Also take a look at our church's timeline of events.
We give thanks to God for His blessings bestowed on our
congregation for so many years. God used the faithfulness of the
early Lutheran settlers to extend His church in Wellsville and
the surrounding area. The first trace of Lutheran settlers in
Wellsville is found about 1854. Among these were the families of
Simon Dornow, Christian Gallmann, and Christian Vossler, who
with their families settled on Niles Hill.
The Dornow family came from Saxony. After a short residence in
Sullivan County, NY, they followed the Erie Railway westward,
buying a piece of hemlock woods with the intention of converting
it into a farm. At that time there was no road from Wellsville
to the place where they planned to locate, so the path to their
new home was marked on the trees with an ax. Mr. Dornow’s
sister, Mrs. Kate Wack, had previously settled in the village of
Wellsville, engaging in the butcher business.
In 1853 two Christian friends, Christian Vossler and Christian
Gallman left their home in Thunningen, Wuerttemberg, Germany and
immigrated to America. They arrived in Utica New York, were they
worked on a farm to raise money before they continued their
search for land. They were told of good jobs at the Eleven Mile
south of Wellsville, so their journey continued. In 1857 they
found their way to Wellsville where they also bought land on
Niles Hill. The men remained employed at a sawmill, which
transported its output by tramway to Wellsville, where it was
loaded on cars of the Erie Railway for shipment. During the week
they worked in the mill. On Saturday evenings they would
shoulder an ax, gather up some provisions and walk to their
property, where they cleared a plot for their future homes. On
Sunday night they would again go back to their work at Eleven
Mile. Soon they had erected their small log cabins and moved
their families to Niles Hill. From their log houses they could
hear another pioneer across the valley cutting timber and see
smoke rising above the tops of the tall hemlocks. Because there
was not yet a market for timber, what was not used for building
was burned. One Sunday afternoon they blazed a trail to their
unknown neighbor. They found the home of Mr. Simon Dornow and
learned that he was also a German Lutheran. That meeting on
Niles Hill marks the beginning of our Lutheran congregation.
These three families met together as often as they could. Each
family had some good books with excellent sermons and one of
them would read one of these sermons from Sunday to Sunday,
either to his family or to the three families when they were
These families made contact with other Lutherans living in and
around Wellsville, and their numbers continued to grow. About
1856 the We1lsville tannery business came into existence. The
Germans were skilled in the art of tanning, so many were
recruited and had their way paid to work in the tanneries and
later the cost was deducted from their wages. Among its
employees were a number of Lutherans. Mr. Christopher Friederich
came to work as a foreman. Other Lutheran families had settled
on the hills south of Wellsville, and as they came from
Hannover, they called their settlement Hannover Hill. Mr. Henry
Schrader was instrumental in bringing these colonists to
Wellsville. When this group heard about a Lutheran pastor, Rev.
H. Schmidt, living in Eden Valley, near Buffalo, they wrote to
him to see if he would come to Wellsville to baptize their
children and hold services. Pastor Schmidt visited here and
encouraged the people to seek the services of Pastor J. H.
Doermann of Olean.
Note: The earliest Pictures we have of these gentlemen were
taken about 50 years after their first meeting during the
church’s 50th anniversary celebration
In the summer of 1859 Pastor Doermann gathered the scattered
Lutherans of the Wellsville area and by February 1860 the group
was organized. The new congregation was to be known as the "The
First German Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity at
Wellsville, Allegany County, New York." This small Lutheran
congregation did not have it's own pastor for almost ten years.
Pastor Doermann continued to come from Olean every fourth
Sunday. On the Sundays when the congregation was without a
pastor, the members gathered to sing hymns, read Scripture,
pray, and listen as one of the men read one of Dr. Martin
Luther's sermons. Services were held in homes and at different
public locations, making it hard for some members to attend. In
order to heat the meeting place male members were requested to
bring a piece of stove wood when they came to worship.
On Christmas Day, 1862 the congregation voted to build a house
of worship. However the nation was at civil war, and times were
hard, so the plans remained on hold. A Sunday school was
organized in May 1866. It was noted in the church history that
the entire membership attended these Sunday classes. In 1863,
the congregation voted to become affiliated with the Lutheran
Synod of Missouri. The congregation was self-supporting from the
very beginning. The ladies who spoke German formed the St.
Paul's Ladies Aid; it existed perhaps as early as 1865. It was
not until March 1865 that the congregation was able to buy a
large lot and dwelling on Martin Street for $800. The dwelling
was at once made suitable for divine services. Trinity
congregation grew rapidly and in 1867 Pastor Engelder accepted
the call to move to Wellsville and become Trinity's first
full-time pastor. His salary was $400 per year and his
responsibilities included Trinity's sister congregation on
Basswood Hill in northern Allegany County. Mr. Gallman sold his
farm on Niles Hill and moved his family to Basswood Hill. They
joined a small settlement of Lutherans, Wesche, Behrens, Gauss
and others who built a small church. Pastor Engelder served only
a short time for later that same year he accepted a call to
Pittsburgh. That same year, Trinity members formed the
Wellsville German Relief Association to provide life insurance
for its members. In August 1869 Pastor John C. Himmler began
pastoral work in Wellsville. In 1871 a parsonage was built on
the church property.
The congregation continued to grow and the Martin Street house
had already become too small for the number of worshipers. In
1871, a disbanded Presbyterian church on West Genesee Street was
available and Trinity was able to purchase the building and the
land for $2700. The Martin Street building was remodeled to
accommodate the growing parochial school. In 1873 Pastor Himmler
accepted a call to Cohocton, NY and Pastor H. Bernreuther of
Olean served as vacancy pastor until a new graduate, Pastor C.
A. Geyer, came in August 1873. Impaired health forced him to
resign after two years. Another new graduate, Rev. Carl
Zollmann, was assigned to Trinity and served faithfully until
Pastor George Buch came to Wellsville from New York City in
1882. The congregation grew and prospered under the leadership
of Pastor Buch. He also taught school, trained the church choir
and served the Basswood Hill congregation. In 1884 the church
was enlarged at a cost of $1,650. In 1894 the younger women of
the church formed a new group for English speaking women called
the Concordia Ladies Aid Society, which eventually replaced the
German-speaking St. Paul’s Ladies Aid. Trinity observed its 25th
anniversary on Reformation Day 1885.
In 1900 the congregation numbered 699 souls. To meet the demands
of continued growth, the church building was enlarged, new
fixtures added and pews were installed. The church basement was
divided into rooms for Sunday school classes and social
functions. The cost of this renovation was $6,689. Pastor Buch
is given credit for much of the thought and design that went
into this building project. Whether he did this for the 1884 or
1900 renovation is not clear. Several church societies as well
as individual families, including those of the original
founders, donated stained glass windows. The altar, crucifix and
pulpit were carved and donated by Otto Gaede. The Concordia
Ladies Aid Society donated a marble baptismal font. Its German
inscription translated means "one Lord, one faith, one baptism."
In 1901 Mr. George Fleischman was hired as parochial school
teacher, and also served as organist and choirmaster.
In the fall of 1901 a young people’s society was formed and the
same year a pipe organ was installed in the church balcony. It
was a hand pump organ, but soon a water motor was added. Prof.
Charles Rupprecht of St. Louis played two dedication concerts.
In 1901 a house on West Genesee Street was purchased as a
teacher's residence. It came to be known as the "Gallman House."
The congregation invested $2,618 in remodeling this property. In
1902 Trinity members formed a Lutheran Mutual Fire Insurance
Association. In 1907 there was a change in the congregation's
constitution, which allowed English to be used. English was
rapidly replacing German as the primary language for worship and
confirmation instruction, although church records continued to
be kept in German until 1918. On July 25, 1909 they celebrated a
“Golden Jubilee" for the German Evangelical Lutheran Trinity
Church of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession. German was used for
the morning services, and the evening service was held in
English. In 1910 the congregation sold the Martin Street
property to the Village of Wellsville for an elementary school,
a building that today houses medical offices. A smaller lot was
purchased on Grover Street and the parsonage was moved to this
location. A Men's Club was organized in 1916 and eventually it
affiliated with the International Lutheran Laymen's League.
With the closing of the parochial school in 1926, Saturday
School and Sunday school became the primary source of Christian
training and instruction for the children of the congregation.
In 1927 the organ was moved from the balcony to the front of the
church. An electric blower was added. This organ was of the
"tracker" type with about 12 ranks, or sets of pipes. In 1929
Pastor Buch retired after serving Trinity for 47 years. During
his pastorate a number of Trinity's sons and daughters entered
full time church work. Two years before Pastor Buch's
retirement, Rev. August R. Potrafke was called from Ashford, NY
to assist Pastor Buch. For two years the two men worked
together. Upon Pastor Buch's retirement, Rev. Potrafke became
Trinity's pastor. He would serve Trinity throughout the
Depression. 1932 marked the formation of a Lutheran Emergency
Relief Organization. In 1933 the pastor, organist, and custodian
agreed to take a 15% reduction in salary.
At Pastor Potrafke's urging, the congregation decided to have
the organ redesigned and updated. The work was done by the
Herman L. Schlicker Co. of Buffalo. The organ was rededicated in
October 1941. Also during Pastor Potrafke's years at Trinity the
left wing of the church building was remodeled and the Ascension
window, donated by the Ladies Aid, was installed. The Lutheran
Hymnal was introduced in worship services in 1941. Pastor
Potrafke served Trinity until his untimely death in July 1941.
The preacher for his funeral service was a classmate, Lutheran
Hour speaker Dr. Walter A. Maier.
Rev. Elmer W. Krentz was installed as Trinity's seventh pastor
in November 1941. He would serve Trinity for 34 years. In 1942
the congregation purchased a house on West Genesee Street for
the parsonage. Prior to that, the pastor lived in the parsonage
on Grover Street.
During the 40's and early 50's Wellsville was doing well and it
was reflected in the congregation as it continued to grow and
flourish. New organizations were added to minister to
congregational needs, such as; The Lutheran Service Society to
care for the physical needs of people of the area, the Walther
League, a branch of Synod’s youth organization and the Lutheran
Women’s Missionary League. There was a growing enrollment in the
Sunday school. During this period several professional church
workers were employed to assist the pastor in the areas of
youth, music, and education beginning with Walter Neuchterlein
(1945-50). In May 1948 he guided the Walther League members to
publish, editorialize, illustrate, print and mail the first
“Telco News”, a monthly newsletter dedicated to informing the
congregation of past, present and future church activities. This
project was carried out by the Walther league for 10 years.
After 1958 it became a church office published newsletter.
At this time Trinity had only a male choir and he introduced a
mixed choir and a youth choir. He added and taught an adult
bible class during the Sunday school hour. Following Mr.
Neuchterlein in this position were Peter Luedig (1950-52) and
John Buelow (1952-54). The congregation's activities continued
to require more space than the remodeled school building could
provide. An ambitious building program resulted in the erection
of a parish hall on the site of the old school building. It cost
$140,000 and also contained a new boiler that provided heat for
both the parish hall and the church. It was dedicated in July
1954. The Sunday school’s primary department continued to meet
in the "Gallman House." During this period a number of sons and
daughters of Trinity prepared for full -time church service.
In 1959 Trinity celebrated its 100th anniversary with a weeklong
schedule of services and events. Five pastors who had grown up
in the congregation returned to participate. Dr. John W.
Behnken, president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod,
preached at the conclusion of the centennial celebration. On Its
100th birthday, Trinity had 750 communicant members and more
than 1,000 baptized members.
During the 1960's and 1970's additional organizations came into
existence, including the Altar Guild (1962), Dorcas Guild
(1964), and Senior Citizens Fellowship (1970). During these
years Trinity was blessed with large adult, youth, and
The winds of change came from Hurricane Agnes when it blew into
Wellsville with torrential rains that permanently changed much
of our town's landscape. It was a day that will always stand out
in the memory of Trinity's members. Early in the morning of June
23, 1972 at 6:50a.m., Trinity's parish hall collapsed into the
flooded Genesee River that washed out the riverbank beneath the
building. The southwest corner of the church building itself was
left dangerously close to the undermined bank of the river.
Jones Memorial Hospital also lost a large three-story wing.
Trinity needed land to rebuild, as did the hospital. In the
months following the flood, the congregation reluctantly decided
to sell its property to the hospital and to relocate to a new
A musical farewell was held at the church on April 8, 1973 to
commemorate the building that had served the congregation for
102 years. The final service in the building was on Easter
Sunday, April 22, 1973. On May 5th the church building’s
furnishings were auctioned off. A member recalls that day as "a
sad, cold day." The building was razed. During the next year,
Trinity met in the Congregational church building on North Main
Street. The number of confirmed members was 800 at this time.
The building committee and architect worked together to develop
plans to meet the needs of Trinity's members, young, old, and
physically disabled. Specific areas were designated for worship,
music, education, fellowship, office and storage. The business
of establishing a new house of worship took top priority for the
next several years. Three members of the congregation, Alwin
Schaller and Norbert and Helen Shear, pledged the necessary
funds to purchase property at the corner of North Main Street
and Park Lane. Excavation for the new building could not begin
until existing hotel building was demolished and the land was
cleared. On October 14, 1973 ground was broken. Construction
began, and the cornerstone laying took place on June 30, 1974.
Art objects in the interior of the sanctuary would include a
large faceted glass window behind the altar, a sculptured
hanging cross, sconce candelabra, and ten Christian symbols
executed in colored faceted glass. Parts of a stained glass
window removed from the Genesee Street church (Christ ascending
and a dove) would be placed in a window on the south wall. These
pieces and other items were incorporated from the old church to
serve as a reminder of the many years the congregation worshiped
on Genesee Street. They also remind us that the Lord was with
the congregation through the loss of one building and the
completion of another. The organ was sent to the Schlicker
Factory to enlarge and make it ready for installation at the new
location. The organ now has 16 ranks (about 1100 pipes) and is
was installed in the balcony.
A serious disagreement between the building committee and the
contractor made it necessary to dismiss the contractor. Members
went to work to complete the interior of the church building,
often working day and night. Descendants of the early founders
were among those who worked so tirelessly to complete the new
building. The first worship service was held in the unfinished
building on December 1, 1974, the first Sunday in Advent. The
interior was completed and the service of dedication took place
on June 15, 1975. The cost of the building project was
approximately $750,000. The church library was re-established in
the new building in 1975, on shelves made from pews taken from
the old church.
Trinity congregation, on February 15, 1976 observed Rev.
Krentz’s retirement with a daylong celebration honoring the
Krentz family. The same year Rev. Donald Schroeder was installed
as pastor. Mr. Larry Gerdes, who was serving the congregation at
that time as Director of Christian Education, continued to serve
in that capacity until 1979 when he entered the seminary.
The 125th anniversary of the congregation was observed
throughout 1984 with special services and events planned for
each month. Dr. Oswald Hoffmann, Lutheran Hour speaker, spoke at
the kickoff dinner. Pastor Krentz returned for a special
Homecoming Celebration and preached on the "Three R's
“Remembrance, Rejoicing, and Renewal." Memorial funds were used
to purchase hand bells during this anniversary year. In 1985,
Trinity established a Christian preschool to serve the wider
Pastor Schroeder resigned in 1985 and Rev. Luther Bauer was
called that same year. Pastor Bauer resigned in 1989 and was
succeeded by Rev. Daniel Johnson in 1990. Pastor Johnson
resigned to take another call in 1993. Rev. Robert Pillar from
Batavia, NY became our vacancy pastor until a new pastor could
In 1993 the Men’s Club under the direction of Chuck White, built
a large pavilion for outside church activities.
In January 1995 Rev. Dr. Harold Kitzmann accepted our call. In
June we celebrated our 136 years in Wellsville, including twenty
years at North Main Street and ten years of service for the
Trinity Preschool. In 1999 the congregation invited the LCMS
missionary crusade “Lift High the Cross Ministry, Inc.” to the
Wellsville balloon rally. It was an uplifting experience in more
than one-way. The Rev. Jay Mason and his wife not only trained
members in how to handle a balloon but also how to reach out to
the community with this unconventional missionary tool.
In 1998 we received a sizeable trust fund from the Gallman
family, Arthur, Agnes & Myra (Gallman) Hawley. This fund has
been the finical support for many of the improvements that were
much needed, and to replace equipment that was no longer
working. The investment stays in the trust and the church is
given a quarterly allotment to be used only as specified by the
One of the first uses other than organ tuning was a small
addition that was constructed at the rear entrance to make the
basement entryway to the class rooms more accessible for the
In the fall of 2000 Pastor Kitzmann made the decision to retire.
Rev. Art Cox from Bradford, PA became our vacancy pastor. Rev.
Cox was like a breath of fresh air to a congregation that had
had a rapid turnover in pastors and vacancy pastors.
Calling of a new pastor can often be a long and trying time for
a congregation. Rev. Cox was very instrumental in helping us
make the transition to another new pastor.
In the fall of 2001 the Rev. Robert Morris accepted our call to
Wellsville. Pastor Morris has been our inspiration for eight
years and it would be hard to imagine our church without his
leadership. We have opened up to the community and to missions
as never before and in so doing we have been blessed.
As every home owner knows, there is always a long list of
repairs and replacements that are needed and a church is no
exception to that rule. Thirty five years of use has taken its
toll so many improvements have been required. Ceiling tiles,
interior doors replaced, refrigerator and dishwasher parts were
replaced. A canopy over the sidewalk to the parking lot was
The properties committee had been requested to research the
possibility of incorporating mechanical lifts to the balcony and
to the basement. There proved to be nothing that could be done
with the existing structure without a very costly addition to
the outside structure. After much research and discussion it was
proposed that we bring the organ and choir down to the main
floor and lower the altar rail for those that were physically
able to approach it without steps.
In 2003 the project was undertaken by church members who worked
in rotating shifts to first remove all the furniture and then
dismantle the sanctuary and make it ready for carpenters,
plumbers and electricians. They salvaged all the lumber that
could be reused and removed the carpeting. There was water
damage to the existing lath on both the north and south window
areas that was repaired. The altar platform was lowered and
doors to the sacristy and vestry were removed. The organ company
removed the organ console and modernized it with the present
circuitry. While all this activity was going on services were
held in the fellowship hall. All the work was finally completed
and Christmas was celebrated in our newly remodeled, carpeted
and painted sanctuary. The total bill came to $91,381 which
included $46,545 for the organ and sound system.
Recent years have brought rapid and unprecedented change in
America, in Wellsville and Trinity’s congregation. The church is
not immune to changes and we are compelled to ask, "Where is God
leading Trinity?" We have lost many members because of the
changes that have taken place in the area due to industries
moving away or cutting back. We have a large number of senior
citizens and we continually lose more and more of them as they
go home to their Lord. We need to believe, and to pray
fervently, that He will provide us with the faith and the
resources to move boldly out into the future. Opportunities
abound for us to serve God's people and to reach out to those in
our community who do not yet know Christ, or have fallen away
from the faith.
The preschool was closed in 2006 due to the dwindling attendance
and replaced with a day care facility. The daycare rules
demanded that many changes be made to the Sunday school rooms
and kitchen before it could be New York State approved. It is
sometimes difficult to give up the daycare area. However we are
beginning to see the results of this undertaking. It is very
obvious that these children will never forget the Christian
training and their introduction to Christian beliefs. For the
most part we have learned to live with the situation and the
daycare is now operating in the black. Our forefathers probably
would approve because they were very intense about educating
their children in a Christian manner.
We enter a new era as we wait for God’s direction. He alone
knows what path is the correct one for Trinity. We know there
will be trying times but we pray that Trinity will remain
faithful and the next generation will be blessed as we wait to
celebrate a 200th anniversary.
Charles F. Biemann, H. Louis Bosse, Simon Dornow, Peter
Freiermuth. Christian Frey, Christian Gallmann, Ernest Geffers,
Heinrich Heinemann, Henry Hennecke.
Adam Herbig, Christian Loesch, Ernest Paulmann, John Schroeder,
Friedrich Schwarzkoph, Christian Schulz, Christian Vossler.
Sons and Daughters of Trinity that entered into full-time church
Rev. 0. H. Restin, Rev. Henry C. Biermann, Rev. Theodore Buch,
Rev. Carl Gallman, Rev. Adolph Kruger, Rev. Herbert H. Gallman,
Rev. Max Zschiegner, Rev. Walter A. Reuning, Rev. Ralph Kruger.
Rev. Jack Munro. Rev. Carl Grossman. Rev. L Richard Vossler Rev.
Larry Gerdes, Rev. Dr. Lee Brumbgck, and Rev. Lee Stisser
Teachers Martin Braunschweiger, Joanne Herman Brandes, Gloria Krentz Schulz, Glenn Havens Olsen, Alan Merrifield, and Lois Krentz Seaman
Deaconess Pauline Meyer . Joan Jensen Eckelman and Alice Vossler Stevens
Director of Christian Outreach Betty Wood
This history was compiled from anniversary booklets, newspaper articles, church records, and personal recollections of Trinity's members by Eleanor Cott. When a discrepancy was discovered regarding a name or date an attempt was made to cite the information that seemed accurate.