April 15, 1888, a group of 22 German Lutherans in the Marshall, Wisconsin area had organized St. Paul Lutheran Church. On July 29, 1900, a new graduate from the Wisconsin Synod Seminary in Wauwatosa, Emil Dornfeld, was installed as their pastor.
Just a little more than a year later, that young pastor met with a group of eleven German Lutherans here in Sun Prairie to organize the Evangelische Luteran Friedens Gemeinde on August 9, 1901. The name of our congregation was officially changed to "Peace Evangelical Lutheran Church" in January of 1949.
The records do not tell whether the pastor had worked to gather the original eleven members together or whether the group had found each other and then asked the pastor to serve them. The important thing is that by the grace of God they wanted to have God's Word for themselves and their families and a pastor was there to encourage them.
Pastor Dornfeld commuted from Marshall by horse and buggy or a sleigh in the winter if there was enough snow. Mrs. Olga Becker, who died in 2003 at the age of 101 had firsthand memories of him and recalled that Pastor Dornfeld gladly accepted invitations to meals when he was making his visits on members and he would usually ask for a little oats or hay for his horse.
In January of 1908 the congregation took up the matter of calling its own pastor. At the same meeting the council decided to meet with the council of Marshall to work out how services were to be arranged. Then the matter of calling a separate pastor for Peace was not discussed further until seven years later.
At a special voter's meeting on July 15, 1915 it was announced that the Marshall congregation wanted to be independent and have the pastor serve them full time.
Peace congregation extended a call to Pastor Theodore Thurow of Litchfield, MN with an annual salary of $800. Pastor Thurow was installed on December 12, 1915.
The pastors who have served Peace congregation over the years are:
Until about 1915, all worship services and children's instructions were in the German language. Until 1923, all minutes of the voter's meetings were in German script. The German minutes continued until 1933, but beginning in January 1923, English minutes were also written. Both German and English versions recorded by two secretaries were read at the beginning of each meeting.
Soon after Pastor Thurow came, there was an English service on the third Sunday of each month, but even into the 1930s when there was an English service every Sunday, German services were still held two Sundays each month. In 1920 it was decided to purchase four dozen English hymnals.
On January 6, 2008, a new pulpit, built by Peace member Mark Blahnik, was dedicated in our current sanctuary. Its prominence in the chancel reflects the Lutheran conviction of the importance of the Word of God.
At the first meeting, eleven men signed the constitution of the congregation, chose three elders and elected a secretary and a treasurer. The minutes continue, "and then it was decided to build a church." They were encouraged by the donation of a plot of land, 66' x 165' on Windsor St., given by J.W. Chase, who lived in the northwestern corner of Windsor and North Streets.
It was announced at a meeting on August 25th, "digging will begin August 28th and 29th and stones will be brought in for the foundation. The church will be 26' x 46' and have an altar area of 10' x 20'. It will also have a steeple." The building did not include a basement. It was dedicated on March 9, 1902. The minutes tell us that Pastor Dornfeld provided the cost of a small sacristy to be built next to the altar area.
Under the leadership of Pastor Thurow in 1917, the church building was moved over a finished basement, and electric lights and indoor plumbing were added. A bungalow style parsonage was also built.
By 1950 the need for more space for worship, education and fellowship had been discussed for years. Peace voters decided to make definite plans for the construction of a new building to begin in the summer of 1951. Members of the building committee were: Marvin Ratzlow, Erich Lenz and Herman Mundt.
A final service was held in the old church on July 22. Then the building was moved to Wilson Street where it was remodeled into a residence. While the new church was being constructed services were held in the Prairie Theater on Main St. Sunday School took place in the old city hall. Many meetings took place in members' homes.
On December 7, 1952 the new church was dedicated with morning, afternoon and evening services.
In 1982 the need for an addition was discussed, but the vote was split. In 1989 the need for space received renewed attention. Under building committee chairman Steven Kalscheuer the addition was completed and dedicated on April 22, 1990.
The new addition provided space for added classrooms, a fellowship hall, the new kitchen and offices, and also a library/meeting room.
From 2003 to 2008 our current sanctuary was redecorated. This included refinishing the pews, ordering new pew cushions, new carpet, tiling the chancel in front, a new pulpit, painting the walls and ceiling, a new banner stand, cleaning the altar and painting the Greek "Jesus" symbol on it in gold, as well as adding a processional cross and an everlasting light.
From 2017 to 2018, a building expansion project was undertaken to move all of our ministry to the Stonehaven campus. This addition includes additional classrooms for our school, a temporary worship area, kitchen, and administrative rooms, and a new Early Childhood Learning Center (ECLC).
After moving to the Stonehaven campus, the Windsor Street church was sold to the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County.
At the voters' meeting on April 6, 1906 we read for the first time that it was decided to engage a teacher for two months. The "two months" were for the summer term of Bible School, which was taught for all grades in rented rooms of the public school. It was the pastor's responsibility to find a teacher--perhaps a lady teacher from a parochial school where she was not needed during the summer, or a college or seminary student. Pastor Thurow's sister, Emma, taught at least one summer.
The full-day eight- or ten-week summer Bible School did not continue, but in the 1940s to the 80s a Vacation Bible School was held each summer for all grades. The early courses published by our synod were designed for three weeks, presenting the chief parts of the Catechism. Later courses were shorter and simpler. Around 140 children were enrolled in Vacation Bible School each summer during the 1970s. Beginning in the 1960s and continuing into the 80s a weekday Bible school for grades 3 thru 6 was taught September to May, each Wednesday, 4 to 5 pm.
In 1958, ten lots were purchased from the William Birkinbine farm adjoining the NW corner of the Peace Church property. At that time, the land was a pasture for livestock and except for a few blocks on North Street, there were no homes north of Peace Church. The lots were purchased with the thought that they may some day be the site for a Lutheran Elementary School.
In May of 1962, two additional lots directly north of our property became available and the voters approved the purchase for $1,600. During the summer of 1962, an education committee was appointed to study the possibility of opening a Kindergarten. It was found that 15 children of the congregation were prospective students. A teacher was available. It was estimated that the cost for this proposed project would be about $2,000. The proposal was not supported by a majority of the voters.
During the late 60s and 70s the Sunday School enrollment increased. In 1971 there were 230 enrolled in Sunday School and there were 31 in the confirmation class. Early and late sessions of Sunday School were arranged.
Bible classes with recreational and service events for high school age people began in the 1920s and have continued. In the late 1970s increased attention was given to the young people by vicars with the help of adult members and at that time the group began to use the acronym FYSH--Faith Youth Serving Him. In recent years, many of our young people have attended WELS International Youth Rallies. The payment of tuition for Peace students attending Eastside Lutheran School in Madison was proposed at the voters meeting on April 22, 1981, and was approved. In that same year, Boy and Girl Pioneers were organized.
In 1992 a preschool, named Lambs of Peace, was opened, to be supported by the parents of the enrolled children. Elytta Durkee served as the first teacher. In the following years a grade was added each year with the approval of the voters so that our grade school now goes up to the 8th grade. In 1998 Mr. Paul Patterson was installed as principal.
In 2001, Peace congregation purchased 6 acres of land north of town in a development called Liberty Square with an additional 10 acres being gifted to Peace by William Birkinbine. In 2006 the construction of an 18,000 sq. ft school building was completed on the new site and was dedicated in August with a special service in the gymnasium. The WELS Wind Ensemble accompanied the hymns in the service. A tent was erected on the grounds for a meal afterwards along with activities.
The classrooms in the Windsor St. campus received a facelift of new paint and carpet to serve the students in the preschool and kindergarten.
Peace School has continued to grow. In 2014 we added an additional classroom to our Stonehaven Campus to accommodate our growing numbers. In 2018, our building expansion project was completed, adding four new classrooms to our school, in addition to a new Early Childhood Learning Center (ECLC).
Serving us over the years in the teaching ministry have been:
Pastor Thurow took a special interest in music. There were two choirs plus a male quintet, in which he sang, and a Luther League (young people) orchestra.
A Wicks United Pipe Organ was provided for the new church in 1952. After 48 years that organ was replaced by a Rogers Trillium Organ dedicated on December 10, 2000.
In the children's Christmas service on December 16, 2007, a baby grand piano was dedicated to the Lord's use in the sanctuary in memory of Kristina Schultz, who was called to heaven at the age of 9 because of Leukemia.
There seems to be no record of a Peace choir during the early years of our congregation, but after 1915 both Pastor Thurow and his successor, Pastor Keturakat, took a personal interest in promoting the choir. They were the directors. In the following years, others directed various lengths of time. Most notable is Teacher Ann Dorn, who directed choir at Peace cumulatively more years than any other director.
In recent years God has blessed Peace richly with an abundance of musical talent which is employed in a variety of ways for our worship services under the professional leadership of Mrs. Erin Gleason. In 2012, Peace reestablished a regular adult choir under the direction of Mrs. Joan Eggert.
In 1963, the original bell was placed in the tower along with an electric ringer. Peace ladies joined the Lutheran Women's Missionary Society in 1965; the altar statue of the glorified Christ was installed in 1966; installation of the stained-glass windows began in 1966. In 1967 the driveway out to North Street was constructed. In November 1969 the mortgage on this sanctuary was burned in a special service of thanksgiving.
The Ladies Aid began bringing audio tapes of sermons to shut-ins in 1974.
It would be a daunting task to summarize all the other ways God's people have offered their gifts and abilities to serve their Lord at Peace over the years. An attempted (but certainly incomplete list) is below. Peace Lutheran Church and School thanks God for over 110 years (and counting) of Peace in Christ.