Preserving the first Estonian church built in America

The Estonian Ev. Martin Luther Church in Gleason, Wisconsin

The Estonian Ev. Martin Luther Church in Gleason, Wisconsin

Yes, that’s my little ole church. My grand uncle helped build it and was a pastor there. It needs repair desperately. It’s over a hundred years old and has been through a lot of rough winters. It’s the Estonian Ev. Martin Luther Church in Gleason, Wisconsin, the first Estonian church built in America.

Dear readers, if you can get the word out… it may mean nothing to most… it’s a Wisconsin thing… but it’s an Estonian treasure.

With my heartfelt thanks

Bill Rebane


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  1. Dear Bill,

    I do not know how much of your uncle’s history is commonly known. He was a key figure in both the Estonian and Latvian communities in the US, until his death in Boston in 1911. He founded the main Estonian church in New York, and Latvian churches in Philadelphia (now the The Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. John in Newtown Square, PA) and Boston (in the Jamaica Plain section) and New York. He launched the first Estonian language newspaper in the US in 1897, which appeared until his death in 1911. in 1896, he also started the first Latvian newspaper in Boston, and this was continued after his death. The Philadelphia Latvian church has a brief history on is website (a bit incorrect in some dates, I believe). He is buried in the Latvian cemetery in Boston. This was a remarkable individual whose full story deserves to be told.

  2. Hello Frances. Thank you so much for your note. We don’t know how many winters it can survive. Economic and job commitments have kept our volunteers in the
    nearby village of Gleason Wi. from taking the time to shore up the foundation and stabilize it for the winter. A song writer recently donated his original gospel songs
    for a CD to be published by us to raise some funds for repairs,. in the meantime we hope and pray a little more….
    Best regards
    Bill Rebane

  3. Thank you for getting in touch. I do think we have to wait for that white stuff to go away. But in the meantime you can contact me direct at; , to stay
    in touch. We will need al the help we can get to restore the church . Thank you very much for writing. Please stay in touch. Bill

  4. Mr. Rebane,

    You can’t imagine my surprise when I turned on the news (from Rheinlander) last week while opening up my parents cottage near Hiles WI. to see a segment about this Eesti Kirik. Ema ja Isa on lahkunud – but we pass through Gleason on our way. My husband and I were wandering the countryside several years ago for a different way to go, and stumbled upon the church then.
    Minu vanemad olid Chicago Eesti selts liikmed. I saw that most of your volunteers were from the Chicago area.
    I want to contribute in some way. My heritage is very dear to me. Eestlane olen.
    I would be interested to know when you are there again, or what you might need.
    LInda Oper

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