The early history of the Zion Lutheran Church of Ann Arbor parallels the career of Reverend Frederick Schmid. Reverend Schmid came to Ann Arbor from Germany and established the Zion Church in Scio Township in 1833 and the Bethlehem Church in Ann Arbor in 1849. He served as pastor of the Bethlehem Church until his retirement in 1871 and was succeeded by Reverend Herman Reuter. The question of a new location for the Bethlehem Church split the congregation in 1875. A number of the members, including Reverend Schmid, withdrew from the Bethlehem Church and organized the Zion Lutheran Church.
The first service of the Zion Lutheran Church, July 11, 1875, was held at the old Congregational Church on Fifth and Washington Avenues. The leaders of this new church bought the Congregational Church and named the Reverend Herman Frederick Belser (1875-1890) to serve as the congregation's first pastor. Reverend Belser served as pastor until his retirement in 1890. He was succeeded by Reverend Max Hein. During Reverend Hein's ministry (1890-1895) the church was torn down and a new building was erected on the same location. The dedication service was December 9, 1894.
In 1896 Reverend A. L. Nicklas accepted the position of pastor at Zion Lutheran. During Reverend Nicklas' 21 years at Zion Lutheran (1896-1917) the church's activities and congregation grew. The church was also remodeled to accommodate the growing congregation. Reverend Nicklas left the church in 1917 and was replaced by Reverend E. C. Stellhorn. Reverend Stellhorn's ministry (1917-1947) witnessed a number of changes in the church. These included the closing of the parochial "German" school, having English replace German as the predominant language of the church, and establishing a daily vacation Bible school and the Lutheran Students Association for University of Michigan students.
Although Reverend Stellhorn retired in 1947, he was active in church affairs and had the title of Pastor Emeritus. Succeeding Reverend Stellhorn was Reverend Howard F. Yeager (1947-1952). Plans for expansion were carried forward during Reverend Yeager's ministry and in 1948 the decision was made to build a new church on West Liberty Road. Reverend Yeager coordinated the plans until his death in 1952 at the age of 38. His successor, Reverend Ralph B. Piper (1953-1973), supervised the move to the new church which was completed in 1958. The size of the clerical staff under Reverend Piper grew with new positions created for parish education, music, and other pastoral duties. The disbursement of pastoral responsibilities resulted in a team ministry which grew specifically from a congregational self-study. Reverend Piper resigned in 1973 and was succeeded by Reverend Robert Huff. Reverend Huff was installed as the team ministry leader.
From the guide to the Zion Lutheran Church (Ann Arbor, Mich.) records, 1833-1981, (Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan)