Excerpt from a History of St. Mark's Evangelical Lutheran Church Prepared for the 50th Anniversary - Reformation Sunday October 28, 2001
English settlement in Alabama was the city of Huntsville, but it was 146 years
later that the Evangelical Lutheran Church was established in the city. As early as 1942, Mrs. Joseph C. Hawkins
assumed the responsibility of contacting a Lutheran pastor to conduct services
for the few Lutherans residing in Huntsville.
The services were first conducted in her home; later, the group assembled in the Russell
Erskine Hotel for Lutheran worship.
However, the actual birth of St. Mark’s Church was made possible with
the arrival of German rocket and missile scientists in 1950, who re-activated
Redstone Arsenal. These men and their families
had come to America under the guidance of the United States Army and were first
settled in El Paso, Texas.
In the summer of
1950, the Reverend Dr. Charles E. Linn, President of the Georgia-Alabama Synod
of the United Lutheran Church in America, was contacted by Mr. Leopold Osthoff
concerning the organization of a Lutheran congregation for these space
scientists. A Lutheran Theological
Southern Seminary student, William Hartman, was sent to survey the field and
conduct services for interested persons.
Mr. Edward Tesmer and Mr. Robert Axelson assisted the student in this
ministry. In September of that year, the
Reverend Dr. William Stup came from Atlanta, Georgia each Sunday for the
services. A group averaging thirty
persons met in the former Fifth Avenue Elementary School, which later became
part of the UAH Medical School, for these worship experiences. The Episcopal Church of the Nativity was
ever-ready to assist with office supplies and equipment, church furnishings and
facilities to aid the Lutherans in their efforts to initiate a mission. With much interest, seven men from the group
secured “earnest” money to purchase the first church property, a funeral home
to be converted into the first church and a house for a parsonage. This property was located on the northwest
corner of Franklin Street and Longwood Drive.
first gifts to the mission were the cross and candlestick from the Edward
Tesmer family and two offering plates from the Arthur Weber family. Five-branch candlesticks were given by the
Women’s Missionary Society of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Ascension,
Savannah, Georgia. A hand-made altar for
the mission was provided. Later, Messrs.
Wilhelm Angele and Hans Fichtner designed and built another altar.
On February 1,
1951, the Board of American Missions “called” as mission developer, the
Reverend George F. Hart of Jacksonville, Florida, to organize the work in
Huntsville. A committee composed of
Messrs. Edward Tesmer, H. Cole Reasin, Hans Friedrich, Fred Schwarz and Robert Axelson
served as a temporary council.
By October 1951,
77 adults and 43 children were enrolled for membership. Sixty six of the confirmed members were
German scientists and their wives when the congregation was organized formally
on Reformation Day, 1951. The Reverend
Dr. Charles Fritz, President of the Georgia-Alabama Synod, and the Reverend Dr.
Arthur Knudsen, Secretary, United Lutheran Church Board of American Missions,
were present for the organizational service.