Tuesday, January 30, 2018


1895 – 1966
Thomas Schlueter*

I’m writing this blog as I return from celebrating the 100th anniversary of the church that first served by my grandfather – Roland Carl Schlueter.

The year was 1895 and in the next several years the United States would see under President McKinley, a war with Spain, which took place near its southern shores. It would witness a treaty signed at Paris to end the war and a treaty signed to acquire Puerto Rico. Hawaii would also be annexed and Galveston, Texas would be devastated by a hurricane. President McKinley would be later assassinated.

The United States within this period of time would be going through trying times, so would Fred Schlueter. Fred was a traveling salesman.  His suitcase, full of a wide array of shoes and other needed implements, accompanied him as he traveled by horse and buggy.  Trains provided his travel on longer journeys. But right now, it was not his business that was bothering him, nor America‘s current events. He was focused on his wife Bertha, who was about to give birth to a child. The day was September 16, 1895 and by the end of it, Roland Carl Schlueter would be the newest child in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

Roland's life would be busy his first years. At the age of six, he would start grammar school in Milwaukee and three years later he was enrolled in school in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Two years later he finished his last three years of grammar school in Madison, Wisconsin. The year was 1909.  Through those years of early schooling he heard firsthand about the devastating earthquake of San Francisco, the admittance of Oklahoma as a state, and the fabulous journey of Admiral Peary to the North Pole.

He was only fourteen years old when he ventured off to Clinton, Iowa to enroll at Wartburg College and became a member of the Quinta class, which offered training in music. He also was actively involved in sports and served as captain and catcher of the baseball team.  He was adept at both violin and trombone and held a prominent position in the musical organizations and swung the baton for the "College Sextette” for several years. He gained great popularity among the students and was elected as student monitor in his senior year at Wartburg.

Prior to his graduation in 1914, he answered God's call into service. After receiving his Bachelor of Arts in June of that year, he headed out for Dubuque, Iowa and Wartburg Seminary to study in theology. The enrollment at Wartburg was about thirty students but the curriculum was disciplined and tough.  While he was there he took courses common for becoming a Pastor, such as New
Wartburg Seminary
Testament and Old Testament exegesis, history of
philosophy, church history, homiletics, liturgy, and other pastoral courses. Four professors were on staff. They were M. Fritchel, M. Reu; George Fritchel and G.J. Zeilinger. Between these four professors, all the courses, about twenty-five, were taught.  It was not odd that in one year all your courses were taught by the same professor.  This happened for Roland during his senior year at Wartburg. The seminary, being located in the heart of land occupied by German immigrants of English courses for those who spoke only German.

During his stay at Wartburg, the campus itself went under change and the present buildings on the main campus were dedicated in 1916, during his third and last year on campus. Travel was still mostly by horse, horse and wagon or horse and buggy and the overall layout of the campus included a large wagon turn, not a parking lot. The requirements for getting into seminary were not strict or very formal. The only admission information that was received from him was a single piece of paper with handwritten information on it. It informed the seminary when and where he was born, the name of his parents and where and when he went to school. The total cost of seminary was one hundred dollars per year or three hundred dollars total, unless it was decided that the student was in need, or very scholarly, and eligible for a scholarship. According to records, Roland was charged only one hundred and fifty dollars.  Nothing was noted in his records to why he had to pay only half.
His Call

On June 10, 1917, he received an official call into Pastoral ministry from President Theodor Bogisch in San Antonio.  On July 29, 1917 at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Madison, Wisconsin, Roland Carl Schlueter, at the age of twenty-one, was ordained into pastoral ministry by Rev. O.J. Wilke. For the next forty-nine years, he would faithfully serve the Lord and His churches.


One month after he was ordained, Rev. Schlueter headed south and was installed as a missionary pastor at a multiple-point parish in the high plains of the Texas Panhandle. He would receive an annual salary of $600. His violin, purchased in Madison, Wisconsin, as well as a Rand McNally Pocket Atlas of Texas also made the trip. Away from the farmlands, forests and lakes
of Wisconsin and Iowa, and also the girl he loved, Roland would spend the first year of service helping small parishes get started on strong foundations. The towns listed on his Letter of Call were Lubbock, Slaton, Tahoka, Post and Wilson, Texas. He was stationed out of Slaton/Posey at Immanuel Lutheran Church, which had been organized as a congregation on May 16, 1915, and he was installed as their first resident pastor. Rev. A.L.E. Weber was there previous to Roland. Pastor Weber must have been a large man for even Roland, at nearly six feet tall, was classified as "Der Kleine Pastor,” compared to “Der Grosse Pastor Weber.” The church met in private homes from 1915 until 1920.

A home used for worship
Even in his short year and one month in the Panhandle, he became a well-loved pastor who dearly loved his people.  A story regarding his time in the area shared that he was always seen on a bicycle with a Bible and a shotgun – the latter was protection from snakes and varmints.  From Slaton, he would start making monthly trips to Wilson, which was about fifteen miles away, and under his guidance a congregation was formally organized for the Wilson Christian Lutherans on January 29, 1918 with seven charter members. Deep gratitude for his service was granted him when he returned for the 35th anniversary of the Lutheran churches in that area of Texas. 


Roland was now faced with a major decision. A larger church, First Lutheran, of Galveston, Texas
Checking out Galveston
showed interest in calling Roland to serve as their pastor.  At the same time, Zion Lutheran Church in Superior, Wisconsin was asking him to serve them. The question here is if his future wife had any influence on his decision? On November 12, 1919, he married Anna Herbener in Mayville, Wisconsin.  Her father, Konrad Herbener, performed the ceremony. Roland had already served five months at Zion Lutheran.  At Superior, two building programs were in effect. At the church, renovations had begun on the building complex such as redoing the basement. Membership grew, and the membership loved their pastor. Anna was also showing her talents with singing, playing the organ and teaching. The other building project was “in” the parsonage.  The first stage took place on August 20, 1920 and her name was Margarete.  The second stage took place on September 4, 1921 when Arnold Earl was born. Ruth came on January 21, 1924. So, by the time his years at Superior had ended in May of 1924, Roland and Anna had a son and two daughters. In that month of May, Roland received a new pastoral call to Dr. Martin Luther Church in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin where he would serve eight years and where their last child, Eleanor, was born on October 5, 1930. Oconomowoc must
have been dear to his heart for here is where he returned in retirement. The lakes, the fishing, and bowling were his pastime away from the parish. Building programs also went on here and by the time he left in 1932 he had again gained the heart of his people, especially the youth. While be we there he became heavily involved in the Luther League, both locally and statewide. He was editor for some time for the Lutheran Herald of the Luther League Department. He loved kids and they were probably his greatest joy-giver.


In June of 1932 he was called to Waverly, Iowa to accept a position at St. Paul Lutheran Church. Pastor Schlueter would be in leadership at Waverly, Iowa for eleven years and during those years he was tested much in regard to whom was his master - man or God? While he has at St. John's he was classified as a young energetic pastor with deep love and concern for the young people. He was associated, starting here, with the Bible Camps in Iowa and greatly so. He was very, dedicated to his members and was deeply appreciated for his interest in education. Each week he would venture off to the public schools to talk to students about religion and Christianity. During his stay at Waverly an educational unit was added on and dedicated at St. Paul‘s. It should be said in review of his work and leadership at Waverly, that he was a strong influence on the youth and education of Iowa. But what about those tests of leadership?

During his years in Waverly, he was faced with the difficulty of answering to certain higher-class members of his congregation. They felt since they were among the upper class of education and wealth that they should have more from their pastor than those lacking position and gifting. They confronted him with their demands. His answer came through his preaching and teaching which was without compromise.  He was a pastor and preacher to all the people and even under the pressure of forced resignation, he continued faithful to the Word of God and preached it equally to what he considered and equal people in need.  His honesty, love and concern paid off with blessings and a deep love from the congregation. In the deepest regrets, St. Paul’s released him when he received a call from St. Paul Lutheran Church in Monona, Iowa.

St.Paul Lutheran in Monona
For nineteen years he served faithfully the congregation at Monona, and while there he went through many trials, hurts, and joys. He came to Monona during World War II and he quickly faced a family crisis. His oldest daughter married Myron Dettmann and almost immediately Myron was off to the war in Germany. His son, Arnold, was now in his first year at Wartburg Seminary following his father's footsteps. Roland ad Anna were seeing their family grow up and leave the fold of a close family relationship. In 1945, Arnold, on the same day in May, was ordained a Lutheran minister and married to Helen Dettmann, Myron's sister. Arnold immediately left for Moville, Iowa to start serving his first parish. Myron returned from war safe and sound. Margarete and he had two daughters before she died suddenly in 1950. Roland was in Texas at the time celebrating an anniversary with one of his first churches.  He was actually on a tour of Carlsbad Cavern in nearby New Mexico when he learned of Margarete’s death.  When he finally received the news, because there were only two phones in Slaton, Texas, it took him seemingly forever to return to Iowa. Bad weather threatened the plane flight home. After his return, Myron and the two girls moved in with Roland and Anna.  They would stay with them until Roland’s retirement.

At Monona, the congregation grew and was a beautiful community of faith. Items came up during his years in Monona such as the Right for Women to vote in church. Since he had experienced this in Waverly with approval, he was easily in favor of this and in 1952 it was passed. In the same year the church building was struck by lightning causing thousands of dollars of damage.

Mrs. Julie Dettmann Kurth, my cousin, wrote the following about him: “He was Pastor of St. Paul's Lutheran in Monona for 19 years. His memory isn't far from my mind these days. He was an important part of my growing up, and I, as many others were always under his watchful eye. My memory of him is his dark hair, his humor and teasing, his beautiful singing voice, his bow ties, his powerful sermons, his strong serious voice and strict ways and opinions. He walked with God all of his life and his faith was strong and unwavering. He had a love for books, music and teaching like many of his family members…He spent many of his short retirement years fishing on his lake.”

Also, in 1952, Roland heard the news that the author of this blog, a grandson, was born in Sioux City, Iowa, and from this point on my personal experience will enter into the story. In 1955, when our family had moved to Monticello, Iowa, I had the opportunity for seven years to grow to deeply love my grandfather. He truly had a deep love for his congregations and his family. I have many treasured memories of our adventures in the parsonage at Monona.  We would go out of town to the Monona Farm where my mom’s family all lived. I was staring Fourth Grade when we moved to the Gulf Coast of Texas when my dad started serving a congregation in Dickinson, Texas. My memory of his love for people came to the surface when a member of my dad’s congregation mentioned to me that it was my grandfather's inspiring sermon which he gave on one visit South, which brought her and many friends into the congregation’s membership.

I remember our laughs when a young child thought my dad was Jesus and so when Grandpa entered the room – he was God. He showed a deepest of love for all the people he met.  My greatest treasured memory comes in two parts – separated by many years.  Grandpa loved hymns and would often go to the church to play the organ and sing.  I would join him and our favorite hymn was Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise.  I could stand right next to him and sing as loud as possible and my voice was drowned out by his deep baritone voice. Years later, as I was preparing to enter the pulpit and preach at a congregation I served in Abilene, Texas, we were singing that same hymn.  I remember tears of fond memories in my eyes, but then I felt the tight grip of a hand gripping mine.  I turned to see no one but knew immediately that a certain saint was encouraging me.

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Even when he finally retired back to Oconomowoc in 1962, he spent every week for his last four years in the Lord's service. He preached almost every Sunday in churches up to a day’s journey from home. He would spend a week up to six months at churches with no full-time pastor. He truly and deeply loved the Lord and all His children.  He passed into glory on May 13, 1966.  I praise the Lord for the accomplishments, the influence, the faith and the love of my grandfather. It was his note in a greeting card on the day I confirmed my faith in Jesus that set the stage for my lifetime service to God. He simply encouraged me with:

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen” (Matthew 28:18-20).

*This was first written for Dr. Bernard Holm as an assignment for Church History at Wartburg Theological Seminary on May 7, 1975.  It was updated on January 30, 2018 after attending the 100th anniversary of St. John Lutheran Church in Wilson, Texas.

Here are pictures of the churches in Superior, Oconomowoc, Waverly, and Monona that he served.


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