St. James

“Where she came from, where she is now & to her future”

Our forefathers heard the call of the Lord “Get out of thy country and from thy kindred & from thy father’s house into a land that I will show thee and bless thee.”

They heard this call in far off Germany and came to America, even unto Saline, where they built an altar and called it St. James, or as it was called in the German language “die St. Jakobus Kirche.”

The families who founded St. James were filled with a strong commitment and sense of determination. It’s because of their efforts we today have a place to worship the Lord, a place to gather and have fellowship, and a place to learn the important lessons of our faith.

The foundation of St. James was laid with Jesus Christ as her Lord. Through the years St. James has grown to be a special place of worship nestled in the farmland that was shared for her beginning.

The torch of faith, hope, love and responsibility has been passed through the generations that this church may be preserved and shepherded safely through time so those who are yet to come will have the opportunity to share and experience the blessings of St. James that was first a dream and then a reality of our charter members:

Daniel Klein
Sebastian Finkbeiner Sr.
Christian Schnierle
Johann Feldkamp
Sebastian Finkbeiner Jr.
Karl Wolf

Heinrich Guthardt
Gottfried Dieterle
Friedrich Finkbeiner
Bernhard Teepe
Valentine Boettger
Jakob Finkbeiner

Daniel Beutler
Johann Renz
Johann Finkbeiner
Friedrich Hartman
Peter Wiedmayer
Conrad Beutler


The early settlers to this fertile farmland area were from Germany. Things happen to make people and families pull together and search for a better life. These things were war and famine. Word spread that there was a new hope for those who would choose to go to America and to America our founding families came.

They built their homes and farms, helping each other as much as possible and started a new life. After all the necessary needs of food and shelter were secure, these pioneering people had one mission left to fulfill – to build a church.

They pulled together to worship and sought the help of Rev. Paul Irion of Bethel Church, Freedom Township, to minister to their spiritual needs. On July 13, 1883, the first service was held in the Benton School House, which was located across the road from the soon-to-be new church building. Services were held every other week in the beginning.

On August 4, 1884, this congregation of 18 families pledged their support ($100 per family) to organize into a congregation called “St. Jakobus (James United Evangelical Church)." Later, in December of 1884 a meeting was called and the decision was made to build a church 28 X 46, with a steeple approximately 60 feet tall.

J. Peter Wiedmayer & Chester Parson donated a tract of land on which to build St. Jakobus (James). The building was completed for a cost of $1,600 and the cornerstone observance was held on Sunday, May 25, 1885. Officiating at this service was the Rev. J. Neuman from Ann Arbor and John Kohler of Monroe, who did the construction. Dedication services were held by Rev. Irion on September 25, 1885.

St. Jakobus (James) continued on through time sitting very close to the mud-rutted road that served as the stagecoach route between Chicago and Detroit and before that it was probably an Indian Trail.

It is recorded on August 1, 1886 that the congregation consisted of 25 voting members who brought in Rev F. Schlesinger, as the first pastor in November of 1886. Since no parsonage was available, the George Finkbeiner family was gracious enough to house the new pastor and his family. In March of 1887 the congregation voted to build a parsonage not to exceed $800 in cost. The new parsonage was ready for Rev. Schlesinger and his family in July of 1887.



At that time parochial school was still taught in our denomination and was held in the parsonage for several years. A new school (German School) was built in 1895 on the church property. At that time the Pastor was also the school teacher five days a week for five months a year. All the buildings and other necessary things for the church were met without any indebtedness. There obviously was a strong sense of paying for everything and not acquiring any debt and the same conservation attitude has carried through the generations in the planning and expenditures for the church.

The church was served by only fifteen pastors those first 100 years. In the early years St. Jakobus (James) was affiliated with the Evangelical Synod of North America. In 1934 this
denomination merged with the Reformed Church in America to form the Evangelical and Reformed Church (E & R). In 1957 the E & R merged with the majority of the Congregational Christian Churches to form the United Church of Christ (UCC). It wasn’t until 1958 that the congregation voted to join the UCC.

With the passing of 100 plus years the congregation of St. James has seen a great many changes in the life of the church and in the community surrounding it. In the early years the membership was counted by families, not individuals, as we do today. It was also the general practice that women were not allowed to vote nor hold office in the congregation. In 1960, the first woman was on the Council and in 1985 St. James had its first woman as Council President.

Improvements and additions continued through time for St. James. The first organ was purchased in 1890 for $90, another in 1938 with the current one being purchased in the 1980’s. The cemetery land was purchased in 1893 for $225 and dedicated during the first funeral internment. Other activities included the organization of the women’s group which today is called “Women’s Guild”. Choir and youth organizations were also begun many years ago and continue today. In 1910 the sanctuary was enlarged with the altar niche and the beautiful stained glass window.

The other most noticeable change was in 1953 when the congregation took on the task of moving the church back from the road 90 feet. A basement was dug to provide for a kitchen and dining room and the church was placed on top of the new basement. The old German school house was added to the side of the church providing a place for the children to have Sunday School and a 15 foot narthex the full width of the front of the church was added which also provided access to the lower level. Also at this time the beautiful circle stained glass window was installed above the front door.

The congregation of St. James has continued throughout the years to make necessary improvements to their beloved church. Over the years, history tells of interior and exterior painting, new pews, as well as new lighting, heating and plumbing. In 2001, the members again approved a large building project. The renovation added a large dining hall in the lower level walk out as well as new bathrooms. A conference room, Sunday School rooms, bathrooms and offices were added to the main level. The previous Sunday School rooms were transformed into the Heritage Room; which is used for sanctuary overflow seating, coffee hours & funeral visitations.

The project also restored the sanctuary to its original splendor. In 2015 an elevator was added into the prior renovation. Keeping with tradition these additions were funded through fund raising, memorials and member contributions. The churches history of progress without any indebtedness remained intact.

All of this to provide a place where God could be praised and worshiped.