The origins of Protestant denominations are in the Reformation, which resulted in the formation of four main Protestant groups:

  1. A Lutheran group
  2. An Anglican group
  3. A Reformed group
  4. A Baptist/Anabaptist group.

These groups differed by organization and baptism beliefs.

Two of these groups predominated in the German states of the time: the old-Lutherans who followed Martin Luther and used the Augsburg Convention and the Reformed group which evolved primarily from the beliefs of Calvin, Zwingli, and Knox. But churches in the Reformed group had different names in various European countries. In England churches of this group were called “Congregational,” in Scotland “Presbyterian,” and in most of mainland Europe either “Reformed” or “Evangelical,” for example, Dutch Reformed and German Evangelical.

Further name confusion arose because starting in 1817, the independent German states began uniting their two Protestant denominations—the Lutheran and the Evangelical churches formed a “union church,” which became known as the Evangelical-Lutheran church. At that time, in Germany at least, the word “Evangelical” came to mean “Protestant” generally, instead of denoting a separate denomination.

By the 1830s, most of the independent German states had adopted the idea of union churches for their states. For some Germans then, part of the attraction of immigration to the U.S. was the freedom to remain purely Evangelical or purely Lutheran rather than unite, leading to two different types of Lutheran churches in the U.S. today.

Lutheran Churches in the U.S. and in St. Louis

German immigrants who wished to remain separate and Lutheran established the Wisconsin and Missouri Synod Lutheran Churches—pure old-Lutheran groups following the Augsburg Convention. But the united Evangelical-Lutherans also immigrated to the U.S. and established Lutheran churches. Today, in St. Louis, we have Lutheran churches that are affiliated with both the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of America (ELCA).

German Evangelicals arrived in St. Louis a bit earlier than the Lutherans, establishing Holy Ghost in 1834. When the German Lutherans arrived in St. Louis, they formed Trinity Congregation in 1839, the first Lutheran church in St. Louis. This church was on Lombard between 2nd and 3rd Streets. As the congregation grew, a second church was formed, Immanuel, located at 11th and Franklin in 1848. In 1858, a third church was organized and located in an area north of Arsenal Street that extended west to the city limits. This church, Holy Cross, was built in 1867. All three of these congregations became part of the Missouri Synod.

An early church in St. Louis that was established as ELCA was St. Mark’s Evangelical-Lutheran in Clayton, established in the late 1860s.

Lutheran church records are easy to read; however, early records may be in German. The History and Genealogy Department at St. Louis County Library offers a special finding aid outlining Lutheran resources available at the library. Click on St. Louis County Library Finding Aids for further information. Included in the finding aid is a map indicating the locations of the early Lutheran churches.



Concordia Seminary. The Lutheran Church Guide. St. Louis: Lutheran Church Guide Association, 1916.

Diamond Jubilee of Bethlehem Lutheran Church, 1849–1924. St. Louis: privately printed, 1924.

Jabker, Paul William. Holy Cross Lutheran Church: A Typical Lutheran Church in the Growth of St. Louis. St. Louis: privately printed, 1975.

Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. Biographical Dictionary of Black Lutheran Clergymen. St. Louis: Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, 1978.

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer: 100th Anniversary, 1895–1994. St. Louis: privately printed, 1994.

Mueller, Hans, translator. The History of the Evangelical Lutheran St. Trinity Church of St. Louis, Missouri: from the Year 1859 to Year 1909 on the Occasion of the 50th Anniversary Prepared by its Pastor. St. Louis: St. Trinity Lutheran Church, 1984.

Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) Black Jack, Missouri 1849–1949. St. Louis: Salem Lutheran Church, 1949.

Salem Lutheran (Florissant) Church, 125, 1849–1974 Anniversary. Hazelwood, Missouri: Salem Lutheran Church, 1974.

St. John’s Lutheran Church, Ellisville, Missouri, 1851–1976. Ellisville, Missouri: St. John’s Lutheran Church, 1976.

Schneider, Norman. Holy Cross Evangelical Lutheran Church, Anniversary Issue, 1983, (1868–1983). St. Louis: Holy Cross Lutheran Church, 1983.

Ware, Margaret, and Vertrees Hood. Salem Lutheran Church, Blackjack, Missouri, 1850–1964. St. Louis: Ware & Hood, 1998.

Wuertz, Donald. St. Paul’s Lutheran Church of Des Peres 150 Years. St. Louis: St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 1999.

Last Modified: 27-Apr-2023 15:40