History of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Warren, OH

Until 1943 there was no Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod congregations in Warren, OH.

Mr. and Mrs. Edgar W Husemann and their son Robert, who had moved from Chicago to Warren, Ohio, attended the Lutheran Hour Rally in Cleveland in the Fall of 1942. At that time, Dr. Walter A Maier was the Lutheran Hour speaker and was a friend of Mr. Husemann. Conversation between the two disclosed the Husemanns lived in Warren where there was no Lutheran Church of the Missouri Synod. The two made plans to do something about it.

A few months later, Pastors T. W. Schroeder, M. Dusan Marcis and W. H. Werning with Mr. Husemann, using information furnished by the Lutheran Hour and Dr. Maier, began with a systematic search for Lutherans of the Synodical Conference in and around Warren. At 2:00 p.m. on February 28, 1943, the first worship service was held at the Finnish Lutheran Church, Parkman at Oak street S.W., with eighteen in attendance. Rev. Schroeder, at that time pastor at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church of Youngstown, preached the sermon. The liturgist was Rev. Marcis.

The following is a list of those who attended the first Divine Service of Trinity Lutheran Church, Warren, Ohio: Mr. Carl Gipp, Mr. Vodenski, Mr. Ray Leonard, Mr. and Mrs. Schmidt and family, Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Voden and Beverly, Mr. and Mrs. Husemann and Bob, Miss Sue Vodenski, Mr. Martin Vodenski, Mr. and Mrs. Clifford Wiggins.

For the next five months, the pastors from Youngstown faithfully served the “Lutheran Hour Mission” at the Finnish Lutheran Church. On August 1, 1943, Rev. Harold George Shulz was ordained and installed as pastor of the new “Mission”. His father, Rev. T. A. Shulz of Davenport, Iowa delivered the sermon. Dr. Walter C. Birkner performed the rite of ordination and installation. Reverends W. H. Werning and M. Dusan Marcis had the scripture readings and prayers and assisted with the installation.

With the financial assistance of the Mission Board and the Emergency Planning Council of the Missouri Synod, a store was rented on the northwest corner of Youngstown Road and Homewood S.E. The first service in our own “home” (even though rented) was held on October 6, 1943. It was a welcome change to attend morning services – Sunday school at 10:00 a.m. and Divine service at 11:00 a.m. – instead of the 3:00 p.m. afternoon services.

The small group had begun to think of organization from the start. The infant group continued to grow. Regular Sunday school and church services brought new faces. Additional names were received from Dr. Maier and contacted. The Ladies’ Guild was a “budding organization”. (It is actually older than our congregational affiliation with the Synod.)

On February 20, 1944, there was a special meeting held at 7:30 p.m. for all members of the congregation. The purpose of the meeting was to decide on the name of the congregation and to discuss a constitution. Dr. Birkner discussed and explained the essential parts of the constitution. At this meeting the ballots showed a big majority in favor of “Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church” which is still our officially incorporated name today.

On March 15, 1944, the constitution was read, amended and accepted as amended. The constitution was submitted to the Synodical Committee by the secretary for approval. On June 23, 1944, “it was moved, seconded and passed that we, as voting members, accept the Constitution as approved by the Synodical Committee on Constitutions and herewith formally apply for membership as a congregation in the Central District of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio and other states.”

Rev. H. G. Shulz resigned as pastor on September 17, 1944 in order to serve as a chaplain in the Armed Services. From this time on until February 4, 1945, Rev. R. E. Wunderlich, pastor of St. Mark’s of Youngstown, served as vacancy pastor. Divine services were held at 9:00 a.m. and were followed by the Sunday school services at 10:00 a.m.

On February 4, 1945, Rev. Allan Hart Jahsmann was ordained and installed as pastor of the “Mission”. Pastor Jahsmann and his new bride of January 29, Louise Marie, arrived in Warren from St. Louis the first of February. In addition to his regular pastoral duties, Pastor Jahsmann established and taught a Christian kindergarten for the community. This school laid the foundation for Trinity Christian Day School which was organized in October 1947.

On April, 1, 1946, discussions began regarding the purchase of a building lot, as Trinity continued to grow. Later the same month the congregation was advised by the owner of the store that he wanted the building in order to establish a hardware business.

During the spring and early summer months, plans were made for our new church home and its location. The Building Committee, composed of the Messrs, Shagnot, Voden, Rohrbach, Husemann, Mason, Birkholz, Schley, Somplack, Noland, Henkel and Pastor Jahsmann, decided on the two lots at Perkinswood at Sussex and engaged Mr. J. Adam Fichter as architect. Dr. Birkner gave us the benefit of his council at various times during this difficult period. The contractor was The Warren Engineering Company. The congregation was also incorporated at about this same time.

On October 1, 1946, the store on Youngstown Road at Homewood was vacated and services were begun at the Baptist Temple on Youngstown Road at Arbor Street. Again we had afternoon services at 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Ground was broken on May 18, 1947 for the new building at 2689 Sussex S.E. at the corner of Perkinswood, S.E. June, July and August were anxious months. Monies were gathered from the members of the congregation, a loan was obtained from the Central District Church Extension Board, as well as gifts from friends of the congregation.

On July 13, 1947, the cornerstone was laid. Mrs. W. N. Hoppe of Cleveland, Central District President of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League, presented a substantial gift to the congregation.

October 5, 1947, was the Big Day. The plans, previously laid out on paper, were now in material form. Dedication services were held at 11:00 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. Dr. W. C. Birkner preached the Dedicatory Sermon at the morning service and Rev. W. F. Doctor preached the sermon and Rev. W. H. Werning was the Officiant at the evening service. The Mahoning Valley Lutheran Choral Union accompanied by Mr. Carl Knittel sang for the evening service.

In March 1948, Rev. Jahsmann received a call from St. Louis to the Synodical Sunday School staff to be assistant editor of Sunday school literature. After prayerful consideration, Pastor Jahsmann accepted the call. The congregation granted a peaceful dismissal to the Pastor who left on October 10, 1948 for his new office.

In the interim period, meetings were held extending calls to various pastors. Guest speakers were arranged for to fill our pulpit during the “vacancy”.

Reverand Nathan K. Grefrath, by letter on February 22, 1949 accepted Trinity’s Diploma of Vocation and letter of February 7, 1949, calling him to be our pastor. He was pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Alexandria, Indiana. Pastor Grefrath, his wife Catherine Louise and their son Edward (Skippy) arrived in Warren by train the morning of March 10. 1949 and were taken to the rented parsonage at 467 Kenilworth, S.E., Warren. Installation of Pastor Grefrath was performed by Reverend Walter C. Birkner at a special 7:30 p.m. service on Sunday March 13, 1949. Reverend Walter H. Werning preached the sermon. The Mahoning Valley Lutheran Choral Union sang at this service.

The congregation again had a spiritual leader they could call their own. Growth, which had been temporarily halted, began again. Trinity’s kindergarten and Christian Day School organized in 1947 by Pastor Jahsmann had grown to six full grades under his guidance. It was now under the supervision of Pastor Grefrath who was also taught in the kindergarten. The congregation begin to consolidate for the “long pull”, to continue their work in earnest with the help of God.

verend Grefrath received a call in July of 1953. This call was accepted and Reverend Grefrath left on September 6.

In November of 1953 the congregation purchased a parsonage at 824 Willard, S.E. in Warren. This was made possible by the Trumbull Savings & Loan Company of Warren taking a first mortgage and the Central District Church Extension Board of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, taking a second mortgage.

Reverend Charles G. Zeisser, in a letter dated September 29, 1953, accepted Trinity’s call to be our pastor by letter and Diploma of Vocation of September 19, 1953. He was pastor of Martini Lutheran Church in Detroit, Michigan. Pastor Zeisser, his wife Mabel and their three youngest children, Charles, Mary and Kathy, arrived in Warren on Friday November 6, 1953. Their two oldest children, Joan and Carol, remained in school in Michigan. Pastor Zeisser was installed at 8:00 in the evening on November 8, 1953 by Dr. Birkner, assisted by Reverend Werning. Other pastors were in attendance.

The congregation continued to grow. Our parochial school attendance, however, declined due to the establishment of kindergartens by the Warren Public School system in our neighborhood and the lack of enrollment of grade school pupils by our members. The school was discontinued at the end of the 1954-55 school year.

On Sunday April 31, 1960, Trinity held a special service of thanksgiving at 10:45 a.m. to celebrate becoming debt-free. The congregation observed the occasion with a ceremony destroying all mortgages on the property, church and parsonage. Frank Shagnot, treasurer, and Walter Toncre, president of the congregation, were in charge of the mortgage burning ceremony. Pastor Zeisser conducted the special service.

On the first of September, 1960, as a fruitful conclusion of negotiations begun earlier in the year, Trinity purchased from the St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran congregation the church building and property located at 411 High N.E., Warren, Ohio. Because their membership included three realtors, St. Paul’s agreed to accept Trinity’s church and property at 2689 Sussex, S.E. as approximately 45% payment. All the responsibility for the sale of that property was St. Paul’s. Trinity took possession of the High Street property on Saturday July 1, 1961 with their first service in the new facility the next day.

Trinity purchased our present North Road property on February 3, 1966 (recorded February 10, 1966). This property, where our current church building stands, consists of 5.68 acres of land. Availability of this property was first called to our attention by Mr. Walter Toncre who was empowered by Trinity to purchase the land for us. This he did!

Discussions and communications with representatives of the St. Demetrios Hellenic Orthodox Church, 429 High N.E. in Warren, who were desirous of purchasing our 411 High Street church and property for the expansion of their church and school began early April, 1967.

Our United States flag was presented to Trinity by U. S. congressman Michael J. Kirwin together with an affidavit attesting to the fact that it had been flown over the United States capitol building, Washington, D.C., May 24, 1967. The flag was presented in June, 1967 and at a service Sunday July 2, 1967 both our Lutheran flag and the U.S flag were dedicated.

In February, 1968 Trinity’s General Council voted to sell the High Street property and build on our North Road property. On May 5, 1968 at a special Council meeting, Trinity voted to accept St. Demetrios’s offer to purchase the High Street property at Trinity’s price of $85,000, but with the stipulation that Trinity must vacate by August 1, 1968.

Three building committees were immediately formed, the Building, the Building Finance and the Building Advisory committees. Arrangements were also begun with the Howland school system to use the North Road Elementary School for our church services and school.

Our Kilgen pipe organ was purchased from a private owner in Bay Village, Ohio. At the June 11, 1968 General Council meeting, Tom Engstrom advised of the availability, characteristics and some past history regarding the instrument. At the same meeting Council approved the purchase of the organ. Under Tom’s supervision several of our church members moved the disassembled organ to Hilton Farley’s barn where it was stored until its removal to our new church choir loft. The organ was reassembled by Tom Engstrom.

On June 16, 1968, after many meetings of the various Building Committees, a contract was signed engaging the services of Joseph F. Busch & Associates, Architect and Engineers, Warren, Ohio. The balance of the year 1968 was spent in meetings between Mr. Busch and the Building Committees. Mr. Busch’s final building design and materials were unanimously accepted. There were no voiced objections by any of he many members who attended the meeting that was held for that purpose.

In January 1969 working drawings were submitted to area contractors for their construction bid. Four contractors bid and two declined. The J.S. Durig Company, Warren was low bidder. All bids were approximately 70% higher than anticipated, however, and at a Special Council meeting February 2, 1969 all bids were rejected.

Construction costs had greatly increased because of a building “boom” caused by the expansion program of General Motors at Lordstown, Ohio. Contractors were forced to include overtime wages in their bid, to insure keeping their skilled men. Change in our plans was necessary. The proposed building construction was of the most economical design and no great savings could be achieved there. The major saving was achieved by changing from circulating hot water heating to a forced hot air system.

The changed plans were resubmitted for bids. When they were received, General Council at a special meeting March 3, 1969, awarded the building contract to J.S. Durig Company, North River Road N.E., Warren, Ohio, who was again the low bidder.

The “ground-breaking” ceremony for our current North Road church building was observed March 16, 1969 immediately after regular Sunday morning services. Pastor Zeisser officiated and John Lendak Jr., who had been a member of Trinity longer than any other active member, turned the first shovel of earth. Also participating in the ceremony were the chairmen of the three Building Committees, Vincent C. Braun, Daryl L. Hoh and William H. Engstrom. Ludwig V. Davies represented the Trinity trustees. Nonparticipating guest in the ceremonial group were Mr. Bruce R. Mateer, Chairman Howland Township Trustees; Mr. Joseph F. Busch, Architect and Mr. Jack S. Durig, Contractor. Every member – man, woman and child – was invited to break ground.

The ceremony of cornerstone laying was observed on Sunday October 12, 1969 immediately after regular Sunday morning services. Pastor Zeisser officiated and Mr. Edgar F. Birkholz, one of our first members, affixed the bronze plaque to the wall, covering the vault opening. Others in the ceremonial group were William H. Engstrom, Daryl L. Hoh and Charles A. Potashnik of the three building committees; Joseph F. Busch, Architect and Jack S. Durig, Contractor.

The term “cornerstone” as applied to our historical capsule is a misnomer insofar as ours has nothing to do with a cornerstone of the building. A vault was provided by leaving a concrete block out of the south wall of the nave. Mr. Matthew R. Wysocki made a sealed wooden box to place in the cavity as a time capsule. It was over this opening in the wall that Ed Birkholz affixed the cornerstone plaque.

The vault contains a King James version of the Holy Bible, a Lutheran hymnal, a Children’s hymnal, historical data and pictures of the congregation, a copy of the revised May 14, 1968 Constitution of Trinity Lutheran Church, a proof set of U.S. coins encased in plastic consisting of one coin each under one dollar valuation, an entire Tribune Chronicle newspaper from Warren, Ohio, dated Monday Evening July 21, 1969 headlined “U.S. Astronauts Walk on Moon” and a Polaroid snapshot of the cornerstone ceremony, quickly slipped into the vault opening before the plaque was secured.

Since the construction of the new church, the congregation of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church has continued to spread the word of the Lord in the Mahoning Valley.