Church History

Leonard Fessel Home The first worship service of the small congregation in Fort Dodge was held in the Leonard Fessel home on January 20, 1861 . The Rev. Dr. Frederick Fickenscher walked from Boone to Fort Dodge to conduct services once every 4 weeks.

On December 20, 1863, the first constitution was adopted, as a small group of early settlers in Fort Dodge organized the First German Evangelical Lutheran Church and called the Rev. G. Endres as its first pastor. Services were held in the old Episcopal church. In 1864 a building site was acquired on 3rd Avenue South where the first St. Paul church was erected. Stone Church Drawing It was built of native gypsum rock recovered from quarries by members of the congregation. The original church was 24 X 40 feet by 16 feet tall. All woodwork in the edifice was of black walnut. The church was also used for school purposes. When the pews were made they included a drop leaf on the back and during the weekdays these were used for school desks. The first service in the old stone church was December 1864. In 1865, the congregation became affiliated with the Missouri Synod.

On August 20, 1879 , pastors and lay delegates of 23 congregations of the state of Iowa held a meeting in the old stone church and organized the Iowa District of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod.

Old Church Building In 1884 the congregation had grown and a new site for the church was purchased for $2,400 on the corner of 4th Avenue South and 13th Street . A large brick church was completed in 1886 and dedicated in November of 1886. The old " Stone Church " was then converted into a school building.

In 1891, 3 bells weighing 1800, 1000, and 600 pounds were purchased for $773 and dedicated on February 1.

In 1895 the old stone school house was torn down and a new one was dedicated in October of the same year and located at 2nd Avenue South and 6th Street . It was a 2 story brick building with 4 classrooms. It has a stage in the attic for school programs.

In 1918, the name of St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church was adopted by the congregation.

In 1930, the Sanctuary of the church was enlarged, refurbished and redecorated. Renovation included addition of transepts, a basement meeting room, and a new Wangerin Pipe organ. Total cost of modernization was $38,000.

In 1938, a new bell replaced a cracked one for $109.

In 1946, the first radio broadcast was beamed over Radio Station KVFD. morning at 9:30 a.m. on KVFD 1400 AM. It is still broadcast on Sundays.

A new school was built and dedicated on April 22, 1951 adjacent to the church. It had 2 floors with a gymnasium, and 5 classrooms. In 1959, the school was expanded to include 4 additional classrooms, a multipurpose room and a kitchen.

In 1959 a Sunday school program for Developed/Mentally Challenged was started by Mrs. Gladys Temple. Many members of the class were instructed and confirmed. This class met during the Sunday School hour under the leadership of LaVon Mason and Melinda Guenther.

In 1979 a new office building was built adjacent to the west entrance to the school. It contained church and school office, a large conference room and three additional offices.

In May of 1999, an arson fire destroyed the entire church building. Fire doors and a skilled fire department saved the school building and the church/school office. Worship services were held in the school gymnasium for the next four years until the new Sanctuary was completed. While the school offices stayed within the school building, it was necessary to move the church offices out of the school and for that reason, a two-story brick house was purchased just West of the school and on the same block. We kept our church offices there for the next four years until the new offices were ready to move into in the new building. In addition, we purchased two houses along 5th Avenue South just East of 13th Street which were torn down to provide additional parking. We were able to finally purchase the Sinclair gas station on the SW corner of the block, and that was torn down to provide additional space and for beautification purposes.

In August of 2003, we were able to dedicate our new Sanctuary and begin worshipping in a "church" once again. A service of Dedication was held in August of 2003 and a Celebration service was held in September to which the whole community was invited. At the latter service, we had over 600 people in attendance celebrating this joyous event in the life and history of our church. At about that same time, we were able to move the church offices into the new building, and tear down the brick house to make room for our new playground which has also now been installed.

Plans are moving forward to continue finishing portions of the new building as monies and time allow. We have finished our Narthex (the main entry hallway) along with our Church Library, Coat Rooms, and Nursery. Permanent bookcases and desks, etc. have been finished in the church office complex, and our new projection system is up and running in the church Sanctuary. Our new Kitchen and Fellowship Hall were completed and dedicated in March of 2007. The second floor of the church, including the music room were finished over the summer of 2012 with the help of Laborers for Christ. Our elevator was installed in 2016 to provide access to the finished upper rooms. Eventually, we will be finishing the downstairs, which is planned to contain Sunday School rooms, a youth room, a quilting room, etc.

May God continue to bless us as we continue to reach out with His Gospel to the community of Fort Dodge.