The History of St. John

The History of St. John

In the Beginning: The Log Church

Between the years 1850 and 1866, German Settlers arrived in great numbers to this area.  During this period circuit rider pastors served the pastoral needs of these settlers, in particular Pastors J.J. Hoffman and Wm. Hudtloff.  Worship services were held in these settlers’ homes.

Circuit Rider Pastors
Log Church
The Log Church

In 1866, about a dozen area families saw the need for a church, and the (Deutsche) St. Johannes Evangelisch-lutherishe Gemeinde, or (German) St. John Evangelical Lutheran Congregation, was formed. They built the first log church where the church cemetery is now situated, having obtained the land on January 9, 1866 from Friedrich and Johanna (Rusch) Hint.  Although we have no written records, the founding members of the original log church (as close as can be determined) were:

Louis Schmieden IAugust Kell I
August HenningHenry Grob
Ernst DehnelFrank Schulz
Friedrich ZiebellGottlieb Schroeder
Fritz MarquardtAlbert Plautz
Frederick Schuett 
Henry Goetsch 

 (NOTE:  As of January 2013, the 7 families in the first column all have descendants who are still active members at St. John!).

The first person buried at the St. John cemetery was Mrs. Friedericke Ziebell, who was laid to rest by Pastor Hoffman on March 29, 1866.

August Kell I was the first congregational president, serving from 1866 to 1871.  His son, August II, followed as president from 1871 until 1904.

From 1866 until 1872 worship services were conducted by Pastors Albert and Kern who served St. Paul, a congregation in Wausau.  In March 1872, Rev. F. Reinicke became a pastor of St. Paul and continued to serve our congregation. In 1881, there was a split in the St. Paul congregation and a large number of members left to form St. Stephen Lutheran Church, with Rev. Reinicke as their first pastor.  He continued to serve our congregation until 1895.  All confirmands went into Wausau for confirmation instruction, and were confirmed at either St. Paul or, later, St. Stephen.

The Pastors Albert Kern Reinick

Throughout these early days, services were scheduled regularly for every Sunday and on all religious holidays. However, when a pastor failed to arrive, some member of the congregation took over. Many members owned “sermon books”.  Ernst Dehnel was a prominent “sermon reader”.

From Log Church to Brick Church

St John Brick Church
St John 1895-1989

The women of the old log church felt that time had come to build a new church.  So, a group of determined church women started the project.  No building fund preceded the building project for the new “brick church”.  Mrs. Ernst Lueck made the first move by donating the corner plot of her farm for a new church site. A group of women, with Mrs. Lueck and Mrs. August Bartelt as leaders, frequently visited area settlers, collecting money and obtaining pledges for the new brick church. In all, 29 families contributed money to the new church effort.  Mr. Robert Nickel, the eldest son of Ferdinand and Johanna (Hint) Nickel, was hired as the builder for $400.00. The building materials were furnished and delivered by the congregation. As their farm work allowed, members worked together, donating their time and talents to build the new church.  Farm wagons could be seen daily, hauling lumber and other building materials to the new site.

The new brick church was dedicated at the first Sunday Worship Service in August, 1895.  August and Ida (Krahn) Dehnel were the first couple to be married there, on November 11, 1895.  Irene Ziebell (Schulz) was the first child to be baptized in the church.

From 1896 until 1910 our congregation was served by Rev. F. Werhahn of St. Stephen.  Again, all confirmands went into Wausau for confirmation instruction and were confirmed at St. Stephen Church. In 1910, Rev. August Koepp was called as the first dedicated pastor to serve our church.  He had already been serving at Immanuel, which at that time was still situated in Taegesville, since 1902.  He remained as pastor of both congregations until 1923, which, coincidentally or not, is the year that Immanuel and St. John merged to form a parish, and the year that the Immanuel building was physically relocated to the Town of Stettin.   Pastor Koepp kept the first records of baptisms, confirmations, marriages and burials that we still have in our possession.  Pastor Koepp was succeeded by Rev. A.W. Scharfe, who served from 1923 until 1927.  During his tenure the Frauen Verein, later known as the Ladies Aide, ALCW, and currently the Sisterhood of St. John, was organized.

Reverends Werhahn, Koepp, Scharfe

The Little White School House

In the year 1911, the congregation felt the great need of a place to conduct Sunday School, religious instruction and choir practice.  A little white building was erected next to the church to meet these needs. This was completed at a cost of $311.00.  But by 1959, this little white schoolhouse had served its useful purpose and was sold.

The Parsonage

The parsonage was built in 1925, jointly with the Immanuel congregation.   The total cost of the house was $5706.19.  A barn was also constructed at a cost of $442.74.  A well was dug for $378.15.  Pastor Scharfe, who was single and boarded at the Schlueter home, became ill and never occupied the new parsonage, which subsequently sat empty for two years.

St John Parsonage

In 1927 St. John’s longest-serving pastor, Rev. Jacob Reiff, began his service to the congregation.  He organized the first young person’s group, the Jungend Verein, later known as the Luther League.  This group was quite active through the 1960’s.  As did his predecessors, Pastor Reiff continued to conduct services solely in German until his retirement.

Reverends Reiff, Baumgarten, Matter

Celebration and Changes

The (“new brick”) church celebrated its 40th Anniversary in 1935 and the Golden Jubilee in 1945.  The Rev. William Spiegel was the festival speaker at the Golden Jubilee service.  At this time a new lectern was dedicated, having been donated by the senior members of the congregation.  In 1945 the art glass windows were installed in the church at the cost of $800.00.  Also, in 1945, Pastor Reiff retired and the Rev. Edmund Baumgarten was called to serve the congregation. He served until 1950.  During his tenure the Brotherhood was formed, with its first meeting comprising 12 members occurring on November 5, 1946.  The Brotherhood continues to meet to this day.

The Church: 1950-1969

The Rev. B.F. Matter served from 1950-1957. In 1953, the voluntary system of doing the janitorial work was begun.  In 1957, the basement was erected under the church and a heating system purchased.  Rev. Floyd Olson came to serve us that year and remained until 1961.

In 1961, the Rev. Merlin Bartelt was called and served until 1965. In 1964, one of our members, Virginia Marquardt Kirsch, went to our mission field in New Guinea to serve as a teacher for two years.

On August 15, 1965, Rev. Marloe H. Karlen was installed as our pastor. He served until 1974.

Pastors Olson, Bartelt, Karlen

In 1969, Immanuel Lutheran Church, of Stettin and St. John consolidated.  Also, in 1969, St. John began to purchase additional property, with an eye toward the future.

The Church: 1970’s

By the year 1971, the congregation had purchased three additional acres of land adjacent to its existing property. This gave the church four acres of land to use for future development.

In 1970, the first planning committee was formed. Their responsibility was to study the congregation’s needs and present recommendations to the congregation.  In 1972, another committee was appointed to act on these recommendations and prepare preliminary reports on a building project. In 1972, the congregation voted to accept the committee’s recommendation to build a Parish Hall.  The purpose of the Parish Hall was to provide a place to be used primarily for Christian education classes, fellowship meetings and receptions.

A building committee was appointed and plans for the building were drawn by Modern Builders of Wausau.  On August 13, 1972 ground was broken, and construction began shortly after. The Parish Hall was dedicated on June 24, 1973.

Pastor Steven Jacobsen
Reverend Steven Jacobsen

In 1974, Rev. Steven Jacobsen was installed as pastor.  He served until 1978.

Pastor Jon Becker
Reverend Jon Becker

In 1978, Rev. Jon Becker was installed. He served until August of 1981.

The Church: 1980’s

Pastor Eric Burtness
Reverend Eric Burtness

Rev. Grace Hansen served as interim pastor until January of 1982, when Rev. Eric Burtness was installed.  He served until 1985.

Pastor Frank Kauzlarich
Reverend Frank Kauzlarich

In 1985, Rev. Frank Kauzlarich was installed. Under his leadership in 1987, a building committee was formed to study the congregation’s needs. On January 26, 1988, the congregation voted to approve a building committee recommendation to build a new church building. In February, the congregation approved the plans and location for the new church, including worship area, narthex and basement.

On August 7, 1988, the groundbreaking ceremony for the new church occurred.  The church was built by John Ohrmundt Construction Company, owned by congregation members John and Anne Ohrmundt.  On April 2, 1989, a Thanksgiving Service was held as a prelude to the disposition of the brick church.

Demolition of Brick Church
Demolition of Brick Church – April 7-8, 1989

Demolition of Brick Church
Demolition of Brick Church April 7 -8, 1989

The demolition of the brick church, which had served the congregation’s needs for nearly 94 years, occurred on April 7-8, 1989. The first service was conducted in the current church on April 23, 1989. This new building was officially dedicated on August 6, 1989.

The Church: 1990’s

St John Evangelical Lutheran Church Today
St John Evangelical Lutheran Church today
Pastor Paul Gammelin
Reverend Paul Gammelin

In July of 1991, Pastor Frank Kauzlarich accepted a call from Grace Lutheran Church Green Bay and ended his service here.  He was succeeded by Rev. Paul Gammelin.  As we began our 126th year as a congregation, we asked for God’s continued blessing on our congregation as we worship and serve him in the years to come.

The Church: 2000s

Pastor Tim Greenwald
Reverend Tim Greenwald

Following the above chronology of the first 125 years of St. John, Pastor Gammelin served until 1997, when he was succeeded by Rev. Tim Greenwald (1998 – 2006). 

Pastor Dan Sire
Reverend Dan Sire

In July 2007 Reverend Dan Sire, was ordained and installed and served until June 2021. 

Stained Glass Window

Today at St John

Phote of Reverend Maggie Westaby
Reverend Maggie Westaby
2022 – Present

Our current pastor, Reverend Maggie Westaby accepted our call to St. John in July 2022.

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Historical Timeline

1866, January 9Deed to land dated from Frederick and Johanna
Hint to Evangelish Lutheran St. Johannes Community
church built adjacent to cemetery
1895Mrs. Ernst Lueck donates land for new brick church;
church built by Mr. Robert Nickel.
1895, AugustDedication of old brick church
1911White education building erected
1919Purchase of pipe organ
1923First meeting of women’s organization
1923, October 6Joined with Immanuel Church – Stettin to form
a parish
1925Parsonage built; church remodeled
1927Luther League started under the leadership of Pastor Reiff
1946Brotherhood formed
1951Minshall Estry organ purchased
1958, August 31Dedication of basement and pews
1970Planning committee formed to study congregation’s
1971Committee appointed to prepare a report on building
1972Congregation votes to build a Parish Hall
1972, August 13Groundbreaking for Parish Hall
1973, June 24Dedication of Parish Hall
1987Building Committee formed to study congregation’s
1988, January 26Congregation approves recommendation of Building
Committee to build new church
1988, August 7Groundbreaking for new church
1989, April 2Thanksgiving at the disposition of our church
1989, April 7-8Demolition of the former St. John church facility
1989, April 23First service conducted in the new church building
1989, August 6Dedication of the new church
1999, August 15Dedication of the new bell tower

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