Our Story   ~    1873-2023

History of Immanuel Lutheran Church - Canton KS


To bear witness to the Gospel of Jesus and to tell the story of our Lord’s gracious dealing with His people, by collecting and preserving our history.


1873          By this year a number of German Lutheran families arrived in Kansas, purchased prime agricultural land and established homes in the Spring Valley township of McPherson County.  Originally immigrating from the German Confederation, the Kingdom of Prussia and the German Empire some had served in the American Civil War of 1861-1865.  The Spring Valley Post Office was established one mile south of the present church, which is seven miles south and one mile west of Canton. This is early in the development of the area as railroads would not reach the present site of Canton until 1879 and the town of Galva was not established until 1887.  Two important trails, the Santa Fe and the California or Arkansas, passed through the settlement area.   The ghost town of Empire, 4 miles west and 3 miles north of the present church, at the junction of these two trails, did not have a permanent structure built until 1871, as a re-supply store that stood at the ford of Salt creek. These German Lutheran families were the pioneer settlers and essential to the development of the McPherson County economy. 

                   In this same year, the Reverend P.F German of Topeka came to this area and conducted Lutheran services on two successive Sundays. Shortly thereafter, six German Lutheran families banded together for the purpose of establishing a congregation.  

                   About this time the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) commissioned Reverend J. Hoffmann as Missionary-at-large for Western Kansas.  He established his headquarters in Hutchinson. This Lutheran group at Spring Valley, together with a group from Superior (now Inman) extended a call to Reverend J. Hoffmann.  God moved him to accept.

                   Twenty-three miles away to the west the members at Inman had planned to build a parsonage, but for some reason did not carry out their plans.  Pastor Hoffman and his family lived in the homes of the members in the Spring Valley community.  Before long the congregation at Spring Valley built a two-room house for their pastor and his family on a five-acre tract of land which was presented to the congregation by Geo. Schneider, a member.  The location was one mile south and one mile east of the present church, at the current location of the small German Evangelical Lutheran Cemetery.  This location is just south of where the middle fork of Emma Creek crosses 27th Ave, about 1/4 mile south of Chisholm Rd, just inside Meridian Township.   Pastor Hoffmann also held services in Newton, KS a number of times.

1878¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†On July 14th the congregation at Spring Valley reorganized and adopted a revised constitution. ¬†The constitution was written in German and the services were entirely in the German language. ¬†The name ‚ÄúImmanuel‚ÄĚ was adopted, which means ‚ÄúGod with us.‚ÄĚ ¬† They said, ‚ÄúGod will be with us in the future as He has been in the past‚ÄĚ. ¬† The subsequent history of the congregation proves that God was indeed with this congregation to pour out His bountiful blessings upon them year after year. ¬†Pastor Hoffmann then accepted a call to Nebraska.

1879          Reverend C. Wuensch accepted a call to Immanuel, however, in less than a year he accepted a call to Nebraska.

1880          During this time without a pastor, a split developed in the congregation.  Some decided to join the General Council of the Holdeman Mennonite Church, an Anabaptist Christian sect, and laid claim to the church property.  However, a strong faction remained that wanted to stay with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, although they had not yet officially joined that Synod.  Not caring to resort to the courts these members kept the name Immanuel Lutheran Church and looked for another location.

1881         Under the leadership of Missionary G. Toenjes, the congregation called Reverend J.H.F. Hoyer, who was ordained and installed on July 31.  The congregation was incorporated under the laws of the State of Kansas.  In November Mr. William Boesker offered 10 acres of land as his contribution toward the building program of the church.  This land was 7 miles south and 1 mile west of Canton.

1882         This year a cemetery was laid out on the southwest corner of the property and dedicated with fitting ceremonies.  One member, who had been buried at the German Evangelical Lutheran Cemetery, one mile east and one and a quarter mile south of our present cemetery, was moved into lot 63 at our current cemetery.  This was Adelhide (Gerken) Grother who was born 6-20-1834 and died 8-28-1876.

                  During the first years, public worship services were held in both the Spring Valley and the Meridian public school houses.

1885         In January the congregation voted to build a church and gathered pledges.  The first church building was dedicated July 19.  The cost was $1,660.18 with a wood frame structure of 30 x 50 feet and vestibule of 10 x 10 feet.

1886          The thriving congregation officially joined the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS), a conservative Lutheran body organized in Chicago in 1847.

1887          A new building, 18' x 18' was built for the Christian Day School where students were taught in grades 1-8.

1888          Reverend Hoyer, during his pastorate, did mission work in the communities such as Strong City, Chase, Newton, Hillsboro and Wichita.  Toward the end of the year, he accepted a call to Hanover, KS.

                   The same year Reverend E. Maehr became the new pastor.  During his ministry the parsonage was enlarged.  Reverend Maehr also served Inman and organized and served the Moundridge congregation.  He was influential in getting a church building moved to Moundridge from Inman.

1897          Reverend Maehr accepted a call to St. Francis, KS at the close of this year.  Reverend G. Storm became the new pastor and teacher.

1902          Reverend Storm accepted a call to another church, leaving Immanuel.  A student was called from Concordia Seminary to teach the Lutheran Day School until autumn when Reverend W.G. Bullinger became pastor and teacher.

1903          The congregation celebrated the 25th anniversary of its organization.

1908          Mr. Henry (Heinrich) W. Wilkening donated a 1000-pound bell to the church.  He and his wife, Caroline née Reinhardt, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary that year.  They were married on February 5, 1858, in Sedamsville, Cincinnati, OH.  The cost of the bell was $1,110.00.  A bell tower was added to the church at this time.  The bell was cast by Strucksted Brothers of St. Louis MO in 1908. On one side of the bell is embossed "SOLI GLORIA DEO" (To God Most High alone is Glory).  On the opposite side is embossed "NUN JAUCHZT DEM HERREN ALLE WELT KOMMT HER ZU SEINEM DIENST EUCH STELLT" ( Evi Otte translated this as: "Now all the world cheers (shouts) to our Lord: Come and serve Him").    "NUN JAUCHZT DEM HERREN ALLE WELT" is a Lutheran hymn title.  The last of the embossed inscription is:  "CESCHENKT VON HEINRICH WILKENING DEN 5 APRIL A.D. 1908." Meaning: "Given by Heinrich Wilkening on April 5, 1908."  

1910          Reverend Bullinger accepted a call to Concord, NE.  Reverend Hellmann succeeded Reverend Bullinger as pastor.

1915          Reverend Hellmann accepted a call and left Immanuel. In autumn Reverend A. F. Lutz was installed.  He was first to introduce the English language into the church service.   

1918          Reverend Lutz accepted a call, and the Reverend O.H.W. Hornbostel became pastor. 

1926          The congregation built a new white frame Lutheran School house. The envelope system for offerings and donations was first used.

1928          Reverend Hornbostel accepted a call to Duluth, KS.  The Reverend H. Schmidt became the new pastor.  On July 15, 1928, Immanuel observed the Golden Jubilee of its organization.  At this time, half of the services were being conducted in German and the other half in English.

1929          The first regularly called teacher was Mr. Henry Osthoff, a graduate of Concordia Teachers College, Seward, NE.

1934          An electric light plant was installed for the schoolhouse where meetings were held and soon extended to the church.

1935          On July 21 the congregation observed the Golden Anniversary of its church’s dedication of July 19, 1885.  Guest speakers were Victor Hoffman, Paul Hoyer and Joe Gerken.

1936          A two-manual Himers pipe organ was purchased from the Wangerine Organ Co. of Milwaukee, WI and installed for $985.00.  This was a used organ which had been taken out of a theater.

1937          April 18: the Reverend H. Schmidt died of meningitis.  He served the congregation for 9 years.  He was laid to rest on April 20 at Wichita, KS.  The Reverend B. Loesel of Moundridge took over in the vacancy.  On June 27, the Reverend A. L. Hoemann became pastor.

1938          In April, the congregation voted to purchase a house for the teacher (Teacherage) and move it to the church property.  The house cost $800 and was dedicated on Sept. 25.

1940          German language services were abolished.  On July 21 a revised German and English Constitution was adopted by the congregation and approved by the Synod.

1944          In April, the congregation voted to redecorate the interior of the church and paint and varnish all the woodwork.

1945          The congregation celebrated the 60th Anniversary of the church Dedication on July 22.  In the same year, an old custom began to change, where the men sat on the left and the women and children sat on the right-hand side of the church.  Mr. Weldo Groneman and his wife Ruth, along with Mr. Walter Vogts who just returned from serving in the war and his wife Clara, were the first to sit together during church services.

1946          A water system was installed in the Parsonage, Teacherage and School House.

1947          This year a regular Sunday School was inaugurated at Immanuel.

1951          On July 15 the groundbreaking ceremony was held for the new church edifice.   Construction begins on the new church.  It is constructed just west of the old church building.  While the new church is built the old church is still used for services.  

1952          On January 13 Reverend Hoemann preached his farewell sermon and took a call to Brawley, CA.

                   On Feb. 17 the Reverend J.L. Strelow of Litchfield, IL was extended a call and installed as pastor   He also served St. Johns Lutheran Church in Moundridge.

                   On Feb. 10 the Reverend Arlen Bruns of Great Bend conducted the Cornerstone Laying service for the new church building.

                   On August 24 a farewell service was held in the old wood frame church.  This building served the congregation for 67 years. During the following week the building was dismantled.  The pipe organ and the 1,000-pound bell were moved from the old church to the new building.

                   On September 14 the present church was dedicated.  The Rev. H.W. Munderloh of Russell, KS preached in the morning and the Reverend Arthur Traugott of Ellinwood KS preached in the afternoon.  In the evening Prof. A.F. Droegemueller, organist of Zion Lutheran Church, Independence KS gave a sacred concert on the completely remodeled pipe organ.  Attendance for the three services was 1,500 people.

1953          Mrs. Mary Vogts offered the congregation 80 acres of wheat to harvest with the profits to go toward the church debt.  The available pictures record the many church members who came together with combines, trucks, tractors and plows in a fine display of church camaraderie for a common goal.

                   On July 19 the 75th Anniversary of the congregation’s founding was celebrated.  The Reverend Victor Hoffman and Reverend Alvin Hornbostel were speakers.

                   In October the congregation resolved to build a new Parsonage located just north of the present church building.

                   November 23: Reverend Strelow accepted a call.  Pastor O.A. Bohnert was asked to fill the vacancy.

1954          On December 5 the Reverend Martin Helmer was installed as pastor, coming to us from Beatrice, NE.

1962          In July Reverend Helmer accepted a call to Wellington, KS.

                   Reverend James H. Leidholdt was installed on September 23. He also served St. John’s congregation in Moundridge.

1966          On September 11 an open house was held at Shiloh Manor Nursing Home in Canton.  Several church groups had been interviewed to manage the home.  Immanuel congregation expressed an interest and agreed to enter into a contract for the operation of the home.  The Home serves an important need in the community and is a splendid outlet for Christian service for many men and women of the church.

1968          Immanuel at this date had 221 communicants and 83 children for a total of 304 souls.

1969          Reverend Leidholdt accepted a call to Farrar, Missouri.

1970          Immanuel and St. John, Moundridge entered into a dual-parish arrangement where-by both congregations jointly called a pastor to serve both congregations.

1970          The Reverend Elmer C. Hethke was installed as pastor of the dual parish on April 25. He served until October 6, 1975.

1976          The Reverend Delmer J. Harders was installed on April 25, as a Vicar under the supervision of vacancy Pastor J.A. Hofius of Grace Lutheran Church in McPherson.  This vicarage was part of a colloquy program by which Reverend Harders was being processed into the Ministerium of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. On November 15, 1976, Rev. Harders was certified by the Synodical Colloquy Board and eligible to receive a call.  The dual parish of Immanuel and St. John’s, Moundridge subsequently called him to be their Pastor.

1977          Reverend Delmer Harders was installed as Pastor on March 6.

1978          The congregation celebrated one hundred years of grace and blessing on July 16.  The Reverend James H. Leidholdt preached at the morning service and the Reverend Martin Helmer preached in the afternoon.  The congregational membership numbered 352 souls with 264 communicant members.

                   The process of replacing the sanctuary tinted glass windows was begun with an order of three windows.

1979          Five more stained glass windows were installed the next year.

1980          Reverend Harders accepted a call to Zion Lutheran Church, Pittsburg, KS.  The Reverend John A. Hofius of McPherson served as vacancy Pastor.

                   The dual parish called a Seminary Graduate. On July 13, Reverend Russell L. Sommerfeld was ordained and installed.

1981          A building proposal for an education and fellowship addition was proposed but tabled due to financial concerns.

1982          200 copies of the Lutheran Worship, a new Synodical hymn book, was dedicated. It was first utilized the first                               Sunday of June.

1983          The pipe organ was renovated by a former member Donald Hoyer, of Hoyer Organ Co., Lawrence, KS.

1984          In August the stained-glass windows were completed in the Sanctuary.

1985          An adult weeknight Bible class was begun and well received.

1986          On July 19 Reverend Sommerfeld preached his farewell sermon.  He had accepted a call to Arapahoe, NE.

                   Reverend Donn Williams accepted the call to Immanuel on April 15.  He was installed on May 25.  During his tenure air conditioning and a replacement furnace were installed in the church.  Subsequent to Reverend William's vacancy, Reverend Martin Pullman of Winfield, Reverend David Schemm of St. John’s, Moundridge, plus others served as vacancy Pastors.

1995          On February 12, after considerable discussion, Immanuel dissolved the dual-parish agreement with St. John’s Moundridge, in order to call a Pastor to serve as their part-time Chaplin to the residents at Shiloh Manor Nursing Home and Immanuel.

                   Reverend Michael Sharp, from Wathena, KS accepted the call to Immanuel.

                   Pew cushions were installed in the Sanctuary.  A new Bible class for younger adult members was organized under the name of Lightkeepers with a membership of about 30 people.  For the first time in years the Pastor could lead the regular adult Bible class without serving the dual-parish.

1999           Reverend Howard Patton, Kansas District President served as the morning and afternoon preacher. 

                   On April 1 Immanuel dedicated a new building addition. The congregation utilized the Laborers for Christ program with many congregational members assisting in the work of building this 4500 sq. ft. addition.  The new addition provided a ground level fellowship hall, 2 two new handicap accessible bathrooms, new kitchen, two new classrooms, new office, a new resource room, and a new custodial storage room.

                   A new Cemetery Book and Plot-map of burial locations was created.

2003          Volunteers built a brick Cemetery Name sign, new sidewalks with a north entrance gate and two benches.  The sign holds a mailbox which contains copies of the cemetery plot map.

2004          A final farewell service for Reverend Michael Sharp, who accepted a call to Spencer, Iowa.

2005          Reverend Seth Meyer accepted the call to Immanuel and was installed as Pastor on June 26.  

2006          Elma Bolin was the last resident to be moved out of Shiloh Manor Nursing Home, Canton on October 6.  The closing of Shiloh Manor ended a forty year partnership that had benefited not only those who were residents but also members of Immanuel and the city of Canton.

2008          The congregation celebrated one hundred and thirty years of grace and blessing on July 13th.  There was also a celebration for the retirement of debt on the 1998-99 new Fellowship Hall addition.

2014           April 27th: Reverend Meyer preaches his last sermon, accepting a call to Holy Cross Lutheran, Goehner, NE.
                    In July, new carpet and tile was installed in the sanctuary, sacristy, organ room, narthex and nursery.

2014-15     The Reverend Richard Andrus and The Reverend John Pool serve as the vacancy pastors.

2015            June 28th: Mr. Brent Horne was installed as Vicar.  He is a graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary of Fort Wayne, IN and is recently retired from a career with the US Army.  He arrives with his wife Rebecca and two daughters, and all bring musical gifts and experience. 

2016           June 12th: Reverend Brent Horne was ordained and installed as our pastor.

2018           In January a new kneeling Communion rail installed.  In September handicap door openers were installed on the south entrance to Fellowship Hall.

2019          During the Summer a new flagpole was erected at the cemetery entrance.  New cemetery plot maps were designed and updated. Burials with family links and data were digitized as an Excel spreadsheet and made available via the church website.  The genealogical records were updated, and the documents scanned and placed on OneDrive for access and backup.  All documented burials were placed as memorials on the Find-A-Grave.com website with links to family members.  Photos of the stones and some photos of the individuals along with the grave GPS coordinates were uploaded.  Some biographies are included in the Find-A-Grave memorials.  

                   In October the Church organ was upgraded and improved with state-of-the-art electronic hardware and software by Duane Hanks to allow for the recording and re-playing of hymns, liturgies, preludes, postludes and offertories.

2020          Pandemic of COVID-19 causes several executive orders from the Governor of Kansas.  Schools are closed and many business are curtailed and employees laid-off.  Immanuel Church services are suspended following the March 18th Lent Service.   Pastor Horne begins creating videos that are posted on the church web page.   Worship Services resume in May.  A new sidewalk has been constructed in the NE area of the cemetery.  Also, a new wood windbreak shelter and shelf is constructed for the kitchen door to make a safer entrance.  Ornamental plant landscaping beds are added alongside the church and in the cemetery. 

2021    For the first time the Men's Pancake and Sausage Supper is cancelled due to the rising number of COVID-19 infections in the State of Kansas.  Worship services are Live Streamed via Vimeo for those who preferred not to attend due to the risks of infection.   

             November 28th Pastor Brent Horne performs his last Worship service at Immanuel, as he accepts a call to St. Paul's Lutheran, Malcolm, NE.  Rev. Tim Meyer becomes the Vacancy Pastor, December 1st, 2021.

2022    The congregation calls the Rev. Troy Slater, and he accepts the pastorage.  He comes with his wife and children from a Missouri congregation.  His installation service was June 25th and his first service June 26.   Rev Tim Meyer's last service was June 19th.  

2023   The ILC Men's LLL and Youth's Pancake and Sausage Supper is revived on the evening of January 16th.