Last year Zion Lutheran Church in Chattanooga, Ohio, celebrated its 160th anniversary.
This year, although no celebration is planned, we recognize that fact that the current church building was built 100 years ago.
The congregation of Zion Chatt was formed in 1855 and for the first five years members worshiped in their homes. In 1860 they purchased a 100 x 85 foot parcel of land on the corner of State Route 49 and Tama Road from Jacob and Charity Deitsch for $5. They built a frame church there that same year for $325.
The frame building was used by Zion’s members as well as the Evangelical worshipers for seven years, until the Evangelicals sold their interest and organized and built their own church east of Chatt on Tama Road, the building we know today as the old Grange Hall.
Over the years Zion purchased a little more land to make the church lot the size it is today. Discussions and plans for a new church building began as early as 1911 but it was not until 1916 that the building project was finally started.
Zion’s members decided to fashion the new church after the brick M.E. Church in Convoy, Ohio. The architect for the new church was Robert Gotwaldt and the building contractor was Christen & Mann of Decatur, Indiana. Charles N. Christen built several other churches and was the mayor of Decatur in 1913. The cost of Zion’s new church was $13,795.
The church cornerstone was laid 2 July 1916, during the pastorate of the Rev. W.F.H. Heuer. Rev. B.F. Brandt and Prof. R.V. Schmitt presided at the cornerstone dedication with Rev. Heuer.
Nearly a year after construction began the church building was completed and it was dedicated on 13 May 1917. What a grand dedication it must have been. Three days of events with services in English and German!
The following article announcing the dedication was published in The Standard on 11 May 1917:
Of Zion’s Evangelical Lutheran Church at Chattanooga to Take Place Sunday, May 13, With Elaborate Program for the Day–
Next Sunday May 13th, the new church edifice of Zion’s Evangelical Lutheran congregation will be dedicated to the service of the Triune God. The members of the congregation desire to extend a cordial invitation to all their friends and acquaintances to come and rejoice with them in the fact an undertaking which presented many difficulties and required many sacrifices has, by the blessings of God been successfully finished and that the members of Zion’s congregation at last possess a worthy and beautiful house of worship.
The following is the order of the dedicatory services:
9:30 a.m.—A brief farewell service in the old church.
9:45—Formal opening of the new church. German sermon by Reverend J.F.C. Sollar of Youngstown, O., and an English sermon by Rev. H.J. Schuh of Anna, O.
2:00 p.m. afternoon services–Rev. George Haas, of Napoleon, O., will preach the German sermon and Rev. Paul Brockhaus, of Oak Lawn, Ill., the English sermon.
6:00 p.m. evening services—Rev. Lochre of Montra, O. and Rev. W.N. Emch of Ft. Recovery, O, will be the speakers. Besides the congregational singing which is in itself an essential feature, there will be special singing by various choirs, viz. the mixed choir and the male choir of Zion’s church, the male sextet of St. John’s church, Celina, and the male Liberty township.
The time designated is sun time.
Dinner and supper will be served in the basement of the new church for the nominal cost of 25 cents a meal. Additional services will be held on Monday and Tuesday evenings. Rev. F.G. Reitz of Celina will preach on Monday evening and Rev. H.N. Brobst of Coldwater on Tuesday evening. The organist Miss Bernice Haffner, will be assisted at the organ by Miss Clara Sunderman of Ft. Recovery and by Mrs. Rev. Brobst, of Coldwater.
May God grant his blessings in these services to all who may be present.
Initially, subscriptions were taken to pay for the new church and a five-year payment plan was adopted. Later “The Dollar Plan” was adopted to cancel the building debt. Members owning land would pay $1 per acre and members who did not own land would pay in proportion to what they had.
The two churches were side by side for a short time, until the frame church was moved to the north end of Chattanooga and used as a garage for years.
Zion was extensively remodeled in 1968, using money from the Minnie Wilson estate. The upper balcony was made into three Sunday School rooms, the first floor under the balcony was made into two offices and a Sunday School room, and basement was remodeled and paneled. The sanctuary was redecorated in the late 1960s and again redecorated by Henry Husmann of Portland, Indiana, in 1992.
It is still a beautiful church, still in very good condition, with an active congregation.