It was during the early 1870s when the first Lutherans began to settle in the region. They were initially few in number, often traveling into Saginaw for baptisms, marriages, and the like. As the village of Hemlock City (later shorted to Hemlock) grew, so did the number of Lutherans living there. In the fall of 1878, Rev. J. F. Mueller began to visit these Lutheran settlers. Services were held in the Lunney School and in members’ homes. On March 29th, 1880, the St. Peter Lutheran congregation of Richland Township was officially organized and plans were made to erect a church. It wasn’t until the following summer that construction of the church was completed.
House of Worship
On Sunday, September 12, 1880, a dedication service was held in the newly built church and its first pastor, Rev. Emil Hantel, was ordained and installed. Soon afterwards a Christian day school was established. This school was organized and taught by Pastor Hantel. After two years of faithful service, he departed the St. Peter Lutheran congregation after accepting a call to Royal Oaks, Michigan. The responsibility of teaching and preaching was taken up by the following pastors until 1905:
Rev. Carl Sorg (1883-1885)
Rev. Emil Hantel (1886-1890)
Rev. J. F. Mueller (1890-1905)
On April 13, 1903 it was decided to construct a new church. The new house of worship was dedicated on October 23, 1904. The old church was moved about 100 yards to the east and served as the school until 1955.
In 1905, Pastor Bruno Potzger was called as pastor, and at the same time, taught school. After several years he found that the duties of teacher, combined with those of pastor, were too great a burden. As a result, on March 1, 1908, the congregation decided to call a full-time teacher for the school. At this time, the number of students enrolled in the school had risen to 50 pupils. A call was sent out to George Hillman, a native of Sheboygan, Wisconsin and a graduate of Concordia Seminary at Addison, Illinois. Under his faithful service, the school flourished. Mr. Hillman also led a choir which beautified the services. In 1910, a teacherage was built on a piece of ground donated by Mr. Charles Fiting. After serving faithfully at St. Peter for 12 years, and having had received many calls, teacher Hillman accepted a call to Ludington, Michigan where he served until his death.
After Mr. Hillman left, Pastor Potzger again took up the duties of teaching. The task of being both pastor and teacher again proved too great. His health began to fail and on June 12, 1921 the Lord called him to his eternal home.
On July 17, 1921, a call was sent out to Pastor Ernst Walther and teacher Louis Roedel. Both accepted. Teacher Roedel was installed on the last Sunday in August and the new pastor on the first Sunday in September. In his quiet, able, and faithful way, Roedel taught school and led the choirs. The school progressed both in numbers and in its standard of education. After a successful service of 6 years, Mr. Roedel accepted a call to Fraser, Michigan where he taught until his retirement.
In 1927, the congregation called Mr. Louis Beyerlein of Plainview, Minnesota as teacher, organist, and choir director. He was installed in June of 1927 and served until 1935.
After this, a call went out to Lorenz Loesel, a native of Frankenmuth, who had taught at Westmont, Illinois, and was now attending Valparaiso Lutheran University, furthering his education. He accepted the call and was installed in September of 1935 beginning a long, fruitful teaching ministry in the congregation.
In the summer of 1945, Teacher Loesel was granted a release to teach in Bridgeman, Michigan. Mr. Loesel not only taught school, but he also worked with the Walther League, Men’s Club, and choirs.
A call then went out to Howard Bickel, a native of Hemlock, who was teaching at the time in Parkland, Washington. The call was accepted and he was installed in September of 1945. In order to accommodate those living outside of the school district (Hemlock), a school bus was purchased. It was also during this time that planning was begun for a new school. Mr. Bickel also organized the Parent-Teacher League (P.T.L.). After three years of a blessed teaching ministry, Mr. Bickel accepted a call to Matteson, Illinois.
In January of 1953, Mr. Lorenz Loesel was again called and the challenge was accepted. In September of 1953 the church basement was converted into a classroom with Mrs. Lorenz Loesel as teacher. At this time, a hot lunch program was started.
After prayerful planning, the congregation broke ground for the new school on March 7, 1954. Paul Brysselbout of Bay City was the architect and Anthony Kaiser of Hemlock was the builder. The building committee made all of the purchases. The members of the committee, as well as many members of the congregation, donated their labor and equipment, making it possible for the building to come to a successful completion. The cornerstone laying service was held on May 23, 1954. A great day of rejoicing came on April 17, 1955 when the new school was dedicated. Rev. Lorenz Weber and Dr. Samuel Roth, Director of Christian Education of the Michigan District, brought the messages.
The cost of the school and auditorium came to the moderate sum of about $83,000. This was the result of careful planning by the committee, the efficient labor of Mr. Kaiser, and the donated labor of many.
In September of 1956, Pastor Ora Riemer accepted a call to New York. Rev. Edward Pankow was then called from Napoleon, North Dakota. He was installed in July of 1957 and served St. Peter faithfully until his retirement on November 2, 1997. Despite retiring, Rev. Pankow actively served the congregation in many capacities until his passing in January of 2012. Serving along side Pastor Pankow, was Rev. Richard Mundt who served St. Peter for many faithful years. Rev. Mundt took over administrative duties when Pastor Pankow retired in 1997 until Rev. Martin Hagenow was installed as the Administrative Pastor in November 1999. Pastor Hagenow served for twelve years until his retirement in 2012. He was able to serve with his son, Eric Hagenow, and daughter-in-law, Margaret Hagenow, in his years at St. Peter. He currently serves with Pastor Mundt in retirement roles helping out our current pastor, Rev. Dr. William Morris. Pastor Morris was Called in 2013.
When the new school was built, it was felt that it would serve for many years to come. The Lord, however, abundantly blessed the congregation with growth and enthusiasm. Once again the congregation showed its concern for Christian education. Even though the thought of a new church was in the minds of many people, they felt that the needs for Christian education needed attention. So, on August 22, 1967, it was decided to build an addition of three classrooms, and office, and a meeting room to the existing school. Groundbreaking took place on September 3, 1967 and the cornerstone laying service took place on November 5, 1967. The architect for the $80,000 was Thomas Schmidt of Saginaw and the contractor was S. Johnson from Bay City.
Another milestone and day of rejoicing came on May 26, 1968 when the new addition was dedicated to the glory of God. Pastor Lorenz Weber was the guest speaker.
After a long and successful teaching ministry — years in which the Lord richly blessed the labors of Mr. Loesel, when the school grew from two teachers to six, and enrollment increased to 150 — Mr. Loesel decided to retire. During a special service on June 15, 1975, Mr. and Mrs. Loesel were recognized for their many years of labor among the people of St. Peter.
The congregation immediately sent for a call list and Mr. Leland Huebner was called from Twin Falls, Idaho. Mr. Huebner was installed as teacher/principal on September 7, 1975. During his time at St. Peter, enrollment increased to 180 and many new programs were successfully created.
Mr. Huebner left St. Peter in 1981 and Miss Jean Thomas, teacher, served as interim principal while a search for a new principal was conducted.
In 1982, Mr. Charles Strohacker was called to be the new principal/teacher of St. Peter. He served until 1989 when St. Peter called Mr. Lester Altevogt to serve as principal/teacher. In 1998, Mr. Altevogt was named the first full-time principal of St. Peter Lutheran School and he retired at the end of the 2009 school year. Mr. Eric Hagenow was called by the congregation to be the principal of St. Peter Lutheran School, and he is currently serving in that role.
With the growth to the community and to the congregation, Christian Education needs were again addressed. Various additions were made to the school between 1983 and 1996. These additions included three classrooms, a new septic field, remodeling of the restrooms, a kitchen, a parking area, and a gymnasium. Two portable classrooms were also added. In addition, a computer lab and office area were also updated. The portable classrooms have since been removed. In 2012, a small number of additions were made to the school which included new offices and a cafeteria.
To date, the enrollment at St. Peter Lutheran School stands at over 100 students in Preschool through 8th grade. Courses are offered to students in a wide variety of subject areas including religion, math, language arts, reading, spelling, social studies, science, physical education, computers, art, Spanish, and music. St. Peter students are also offered opportunities to participate on many extracurricular athletic teams including basketball, soccer, volleyball, cheerleading, and track and field. In the school year 2010-2011 St. Peter Lutheran School celebrated her 130th year of existence.
IMAGES FROM OUR PAST