History of St. John's Lutheran
On May 30, 1886, an historic meeting took place at the home of Louis Sieling of La Grange. Twenty men prayerfully decided to
organize a Lutheran Christian congregation at La Grange and to begin at once to build a place of worship which could also serve
as a school house for a Christian Day School. During the summer of 1886, a frame school house, 26 x 38 feet, was completed
on land donated by Louis Sieling, and on September 19th of that year the building was dedicated to God's glory for use as a church
and school. On September 26, St. John's congregation was formally organized.
From 1886 until 1893, Rev. John Strieter of Immanuel, Proviso (Hillside), conducted worship services every Sunday afternoon.
During these years, Mr. Fred Polsdoerfer, Mr. Louis Luecker, and Mr. Charles Strieter taught at the school. In 1893, St. John's
called Rev. Alex Ullrich to be in charge of both church and school.
In 1894, St. John's built a 40 x 60 foot frame church building, with an 18 x 28 foot vestry, on the southwest corner of 47th and
Brainard, on land donated by Fred Fehrmann, Sr. The dedication service for the new building took place on September 30, 1894. In that
same year, the first young peoples' society was formed. In August 1896, teacher George Neumeyer was called to take over responsibility
for the school. He served St. John's until 1903.
On May 23, 1897, the congregation dedicated St. John's cemetery, located south of Joliet Road on La Grange Road.
After serving St. John's for ten years as a bachelor, Pastor Ullrich married Miss Alma Selle of Milwaukee in 1903. The congregation
then built the parsonage at 309 S. Stone Avenue, at a cost of $4,000.
In 1904, teacher Theodore Wichman was installed, and was succeeded by Mr. Fred Lustfeldt in 1906. In 1907, a second teacher,
Mr. Alfred Rumsfeld, was added to the staff. In September of 1911, the congregation purchased the Northside Public School at Ogden
and Kensington. This building served the congregation for forty years, both for classrooms and as an ideal meeting place for
organizations and societies.
In 1911, several families from St. John's organized Immanuel Lutheran Church in Hodgkins, and Pastor Ullrich also served that
congregation for nineteen years, in addition to his duties at St. John's.
In 1916, after serving St. John's for almost ten years, Teacher Lustfeldt resigned his position, and in that same year
Mr. W. F. Preuss was engaged as teacher for the lower grades. He became principal when, in December 1917, Teacher Rumsfeld accepted
a call to Trinity, Chicago. Mr. Preuss served St. John's until 1920. Teacher Albert H. Miller came to St. John's in December 1917, and
when Teacher Preuss left in January 1920, Mr. Miller was appointed principal of the school. He served in that capacity until 1957, when
he resigned the principalship while still continuing to teach grades 6 and 7, until his retirement in June 1966. Teacher Miller served
St. John's for forty-nine years. Mr. Arnold Eilers was called to teach the lower grades and serve as choir director in 1920. He was part
of St. John's faculty for over twenty-nine years. A third teacher was added in 1926 when Miss Helen Fraatz came to St. John's as teacher
of the primary grades. She remained at St. John's for eight years.
June 1923 Grades 5-8
Left to right, top row:
Grace Mason, Henrietta Zeck, Edna Maves, Lillian Schroeder, Gertrude Dieckhoff, Violet Zarzow, Vera Zuttermeister, Mildred Schwenck,
Erika Mueller, Elsie Maves, Alvin Hasse
Second row from top:
Albert H. Miller, Clarence Meyers, Lois Wesemann, Stella Hactory, Henrietta Gambel, Luella Sieling, Mildred Pankow, Henrietta Baumann,
Elsie Sulir, Cordiela Mueller, Esther Schroeder, Taze Petersen, Walter Briege
Third row from top:
Herbert Hulsberg, Mahlon Briege, Clarence Conrad, Martin Ullrick, Edward Sanborn, Henry Wesemann, Edwin Soltwisch, Charles Bluder,
Roland Bluder, Hugo Werner, Edward Hopperath
Carl Fehrmann, Arther Ramp, Willie Sieling, Rudolf Hiller, Franklin Tepper, Frederick Wehrmeister, Edward Pankow, Milton Haase, Charles Tuvek
Missing: Dorothy Rienke. Total 44
Pastor Ullrich was elected President of the Northern Illinois District of our church in 1927, and served in this capacity until 1936.
During this time, the Synod supplied St. John's with assistant pastors, Rev. Arthur Piepkorn, Rev. August Oltroge, and Rev. Fred Bartling.
By this time, the congregation was conducting regular Sunday morning services in English, with an additional German service on the
first and third Sundays of the month.
St. John's Sunday School began in 1930, with eighty-six children and eighteen teachers. Mr. A. H. Miller initiated this important
agency for Christian education in the congregation, and the Sunday School has continued teaching the Word until this present day.
After extensive repairs and improvements, St. John's Church building was rededicated to God's glory and for His work on October 6, 1940.
In January 1942, Pastor Ullrich retired after serving St. John's for forty-eight and one-half years. He remained active in the
ministry, and in 1943 St. John's celebrated his Golden Anniversary of ordination into the ministry. In January of 1946, Pastor Ullrich
was called home to be with Jesus.
Rev. Herold Kramer came to La Grange in 1942, from Van Wert, Ohio. During his pastorate a second Sunday School was added, as was a
second Sunday morning service. The German services were dropped in 1943. Yearly Vacation Bible Schools were begun in 1948. Pastor
Kramer was instrumental in beginning the daily chapel programs in 1951, over radio station WTAQ in La Grange. Together with nine other
Lutheran congregations, St. John's continues to spread the Gospel of Christ through this radio broadcast.
The summer of 1949 brought a vacancy to the teaching staff when Mr. Eilers, who had served St. John's for twenty-nine years, accepted
a call to Rogers City, Michigan. Mr. Luther Kolander was called to replace him as teacher and director of music in 1950.
In November of 1950, a planning committee was formed to look into the possibility of building a school and parish building next
to the church building. In 1953, with the school and parish in the planning stage, Rev. Kramer accepted a call to a pastorate in
Florida. Rev. Theodore Gerken came to St. John's in December 1953.
The building plans came to fruition with the dedication of the new school building on October 30, 1955. In the years that followed,
the parochial school enrollment increased rapidly.
In 1955, St. John's began a new mission in La Grange Highlands. By 1957, the mission was organized into a congregation: Hope Lutheran
Church. In that same year, St. John's increased the number of Sunday services from two to three. In 1959, Rev. Rogers Hake was
installed as Assistant Pastor of St. John's, and continued in that capacity until 1961, when he accepted a call to Oscalosa, Iowa.
Also in 1959, Mr. Leonard Stellwagon accepted the call to become principal of St. John's School. In June 1961, Mr. Orval Steinke was
installed as teacher and music director at St. John's. In 1965, Mr. Stellwagon accepted a call to Milwaukee and Mr. Joseph Hennig
served as interim principal. In 1966, Mr. Theodore Heinecke became principal, and served in that capacity until 1969, when
Mr. Ronald Hauser began serving St. John's in that office.
In 1961, St. John's observed its Diamond Jubilee with a year long series of services, celebrations, and events. A planning and survey
committee was appointed to plan for a new church building. It was not until several years later that plans for the building were
completed. Ground breaking for the new church took place on April 30, 1967, and the next day, May 1, the historic old church
building was razed. During this time, Rev. WaIter Gehrs served St. John's as Assistant to Pastor Gerken.
During the construction of the new sanctuary, the congregation worshipped in the gymnasium of the school. The sanctuary was completed
for the dedication on Founders Day, September 26, 1968. Members of the congregation built an altar which is still in use today. The
congregation and its organizations have continued to worship the Lord and serve one another in these facilities up till the
By the Fall of 1968, the day school had ten teachers, and Mr. Ronald Hauser, in addition to his teaching duties, also served as
Director of Music. In the succeeding year, he became principal of the school, and served in that capacity until July 1, 1985, when
Mr. Kenneth Howard assumed that duty. Mr. Howard came to St. John's in 1982, having accepted the call as sixth grade teacher and
athletic director. Mr. Hauser continued to serve St. John's as eighth grade teacher and music director. Our present organ was
dedicated in a sacred concert on September 28, 1969.
In 1971, the congregation called Rev. Donald H. Miller to serve with Pastor Gerken as associate pastor of St. John's. He
continued in the Lord's work here until December 31, 1978, when he left to assume the pastorate at St. Martin Lutheran
Church, Clintonville, Wisconsin. Over the twenty-six years of Rev. Gerken's pastorate, various vicars served the congregation,
including Arthur Beyer who later also served as Assistant pastor to the congregation.
St. John's enrolled in the Bethel Program of Bible Study in the Sixties. In the succeeding years, hundreds of St. John's members
completed that program, equipping the saints to serve the Lord yet more effectively in the congregation.
On June 10, 1979, the congregation observed the 25th Anniversary of the teaching ministry of Ronald Hauser with a special celebration.
On July 15 of that same year, the farewell service for Pastor Theodore Gerken took place, marking his retirement from the pastorate
at St. John's. At that time the congregation also celebrated the Fortieth Anniversary of his ordination into the ministry. After his
retirement, Pastor Gerken continued to serve the Lord in congregations in Texas and California.
In July 1980, the congregation called Rev. James Haberkost of Streamwood, Illinois, to be its pastor. He was installed on
Founders Day, September 28, 1980, as pastor of St. John's. On September 23, 1984, the congregation celebrated the 25th Anniversary of
Pastor Haberkost's ordination into the ministry with special worship services and receptions. Pastor Haberkost continued to serve until
his retirement in 2002.
In 1986, Rev. John P. Prohl accepted the call to be Associate Pastor. He served until 1994 when he accepted a call to be Pastor of Immanuel
Lutheran Church in Downers Grove, Illinois.
In 1986, after the retirement of Ronald Hauser, Gerald Kuker was called to be Music Director and fourth grade teacher. He was made
full-time Music Director in 1995. Mr. Kuker retired in 2006 after eighteen years of service to St. John's. Mr. Kuker was succeeded
by Dr. David Christian who serves as Minister of Music.
Mr. Melvin Wille was installed as Principal and teacher in 1988. He served until 1993. In 1994, Mr. Fred Behnke was called as Principal and
teacher. He retired in 2007 after thirteen years at St. John's. In 2007, Dr. Richard Block became Principal of St. John's School.
Rev. Wade Butler was called to be Associate Pastor in 1995 and served until 1999 when he accepted a call to be Pastor of Trinity Lutheran
Church, Evansville, Indiana.
The newly created office of Director of Christian Education was filled in 1999 by Brent Stewart who served until 2004. In 2007, Naomi Vogt
came to serve in that position, first as an intern and then installed as DCE in 2008 upon graduation.
In July, 2000, Rev. David Smith of Waupaca, Wisconsin, was called to be Associate Pastor. He had entered the Pastoral Ministry after thirty
years as a teacher in a Lutheran school. His ministry at St. John's was cut short by his sudden death in April, 2008.
In July 2004, Rev. William Geis was called to be Senior Pastor. Pastor Geis, a native of Chicago, had been serving three small
churches in Oklahoma.
(text from 1985 and 1991 church directories, supplemented by the Archives Committee)
|"O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the
Lord, our maker!"|
St. John's first building, a combination schoolhouse and church completed in 1886, located
on the southeast corner of Brainard and 47th Street.
St. John's first church, built in 1894 and
located on the southwest corner of Brainard and 47th Street.
St. John's current church, completed in 1968.