In 1880 Rev. Traugott Thieme was the first Missouri Synod pastor to serve North Alabama. From Tuscumbia he came to Hanceville where he conducted services in the home of Mr. and Mrs. John Engel. Although Pastor Thieme could come only once every three months, these staunch Lutherans met every Sunday in the Engel home, where they conducted their regular Lesegottesdienste, so called because on of the laymen would read a sermon in these private services.
After Rev. Thieme had left Alabama in 1881, District President Timotheus Stiemke and Rev. Paul Roesner, of the newly formed Southern District, traveled through North Alabama in order to explore its mission possibilities. They made their headquarters with the Engel family, who lived a few miles north of Hanceville. They decided to again place missionaries in the North Alabama field.
Evidence of this trip was found in the September 1887 issue of the Evangelish-Lutherische Blaetter, a monthly periodical of the New Orleans Pastoral Conference. The editor, Rev. Roesener wrote under the caption OUR CHURCH IN NORTH ALABAMA:
“Just a few years ago we had not one congregation in North Alabama. An attempt to get started at Tuscumbia failed.
Only at Hanceville a small group of well indoctrinated Lutherans were to be found who clung to the pure doctrine, assembling themselves in their homes for “Lesegottesdienste,” and who taught their children the sincere Milk of the Word as contained in Luther’s Small Catechism”
These Lutherans of Hanceville were joined by their fellow Lutherans in Garden City in hopes of receiving a pastor to serve them. They had been waiting for some years. In 1878 a band of fifty pioneering families from Chicago, who had survived the Great Chicago Fire, settled in Garden City. Although these fifty pioneers had been selected in a very scientific manner to include doctors, lawyers, bakers, carpenters, merchants, engineers, bricklayers, and other skilled workmen, yet for some reason they failed to have a Minister of the Gospel in their group.
In either the fall of 1884 or the beginning of 1885 Vicar Carl Burkart, a student from the Lutheran seminary in Springfield, Illinois came to Garden City. In February of 1885 it was reported at the Third Southern District Convention:
“The State of Alabama has been visited by two of our pastors who found a number of colonies, where to all appearances, the Word of God would be gladly received. At one of the places a student from Springfield is already at work.”
Student Carl Burkart preached his first sermon in Garden City on January 4, 1885. During the following six months, up to July 1885, he regularly preached at Garden City, Pineharz, and Hanceville. Then he returned to the Seminary at Springfield to finish his ministerial studies.
On November 2, 1885 he left Springfield and returned to Garden City and Hanceville. He was destined to play a leading role in the early history of Lutheranism in North Alabama. Several years later he became the regularly called pastor of Trinity, Hanceville.