Church History

stjohnlutheranchurchSt. John’s Lutheran Church has a rich history since being formally organized on October 9, 1859 at Ash Creek, Richland County, Wisconsin. In the same decade a Lutheran congregation also named St. John’s was organized in Boaz, Wisconsin. Both congregations were served by the same ministers from the 1850s until 1914. The Ash Creek congregation moved to Richland Center in 1894. When the current church was being constructed in 1950, the Boaz congregation merged with St. John’s in Richland Center.

We are wholeheartedly Lutheran, following the tradition that came about after a German monk named Martin Luther posted 95 points of debate on a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, on October 31, 1517.

Following is a history of St. John’s as printed in the 1996 membership directory:

The history of St. John’s Lutheran Church begins in the middle of the 19th century.  At that time there were Lutheran families living south of Richland Center at Ash Creek.  They were worshiping in the Ash Creek log schoolhouse.  In 1858 they built a “substantial log Church west of the town hall”.  On October 9, 1859, the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity, the St. John’s Lutheran congregation at Ash Creek was organized.

The old log church on Ash Creek was abandoned in 1894 and the congregation decided to build a new church in Richland Center.  The records state: “On July 2, 1893 the congregation decided to build a church in Richland Center, 30 x 40 x 18′ high – 67′ tower – 10 windows – choir balcony 8′ wide – 24 pews – like church in Boaz.  January 4, 1894, the contract for the church building let to Lewis Miller for $1,434.00 – church to be completed by August 1, 1894.  July 22, 1894 the congregation decided to veneer church exterior with brick.”  The church still stands at the corner of Burton and Larson streets.

Paralleling the beginning history of the church at Ash Creek is the history of the Lutheran Church at Boaz.  Pastors serving the Ask Creek congregation also served the congregation in Boaz.  A church building was built in Boaz at about the same time the church building was built in Richland Center.  On December 3, 1950, the Boaz Lutheran Church united with the St. John’s Lutheran Church in Richland Center.

The present site of St. John’s Lutheran Church at Park and Burton Streets came about in 1951.  The church was built and was dedicated on November 25th.  In that same year, the Voice of St. John’s radio broadcast was begun over WRCO.

The Parish Hall – Education Building was constructed in 1958 and in 1980 a Pipe Organ was installed in the church, 1989 – Access Lift and in 1995, Hand-bells were given through Memorial Funds.

St. John’s Lutheran Church celebrated 153 years of God’s grace in 2010.  “For this we are grateful to the founders who, because of their Christian faith, felt moved to organize and build a Lutheran Congregation for themselves and for those who came after them … and to the pastors who have administered the means of grace so faithfully through the years … and to all who have been and are now members of this congregation.  Thanks be to God.”

Click here to read our yearly history

Both congregations have interesting written histories that can be found in the St. John’s archives. The statistical records from 1859 to 1890 are very sketchy.

1855 Pastor Karl Beckel began serving scattered groups of worshippers in southwestern Wisconsin. One such group was meeting in a log schoolhouse on Upper Ash Creek in Richland County.

1858 Log church erected in Orion Township, Section 5, Ash Creek, on land secured from Mr. and Mrs. George Sussner.

1859 Pastor August Rohrlack replaced Pastor Beckel at Ash Creek.

St. John’s congregation organized October 9.

1860 Pastor Rohrlack accepted call to Portage. Pastor E. Wachtel moved to Mill Creek (Boaz) and began traveling pastoral duties.

1865 Pastor Wachtel accepted call to Boscobel as resident pastor.

Pastor Susner began serving congregations in the area.

1872 Pastor Susner left. Pastor A. Rehn, from Germany, served the area Lutherans. (The church in Avoca was also served by the Ash Creek/Boaz minister.)

1875 Pastor Rehn left, followed by Pastor Endewart.

1890 Pastor Endewart left.

1891 Pastor John Wolff, “a dynamic energetic person,” became pastor at both St. John’s congregations, upon graduation from Wartburg College,

1892 Constitution for St. John’s at Ash Creek accepted on November 22. The congregation became

part of the Iowa Synod.

1893 Congregation decided to build a church in Richland Center.

1894 New brick church on Larson Street constructed by Lewis Miller, dedicated October 7, 1894.

1895 Pastor Wolff accepted call to Cottage Grove.

1895 Pastor Flierl installed in January.

1898 Pastor Flierl accepted call to Richford, WI.

Pastor L. Lindoerfer, a missionary in the Black Hills, hired.

1905 Pastor F. Eigenmann replaced Pastor Lindoerfer, January 19.

1908 Congregation officially accepted name of “St. John’s Church.”

1911 Pastor Eigenmann resigned. Pastor M. Vosseler hired.

1914 Boaz church dropped out of parish served by Pastor Vosseler and began being Five Points pastor.

1918 Pastor Vosseler left. Pastor W. Lammert, German born, called at a salary of $400.

1919 In the fall Pastor Lammert left to serve a congregation that had only German services.

Mrs. Adeline Schumacher hired as organist (50 cents a service, paid by the Ladies Aid).

On June 1, women given the right to vote at congregational meetings.

Pastor C. Bosholm called (salary $1,200) and installed November 30.

1922 Two services conducted every two weeks, one in German and one in English.

1926 Pastor Bosholm left.

1927 Pastor Henry J. Kurtz, a new graduate of Wartburg Seminary, called, the last pastor to serve both Richland Center and Avoca.

Electric lights and plumbing installed in the church.

1929 Evening service held in English. One dozen English song books purchased.

1932 Pastor Kurtz left. Avoca congregation decided to become self-sustaining.

Pastor Arthur Bliese installed as first full-time resident pastor of St. John’s.

St. John’s became a home mission congregation of the American Lutheran Church.

1934 Congregation’s Diamond Jubilee held on September 23, celebrating the 75th anniversary of St. John’s.

1938 Parsonage on Kinder Street purchased.

1941 Art glass windows installed and dedicated.

1944 Pastor Bliese accepted a call. Congregation served by Pastor J. Larson of Avoca, February until June.

Pastor Sig G. Sandrock installed June 14.

New constitution adopted.

Congregation’s 85th anniversary celebrated, as well as 50th anniversary of the Larson Street church. Congregation also celebrated being debt-free.

1947 St. John’s became a self-supporting congregation.

Voted to build a new house of worship due to constant increase in membership.

1948 Congregation voted to relocate. Church council authorized to purchase property on corner of Park and Burton Streets.

1950 Ground broken for new church building.

St. John’s of Boaz became part of St. John’s, Richland Center, on December 3.

1951 Cornerstone Laying Service on April 15.

Members volunteered labor to assist general contractor Clarence W. Steiner.

New church dedicated on November 25. Construction cost $80,239.

“Voice of St. John’s” radio broadcast of worship services started on WRCO.

1952 Stained glass windows and electric organ dedicated. Eight windows on the west side were from the old church. Remaining windows donated by members and friends.

Parsonage sold for $9,000. House and property adjacent to church purchased for $7,000.

Pastor Sandrock resigned on November 2.

1953 Pastor Kenneth W. Kohl installed on November 1, St. John’s 17th pastor.

1954 Congregation voted to sell the church building in Boaz.

1956 Congregation accepted preliminary plans for expanded facilities for parish education.

1958 New constitution adopted.

1959 Cornerstone Laying Service for Parish Hall (Education Wing) held January 11.

Parish Hall dedicated May 17.

Conrad Grosenik, first congregational son to enter the ministry, ordained on June 7.

New concert model Wurlitzer organ dedicated.

Special Centennial celebrations and activities held in July, September, and November.

1960 Pastor Kenneth Kohl resigned in late December.

1961 Pastor Elmer Aalto installed on January 29.

1962 Congregation adopted Bethel Bible Series.

Pastor Aalto resigned in December.

1963 Pastor W. Gary Kobs installed on February 24.

1964 Red carpeting installed in the church.

Parsonage purchased on Grove Street.

1966 Sugar Creek Bible Camp established near Ferryville.

1968 Scholarship fund established for persons entering the ministry.

Pastor Kobs resigned in December.

1969 Pastor Gerald Augustine installed on February 2.

1970 New pews purchased from St. Stephen’s Church of Madison

and refinished by congregation members.

1971 Sanctuary plastered and kneelers installed.

Continuous communion method adopted.

1972 George Stoddard, son of George and Emma Stoddard, ordained on June 18.

Carroll Saffell retired after 26 years as senior choir director.

!974 Lenox storm windows purchased for the stained glass windows.

1975 Property east of the church purchased.

1976 Voted to remove old parsonage adjacent to the church.

Council voted to allow girls in the confirmation class to serve as acolytes.

The Sid and Martha Simonson scholarship established for any student desiring to

attend Lutheran College.

1977 Senior Fellowship group organized and started meeting once a month at noon.

St. John’s published first church directory.

Christian Education Media, Inc. material adopted for confirmation classes.

1978 New hymnals, Lutheran Book of Worship, purchased. (green book)

1979 Lay people started reading the scriptures at Sunday worship services.

1980 Moller Pipe Organ dedicated.

Furnace converted to gas heat.

Landscaping of church property started.

1982 St. John’s elected to participate in Intern program. Wally Swenson served as

intern pastor, July 1 – June 30, 1983.

Fellowship Hall tiled.

Luther League and advisors attended convention in San Antonio, Texas.

1983 Merle Brockhoff served as intern pastor, July 1 – June 30, 1984.

New sound system purchased and installed.

Shingled, pitched roof put on Education Hall and church roof reshingled.

1985 Doug Stave served as intern pastor, July 1 – June 30, 1986.

1987 St. John’s hired Pastor Bruce Thomas and Pastor April Stedfeldt,

a husband-wife team serving at Five Points Lutheran Church, to share a

half-time position

1990 Congregation voted to call a full-time associate pastor.

Pastor Kurt Billings installed December 1.

1993 Pastor Billings accepted a call to Madison in August.

1994 Pastor Lin Reichstadter called as associate pastor in October.

Handbells donated in memory of Len Gardner.

1995 With One Voice (blue book) adopted as supplement to Lutheran Book of Worship.

Nativity set donated by Dr. Kilian Meyer.

1996 Feast of Life, a contemporary communion service, introduced.

1997 Estonia baby grand piano purchased through donations.

1998 Keith Woods bequeathed substantial funds from his estate for distribution of financial

gifts for Christian and educational programs and other needs. Committee formed to

administer fund.

Pastor Augustine retired in January.

Restructuring began as Pastor Dave Guetzke hired as interim pastor.

Grove Street parsonage sold.

1999 Pastor Jean Kloss hired as interim pastor.

Pastor Rolf Amundsen called as senior pastor in December.

2000 Kristi Bostwick hired as part-time youth director.

Christian Ministry of Hope program began in the fall, reflecting on faith,

building relationships, serving others, and strengthening caring Christian


2001 Pastor Reichstadter accepted call to Iowa in March.

Andrea Hakari served as intern pastor from July 1 – June 30, 2002.

Basement of Education Wing remodeled for modern offices, using money

from sale of parsonage on Grove Street and Woods Memorial Fund.

Kristi Ursin Bostwick graduated from Lay School of Ministry, South Central Synod.

2002 Penny Olson served as intern pastor from July 1 – February, 2003.

2003 Church cookbooks were printed, profits designated for the Benevolence Fund.

Larry Engel began as a contracted pastor in August.

2004 Parish Nurse Program started.

Beverly Burns graduated from Lay School of Ministry, South Central Synod.

2005 Pastor Amundsen accepted call to Waupun, WI in January.

Kristi Ursin Bostwick completed Youth and Family Ministry Training at Wartburg Seminary.

Pastor James Steinbrecher hired as interim pastor.

Local NOVA cable broadcast began; WRCO radio broadcast ended.

Pastor Kenneth Halstead installed in December as senior pastor.

2006 Altar area and choir alcove remodeled providing handicap-accessibility and more versatility. Old communion rail used to make new freestanding altar. Sacristy enlarged when west side stairs were removed. Cabinets and a sink installed to aid in communion preparation and clean-up.

Audio-visual equipment purchased and installed to provide better hearing and visibility services.

A major donation by George B. Smith, plus monies from the Keith Woods Memorial Fund and other member donations paid for all renovations.

Pastor Larry Engel ordained at Five Points on July 31.

2007 Skip Ernst graduated from Lay School of Ministry, South Central Synod.

New hymnals, Evangelical Lutheran Worship, purchased (red book).

2008 Pastor Larry Engel resigned as contracted pastor in January.

In June, Jacqueline Burnett began serving in a volunteer position as

Assistant in Ministry for Church Life.

2009 Hillary Burns-Kite, daughter of Mike and Beverly Burns, graduated from Wartburg Seminary.

St. John’s celebrates 150th anniversary.

Although an historical timeline focuses on the pastoral leadership of a congregation, it must be emphasized that St. John’s Lutheran Church has grown, thrived, and survived because of, and at times, in spite of, the diligent and faithful efforts of its members and friends. God has richly blessed the congregation through its 150 years with many loyal and selfless believers who have devoted their time, talents, and treasures to further the ministry and outreach of St. John’s. Much has changed in the last 150 years, but the focus of the congregation at St. John’s Lutheran Church has continued to be on God’s love for all people. His sacrifice for our salvation is the core belief that binds us together. His directive to “go and make disciples” is the mission that continues to challenge us in all future endeavors.

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