History of St. John Lutheran Church

Rutersville, June 8, 1980

As the pages of time have been turned back to view the history of our congregation, we keep in mind God's Grace through Christ Jesus, the struggles and strife, the trials and triumphs, the joys and sorrows of pastors and members, who labored in God's vineyard.

Following is a condensed history of St. John Lutheran Church and its organizations.

Prior to 1870, some German Lutherans had settled near Rutersvllle. When a piece of the past military school property owned by the Texas Lutheran Synod, was offered for sale to them, they accepted the offer gladly in the hope of using the 80 acres for the erection of a college. Pastor H. Merz was employed as housefather. The Professor did not meet the desired expectations soon afterward Pastor Metz was replaced by Pastor H. Pfenninger.

The school did not come up to the desired expectations and was sold in 1878. The small amassed congregation, that was served by the afore mentioned pastors, organized under the name of Lutheran St. Petri congregation. It had also joined the synod but soon disbanded because of lack of spiritual care.

In the year of 1894, after a significant number of immigrants had settled in this neighborhood, the desire for regular Lutheran divine services became alive again. It was decided to build a new church and to call a Lutheran minister.

Two men's names came up for consideration: Pastor Carl Baer, who at that time served in E!linger and Pastor Schasf who served the then existing mission congregation 3 miles west of La Grange. It was decided to employ the services of Pastor Baer, who was to come every 3 weeks to conduct services.

In 1895 the new church was built on the site donated by H. Amberg. Gerhard Speckels, the contractor was supposed to have agreed to erect the church for $200 but the plan did not materialize. Mr. Lucke took care collecting the needed contributions.

Wm. Janssen, an experienced and capable builder with the help of his sons erected the church. The church was so well and solidly built that the storms of 1900, 1909 and 1915 which roared through our land, did not damage it.

The first church service in the new church was held on Oct. 5, 1895 and a constitution was also adopted. The numbers of baptisms, marriages, and funerals conducted by Rev. Baer are unfortunately not available. However, the confirmands from 1896 to 1912 seem to number 200. On Dec. 14, 1912, Rev. Robert Heise was called.

During the congregational meeting of Jan. 19, 1913, a constitution was adopted and signed by the members present. In the course of the years after 1913 all sorts of improvements and beautifications were undertaken.

The church also served as a school until a public school was built in 1922. In 1924 new reparations were undertaken. An altar was built by Wm Janssen, the pulpit changed to the liking of the members and the cement steps placed by Mr. Lucke. The crucifix and lighting fixtures for the altar were bought and in 1917 a new organ was bought.

The statue of Christ was bought for $38.10 and in 1929 25 pews were bought at a price of $25 each. The number of members increased since 1912 from approximately 60 active members to 247 baptized and 211 confirmed in the early 1940s. The service attendance in 1913 was on the average of 50 or 60. It increased to about 140 or 150 in the early 40s.

Since 1912, 119 were baptized, 149 confirmed, 53 couples married and 80 buried. Also the number taking part in the Lord's Supper increased significantly.

Pastor Baer served the congregation from 1895 to 1912 and in December 1912 the congregation
asked Pastor Robert Heise to serve. He continued to conduct services every three weeks as Pastor Baer had been doing. Beginning in January 1945, services were conducted every other Sunday. Pastor Heise continued to serve the congregation until April, 1951, when health and advancing age forced him to retire. Pastor H. T. Flachmeier served as supply pastor until July 1952 when Rev. Raymond W. Durst was installed. Rev. A.E. Flathmann was called to assist Rev. Durst many years later.

It was following Rev. Durst's acceptance of a call to serve in San Antonio that the parish was served by several interim pastors including Dr. E. A. Sagebiel. Pastor Nelson Klar accepted Rutersville's call in 1964 and stayed until February 1967. During the interim period the congregation was served by Rev. Renslo and Rev. Wolber. Other pastors filled in as needed. On Sept. 1, 1967, Pastor Walter C. Probst Jr. came to Rutersville. In 1969 a decision was made to remodel the church's interior and in January, 1970, the first plans were accepted with the final plans being accepted in March. The remodeling project got underway during the latter part of May and the re-dedication of the remodeling was held on Oct. 1, 1970.

Rev. Lee Eschberger came to Rutersville on Jan. 2, 1976 and is serving as its present pastor.

The parish house was built in 1946 and enlarged in 1956, the parsonage was built in 1952. An electric organ was given as a memorial and a lecturn and baptismal font have been added to the chancel. Many memorial gifts for the interior of the church have been given in memory of its ancestors and members.

Our congregation was accepted as a member church of The American Lutheran Church .in 1951. Our present membership is 172 baptized members and 152 confirmed. Two of our young men entered the Holy Ministry.

Founders of the congregation were: Wilhelm Hencord, Wilhelm Harms,Wilhelm Voelkel Sr., Bernard Harms, Heinrich Helmken Sr., Wilhelm Janssen Sr., Friedrich Janssen, John Reuther, Gerhard Gerdes Sr., Carl Fiebig Sr., Gerhard Speckles, Friedrich Oppermann, Dietrich Stahmer, Heinrich Stahmer, Heinrich Folkens, Gerhard Oeltjen, Heinrich Mein, Friedrich Lucke, August Gau Sr., Gerhard Behrens, Fritz Schulze, Carl Giese, Heinrich J. Mohrusen, Heinrich Mohrusen, Louis Havemann, Carl Witt Sr., Carl Witt Jr. , Emil Citzler Sr. All the founders are now deceased.

Fifty-nine of current members of our church are 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th generations of 15 of the founding fathers. Some are related to several of them.

From the very beginning until 1980, those men serving on the church council worked together in serving our Lord leading the congregation by Seeking to do the Master's will.

Many church organists have served our congregation.
Serving as financial secretary for our church have been Fritz Janssen and presently Henry Wied.

As far as can be recalled from memory and Sunday School lessons found among parish members, it has been established that Sunday School began in or around the year 1912.

At that time Sunday School was held every three weeks with the church service. Parishioners would come by horses, buggies and on foot, sometimes coming a good distance to attend. As the years passed by Sunday School was held every other Sunday to let parishioners get more Christian education through Sunday School. The Sunday School was well underway at the time Rev. Raymond Durst became the pastor. It was under his time as pastor that Sunday School grew to its fullest capacity. The first nursery class was begun in 1950. A cradle roll was begun in 1954 to show the congregations concern for the religious training of the parishioners young students. Cards were sent to the infant at birth and continued through the age of 3 years.

In 1952 there were 80 members enrolled, 1956 brought the total to 124, the largest total on Record. Rev. Raymond W. Durst served as pastor.

The Sunday School was very active with the students participating fully in functions throughout the year. Each year the students participated in the annual Christmas program.

To encourage attendance, there were Bibles given to students who obtained perfect attendance for a period of 100 Sundays in succession. Pins were also given. The Sunday school staff was always encouraged to attend workshops etc. to acquaint themselves with the new lessons for the year. Some of the things remembered as being projects of the Sunday School were purchasing blackboards, bulletin boards, helping finance children to Bible Camp, filling the library with Christian education literature and purchasing fans and visual screens.

Through the years the Sunday School grew smaller because of people moving out of our area and the students who made the Sunday School enrollment at its fullest were now graduates in school etc. and moved to larger cities to obtain jobs. We still have a Sunday School with the main object still being as it was when it was first begun, to promote Christian education.

In summary, the Sunday school during its many years could not have achieved its yearly goals had it not been for faithful Christian servants, the teachers, who gave of their time and devotion to teach the Word of God.

Even though the year of 1980 holds only a total of 25 students, we are proud of these 25, and continue to promote a loving Christian spirit among them.

Charter members of the Luther league in 1944 were Arthur Citzler, Alfred Frerichs, Clare Tietjen, Erna Tietjen, Lavern Wessels, Mrs. Arthur Citzler, Agnes, Alfred and Theodore Harbers, Myrtle and Ora Lee Maas, Louise, Vastine and Doris Mueller, Lavern Oppermann, Lorine Rueter, Walter and Myrtle Stahmer, Weldon and Lenwood Scholtz, Edna Tramp, Earlene Tietjen, Wilburn Wessels, Ora Dell Hayerland, Everett Maas, Edgar Frerichs, Alma Stahmer, Alida Citzler, Josie Fred Oppermann, Gus Voelkel Jr., Raymond Stoll and Leon Harbers.

The Pastor at this time was Robt. Heise. During the first years of the existance of the Luther League, the members held monthly meetings in which they discussed business matters, planned activities, had devotions, and had a social time with games and refreshments. Through the years, the League has held Monthly meetings very much like those in 1944. On Oct. 16, 1973, the Rutersville Luther League became associated with the Ellinger Luther League. The two Leagues combined to form the Rutersville-Ellinger Luther League.

The Leaguers participate in various activities during the year. Some of the traditional ones are the annual hayride, the Candlelight Services, decorating the Christmas trees and Christmas caroling. One thing that members of the Luther League, whether in 1944 or 1980, seem to have in common is an enthusiasm for volleyball. The Luther League teams have won many trophies in the past years, and the Leaguers of today are continuing in the tradition. Aside from winning trophies, volleyball tournaments give the youth of the church an opportunity to enjoy fellowship and friendly competition with members of other area leagues.

Eleven women of the St. John Lutheran Church of Rutersvi!le met with Rev. Robert Heise on March 31, 1948 to organize a women's society, known then as the Ladies Aid. Their desire being to help beautify the church and lend a helping hand within the congregation.

It is due to the efforts of these women Mrs. Elo Oppermann, Mrs. Gilbert Weasels, Mrs. Albert Blume, Mrs. Barney Schultz, Mrs. Emil Citzler, Mrs. Wm. Brendle, Mrs. J. C. Tschiedel, Mrs. E. F. Gau, Mrs. H. A. Zwernemann, Miss Martha Frerichs and Mrs. Edgar Oppermann. There are five charter members living namely Mrs. Elo Oppermann, Mrs. Blume, Mrs. Schultz, Mrs. Gau and Mrs. Edgar Oppermann.

In 1956 the Ladies Aid joined the Women's Missionary Federation, The name of the organization was changed to the Women's Missionary Society. It was in 1960 that the organization's name was changed to American Lutheran Church Women.

On Dec. 29, 1950, the ladies sponsored the first Christmas social. This has become a traditional event ever since. In 1950, the ladies purchased white material for altar paraments. A sister of the congregation Mrs. Hermann Mueller volunteered to use her God given talents and crochet appropriate lace for the covers. These paraments are over 30 years old and at present are still used on the altar.

Other altar paraments were made by the ladies in 1958 so that various colors could be used in different seasons. On Good Friday, the original black paraments are still being used.

In 1974 the first altar guild was organized. It continues to serve in fullest capacity today. As one looks back in history, one finds that where the ladies organizations could lend a helping hand it did. From its origin to present day has always been promoting Bible study. Christian fellowship and sponsored many projects to benefit our church membership and the work of the church at large.

NOTE: Having worked on the history book for many months, by many people, the purpose for which the book was printed has been achieved. It has not been the purpose of this booklet to give a complete detailed record year for year but rather a summary. It was not possible to
mention the names of all who at one time or another gave of their time, talents and treasurers. The historical committee hopes that the history of St. John Lutheran Church and its organizations inspire us in humble gratitude and with confident faith to bear witness in our day and future generations. Thanks be to God for all the members who by their gifts of love and sacrifice and by their personal work have made St. John Lutheran Church what it is today. May St. John continue to serve as a living testimony to our community of the sacred truths of God's word for all occasions of life.

Any errors found in this booklet were not made deliberately. The researchers and editors of the booklet hope that you enjoy the book as much as they have enjoyed obtaining information for it.

The following information was compiled by Mrs. Alex Rosenberg and is printed in its entirety as received from her.

By Mrs. Lydia Rosenberg

Current members of St. John Lutheran Church in Rutersville who are descendants of 15 Founders of the congregation in 1895.

EMIL CITZLER 4 grandchildren: Viola Citzler Schultz, Erna Tietjen Mue!ler, Kurt Tietjen, Genelie C. Stahmer; three great grandchildren: Gene Citzler, Shirley Spacek, Larry Tietjen; 4 great-great grandchildren: Kathy S. Hensel, Joyce S.Mueller, Robert Stahmer and Laurie S. Karisch.

AUG. GAU, SR. 4 grandsons: Edwin Gan, Edgar, Elo, Ervin Oppermann; 1 great grandson, Josie Fred

HEINRICH GERHARD GERDES: 2 granddaughters: Lina Harms, Lydia J. von Rosenberg; 7 great grandchildren: Mrs. Linda M. Heintze, Viola M. Kern, Harvey Mueller, Wilburn Harms, Milton Helmken, Edna F. Citzler and Edgar Frerichs; 7 great great grandchildren: Gene Citzler, Robert Frerichs, Ralph Frerichs, Milroy Helmken, Elaine Kern, Mrs. Ray Ann Michalsky and Mrs. Shirley Spacek; 4 great great great grandchildren, Thomas, Toni, Timothy and Tammie Michalsky.

CARL GIESE: 1 granddaughter, Viola Citzler Schultz.

HEINRICH FOLKENS: 1 grandson: Alton Scholtz; 1 great grandson: Weldon Scholtz; 2 great-great granddaughters, Janet Klekar, Kathy Key.

WILHELM HARMS: 1 daughter, Lina Harms; 2 grandsons, Wilburn Harms and Milton Helmken; 1 great grandson, Milroy Helmken.

LOUIS HAVEMANN: 1 grandson, Weldon Scholtz; 2 great granddaughters, Kathy S, Key and Janet Klekar.

HEINRICH HELMKEN: 5 grandchildren: Doris Hartmann, Milton Helmken, Marian Frerichs, Lorenz Mueller and Edna H. Stahmer; 7 great grandchildren, Robert Frerichs, Ralph Frerichs, Glen Roy Hartmann, Weldon Hartmann, Milroy Helmken, Steve Mueller and Walter Stahmer; 4 great grandchildren, Kathy S. Hensel, Laurie S. Karisch, Joyce Mueller, Robert Stahmer. [These 4 children related to 4 founders of the church.]

WILHELM JANSSEN: 1 daughter, Lydia J. von Rosenberg; 2 grandchildren, Edna F. Citzler and Edgar Frerichs; 3 great grand children: Gene Citzler, Robert and Ralph Frerichs.

HEINRICH MOHRHUSEN: 1 daughter, Miss Ella Mohrhusen

FRIEDRICH OPPERMANN: 3 grandsons: Edgar, Elo, and Erwin Oppermann; 1 great-grandson, Josie Fred Oppermann.

JOHN REUTHER: 1 adopted grandson, Arno Reuther; 3 grandchildren, Linda Heintze, Viola Kern and Harvey Mueller; 3 great grandchildren, Elaine Kern, Ray Ann Michalsky and Shirley Spacek;

4 great grand children: Thomas, Toni, Timothy and Tammie and Terrance Michalsky. These 5 are the 6th generation.

DIEDRICH STAHMER: 2 grandchildren, Alma Stahmer, John Stahmer; 3 great grandchildren: Aileen Loehr, Frances Wied, Walter Stahmer; 4 great-great grandchildren, Kathy Hensel, Joyce Mueller, Laurie Karisch and Robert Stahmer.

HEMICH STAHMER: 1 son, John Stahmer, 1 grandson, Walter Stahmer, 4 great great grandchildren: same as above for Diedrich Stahmer.

WILHELM VOELKEL: 2 granddaughters, Alma Wessels, Myrtle Scholtz; 1 great granddaughter, Evelyn F. Tietjen, 1 great grandson, Calvin Wessels, 3 great great grandsons, Larry Tietjen, Lynn Weasels, David Wessels, 1 great great granddaughter, Carolyn Fritsch.

You will see that several members are related to more than one of the founding fathers. The following members are 6th generation members. *The children of Mr. and Mrs. Michalsky: Thomas, Toni, Timothy, Tammie and Terrance. Namely: H.G. Gerdes, John Ruether, Minnie Mueller, E!o Mueller and Ray Ann Michalsky.
Generation 1 - H. G. Gerdes was the great-great-great grandfather [his daughter]
2 - Mrs. John Ruether was their great-great grandmother
3 - Mrs. Fritz Minnie Mueller was their great grandmother
4 - Mr. and Mrs. Elo were their grandparents. Mr. Elo. M. is deceased
5 - Their parents Mr. and Mrs. Lad Michalsky are the parents
6 - Children of Mr. and Mrs. Laddie Michalsky

Taken from the St. John Lutheran Church pamphlet by the same name
contributed to Fayette County TXGenWeb site by Willie Ann McColloch

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