By Kris Leonhardt
In the mid-19th century, Germans suffering from economic hardship and unemployment were packing the harbors, heading out to a far off land called America. Among them was 24-year old, John Zimmer.
Zimmer, hearing from those already settled in the country, made the dangerous journey across the sea. The voyage, filled with disease and unsanitary conditions, was an unpleasant one for sure; however, when Zimmer arrived in New York, he found a land of great promise.
Opportunities abound just beyond the United States port of entry. Immediately obtaining his citizenship, John went to work among the immigrants that filled the New York City streets.
In 1952, after two years in New York and with enough funds to relocate to the Midwest settlements, Zimmer headed to the Stevens Point Area. There he became a river man and logger, harvesting off the area’s plush supply of timber.
Reaching out to his siblings, two brothers and two sisters soon joined him in Stevens Point, while another brother settled in Rochester, New York.
Having established himself as a capable woodsman, John Zimmer graduated into business, becoming a Stevens Point lumberman himself.
Zimmer worked hard in the industry, gaining himself real estate and eventually, gaining a presence in establishing business structures on the south side of the city.
After losing his first wife, Zimmer retired from the lumber business, focusing on his south side properties, and eventually remarried.
In one of his south side properties, Zimmer’s Hall, John and his wife and several other families began meeting weekly and in 1895, formed the Friedens Germeinde Congregation (also known as the German Evangelical Friedens Church.)
The services were later translated into German and the church became known as the Peace Evangelical Church. The church would later merge and become Peace Evangelical and Reformed Church.
The Peace Evangelical church would merge one more time to become the Peace United Church of Christ, as it remains to this day.
In 1907 tragedy struck once more, as Zimmer lay his second wife to rest.
Two years later, Zimmer himself became ill. After eight months, he became confined to his home at 727 Church Street, where he spent six weeks. In July 1910, Stevens Point pioneer John Zimmer passed on.
John Zimmer and his wives, Anna and Dorothy, were laid to rest at the Forest Cemetery in Stevens Point. The Peace United Church of Christ is located at 1756 Dixon Street, Stevens Point.
Kris Leonhardt may be contacted by mail: P.O. Box 51, Marshfield, Wisconsin, 54449 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.