The Ministers of Zion Lutheran Church, Chattanooga, Ohio (1-6)

Last week Zion Lutheran Church at Chattanooga, Ohio, celebrated its 160th anniversary with a special church service and dinner afterward. During those 160 years Zion has had nearly 30 ministers. Ten years ago, for Zion’s 150th anniversary, I compiled short biographies of Zion’s ministers. The information for these biographies came from the ELCA Archives at Trinity Seminary, Columbus, and my personal research.

Zion’s first six ministers:

Gackenheimer JD  1855-60Johann Gackenheimer was born 25 April 1820 in Güttlingen, Württemberg, and died 29 November 1882 near Bippus, Indiana, at the age of 62. He was educated at the Basel Mission House, Switzerland, from 1840-1846. After he was ordained he was sent to America to minister to the German immigrants. His first congregation was in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, in the late part of 1846. In 1850 he moved to Van Wert County, Ohio, where he established and served at the Evangelical Church in Harrison Township from 1850-1875. He established at least one other congregation in Van Wert County, near Convoy. During this time he would travel to the Chattanooga area to baptize children and give communion to the adults. He served at Zion Chatt and St. Paul Liberty Township from 1855-1860. Rev. Gackenheimer also owned and farmed about 40 acres of land in Willshire Township, Van Wert County. He left the area about 1875 and went to serve an Evangelical congregation in Hayesville, Ohio. He retired from the ministry at St. John’s, Warren Township, Huntington County, Indiana. He married Elsbeth Kramer, from Bridgewater, Pennsylvania, on 23 May 1853 and they had seven children. Three sons died young and are buried in Evangelical Protestant Cemetery, Harrison Township, Van Wert County. For additional information about Rev. Gackenheimer see my blog post, J.D. Gackenheimer—Zion Chatt’s First Minister.

HeintzGeorge Heintz was born in Dornbuch, Bavaria, on 14 August of 1833 and died 4 July 1911 in Crown Point, Lake County, Indiana, at the age of 76. He immigrated to America between 1848-1852. He served at St. Paul, Jenera in 1860; Zion Chatt, 1861-1872; and moved to Indiana by 1873. In 1880 he was living and serving at a Lutheran church in Crown Point. He first married Agatha Kirn and they had two children while at Zion: Johann Mathias, born in 1866, and Friederich Christoph, born in 1867. Agatha died 2 February 1868, at the age of 24 years, 5 months, and 2 days. Agatha’s tombstone is the oldest surviving tombstone in Zion’s cemetery. Rev. Heintz married Maria Elisabetha Germann about 1869. Maria was from Van Wert County and their son Karl Georg Peter was born in 1870, while the couple was still living at Chatt. They had five more children who were born in Indiana: Clara, Willie, Oscar, Martha, and Martin. Rev. Heintz is buried in Maplewood Historic Cemetery, Crown Point, Indiana. His second wife Maria died 28 October 1931 and is buried beside Rev. Heintz. For additional information about Rev. Heintz’s first wife Agatha see my blog post, Tombstone Tuesday—Agatha Heintz.

Heintz, Agatha (2)

Agatha Heintz, first wife of Rev. George Heintz.

Philip SchmidtPhillipp H. Schmidt was born in 1 December 1846 in Schillersdorf, Alsace, the son of George and Margaret (Anstaetter) Schmidt, and died 13 January 1913 in Columbus, Ohio, at the age of 66. He immigrated to America in 1866, graduated from Capital University, and in 1872 graduated from the ELT Seminary in Columbus. He served at Zion Chatt from 1872-1875; St. Peter, Trenton, Ohio, 1875-1885; and St. John, Grove City, Ohio, 1885-1912. He retired from the ministry in 1912 due to illness. He married Mathilde Meyer in 1872 and they had one son, Rev. Hugo Schmidt, and one daughter, Olga (Mrs. William Voeller). Rev. Schmidt is buried in Green Lawn Cemetery, Columbus, Ohio.


Hugo Willert was born in October 1835 in Germany and died before 1910. He immigrated to America, sailing from Hamburg on the ship Westphailia and arriving in New York on 28 September 1868. His occupation was “Lutheran Pastor” on the ship’s passenger list. Less than a year later, in April of 1869, his wife Bertha, their two-year-old son, Otto, and six-month-old son Hugo arrived in New York on the ship Allemannia. Rev. Willert served at St. John Lutheran, Covington, Ohio, from 1873-?; at Zion Chatt, 1876-1879, and at Exeter, Monroe, Michigan 1880-? In 1900 the Willerts were living in Jackson Township, Franklin County, Ohio.

Frederick H. Besel was born 8 March 1855 in Illinois to John Frederick Carl and Sophia (Melber) Besel. His parents were born in Germany and his father was a minister. F.H. Besel served at Zion Chatt from 1881-1883. He married Angie Cook in Trumbull County, Ohio, on 2 February 1882 and they had the following children: Clara M., Walter Adolph, and Carl William. Rev. Besel died 5 October 1941 and is buried at Lakeview Cemetery, Windsor, Weld County, Colorado.

Adam, Rev. Carl (1)Karl Christian Konrad Adam, Jr. was born 6 August 1823 in Swabia, the son of Karl and Christiana (Roecker) Adam, and died of a stomach ailment in Chattanooga, Ohio, 2 March 1889, at the age of 65. He is buried in row 6 of Zion’s cemetery. He immigrated to America in 1833, graduated from Capital University, and was licensed to preach in 1842. He immediately began serving at St. Paul, Sulphur Springs, from 1842-1848. He was ordained in 1850 and in 1851 took a three month trip through Northwest Ohio and Eastern Indiana for the new Northern District. For this he was became known as a “traveling preacher.” He served the following parishes: St. Thomas, Dixon and Harrison, Van Wert, Ohio, 1851-1855; Wapakoneta, Ohio; Fort Wayne, Indiana; and Saginaw, Michigan; New York; Eden, Indiana; Woodland; Michigan; and Zion Chatt, 1883-1889. He married Wilhelmine Philippine Rieger in 1862.


To be continued with Zion’s next five ministers.


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    • Judy Edmonds on October 2, 2015 at 10:39 am
    • Reply

    Dear Karen,
    Yes I read each and every post you send out and I thank you for doing this interesting work. As usual life sometimes gets in the way of how we want to live and our visits back to Ohio have not been as planned. You may remember that Reverand W. H. F. Heuer was my Mother Anne’s, Father. My mother was the only one of their children born while they were at Chatt. I think her baptism records are there, but her birth was not recorded in the county. She was baptized the first Sunday after her birth on April 7, 1917. Her Mother Anna was not able to be present. Her given the name was Anna Christiana and later she had it legally changed to Anne Christine. She never told us why. Her burial stone in St. Paul Cemetary, Talmage, NE, lists both names.
    Thank you again for the work you are doing and I look forward to the next post. Judy Buethe Edmonds.

    1. Hello Judy. How nice to hear from you! I believe we have corresponded in the past. As you may remember, there is a large photo of your grandfather with two other ministers, taken during the dedication of Zion’s cornerstone in 1916. I believe your mother Anne visited Zion in 2000 and passed away in 2005, Zion’s 150th anniversary year. I also have photos that were taken in 2005 of Rev. Kathy Gerking standing in Zion’s pulpit. She would be your cousin? So many memories! Thanks for writing and thanks for reading.

    • Doug Roebuck on October 9, 2015 at 11:40 am
    • Reply

    Thanks for sharing this information. My grandmother (Roebuck, nee Heffner) family is all buried in the cemetery at Chatt except for her. I really enjoy reading about Chattanooga!

    1. Yes, many of your Heffner family are buried in Zion’s cemetery. There were a lot of them. Thanks for reading!

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