The history of St. John’s Lutheran Church is full of joy, of tragedy and of blessings. Through it all, there has always remained the steadfast resolve to honor God in all that we do. In 1874, Kewaunee County was a very rural community with the majority of the people being farmers. Many immigrated from Germany (the area known as Pomerania), and as they settled in this area, churches were established. On June 1, 1874 land was purchased from Friedreich and Augusta Vorpahl to build a church. This property was located on Rockledge Road (Site of our cemetery).
On October 31, 1874 the Official Incorporation Papers for the “German Evangelical Lutheran St. John’s Congregation in Casco, Kewaunee County” were filed with the Kewaunee County Register of Deeds. Our church was official! The original incorporation article was hand written in German. An English version was filed on November 2, 1874.
The first house of worship built on the newly purchased land was a log cabin. It was not finished until sometime in 1876. It is assumed that prior to completion, church services were rather informal, possibly sporadic and probably held in the homes of members. At some unknown date, the log cabin was torn down and a frame building replaced it. The first sermon was delivered by Rev. Ludwig Nietmann of Kewaunee. (Rev. Nietmann was the pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Kewaunee at the time).
Soon the congregation grew and the frame building was deemed to be inadequate and members of St. John’s decided to erect a new structure to worship in. The old church would be torn down and a new one erected on the same spot. Construction of the church began on May 26, 1902 when the cornerstone was laid. The new church had a very tall steeple and total cost would be $2500 with much of the labor provided by male church members. On October 5, 1913 the congregation voted to build a school building for the children to attend parochial school in their own community. Currently they had to travel to Montpelier or Kewaunee. The Lutheran Schoolhouse of St. John’s Congregation was dedicated on March 8, 1914. Services were held at 10:00 in the German language with Rev. G. Berger of Forestville preaching the sermon. That evening English services were held with Rev. Ed Hinnenthal of Kolberg delivering the sermon. The choir sang at all services.
The new church had served the congregation only 16 years when tragedy struck. Lightning hit the steeple and the church burned to the ground. The Kewaunee Enterprise reported on May 17, 1918:
“During a server electrical storm, lightning struck the steeple of St. John’s Lutheran Church in the town of Luxemburg and caused a fire which completely destroyed the building. When first detected by neighboring farmers, the blaze was still in its infancy, but owing to distance from any real protection and fanned as it was by a stiff wind, it was not long before the entire building was enveloped in flames. The Luxemburg Fire Department responded promptly to a call for aid but on arrival had to contend themselves with salvaging such articles of furniture that they could. It was a spectacular fire! The flames lit up the countryside for miles. The heat was intense and caused window panes to melt away like wax. The loss was partially covered by insurance to the extent of $5,000.00, this amount being held entirely in the Montpelier Farmers Mutual. Work on reconstruction will begin as soon as a suitable site has been agreed upon.”
And so, the search for a new property began. Land was purchased and on July 10, 1921 the cornerstone of the new Lutheran church was laid in the Village of Luxemburg by Rev. H. Handirch. At a cost of $12,700 the church was completed in record time. The first marriage performed in the new church was that of Ida Caroline Delain and William John Zechel on April 22, 1922. A parsonage was built in 1953 and in 1973 a new entrance was built allowing for a sheltered entry out of the weather.
The building in the Village of Luxemburg served us well for many years, but time began to take its toll on it. Maintenance costs had become expensive for an aging facility, parking was minimal and this building was not accessible. As members aged they could no longer access the building due to the steps. So once again, the congregation began the search for a new site - one with a large parking area and one that accessible to all members and visitors. That property was found on Heritage Road and construction was competed began in 2005 and was completed in 2005. The dedication was on February 26, 2006.
The organizational structure of St. John’s has evolved and grown overtime. Initially we were a mission congregation of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Rankin. This continued until 1888. During this time, we had 3 pastors. From 1888 to 1953 we were a mission congregation of St. Paul’s Montpelier and were served by 6 pastors. In 1953 we became an independent congregation where we have been served by 6 pastors. Today we are blessed to have Pastor Carl Brewer as our pastor and Pastor Craig VanPay as associate pastor.
With a history as long as ours, we were bound to have some name changes along the way; sometimes with slight modifications and abbreviations:
To eliminate confusion a resolution was passed and filed with the county in 1976 that our name would be forever: St. John’s Lutheran Congregation.
St. John’s is a church that has both a rich history and a very promising future. It will be exciting to see where the next 150 years brings us as we continue our journey of the Great commission.