St. John's 150th Anniversary Celebration

St. John "High Steeple" Lutheran Church celebrated our 150th Anniversary on Sunday, June 30, 2019.


The origins of St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church began with the migration of hundreds of Lutherans from Europe to America, seeking religious freedom. We are blessed to still have direct ancestors from some of the founding members in our midst, and through them and their diligent keeping of old records, we can learn a few more details about their lives.

It began with three small families: Hamann, Marquardt and Garbrecht. While we have no specific information about the Garbrecht's, it is known that the Hamann's and Marquardt's were part of the Lutheran emigration from Germany which had founded two Trinity Lutheran congregations in Wisconsin, one in Milwaukee, and the other in what was a neighborhood called Freistadt, which became part of the city of Mequon. Both of these congregations are also still in existence.

The Garbrecht family was two: Wilhelm and his wife, Albertine (born Werner).

The Marquardt family was two: Carl, a single man of age 22, and his sister, Henriette, who was married to Friedrich Hamann.

The Hamann family was five. There was a father and son, who both went by their middle name of Friedrich. Father Friedrich (age 56) came with his wife, Maria (born Krenz), and their teenage daughter, Friedricke. Son Friedrich (age 26) came with his wife, Henriette (born Marquardt, as mentioned in prior paragraph), and their daughter, Maria, who was only two months old when they arrived in the Town of Wien. And to complete this circle of beginnings, it bears mentioning that six years after their arrival, Carl Marquardt married Friedricke Hamann on March 15, 1866.

It is known that the younger Friedrich Hamann purchased land in the Town of Wien in 1857, made a trip in 1858 to view the land, and returned to the Milwaukee area to earn more money for their move. The group's exact date of departure from the Milwaukee area is not known, but we do know that it took six weeks for them to travel from Stevens Point to the Town of Wien, arriving in May, 1860, on the day before Pentecost. On that last leg of the journey they had to laboriously clear a trail wide enough to accommodate their ox-drawn wagons. Each of the three families had a covered wagon which carried all of their belongings, and also served as their "mobile" home.

The Hamann's settled on the east side of what is now Pioneer Drive, and Carl Marquardt settled on the west side. Pioneer is the first north-to-south intersection one crosses when leaving our current church and heading east.

At first the group met for worship in their quickly-built log cabin homes, and were visited occasionally by various pastors in the region. These visits were no doubt received with great and humble thanksgiving! As time went by more people came to the area and joined in worship, and the growing flock found a better space in a combination town hall/public schoolhouse which used to stand on Highway N, only about one mile from the Hamann homestead.

Reverend J.F. Wilhelm Hudtloff, from a church in the Town of Berlin, did much shepherding of the growing group and eventually helped them to become an officially-organized congregation in 1869. We do not know how many members were part of the 1869 congregation, but by the end of 1875, there were about 160 baptized members. It is amazing to think of the commitment of these settlers, most of whom came as farmers but had to first be lumberjacks to clear the land, and yet, how they dedicated themselves to their faith in God. Nor can we truly imagine a day in the life of the mothers who had to tend children and home, and constantly find food for the table.

There came a time of turmoil in this young congregation, which will be discussed in a future "Anniversary Anecdote", but it will be mentioned here that a re-organization took place, and articles of incorporation were newly-written and signed in 1885. Based on the members who signed that document, we have estimated that there are approximately 30 current St. John members who can trace a direct line back to those ancestors. But all members of St. John have their own stories of how they got here and where they came from. No matter the ancestries and no matter the stories, what truly binds us is that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ!

Dear St. John and Bethlehem Members,
As organized congregations, we have a collective total of 230 years, and that's only the neatly-defined number! In the larger scope of congregational activity, going back to the first many years when each congregation began with just a few souls, the number is over 270 years of work by God's faithful followers! To God, these years are probably nothing more than a blink of an eye, a fleeting moment in time, yet we can be assured that He is fully aware of our experience and accepts our thankful prayers. But in our human, worldly experience, these years are a long time, and surely something to celebrate and give praise to God. As we eagerly await the 150th anniversary celebration for St. John, we are offering here more details about the upcoming event. Following the regular 10:15 morning service there will be a LUNCH at NOON. EVERYONE is invited to the meal! A family of volunteers is coordinating the preparation and serving of the lunch. If you plan to attend the meal please either add your name to the sign-up sheet at either church, or call the church office. The sermon for the 2:00 Celebration Service will be delivered by Reverend Dwayne Lueck, President of the North Wisconsin District of the LCMS. At this time we are expecting to see three of our former pastors, Reverends Jeffrey Lambrecht, Matthew Christians and Roger Moldenhauer, for the Sunday, June 30, afternoon celebration. Some may participate in the afternoon service, but as this article is being written, details remain to be discussed with our new pastor, Rev. Chad Schopp. Our former pastor Reverend Mark Nicolaus is unable to attend due to a prior commitment. Our fifth former pastor, Reverend David Schroeder, has been invited and we are awaiting a reply. All throughout the day there will be historical and active ministry displays available for viewing in the Fireside Room. Many decades' worth of confirmation pictures will be displayed in the narthex area. Following the 2:00 service there will be more time for fellowship and refreshments, and viewing of displays. The 150th Anniversary Book will be offered for sale in the narthex area, beginning after the morning service. The book is not only a retold and updated version of our history but also features discussion of those characteristics unique to our congregation and church. Also included are a wonderful selection of pictures, the Official Acts listings, and cemetery records and maps. If you were baptized, confirmed or married at St. John, your name is in this book. If you were ever a baptismal sponsor for anyone at St. John, your name is in this book. If you have ancestors who were St. John members and want to know the names of their baptismal sponsors, or their confirmation verse, or perhaps where they are laid to rest, this book can provide answers. The books are already available and we are encouraging everyone to purchase books as soon as possible, in case a re-order is necessary. The cost is $10.00 per 166-page book. We also have booklets left from previous anniversaries, these are available at no cost while the supply lasts. There is also a supply of the beautiful commemorative St. John Christmas cards. The anniversary committee has been contacting St. John members to fill jobs for ushers, greeters, parking attendants, cleaners and other tasks that are needed for the celebration weekend. As we get closer to the day the committee or the trustees may be asking for more help as needs arise. There are many opportunities to help, inside and out, in the weeks leading up to the celebration by cleaning, weeding, fixing…and more cleaning! Please talk to a trustee or committee member if you aren't sure how you can help. Many thanks to those who have already done so much!!
The 150th Anniversary Committee for St. John

* Also available will be a publication which includes: 1) an overview of St. John history over the past 150 years, 2) a listing of all official acts (baptisms, confirmations, marriages, funerals) during the past 150 years, 3) a complete listing of pastors who have served at St. John, and 4) a listing of all gravestones in the church cemetery (with location key).

* We have beautiful commemorative Christmas Cards for sale. 6 for $1.50, The cards have two keepsake photos of our church, and the message inside doesn't have an expiration date! What better way to share the message of our Savior's birth, and the memories of our recent anniversary celebration? Please see either Sharon Ballerstein or June Krebsbach. Thank you!