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Reflections with Sammy Way: Lutherans established Sumter church in 1890

By SAMMY WAY
Archivist and historian
Posted 1/11/20

Reflections remembers the arrival of the Lutheran congregation to Sumter and chronicles the construction of its house of worship. Research notes that "the Lutherans organized into a congregation in Sumter on March 14, 1890, when six interested …

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Reflections with Sammy Way: Lutherans established Sumter church in 1890

Posted

Reflections remembers the arrival of the Lutheran congregation to Sumter and chronicles the construction of its house of worship. Research notes that "the Lutherans organized into a congregation in Sumter on March 14, 1890, when six interested members gathered at the home of Mr. J. F. Laughery to discuss organizing a church with each becoming a charter member."

It is noted that the first communion held in Sumter was administered to Mrs. Mathilda Kapff and her daughter and conducted in German. The articles and photos used to construct this article were obtained from The Sumter Item archives and the writings of Portia Myers.

The drive to create a following in Sumter was provided by members of the church ministered by the Rev. F. W. E. Peschau, D. D., pastor of St. Paul's Church located in Wilmington, North Carolina. The Rev. Peschau was a frequent visitor to Sumter, and he ministered to the growing congregation, which reached 34 by June of 1892. On Oct. 18, 1892, the membership was deeded a lot on the corner of Washington and Republican (later Hampton) by Mr. Robert Alfred Brand for $1. The church trustees secured $2,800 for the construction of a house of worship, and on July 9, 1894, ground-breaking for the new facility took place. Prior to the completion of this facility, the membership held worship in several of the local churches and once in a hall above a local store.

Dr. Peschau continued to serve the congregation in Sumter and Wilmington until 1896. The membership was excited to welcome the Rev. J. C. Trauger, who became the first regular pastor in February of 1896 and remained in this capacity until August of 1897. It was during the tenure of the Rev. Trauger that the first church structure was erected, and with the new facility and sharing a minister with St. Luke's of Florence, a pastorate was formed. Soon after the competition of the church building, the Rev. Mr. Trauger resigned and was replaced by three theological students. Y. Von, A. Riser and Wilbur H. Riser acted as interim pastors.

The union with St. Luke's of Florence was dissolved in 1900; the Sumter church then became associated with Orangeburg Lutheran Church. This union dissolved in 1902. The church faced a period of time without a minister until the Rev. Thaddeus B. Epting took charge on June 1, 1904.

The church became debt free at the Christmas festival of 1905 with the contribution of $300 from Mrs. Maggie E. Laughrey.

The church was able to make substantial improvements.

The Rev. Epting remained at St. James for four years and left in 1912. The Rev. J. H. Wilson, D. D., took charge and remained at St. James until he died on July 11, 1919, and was followed by Rev. J. P. Derrick in 1920.

In 1925, the congregation built a new parsonage under the guidance of the Rev. Karl W. Kinard. In 1933, the Rev. William H. Stender became pastor as the church celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1940 along with the dedication of the Parish Hall. Following this milestone on April 15, 1945, Pastor Stender resigned.

Following a brief stint by the Rev. Vernon F. Frazier, the Rev. J. E. Roof began his ministry and orchestrated numerous advances during his tenure. Along with several improvements to the facilities, the membership of the church would grow from 159 to 323, and six additional Sunday school rooms were added at a cost of $6,000 in 1950.

The membership purchased a lot behind the church and built the Sterling Stoudenmire Educational Building in 1955 at a cost of $47,500. "Mr. Stoudenmire had come to Sumter from Lone Star in Richland County. He was of German heritage and possessed a deep devotion to the Lutheran Church. He became a very prominent and highly respected businessman in the community, and it was fitting that the building was named in his honor."

"The church leaders decided to build a larger facility in the 1970s to accommodate the increasing membership. A large, modern church was constructed on Alice Drive with ample land for expansion."

The congregation transported the beautiful stained-glass windows from the old structure to the new church. The original structure and the Stoudenmire building have been since removed.