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Trinity German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Albina at NE Williams and Graham Street, 1890-1920

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church at NE Rodney and Ivy Street, 1920-1959

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church at 5520 NE Killingsworth, 1959-present

The missionary Reverend Edward Doering, who arrived in Portland in the summer of 1881, founded this church.  He was born in Saxony, Germany on June 12, 1852.  Rev. Doering founded the Zion Lutheran Church on the west side of the Willamette in 1889 and Trinity Lutheran the following year. 

First Trinity Lutheran Church

First Church at NE Williams and Graham 

The name selected for the new congregation was "Trinity German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Albina." The following men were elected provisional officers: Ernest F. Kuempel, Alfred Kraeft, George Rupprecht, elders; H. C. Schroeder, treasurer; H. E. Dittrich, secretary.  

The first and second churches were located in the Albina area where many German-Russian families lived from the late nineteenth century. 

This church had members from the Lutheran Volga German colonies of Brunnental and Neu-Hussenbach. 

In the early summer of 1908, a number of families of the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, who lived in the Sellwood area, were interested in starting a congregation in their community.  They appealed to their pastor, Dr. J. Rimbach, to use his influence to get a church started there.  Those families began The German Evangelical Lutheran Immanuel Church (Die Deutsche Evangelische Lutherische Immanuel’s Gemeide) of Portland, Oregon.  This church is now the Immanuel Lutheran Church located at 7810 SE 15th Avenue. 

Trinity Lutheran web site 

A complete history of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church is presented below. 

Trinity Lutheran Church

Church and School at NE Rodney Avenue and Ivy Street 

The former Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church at NE Rodney and Ivy Street, built from 1919 to 1920, was destroyed by fire on February 6, 2007. The following report was posted on KGW.com:

Morningstar Baptist Church in ruin after fire

Photo of the church from flickr.com
A Northeast Portland Baptist church was destroyed by a four-alarm fire early Tuesday morning.

The Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church was three stories and took up half a city block. Firefighters said the church was fully involved and flames were shooting high into the air when they arrived to battle the blaze around midnight.

More than 100 firefighters responded and they had the fire control by 1 a.m. The church is located at 106 NE Ivy Street.

Investigators believe the fire started on the main floor.

The roofs of two nearby homes also caught on fire, due to flying embers from the church fire. Firefighters scrambled to douse those flames, too.

Some 9-1-1 callers told dispatchers they heard an explosion that "shook the house." Firefighters had the main body of fire knocked down in the church by 1 a-m.

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church and School [1]

100-Year History

1890 - 1990

By Don Sharadin

The history of the United States does not begin with the adoption of the Constitution by the Continental Congress on September 28, 1787. Likewise, the history of Trinity Lutheran Church, Portland, Oregon, does not begin with the adoption of its constitution on Friday, December 12, 1890. To understand the formation of our congregation one must be able to see the guiding hand of God in the affairs of men and of nations. He moves them to do His good and gracious will. 

Red-letter dates in Oregon: 

1787    The first explorer’s known to enter Oregon landed from the ship, "Lady Washington," commanded by Robert Gray of Boston. 

1792    Gray discovered the Columbia River, naming it after one of his ships. 

1805    Lewis and Clark reached the mouth of the Columbia River. 

1811    Astoria was founded. 

1819    A treaty between the United States and Spain fixed the present southern boundary of Oregon. 

1846    A treaty between the United States and England fixed the northern boundary of the Oregon Territory at the 49th parallel, which today is the northern boundary of Washington. 

1848    The Oregon Territory was established and included Oregon, Washington, part of Idaho, and part of Montana. 

1850    Congress passed the Oregon Donation Land Law. 

1859    Oregon became the 33rd state on February 14, the present boundaries having been set by Congress in 1853 separating the

Oregon territory from the Washington territory. James Whiteaker became the first governor.

Congressional passage of the Donation Land Law in 1850 spurred territorial growth and development in the west. This law provided that any male American citizen over eighteen who would live on Oregon land and cultivate it for four years would receive 320 acres of land, or 640 acres if he had a wife. This set the stage to encourage and promote settlers to come to Oregon. Many of these were Germans, Lutherans who had left their homeland, like the Saxon immigrants of two decades earlier traveling to Perry County and St. Louis, Missouri, because they felt the Lutheran Church in Germany was no longer teaching the Word of God in truth and purity. Loyalty to God and His Word and the welfare of their own immortal souls and those of their children were more precious to these immigrants than even family ties. So they came to the New World and St. Louis, Missouri, where they also heard of opportunities to be found in the Oregon Territory. 

Following establishment of the Oregon Territory, overland migration into the Northwest brought thousands of people traveling the Oregon Trail. Settling in the Willamette Valley and attempting to take over the Indians' hunting grounds resulted in a number of wars. As late as 1878 the Paiute and Bannock Indians rose against Oregon settlers, but were quickly put down. 

The Oregon Trail was the longest overland route used in the westward expansion of the United States. The route started at Independence, Missouri, and wound 2000 miles through prairies and deserts, and across mountains in the Northwest. The trip usually took six months for the wagon trains, and needless to say, was a severe test of endurance. Their food, water, and wood were scarce and then there were Indians to fight off as well as cholera and other diseases. Tombstones became milestones on the road to Oregon. 

In the middle of the nineteenth century a plea had gone out from America for help to Christianize the heathen Indians on the plains, in the forests of Michigan, Minnesota, and other Territory states. Mission ­minded Lutherans had considered Oregon as far back as 1847, the year in which the Missouri Synod was organized, and its Mission Board was laying groundwork for establishing a mission colony among the Clackama Indians near Oregon City. News of the Indian wars in the West and the 1847 massacre of Presbyterian missionary, Marcus Whitman, his wife, and twelve other missionaries near the present‑day site of Walla Walla, put a damper on the expansion of Synod to the Pacific Coast. 

Missouri Synod Lutheranism in the Pacific Northwest began with the work of Edward Doering, a young (29) pastor from Cook County, Illinois, who had arrived in Portland late in the summer of 1881. He was born in Saxony, Germany, June 12, 1852; studied at the Pro‑Seminar, Steeden, and at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, 1873­75; pastor at Glencoe, Illinois, 1875­81; pastor and explorer in the Northwest 1881‑1920; pastor of St. Peter's, Cornelius, Oregon 1882‑87; vacancy pastor in 1889‑1900, met death accidentally, November 21, 1922.

Making his headquarters in the REINPFALZ Hotel, a favorite meeting place for German settlers, Pastor Doering located several Lutheran families and a few days later, on September 4, 1881 held the first service of the Missouri Synod in the Northwest, at a site in east Portland. Early in 1882, a Rev. Emil Fridrickson willed a church and a parsonage to Rev. Doering as a trustee of the Missouri Lutheran Mission. These buildings, now replaced by a commercial establishment, stood at the northeast corner of Southeast Seventh and Lincoln Streets. The present address is 2030 and 2040 S.E. 7th Avenue. 

Having heard of a German group of immigrants in the valley west of Portland, Missionary Doering crossed the river and explored the surrounding area by horseback. He was able to locate the settlement near Cornelius where he organized St. Peter's Church in 1882. A year later he added St. Paul's congregation of Sherwood to his charge, though this early group was already organized in 1878 under a pastor of the old Minnesota Synod. 

In 1884, Rev. Doering conducted his first service on the west side of the Willamette River, resulting in Zion Lutheran becoming a mission congregation. 

To meet his week‑end schedule, Missionary Doering would leave Portland by horseback on Saturday afternoon, travel to Sherwood for an early Sunday service and return immediately to Portland to be on time for the afternoon service in the city. Lunch was carried in the saddlebag and eaten on the way, the route being by way of old Taylor’s Ferry Road. 

Pastor Doering made hazardous and difficult trips throughout the Willamette Valley, making contacts with Lutherans in Salem, Albany, Eugene and Mt. Angel where he established Trinity Lutheran in May 1890. He also served settlers in Roseburg, Grants Pass, Medford and Ashland. East of Portland, he preached at Grass Valley, near The Dalles. On the west side of the Coast Range he met with fellow Lutherans in the Tillamook area on the Pacific coast. 

In Portland, Missionary Doering saw his work culminate in the founding of Zion Lutheran Church in 1889, and Trinity Lutheran the following year. 

The population of Oregon in 1860 was 52,000, and by 1890 had risen to 300,000. Portland of 1890 numbered some 46,000, and the United States population stood at 63 million. 

Thus it was, as our Lutheran forebears living in East Portland decided upon a church in their own area, and, under the guidance of Missionary Doering, met on the evening of Wednesday, December 10, 1890, for the purpose of organizing a congregation. The meeting was held in the Lutheran Church, and then located at the northeast corner of Williams Avenue and San Antonio (later changed to Sellwood and then to its present name of Graham Street), in the area called Albina. This section eventually became a part of the city. An apartment house occupies the church site today at 2830 N.E. Williams. 

Williams Avenue at this time was a rough, plank road with some areas having board sidewalks to keep a person out of the mud. Other streets were lanes between rows of trees and open fields. This sort of thing did not deter those hearty souls who felt the importance of "the one Thing Needful." Though the Lutherans of that day were poor materially, before God they were rich. Their wealth was contained in their zeal and love for the Kingdom of Christ, and the creation of the world as reported in Genesis. 

The name selected for the new congregation was "Trinity German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Albina." The following men were elected provisional officers: Ernest F. Kuempel, Alfred Kraeft, George Rupprecht, elders; H. C. Schroeder, treasurer; H. E. Dittrich, secretary. A committee was appointed to draw up a constitution for submittal at a meeting to be held two days later. 

On December 12 the constitution was adopted and signed by those present, in addition to the aforementioned officers: A. B. Kuempel, Wm. G. Williams, Robert Buttenhoff and Michael P. Bredemeier. On Sunday, December 14, another meeting was held, resulting in Rev. J. W. Theiss being called as pastor. His salary was set at not less than $25 per month, plus free rent. 

The first regular meeting of the recently‑organized church was held on January 12, 1891, with opening devotions by the new pastor. Wanting a religion with firmness, substance, and reliability, the small congregation resolved to apply for membership in the Missouri Synod, which unfalteringly proclaimed the verbal inspiration of the Bible, the Holy Trinity and the Deity of Christ. 


The church building in which the young congregation was meeting had been built and used by another Lutheran group. Wishing to have their own house of worship, the members of Trinity resolved at a meeting on February 16, 1891 to buy this property. On March 12, the transaction was completed for a sum of $3,423.32. Of this amount $223.32 was raised by subscription and the remainder borrowed. 

The frame church, with a bell tower over the entrance, was naturally very simple, measuring about 28 feet by 60 feet and with a daylight basement under the entire structure. A portion of this basement was used for the school, and the balance served as the living quarters for the pastor. The churches of those days were not pretentious edifices, but were constructed along the same humble architectural lines as the homes of the parishioners. Although the altar and pulpit were of simple design, and the pews anything but comfortable, the message of Christ and Him crucified was sweet to the members of the congregation as they gathered here each Sunday. One can well imagine the edifying divine services and the walls resounding with the music of sturdy Lutheran hymns! 


Following the first regular meeting, another was held a few days later when a resolution was adopted fixing the tuition for children attending the parish school at 750 per month, per child, $1.50 for two or more children of the same family. Thus, from the very beginning, the congregation has had the added blessing of a Christian Day School. 

From the time of its organization in 1847 our synod has made the training of its children in church and parochial schools a vital part of its program. In the early days of Synod's history, the rule was "a school with every church." Here at Trinity, as well as at other congregations in America, the Lutherans planted church and school together. "The young must be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." 

A Lutheran parochial school was an institution unique to those sections of the world to which Lutherans emigrated from their home country where they had so‑called State Churches and where the expenses of church and school were met with funds gathered for that purpose by the state. This is still done in Germany today. 

The minister, being one of the few learned men in the congregation, taught school until his flock was able to pay a teacher's salary in addition to his own. At Trinity this arrangement was to continue for the first nine and one‑half years, until 1900 when the first teacher, J. H. Schroeder, was called. In those pioneer days our school, like most schools, was very primitive. But as the financial status of the people improved, the schools did likewise. 

A negative influence on our school, and in fact all non‑public schools of the United States, came about with the test case of the Oregon School Law of 1922 which prohibited the regular education of children between the ages of 8 and 18 in non‑public schools, A U. S. Supreme Court decision in 1925 declared the law unconstitutional. Pending the appeal, school went on as usual. 

The teachers at Trinity School realized early that the continued existence of their school would depend on its ability to compete with the public schools. Subsequent history of the school has shown that they were correct. In the beginning years it was not easy to set one's sights so high. For one thing, the fact that our school was bilingual made this more difficult than it is today.

It meant that the teachers had to find time, in addition to religious instruction, to teach German as thoroughly as English. No time was left for educational frills. 

However, with cooperation from the congregation, slowly but surely the standards were raised until today our school is in no way behind the public schools of our city. Standard achievement tests administered each year to schools of all types indicate that Trinity School rates well above the norm. 


Before the congregation was many months old, steps were taken to provide for the education of all the members. It was resolved to have Christenlehre in the evening services, with the pastor instructing the people, especially the children, in the truths of the catechism by means of questions and answers. The young, of course, were also expected to attend the parish school. 


Following is a financial statement for the first year (1891): 

A. Receipts:

1. Pastor's salary $346.50

2. Plate collections 133.23

3. Subscription for purchase of property 288.50

4. Subscription for street improvements 115.00

5. Tuition 63.25

TOTAL $946.48 

B. Disbursements:

1. General 269.09

2. Purchase of property 223.32

3. Salary 420.00

TOTAL $912.41

Balance $34.07

In spite of financial problems, which plagued the congregation at various times, the members of Trinity were always interested in bringing the Gospel to as many people as possible. In the spring of 1892 the first Mission Festival was held, inaugurated by Pastor Theiss. This event raised the modest sum of $47.37, which was donated to "Missions on this Coast." 

An invitation to attend the June, 1892, church dedication of our sister congregation at Mount Angel, Oregon, was declined "because of the great distance involved, since it would take several days to make the trip of 40 miles."


In the spring of 1893 the health of Pastor Theiss began to fail. The congregation excused him from teaching school for a while, and then allowed him a 3-month vacation, and finally, in August, he felt it necessary to resign. Rev. John Witte, whom the Mission Board had kindly loaned the congregation during Pastor Theiss' illness, was called to be the latter's successor. 

Until 1894 the pastors had lived in the church basement, which, from the standpoint of health, was not a very suitable arrangement. The congregation duly resolved to erect a parsonage, a one and one‑half story house adjoining the church at a cost of $500, the members being expected to donate as much voluntary labor as possible. The pastor kindly loaned the $500 for the construction costs. This same year a janitor was appointed for the church at a salary of $18 per year!


Because of illness, Pastor Witte resigned on July 4, 1897, the resignation to take effect on August 8. Three weeks later, Sunday, August 29, Pastor Theodore Fleckenstein was called, his salary fixed at $25 per month with free use of the parsonage, and he was to retain the tuition paid by the school children. 


The last decade of the 19th century saw Portland firmly established as the principal port in the Pacific Northwest. Portland, which nearly doubled in size during that decade and would double again during the next, was busily engaged in world trade.

January 1, 1900 saw a proud and prosperous Portland welcome the 20th Century with a population of 90,426, some 10,000 ahead of Seattle; one survey stated that Portland was the third wealthiest city per capita in the world.

The decade 1900‑1910 turned out to be one of the most dynamic of Portland's history. The city population soared by 228 percent to 207,214. One of the key catalysts for all this activity was the Lewis and Clark Exposition held between June 1 and October 15, 1905. From this "World's Fair", two and one‑half million visitors carried home their admiring descriptions of the expansive grounds and elaborate exhibitions housed in huge, handsome pavilions ablaze at night with a spectacular electric light display. Following the Fair, one of the buildings was moved across the river to what is now the St. Johns area and some years later became St. John's Lutheran Church. The building still remains at 7317 North Ivanhoe Street.


On August 23, 1899, the District was organized with 10 pastors, 12 congregations, 14 preaching stations, 257 voters, 1037 communicants and 2,111 souls. Today, the District, now called Northwest District, includes Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Alaska and one congregation in Hong Kong. Its 225 pastors serve 257 congregations having 86,000 baptized members. In addition, the 435 teachers and DCE's serve the 6700 students in 101 schools. Of the 35 districts in Synod, our District is the largest in geographic size, 5th in number of congregations, and 11th in size of membership.


December 12, 1900 found the little congregation of Trinity celebrating its tenth anniversary. Charter members received special invitations and previous pastors were invited to preach the anniversary services.

The congregation in 1901 was privileged to entertain the District Convention. The number of Missouri Lutherans in Oregon by this time had reached 1500. In May of this same year Pastor T. Fleckenstein resigned and in June Pastor W. Luessenhop, of Independence, Kansas was called, his salary was set at $40.00 per month. Installation services were held on August 25. Pastor Luessenhop was the District President, 1903‑1906.


"To secure more room for church and school," the congregation resolved in 1902 to purchase three lots at the corner of Ivy Street and Rodney Avenue (Later N.E. Ivy and N.E. Rodney), and the resolution was carried out the following year, the cornerstone being laid on Easter Sunday. School dedication was held on Sunday, August 21, with both the German and American flags displayed on the building. The cost of the property was $1,130 and the construction costs amounted to $2, 823.92.

In this same year, 1903, Trinity again felt strong enough to increase its teaching staff by one and through the Lord directed a call to Candidate Richard Kuhnau, graduate of Synod's normal school (teachers college) at Addison, Illinois. He was installed the same day the new school was dedicated. Thus began a long and faithful service to the church by one of the Lord's servants, terminated by illness, which necessitated his retirement in December 1954.

This eventful year also had Trinity members taking up a collection for the erection of churches and parsonages at mission stations, establishing a treasury for the poor, and a resolution passed to have "Christenlehre" after the sermon on Sunday mornings.

Members of Trinity felt that the future growth of God's Kingdom would require that daughter congregations be established. Consequently, in conjunction with Zion Lutheran Church a mission was begun in East Portland. Rev. John Gihring was installed as Missionary on May 10, 1903. The mission did not prosper and was abandoned in 1906 when fire destroyed the building.


The history of Concordia College (originally Concordia Academy) is intricately woven into the history of Trinity and as such deserves a niche in this chronicle.

At the July 1903 convention of the Oregon‑Washington District of the Missouri Synod, some twenty‑nine pastors, teachers, and laymen had assembled at St. Peter's Church near Cornelius, Oregon, to hear about the progress made by their church and the problems confronting it. One vital problem discussed at length was the difficulty in securing men to serve this vast wilderness area called by those in the East, the Oregon Country. Just barely past the frontier days, as civilization goes, with great sagebrush deserts in the east and limitless forested areas in the west this still appeared to be a region without a future. But the Mission Board of the youthful District saw otherwise and kept pressing Synod for more workers to take advantage of the many opportunities for the development of the church. Thus it was, at this convention, that we first heard the now oft‑repeated statement, “You must raise your own crop.” These were the words of a visitor at this session, Francis Pieper, the President of the Missouri Synod.

A number of problems remained to be overcome before classes could actually begin, but in one manner or another, all were solved. Trinity Congregation offered the use of the church basement for a classroom, vacated when the new school was built at Rodney and Ivy two years previously. A member of the congregation, Adolf Kuempel, offered to build an addition to his house where the students could room and board. This house still stands, at 522 N.E. Morris St. A member of this first class, Rev. Louis Brandes, now 99 years of age, is still living in Peoria, Illinois. A graduate of our St. Louis Seminary in 1914, Pastor Brandes was a visitor at our Portland Concordia in 1989 when the Brandes Student Union was named in his honor.

The Academy Board of Control, of which Mr. Kuhnau was a member for 26 years, had called a recent graduate, F.W.J. Sylwester, of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, to serve as professor at a salary of $40 a month. The first music teacher was paid $10 for a whole year's instruction of one class a week!

Dr. Sylwester, the school's first professor and president for 41 years, was installed at Trinity Church on September 10, 1905. Classes began for Concordia Academy on September 11, 1905, and seventeen students were at their desks. On December 20, 1907, after completion of a building at the present campus site, the students were able to move to their new home.

The property for Concordia Academy was part of a land grant to a William H. Payne on February 20, 1866. The 5-acre tract, part of the original 320-acre grant, was deeded to the Oregon and Washington District of the German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio and Other States, May 31, 1907. The original owners were Charles Schnabel and his wife, Anne. Accepting the property for the District was Rev. W. H. Behrens, Trustee for the Oregon and Washington District and the District President from 1906 to 1909. The Dedicators declared that the property "shall henceforth be known as Heidelberg." Within a few years all of the area became known as Irvington Park.

The new building at the Concordia campus, serving as dormitory, cafeteria, offices and classrooms was intended to house the school on a temporary basis, one that stretched out to 40 years! It was finally replaced with a modern dormitory, Centennial Hall, in 1947, and an administration building, Luther Hall, was dedicated in 1948.

The District was the sole support of the school for the first six years, after which Synod paid the salaries of the professors. In 1923 it was offered to Synod, debt‑free, and became a part of Synod's preparatory system. Dr. Sylwester served the school until the Lord called him home on October 26, 1972.


In 1905 Teacher Schroeder asked to be relieved of his duties and Candidate Oscar Steege was called. Installation services were held on Friday evening, September 1.

In the spring of 1906 Pastor Luessenhop was called to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and after a six‑month vacancy the congregation called Rev. J. A. Rimbach from Ashland, Kentucky. He arrived on Sunday, November 4, and was installed as pastor the same day. Thus began another long tenure in office of one of Trinity's shepherds, for he was to serve the congregation a total of thirty‑five years.


On April 7, 1907, the church treasurer reported that the debt on the church property was now paid in full, and the congregation immediately resolved to create a building fund. In October of the same year the subject of an English mission in Portland was discussed. An adult class was formed and the members were confirmed the following June. English services were then begun and held in Trinity Church. The following year Grace Lutheran Church was founded. To assist the young congregation in getting started, Trinity contributed $10 per month for one year toward the pastor's salary. Rev. Carl Hassold was the first pastor of Grace, the installation services being held at Trinity on Sunday, August 8, 1909.

In 1908 a new mission was started in Sellwood, and once again we see the hand of God moving His people to establish another sanctuary. Within a few weeks Immanuel Lutheran Church was organized and Rev. H. C. Ebeling was installed as its first pastor a few months later.

In 1909 still another mission was begun, this time in St. Johns and for a while this seemed to flourish. But when a leading family or two moved away, attendance of the others faltered and the mission was abandoned. It was not until the early thirties that this mission was revived by the Mission Board, eventually becoming St. John's Lutheran Church.


The first decade of the new century was a busy time for the city of Portland also. An expanding economy and more people brought on a building boom and the establishment of new businesses. Residential districts such as Alameda, Eastmoreland, and Rose City Park came into being. Starting up were companies still with us today, such as Franz Bakery (1906), Dan and Louis Oyster Bar (1907) and Portland (now Jantzen) Knitting Company (1909). Getting around in this growing city was easy and economical by a trolley system with frequent service. The students at Concordia, though, had to walk through the woods to where the Alberta car line ended, at what is now N.E. 30th Ave. and Alberta Street.

At the close of the 1905 Exposition, Portland's Mayor, Doc. Harry Lane, proposed holding a city‑wide festival every summer. This came into being two years later as the Carnival and Fiesta, and was Portland's first Rose Festival.


With the work begun by Pastors Theiss, Witte, Fleckenstein and Luessenhop, and now successfully carried on by Rimbach, the church building of 1890 was soon too small. In May 1910, the Voter's Assembly discussed the advisability of building a larger house of worship and a subsequent resolution authorized the building of a church at the Ivy Street property. The resolution included also the enlarging of the school, which was greatly overcrowded. However, there was strong opposition on the part of some and the resolution to build the church was not carried out until 1919. The congestion in the school was relieved to some extent by the addition of 24 additional desks. About this time also the envelope system for church contributions was introduced, and the result was a marked increase in receipts.

In 1912 the congregation authorized the conducting of services for the deaf, by Rev. O. Fedder of Seattle.


Year 1916 was marked by the resignation of Teacher Steege, and Mr. Arthur Buescher of Chester, Illinois, being called in his place. Here again was the start of a long and fruitful service to the congregation by a graduate of the Addison Teachers College, a career that lengthened to more than 42 years.

The school continued to grow until by the year 1919. There was an enrollment of 96 students with only two instructors. Teachers Kuhnau and Buescher were to carry the entire teaching load for 24 years before the building was enlarged and another teacher added.


In 1919 the need for a new church was again brought up and, while considerable opposition was still present, yet, with the help of God, the will of the congregation prevailed. A building committee composed of Prof. L. Blankenbuehler (grandfather of our present Pastor Hoelter) of Concordia Academy, Theodore Thiel, George Feig, Fred Reils, Jr.; and Ernest Heidtbrink, assembled plans for a frame building, and the congregation accepted a bid from Mr. Edwin Balgemann to build the church. Upon learning that the church could be brick‑veneered for an additional $2,000, the congregation decided to have this done, bringing the total cost to about $30,000. Oak pews for the new church were purchased at a cost of about $2,000. A used pipe organ was bought and rebuilt for some $3,000.

Individual members for the greater part, donated the art glass windows. The Ladies' Aid supplied carpet and drapes at a cost of some $1,200, and the children of the school donated the Crucifix and statue of Jesus. The altar and pulpit were personally built and donated by Mr. Balgemann, the builder of the church.

Ground‑breaking for the new church, on the corner lot adjacent to the school at N. E. Rodney and Ivy St., was held in September 1919. The cornerstone ceremony was a month later, and on the 29th of August 1920, while the District Pastoral Conference was in session at Trinity, the new church was dedicated.

 F. Westerkamp of Sherwood preached in the forenoon in a German service, while Rev. O. Fedder of Seattle preached in the afternoon service in English. Following the close of the latter service at 4 P.M., Prof. Lucian Becker, one of Portland's well‑known musicians, gave an organ concert. In the evening of the same day, a service for the deaf was conducted by Rev. Gaertner of Seattle, using the sign language, while speaking orally to the rest of the audience. The church was filled to capacity for each of these meetings.


In 1923 the congregation resolved to change the parsonage from Graham Street to a new location at 3728 N. Commercial. This was to serve the congregation for 27 years. Cost of the new parsonage was $5,250. During the first 20 years in the new building Trinity showed a steady growth, until by 1940 the records show 438 communicant members.


This first half‑century of Trinity's existence proved to be in a disquieting, turbulent and exciting period. The Northwest was being settled, the United States had two wars, the Wright brothers flew their first plane (1903), automobiles were invented, cities were being lighted by electricity, machine tools and assembly lines introduced. In connection with the automobile, Portland found it necessary in 1906 to increase the speed limit from 8 MPH to an incredible 10 MPH. Four years later the Meier and Frank store switched from horse delivery to trucks. The Good Road Movement spawned the slogan "Get Oregon Out of the Mud."

In 1902 the initiative and referendum laws were adopted allowing the people of the state to place measures on the ballot and to recall existing laws by popular vote. Oregon was the first state to do this. Ten years later woman suffrage was adopted in Oregon.

The Great Depression of the Thirties was keenly felt by both church and members. The work in church and school continued without interruption, but as to maintenance of the congregation's property, all but the most necessary repairs were restricted.

The year 1933 was marked by the disastrous fire known as the Tillamook Burn that destroyed nearly a quarter million acre of the state's finest timber and left a pall of smoke hanging over the city for weeks.

Through all of this decade Oregon Lutheranism (Missouri Synod) managed to hold its own and even to increase to 5300 members by 1935. Extensive growth was reported after 1935 as new residents and war workers moved into the state. The growth at Trinity also affected the school as another room was added in 1943. The "Schulhaus" took on a new look as its first lady teacher, Alma Muller (Mrs. Ray Dobberfuhl), joined the staff. Following the war, still another room was added to the original structure, which had been built in 1903, and the staff was increased to four in 1947 when Mr. Martin Dobberfuhl was called. Several adjacent lots were also acquired to provide more playground space. Mr. Buescher was appointed to serve as school Principal.


For Missouri Synod Lutherans, this first 50 years also was the period of the language change‑brought about by the persisting need for the use of English, especially among the youth, and in changing the attitude held by some. The 1916 convention analyst noted, "The spirit of Lutheranism is still really German." The First World War caused bitter feelings between those of German ancestry and those with other national backgrounds. At Trinity it was necessary to remove the word "German" from the name of the church and school, and introduce English services in the spring of 1918.


On December 14, 1941, the congregation was saddened by the death of their long‑time shepherd, Dr. Rimbach. Having endeared himself to countless people from all walks of life, this servant of the Word, whose outstanding labors bear fruit to this very day, is fondly remembered by many who were privileged to be closely associated with him during his long years at Trinity. In addition to his manifold duties in the congregation, Pastor Rimbach found time to translate a number of Lutheran hymns. He served on the, Concordia College Board of Control, also as Vice-President and then President of the District for many years, as well as Circuit Counselor. In recognition of his great work as a theologian for his beloved church, the Doctorate of Divinity was conferred upon him in 1941.

Though serving members who lived in a wide area, Dr. Rimbach customarily made his calls to the homes of members, hospital visits, meetings, etc. on foot or by streetcar for he never owned an automobile. Occasionally Dr. Sylwester chauffeured him.

Following the death of Pastor Rimbach, and before the installation of Rev. Erich Eichmann, pastoral the assistant pastor, Rev. Carl Eggers, who had been serving the congregation since his graduation from the St. Louis Seminary in 1940, ably handled duties. Upon leaving Trinity he trained for the Army Chaplainry and at the end of World War II found himself in Nuremberg, Germany, with the U. S. 1st Infantry. Being fluent in German, he was assigned to offer spiritual counsel to the 21 German leaders who were being held for trial of their war crimes. After his retirement he volunteered his time at several hospitals in the Seattle area and at the King County jail.


Early in 1942 the congregation called their sixth pastor, Rev. E. Eichmann of Portland, who had been serving Hope Lutheran Church, the congregation for the deaf. Installation services were held on Sunday, April 19, 1942. Thus began another long cycle of steady growth for Trinity under the hand of a most able servant of the Lord.

The next quarter century was to be another turbulent and exciting period as the Second World War took many of Trinity's young men to ships and bases all over the world, with all but two returning safely. Even more frightening instruments of war were to alarm mankind as the huge bombs that devastated London and European cities gave way to the horrifying atom bomb, and still later, the hydrogen bomb with super‑sonic jet aircraft for delivery.

The Lord plainly was calling His people to repentance, and church membership was on the increase all over the land. In Oregon, records indicated nearly eleven thousand Missouri Synod Lutherans by 1948. At Trinity there were 667 communicants.


In 1945, Trinity opened a branch Sunday school to serve the children in the area of Concordia Academy. Vicar Allen Nauss was placed in charge. Parents of these children, along with others transferring from Trinity and other congregations were to form the nucleus of what was later to become St. Michael's Lutheran Church, organized October 15, 1948.


The hands of Trinity members were extended to the Pacific Coast in 1949 as countless hours were spent in assisting in the building of Faith Lutheran Church in Seaside. Other chapels in the area reflected the skills of craftsmen from Trinity and other congregations donating their free time as new congregations were formed and buildings erected. One chapel, Beautiful Savior, was erected by a large group of men in a single day!

In 1950 the congregation resolved to sell the parsonage at 3728 N. Commercial and to build a new parsonage at 3834 N.E. 15th Ave. Dedication was held in April 1951. Construction costs were $23,884.09.


After more than thirty years at the Rodney and Ivy address, many of Trinity's members seriously considered relocating the church and school to a new area. The school building was 50 years old, outdated, inadequate for present day needs, was fast deteriorating, and had reached the limit of expansion. In addition, the playground facilities did not meet the standards recommended.

As far as the church was concerned, the neighborhood was considered unsuited for any church growth. In a one‑mile radius of the church there were more than 100 congregations of various denominations and sects. Repeated canvassing and visits in the area indicated little or no prospects for membership. In 1953 the congregation authorized a Relocation Committee to look into the problems connected with the contemplated move. Their first meeting was held on August 18. Several areas for a new location were surveyed, with the committee finally settling on a 4.7 acre site at N.E. 55th and Killingsworth, on which stood a home and an orchard. For a sum of $39,000 ownership passed to Trinity Congregation, March, 1954.

A branch Sunday school was opened in the basement of the home on the new property in February 1956 with Mr. Otto Teyler in charge. To raise money for the contemplated building, a fund‑raising campaign was conducted, under the Chairmanship of Mr. Glenn White, with members pledging more than $92,000 over the next three years. A Building Committee was organized under the Chairmanship of Mr. Otto Teyler. The congregation gave further evidence of their great interest in Christian education by planning for a six‑room school. In addition there were to be a large kitchen and fellowship room, other rooms for committee meetings, a teacher lounge, offices for the school principal and the pastor, shower rooms for the athletic teams, and a large, dual‑purpose auditorium, which could serve as the place of worship. The Voter's Assembly settled on a modern, efficient building, the cost of which came to $257,133.


Ground‑breaking ceremonies were held on Sunday afternoon, April 13, 1958, and the cornerstone ceremony held on Sunday afternoon, September 21, 1958. Dedication services were held on Sunday, January 18, 1959, with Dr. E. P. Weber of Concordia College being the keynote speaker. Some 1300 people were in attendance at the services on this memorable day.

Missing from the dedication exercises for the new Trinity School was one of those who had worked so mightily to see it come about, Teacher Buescher, who fell asleep in the arms of his Savior on Sunday, December 14, 1958. For the second time on the same date the Lord had chosen to call to His Home a servant of Trinity. This shepherd of Trinity's school children over two generations had served his church in many capacities. Such had been his resolve when he set his course many years before, to place his days and years into the service of his Savior and to follow His call, no matter where it would lead, and no matter what personal sacrifices it would demand of him.


On Tuesday, January 20, 1959, the children of Trinity School assembled at the old school on N.E. Ivy and Rodney for the final time. After farewell exercises, teachers and pupils were transported to the new school, an event that attracted members of the press and television studios. Watching also was one of Trinity's former teachers, a man who had taught 3 different generations over a period of 52 years, Mr. Richard Kuhnau.

The large number of applications for enrollment in the new school made it necessary to open two additional classrooms in the Fall of 1959. Kindergarten was added at the same time. Mr. Dobberfuhl was now serving as school principal.

Divine services were conducted in the auditorium of the new building from the day of dedication. Services were also conducted at the former church until the property was sold in April 1959, for a sum of $65,000.


With the large congregation and school, and the great demand on the pastor's time, it became impossible for Rev. Eichmann to efficiently and effectively perform his duties alone. The congregation extended a call to Rev. Theodore Teyler of Collinsville, Illinois. He was installed as associate pastor on July 9, 1961. The home on the school property became the second parsonage.


On June 27, 1965, Trinity bade farewell to its sixth pastor, Rev. Eichmann, following his farewell sermon. His retirement began July 1st. Here again Trinity had been privileged to have a faithful servant of the Word in its midst for nearly a quarter‑century, years of devoted and earnest stewardship.

Of his 44 years in the ministry, Rev. Eichmann had served the Portland deaf at Hope Lutheran church for 18 years prior to coming to Trinity. In addition to being pastor of one of the Northwest's largest congregations, Pastor Eichmann found time to serve the church‑at‑large. At various times he was a member of the Mission Board, Board of Directors and 1st Vice President of the District. He was serving as Secretary of the Concordia Board of Control in 1943 when Synod was considering closing the school. A personal appeal by Pastor Eichmann, Dr. Sylwester, Prof. E. Brandt, Rev. F. M. L. Nitz and Rev. M. Zagel, was presented to Synod, resulting in this body reversing its earlier decision.


As enrollment continued to climb in the school, it was plain that something needed to be done to relieve the congestion. Committees were formed to settle on plans for an addition, after which contracts were signed for the main parts of the work. The Building Committee, composed of Brian DePue, Bob Licht and Dave Nichols, assembled the necessary volunteers to take care of doing all the finish work and getting the rooms ready for the 1975‑76 school year. The addition included three classrooms, a health room, several offices, rest rooms and a small chapel.

Enrollment eventually moved past 300, served by a staff of 15. The school year of 1981‑82 brought out the building crews again as the school survived the ordeals of flood and fire. In November of that year, a city water main burst during the night along a street south of the school resulting in a great deal of water flowing several blocks and onto the school property. Here it quickly found the daylight basement used by the first and second grade. Arriving teachers and pupils for their classes that morning found desks, chairs and the piano floating with other debris.

Volunteer work crews were quickly assembled as classes were set up in other areas on the main floor, and the work of rebuilding began. Under the leadership of Bob Dressier, serving as construction foreman, what were formerly two large classrooms and several smaller ones used for Sunday school, became three modern classrooms.

In March of that school year, fire heavily damaged the east entrance to the gymnasium, necessitating rebuilding. Two additional classrooms and an enlarged lobby for the entrance were the result, all accomplished again with a volunteer work crew.


The first appointed principal of the school, 1947, was Mr. Arthur Buescher, a 1916 graduate of the Lutheran Teachers College at Addison, Illinois. Mr. Buescher was in the 43rd year as a teacher at Trinity when the Lord called him home in 1958.

Mr. Martin Dobberfuhl was appointed principal in 1959 and served in this capacity until his retirement in 1973. He was a graduate of Concordia Teachers College, River Forest, Illinois, 1930, and was called to Trinity in 1947 from St. Peter's Lutheran Church, Joliet, Illinois. He was here for 26 years, fourteen of which he served as principal.

Mr. Otto Dargatz was called to Trinity from Concordia Lutheran Church, Springfield, Illinois, in June 1961. He served in our school for a total of 21 years until 1982, his retirement year. He was principal for the last nine of those years.

Mr. Paul Bethke, a graduate of Concordia College, Seward, Nebraska, 1973, was called to Trinity from Lutheran High School West, Detroit, Michigan, in 1975, and taught here until 1980. He then was called to Lutheran High School in Portland where he taught for two years after which he accepted a call back to Trinity to serve as principal for four years. In 1986 he accepted a call to serve as principal at Sno‑King Lutheran School, Edmonds, Washington, and in 1988 he took a call to serve as teacher at Emmanuel Lutheran School, Kahului, Hawaii.

Mr. Richard Weniger, a 1969 graduate of Concordia College, Seward, Nebraska, was called from Redeemer Lutheran Church, Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1986. He was principal at his former school and is serving Trinity in that same capacity.


Rev. Theodore Teyler, Trinity's seventh pastor, served as Associate Pastor with Rev. Eichmann from 1961 ‑ 1965. Upon Rev. Eichmann's retirement, Teyler was the sole pastor until 1972 when he accepted a call to serve a mission station in Tacoma, Washington. Rev. Teyler was a 1944 graduate of the St. Louis Seminary and served congregations at Danvers, Peoria and Collinsville, Illinois, before coming to Trinity.

In 1973, Rev. Robert Zimmerman came to Trinity from Concordia College, Oakland, California. He served our congregation until June 1976, when he resigned and moved to the Northwest Washington area.

In July 1976 a call was extended to Rev. Richard Gross at his parish at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Kennewick, Washington. He accepted the call and was installed on September 12. Pastor Gross served the Trinity congregation for twelve years, and then retired from the active ministry on October 30, 1988.

Rev. Gross had served congregations in Fillmore, New York, in Oregon at Cottage Grove, Coos Bay, and Hillsboro; also Nampa, Idaho, and Kennewick, Washington before coming to Trinity. Though busy with multifarious duties within the congregation, he found time to serve the Church‑at‑large as Circuit Counselor, District Vice‑President, and District Committees for Missions, Education, and Property Management.

Following Rev. Gross's retirement, the congregation, had a busy call committee. Under the leadership of Joyce Nitz, this group had the task of lining up call lists for the congregation to prayerfully consider. During the 18-month vacancy, Rev. L. Ruthenbeck who had just retired from his congregation in Oregon City excellently handled the pastoral duties. He was well‑known to some of our members, having served as vicar here at Trinity during the two years 1945-47.

Rev. Mark Hoelter, our present pastor, was installed at Trinity on April 29, 1990. Pastor Hoelter came to Portland from Lawrence, Kansas, where he served as Campus Pastor to the University of Kansas and as one of two pastors for the merged congregation of Immanuel Lutheran Church and University Student Center.


Organized almost as soon as the congregation, though with the name "Frauenverein," this group had been like a right arm to the congregation. Their purpose was to "promote and advance sisterly association, carry on acts of charity and good works, receive instruction, and aid in promoting the welfare of the congregation." This they accomplished with vigor. With a greatly diminished membership, this group has disbanded in recent years.


This auxiliary of the church dates back to February 15, 1952, and was organized to "provide young mothers and women who are employed outside of the home during the day, with an opportunity for Christian fellowship and service in the church."

The Dorcas Society has enjoyed a steady growth and has continued active support in both the local congregation and in the church‑at‑large under the banner of the Lutheran Women's Missionary League. Taking up where the Women's Guild left off, this society has made themselves indispensable around Trinity.


The imprint on the stub of a railroad ticket or the admission ticket for any event is applicable to the relationship of youth to the church: " Not good if detached." Wise is the church family that will invest heavily in youth, and equally wise are youth that will invest heavily in the church family. The two are reciprocal and should be inseparable. The youth organizations, like the church of which they are a part, are people, young people. As Christians, they strive to "grow up into Christ in all things." To this end they carry on Bible study, attend worship and communion services, engage in activities that challenge Christian faith, love, develop Christian virtues and enrich and strengthen the Christian life.


The Jugendverein, or Young People's Society, also existed here at Trinity since its early years. Shortly after the Walther League was organized at Buffalo, New York, in 1893, our young people considered joining this group, whose object was then "to assist in keeping our young people within the church." Trinity's YPS was known in later years as the "Concordia Club." When the Oregon District Walther League organized in 1921, Trinity's Society was one of the charter groups.

Following World War II, with so many of the young men and women returning to their home congregations, the membership of the League at Trinity and other congregations grew so swiftly that a Senior and Junior Walther League were chartered, both with their own programs. At Trinity, more than 60 youth were actively engaged. In 1948, the District Walther League was host to the International Walther League Convention, held here in Portland, just a few weeks after the Memorial Day flood which had the Willamette River flowing through the Union Railroad Station, the main point of entry for visitors to Portland.

As other changes came about in American society, so also there was need for change in direction of Synodical youth programs, and the Walther League was phased out and replaced with other youth emphasis. Here at Trinity, the Junior and Senior Leagues of former times became the JYM (Junior Youth Ministry ‑ 7th ‑8th grades); and TYM (Trinity Youth Ministry ‑ High School).


Much has changed in the three or more decades since the Walther League was at its zenith, and young people of today have far different needs and wants. To keep abreast of their contemporaries, jobs are a requirement. Here at Trinity that age level is served by "TYM," the high school group known as "Trinity Youth Ministry." The purpose of this ministry is to help them develop a Christian attitude and to support them in all the things they do. This is accomplished in group activities, or on a one‑on‑one basis, to give them the sense of purpose and belonging within the structure of the church body so that as they become young adults they will have the confidence to be leaders.

On another level of youth ministry, "JYM," or Junior Youth Ministry, the goal is guidance and help as these young people discover and deal with who they are and where they want to go. With this group, much patience and understanding is necessary, especially for their first‑time discoveries and experiences.


The Lutheran Laymen's League came into being at Trinity in 1947, a year after the Oregon District of the League had organized. The national body of the League was organized in 1917 "to aid the church by word and deed in its financial matters."

Since the organization of the League in its early years, the scope of activity broadened considerably. Through membership in the League, the LLL sought to awaken the laity to the full dimensions of their ministry, to equip these men and women for the joyful life of discipleship in Jesus Christ, and to provide special opportunities to band together for Christian growth, witness and service. At Trinity there was strong membership and active participation in support of League programs such as The Lutheran Hour's world wide radio broadcast and later it s television ministry "This Is The Life." About 1970 when many active participants moved away, the Trinity group ceased to operate.


The congregation has been blessed with a musical group since 1900 when Mr. Schroeder, the first called teacher at Trinity, issued a call for men to form a male choir. In January of 1906, Teacher Kuhnau organized a mixed choir. With some interruptions, that ministry has continued throughout the years to the present day. The school, too, gave students an opportunity to participate through children's choirs, and the youth has had organized choirs and singing groups from time to time. Under continued capable directors, the Trinity School Choir enriches the worship services with its music, and has achieved recognition in the Portland area performing at various functions.

With its three‑fold duty, to lead the congregation in singing, inspire it in giving expression to its spiritual devotion, and enhance the divine services with special anthems, the musical groups have brought home to all a deeper appreciation of the wonderful treasures the Lutheran Church possesses in its music.


Approaching the end of Trinity's first century and wishing to hold a celebration for all those years of grace and blessing, the congregation resolved in 1987 to build the long‑awaited sanctuary. The voting assembly authorized building and financial committees to do the necessary planning. Pledges from members amounted to more than $300,000. On the strength of this, work was begun and groundbreaking was accomplished by means of an old plow, pulled by some 200 members of the congregation. The date was April 17, 1988.

A member of the congregation, Mr. Stanley Zintel, was named the architect. Bob Dressier was appointed General Contractor, receiving much assistance from Leonard Warneke and Dick Kuhnau. Untold hours of volunteer labor were used in the project, along with two Laborers for Christ. The women in the congregation prepared meals.

The Building Committee for the project consisted of Andy Lorenz, Ray Sievert, Dan Lorenz, Milo Campbell, Nick Warneke, Richard Hibbard and Don Schaefer, Sr.

Dedication ceremonies for the new church building were conducted on Sunday, November 19, 1989. Speaker for the service was Rev. Erhart Bauer, President of the Northwest District.


A year long schedule of events, including special speakers for each of the months, was drawn up for the Centennial year celebration, all to climax with an anniversary banquet on December 16, 1990, just 100 years and a few days from December 12, 1890 when Trinity's first constitution was signed by men representing a small group of God's people with a vision.

Looking back over Trinity's first century and its reason for existing as a congregation ‑ soul winning and soul strengthening ‑ the work and activities of many individuals designated by the Lord to carry on His work is evident. The story of Trinity, under the grace of God, like the story of the Church from the beginning, is the story of many individuals ‑ some of whom have been forgotten. From the work of those who have gone before us, we have gathered much that will serve as inspiration and encouragement. The important influence of Trinity in the Lutheran community is a tribute to the faithfulness of those pastors, teachers, and lay people who built on a solid foundation through the preaching and teaching of the blessed Gospel.

Pastors of the church:

Rev. J.W. Theiss

1891 - 1893


Rev. J.H. Witte

1893 - 1897


Rev. Theodore Fleckenstein

1897 - 1901


Rev. W. Luessenhop

1901 - 1906


Rev. J.A. Rimbach

1906 - 1942


Rev. E.O. Eichmann

1942 - 1961


Rev. Theodore Teyler

1961 - 1973


Rev. Robert Zimmerman

1973 - 1976


Rev. Richard Gross

1976 - 1990


Rev. Mark Hoelter

1990 - Present






[1] Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church and School Centennial Anniversary booklet, 1990, Portland, Oregon.  Used with permission of Pastor Mark E. Hoelter, Trinity Lutheran Church & School, 5520 NE Killingsworth Street, Portland, Oregon 97218.