Back in the days of John Work of the Hudson’s Bay Company, who was trading among the Indians in these parts in 1945, the colloquial name for the plains which were northeast of Spokane Falls was ‘Wild Horse Prairie’ and this is where we find the beginnings of Saint Peter Lutheran Church.
It was Jim Hill who pushed his railroad from the East, with the focal point of that activity in 1891, being the Spokane Material Yard. This which was the supply center that had been established on ‘Wild Horse Prairie’.
In October of 1892, Leland and Kate Westfall, who had purchased land adjacent to these material yards, platted out a town and named it Hillyard, in honor of Hill. It was his railroad that would link Saint Paul and Seattle in just three months.
After the completion of the Great Northern line in January of 1893, Hillyard was to be a division point and construction began on a brick roundhouse, car repair shop, paint shop, machine shop and various frame structures. Shop workers and railroad train and engine men hastened to buy lots and build homes in the area. Before long Hillyard was a community. The movement to incorporate began in 1899, but James J Hill advised that if the community incorporated he would move his railroad shops out, but the town folks got around that roadblock. Hillyard became a city in 1907 with the railroad yards and shops remaining outside the corporate limits, as they still to today.
When the town first was platted it was surveyed for a population of 5,000. By 1924, when Hillyard became annexed to the city of Spokane, 16,000 homes were being served from the Hillyard Post Office. The community newspaper claimed a population of 30,000. People opposed annexation with Spokane, so it was taken to a vote. It lost by only 5 votes. The county called a second election in 1924. This time 808 cast for annexation and 681 against. Following this the Hillyard streets were renames and a fire and police department moved in.
Work schedules and lack of finances made it difficult for people to attend church services in Spokane. Many different groups started meeting, usually in homes. Several different churches eventually formed in the Hillyard area, not the least was to be the Lutherans.
Partly because of the request of the Lutheran people and partly because of the missionary concern of Pastor Paul Groschupf of Emmanuel Lutheran church, services were begun in Hillyard on Sunday afternoons in 1907, in German. He was assisted by Pastor G.F. Pauschert of First English Lutheran of Spokane, who came to Hillyard occasionally to conduct English services for those who did not speak German.
One of the homes frequently used for services was at 3011 E Wellesley, a large home occupied by the Wuerch family. It later became Mansion House Rest Home. As the group became larger, the Congregational Church at 4917 N Lacey was rented to use for services.
After a time regular church services were held and in October 1910, Pastor W.L. Ridenour was installed as mission pastor to serve the Hillyard Lutherans in the English language. ‘Saint Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church’ was the name chosen for the congregation.
On Sep 17, 1911, Saint Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church was formally organized. At that time Rev Charles Rush was installed as Pastor, with about 20 charter members. This was accomplished with the approval of the new congregation by the Synodical Mission Board. First baptisms were Helen Gibbs and Henry Berg on Oct 29, 1911.
The first church building was begun and by the summer of 1912 they dedicated their first church on the NE corner of the present day Smith and Wellesley, at that time South and Sheridan. Almost all of the work plus some of the lathing was done by members and the pastor, with the women providing the food.
Pastor Rush left in April of 1913, requiring an interim, who was Pastor G. Pauschert until Jan 1914, when Rev C. J. Lautenschlager began his work here. During his leadership the church building was moved to the corner of Regal and Wellesley, laying the cornerstone on Oct 19, 1919. The house directly north of the church was purchased as a parsonage.
Two pastors served for short periods of time before they could attain another pastor. They were W.M. Laves, from May-Jul 1920 and A.O. Swinehart from Nov 1920 to Jul 1921. Pastor Ernest M Butenshon became the new pastor in Jul 1921, and the Synod said the services were to be in English only. Pastor Butenshon left in Apr 1923.
In Sep 1923 Pastor Amos Minnemann began his stay, during which time they had their first fire. It was contained in the roof and chimney area. They met elsewhere until it was repaired. Pastor Minnemann left in 1929, Pr W.H. Hellman served as Interim.
Pastor L.J. Kutz began his service in Jul 1929, with an established membership of 100. Within a year on Jun 1930 a fire damaged the church. Rebuilding began immediately.
The great depression was hard on this congregation. During one period of time there was only one member (Wm Borgardts) who was employed. Members relied on God and each other to make it.
In 1920 the Senior Luther League of 20 members was formed as well as the Women’s Missionary Society, affiliated with the national organization. In 1934 Lutheran Crusaders was formed.
In the next years, the 25th anniversary was celebrated in 1936, the church mortgage was burned in 1941 and the church became self-supporting soon after, no longer depending on the Mission board. In summer of 1943 another fire, causing a rebuilding process and services were held in the Hillyard Congregation Church.
In 1944 Pastor Kutz resigned, Pastor I. Harold Kuester was called to replace him. He began his duties in 1945, which lasted until 1947 when he resigned.
Pastor Fredrick L Bracher, from Texas, served the congregation from Jun 1948 to Jan 1950. Pastor Milton Linhart served as supply pastor until Mar 1951 when Albert H Tietz accepted the call. During this time the 40th Anniversary was celebrated.
In June 1951 the congregation began building operations for a new church which was completed on Jan 20, 1952 when the new church was dedicated. Much labor was donated by members and the total cost above that was $100,000.00. The church grew and within 2 years we were needing to enlarge the parish unit. Also in 1952 a new parsonage was purchased at 4803 N Altamont and paid for with money received from the old church and parsonage at Regal and Wabash.
In 1952 Dorcas Society was formed, making 3 women’s groups. After the merger they became known as ‘Saint Peter Lutheran Church Women’ and a part of the national ALCW. Later they divided into 4 circles each meeting at a different time and place, Ruth, Joanna, Esther and Naomi circles. With the last church merger in 1988, they became known as ‘Women of the Evangelical Church in America’.
On Aug 01, 1957 Pastor Tietz left, Pastor Arthur Schwarts served as interim until March of 1958, when Pastor F.J. Ahrendt accept a call to our parish. During his stay the greater church merger put us a part of the ALC, or American Lutheran Church. During his time here Saint Peter entered into an Intern program, providing valuable parish experience for new pastors. Also during his term on Dec 10, 1967, we had a special Mortgage burning service.
Following Pastor Ahrendt’s retirement, Pastor Bernt I Dahl began work here in July of 1969. During his stay the Annex property was paid off, one house was removed and a parking lot expansion was completed. In 1982 an addition was added to the church, which included an elevator and handicapped restrooms both upstairs and down. The annex was renamed ‘Gathering Place’, along with being remodeled and landscaped by the Men’s Group. The choir alcove was transformed into a Library, a Refugee family was sponsored until they were self sufficient. Pastor Phil Mueller served for a time as Visitation pastor.
Under the leadership of Intern, Olin Sletto, the Meals-on-Wheels program was born. Many of the neighboring churches participated, with Saint Peter being the main pick-up center. Food was stored in a freezer donated by Fernando Seefeldt. The kitchen here was used to prepare meals before delivery. This program has since gone city wide. The Tape Ministry was started by the Evangelism committee during this time, delivering from 18-25 tapes to our shut-ins each week. A new tape copier was donated in 1983 by John and Maggie Rail to assist duplication of the tapes.
In 1988 came the last merger, so we are now part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, in the Eastern Washington/Idaho Synod. Pastor Dahl retired in 1989. Pastor Jim Rogers was the Interim pastor until 1990 when Tom McCurdy came. After that time we completed our Office/Sacristy remodeling.
Saint Peter still struggles to keep above board financially for one reason or another. The membership declined drastically during the time Tom McCurdy was here. In 2002 we called Betty Krafft to be our pastor. In 2006, due to lack of finances, she is working fewer hours to help us get caught up. We are all hoping and praying we will grow enough to resume paying her fulltime very soon. Pastor Betty was installed in April of 2002, following Pastor McCurdy’s resignation.
Nov 08, 1936 was the special Silver Jubilee service, celebrating 25yr, held at the morning worship service. Sermon given by Pastor E Butenshon, of Pendleton OR. He also spoke at the special program at 2:30 p.m., following dinner and again at 7:30 p.m. at another worship service.
Oct 22, 1950 the 40th anniversary was celebrated, with a special morning worship service, with Interim Pastor Linhart presiding and Pastor L.J. Kutz was guest speaker followed by a special coffee hour.
In 1961 the 50th anniversary was celebrated. The year started by setting up an Anniversary Fund, which eventually made it possible to purchase the property east of the church. Several special meetings were held during the year in commemoration of this, with the main Anniversary celebration on Sep 24, 1961. Albert H Tietz and L.J. Kutz were guest speakers at the morning worship services. A buffet supper was held at 5 p.m.. Following this a Vesper Service was held. Dr H. L. Foss, District president, gave the sermon, with reminiscing on the early days by Pastor J.M. Groschupf, the son of Pastor Paul Groschupf and a solo by Donna Nelson.
On Oct 24, 1971 a dinner and the 60th Anniversary celebration was held, with anniversary plates at $3.00 and trivets at $1.50 for sale. Pastors F.J. Ahrendt and L.J. Kutz spoke at the morning services. Mrs Dorothea Groschupf, widow of Pastor John Groschupf greeted the congregation. A dinner was held with a pageant ‘Past, Present and Future’. SS children painted murals plus an art contest added to the celebration.
In 1986 we celebrated 75 yrs. At the service a song, ‘Let’s Celebrate.’ was sung, written by Margaret Rail. A new Pictorial directory and celebrations during the year honoring groups and members. In August Pastor Richard Finch, in September, Pastor Bill Batterman were guest speakers. In October Bishop Lunde gave the sermon with an evening banquet, special music, honored couples married 50 years. In November Pastor F.J. Ahrendt was the guest speaker. Anniversary cups were sold @ $2.50.
On Oct 06, 1991 the 80th Anniversary celebration followed the morning worship service. At noon there was a Potluck and a slide presentation on years past, presented by Esther Ellingson, former organist for Saint Peter for many years. Esther also ably played for the morning worship service.
Pastors who served Saint Peter:
1908-1910 – Pr Paul Groschupf (Ger)
1908-1910 – Pr G.F. Pauschert (Eng)
1910-1911 – Pr W. L. Ridenour
1911-1913 – Pr Charles Rush
1913-1914 – Pr G. Pauschert (interim)
1914-1920 – Pr C.J.E. Lautenschlager
1920 – Pr William C. Labes (interim)
1920-1921 – Pr A.O. Swinehart (interim)
1921-1923 – Pr E Butenshon
1923-1929 – Pr A. Minnemann
1929-1929 – Pr W.H. Hellman (interim)
1930-1945 – Pr L. J. Kutz
1945-1947 – Pr I. Harold Kuester
1948-1950 – Pr F. L. Bracher
1950-1951 – Pr Milt Linhart (interim)
1951-1957 – Pr Albert H Tietz
1957-1958 – Pr Arthur Schwartz (interim)
1958-1969 – Pr Fred J Ahrendt
1969-1990 – Pr Bernt I Dahl Jr
1981-1990 – Pr Phil Mueller (visitation pastor)
1989-1990 – Pr Jim Rogers (interim)
1990-2000 – Pr Tom McCurdy
2001-2011 – Pr Betty Krafft
Interns who served Saint Peter:
1962-1963 – Paul Baardseth
1963-1964 – Lloyd Miller
1964-1965 – James Swanson
1965-1966 – John Thorson
1966-1967 – Gary Knabe
1967-1970 – No Interns during these years
1970-1971 – Ron Becklund
1971-1972 – Olin Sletto
1972-1974 – No Interns during these years
1974-1975 – Dan Haert
1975-1976 – Brian Erickson
1987-1988 – Keith Anderson
2011-2012 – Mandy Renaud
2012-2013 – Brian Jack
2013-2014 – Erin Heidelberger
2014-2015 – Sierra Westerman
2015-2016 – Christina Forsythe
2016-2017 – Keyla Christenson
2017-2018 – Seth Rumage
2018-2019 – Eric Schwarian
2019-2020 – Timothy M. O’Shields