Additional info re: First Estonian Lutheran Church in USA -Wisconsin
Eestlased USAs 12 Oct 2013  EWR
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This additional info was provided by Peachy Feldmann and Peeter Susi -
Gleason. Lincoln County Wisconsin USA
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Cemetery notes and/or description:
The Estonian Evangelical Martin Luther Church

History records this site as being established beginning in 1907 to serve the faith of Immigrants from the Baltic Nations that settled in this geographical area.

The land having been deeded to them by Sig and Tena Heineman in 1907 (#5969 Co. Reg), the founding fathers, Johan Wiltein, George Tutt and Albert Sommi, first known as the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELC), deeded the property and church to the Estonian (Eesti) Evangelical Martin Luther Kokudus (church) on the 16th day of July, 1914. The very same church it is today.

Prior and during the building, the Reverend Hans Rebane of Boston made annual visits to preach to the Estonians in the Gleason area until his death in 1912, followed by the Reverend Konrad Klemmer in 1914 who came from New Jersey to serve the Estonians. A Latvian pastor came from Chicago to serve the Latvians until 1931 when Rev. Werner Kuhlberg came to serve both the Estonians and Latvians.

The most prominent of the Estonian settlers were the Pay Brothers who remained in the area while other Estonians sold their farms and their children dispersed into more populated areas. When the Pay Brothers decided to support a new church, Saint Paul's Lutheran Church in Irma, services and activities of this historic landmark ceased to exist, except for occasional picnics and gatherings of Estonians who took pride in this historic landmark. In 1964, Ito (Bill) Rebane and family moved to Lincoln County from Chicago not knowing that the Irma and Gleason area served as an Estonian settlement area. It was not until the mid-seventies that he met with Albert Sommi, one of the original founders. Sommi's last wish was that the church always serve as a landmark and reminder of Estonian roots in America. By this time, the almost forgotten church had been vandalized. The bell, the pulpit and furnishings disappeared. In 1992, after numerous attempts to restore the furnishings, doors, windows and maintain fencing, Ito Rebane and family retained legal counsel and filed reorganization documents with the County reinstating the church to the "Estonian Evangelical Martin Luther Church" to become a landmark for Estonians in America and all those who had to leave their homeland to escape from communism and religious suppression.

With a renewed and aggressive agenda, the organizers intend to renew restoration efforts to make the premises available for all Estonian people and others of Baltic Heritage to take advantage of the beautiful wooded acreage for worship, picnics and recreation and to serve as a special place for all those who love America and their heritage and Baltic history.

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Here is some historical reference in regards to the Estonian Gleason, Wisconsin community and church from 1900. Peachy

Home in a Foreign Land

Last fall, Crick and I attended a missions conference in northern Wisconsin. We met someone there who shared with us an incredible story about a group of Estonians who settled in Wisconsin in the early 1900s. They lived near the small town of Gleason, about 25 miles south of where Crick and I grew up. While we were back in Wisconsin a couple weeks ago, we learned more. A number of Estonian families came to America around 1900 in search of religious and political freedom. Roughly 200 people in all chose to settle near Gleason after an Estonian newspaper in New York reported the Wisconsin landscape was similar to Estonia (When I heard this, I found it interesting that God called me to Estonia using this very same idea. During my first trip to Estonia, I saw how much the land looked like Wisconsin, my home, and the Lord told me, I have created home for you here). This group of Estonians began holding church services in homes and in 1907, purchased land to construct a church building. It became the first Estonian Lutheran Church in America. It remained open until 1964.
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Earlier this month, after learning the church was located on Estonian Church Road in Gleason, we took a drive to see if we could find anything. We had no idea what we would find or if the building was even still standing. Along our drive, we talked about how amazing it is that God brought Estonian Christians to this area so long ago. It was almost unbelievalbe to us that we have an Estonian connection in rural northern Wisconsin. We prayed and praised God for calling us, two people from this same area, to go and take the Gospel to a now lost generation of Estonians.

As we approached Estonian Church Road in a very rural area, we saw the short dirt road with one house and corn fields on both sides. It looked like it ended at a small patch of woods. We couldn't see any church or remnants of a church. We turned onto the road and drove slowly down the quarter mile stretch to its end. When we stopped the car, we hadn't seen anything to indicate the church was still standing. Just as we began to turn the car around and head back, we peered into the woods to our right and, low and behold, we saw the church!

We both jumped out of the car and stared at the old abandoned building in amazement. I couldn't believe it was still standing! As we walked around it and peeked inside at the pulpit which was still there, I gave thanks to God. I thanked Him for sharing this incredible story with us and showing us the history of Estonians so near my home, and I thanked Him for orchestrating and leading our lives in the way that He has, creating a new home for us in Estonia in order that we may serve Him and bring Him glory. I feel humbled and blessed that He has called someone like me to be His servant. Before any of us are even born, God prepares paths like these for our lives and calls upon us to serve Him for His glory.

"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." Jeremiah 1:5 NIV
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