Driving through downtown Woodstock and passing the old courthouse, one catches sight of the memorial to the Rev. John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg. Given the skepticism associated with the pastor/warrior/politician/slaveholder, the memorial might give us pause to consider how many remarkable people among our past residents are not memorialized in public spaces. One such individual is remembered below.
In 1948, Dr. Timothy Lehmann (1881-1971) arrived in Edinburg to assume responsibility for the three churches of an Evangelical and Reformed charge. He resided with his wife and a son in the parsonage beside the now-closed St. Paul's Church on High Street.
Dr. Lehmann had been born in Ostheim, Russia (Ukraine) to a German Evangelical minister who served members of that denomination in one of the numerous German settlements in the Ukraine. Coming to the United States in the late 19th century, the family settled in Ohio. In 1899, Dr. Lehmann graduated from Elmhurst Proseminary (later Elmhurst College), Elmhurst, Illinois, where all courses (even English) were taught in German. He came to Edinburg after a distinguished career as a pastor in several large metropolitan areas; as an inspector of foreign missions in India (early 1920s); and as president of Elmhurst College (1928-1948).
At Elmhurst, Dr. Lehmann proved his exceptional administrative ability by securing an endowment during the Great Depression, which enabled the school to gain accreditation in 1934. He was also an early champion of coeducation at the college. More challenges awaited him during the next decade.
In 1943, several American citizens of Japanese descent (Nisei) applied for admission to Elmhurst. Facing fierce community opposition, Dr. Lehmann whole-heartedly backed their acceptance. He did so, in part, to atone for the Roosevelt administration's wartime internment of thousands of Nisei. Dr. Lehmann was addressing ethnic bias years before many politicians were even acknowledging it.
His 12-year "retirement job" in Edinburg, Hamburg and Conicville was a busy one. He spearheaded the construction of the Sunday school area at St. Paul's and presided over its centennial celebration in 1955, to which he proudly invited President Dwight D. Eisenhower as well as state and local officials. Retiring again in 1960, he spent his final years in a home for the aged in Detroit, Michigan, where he was not only a resident, but the institution's chaplain.
In recognition of his contributions to the citizens of our communities and to so many others worldwide, I encourage the Edinburg Heritage Foundation to consider placing a plaque near the entrance of St. Paul's to ensure that Dr. Lehmann will always be remembered locally.
It is time to rediscover good people; the pedestals cannot remain empty forever.