A History of St. John's Ev. Lutheran Church

Established 1873


Acts 2:42-47
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching
and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.  Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.  All the
believers were together and had everything in common.
Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.


As you consider the history of St. John's and all that has happened in over the years, you are reminded that all this has taken place and happened because St. John's and its members have, by the grace of God, placed everything in the hands of God and trusted and believed that Jesus would safely and successfully lead them through every situation they faced as individuals and as a congregation.

St. John's Lutheran Church had its beginning more than 140 years ago. In 1873 Pastor Philipp Koehler of Hustisford formed a small group of Lutherans who met in a farmhouse on County M, about two miles southeast of Juneau. In the spring of 1874 the group rented a church in Juneau. At the same time the ever-growing congregation, even though it was not organized as a congregation, bought a lot on West Oak Grove Street and built a church. The rear of the church served as a school and the second story as living quarters for the teacher. The building was dedicated on December 1, 1874. The first regular meeting of the congregation was held on January 4, 1875.

The congregation was formally organized and a constitution was presented and adopted. Nine members signed the constitution. With assistance from his son John, Pastor Koehler continued to serve the congregation as its pastor. In 1881 Pastor John Koehler accepted a call from another congregation and Pastor Philipp Koehler asked to be relieved of his work in Juneau. The vacancy was served by Pastor Muehlhaeuser of Beaver Dam. In 1882 the congregation received its first resident pastor, Theodore Hartwig. Pastor Hartwig had just completed his training for the ministry at the Seminary. Pastor Hartwig also taught school and lived in the quarters above the church. During six of his years at St. John's he also served as pastor of the newly formed congregation in Oak Grove. It was during these years that the congregation's present site on South Main was purchased. A new church and parsonage was built and the old church building was moved to the new site and used as a school. The new buildings were dedicated on October 18, 1891. It was also in 1891 that Pastor Hartwig accepted a call to Helenville. Pastor Christian Sauer succeeded Pastor Hartwig and served as pastor of St. John's for 34 years.

In 1925, the 50th Anniversary of the congregation, Pastor Sauer accepted a call to Ixonia. At this time the communicant membership had reached 476. Pastor Nommensen succeeded Pastor Sauer. It was during this time that a new school was built in 1927. The congregation continued to grow and had a communicant membership of 825 when it celebrated its 75th Anniversary in 1950. Pastor Nommensen served the con¬gregation for 29 years. When Pastor Nommensen accepted a call to Hillsboro in 1954, he was succeeded by Pastor Carl Mischke of Goodhue, Minnesota. The years of Pastor Mischke will be remembered as the time in which several building programs were undertaken and completed. 1956 was the remodeling and expansion of the school. A new parsonage was also built. In 1966 it was nec¬essary to once again expand the school facilities. The steady growth of the congregation made it necessary to build what is now the present church. The new church was built for just over $400,000 and was dedicated on September 14, 1969. Included in this project was a new home for the school principal, the moving of the other teacherage to a new site, and a new parking lot. Pastor Mischke served at St. John's until 1979, when he took over the duties as President of the Wisconsin Synod. Pastor Mischke was followed by Pastor David Priebe who served from 1980-1990. It was during this time that the present school was built at a cost of about $700,000.

The new building was dedicated on March 1, 1987. St. John's had become a part of the Wisconsin Synod Vicar Program in 1968. This continued until 1989 when it was decided to call an associate pastor. Pastor Dale Raether was called and installed in 1989. When Pastor Priebe accepted a call to Florida in 1990, Pastor Keith Ray accepted the call to St. John's. He was here until 1991. Pastor John Baumgart of Florida was then called. He accepted the call and served at St. John's until May of 1998 when he was suddenly called to his eternal rest. Pastor Raether served until 1997 and then he accepted a call to Florida. The congregation then called a former vicar, Pastor Thomas Biedenbender who was serving in Detroit, Michigan. He accepted and began serving St. John's in July of 1997.After the death of Pastor Baumgart, Pastor Doug Westenberg was called. He was installed in September of 1998 and served with Pastor Biedenbender. They served St. John’s together until 2006. In 2006 Pastor Paul Hirsch, who served in Hastings, Nebraska, was called to serve St. John’s. He accepted the call and was installed in September of 2006. In 2007 St. John’s called a graduate from the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, seminary graduate Paul Schupmann was assigned to St. John’s. He was then ordained and installed at St. John’s in July of 2007 where he currently serves as an associate pastor with Pastor David Brandt (who began his ministry at St. John’s in July 2017 from St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Tomah, WI.)

Much has happened in the long history of St. John's. Buildings have been built, torn down and replaced. Members have come and gone. But by the grace of God some things still remain the same today. His word is still being preached and taught at St. John's in its truth and purity. By the grace of God the members of St. John's still become members of God's family through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. By the grace of God the members of St. John's still come to the Lord's Supper and receive the body and blood which Jesus gave and shed for them as assurance that all their sins are forgiven. As God has in the past 135 plus years, it is our prayer that Jesus would continue to lead us on so that we can continue to sing His praises here on earth and forever in heaven.

On behalf of the members of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, we welcome you, the newest of members, into our family here at St. John’s.  May God richly bless you as you continue to grow in your faith through the regular use of God’s Word and Sacraments.

The Barnabas Committee