Zion Lutheran Church, Chattanooga, Celebrates Its 160th Anniversary (1855-2015)

It was established a mere 160 years ago and is still active to this day. This coming Sunday, 27 September 2015, we will celebrate Zion Chatt’s 160th anniversary during a celebratory worship service at 10:30 with a carry-in dinner to follow. All are welcome to attend, visit, and reminisce. And eat!

Zion Evangelical Church was formed in 1855 as an outgrowth of the west half of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Liberty Township. Zion is located in Section 5 of Liberty Township, on the corner of State Route 49 and Tama Road, at the south end of Chattanooga, in Mercer County, Ohio.

Zion’s first pastor was J.D. Gackenheimer, a traveling missionary educated in Switzerland and sent to America to serve German settlers with the Word of God.  While serving an Evangelical church in Harrison Township, Van Wert County, he would travel to the Chattanooga area to minister to the Lutheran and Evangelical settlers by baptizing the children and serving communion to the adults.

Gackenheimer JD  1855-60

Rev. Johann Gackenheimer, Zion’s first pastor.

Zion’s congregation worshiped in homes until 1860 when members purchased land to build a frame church. Church elders Conrad Heffner and Frederick Herzog purchased the 100×85 foot parcel of land from Jacob & Charity Deitsch in 1860 for $5. A frame church was built and was located directly southwest of the present church, on the corner of State Route 49 and Tama Road. For seven years the building served both Lutheran and Evangelical worshipers, until the Evangelicals sold their interest and organized their own church.

Zion Lutheran Church, Liberty Township, Mercer County, Ohio, Old Frame Church

Zion Lutheran Church, Liberty Township, Mercer County, Ohio, Old Frame Church

Another view of Zion's frame church.

Another view of Zion’s frame church, c1916. Note the brick church on the left side of the photo.

In 1863 the congregation purchased three acres on the south side of Tama Road from Conrad & Margaret Heffner for $5. A small Lutheran School was built there and was run by the pastor and used during the summer for teaching the Bible. A frame parsonage was located south of the school. The current brick parsonage was built and dedicated in 1947. Two ball fields also occupy the lot and are used by local teams.

Zion Lutheran School, Chattanooga, Ohio (c1904)

Zion Lutheran School, Chattanooga, Ohio (c1904)

The old parsonage, south of the Lutheran School, c1900.

The old parsonage, south of the Lutheran School, c1900.

In 1889 Zion purchased 1/5 acre adjacent to the frame church from Michael & Elizabeth Zellinger and in 1916 Henry C. & Margaret Baker sold an adjacent twelve by ten rods to the church for $260.This would be the location of the congregation’s new brick church.

The cornerstone for the present church building was laid 2 July 1916, during the pastorate of the Rev. W.F.H. Heuer. The present church was dedicated 13 May 1917 and the frame church was moved to the north end of Chattanooga, where it was used as a garage and eventually torn down.

The frame church and the "new" brick church, side-by-side, until the frame structure was moved.

The old frame church and the “new” brick church, side-by-side, until the frame structure was moved.

Another view of both churches.

Another view of both churches, c1916.

The first minister to be installed at Zion was the Rev. George Heintz in 1860. Zion and St. Paul Liberty shared pastors during the years 1855-1883, 1914-1931, and 1978-2011.Two sons of Zion joined the ministry, Rev. B.F. Brandt and Rev. Paul Becher.

Services at Zion were held in German for more than sixty years. The first English service was held in about 1910 and some German services were provided into the 1930s.

Zion Lutheran Cemetery is located about a quarter mile east of the church, the land deeded from Michael Burger in 1866. The oldest known and surviving tombstone in the cemetery is that of Agatha Heintz, who died in 1868. She was the wife of Pastor George Heintz, Zion’s pastor at the time.

Zion Lutheran Cemetery, Chattanooga, Mercer County, Ohio. (2013 photo by Karen)

Zion Lutheran Cemetery. (2013 photo by Karen)

The Chattanooga Mausoleum Association purchased 100 x 60 feet of land immediately west of the cemetery from Henry C. and Margaret Baker in 1917 for the construction of a mausoleum. In 2013 the Chattanooga Mausoleum Association turned the mausoleum over to the Liberty Township trustees.

Chatt Mausoleum. (2000 photo by Karen)

Chatt Mausoleum. (2000 photo by Karen)

The parcel of land between the church and mausoleum was purchased from Gertrude Hoblet In 1997. Crops are currently grown on the land.

Zion was part of the American Lutheran Church (ALC) during the mid-20th century. Zion joined the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in 1987, the same time the ELCA was formed. On 4 December 2011 Zion voted to disassociate from the ELCA and at the same time joined the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). Zion is currently a member of the Northwest Ohio Mission District of the NALC.

In the spring of 2012 Zion Lutheran and St. John Lutheran, Hopewell, joined to form a two-point parish. Pastor Karen Tamorria accepted a call from the parish in the fall of 2012 and began her ministry in the parish in November 2012. Pastor Tamorria was installed 6 January 2013.

Zion’s brick church building will be 100 years old in 2016. The building is in very good condition but does require regular maintenance. The whole church was extensively remodeled in 1968 when the upper balcony was made into three Sunday School rooms, the first floor area under the balcony was made into two offices and a Sunday School room, and the basement was remodeled. The sanctuary was redecorated in the late 1960s and again redecorated by Henry Husmann of Portland, Indiana, in 1992. In 2013 the slate roof was repaired, the brick chimney on the east side of the structure was removed, and a new heating system was installed. The stair lift going up to the sanctuary was replaced and a new lift going down to the basement was installed in February of 2015, making the both levels handicap accessible. The stair lifts are located on the west side of the church [the door nearest route 49], where there is also handicap parking.

Zion Lutheran Church, 2015.

Zion Lutheran Church, 2015.

Zion continues to teach the Word of God at weekly worship services, mid-week services during the Lenten season, and at Bible Study groups. Active groups include Sunday School for all ages, Zion Lutheran Church Women, a Bible Study group, Chatta-John youth group, Kingdom Kids, Zion’s Diner and summer Bible School. Mission projects include the Ohio Mission District of the NALC, CALL Food Pantry, Wernle Children’s Home, Lutheran World Relief, Water Mission International, Van Wert Area Youth for Christ, and Heart to Heart. The church women make comforts for Lutheran World Relief, make and deliver Christmas plates to shut-ins, and prepare and serve funeral dinners. Chatta John youth fund raisers include Zion’s Diner and a concession stand at the Parkway basketball tournament.

Zion’s website, Zion’s Chatt, www.zionchatt.org , was created in 2012 and the congregation has a print newsletter, Zion’s Chatt Line.

During the past 160 years, nearly 1100 people have been baptized and over 900 members have been confirmed at Zion Lutheran in Chattanooga.

We hope you will join us Sunday as we celebrate Zion Chatt’s160th anniversary.



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    • Sandy Swanson on September 25, 2015 at 4:46 pm
    • Reply

    it is a lovely church and congratulations on 160 years. We enjoyed our time there.

      • Karen on September 25, 2015 at 10:45 pm
      • Reply

      Thank you, Sandy, and it is so nice to hear from you. I hope you and Randy have been well. We also enjoyed the time you both were here and do stop by if you are ever in the area.

    • Martha Fisher Lawler on September 25, 2015 at 5:45 pm
    • Reply

    I wish I could be with you on Sunday. I have such fond memories of that church where I grew up.

      • Karen on September 25, 2015 at 10:40 pm
      • Reply

      I wish you would be able to be there, too, Martha. Hopefully you will be able to come another time.

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