Zion Lutheran Church
Will Mark Its 60th Year Sunday
By Mrs. Trygve Andersen
Following the founding of Silverhill, Ala., in 1896, by the late Mr. Oscar Johnson and the Svea Land Company of Chicago, the first family to arrive to make its home in this wilderness of pine forests was Mr. and Mrs. Axel T. Westerlund and infant daughter, Ester Louisa, (the present Mrs. George Lundberg) in 1897. Later that year Mrs. Oscar Johnson and daughters, Vera and Agnes, (Mrs. Phil Armstrong and Mrs. G. W. Utter) arrived, all from Chicago, and the adults originally from Sweden.
As land seekers and early settlers began to arrive, and being Christian minded, Sunday School and Church services were held in the Land Company office building (the present Library Building). Services were conducted in Swedish by Mr. Westerlund, and later by Mr. Carl Edfeldt. Two churches were founded, namely the Mission Covenant and the Baptist, and buildings erected. A school had been established in the Land Company building, but now the colony had grown to where a new school was built (the present home of Mrs. G. Edhegard).
By this time the Lutheran people of Silverhill wished to organize a church and so Rev. H. E. H. Hartelius was sent to Silverhill by the Augustana Synod (Swedish) of Illinois in 1905 when the church was organized but it was not recorded until May 21, 1906. Services were held in the school house. A (tramp) organ was contributed, also a church bell. Both were later given to the school. The bell is now permanently erected on the front school campus in memory of the early days of Silverhill.
The Sunday School was conducted regularly, but church services were only conducted as Lutheran Home Mission pastors were sent down to this area. By 1914 a Ladies Aid was organized which has continued on up to this present date. It is now called the Lutheran Church Women of America (L.C.W.)
The Swedish language continued for many years but then gradually the English language was introduced and today (1966) no Swedish is used at all.
Mr. Oscar Johnson, the Founder of Silverhill, donated three lots of land for the building of a Lutheran Church, across from the school house. The church was built by the members of the church, both men and women, under the guidance of experienced men, the Messrs. Victor Olson, Hans Erickson and F. O. Linder. It is a beautiful wooden structure painted white, and with a belfry.
As pastors came down, they were house guests in the homes of church members. First services in the new church was in 1915. Theological students served the church, Arthur Larson and Arnold Nelson. The latter married Hildur Swenson (lived where the Ellis Nix now live). A fine (tramp) organ was donated by a Chicago Lutheran Church and a new bell was hung in the belfry.
Mr. and Mrs. Phil Armstrong (Vera Armstrong) were the first to be married in the new church.
The deacons conducted services when no pastors were available. Visiting pastors were the Revs. Leaf and Stone.
In 1919 Rev. and Mrs. John Benson, from Minnesota, became the first permanent pastor, occupying the present home of Mayor and Mrs. Ben Kucera. It was decided to build a parsonage alongside of the church. A beautiful comfortable building was erected. A beautiful Christian Service and Julotta was held in the morning and a children’s program at night. In 1924 the Bensons and daughter left as Missionaries to China.
Rev. E. Oscar Johnson, Rev. J. P. Samuelson, Student Rog Johnson, and Student Thure Johnson also Rev. D. N. Anderson, Rev. Brown (Mobile) West and Derrick, Rev. W. Letstedt, and Layman M. Zimmerman served the church for certain length periods, due to the church being a Lutheran (Home Mission) Church.
The church has accomplished much, and has contributed much to the community spiritually, socially, physically and economically.
Rev. Counts, Rev. Eubanks, Layman Robert Tutos (U. S. Navy), Rev. Richard Auchgill, and now the present Rev. August Suechting did much work for the congregation.
Among the organists have been Mr. P. W. Paulson, Anna Linder (Mrs. Trygve Anderson), Mrs. Harry Norden, Mrs. George Lundberg and the present Mrs. E. Hallberg.
Sunday School Superintendents have been the P. W. Paulson, Vallin, Victor Olson, Ruby Ledeen (Mrs. C. Gaye) the Mesdames Oscar Swanson, Roy Kinard Sr., and Lawrence Moseley.
In April 1953 the Augustana Synod discontinued its connection with the church, and so it affiliated with the United Lutheran Church of America, Synodical Convention in Atlanta, Georgia. Now with the merging of so many Lutheran Churches in America, Zion Lutheran is now in the South Eastern Synod of the Lutheran Churches of America (L.C.A.), Conference in Atlanta, Ga.
The young people of the church are the Luther League, and have been a very active part of the church for many many years. The present president is Miss Diane Swoboda. The president of the Church Council is Mr. Lawrence Mosley. The president of the Lutheran Church Women is Mrs. Phil Armstrong, Sunday School Superintendent is Mrs. Lawrence Moseley, Quarterly Birthday Dinner and Program Chairman of entire church personnel is Mrs. George Lundberg. Vacation Bible Schools are conducted each summer.
Fifteen or sixteen classes have been confirmed since 1918 numbering about 116 confirmants. Children and adults have been baptized.
Many marriages have been performed, the most recent in the church were Mr. and Mrs. Eric Hallberg Jr.
Mrs. Peter Christopher (Sharon Prahl) sketched, and Mr. Eric Hallberg painted a life sized picture of the Risen Christ up over the altar.