Waukegan experienced major population increases from 1890 to 1930 during the rapid industrialization of the Midwest. This plus rising political tension and World War I in Europe brought large numbers of immigrants to the area, primarily from southeastern Europe and Scandinavia. Each ethnic group established its own residential enclave, usually anchored by a church or social hall.
In 1930 Waukegan was a bustling small city with a population of 33,499. Johns Mansfield, American Steel and Wire, and Johnson Motors were the primary businesses in the area. Transportation was readily available via street cars that went along Glen Flora Avenue and Washington Street down to the heart of the business section on Genesee Avenue. There was also streetcar provisions to travel from Waukegan to the Loop in downtown Chicago along the path known as Northshore Rail.
A temporary prefabricated church was built at 1920 Garden Place (Lot 35) located on the Northwest corner of Lewis Avenue and Garden Place, across the street from a newly built (1927) elementary school called Whittier school; an excellent location for the church to attract the many children that attended the school. On March 30, 1930 a check of $50.00 was received from the Board of American Mission, Lutheran Church of America. It was spent as follows: $7.50 for refurnishing an altar candle stick and cross, $35.00 for a piano, $12.50 for moving the piano and other furnishings which were donated. Mr. And Mrs. Nermitz gave the organ and St. Luke’s of Park Ridge gave the church and Sunday school platforms and two book cabinets and bulletins. The Evangelical church of Oak Park gave the pulpit, altar, a Sunday school register board, two book cabinets, a baptismal font, and two pulpit chairs. Mr. Louis Mueller of Glen Ellen gave the choir rail. Incidental expenses in preparing for the first service was paid by the Field Missionary Reverend Gerberding and later repaid from the offering of $27.96 received on the day of church dedication. They also paid $10.26 for a rubber aisle runner. This set the scene for the church’s first service which was held on April 6, 1930.
St. Paul’s Charter Members
As documented by The Synodical Board of Home Missions and Church Extension of the Illinois Synod of the United Lutheran Church in America.
Charter Membership in the Glenwood Heights English Evangelical Lutheran Church on May 15, 1930.
Harvey F Stearnes U. Larsen and daughter
Mrs. Lena Stearnes Miss Esther Bissar (Brozie)
Forrest F Stearnes M Larsen
Otto C Andersen Mrs. Ray I Harlow
Emma Andersen Miss Leona Harlow
Marion Andersen (Brecheisen) Carrie M Stouse
Eugene Andersen John B Harstad
Mrs. L. (Anderson) Rowe Mrs. John Harstad
Lucille Klann Miss Esther Larsen
Elgath Hunter Mrs. EJ Edwards
MW Hunter George J Ellingson
HW Johnson Mrs. George Ellingson
Mrs. Albertena Johnson Henry Riechmann
Florence H Johnson Agnes Riechmann
Elissa M Johnson Miss Ellie Mohn
Mary Grace Hough William Mohn
Frank Klann Mrs. Maurice C Johnson
Harriet Klann (Messer) Rufus Rasmussen
Chris Hoigaard Oscar Anderson
James T. Otteson Mrs. James T Otteson
Mrs. Nick Larsen and daughter Nick Larsen
AD Nelson Mrs. AD Nelson
Mr. EC Koenig Mrs. EC Koenig
Mr. Nels Hoigaard Mrs. Anna Hoigaard
Mr. Andrew Otteson Mrs. Verna Otteson
Dedication of a Mission Church
Dedication of St. Paul’s English Evangelical Lutheran Church of Waukegan occurred on Sunday, May 18th, in the prefabricated building located on the northeast corner of Lewis Avenue and Garden Place. Reverend Paul J. Gerberding, Field Missionary and Acting Pastor, presided in the 11:00 a.m. service. The Dedicatory Sermon was given by Reverend J. F. Seibert, D. D., English Secretary of the Board American Missions.
At the Afternoon Fellowship service at 3:30 p.m. Rev. E. P. Scharf, Secretary of the Synodical Board, presided. Greetings and announcements were made by Rev. P. J. Gerberding, and Rev. E. L. Spaid. Rev. Paul E. Bishop, President of Conference, addressed the congregation. A beautiful singer, Edith Keller, wife of Dr. S. L. Keller, was the soloist at the service, accompanied by Miss Luella Klann Rowe*, the congregation’s first organist.
At the 7:30 Evening Community Service Reverend Luther Hogshead D. D. presided. The sermon was given by Reverend J. M. Bramkamp, D. D., President of Illinois Synod. Mr. L. J. Yager, Mayor of Waukegan, delivered the greetings. Edith Keller was the soloist.
A meeting was held at the church following the service to elect six councilmen. Mr. Frank Klann was elected as St. Paul’s first Vice President and served in that capacity for four years. The second order of business was to order 100 sets of offering envelopes to be used for the balance of the year. They were already deeply in debt with the cost of property and building amounting to $7,000.
*Historical Note – Miss Luella Klann is the daughter of St. Paul’s first vice-president, Frank Klann, and the mother of Marilyn Kutzler.
Pastor H. Paul Romeis
(June 21, 1931 – Oct 31, 1936)
Born on December 22, 1905 in Elgin, Illinois, the Reverend H. Paul Romeis graduated from Chicago Lutheran Theological seminary in 1931 after having first received his B. A. degree from Carthage College. At age 24, his assignment to St. Paul’s English Evangelical Church in Waukegan, Illinois on May 1, 1931 was his first regular pastorate. He was installed by Reverend Gerberding on June 21, 1930. The church seal, which was purchased by the council at a cost of $3.50, and the church record book were handed over to Reverend Romeis. Two years later, on August 10, 1933, he married Rosemary Shickle, a hometown girl from Elgin.
His starting salary was to be $2,000 a year, but that reduced to $1,200 due to the financial effects of the Great Depression. Even with a reduced salary, the congregation could only pay $500 of the cost with the balance paid by the LCA Board of Missions. Council meetings were held at councilmen’s homes and met the first Tuesday of every month. According to council’s minutes, their meetings focused primarily on financial matters. The original indebtedness, incurred by the purchase of the property and building, together with added mortgage assessments, was paid through its special funds. Early formed organizations such as Ladies Aid, Men’s Brotherhood, Luther League, and a girls’ club called Adeste Fidelis, all contributed to the financial welfare of the church.
Sunday school was a very prominent function of the church. Under the leadership of Reverend Mr. Romeis the church membership had doubled in number, from 83 to 163, and the Sunday school had grown until it taxed the capacity of the building. To accommodate the increased attendance, alterations to the church building were made in 1935. The center partition was converted into folding doors so that the entire building could be made into an auditorium during the worship hour
Not only had the Reverend Romeis and Mrs. Romeis been interested in developing activities in their church but they also took part in civic and social organizations of the city. Pastor Romeis served on the board of the Waukegan Kiwanis club in addition to being an officer in the Ministerial association of Waukegan and North Chicago. He was pastor advisor to the Fox Valley district Luther League of Illinois. Mrs. Romeis was active in the Young Woman’s League and other social organizations of the city. She often sang at affairs both church and social.
Reverend Romeis was called to California and later became an assistant to a synod president there. Sunday morning, October 15, 1936 at 11 o’clock, the Reverend Mr. Romeis preached his farewell sermon at the church. The next Thursday evening an all congregation farewell party was given in honor of the Romeises at the church under the auspices of the Ladies’ Aid. On January 2, 1976, Reverend Romeis died in Pasadena California at the age of 71.