A BRIEF HISTORY OF ST. JOHN'S EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH
German settlers, many who came from Cook and DuPage counties in northern Illinois, organized St. John's Lutheran Church on April 29, 1870. A constitution was adopted and the congregation affiliated itself with the United Synod of the Northwest. The charter members signing the constitution were: Fred Luhrsen, Fred Weber, F. Sandhagen, H. Lah, H. Volberding, John Schaefer, Henry Sprengel, Louis Lustfeld, William Poppe, Henry Krumwiede, Fred Engehausen, Henry Hartke, C. Wilkens, F. Rathe, W. Ahlden, L. Niemann, G. Jaster, August Gau, Carl Schuofft, Henry Hartke, Jr., and H. Waldschmidt.
The first church was built in 1870 on East Main Street at a cost of $1,800. Rev. R. Menk was installed as the first pastor in 1871.
On April 4, 1872, the congregation severed ties with the United Evangelical Synod and on April 14, 1873, Rev. S. Suess was installed as the first Lutheran pastor. On January 5, 1874 the congregation adopted a constitution in conformity with Lutheran doctrine and practice and for the first time the congregation became known as St. John's Ev. Lutheran Church of Buckley, Illinois.
On April 3, 1877, Pastor George Blanken began his thirty-year ministry in this community. During his pastorate the congregation continued to grow to such an extent that the first church could no longer accommodate the members. It was then that the congregation purchased the "Town Hall", located on the corner of Oak and South First Street at the cost of about $1800.00. This church was dedicated in December 1885.
The installation of Pastor Christian Braeunig took place on September 22, 1907, marking the beginning of a long and blessed ministry. After thirty-five years of faithful service he retired in the year 1942.
On May 21, 1916, the cornerstone was laid for the present church and on September 30, 1917, the present church was dedicated. After Pastor Braeunig's retirement, Pastor E. M. Goltermann was installed in May 1942. Under his pastorate the church numbered 1,039 souls, 778 communicants, and 202 voters.
On April 23, 1950, Pastor Walther Eissfeldt was installed and during his term of service, the LLL, PTL, and Sunday school were organized.
Pastors serving after Pastor Eissfeldt's departure in July 1960 included Pastors Fred Stennfeld, James Brammier, William Allshouse, Hugh McGhghy, Robert Smith, Gunard Heikkila, Mark Haller and Daniel Olson. Lay ministers Leonard Johnson and David Hagen also served the congregation. Rev. J. Kevin Wyckoff was installed on November 30, 2015, and is currently serving the congregation.
HISTORY OF ST. JOHN'S LUTHERAN SCHOOL
The congregation of St. John's Lutheran Church has maintained a parochial school since the time of its organization in 1870. Until the time the members could afford and support a professionally trained teacher, the pastor conducted school to the best of his ability for at least six months during the year, four days per week.
The first Lutheran School building was a frame structure at the corner of Main and Park Streets. Soon after the construction of this building, an addition was added to the school and the Misses Augusta Klann and Clara Ferdina assisted in the lower grades. In 1885, after the arrival of J. M. Gross who was to serve as teacher and principal for over 50 years, new facilities became necessary. When the congregation moved into a new house of worship in 1885, the former church building became available for school purposes. With an enrollment of more than 100 children, they found it necessary to renovate the former building and use both of the buildings to educate the children.
Towards the close of 1905 the need for better and more adequate teaching facilities became apparent. A two-story brick building was erected and dedicated on November 18, 1906, which served until its dismantlement in 1955. An addition was added across the front of the school in 1926, which resulted in added classrooms and a confirmation room. In 1942, two modern restrooms and a clinic room were added in the basement.
Further expansion had been discussed as early as 1946, citing the many shortcomings of the structure. There was no gymnasium, and an aggressive athletic program was fast becoming an integral part of the school curriculum. The building had no school cafeteria, special meeting rooms, visual aids room, and nothing practical in the way of a young people's room. Between 1946 and 1951 little or no progress was made due to the economic conditions. In 1951, to meet the overcrowded conditions of the school, it was decided to construct a cottage near the school that served as a classroom for several years.
Finally after facing numerous obstacles, it was decided on January 25, 1955, to construct a new building. Dismantlement of the old building began on March 15, 1955 and within days the building was leveled to the ground. Corps of volunteer workers, members of the congregation, accomplished this amazing task. Pouring of the new foundation walls began on April 23, 1955. In the meantime the cottage had been moved to the Herman Janssen property, and temporary teaching faculties were provided in the church basement and Janssen's garage without any loss of teaching time. The cornerstone laying was held on May 1, 1955 with dedication of the new building on December 4, 1955. School resumed in the new building on Monday, December 5, 1955.
The school is prospering in the building dedicated fifty-five years ago. It now houses students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade and is the site of a variety of activities including worship services, sports, social functions, and community activities.