series VI, Historical Data: Material collected relating to the history of St. Paul's used for the celebration of various anniversaries and other special events. The material in these files was used for exhibits and other special projects relating to the lOOth anniversary celebration.

Series VII, Photoqraphs: This series includes photographs of the church on Cannon Street; photographs of the church on the West Freeway site, including the building of the church from the ground breaking ceremony through the dedication of the finished building; group and individual photographs of members of the congregation. Many of the photographs of individuals are identified. (See also Series III, for illustrated Church Directories.)

Series VIII, Oversized Boxes: Ledgers, clippings, and various other material too large to store in standard record boxes. This series also includes two canisters of 16mm motion picture film showing the construction and dedication of the church at the West Freeway site in 1954.


  • 1893 - 1993

Biographical / Historical

St. Paul's Lutheran Church was officially chartered in 1893; the congregation's origins, however, can be traced back to the earliest German settlements in Texas. St. Paul's also has a connection with the Wendish folk, an obscure German-Slavic ethnic group whose language is now virtually extinct.

The Wends embraced Lutheranism and migrated to Germany some time during the 16th century. Fiercely independent, the Wends were stubbornly protective of their language, religion and culture. Al though they lived in Germany among German Lutherans, they succeeded in maintaining their separate identity for centuries.

In the early decades of the 19th century, the government of Prussian attempted to merge the Calvinist and Lutheran strains of German Protestantism into one church. Many conservative Lutherans objected to this enforced merger, and opted for emigration to Texas to escape what they perceived as religious persecution.

Some of the German settlers were followers of the Rev. Johann Kilian. Kilian and his group arrived in Galveston in 1854, and by 1855 were established in Lee County. In 1859, the settlers built their first church. The congregation joined the Missouri Synod the following year.

The Texas Lutherans began missionary activities in the 1870's. In 1879 Zion Lutheran Church was organized in Dallas, and a Fort Worth congregation was organized in 1893 by Pastor Johann Christian Schultenberger. Pastor Schultenberger's congregation met in space they rented form the Knight's of Honor Hall, near the present site of the Worthington Hotel. In 1896, the congregation was chartered by the State of Texas as the "Evangelisch Lutherische St. Paul's Gemeide zu Forth Worth, Texas.”

St. Paul's first building was erected in 1896 at a cost of $1500 at the corner of Hemphill and Railroad (now Vickery) The congregation was still predominantly German, and the services were held in German. Starting in 1897, the church began holding services in English as well as German in order to reach Fort Worth's non-German Lutheran immigrant population. During the First World War, the congregation suffered from the suspicion of their English speaking neighbors, and felt considerable pressure to discontinue the use of German all together. However, the churches records were kept in German until the early 1930s. By 1937, the German language no longer appear in the records, and the transition to English seems to have been complete.

In 1918 the congregation moved to a new location at May and Cannon. The church grew steadily under several pastors for the next 2 0 years. In 194 6, Rev. Walter Dorre, a former chaplain with the 8th Air Force, became pastor of St. Paul's. The church grew dramatically under Dorre's leadership. Dorre established a parish paper (now called Saints Alive!) in 1951, and started a television program on WBAP TV.

The congregation grew quickly in the post War years, and the need for a new building became critical. Towards this end, the church purchased several acres of land at 1800 W. Freeway. Construction began in March of 1954. The new building was dedicated om the 19th of December, 1954; the first service was a few days later on Christmas Day. With its distinctive A-frame design, and its prominent position on a hill overlooking the freeway, the Church became an architectural landmark in Fort Worth.

Pastor Dorre retired in 1959 and did mission work in Brazil for several years. He eventually returned to Fort Worth and continued to play a role in the life of St. Paul's until his death in 1975.

Reverend E. E. Pieplow succeeded Dorre and pastored St. Paul's from 1959 to 1963. From 1963 to 1979, the church was pastored by Reverend G. P. Otte. Pieplow and Otte presided over a twenty year period of growth and development. They concentrated on mission activities and the church experienced a significant gain in membership. Reverend Otte died in 1979.

After Reverend Otte, the church was pastored by Reverend Ken Hennings (1979-1991) and Reverend Jack Schneider (1982-1992) . Reverend Hennings became the Director of Missions, Texas District, of the Missouri Synod. Schneider went on to become the pastor of Hope Lutheran in Lubbock, Texas. St. Paul's continued to grow under the direction of Hennings and Schneider, active in both the mission field and local corrununity projects, such as the Food Bank. The church also added an educational wing during this period.

St. Paul's is currently pastored by Reverend John A. Messmann. In 1993 St. Paul's celebrated its 100th anniversary. In conjunction with the celebration, the church collected material relation to the history of St. Paul's.

This material was used in exhibits illustrating the church's history. The material used in the historical exhibits can be found in the boxes in Series V-VIII.


21 Linear Feet (41 Boxes)

Processing Information

The collection arrived in several boxes whose contents corresponded to the Series described in the Series described in the Scope and Content notes. Series 7 and 8, however, were created by removing material from the other Series when it was deemed necessary. With the exception of these modifications, the original order of this collection has been maintained.

The overall condition of the collection is good to excellent. There are some problems with brittle paper and fragile bindings in the sections of the collection containing the earliest material. Researchers should therefore use caution and common sense when using the old ledgers and the older sections of correspondence. Photocopies of much of the early material exist; researchers are urged to use copies whenever possible.
Saint Paul's Lutheran Church Records
In Progress
Tom Kellam
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Fort Worth Public Library Archives Repository

500 West 3rd Street
Fort Worth Texas 76102