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St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church Records (MS-623)

Identifier: MS-623

Scope and Contents

The St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church Records consist of a wide variety of records documenting the congregation’s 165-year history on Wayne Avenue in Dayton, Ohio. Records date from the congregation’s founding in 1852 through 2018, just after its closure, and include general history, vital records, administrative records, publications, and audiovisual materials. Early documents (prior to about 1920) are almost exclusively in German, the use of which was not discontinued entirely until 1939. Records in German are indicated at the file level in the collection inventory.

Series I, General History, includes published and compiled histories of the congregation, information about anniversary celebrations, programs, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, and a selection of prayer books used by the congregation. Of note in this series are the two most recent written histories of the church, one in 2002 for the 150th anniversary and the “final chapter” written in 2018 to cover the time period from 2003 until closing in 2017. Also notable are two scrapbooks, one created by Helen Baker and covering much of the early to mid-20th century, the other an oversize scrapbook of mostly photographs throughout the church’s history up until 1982. Materials in the General History series date from 1879 to 2018.

Series II, Vital Records, includes records of baptisms, confirmations, communions, marriages, and funerals or burials. In addition to the original records themselves, this series also includes a name index card file, alphabetical by last name, for all members from about 1913 (when the card file was started) until closure in 2017. The card file includes such information as date of birth, baptism, confirmation, marriage, and death, as well parents’ and children’s names, making it a valuable resource for genealogists. The card file index system was started shortly after the 1913 flood, but event dates on the cards (e.g., baptisms, etc.) may predate 1913: cards were made for all current living members at the time the system began, and at some point someone checked all the member cards against the earlier record books and filled in the information. Most early volumes are in German, but later volumes and the card file are in English. This series also includes member obituaries from 1981 to 2016. Genealogical researchers may also find the pastoral diaries in the Administrative series useful as well, as these also contain sacramental records. Note that one early bound volume of vital records also includes financial records, though this is also listed in the Administrative series. Early volumes are extremely fragile and should be handled with great care. Materials in the Vital Records series date from 1859 to 2017.

Series III, Administrative, includes constitutions and by-laws, minutes, financial records, property records, annual reports (to the congregation) and parochial reports (to the American Lutheran Church), and pastoral diaries. The pastoral diaries (all in German and dating from 1884 to 1926) are of particular note, as they contain records of sacraments performed by the pastor. Minutes are available for the church council, congregational, and board meetings. Most financial reports were received already interfiled with the minutes of meetings at which they were discussed, and so these remain in their original order, interfiled chronologically with the minutes. Early records, especially the pastoral diaries, are extremely fragile and should be handled with great care. Materials in the Administrative series span the entire life of the congregation from 1852 to 2017.

Series IV, Publications, includes membership directories (primarily from mid-20th century through 2002), worship bulletins (1920s through 2017), and newsletters (1963 to 2017). The worship bulletins (usually weekly) and Chimes newsletters (usually monthly) are excellent sources of information about events and activities, as well as topics of interest or concern, both in the congregation and the extended community. Materials in the Publications series date from 1911 to 2017.

Series V, Audiovisual, includes primarily photographs, but also slides, an LP recording of the choir singing, a pen and ink drawing of the church, and a few videos. Heavily represented in the photographs are interior and exterior pictures of the church building, as well as Confirmation class photos, but many other church activities are documented as well. Materials in the Audiovisual series date from 1883 to 2018.


  • Creation: 1852-2018


Conditions Governing Access

There are no donor-imposed restrictions on access restrictions for this collection; however, necessary preservation and logistical restrictions are described below.

Audio/visual materials: Due to preservation concerns, original audio and video materials cannot be played in the reading room. Patrons may have access to reference copies. Items without reference copies can be digitized at the request of a patron for the cost of creating a digital copy. Please provide us at least two weeks advance notice if you would like to request an audio or video reference copy. Call 937-775-2092 or e-mail us at

Electronic records: All electronic records (indicated in this finding aid by an e-number such as ms623_e0006) are processed and available; however, researchers are requested to provide at least two days advance notice when requesting electronic records. Call (937) 775-2092 or e-mail Access to original electronic media (original CD, floppy disk, etc.) is restricted.

Off-site storage: Some oversize materials in this collection are stored off-site. Therefore, please provide at least two days advance notice when requesting oversize materials (indicated by “OS” in the Box column). Call (937) 775-2092 or e-mail us at

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply. Unpublished manuscripts are protected by copyright. Permission to publish, quote, or reproduce must be secured from the repository and the copyright holder.

Biographical / Historical

The following was adapted from “A Brief History of St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church” (also found in ms623_e0006), provided by Pastor Robert Miller.

In January 1852, the Deutsche Evangelishe Lutherische Kirche St. Paulus (The German Evangelical Lutheran St. Paul Church) was incorporated with 73 charter members, having split off from St. John’s. Its first house of worship, a frame structure once belonging to the English Methodist Congregation, was moved to the new location on Wayne Avenue. In June, this small frame structure was dedicated as the congregation’s first place of worship.

The parochial school started in 1864. It continued until 1920, when the congregation then established an innovative course of religious instruction that served as a model for other Christian congregations. In 1988, the congregation initiated and established the Lutheran School of Dayton.

On August 15, 1869, the most recent sanctuary was dedicated, and in 1883, the steeple and the three famous bells were dedicated. Ninety-nine years later, the steeple was given its new copper appearance in 1982, and a new steeple cross was made and re-installed in 2014.

The first parish building was dedicated in 1892. It was located on the site more recently occupied by the church’s playground and parking lot on the corner of Jackson Street and Wayne Avenue. In 1954, the congregation authorized the construction of a new parish building to be located on the south side of the sanctuary. The original parish building located on the north side was taken down. The new building was completed and dedicated in this same year. In 1965, as a result of vandalism and burglary, the new Parish Hall was set afire. The congregation continued to meet in Stivers High School until the Parish Hall was restored that same year. In 1988, it became the location for the Lutheran School of Dayton and continued to be used by the congregation for activities of fellowship, learning, and outreach.

Beginning in 1900, services in the English language were offered for the first time on Sunday evenings. All the other services were continued in the German language. In 1939, amidst the rumblings of war, the congregation adopted the recommendation of the church council to discontinue the use of the German language.

On March 25, 1913, the Great Dayton Flood submerged the sanctuary to the depth of 14 feet, causing extensive damage. Repairs were completed within the year. At that time the congregation considered moving to property it owned south of its Wayne Avenue location. That property was located on a ridge outside the flood plain and is the present location of the Kroger store on Wayne Avenue near Wyoming Street. Total repairs were $10,000.00. In 1938, having sold the more southerly Wayne Avenue property, the congregation reaffirmed its commitment to remain a downtown church at its location at 239 Wayne Avenue, remodeled its worship space, and rededicated it.

In 1952, the sanctuary was refurbished, and in May of that year the congregation rededicated the sanctuary as it celebrated the 100th anniversary of ministry in and around the near east side of Dayton. The sanctuary was refurbished and rededicated again in 1964, the 112th year of the congregation’s existence.

St. Paul’s membership peaked in the year 1958, with 1700 Confirmed members and 1199 Baptized members.

In 1978, the congregation began a new era of ministry and mission by joining Hope Lutheran Church on Hickory Street in a neighborhood outreach and assistance ministry that was named East Dayton Lutheran Community Ministry. The following year in 1979, “Project Blessing,” a program of free noon lunches for the hungry and homeless, was initiated. In 1985, the East Dayton Lutheran Community Ministry became the Hope/St. Paul Cooperative Parish Ministries. After school youth programs, Project Blessing, a summer program for youth, camping, counselling, and assistance in networking became a part of the neighborhood ministry. Later was added the Learning Club of Dayton, an after-school tutoring program in math and English for elementary aged youth.

On May 10, 2002, over 225 people attended the church’s 150th anniversary celebration, which included worship and a catered meal.

Following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Pastor Bob Miller helped coordinate several mission trips to help with rehabilitation in Slidell, Louisiana. Seven trips took placed over the next six years.

In November 2016, at the annual congregational meeting, Pastor Bob outlined the difficult choices St. Paul would be facing soon as to whether to stay open or close its doors, due to membership age and numbers and financial concerns. These concerns were evidenced in changes to the administrative structure over the preceding decade or longer, such as reducing the number needed for a quorum from 35 to 25 and changing the leadership structure.

On June 11, 2017, the congregation voted 52 to 8 to hold its final worship service at the end of the year and divest its assets to other non-profit ministries. On September 12, 2017, a purchase proposal was received from Weyland Ventures to purchase the church property to repurpose its use while keeping its architectural integrity as a church building. The proposal was unanimously approved by the congregation and thirteen non-profit ministries were then chosen by them to “pay-it-forward” to when the final assets are ready for divestment.

On December 20, 2017, Project Blessing concluded its 39-year ministry after serving over 600,000 meals. On December 31, 2017, the final worship service was held in the sanctuary with all thirteen recipients of the divest assets in attendance to celebrate their ministries along with St. Paul.

Over a three-month period beginning January 8, 2018, more than 35 churches, organizations, or individuals received over 4,000 physical items as the “pay-it-forward” process began. For instance, the church pews were cut to size and gifted to Zion Lutheran in Tipp City for their remodeled sanctuary. The other items included paraments, communion ware, hymnals, crosses, music, hand bells, kitchen items, industrial cooking utensils, pot, plates, silverware, trays, bus carts, and metal cabinets just to name a few.


32.3 linear feet

3.54 Gigabytes

Language of Materials




The collection consists of a wide variety of records documenting the congregation’s 165-year history on Wayne Avenue in Dayton, Ohio, from its founding through its closure. Records include general history, vital records, administrative records, publications, and audiovisual materials. Vital records include baptisms, confirmations, communions, marriages, and burials. Records are primarily in German through the early 20th century. The collection documents early Lutheran and German history and German culture in the Dayton area.


The collection is arranged into five series:

  1. Series I: General History, 1879-2018
  2. Series II: Vital Records, 1859-2017
  3. Series III: Administrative, 1852-2017
  4. Series IV: Publications, 1911-2017
  5. Series V: Audiovisual, 1883-2018

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

A computer with software capable of reading *.JPG, *.PDF, *.TXT, and *.MP4 file format will be needed to view the preservation-formatted electronic records in this collection. Original file formats have also been retained (in addition to a preservation-format-converted version) and include *.DOC(X), *.PPT(X), *.PUB, and *.M4V.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was donated to Special Collections and Archives, Wright State University Libraries, by Pastor Robert E. Miller, on behalf of the congregation, in May 2018. Additional materials were received in July 2018 and November 2018.


Because the church has closed permanently, no additional accruals are expected.

Related Materials

MS-612: St. John’s United Church of Christ Records (originally the German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Dayton, the congregation from which St. Paul’s split off in 1852)

Separated Materials

Oversize materials larger than 14x18 have been removed to Oversize flat-file storage, some of which is located off-site. Oversize items smaller than 14x18 are stored in Boxes 78 and 79 with the rest of the collection. Electronic media have been separated to the E-Archives. A small quantity of Lutheran Inner Mission League of the Miami Valley Newsletters, received with the collection, have been separated to their own collection, SC-334, on account of provenance.


The collection includes an extensive historical narrative book, written on the occasion of the 150th anniversary in 2002, which covers the congregation’s history from 1852 to 2002. An additional chapter written in 2018 (available electronically within the collection) covers the time period from 2003 to the closure in 2017.

Processing Information

This collection was extremely well-organized at the time of its donation to Wright State University, which greatly facilitated processing. The meticulously arranged original orders of such series as minutes (which included financial records interfiled) and publications (worship bulletins and newsletters) have been maintained in the final collection. Metal staples in good condition have not been removed. Regarding the member card file index in Series II, these were originally separated according to member status (e.g., Deceased Church Members, Transferred, Baptized but Not Confirmed, etc.), with the alphabetical filing starting over again for each status. This was useful for the active parish office, but it is not as helpful for researchers; therefore, Pastor Bob Miller approved (and even recommended) that the cards be interfiled into a single run of the alphabet. This was done at processing time.

Guide to the St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church Records (MS-623)
Lisa Rickey
2019 Aug 29
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
This collection was processed in part through the generous support of St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

Wright State University Libraries
Special Collections and Archives
3640 Colonel Glenn Hwy
Dayton OH 45435-0001 USA