Preserving a piece of the Heartland
By: Crystal Britt
JONESBORO, Ill. - More than 150 years ago German and Austrian families settled in what's known as the Kornthal area outside Jonesboro, Illinois.
One of the first things they built was a church. That place of worship still stands today and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Now, even more work is being done to make the treasure shine a little brighter.
Standing tall in Southern Illinois, the Kornthal Church represents Lutheran faith, heritage, and days gone by.
"It has such neat architecture, but what really gets me is these people came over here for religious freedom," said Kornthal Memorial President Duane Hileman.
From 1860 to 1949, it served as a house of worship and a place of fellowship. Sermons were given in both English and German.
"I came to church here all my life," said Ella Mae Hasse.
Jack and Ella Mae Hasse were married at the church in April 1947. "I can still see him standing here as I walked down the aisle," said Ella Mae.
The Hasse's are among several others in the area to bring pictures and artifacts to the church on Friday. A group of students from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, along with their professors are spending the summer months documenting every detail they can get their hands on. Some include records of baptisms, plus photographs, newspaper clippings and more.
"It's important that our American history and these places, this is a landmark. Obviously it has meaning and if it wasn't here it would be sad to a lot of people," said Robert Swenson, Associate Professor of Architecture.
Patricia Moehring of Anna, Illinois, said her great-great-grandparents sang in the choir at Kornthal Church in 1895.
"I think it's wonderful that we have a community of people interested in preserving the history of this community," said Moehring.
While the board hopes to continuing restoring the church, it also hopes to fix up the parsonage next door. It isn't the original, it's believed the original burned down. The one standing now likely dates back at least 100 years.
From the steeple to the altar, to every detail inside and out, preservationists work to restore and maintain years of memories.
"It means a lot it really does," said Ella Mae Hasse.
Although it's officially closed, weddings and funerals are still held inside the Kornthal church. Plus, you can visit the church during the week. It's supported by donations. You can donate at the church or send donations to the board's treasure Al Lingle.