Services of St. James Lutheran began on June 1, 1947. These first services were held at St. Johns Church, 2 ½ miles east of North Branch and a ½ mile south on Slattery Road next to the Maple Grove Cemetery. This congregation was started, it is believed, as a result of two events.
A member of Calvary Lutheran in Flint, Mrs. VanWagoner, mentioned to Pastor Reeb, that a group of Lutherans in North Branch were not being served by a pastor. Pastor Reeb notified Pastor Schaller of Mayville of the situation.
However, at the same time, the members of Zion Lutheran of Silverwood, whom Pastor Schaller served, were already planning to join with members of St. Matthews Lutheran in Kings Mills. As a result, the new congregation of St. James Evangelical Lutheran was formed and temporarily met at St. Johns Church with Pastor Shaller serving as the pastor. Conditions in that temporary church were less than ideal.
Therefore, the congregation decided to sell the old St. Matthews building which they now owned, but was too small for them, and purchased the Bottom Creek Church from the Methodists. It was moved to Jefferson Road in North Branch where a new basement, tower, and entrance were added. The altar and pulpit were taken from St. Matthews old building and put in the new church. It was dedicated on October 31, 1949.
In 1976, a 10-acre site west of North Branch was purchased for a new church facility. Eleven years later, on March 22, 1987, the new building was dedicated. The following year a parsonage was built on the same site and was dedicated in December 1988.
St. James continues to worship in these facilities today.
Pastors who have served St. James congregation
Rev. R. E. Schaller (1948-1952)
Rev. E. Water Hillmer (1952-1962)
Rev. Karl A. Fuhlbrigge (1962-1967)
Rev. William D. Balza (1968-1970)
Rev. Robert Diener (1971-1977)
Rev. Lloyd Lemke (1978-1992)
Rev. Timothy Kuske (1994-2002)
Rev. Timothy J. Spiegelberg (2003-2008)
Rev. Erich Westphal (2009-2015)
Rev. James Saatkamp (2015-present)
A chronological history of St. James congregation
June 1, 1947
First service of St. James (held at St. Johns Church on Slattery Road). The congregations of St. Matthews in Kings Mill and Zion in Silverwood came together to form St. James. Pastor Ralph Schaller was the first pastor.
February 29, 1948
First annual meeting
October 31, 1949
Curch dedication (The Bottom Creek Church was purchased from the Methodists and moved to 6624 Jefferson in town. A new basement, tower, and entrance were added. The pulpit and altar from the old St. Matthews Church were put in the new church.)
October 19, 1952
Pastor E. Walter Hillmer was installed as the second pastor.
St. James was joined with Our Savior, Marlette in a dual parish.
Interior of the church was extensively remodeled.
An electric organ was purchased to replace the pump organ which was still being used.
October 30, 1959
Tenth anniversary of the church dedication was celebrated.
The house just south of the church was purchased as a parsonage (6604 Jefferson). Pastor Hillmer had been residing at 4087 Mill Street.
Pastor Hillmer left.
May 20, 1962
Pastor Karl A. Fuhlbrigge was installed as the third pastor.
Pastor Fuhlbrigge accepted a call in Cutler Ridge, Florida. Vicar Daniel Deuteschlander served as vacancy pastor. The parsonage was relocated to Marlette.
August 11, 1968
After a 20 month vacancy, Pastor William Balza was installed as the fourth pastor and resided in Marlette.
April 20, 1969
A new Conn organ was dedicated to replace the older electric organ.
St. James, together with Our Savior, resolved to become an independent congregation receiving no synodical subsidies.
September 13, 1970
Pastor Balza accepted a call to St. Stephens in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. Pastor Harold Hempel from Yale served as vacancy pastor.
June 27, 1971
Pastor Robert Diener was installed as the fifth pastor.
April 16, 1972
Our Savior left the Wisconsin Synod. St. James was now a single parish and the parsonage was relocated back to North Branch in a rented duplex at 6604 Brush Street.
Additional service was added due to the increase in membership from several families from Our Savior joining St. James.
September 10, 1972
Twenty-fifth Anniversary of the founding of St. James.
April 29, 1973
New parsonage at 6620 Jefferson was dedicated.
September 7, 1975
Building Fund for a new church was started.
September 11, 1976
A 10-acre parcel purchased for new church site.
July 24, 1977
Pastor Diener accepted a call to Wisconsin Oshkosh campus ministry. Pastor James Seelow from Mayville served as vacancy pastor.
January 15, 1978
Pastor Lloyd Lemke was installed as the sixth pastor.
February 17, 1980
The mortgage for the new church site was burned.
November 25, 1982
The mortgage for the parsonage was burned.
March 24, 1985
Allen Digital Computer Organ was dedicated with Bach Birthday concert.
July 13, 1986
Ground-breaking Service and annual picnic were held. Excavation began Wednesday, July 24.
February 8, 1987
First service and potluck in the new church despite blizzard conditions (120 attended).
March 22, 1987
Dedication Day and Fortieth Anniversary (200 in attendance).
December 4, 1988
Parsonage was dedicated.
Pastor Lemke left. Pastor Terry Balogh of Mayville served as vacancy pastor.
July 10, 1994
Pastor Timothy Paul Kuske was installed as the seventh pastor.
Pastor Kuske accepted a call in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Pastor Balogh of Mayville served as vacancy pastor.
Late 2002-Early 2003
Extensive renovations were done in the parsonage.
July 27, 2003
Pastor Timothy James Spiegelberg was installed as the eighth pastor.
Pastor Spiegelberg accepted a call to Hope Luttheran Church, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Pastor Balogh of Mayville served as vacancy pastor.
March 8, 2009
Pastor Erich Walter Westphal was installed as the ninth pastor.
February 21, 2010
Dedication service for new addition to church (104 in attendance).