In a small, freshly-formed rural community, still dominated by woods and wildlife, a collection of voices gathered together in the waning days of the summer of 1862, and nestled under one roof, these voices sang praises to the Lord, Jesus Christ. This community of Morrison, Wisconsin was but seven years old at the time, and Wisconsin was officially less than a decade and a half old itself. Beyond the sanctum of this small gospel gathering, a Civil War was being waged around a torn nation. Abraham Lincoln was president. The world was sitting on the fringe of the frontier life and the cusp of profound technological and political changes soon to come.
But in this small worship service in August 1862, 11 Morrison families turned to the Lord for guidance and love, and worshiped Him together – marking the official formation of Morrison Zion Lutheran Church.
Prior to this formation, however, our founding fathers had met with area Protestants in joint church services in Lark.
The Protestants worshiping there were served at first by a Pastor H. Jox of Maple Grove in 1858. Ultimately, doctrinal differences arose in its midst, severing the congregation’s cohesiveness and it dissolved in 1862. At this time it was served by Pastor C. Keller of Reedsville and the church building was taken over by Emmanuel Evangelical Church of Lark.
Lutherans of this dissolved group became the founding fathers of two congregations – our Zion congregation (Est. 1862) in the Town of Morrison, and of Zion in neighboring Wayside (Est. 1863). In our congregation’s earliest days, services were held in the homes of its members; mostly at C. Gross’ residence, located at 3593 Hill Road, which is now owned by the Elmer Kitzerow family.
A short time later, on the site of our present old cemetery, a humble log church was erected in 1863 and was surrounded by thick forest. The log church – our first official “House of God” is said to have been larger and more spacious than historical sketches indicate. This maiden church building was built during the ministry of Pastor C. Gausewitz of Reedsville, who succeeded Pastor Keller after he moved to Wayside to become their first resident pastor.
For two years Pastor Gausewitz served our congregation. Next, two other Reedsville pastors – Pastor Braun, followed by Pastor Kluge – oversaw worship in Morrison for the next six years. During Kluge’s pastorship, Zion founded a Christian Day School in 1866. The first schoolhouse was a frame log structure, built on the site of our present school building.
Unquestionably, it was an arduous task for these first visiting pastors serving our congregation to make the roughly 12-mile trip from Reedsville to Morrison, either by horseback or most often by walking because of impassable roads. Congregation members faced challenges as well. These were the days before the prevalence of horse and buggy, and only a very few farmers owned a wagon and a yoke of oxen. Those that did own one loaded up as many friends and family as they could en route to church. Many, though, would simply have to walk to the service. In spite of these circumstances, these early members gladly endured these difficulties for their Lord.
Highlighting the sometimes difficult journeys, however, were times the congregation waited in vain for the arrival of a pastor, who was kept away by inclement weather or otherwise unavoidable hindrances. In these instances, an elder of the congregation would conduct the services and read a printed Lutheran sermon.
Thus was the Lord’s Day observed by our founding fathers and their families in those pioneer days.
In 1872, the first resident pastor was called, Pastor Junker, who served here from 1872-1878. During his ministry, the first parsonage was built. It was a frame structure. In 1878, Pastor Junker was succeeded by Pastor Roeck, who was a missionary from Malabar, India. He served as pastor here from 1878-1887.
During his ministry, the second church was built in 1882.
Twenty years after the founding of Morrison’s congregation, in 1882, Pastor Roeck oversaw the final service at the group’s first church, and, from there, ushered in a new era as the doors were officially opened in a new, much larger house of worship.
Morrison Zion Lutheran’s second church was a frame structure, erected about twenty feet south of our present-day church, about where our new cemetery begins just off the parking lot. As this new church opened, more blessings for the congregation soon followed. In 1886, the first resident teacher, Franz Gruett, was called.
A year after Teacher Gruett came, Pastor G. W. Albrecht became the successor of Pastor Roeck in 1887. During his ministry, the first original field stone structure of our present Christian Day School was erected.
Prior to Gruett, our pastors had to do most of the teaching themselves in addition to their other ministerial work.
They taught all the religious subjects, preparing the youth for confirmation through the study of Bible History and the Lutheran Catechism, and also guided students in learning the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Gruett would only serve as teacher for one year, but in the next 144 years to come, more than three dozen called workers – and many more student teachers – have helped continue to guide our young children in their studies.
After a four-year ministry in Morrison, Pastor Albrecht was succeeded by Pastor F. Ave Lallemant, who served from 1891-1898. When Pastor Ave Lallemant was called to another parish in 1898, Pastor Julius Kaiser became his successor. Like Pastor Albrecht before him, Pastor Kaiser served our congregation for seven years, from 1898-1905.
After Pastor Julius Kaiser’s departure, Pastor W. Henkel received the call to administer the Gospel and the Sacraments in our midst. He served here from 1905-1912 – another seven year stay. During his ministry, our present parsonage was built in 1909.
Eventually, Pastor W. Henkel accepted a call as professor at Northwestern College at Watertown, Wisconsin.
Pastor Henkel was followed by Pastor Bruno Gladosch, who brought a more lengthy stability to the pulpit. In fact, he ended up serving Morrison’s congregation for the longest period in our history, for 32 years in all, from 1913-1945. Before this, our first six resident pastors had been with us for a combined total of 40 years.
Pastor Gladosch’s long-standing ministry in Morrison got off to an interesting start, too. In just the second year of his time in Morrison, lightning struck the steeple of the frame church in 1914. Fortunately the fire could be extinguished, but the steeple had to be rebuilt and the bell in the belfry had to be recast.
After this fire, plans ripened in the minds of our members to build a new church, but the First World War put these plans on hold.
The frame church continued to serve our congregation as a place of worship until the year 1927.
In all, Morrison’s collection of Lutherans gathered inside this second church for worship for more than four decades, totaling 44 years. Pastor Gladosch continued serving in this new church until 1945, leaving our church in the final year of World War II.
Our congregation reached the decision in 1926 to build a new church, prompting elaborate preparations to be made. This third official church building was to be erected to the glory of the Lord of the Church, with hopes that it would also be a representative Lutheran church for the whole community.
The services of the architects Foeller and Schober of Green Bay, Wisconsin, were secured for the making of the plans. The contract was given to Foeller and Sons of Green Bay.
In the fall of 1927 the new church was completed, and on October 30th, celebrated as the Day of the Reformation at the same time, the church was dedicated to the service and worship of the Lord. This church, with a massive, majestic, and almost fortress-like appearance would easily become the longest-running home of the congregation of Morrison Zion Lutheran, serving the church now for roughly 85 years.
From the first days that members opened up their hymnals and sang hymns of praise in these new pews, a sense of humble awe, gratitude and joyous pride was felt throughout Morrison’s faithful, with the hope that their offspring would be just as glad and proud to worship in it as those who saw it built.
The church featured, and still does to this day, comfortable seating for roughly 400 persons, with more space available to accommodate large attendance. There’s also, among other highlights, a balcony, basement, large stained glass windows, a large altar and hanging pulpit, and many visual reminders of the grace of God, including an illuminated window above the altar focusing attention on Christ in Gethsemane, reminding the congregation each service of the hour of prayer and worship.
With this new church came other changes, though.
Because of the bilingual nature of the ministerial work within our congregation and also because of the increased enrollment in our Christian Day School, help had to be sought for both Pastor Gladosch and the school’s teaching staff. Pastor E. Froehlich was called in 1937 to assist Pastor Gladosch in his ministerial work in the English field. Pastor Gladosch retained all the ministerial work in the German field. Pastor Froehlich was also asked to assist Teacher Edgar Blauert in school by taking over the lower grades.
Also in 1937, our Zion congregation was privileged to celebrate one of many more blessed milestones to come – its seventy-fifth anniversary. Pastor Gladosch wrote the history of the congregation up to the time of this anniversary.
When Pastor Gladosch resigned in 1945 because of failing health, Pastor Froehlich was requested to take over all of the ministerial duties. Pastor Froehlich obliged until he accepted a call to Pickett, Wis. nine years later in 1946. From there, Dr. Henry Koch was called from Manitowoc, Wis. to minister to the spiritual needs of the congregation. He was installed as pastor in January 1947.
Dr. Koch served the congregation until retiring in 1969. During his 22 years in Morrison, he was blessed to oversee several new benchmark moments for the congregation.
During his ministry, considerable additional building activity was necessitated by the increased enrollment in our Christian Day School. As a first project, a new teacherage was built in 1949. From there, in March 1952 we celebrated the decoration of the church interior, which had been carried out artistically and in harmony with the inner architecture by Mr. J. Stradel of Wayside. Just over a year later, on Sunday, August 23, 1953, the dedication of the new school took place, which was combined with the celebration of the ninetieth anniversary of our congregation.
The anniversary was to be celebrated in 1952, but was postponed to enable the completion of Morrison’s entire building project.
The next milestone for Dr. Koch and his congregation was a big one: the 100th anniversary of Morrison Zion. The 100th anniversary of the Morrison church and its congregation took place in 1962, with many activities planned to celebrate Morrison Zion’s first century of blessings.
Seven years after this church centennial, Dr. Koch retired in 1969. From there, our congregation called Pastor Waldemar O. Loescher to continue pastoral services among us. He was installed in June 1970, and prior to being installed, Pastor Waldemar Geiger of Shirley had served the congregation as vacancy pastor in between.
Changes happened soon after he came, as a weekly Sunday School was started in 1970 for young congregation members just as he was beginning his ministry in Morrison.
Also during Pastor Loescher’s time, Morrison’s church celebrated its 125th anniversary in 1987. During this celebration, three worship services were held to mark the occasion. A Confirmation Reunion service, Christian Education service and a Mission service were held, all featuring sons of the congregation as guest preachers. Slide shows featuring historical photos were also shown, and a video was recorded of the congregation leaving the church services.
Six years later, a new hymnal was introduced for worship in 1993, featuring Psalms put to music and other additions to weekly worship. This hymnal, entitled, Christian Worship: A Lutheran Hymnal, replaced The Lutheran Hymnal, which dated back over 50 years to 1941.
In 2001, Pastor Loescher left Morrison Zion after the second longest ministry in the church’s history (31 years).
Replacing him was Pastor Randall Ott. During his time in Morrison (which at present is 12 years from 2002 to 2014), both the school and church were renovated. A one-classroom addition, as well as a large commons area, was added to the school in 2007.
In that same year, a painstaking task to repaint the interior of the church took place, which saw all the original details of the decorative symbols and images on the church walls restored. Other changes in the church during his time include new carpeting, an expanded Sunday School room, and other renovations to the basement. In 2008, A Christian Worship Supplement was added to help enhance worship services.
Also during Pastor Ott’s time in Morrison, he has introduced a number of new weekly Bible classes to aid in the nurturing of the congregation’s souls. Ott is also known for the powerful sermons he has given, which often also include a light-hearted joke nestled within the important and Sacred Word of God.
In 2012, our church’s 150th year, Pastor Ott oversaw this hallmark milestone for the church, which was celebrated by having multiple special services throughout 2012, highlighted by a two-day celebration in August.