Lake James Lutheran Chapel History 1928 - 2018
90th Year Anniversary
This Lutheran project was truly a pioneering effort and was the first of its kind in Indiana.
Before 1927, the nearest Lutheran churches to Lake James were in Kendallville and Auburn, a distance of 25 miles, and the gravel trails back to Glen Eden Springs and Red Sand Beach were extremely primitive.
Although Interstate I-69 has become the Fort Wayne to Lake James Chapel Route, few will remember the Custer Trail as the 44.5-mile trip treading through Auburn, Waterloo, Pleasant Lake, and Angola.
Nestled among the picturesque forest-covered hills of northeastern Indiana, supreme in natural beauty, unequaled in the charm of its pure green water, lies Lake James. It is composed of three basins of water, and it is connected with Jimmerson Lake by a mile-long channel. Jimmerson Lake has three basins of water also, and the outlet consists of a wide channel bordered by trees and groves and water lily beds. It is approximately three or four miles to Nevada Mills. Snow Lake is connected with Lake James reasonably wide channel, navigable with outboard and inboard motors.
The water of Lake James is regarded as the purest and the coolest in the State of Indiana. It is spring-fed and has a number of fine beaches. The two outstanding ones are Glen Eyre Beach and Red Sand Beach. The east shore of the first and second basin is dotted by high wooded hills of oak, elm, and maple, which present a beautiful view from the lake.
On the eastern shore of the first basin of Lake James is Glen Eden Springs and Glen Eyre Beach. They are approximately four miles from Angola. In the twenties, many Lutheran people built cottages on the lake, especially at these two locations.
These Lutheran people missed one thing more than any other, and that was church services on Sunday. The first step in that direction was made by George Weller and Fred Wolf, who jointly owned a cottage at the time, 1926, at the north end of Glen Eden Springs. George Weller was principal of St. Paul’s Lutheran School, and also the organist for St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. Mr. Wolf was a teacher at St. Paul’s School. They felt that an opportunity for worship should be made available to the folks at the lake in an informal atmosphere. The idea was “come in off the lake or wherever you are on Sunday morning and worship with us.” “Come as you are, except no bathing suits.” The place of worship was the lot south of the Weller cottage. The embankment at that time furnished a natural seating place. The old piano was brought out of the Weller cottage. Services were conducted. A batch of old hymnals was imported from St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne. The Bible was from the Weller cottage.
“The first organ for outdoor services was the old reed organ from the Weller and Wolf cottage when services were held on the lawn of Weller/Wolf cottage.” Next, the Chris Meyer organ was used at the Geoglein and Meyer cottages for outdoor services and also a short time in the new chapel.” Quote from Edna Goeglein Smith.
The first preacher was Professor Erwin Schnedler, July 10, 1927, who at that time was on the staff of Concordia Junior College. Professor Wilfred Kruse had the second service. The Fort Wayne pastors had their own congregations to serve, so only footloose preachers could serve Lake James.
Handbills were distributed at Palty Town and Bledsoe’s Beach: “Come as you are and enjoy an hour of worship with no formalities, come direct from your boats, only one restriction, ‘No bathing suits please!’” Many worshippers came from their fishing boats in fishing attire, women in house dresses, men in blue jeans and overalls, children in rompers. Even members of other denominations attended. The overflow crowd was seated on available chairs and benches and some sat on the ground. Later services were held on the lawns of William and John Goeglein, and Christ Meyer’s cottages.
A place to worship was desirable with the increased numbers of Lutheran cottage owners around Lake James and other nearby lakes. What can a group of lake cottage owners do when they want to go to church and none is near? The answer: Build a church near the cottages, build a cottage for the pastors, and ask different preachers to come for a combination of vacation and preaching, turn the land into a picnic area for the convenience of the church worshippers. “This answer for eighty-five” (ninety) “years has proven highly successful for the Lake James Lutheran Chapel at Glen Eden Springs.”
It was decided to build a chapel with attached quarters for the pastor. Mr. and Mrs. William Fruechtennicht, Sr. donated the ground for this purpose and the chapel was staked off in frozen ground in April of 1928 in the midst of a swirling snowstorm. The first service inside the chapel was June 30, 1928.
The Lake James Lutheran Chapel Association was organized on February 17, 1928, at St. Paul’s School Hall by members of the Lutheran church who had cottages at Lake James. The following officers of the association were elected on February 17, 1928. President, Fred Wolf; Secretary, Walter Helmke; Trustees, Christian Meyer, Paul Wehrenberg, William C. Goeglein, John Goeglein, Peter Lepper, and William Fruechtenicht.
The chapel was to be located on a knob in a beautiful grove a short distance east of Glen Eden Store. The site for this chapel would be 110’ by 110’. The structure 40’ by 20’, in addition to the church, would contain a kitchen, living room, and bedroom where the presiding pastor would stay.
The original pastors’ chapel living quarters had a kitchen, dining room, and a balcony or loft type bedroom. With large families, some slept in the dining room, some in the loft, and some on rollaway beds set up in the chapel. On Sunday morning, there was a mad rush to fold up the beds, get the area cleaned up, and set up chairs in time for services.
Preparation for Sunday dinners had to be postponed during the time of service, lest the cooking aromas swept through the sanctuary.
A dedication service for the newly erected Lutheran Chapel at Glen Eden Springs, Lake James, was held on Sunday at 11:00 am July 1, 1928, with the Rev. Paul Miller of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne, Indiana, preaching.
It was a rather unusual sound that greeted Lake James cottage owners Sunday morning when the sound of bells of the “new church in the wildwood” was heard ringing across the water.
The cottage chapel arrangement had its drawbacks. Therefore, a separate modern cottage was built for the pastors, and additions were made to the chapel. The pastors’ cottage was built in the fall of 1931 for the visiting pastors.
In 1941, a pavilion was built on the chapel grounds, and dedicated July 13, 1941, Sunday afternoon, at 3 pm. The dedicatory addresses were given by Mr. E.J. Gallmeier and Rev. Paul Miller, both of Fort Wayne, Indiana. The pavilion serves guests and visitors of the chapel that come for a picnic outing.
A 16’ addition was made to the chapel in 1948. The chapel association purchased one and seven-tenths acres of land in 1960 located east of the chapel parking lot from Joseph and Mildred Stier for future use.
The chapel was remodeled in 1963 with the installation of all-new windows.
The chapel floor was carpeted in October 1970, to eliminate the annual floor oiling.
The first bell in the belfry was the “Old Bishoff School Bell” and was donated to the chapel by Mr. and Mrs. Edward Goeglein. This bell served the chapel until one Sunday morning, during the services, the clapper broke out of the bell, and rolled down the roof, and dropped within two feet of a little girl. This little girl was Leota Meyer Henline Schoedel, and she remembers it well. The second bell was the former St. Peters Lutheran School bell (Schlund’s School) which is still in use today. The first bell was repaired and installed in front of the chapel. The bell was dedicated to the glory of God, as a memorial to the founders of this chapel on September 2, 1971. The bells are rung together every Sunday for a unique call to worship.
There is an excellent public address system, which allows the services from within “The Little White Chapel in the Woods” to be heard with perfect audibility from anywhere within the vicinity. Some folks remain in their vehicles. Others wishing to sit on the outside benches have no difficulty in hearing the services and joining in the hymns.
Seven organs have been used in the services in the chapel. There first was the Chris Meyer organ. The second organ was donated by Mr. Brueggermann, a salesman for an organ company. A colony of ants enjoyed the taste of the music more than the sound of it and ruined this instrument. Mr. and Mrs. Fred Goeglein then donated the organ from their cottage in Rome City. This was later replaced by the gift of Mr. Dannenfelser and used until an electric organ was purchased in 1951.
On September 18, 1974, a new Wurlitzer organ was purchased through the Carl Kloepper Memorial Fund. The organ was dedicated July 6, 1975, in memory of Carl Kloepper. Pastor E.D. Busch of St. Peters Lutheran Church officiated.
In the fall of 1975, the chapel association purchased two lots on the south drive of the chapel from the Fruechtenicht estate.
A nine-sided glass chancel was constructed in 1977, to allow outside worshipers to see the Pastor and allow the inside worshipers to view the beauty of the outside foliage. The new chancel sits on a landscaped podium surrounded by a stone retaining wall. The chancel dedication was May 28, 1978, with the Rev. Edwin Nerger officiating. The narthex of the chapel was enclosed in the fall of 1978.
Since 1978, the chapel, the parsonage, the pavilion, and the storage shed were repaired and updated. For example, the parsonage, the chapel, and the storage shed had vinyl siding, and the parsonage had new carpeting, tile flooring, and new windows. The chapel and parsonage were connected to a new sewage system in 1985, and the pavilion roof and chapel roof were replaced. A new roof was replaced in 2015. The chapel indoor-outdoor sound system was updated at various times, and, most recently in 2017.
A group of chapel attendees gathered at the Lake James Country Club to celebrate the 55th Anniversary year in 1983.
A concrete block restroom facility was completed for the 60th Anniversary year in 1988.
Mrs. Helen Gallmeier served as secretary for over 30 years. Ruth Schlegel began serving as secretary in 1988 through 2004, and Nancy Losher began serving with Ruth Schlegel in 2004 through the current years. Following Cathy Meyer’s work with the greeters and cleaners yearly schedules, Carol Bruick began assisting with this service. After Paul Meyer’s service, Rick Losher began helping with the weekly Sound System. Bertie Melcher continues to assist with the flower ministry.
After 34 years as president of the Lake James Chapel Association, Harold Gerbers retired in 1991. Paul Meyer served as president from 1991 to 2009. Dean Bruick served as president from 2010 to 2015, and, since 2016, Dan Schmidt has been serving as president, with Linn Kracht serving as President-Elect.
The seventh organ was dedicated on June 29, 1997, when a new Allen organ was donated to the chapel by the Fruechtenicht family and Home Loan Bank. The dedication service preacher was Rev. Timothy Sims, and the guest pastor was Rev. Luther Strasen.
The Chapel Association, together with other worshipers, celebrated the 70th Anniversary on June 28, 1998. Rev. Walter M. Schoedel preached the sermon at the anniversary service. Rev. Schoedel was one of the summer speakers from 1955-1970 and presently lives part-time at Lake James with his wife Leota Henline Schoedel.
New hymnals, “All God’s People Sing,” were purchased by the chapel association. Memorials honoring many individuals were donated to cover the cost of these hymnals. They were dedicated May 27, 2001, by Rev. Luther Strasen. These hymnals are enhancing the worship experience of the attendees.
The Chapel Association and worshipers celebrate the 90th Anniversary on June 24, 2018. Rev. Paul Shoemaker, Spiritual Advisor, preached and Rev. Albert Beirlien served as liturgist. Following the service, Sutton’s Deli, Angola, catered a brunch, and commemorative coffee mugs were offered to all members and those in attendance.
Through the years, faithful volunteers have served to enhance the buildings and grounds. They have also assisted the pastor and musicians to create a meaningful worship experience.
of building - of praying
of loving of sharing
of giving - of caring
History compiled from Helen Gallmeier’s history for the 50th Anniversary.
History updated by Leota Meyer Henline Schoedel for the 75th, 2003, and 85th Anniversary, 2013.
History also updated by Eldon Clark for the 85th Anniversary, 2013.
History updated by Candace Prochaska for the 90th Anniversary, 2018