German Americans of Cleveland

Cleveland Press Articles

Germans Built Church Here in 1842

"100 Years of Nationalities in Cleveland"
Seventh of a Series
By Theodore Andrica
Cleveland Press, date unknown

According to tradition, in the early 1830's a small group of German sailors whose names no one seems to remember, found themselves battling the waves of Lake Erie in the midst of a furious storm. Their boat was small and frail and its destruction seemed inevitable.

As they were about to be engulfed, they knelt in fervent prayer, promising that if they would be saved, they would erect a church in God's honor. Miraculously they were saved and obediently they fulfilled their promise. The church was eventually erected.

There is no authentic record of this incident, but in it there may be found a reason for the name "Schifflein Christ" (Little Boat of Christ) given to the first German church in Cleveland, built at the comer of Erie (E. 9th) and Hamilton Sts. in 1842.

A later record stated that the name was selected because "it stood near the lake and because during its brief period of its existence it had weathered many a storm."

The congregation must have been in existence as early as 1834. Records found by the Rev. Theodore A. Kitterer, pastor of the First Evangelical and Reformed Church, show that there was one burial without a pastor in 1834.

Groups Reunited

The actual organization of the congregation took place under the direction of seven young Germans on April 26, 1835. The newly organized congregation called itself the First Evangelical Protestant Congregation. For its first shepherd, the small group elected the Rev. F. Tanke, at a yearly salary of $300.

Rev. Tanke, a native of Germany, stayed just a few months with his new flock. He was followed by a Rev. Buse. The circumstance which brought about this sudden change in pastors resulted in discord among the members and Rev. W. Steinmeyer was called to reunite the groups. He, too, stayed only a few months, terminating his pastorate in August, 1835.

The fourth pastor was the Rev. C. A. H. Allardt who stayed 23 years and under whose pastorate the first church was built in 1842 at the comer of Erie and Hamilton Sts.

The first recorded baptism by the Rev. Allardt was that Elizabeth Krolli, born Aug. 20, 1845, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Adam Krolli. The first wedding recorded was that of William Specht and Hanna Maria Eichenfelder, on Jan. 1, 1847. The first death recorded by Rev. Allardt was of an infant, son of Phillip and Maria Lerch, born Jan. 6, 1847 and died the same day.

New Structure Built

First Evangelical Church
The present First Evangelical Church at 839 Thornhill Dr.

In 1876 the old building at Erie (E. 9th St.) and Hamilton Ave. was sold and the greatly enlarged congregation erected a new structure at Superior and Dodge Aves. (now Superior and E. 17th St.).

The Evangelical Protestant Trinity Church, organized in 1874 and the Ebenezer Evangelical Church, established in 1893 merged with the First Evangelical Church in 1927 and 1928 respectively.

Following these mergers, the congregation erected the present First Evangelical Church at 839 Thornhill Dr. The pastor is the Rev. Theodore A. Kitterer.

The story of the "wandering," or progress, of this first German Church in Cleveland, from the shores of Lake Erie to present day location is a typical example of what eventually happened to the other German churches, which were established in the second half of the 19th ventury in Cleveland.