A History of St. Paul's
St. Paul’s is the oldest Lutheran congregation in Erie County, officially incorporated on December 18, 1827. The congregation was founded by Rev. Vincent Philip Meyerhoffer (or Mayerhoffer), who came to the Niagara Frontier in 1826. Land was granted by the Holland Land Company in 1828, the first building on this site was constructed in 1831, and we’ve been here ever since.
Rev. Meyerhofer stayed long enough to get St. Paul’s started, then turned the reins over to Rev. Keller. Rev. Schmidt followed Rev. Keller in 1841, then Rev. F. W. Bindemann (1841-1844), Rev. J. M. Forschner (1844-1847), Rev. C. Albert Ebert (1847-1852), Rev. Walther (1852-1853), Rev. J. Philip Conradi (1853-1858), and Rev. William Schmidt (1858-1861).
The Civil War era brought the Rev. Gustav Bochert to St. Paul’s. He also served as chaplain of the “Poor House” which was located on what is now the South Campus of the State University at Buffalo. And he previously served the congregations of Zion in Clarence Center and Zion in Niagara Falls.
In 1865, Rev. Adolph C. W. Boettger accepted the call to St. Paul’s Eggertsville, where he was to remain for the rest of his life. In 1868 things were getting crowded in the Eggertsville church. Rev. Boettger decided to gather parishioners in the village of Williamsville into a new congregation, and St. Paul’s in Williamsville was formed.
In 1872 a congregational constitution (written in German) was adopted. By this time the church building was in a bad state. The cornerstone was laid for a new building in 1874. However, it was not as structurally sound as might be hoped. “..it left very much to be desired, because as often as it rained hard, the steeple became a copious fountain.”
August 7, 1879 - a watershed date in the annals of the congregation. A couple of boys had been smoking behind the church sheds and dropped their matches. Edwin, the youngest Boettger child found the matches, struck one, and dropped it right into the straw. Rev. Boettger heard his screams, saw the flames, and ran to ring the church bell — the community fire alarm — and to snatch up the parish record books. The church, parsonage, sheds, and a neighboring house and barn all burned to the ground. The Amherst Bee reported, “We understand it is the intention of the Lutheran people to rebuild as soon as possible.” This was indeed true, and within two months, plans were drawn up for the new sanctuary.
A solemn ceremony marked the cornerstone laying on October 5, 1879 A German catechism, a copy of the New Testament, and a brief historical sketch of the congregation were enclosed in the stone. The new building was completed by early 1880 and was decorated with murals by Pastor Boettger. On November 23, 1896, the Rev. Adolph Caspar Wolfgang Boettger died He served the congregation for thirty-two years — longer than other pastor before or since.
Within a month of Pastor Bottger’s death a new pastor, the Rev. Ernst Burk, was called. During his pastorate a new parsonage was built, and, in 1911 the church and parsonage were electrified and new “Tiffany-style” stained glass windows were installed in the sanctuary.
The Rev. Ernst C. Burk entered into eternal life on Christmas Eve, 1919. He was succeeded by the Rev. George E. Schettler. Under his leadership the Sunday School grew so that the parish hall was built in 1927 to accommodate the increased enrollment.
In 1932 Pastor Schettler wished to retire. The Council searched for a new pastor. St. Paul’s got a “new deal” in the person of the Rev. Gustave K. Huf! Pastor Huf had been a missionary in Puerto Rico, and his missionary fervor found a good outlet in Eggertsville!
New York State had served notice that it intended to straighten “dead man’s curve” on Main Street just east of the church property. The church building stood only a few feet from the roadway, and would have to be moved. A major renovation project was proposed costing $18,000 - a small fortune in those days! In July, 1933 the cornerstone of the old church was opened, and the project was under way. The church building was moved back 85 feet and faced in brick. The interior was remodeled and other needed renovations were undertaken. Much of the construction work was accomplished by members of the congregation.
The Rev. William T. Heil began his pastorate here on April 16, 1939. Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941. When Pastor Heil left St. Paul’s in 1942, more than 30 sons and daughters of St. Paul’s were serving in various branches of the armed forces.
On October 24, 1942, the Rev. George A. Martin began his pastorate at St. Paul’s. The full force of the war was making itself felt — on the home front as well as in the various theaters of operations . With the declaration of peace and the return of the servicemen and women the congregation continued to flourish. In 1947 St. Paul’s celebrated its 120th Anniversary.
The congregation continued its slow but steady growth. However, early in 1950 a fire severely damaged the Parish Hall. The congregation faced further adversity in the summer of 1952 when Pastor Martin was suddenly stricken with a heart attack and died.
In 1953, The Rev. John L. Kinzel was called as pastor. Within the first year of his pastorate, plans were laid for the rebuilding and repair of the Parish Hall and the construction of a new parsonage.
In 1962, St. Paul’s celebrated its 135th Anniversary with a building project that added the classrooms and kitchen on the rear of the Parish Hall, and the Fellowship Room, Pastor’s office, and Choir Room in the rear of the Church.
A vision to expand programs led to the call of the Rev. James Anderson as Assistant Pastor in 1966. But in the Spring of 1967 Pastor Kinzel resigned to accept a call to the Campus Ministry at the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia. His resignation, followed by that of Pastor Anderson, left St. Paul’s once again without a pastor. The Rev. John Burke served as vice pastor for about six months until November, when a call was extended to the Rev. Carl G. Olin, Jr. The years following Pastor Olin’s arrival were characterized by a steady increase in membership, especially among youth and young adults. As programs continued to expand, it became apparent that more staff was needed for youth and education. The position of Youth and Education Coordinator was created in 1975.
St. Paul’s celebrated its 150th Anniversary in 1977 with special programs and observances. The year culminated with a festival worship on Reformation Sunday. Dr. Edward K. Perry, President of the Upper New York Synod preached. Pastor Kinzel returned to celebrate with us, as well as many former members. As a special Anniversary Gift to itself, St. Paul’s purchased the Lutheran Book of Worship — the newly introduced worship book and hymnal for the Lutheran Church in America.
In 1988, St. Paul’s became a part of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and members have taken an active role in the church at large.
Pastor Olin retired in July, 1996, after serving St. Paul’s for almost 29 years. He was only the second pastor in the history of the congregation to retire from ministry here (the other being the Rev. George Schettler in 1932.) Pastor Olin was named the first “Pastor Emeritus” in the history of St. Paul’s.
The congregation, at the recommendation of the Council, called the Rev. Carl Onofrio to a twelve-month interim ministry here. Pastor Onofrio encouraged the congregation to draw upon its talented and capable lay leadership as it began to develop a vision for St. Paul’s mission and ministry in the next millennium.
A Call Committee was appointed early in 1997. In May, the Call Committee voted unanimously to recommend the candidate to the Council. The Council voted unanimously to invite the Rev. Richard G. Krogmann to meet and be met by the congregation and to conduct worship. An overwhelming majority of the congregation agreed with the Call Committee and Council. A call was extended to Pastor Krogmann. He was officially installed on October 19, 1997.
Early in 1998, the Council began to work on a new Mission Statement for the congregation. A steering committee was formed to look into badly-needed renovations to the buildings. “Building Together!” was the name chosen for this project. Ground was broken in September, 2000, and it was completed in 2002 - our 175th Anniversary Year! Additional projects have included renovations in the Parish Hall and kitchen, and a complete restructuring of the parking lot.
Other growth, equally if not more significant, had also been taking place! St. Paul’s members developed a program called “GIFTS” - Growing In Faith Together Spiritually. GIFTS was first offered in March 1999. A program that began with just nine spirit-filled, enthusiastic people has grown to over 100 and is still growing! This spiritual renewal has awakened a strong desire in people to continue their faith journey. GIFTS encourages participants to find new ways to use their gifts and talents in the congregation and community.
After eight years of ministry with us, Pastor Krogmann announced that he would be retiring by the end of 2005. A service of farewell and Godspeed took place on September 4, 2005 as he became the third pastor of the congregation to leave by retirement, and he and Pat moved to their new home in Tennessee later that month.
Pastor Charles G. Biegner, Jr. became our vacancy pastor, and served the congregation well and faithfully for 12 months.
In May 2006, the Call Committee voted unanimously to recommend a candidate to the Council. The Council voted unanimously to invite the Rev. Dr. Daniel E. Hoffman to meet and be met by the congregation and to conduct worship. An overwhelming majority of the congregation agreed with the Call Committee and Council. A call was extended to and accepted by Pastor Hoffman. He was officially installed on September 24, 2006.
In February 2011 Pastor Hoffman resigned and Pastor Steve Biegner was sent to us to serve as transitional pastor.
St. Paul’s has been a significant presence in the community as well. Our facilities are used by a number of community groups, including Alcoholics Anonymous, Girl Scouts, the Eggertsville Community Organization, NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill), and the Erie County Board of Elections. Our Pantry Shelf provides non-perishable food to three area Food Pantries, and collects linens for a local Linens Pantry.
In the mid 1980's our parsonage was rented out for use as a “community residence,” to the Lutheran Association for the Developmentally Disabled (LADD) which moved out in 2003 due to state regulations. In 2007, Lutheran Campus Ministries in the Niagara Frontier moved its office into the former parsonage. In 2011 the parsonage was named "The Olin House" in honor of our beloved pastor who was the last pastor to reside in the house.
This community, this congregation and this world have changed in many ways since 1827, but the mission of the Church and the Lord of the Church remain the same. St. Paul’s Mission Statement captures that sense of mission and ministry.