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Restored and renewed, 110-year-old church to be dedicated
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Restored and renewed, 110-year-old church to be dedicated

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Thayer church at Wessels Living History Farm

The former Zion Lutheran Church in Thayer, which was moved to Wessels Living History Museum in York, will reopen with a dedication program May 24. The 110-year-old church has been restored to its original condition with a few improvements, including wiring, sprinklers, restrooms and handicapped accessibility.

A celebration marking the 110th birthday of the former Thayer church Zion Lutheran will be held May 24 at Wessels Living History Farm near York.

The afternoon begins with an organ prelude at 1 p.m. followed by the program at 2 p.m. Refreshments and a social time will follow in the fellowship hall of the church.

The church, which was moved from its former site at 1917 Road Q in Thayer to the Wessels Living History Museum has undergone an 18-month facelift in preparation for the public reopening.

“This church has been a foundation of faith and blessings for many individuals and families throughout the years,” said Elaine Stuhr, Wessels board member. “For me, it is part of who I am, as my great-grandfather was one of the founders, both sets of my grandparents were members, and my parents, as well as myself, were baptized, confirmed and married at Zion.

“I also attended the parochial school and have many memories of those years. It is my prayer that the church will continue to be a dwelling place of God for this community and a cornerstone of the Wessels Living History Farm for many years to come."

Started in 1901, the church was built on two acres of land purchased by eight founding members.

In 1904, lightning struck the church, burning it to the ground. The dedicated congregation vowed to rebuild and on Nov. 27, 1904, the cornerstone for the new church was set in place. The tall steeple was transported from York on a lumber wagon. Dedicated on April 5, 1905, the church and its furnishings cost just over $4,000. The new school was opened in June of the same year.

Fast-forward to nearly 110 years. On Nov. 20, 2013, the church was lifted with the help of 12 hydraulic jacks, five men and one wench and moved 17 miles to Wessels Living History Farm.

Making the journey and still intact with the church is the original altar, baptismal font, pulpit and wooden pews. The statue of Christ stands in its place, high in the altar. Adding to the historical content is the original pipe organ that was dedicated in March 1914. Purchased in Chicago, the organ still produces notes of worship. The original 800-pound bell, which was purchased in 1913, also was along for the ride, Stuhr said.

Once it arrived at Wessels Living History Farm, the church began its facelift, which included updated wiring, a sprinkler system, central heat and air, restroom, catering kitchen and handicapped accessibility.

“It was only after we moved the church that we discovered that David George Wessels was baptized in the church on Oct. 7, 1917,” said Dale Clark, Wessels director.

The museum is named for Wessels, who donated the land and the funding to fulfill his dream of a living history museum that would tell the story of life on a Nebraska family farm in the 1920s.

Wessels Living History Farm is one mile south of the York, Interstate 80 exit, along U.S. 81. For information or to purchase a membership, contact Clark at 402-710-0682.

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