Saint Stephens owes its beginnings to a group of German settlers in the Merrill area who were determined to have a church similar to one they had known in Germany. A family of brothers attended one of their brothers' funeral at another church. When the pastor passed judgment rather than grace during that service, they walked out. They vowed to create their own church, a place of grace. And Saint Stephens was that church.
In 1883, Edward Kluetz, acting on behalf of the organizing body, contacted the Rev. Karl Freitag of Newark, New Jersey, to ask if he would be interested in serving as pastor of a newly formed congregation in Merrill. He accepted the call and preached his first sermon on Friday, August 3, 1883 at the local English Methodist Episcopal Church. Two days later, the organization of St. Stephens Evangelical Congregation took place at the old school house of Merrill.