History of Christ Lutheran Church
Cairo NE – written in 1996 updated in 2011
Beginning a task is usually the hardest part of any project. This was
certainly true in the case of Christ Lutheran Church. Difficulties have also
arisen during its growth, but no one can deny the blessing poured forth by God
when they view the church today. The congregation has grown from a handful to
the present number of 400 (in 1996).
Most certainly Christ Lutheran has been blessed.
To best describe the early beginning of the Church in Cairo, the
following was written by the hand of the first minster, the Rev. J.F. Ruff:
“The first attempt to start a Lutheran Church in Cairo was made by my father John A. Ruff, a farmer who lived six mile north of Grand Island, Nebraska. He had helped to gather four other congregations in Nebraska. He owned 20 acres of land at Cairo. Five acres of it he donated to the church in Cairo as soon as it was organized. It was at the
end of World War I. He himself alone wrote a ministers call, which was signed
by him and one other man in Cairo. But he could not find a missionary to accept
the call, although he had promised to pay a salary of one thousand dollars per
year until a church was organized. He finally sent the call to me while I was
working in northern Michigan. I was installed in a lodge hall. Only 2 or 3
people were present. And now hard and difficult mission work started. Hardly
anyone seemed to be interested in a Lutheran Church. I often walked on foot for
miles through deep snow banks and made as high as 22 visits per day.
After some time 4 to 6 came to services. A little later on 10 came. Then from 15 or 20. Still later 30 to 40 came to the services. And then on a Sunday after the sermon the congregation was organized with 22 voting members.
Then the congregation bought the church building with the help of my father. The building was in Cameron, and was moved to Cairo and placed on the 5 acres donated by my father. Services were conducted in English and German. And during the summer months school was taught out in the country southwest of Cairo.
The Church of Christ went through many trials. More than once my father and I had to sit in the Court House, and defend the church property. When outside enemies tried to take it from us. But with the help of God we always won the victory. And the congregation prospered under God’s Grace and Protection.”
Early services were held over a grocery store and café on High Street
in the former Oddfellows Hall.
Gradually the number of people at the services increased and on July
10, 1921 the church was organized. There were 17 members who signed the first
constitution. They were Rudolf Faller, Charles Baade, Jacob Naumann, Phillip
Kranz, Carl Johnson, Fred Luhn, Emil Bahr, Hanse J. Harder, A.E Steinke, Martin
Ruff, Emma Steinke, William Collins, Otto O. Ahrens, Margarette Wiebers, John
Naumann, Fred Voss, John Luebs, and Henry Luhn. The church received its name
from Mrs. Hanse J. Harder who suggested Christ Lutheran and this was adopted by
all members. The first officers of the church were Charles Baade, Jacob
Naumann, and Carl Johnson. They served as deacons and trustees. The pastor John
F. Ruff, served as secretary.
In the fall of 1921 the congregation decided to buy a church building
which was located in Cameron. The following is taken from the December 1, 1921
issue of THE CAIRO RECORD:
The Cameron Church, purchased some weeks ago by the Lutheran Congregation of Cairo, was moved to the village this week; arriving here Wednesday at 4 p.m. Mr. Walter Marks of Shelton had charge of the moving of the building. It required 36 horses to draw the church on trucks, and a sufficient number of men to handle the teams, most of this work being donated by members and friends of the church. The distance the
building was moved is eight and one-half miles, and the trip was made in two
and one-half days, in spite of bridges, culverts and telephone wires, and other
obstacles. The new pulpit and alter has also arrived from Columbus, Nebraska,
but it will be some time before the building will be ready for dedication.”
During those early years Henry Luhn donated a bell to the church. That
bell is still used in the bell tower of the new church structure. At that time
services were held in both the German and English languages. It wasn’t until
1931 that the congregation decided to have all services in English only.
On June 25, 1944 Christ Lutheran Church dedicated its basement and laid
a cornerstone. By this time many improvements had been made to the church. The
work was under the direction of William Hild of Grand Island, who was the
son-in –law of John and Laura Harders. The basement was dug out by hand by the
men of the congregation, with the laying of the cornerstone which was a copper
box containing a Holy Bible, several church periodicals and a document of vital
The following were officers of the church at this time: William
Hadenfeldt, elder and trustee; Arthur Dankert, elder, trustee and treasurer;
John Harders, elder and trustee; Herman Dibbern, secretary; and Henry Schinkel,
In 1959-60, a new parsonage was built just east of our present church.
Rev. Paul Ruff and his family were the first to live there.
In 1961, it was decided to build a new church, and ground-breaking took
place in August of 1962. Dedication was on April 21, 1963 with 1,350 people
attending throughout the day.
The copper box from the cornerstone of the old church with its contents
and some newly added articles were put into the cornerstone of the new church.
The old church building was purchased by the Mennonite congregation.
On October 28, 1973, during our annual Mission Festival, we had the
burning of the mortgage on the church. According to the church headquarter in
St Louis; the congregation had one of the best pay-back records on file.
Certainly this gives the members a record to be proud of and a reason for
rejoicing on this day.
In 1974, an addition of three Sunday school rooms and the Fellowship
Hall was extended to the west. The addition was dedicated in January, 1975. A
new garage was built onto the parsonage in the spring of 1995.
In September 2002 we broke ground for the addition of a new kitchen, additional
fellowship hall, bathrooms; men, women and family and five large rooms used for
Sunday school, board room/Library and the teens (LYF). Dedication Services for
this new addition was in August of 2004.
In May of 2008 Christ Lutheran Church brought into our building the ABC
(All Because of Children) Day Care owned by Dana & Steve Lemburg from their
building located on Main Street. In 2010 the name was changed to ABC (All
Belonging to Christ) Child Care and Preschool.
In 1930, Rev. John F. Ruff answered a call to a church in Omaha. Rev.
John Heins of Luce served as vacancy pastor until the summer of 1931 when Rev.
C.H. Schroeder was called. He served until 1936 and was followed by three
pastors: Rev. Edwin Beckler of Luce served as vacancy pastor from 1936-1941.
Rev. Walter Marwede served as resident pastor from 1941-1944 and then Rev. Karl
Kuebler of Luce served as vacancy pastor from 1994 to mid-1945 when Rev. David
Krieitzer came here. He stayed until 1948, and the church was served by Rev.
Alvin Becker from Luce as vacancy pastor for a year. Rev. Fredrick Schumaker
began serving in 1949 and stayed until 1952. Rev. Walter Buss from Trinity,
Grand Island served as vacancy pastor for several months until Rev. Paul R
Schmidt arrived in the fall of that year. When Rev. Schmidt left here three
years later, the vacancy was filled by Rev H.C. Moellering of Grand Island
until Rev. Victor Frederking arrived in July 1956. Rev. Paul A. Ruff served from
1960 until 1964. He was followed in 1965 by Rev. Walter C. Lemmermann who
remained until January of 1971. In June of that year, Rev. Ardell McLachlan
came here and served us until August 1976. Rev. Kohtz served as vacancy pastor
until January of 1977 when Rev. Roland Going came to serve until 1986. Rev.
Carl Wenck was vacancy pastor until Rev. Douglas Irmer came in 1987. Pastors
from Peace Lutheran Church, Grand Island, came and filled the vacancy until
March 1998 when Rev. Glen D. Keylon answered the call to Christ Cairo.