As we page through the early history, one is impressed by the willingness to share, to help each other and their pioneer faith.
At the turn of the century, Paynesville area churches were the largest evangelical center in the Minnesota conference with 593 members.
Paynesville Methodist - 1858 to 1968
The Methodist Episcopal Church had the first congregation in 1857. Their first building was erected in 1860 to 1861 south of the old iron bridge, formerly Larryís Rental. Rev.
When the Sioux outbreak came in 1862, the Methodist Church together with the first school were hurriedly moved together to form the sides of a fort. The fort, including the church, was burned by the Indians. Services were then held in the home of John Phipps. On Jan. 11, 1873, it was decided to build a church 32 by 44 feet. When the church was to be dedicated in 1874, there was still an $890 debt against the church and $110 against the parsonage. A Mr. Roach sold some oxen to pay the last of the church debt.
During these years the town was growing and two railroads had pushed their way through. It was decided to move the church from Old Town (Jim Town) to its present site on Highway 23, former home of the historical building. In 1925 the church was remodeled, a new addition put on, and a full basement constructed.
The last service in the church was held on June 22, 1969. The Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren Churches had merged and it was felt the two churches should hold worship services in the larger of the two buildings (the EUB).
Union Grove Church - 1865 to 1968
Early records of the Union Grove Methodist Church were all destroyed during the Indian outbreak. It is believed the church work began before 1865 when the first records started.
Early church records state Rev. Bullard was appointed to the Union Grove Methodist Church in 1865. He had six appointments: Paynesville, Long Lake, Burbank, Calhoun Lake, Union Grove and Manannah.
In 1866, church services were held at the William Clark residence in Irving Township. These services led to the establishment of the Methodist Church that later became a part of the Crow River charge. Services were held in homes until they became inadequate because of crowded conditions. Services were then moved to the school at Crow River when it was located in section 33 on the slope of the hill just east of Crow River village.
At the 1871 conference, Rev. Akers reported he traveled 1,386 miles, making 210 visits and calls, preached 51 sermons, and attended 14 prayer meetings. The appointment at that time consisted of Paynesville, Koronis, Burbank, New London, Long Lake and Manannah. Union Grove was included with Manannah.
In 1881, the land was purchased on which to build the church building. The building was enlarged and a full basement was added in 1929. In 1968, they voted to close and the largest number of members came to Paynesville Grace Church.
Zion EUB - 1889 to 1941
The first name of the Zion Church was ďEvangleische Gemeinschaft.Ē People came to worship from all over. For several years August Knebel, who had a good German education, read sermons to the people until Rev. Lahr arrived in 1861.
The Zion congregation was incorporated in 1864. After the erection of the Salem Church, records indicate that many of the early Zion and Salem members were instrumental in the eventual building of the other area churches: Salem in 1871; Zion in 1874; Grove in 1891; Paynesville in 1892 and Ebenezer in 1895.
Salem people would walk all the way from their homes to Zion, through the wide flat distance of eight or nine miles, to share worship services and festivities.
Ebenezer - 1889 to 1969
One of the earliest settlers in the Ebenezer community was August Ruhn in 1887. He and his wife worked in the Zion community during the summer while the Ebenezer Church was being organized. The congregation was incorporated in 1894.
The first church was built in 1895 during the ministry of Rev. Siebold. When the church was dedicated, it was debt free. In 1904 Ebenezer became a part of the South Haven Mission. In 1918 Ebenezer became a permanent part of the Zion Circuit, which had Zion, Salem and Ebenezer as its members. These three then constituted the Zion Circuit until 1941 when Zion voted to leave the circuit and become part of the Paynesville church. In due time, the Zion Church was torn down, ending an era of community worship.
First Evangelical (Grace) - 1889 to 1968
As families moved into Paynesville from the rural churches, in 1889, Rev. A.C. Schmidt was assigned to the church in the village. The first building was built in 1892 during the pastorate of Rev. Bunse. Before long, the First Evangelical Churchís existing building became too small and in 1913 the second and present church was planned.
In 1961 the christian education wing was dedicated. Planning for the new addition started in 1948 when the building fund was created. A building committee wasnít selected until 1958. Committee co-chairs were Dr. Myre and Chris Hanson. A ground breaking service was held in September of 1960 and the project was completed by May of 1961.
The new two-story addition (38 by 80 feet) included a pastorís study, 16 Sunday school rooms, church office, Fireside Room, for a total of 7,600 square feet. Total cost of the project was about $93,000. In 1968, the east entrance was remodeled to provide a handicap ramp up to the sanctuary.
Grove EUB - 1874 to 1931
About five miles northwest of Paynesville, a Mr. Schmidt owned a farm on which a grove of trees was visible for some distance from the surrounding prairie. Because of this, the neighborhood and the church were known as Schmidtís Grove and later simply Grove. For a time, it was also known as Emmanuel.
Early services were held in the Salem Church and later in the Fred and William Hein home. When the schoolhouse was built, the services were moved to that site.
The Grove church remained a part of the Paynesville circuit until 1931 when they united with the Paynesville First Evangelical Church.
Salem Evangelical - 1864 to 1969
At first, church services were held in M.F. Plantikowís home and other homes until the schoolhouse was built in 1865 about three miles north of Paynesville, which later became known as the ďbrick school.Ē
The Salem Church was built in 1871 under the supervision of E.H. Baumann. It was the first church of the Evangelical Association to be built in the Paynesville area. The church was so badly damaged by a severe storm on April 21, 1897, that it was declared unsafe for use. In 1897, this church was torn down and a larger, substantial, brick-veneered church was erected at the cost of $6,183. It is this church that will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in August.
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