New Baden United Methodist Church has been a history of struggle, strife, pain, joy, fellowship, and service. Above all, it has been a history of a faithful congregation of the people of God. Yes, there has been strife and turmoil in New Baden as there is with any congregation that tries to be faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yes, there have been years of uncertainty, but the history of the New Baden United Methodist Church is a history that must continue to be retold. Faith means continuing to be the people of God while in the midst of adversity.
The words of B. H. Hertenstein, Treasurer of the Methodist Episcopal Church of New Baden in 1923, are words that will forever echo the faith of the New Baden United Methodist Church. In his treasurer's report he says, "But we do not want to glory in our own achievements but are more than willing to give all of the glory to the giver of every good and perfect gift for the glorious things He hath done for us." History at the New Baden United Methodist Church has only just begun. It is being written on the minds and hearts of the congregation each and every day. The struggles will continue. People will be born, live their lives, and die as a part of the New Baden United Methodist Church. Their history is yet to be told.
New Baden, Illinois is a rural community of 2,500 that sits in the midst of rich, Southern Illinois farm land. The population of New Baden is made up mostly of farmers, coal miners, and federal workers. New Baden was founded on land that was granted to Walter Sawyer, by the United States Government, on September 11, 1838. The original tract of land was 155 acres. The original settlers were from Baden, Germany. Thus, the original name of the town was Baden until December 16, 1882 when the town was incorporated. The rich, German heritage of the original settlers is evident in the homes and churches of New Baden even today.
The Methodist Church was organized July 21, 1902. The first trustees were Rudolph Hertenstein, Charles Harpstrite, Oscar Mitzel, Oscar Harper, Mrs. Barbara Singler, Philip Weiss, Joseph Arbegg, Charles Engelhardt, and Oscar Carney. The name adopted was the Methodist Episcopal Church of New Baden, Illinois. This was set forth in an affidavit by Z.J. Farmer, a minister from Trenton, Illinois, and notarized by George J. Monken, Notary Public, on August 25, 1902. It was recorded with the County Recorder of Deeds on August 26, 1902.
The original building was used for twenty years until the congregation grew too large for the facility. On April 3, 1922, Rudolph Hertenstein deeded the two lots to the congregation on which the current building now stands. The contract proposal, submitted by H & E Fochtmann, was awarded on July 9, 1922 to build the new church for $12,200.00.
The Official Board of the Methodist Episcopal Church of New Baden petitioned the Board of Home Missions and Church Extension of the Methodist Episcopal church in November of 1922 for a $12,000.00 grant to build the church. On November 29, 1922 the Board of Church Extension appropriated a grant of $1,500.00 to the building project. The Official Board secured a loan of $12,000.00 from Mary C. Gass Mueller of St. Louis, Missouri and started building the church.
The congregation installed pews, windows, lighting fixtures, and various other items for the new church. By the time all was said and done, the finished building project was completed for a cost of $17,252.54.
Mulligans were held to help with the mortgage also. A Mulligan stew was known to make anywhere from $18.00 to $38.00. According to eighty-six-year-old Matthias Berberich, "In 1928 the church was so poor that we couldn't even pay the preacher's salary; it was $9.00 a week. We got together and decided to have a mulligan to get the money. We actually had to have two mulligans to make enough money."
A mulligan stew consists of taking two 50 gallon iron kettles and cooking for four hours. The recipe for mulligan is:
100 lb. of potatoes
50 lb. of carrots
50 lb. of onions
50 lb. of cabbage
50 lb. of mixed vegetables
25 lb. of beef
25 lb. of chicken
At least two people with good taste-buds are also very important. The church has continued to have at least one mulligan a year for the past 68 years.
The organizations of the young church had money-making projects to help defray the costs of the new church. Quilts were made by the Ladies Aid, who did quilting every Thursday and served lunch for 25 cents. The quilts sold for $5.00 to $8.00.
Even though there has been a feeling of instability, the congregation of New Baden has always managed to keep a smile on their face and a song in their heart. In the 1930's the men of the congregation put on the play "A Womanless Wedding." The play featured an all male cast and if you can believe ninety-year-old Vivian Hertenstein, "It was a riot!" This play was performed in neighboring communities, and the proceeds were used to help pay on the church's mortgage.