Our Historical Past (shortened version)
The Pohocco Lutheran Church holds a very fascinating and unique history. It is steeped in the memories of the early American pioneers and the life of the Pawnee Indians who once lived on this land.
But the roots of the church go back further to a tiny Lolland Peninsula in Denmark. There a young Danish lad, Julius Christensen, left his beloved Denmark to come to America. He worked his way to Nebraska and laid claim to an 80 acre homestead in 1870, the first in northern Saunders County, where the rolling hills reminded him of his native land.
In 1875, Julius deeded a piece of his homestead near the new road for a cemetery so there would be a place to bury his loved ones. Soon, Julius and others in the community felt the need for a church. So on May 9, 1895 a church was officially organized by Pastor A. Kirkegaard, called the Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church. The services were held in Danish in the homes of the members for the first five years.
In 1899, Julius donated more land for a church to be built next to the cemetery. Immediately a building fund was started. The church was dedicated in the month of June, 1900 with Reverend A. W. Lund as Pastor.
The name of the church soon changed to Pohocco Lutheran and services were no longer held in Danish. The name Pohocco comes from the Pawnee word for their sacred Holy Hill called Pahuk (Po-hock), which is located on a Platte River bluff a few miles northeast of the church.
The Ladies Aid (now called the Pohocco Lutheran Ladies) was begun in 1916. They organized a Quilters Group to earn cash and helped with soup suppers, bazaars, food sales and farm sales. Together, with the willing handiwork of the men, they kept the building in good repair and added many improvements.
But the congregation has not been without its struggles. The drought and depression of the 30’s took their toll. Farmers lost their income and money was very scarce. The Ladies Aid created a Depression Quilt, selling the privilege of having your name sewn on it for a dime. The quilt was then raffled off and won by Shirley Magnusen, a 7 year old member of the Church. She graciously returned it to the church as a gift this year.
The church reached out to help the people around them and became a community church. The little church withstood the depression, remaining alive and active. In the late 50’s and early 60’s, however, membership declined quite dramatically as the young people had to move away to find employment in cities; small farms just could not support a family. The tiny congregation shrunk and almost gave up hope but then a group of families from the Leshara area joined the church and with them came new life. The church reached out again to the community and began to grow.
As the church approached its 100th year of history the congregation was faced with a troubling decision. They loved their church building dearly, but it was in need of extensive and costly repair. It was very small and regulations stated that it could not be enlarged. There were no Sunday School rooms and the building was set too close to Highway 77. They searched long and diligently for a solution, with Pastor E. W. Danitschek giving much encouragement, guidance, and help.
Finally, the council worked out a plan to build a larger replica of the beloved old church further to the west, retaining all the stained glass windows and the altar. Dick Gehrman led the way with his offer to plan and supervise the construction.
On March 28, 1993, the congregation voted for the plan by a sizable majority. Immediately the members sprang into action with fund raisers, bake sales, hog roasts, a quilt show, and pledges of support. Contributions flowed in from the community and from friends far and near. This new church truly became a community effort, but the tremendous out-pouring of help from the members was the greatest gift of all.
On May 8, 1995, the 100th anniversary of the church, the new building was dedicated with thankfulness and great pride. For the anniversary, the ladies made a Centennial Quilt which hangs in a beautiful frame made by Jim Ondracek, who did most of the woodwork in the new church. On November 9, 1996, the bell from the old church was placed to the east of the church in a bell tower created by the men of the church. The mortgage on the church was burned April 27, 1997.
In the years following, the congregation has grown dramatically. The Sunday School, Adult Bible Class, Youth Programs and Choir are tremendous and well attended. Members have generously raised money for a chair lift, new hymnals, and a new piano. And this year, Dr. Julius Christensen II donated land to the cemetery and to the church for wise expansion. The year 2000 will also mark the 100th Christmas Service with a Children’s Program in the Church, with the tradition of sacks of candy for all still observed.
Today, under the dynamic leadership of Pastor Schmidt, the church keeps growing and is a very vital congregation. It has become an outstanding leader in the community and has forged ahead with many new ideas. Its mission has been to reach out to help and comfort. But it could not have survived without the help of our Lord and Savior and the blessings of devoted pastors through the years. Our gratitude extends to all and to the pioneers who were able to envision a church in the Pohocco community and who, when faced with hard times and trials, never gave up.
Thanks Be To God!!