Salem-Zion Mennonite Church (Freeman, South Dakota, USA)

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Salem-Zion Mennonite Church Source: Mennonite Library and Archives, Bethel College, North Newton, KS: Photo Collection 2011-0124

In 1874 two groups of Mennonite immigrants settled east of Freeman in the Dakota Territory. One group of 34 families led by Peter Kaufman and Joseph Graber was known as the Horodischer. The other group of 24 families was led by Johann Schrag, and Christian Graber was known at the Waldheimer. The names came from their villages of origin in Volhynia, Horodyszcze and Waldheim, then controlled by Russia.

The two groups worshipped together in homes for two years. They began to meet separately in 1876. In 1880 the Horodisch group built a church with outside financial help. They dedicated the 34x50 foot building on 27 June 1880 and called it the Salem Gemeinde. It joined what became the General Conference Mennonite Church in 1881 and was a charter member of the Northern District Conference when it organized in 1894.

In 1886 or 1887, the Waldheimer group also built a church two miles west and two miles north of the Salem Church, and named it the Zion Gemeinde.

In 1894 the two churches agreed to merge and took the name Salem-Zion Gemeinde. The merged congregation held services in both locations.

In 1898 the congregation established a church in Freeman that became the independent Bethany Mennonite Church in 1905.

In 1902 a tornado destroyed the former Zion building, and it was not replaced. Everyone met in the Salem-Zion building until 1907. Then members from the former Waldheimer group living south of the church built what became the new Salem or South church.

The Salem-Zion congregation rebuilt and enlarged its church in 1912. It purchased a parsonage in Freeman in 1943. In 1956-1957 it built a new church that it dedicated on 6 July 1958.

As part of the realignment of the Mennonite Church (MC) and General Conference Mennonite Church into Mennonite Church USA, Salem-Zion Mennonite was among the congregations that joined the new Central Plains Mennonite Conference in 2000.

In 2023 the congregation was part of the Central Plains Conference of Mennonite Church USA.


Kaufman, S. Roy. The drama of a rural community's life cycle. Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2020: 105-109.

Mueller, John C. "The Salem Church of Marion, Jct., Turner Co., S. Dak., the pioneer church of the Northern Dist. Conf." Mennonite Year Book and Almanac (1925): 45-47.

"Rev. Christian Mueller." Mennonite Yearbook and Almanac (1924): 35-36.

Schmidt, Diena, ed. The Northern District Conference of the General Conference Mennonite Church 1891-1991. Freeman, S.D.: The Conference, 1991: 135-138.

Additional Information

Address: 27844 443rd Ave., Freeman, South Dakota 57029

Phone: 605-925-7771


Denominational Affiliations: Central Plains Mennonite Conference

Mennonite Church USA

Pastoral Leaders at Salem-Zion Mennonite Church

Name Years
of Service
Johann Schrag (1813-1898) 1874-?
Christian Graber (1818-1902) 1874-?
Peter Kaufman (1815-1884) 1874-1878
Joseph Graber (1832-1895) 1874-?
Christian Kaufman (1840-1906) 1878-1906
Christian Mueller (1842-1923) 1878-1908
Jacob R. Schrag (1852-1922) 1879-1888
Joseph Kaufman (1850-1926) 1879-1910?
Alfred P. Waltner (1888-1960) 1908-1934
John J. A. Schrag (1878-1966) 1908-1934
H. Albert Claassen (1883-1954) 1935-1942
Jacob J. "J. J." Regier (1914-1996) 1943-1949
Russell L. Mast (1915-2007) 1949-1957
Olin A. Krehbiel (1904-1982) 1957-1966
Paul N. Roth (Interim) Paul N. Roth (1900-1979) 1966-1968
Virgil M. Gerig (1918-2006) 1968-1977
Vernon P. Lohrentz (1931-2018) (Interim) 1978-1979
Michael Bogard (Interim) 1982-1983
Elmer A. Wall (1929- ) 1984-1991
Robert L. Engbrecht 1991-2006
Eric R. Deckert 2007-2014
Robert Yutzy (Transitional) 2015-2016?
Luann Yutzy (Transitional) 2015-2016?
Corey Miller 2017-

Membership at Salem-Zion Mennonite Church

Year Membership
1912 250
1924 323
1930 364
1940 413
1950 433
1960 423
1970 439
1980 426
1990 386
2000 386
2009 346
2020 299

Original Mennonite Encyclopedia Article

By Russell L. Mast. Copied by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 407. All rights reserved.

Salem-Zion Mennonite Church (General Conference Mennonite Church), located 5 miles east of Freeman, South Dakota, a member of the Northern District Conference, was formed out of two congregations that had their origin in Russia, coming from two separate Russian villages in Volhynia in 1874, the Salem group from Horodyszcze and the Zion group from Waldheim. After worshiping for a number of years in homes, they built separate meetinghouses and continued to worship separately until 1902, when the Zion church was destroyed by a cyclone. Then the two congregations merged, forming the Salem-Zion church.

The first ministers immigrated with their congregations in 1874. With the Salem group came Peter Kaufman as elder and Christian Graber as minister. In 1878 the Salem church elected Christian Kaufman as elder and Christian Mueller as minister.

In 1907 a group organized the present Salem Mennonite Church with Christian Mueller as minister. When the Zion church was destroyed, Joseph Kaufman of that church served in the Salem-Zion church. In 1957 the congregation had a membership of 426, with Olin A. Krehbiel as pastor, who succeeded Russell L. Mast. A new meetinghouse was dedicated in 1958.

Author(s) Samuel J Steiner
Date Published June 2023

Cite This Article

MLA style

Steiner, Samuel J. "Salem-Zion Mennonite Church (Freeman, South Dakota, USA)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. June 2023. Web. 22 Sep 2023.,_South_Dakota,_USA)&oldid=176224.

APA style

Steiner, Samuel J. (June 2023). Salem-Zion Mennonite Church (Freeman, South Dakota, USA). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 September 2023, from,_South_Dakota,_USA)&oldid=176224.

©1996-2023 by the Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. All rights reserved.