On December 20, 1863, the first constitution was adopted, as a small group of early settlers in Fort Dodge organized the First German Evangelical Lutheran Church and called the Rev. G. Endres as its first pastor. Services were held in the old Episcopal church. In 1864 a building site was acquired on 3rd Avenue South where the first St. Paul church was erected. It was built of native gypsum rock recovered from quarries by members of the congregation. The original church was 24 X 40 feet by 16 feet tall. All woodwork in the edifice was of black walnut.
At the same time in 1863, the German Lutheran School was organized. Education was very important to the German settlers so arrangements were made to use some of the members’ homes as schools. These homes were located on 1st Avenue North, South 8th Street and 3rd Avenue South. A year later a church building site was acquired on 3rd Avenue South where the first German Lutheran Church was built. The church was also used for school purposes. When the pews were made they included a drop leaf on the back and during the weekdays these were used for school desks. The school first opened in the old stone church in December 1864.
Both the church services and classes were taught in German.
In 1868, the first “Kinderfest” school picnic was held. This festival usually marked the close of the school year and was generally celebrated on the 4th of July. The custom prevailed for many years until the more formal practice of commencement became popular. In fact, in 1904, 2,500 members of the German Lutheran Church and their friends celebrated this event in Oleson Park, accompanied by the Juvenile Band and boarding a street car on Central Avenue to travel to Oleson Park.
When a new church was dedicated in 1886, the old church was used as a school. However, by 1893, the congregation was growing rapidly and the old church wasn’t large enough to accommodate all the students. The congregation sold the property and bought a building site on 2nd Avenue South between 6th and 7th streets and built a two story brick building. It was dedicated in 1894.
In 1916, the beginning of the school year, which until that time had been at Easter time, was made to conform to that of the public school in the first week of September. The growth of young people’s work in the congregation necessitated an assembly room. A spacious hall was provided in the attic of the school building.
A new church was built the early 1930‘s and a kindergarten was added to the school in 1932. By the 1950’s, they had outgrown the current school and a new school was built and dedicated on April 22, 1951 It was expanded in 1959, and in 1972, a preschool was organized at St. Paul Lutheran School. In 1999, the school was remodeled.
In 1999, the church suffered a devastating fire that was set by vandals and was destroyed. The school was saved, but was unusable. Classes were moved to Good Shepherd Lutheran Church and remained there for the rest of the school year. Classes were able to resume in the fall; the church was rebuilt and was put into use in 2003.
Today, St. Paul Lutheran School continues to be a Christ-centered school trusting in God’s blessings and guidance, providing education for students K – 8th grade. While valuing its Lutheran heritage where students are daily in God’s Word, the school continues to value the partnership between church, school, and family, just as its pioneers leaders did over 150 years ago.
St. Paul Lutheran School is part of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod School System.
History provided by: " History | Fort Dodge, Iowa" (fortdodgehistory.com)
|Colleen Blobaum Berman
Linda Hubbard Lay
Suzanne Kane Withers
Lyndell Olson Hepperle
Marlene Peters Caswell
Linda Ruge Rossow
Galene Zelms Morris
Front Row (L-R) Linda Ruge, Brion Wenhardt & Linda Larsen.
Back Row (L-R) Patty Holstein, Kathy Roark, Lois Hendricks & Mike Pratt
- - Thanks to Patty Holstein Park for putting names with these faces. - -