The institutions of church and school order many people’s lives today. This was even more so for our ancestors. The church was a spiritual home as well as a site of ethnic solidarity for immigrants looking to establish themselves in America. The church school was a center of social life integrating family and faith, the public school a primary vehicle of social integration and a connection to neighborhood, government, and nation.

For their entire lives, Julius and Brunis Paul were dedicated Lutherans. Both were baptized in the Lutheran church, the couple was married in the Lutheran church, and together they raised all of their children in the Lutheran church, baptizing and confirming each one. All testimony from their descendants is that Julius and Brunis were regular church-goers and that Julius in particular was an avid Bible-reader. At the end of their lives, both were buried out of the Lutheran church.

While living in the Bush, the Pauls attended Immanuel Lutheran Church on the 9000 block of South Houston Avenue. This was a thoroughly German congregation whose official name was the “Evangelisch-lutherischen Immanuels-Gemeinde”. To distinguish it from the Swedish congregation of the same name on the North Side, it was sometimes known as Immanuel South Chicago. The parish was founded in 1873 and joined The German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio and Other States, known today as the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. In 1896, the year the Pauls moved to the Bush, the parish had 635 adult communicants. The parish also operated a school; in 1896 it had two teachers and enrolled 115 students. Of the Paul children only Helen was of school age. The 1900 US Census shows that she did attend school 9 months of the previous year. We don’t know if Helen attended Immanuel School or the local public school, but in that we do know she attended the Lutheran school in Antigo after the family moved to Wisconsin, it’s a good guess that she attended the Lutheran school in Chicago as well.

Four of the five Paul children born in Chicago were baptized at Immanuel:

  • Clara, baptized 17 July 1897 at home
  • Arthur, baptized 29 March 1898 at church
  • Ewald, baptized 12 August 1900 at church
  • Gertrude, baptized 30 March 1902 at church

In Ewald’s family, his baptismal certificate has even been passed down through the generations (which you can see on the side bar)! Little Clara was also buried out of Immanuel. She was baptized the day before she died, so ill that Pastor Ferdinand Sievers had to come to the Paul home to perform the rite. On her entry in the congregation’s death register, a Bible verse is recorded: 1 Mos. 24,56. In English we know 1 Moses as Genesis, Clara’s verse reading: “But he said to them, ‘Do not delay me, since the Lord has prospered my way. Send me away that I may go to my master.’”

Richard Paul, Julius’s and Brunis’s first child born in America, makes no appearance in the Immanuel records. We don’t know why this is. His civil death record indicates that he died at the residence on Buffalo Avenue, so we know the family was living in the Bush at the time. Perhaps they were affiliated with a different congregation in the neighborhood at the time, or perhaps they had only recently moved in and hadn’t joined any congregation yet.

The church building known to the Pauls, the one in which the family baptized and from which it buried its children, is no longer standing. Immanuel Lutheran’s original wood structure of 1873, reconstructed and expanded in 1889, was torn down and replaced in 1907 with the large brick Gothic Revival church building that stands on the site today. That building is no longer home to Immanuel Lutheran, however. With the departure of the German steelworkers over time, the parish entered into terminal decline. Immanuel lost its last resident pastor in 1992 and celebrated its final worship service on 28 December 2008. Today an empty lot occupies the site where the parish school once stood, and the church building is now owned by a small black Pentecostal congregation, Beyth-‘el  Temple and College. Yet carved in stone above the door one can still today read: “Erste Ev. Luth. Immanuels Kirche” – First Evangelical-Lutheran Immanuel Church.



Therese Barry-Tanner.

Concordia Historical Institute, St. Louis, MO.

Geschichte der Gründung und Ausbreitung der zur Synode von Missouri, Ohio und andern Staaten gehörenden Evangelisch-Lutherischen Gemeinden U. A. C. zu Chicago, Illinois. Chicago: Louis Lange & Co., 1896, pp. 87-89.


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Immanuel Lutheran Church as it was known to Julius & Brunis Paul, after its 1889 reconstruction and before its 1907 razing. The parish school can be seen in the back to the right.


Ewald Paul’s 1900 baptismal certificate.