A Brief History of Mt. Zion
The Mt. Zion Evangelical Lutheran Congregation of LaGrange, Indiana, was organized by the Rev. George Walker, October 12, 1854, One of Mt. Zion’s earliest and most active organizations was the Women’s Home and Foreign Missionary Society. It was founded in June, 1882, during the pastorate of the Rev. Levi Rice, and was only the third such group to be established in the Northern Indiana Synod.
In 1888 the congregation made plans to relocate. The Methodist Episcopal Church had just completed a new brick church and offered to sell their old frame building at Lafayette and High Streets to Mt. Zion. This edifice was purchased for $2,000. As soon as the purchase was made, repairs commenced. The rooms above and below were handsomely papered, new carpets put down, the woodwork repainted, seats varnished, a new roof put on, a new organ and new pulpit chairs put in. Indeed, it was so transformed and renewed that a rededication seemed very appropriate.
The congregation rededicated the building on February 17, 1889. The contributions which were received on that day amounted to $1,450—just $500 short of the remodeling costs. A copy of the deed for this transaction is in our file.
In 1909 it was decided to replace the wooden frame church which had served as our house of worship for 20 years. A new brick structure was built on the same site (the corner of Lafayette and High Streets) at a cost of about $8,000.
During February 1949 the Indiana Synod purchased the Keefer property on the south shore of South Twin Lake. Rev. Virgil L. Yohe and many members of Mt. Zion donated labor to prepare the area, which became known as Camp Lutherwald.
Mt. Zion celebrated its centennial October 10 to the 17th, 1954. A gold colored booklet was prepared for the event and is available in the church library.
During the 1962 congregational meeting, the congregation voted to build a new church. Plans for the new church moved swiftly. A finance campaign was started and a loan ($72,000) was obtained from Lincoln National Bank in Ft. Wayne. These monies were used to help build the new church.
Mt. Zion purchased 3.56 acres along State Road 9 from Joseph and Dorothy Keller in September 1962. (It appears that Robert Schott facilitated this purchase and donated the cost of the ground.) Mt. Zion purchased an additional 6.9 acres from the Kellers in July 1967. In July 1969 Mt. Zion sold to Miller’s Merry Manor, Inc. 6.17 acres, leaving Mt. Zion with 4.29 acres at its present site.
Ground was broken on the first Sunday in April, 1963. Children of the congregation, each with a shovel, turned the first soil. The cornerstone was laid on June 16, 1963.
On December 1, 1963 the new church was dedicated; Dr. Walter Wick, Bishop of the Indiana-Kentucky Synod, presided.
In 1979 a committee on Lutheran Unity was formed to discuss the merger of three Lutheran church bodies. Included in the discussions were the American Lutheran Church (ALC), the Lutheran Church in America (LCA), and the American Evangelical Lutheran Church (AELC). By 1987 agreement on the merger was complete and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) was formed January 1, 1988. Various synods comprise the ELCA. Mt. Zion is a member of the Indiana-Kentucky Synod.
On September 22, 1985 a special congregational meeting was held to decide on the addition of Sunday School classrooms, offices, kitchen, etc. The wheels of progress move slowly and finally on April 17, 1994 the new addition was dedicated.
During this time period it was also decided to purchase a Rodgers Concord 720 Combination Organ. The organ was dedicated on November 20, 1988.
We celebrated our 150th anniversary with a year of special events and services. A Festive Celebration was held on October 10, 2004 with Rev. Jeffery Hawkins, Dean of the Northeast Conference of the Indiana-Kentucky Synod, delivering the message. A new anniversary banner was made by Leslie Keeslar and presented, and a new earthenware communion set was commissioned. A catered dinner followed in the Fellowship Hall.
A Look to the Future with Bishop Stuck of the Indiana-Kentucky Synod delivering the message was held on October 17, 2004. The young people conducted the service. A pew from the “old” Mt. Zion church was obtained and located in the new Sunday School Chapel. A banner was made by the Sunday School students and presented to the congregation. This banner is on display in the Sunday School Chapel. A time capsule was buried near the church to be opened in 25 years. New chimes, which were donated by Lois Skow, were commissioned for use at this service.
We were able to collect $2100 as a gift to the Indiana-Kentucky Synod. An additional $1600 was obtained from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans as a matching gift. The total of $3700 was designated half for Camp Lutherwald and half for the Synod Mission Endowment Fund.
Since 2004, we have undergone many events and changes. Our service times have changed and the time for Sunday School has changed. We now have Adult Sunday School at 8:30 am, worship at 9:30, and Sunday School for children at 10:45 am. We are currently pastured by Justin H. Smoot, and we are his first call.
Our choir director of many years, Gail Gore, retired and now we have a wonderful volunteer, Leslie Keeslar.