150 Years of Grace
From a humble beginning in the year 1861...
To the present day...
The Lord has truly blessed us!
All things have their beginning, and St. John's Lutheran Church is no exception. There are still a few in our congregation whose forefathers, with the help and guidance of God, took part in the beginning and growth of St. John's. To them this is probably an old story, but we presume that many of our newer members would be interested in the history and progress of St. John's.
Our congregation had its real beginning when Pastor J. Boehling of Freistadt preached the true gospel of Christ every two to four weeks in the log church from 1861 to 1867.
Pastor Boehling was followed by Pastor F. Schumann, also of Freistadt, who from 1867 to 1872 took care of the spiritual needs of the congregation.
The church council then asked our sister congregation on the Cedarburg Plank road to grant permission for Pastor M. Moll to serve here. After approximately a year he accepted a call to serve elsewhere.
Pastor C. F. Keller was the next to divide his time between both congregations ministering to the spiritual need of the people and guiding them in their worship. In 1879 he too accepted a call to another pastorate.
In May of that year Pastor F. Ledebur was called. He came to this place of worship every two weeks dividing his time between the two congregations. During his guidance and leadership the congregation increased to the point where the log church was inadequate. This resulted in the decision to build a new house of worship.
The sixteen members spent many days hauling material for the new structure and helping in the erection and completion of this stone church. It's size was 28 feet by 42 feet and it was built at a cost of $1,600. It was dedicated to the service of the Lord in 1881.
Pastor Ledebur had guided and instructed his flock in the Lord's ways for 28 years, when he was stricken and called to his eternal rest.
In 1907 both congregations extended a call to Pastor P. Burkholz Sr. This was the beginning of holding divine services every Sunday. Because of Pastor Burkholz's labors and the Lord's blessings, the congregation soon outgrew the church auditorium. The council decided to add a balcony to relieve the situation.
With painting and decorating the work was completed in 1920 at a cost of $600. Additional land was acquired with foresight. This serves as our drive and parking lot today. A single room school for instructions was also erected in 1912 and was in use until 1956.
Because of the rapid growth of the congregation the church soon became inadequate again. Consequently in 1923 the members again decided to enlarge their house of worship by a 20 foot addition and also excavate for a basement and modern heating. The work was all done by horse and man power. After completing the excavation work on the north side of the building, rain took its toll on the structure. The walls of the church had collapsed but by the grace of God no one was injured. Taking courage from this fact and the Bible, the members soon decided to build a completely new structure.
On August 30, 1925, Pastor Burkholz performed the corner stone laying while Pastor H. Ebert preached the festival sermon in German. During the construction, services were held in the public school house. By Christmas the work had progressed to the point where the children's program and Christmas services could be held in the basement of the new structure.
On Sunday, January 17, 1926, the new house of worship was dedicated and consecrated to the service of the Lord with Pastor E. Dornfeld preaching a morning service in German, and Pastor W. Keibel holding evening service in English. It was a joyous festival with music and hymns expressing the sentiments of the people. Most of the 60 members had worked many weeks with horses and tractors hauling out the stones from the ruins and helping the contractors in general. The cost of this building was $20,000.
In 1930 Pastor Burkholz started Sunday school and in 1931 English services. In June 1932 Pastor Burkholz was handed a purse of money from an appreciative congregation for his 25 years of dedicated service, and in July the council decided to become self-supporting and call it's own pastor.
On September 18, 1932, candidate Kurt Lescow was duly ordained and installed by his father Pastor C. Lescow with Pastor Burkholz assisting. From then on it was decided to have English services on every first and third Sunday with Sunday school and instructions to be in English also.
The next step was to provide a home for the new pastor. The parsonage was completed April 2, 1933 and duly dedicated and given over to its use. The cost of the house, well, and garage was $6,035.
During the nearly 25 years of Pastor Lescow's service the congregation grew and many changes took place. In November 1940 Pastor Lescow announced to the congregation that he had received a call from Watertown, Wisconsin. He declined the call upon the declared wish of the congregation to carry on his work here at St. John's. In 1941 the congregation purchased a Hammond organ, which still serves us today as accompaniment when we sing praises unto our Lord and God.
In 1942 the members of St. John's realized the necessity of more work in the English language and therefore decided to hold English services every Sunday and German services every second Sunday of the month. It was also in the year 1942, as fall was approaching, that thoughts turned to the cold winter ahead. The voters decided to replace the old furnace. To retain the heat the new furnace would supply, the ceiling of the church was insulated at the same time.
Another improvement project was undertaken in 1944. The assembled voters voiced their approval of remodeling the basement. The service schedule was changed again in 1946. One German service was dropped and the remaining service was moved to the first Sunday of the month.
With perseverance, the members of St. John's achieved an important goal in 1947 - the mortgage was burned.
In the year 1954 St. John's once more began a remodeling project. The basement was enlarged to its present size and the roof on the entire church was replaced at a cost in excess of $20,000. The need of more and better parking facilities brought about the purchase of land on the west side of the church and the installation of an outside lighting system at a cost of $1,142. The rededication of the remodeled church took place in August 1955 with a dedicatory service and open house.
In July 1956 Pastor Lescow advised the congregation that he had received a call from the Milwaukee Lutheran High School to serve as full time instructor. He accepted the call and consequently the congregation extended a call to Pastor F. C. Knueppel of Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Pastor Knueppel accepted and was installed on the first Sunday in Advent by Prof. Hoenecke of our seminary, who served as our vacancy Pastor.
In February of 1960, in view of it's 100th anniversary in 1961, the congregation voted to redecorate its church. The interior was remodeled, new lighting fixtures were installed and a new coat of paint and gold leaf was applied at a cost of $6,200. It was a remarkable and welcome change in the appearance of our church.
Watch for more information documenting 1962 through the current year to come.