Crawford County, Iowa, IAGenWeb

Church Histories

St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church

Charter Oak, Iowa

The Organization Years

The history of St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church dates back to 1873 when five Lutheran families met in homes for services conducted by Rev. G. Haar of Denison.

On March 13, 1881, St. John congregation was organized, comprised of Lutherans living on the south side of Soldier Creek. Charter members were Georg Neddermeyer, Friedrich Bockelmann, Heinrich Kuhlmann, Christian Neddermeyer, Georg Schelm, Georg Kuhlmann and Dietrich Vanier.

From 1882 to 1889 St. John congregation was served by the Rev. C. Bretscher from Hanover Township, conducting services every second Sunday, first in Timm's schoolhouse, later in Charter Oak.

In 1890 St. John became independent and called Candidate A. Amstein, who served here as pastor 44 years until his retirement. In 1892 the congregation joined the Missouri Synod.

The Church Buildings

Two lots were purchased, a third donated by the railroad on which the first church was erected in 1888, total cost $1,399. The same year the cemetery, one mile north of Charter Oak, was bought and laid out in lots.

In 1891 the first Parsonage was built. A second parsonage was erected in 1904 costing $2,700. In 1902 a school was built to accommodate the large enrollment. A second school was built in 1920. A new church building was erected costing $12,000 and was dedicated on March 29, 1908. On September 28, 1924 the church, which had just been enlarged and redecorated, was completely destroyed by fire. The new and present church was dedicated February 7, 1926. In August 1970, the dedication of the new church office addition was held.

St. John's School Building
Photo provided by Jessica Malone

In 1977 the people of Charter Oak were shocked by a devastating hail storm. Damages to St. John included all stained glass windows on the south and west of the church. These extensive damages to church property amounted to approximately, $32,000.

Ground breaking for a new parsonage was held September 1979 and dedicated February 1980, with special services. Cost of the parsonage was $83,500. Prior to the 1881 Centennial celebration the church interior was completely renovated at a cost of $45,000. The Educational Building was remodeled in 1982, during which windows were replaced and new Sunday School rooms added. In 1984 new gas furnaces were purchased and air conditioning was installed in the church basement. An elevator was installed in the church in the fall of 1987 and the parking area in front of the church was cemented for handicap parking in the fall of 1988. On October 23, 1988 the mortgage of St. John Lutheran Parsonage was burned at the 10:00 a.m. service.


Pastor A. Amstein was was called in 1890 as the first pastor ot the church. He was born in Germany, came to America in 1885 and studied at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Springfield, Illinois.

Rev. Walter Schroeder was the second pastor of the congregation, and served the congregation from September 1934 until he passed away in November 1957. He studied at Concordia College in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and received theological training at Concordia Seminary at St. Louis, Missouri. During his pastorate, the congregation experienced a healthy growth.

In 1958 Rev. O. Schlegelmilch of Tipton, Indiana, was installed as third pastor of St. John, serving the congregation nine years. He attendend Concordia Seminary in Springfield, Illinois, and his vicarage year was spent at St. Paul, Napoleon, Ohio.

He was succeeded by Rev. A. Prouty in 1968 who served St. John eight years. He served his vicarage at St. Paul's church in Chicago Heights, Illinois, following his graduation from Concordia Seminary, Springfield, Illinois.

In July 1976 Rev. H. Friedrich was installed as pastor, serving the congregation two years, and he was followed by Rev. L. Gebhardt, who was installed July, 1979.

Anniversaries of the Church

In 1941 the 60th Anniversary of St. John Congregation was celebrated. Three sons of the congregation, Rev. William Ullerich, Rev. William Stoll, and Rev. E. Hallstein, along with former Pastor A. Amstein conducted services.

In June 1956 the 75th Anniversary of the congregation was celebrated with special services. Former Rev. A. Amstein addressed the congregation by means of a tape recording. Other speakers included student Paul Schroeder, Rev. William Stoll, Rev. William Ullerich, and Rev. G. Schaefer. In 1958 Rev. O. Schlegelmilch was installed as third pastor of St. John, serving the congregation nine years. He was succeeded by Rev. A. Prouty in 1968 serving St. John eight years. In August 1970, the dedication of the new church office addition was held.

In 1981 three special services were held to commemorate the 100th anniversary of St. John. In March, Rev. Paul Schroeder, son of the congregation conducted the service. On June 14th Rev. O. Schlegelmilch conducted the morning service, Dr. Oswald Hoffman, the afternoon service and Rev. A. Prouty the evening service. In September a special mission service was held with Dr. Ellis Nieting as guest speaker in the morning and Missionary Ronald Rall of New Guinea as afternoon speaker. Rev. L. Gebhardt was host pastor with Vicar Stephen Vogt assisting.

Other Notable Events

In 1937 the Sunday School was organized.

As a result of the large number of worshipers attending English services the congregation resolved in 1936, to have English services every Sunday and German services every 1st., 3rd and 5th Sunday. In 1953 German services were discontinued.

The congregation entered the Vicarage Program in 1979 under supervision of Rev. L. Gebhardt. Each of the following Vicars have served St. John one year: Stephen Vogt, Ralph Hintsala, Dan Bremer, Bruce Laabs, Robert Wagner, Steven Hulke, Ronald Burcham, Michael Awe, Karl Eckhoff, and Andrew Currao. From 1979 to 1989 St. John served St. Luke Lutheran Church in Ricketts vacancy through a Vicarage program. Vicars serving St. Luke for one year, Richard Jordan, Fred Lingenfelder, George Lepper, Michael McCoy, John Laatch, Jerry Conley, Norman Nibblett, Robert Hines, and Lloyd Helland under the supervision of Rev. L. C. Gebhardt.

Source: The 1991 Charter Oak centennial book.