|| William John Henry Boetcker was born in Altona, Germany, a suburb of Hamburg, on July 17, 1873, one of four children. Arriving in Chicago in 1891, Boetcker followed his calling to the ministry and enrolled in the Chicago Theological Seminary. He only spoke German, and nobody at the Seminary knew German, so he had to communicate with all of his instructors and classmates in Latin. After two years, Boetcker moved to the East Coast, transferring to the German Theological School of Newark (Bloomfield), New Jersey, where he graduated in 1897. He was ordained as a minister by the Reformed Church of America, South Classis of Long Island, also in 1897.In 1898, Boetcker became pastor of his first church, the German Reformed Church in the East New York section of Brooklyn. Overworked in Brooklyn and in generally poor health, Boetcker sought a quieter environment and moved to Shelbyville, Indiana in 1902, becoming the pastor of the First German Presbyterian Church there. During that time, radical labor agitators appeared in Shelbyville, and Boetcker warned about following these agitators from his pulpit. Local Union officials demanded that Boetcker retract his statements under the threat of withdrawal of their financial support from the church. The following week, during his sermon, Boetcker replied, "You can keep your money and go to Hell with it rather than for us to accept it under such circumstances and go with you." The local news media ran headlines reading "Minister Tells Congregation to Go to Hell." The incident had a telling effect on Boetcker, moving him to starting a Shelbyville Citizens Alliance that promoted labor peace instead of labor strife. It also influenced Boetcker to move away from the active pulpit and pursue a life of working with both labor and management from the "inside," in order to prevent strikes and other labor misunderstandings.