A BRIEF HISTORY OF TRINITY LUTHERAN CHURCH
SOME THINGS CHANGE:
Over the last 125 years Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church (WELS) has changed greatly, both in appearance and structure. Our earliest beginnings started in a small white frame building on Whiterock Avenue. That church, with its extensive rise of steps leading to the dark-stained pews inside, is no longer present. Instead we have a large, contemporary church facility surrounded by beautiful stained glass windows and an extensive organ balcony housing a Martin Ott Pipe Organ—a ten-ton giant with over 1,600 pipes. In earlier days, congregational hymns were accompanied by a one-manual Kilgan organ with the organist operating the keyboard while another individual pumped the bellows. Also gone are the horse stable and the old gray-frame structure with the squeaky steps which was our first erected school building. Instead, we now have an up-scale “school-in-the-round” educational facility, complete with computers, gymnasium, and library. The Sunday School (established early-on) still remains but is now accompanied by a Child Care Center, a”Jesus Cares” Program, a Vacation Bible School, a Latch-Key Program, and “Pioneer” Programs for both boys and girls.
SOME THINGS REMAIN THE SAME:
Over the last century and a quarter, Trinity Lutheran Church has remained fervently steadfast in honoring, serving, preaching, and spreading the message of God’s grace which leads us sinful mortals to heaven for those who believe in Christ Jesus. Through the years Trinity has continued to dedicate itself to preserving and presenting the Word of God as given to us through the Bible—God’s Word. The wooden cross which towers over us as we attend worship services still continues to cast its shadow on us as we leave church and carry out our daily activities and lives. It began this way in 1887 and remains so today.
Trinity Lutheran Church was officially founded in the year 1887. A recent graduate of our Seminary, Herman Knuth, was called to serve as Trinity’s first Pastor. The previous year, a Pastor from Watertown, Johannes Brockmann, had a chance meeting (at the present Five Points in Waukesha) with a woman of German Lutheran background who pleaded with him to establish a “German Lutheran” church in Waukesha. Brockmann held the first services in the Waukesha Town Hall and within six months (May 15, 1887) a faithful group of parishioners decided to organize formally as a congregation. This tiny congregation purchased a site and erected a small church on the corner of Whiterock and Oak Street. It was dedicated on December 2, 1888, at a cost of about $3,000.
The tenure of our second resident pastor of Trinity, the Rev. John Karrer, saw the acquisition of a parsonage, an additional teacher, and the building of an organ loft. In the fall of 1897, Rev. Paul Brockmann (the son of Johannes) accepted a call to be Trinity’s third resident Pastor. At this time the congregation built an “official” school on Oak Street just in back of the church and dedicated it in July of 1900.
Trinity continued to be blessed with dedicated Pastors and a growing church membership. In the 1900’s Trinity School was a German school. Most of the members were German-speaking and both services and lessons were taught and spoken in German as well as English. Gradually the English language took over and German services were discontinued entirely in 1947. We are still known by many long-time residents of Waukesha as “that German church on Whiterock”.
Further remodeling and redesigning took place over the next several years: a second story was added to the school building (by 1920 it had become a full eight-grade school), the church basement was enlarged, stained glass windows were installed, a bell tower (with a 1,000 pound bell) was added, and a two-manual Barton organ was purchased. This organ has been rebuilt and is now located in the old church of St. Paul’s Lutheran Congregation in Tess Corners, Wisconsin. The huge bell also remains as the largest of three in our present bell tower. In 1919 a school principal, Martin Garbrecht, was called to head the school as the congregation was getting too big for all duties to be completed by a single pastor. Garbrecht remained as principal, teacher, organist, and choir director for 31 years. When health issues forced his retirement, Mr. Martin Rauschke was installed as his successor. Upon Rauschke’s retirement Scott Uecker, Joel Mattek, David Schroeder, and our present Principal, Jeff Inniger, have in succession, assumed Trinity’s school administrative responsibilities.
Rev. Harry Shiley was installed as Pastor in 1940 and, with his encouragement, the congregation began a building program and purchased additional adjoining land for the purpose of building a larger church. This dream became a reality as the congregation swelled to 900 and the dedication of this new church took place on April 5, 1959 with the Rev. Clayton Krug as Trinity’s resident Pastor. Additional school teachers were added to accommodate the growing student body and in 1965 the old school and church were demolished and a new school (utilizing a “round” concept) was ready for occupancy that fall.
In 1977 Pastor Wayne Mueller was called as full-time pastor replacing Pastor Krug who was appointed as Civilian Military Chaplain to WELS members in Germany. Under Pastor Mueller’s guidance additional services were held, the organ loft was rebuilt, and a Wicks 22-rank pipe organ was installed. By this time it had become apparent that our growing congregation could no longer be served adequately by just one pastor so a full-time associate pastor was added to the staff. The office area was remodeled and the congregation called a second full-time associate pastor, the Rev. John Mattek. In 1984 when Pastor Mueller accepted a call to teach at the WELS Seminary in Mequon, the congregation called the Rev. Daniel Koelpin to be his replacement. An extensive addition to both the church and school was completed and dedicated on December 7, 1986. Eventually a third associate pastor was added in 1990, the Rev. Jon Buchholtz. In 1994, when Pastor Buchholtz accepted a call to lead a church in Washington State, the Rev. Scott Oelhafen joined Trinity as an Associate Pastor, along with Rev. Koelpin and Rev. Mattek.
The Lord continued to provide extraordinary pastoral leadership for His thriving church. More recently, we at Trinity have been honored with the pastoral services of Rev. Lawrence Gates (1995-to present); Rev. Glen Schaumberg (1998 to retirement in 2010), and Rev. Aaron Christie (2010 to Present)
In 2000 Trinity held groundbreaking ceremonies for another expansion project which included additional classrooms for the school as well as removing an entire wall of the church—extending it forty feet allowing for an additional seating capacity of 600. This project was completed and dedicated on May 5, 2002.
The 1979 Wicks Organ was experiencing mechanical problems so in 2004 Trinity dedicated its present organ---a Martin Ott Organ—complete with ten ton of pipes and parts. Being true to our respect for history, some of the pipes from the “old” organ were rebuilt and blended into this present instrument.
This congregation has thrived through the blessings of God. We thank Him for sending us the excellent leadership of our Pastors and dedicated church leaders permitting us to grow from a 22-family congregation in 1887 to over 1,700 baptized souls in 2012.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Rev. Herman Knuth 1887-1892
Rev. John Karrer 1892-1897
Rev. Paul T.Brockmann 1897-1902
Rev. Carl Henning 1902-1907
Rev. Martin Busack 1907-1910
Rev. Paul Brockmann 1910-1940
Rev. Harry Shiley 1940-1956
Rev. Clayton Krug 1956-1977
Rev. Wayne Mueller 1977-1984
Rev. John Mattek 1983-1995
Rev. Daniel Koelpin 1985-1997
Rev. Jon Buchholtz 1990-1994
Rev. Scott Oelhafen 1994—Present
Rev. Lawrence Gates 1995---Present
Rev. Glen Schaumberg 1998---2010 Retirement
Rev. Aaron Christie 2010---Present
With gratitude to Martin Rauschke, the church historian for Trinity's 125 Anniversary Celebration in 2013. Edited by Sally Schiller 2012.