Community is 135 years old
Strassburg Baptist Church, 2249 Pawnee Road, Marion, was not connected to a church conference until 1911, but the community existed long before that. The church celebrated its 100th anniversary on Oct. 15 and 16.
The first settlers in this rural community northwest of Marion migrated from Russia and arrived in Peabody on Feb. 22, 1876. They were German Baptists who came from villages established along the Volga River in Russia.
George H. Schlotthauer, Adam and George Schlotthauer, Friedrich Krispense, and John Jacob Schmidt were the first to arrive in Kansas. They were met by a man from the Mennonite community of Gnadenau, near present-day Hillsboro, who provided them with a temporary place to stay.
Two months later, they bought land northwest of Marion at $2.25 to $5 per acre from the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. Because they had come from a village named Strassburg in Russia, they gave their settlement the same name.
Propps and Stenzels joined the community later that year. Other families — Vogels, Krafts, Hasses, Nusses, Kruses, Batts, Bauers, Rehs, and Meisingers joined the community in following years.
In Russia, village life centered around the church, and so it was in America. Sunday services were held in homes until 1892, when a small building in Marion was purchased and moved near the present location of Strassburg Baptist Church.
The sanctuary had homemade benches — three on the west for men and three on the east for women. A low table at the north end served as a pulpit. The building was dismantled in 1905 and a new 28-foot by 40-foot church building was constructed.
The congregation was known as “Die Brueder” (the brethren). They had no regular minister but were assisted by Jacob Ehrlich and Pastor John Sievers of the German Baptist Church in Marion.
The group was organized in 1911 as the Strassburg Baptist Church and became a member of the German Baptist Conference of North America (now the North American Baptist.)
There were 31 charter members. In 1916, as membership increased, a 24-foot by 28-foot addition was built to the north. The addition included a basement and a bell tower. At that time, membership had grown to 60. Membership was 127 in 1950 and approximately 150 in 1971.
In 1965, the bell tower was removed and a foyer, restrooms, and classrooms were added.
Membership declined somewhat in later years as young people grew up and moved away, but its core families remained.
Many ministers led the church throughout the past 100 years, guiding it in continual growth and improvements. Rev. John A. Pankratz was the first full-time pastor, serving from 1922 to 1930.
The current pastor, Don Mashburn, began serving in 1994, and under his guidance, the church has seen new growth and in increase in young families.
“We have an interesting situation,” he said. “We don’t identify with any one community.”
The congregation includes 54 families from throughout the county. Sunday’s attendance was 112. Church membership stands at 98.
In 2009, a new fellowship hall was built.
The church’s 100th anniversary celebration the weekend of Oct. 15 and 16 began on Saturday evening with a fellowship meal and reminiscing, including a video of old church movies put together by Dwight Kruse.
Former pastor Don Decker, who served from 1963 to 1968, spoke Sunday morning. Brad Seifert, now a pastor in Junction City who grew up in the church, spoke in the evening. The congregation enjoyed a catered noon meal.
Because of an overflow crowd of at least 160 people, some people watched the Sunday service in the fellowship hall via a closed-circuit system provided by Gene Winkler of Marion.
Mashburn said the church has always had a core of good people to guide it through the years. Mark and Marsha Pagenkopf of rural Lost Springs, who recently became members, said they enjoy the friendliness of the people and the camaraderie that exists before and after services. They said they appreciate the emphasis on Bible teaching.
“Strassburg has transitioned much over its 100-year history, but it is a pleasure to claim that we have not changed in regard to our belief that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life,” Mashburn said. “We are a relaxed group of people who love each other and the Lord and are always looking for new people to join us.”
(Sources include: “75th Anniversary of the Strassburg Baptist Church, 1911-1986”; “Strassburg Baptist Church, 1911-2011.”)