The following article appeared in "The Fullerton Nance County Journal", Fullerton, Nebraska on June 17, 1998.
This newspaper was established in 1878, published every Wednesday at Fullerton, Nance County, NE 68638, office located at 416 4th Street, P.O. Box 10 Fullerton, NE 68638, phone (308) 536-3100, fax (308) 536-3100.
The Centennial Celebration
of Peace Lutheran Church
By Barbara A. Micek
Nestled in the lush green countryside southwest of Belgrade sets a modest rural church, its snow-white framework gleaming in the sun, uninterrupted in peaceful composure and swelling with country charm.
The 100 year-old church offers the security of tradition still alive in the approximately 100 member congregation, a sanctuary from the swift pace of the outside world.
This Sunday, June 21, Peace Lutheran Church will host a centennial celebration. The public is invited to join in the 100th anniversary beginning with a 10:30 a.m. service, followed by a noon meal. A program of skits, speakers and song will begin at 2:30 p.m.
A collage of photos from bygone years will be on display and keepsake items available to purchase, including cookbook compiled by the Peace Church Women--100 Years and Still Cooking--blue banded crocks and pitchers, mugs and plates.
Peace Evangelical Lutheran Church began in a small rural schoolhouse, later organizing as a congregation in 1898 by the early German settlers. As numbers grew, services were held in the Red Wing schoolhouse approximately one-half mile north and west of the present church.
As members continued to prosper, a five acre tract of land was purchased from C. D. Hellbusch in 1907 for $180 for the purpose of a church building and cemetery. Construction of the building cost $2,000.
A year later, the congregation was incorporated and services, conducted only in German, were held in the new building. It wasn't until 1918 that the first English sermon was delivered. German language services became less frequent, and by 1939 were held only once a month, ceasing in the mid fifties.
Installation of a half-ton bell in 1915 loudly announced the time of worship services. In earlier years the bell rang on Saturday evening to remind members of Sunday worship services or to announce the death of a church member.
Early transportation being horse and buggy, hitching posts were placed on the east side of the church. Up until the late 1930s, custom dictated women sit on the east side of the aisle and men on the west. Women were to detect any problems among the horses and relay the information to the men.
A Ladies Aid group was organized in 1923, later renames the Peace Lutheran Church Women. Two years later the congregation voted to become self-supporting. A parsonage was built that same year for $5,000.
Members continue to be involved in area and foreign mission work. Early church history records show a Mission Festival was held in the Badje pasture along Timber Creek a few miles east of the church. The reed organ was moved to the site, temporary seating set up, a pulpit built and concession stand set up where ice cream and candy could be purchased, as well as a cooperative noon meal proved by the ladies.
When the "dirty 30s" took hold, the congregation held together and as conditions improved, membership grew. In 1946 funds were collected to put a basement under the church and an addition to the sanctuary. The basement provided a kitchen area, space for Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. Prior to this time the Red Wing School was used for summer school sessions.
Other improvements followed through the years, including a lighted cross installed on the steeple, an antique stained-glass window depicting Jesus the Good Shepherd placed above the entry doors, an electric organ, the youth group added a basketball court east of the church, the clear glass windows have been replaced by krinkle glass colored panes, and several remodeling projects improved the parsonage.
In 1970 a 20x26 ft. addition was built for a meeting room, serving area and restrooms. At that time, membership consisted of around 175 members.
The cemetery north of the church had been fenced and a gate installed with the cemetery name on it in the late forties. In 1975, the fence was replaced by a new hurricane fence; the old gate was retained. The oldest member buried in Peace Cemetery is Heinrich H. Hellbusch, born December 21, 1829, at Oldenburg, Germany.
The most recent improvement was the placing of white vinyl siding on the outside of the building.
LONG TIME MEMBERS
Werner Hellbusch (Son of C.D. Hellbusch) of Fullerton, who will be 94 in July, has been a member of the church for the longest period of time.
Another member, Mimi Hoffman (Daughter of George Hellbusch) of Belgrade, was baptized at Peace Lutheran when she was three months old. That was 87 years ago. "I was confirmed at the church too, but I was married at home because of a blizzard," recalls Mimi. "We were going to be married at the church, but the preacher came to the house because of the snow.
"It was bad in the thirties too, during the dust storms," she adds. "When we'd clean church on Saturday night, the dust would be everywhere, in places you wouldn't think it could get into."
Ella Ostrander of Belgrade has belonged to the church for 88 years. "I wasn't baptized at the church. They said I was too much of a ball-baby," laughs Ella. "Those were the horse and buggy days, so the pastor stopped by as he was passing through and baptized me at home."
Ella noted the "controlled heat" as a welcome improvement over the pot=belly stove which stood in the center of the church. "The preferred seats were close to the stove. It was hot in the front and freezing in the back."
Her fondest memories are of the annual Christmas program when "we had a real Christmas tree with real candles. I have often thought what a fire hazard that was with one exit, but there were people watching with their buckets full of water close by." The program continues to be an annual event.
The harsh winters and impassable roads created a challenge for the trip to church with a horse and buggy, but members seldom missed a service. "I have often thought how many people would go to church now if they had to go with a team and buggy in those weather conditions," reflects Ella.
Tillie Oltmanns (Nee: Tillie Tsuchudin) of Fullerton has been a member for 92 years. Like her sister, Ella Ostrander, she was not baptized or married at the church. However, both women were confirmed there.
"It really amazing the building can be a hundred years old and look that good," remarks Tillie, and agrees the annual Christmas programs "are a must".
Until a few months ago when she injured her hip, Tillie still drove to church. Now members from Fullerton pick her up on their way to church. "It seems kind of foolish to drive when I could go to church down the street, but it's home out there," she reminisces.
A special thanks to Jan Hellbusch of Belgrade and Rev. Michael Waples in their assistance in supply photos and church history.