History of the First Estonian Evangelical Church in USA

History records this site as being established beginning in 1907 to serve the faith of Immigrants from the Baltic Nations that settled in this geographical area.

The land having been deeded to them by Sig and Tena Heineman in 1907 (#5969 Co. Reg), the founding fathers, Johan Wiltein, George Tutt and Albert Sommi, first known as the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church (EELC), deeded the property and church to the Estonian (Eesti) Evangelical Martin Luther Kokudus (church) on the 16th day of July, 1914. The very same church it is today.

Prior and during the building, the Reverend Hans Rebane of Boston made annual visits to preach to the Estonians in the Gleason area until his death in 1912, followed by the Reverend Konrad Klemmer in 1914 who came from New Jersey to serve the Estonians. A Latvian pastor came from Chicago to serve the Latvians until 1931 when Rev. Werner Kuhlberg came to serve both the Estonians and Latvians.


The most prominent of the Estonian settlers were the Pay Brothers who remained in the area while other Estonians sold their farms and their children dispersed into more populated areas. When the Pay Brothers decided to support a new church, Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church in Irma, services and activities of this historic landmark ceased to exist, except for occasional picnics and gatherings of Estonians who took pride in this historic landmark. In 1964, Ito (Bill) Rebane and family moved to Lincoln County from Chicago not knowing that the Irma and Gleason area served as an Estonian settlement area. It was not until the mid-seventies that he met with Albert Sommi, one of the original founders. Sommi’s last wish was that the church always serve as a landmark and reminder of Estonian roots in America. By this time, the almost forgotten church had been vandalized. The bell, the pulpit and furnishings disappeared. In 1992, after numerous attempts to restore the furnishings, doors, windows and maintain fencing, Ito Rebane and family retained legal counsel and iled reorganization documents with the County reinstating the church to the “Estonian Evangelical Martin Luther Church” to become a landmark for Estonians in America and all those who had to leave their homeland to escape from communism and religious suppression.

With a renewed and aggressive agenda, the organizers intend to renew restoration efforts to make the premises available for all Estonian people and others of Baltic Heritage to take advantage of the beautiful wooded acreage for worship, picnics and recreation and to serve as a special place for all those who love America and their heritage and Baltic history.

Jesus said:
He who hears my word, and believes … has passed out of death into life. (jn5:24)
Without undergoing any sacrament or ritual and without any waiting period or purgatory. Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise. (lk23-43)