History of St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church

Early church records were meticulously recorded in German, and still reside in our church library. Founded in 1892, the history of St. John falls into three distinct eras: earliest years as member of the Iowa Synod (1892-1912); middle period as a Mission Church of the Missouri Synod (1913-1953); present time as a self-supporting congregation (1954-present). German Lutherans came primarily from Eastern Germany and Czechoslovakia and in 1890 a Pastor Pfister resigned his charge at Germanville, Iowa to do mission work in Oskaloosa at his own expense. Two years later he gave up this attempt to organize a congregation but in December of 1892 about twenty-five people met in the Mahaska County Courthouse to organize a congregation under the direction of Rev. William Knappe of Hedrick. The formal organization took place on December 18, 1892 and a dual parish was formed of Hedrick and Oskaloosa. It was part of the Iowa Synod and other states, and took the name of St. John Lutheran. From 1892 to 1896 they met in the Mahaska County Courthouse but they chose a site at 812 Fifth Avenue East and erected a small church which was dedicated on December 6, 1896. This was the church home for the next fifty years. The pastor came from Hedrick for services, with five pastors serving 1892 to 1912. Pastor F.W. Landdeck informed the congregation he could no longer serve twice a month, so they appealed to Iowa Synod headquarters. No help seemed available for services even once a month, so some of the members met and decided to leave the Iowa Synod and request membership in Missouri Synod. They included John Loos, Fred Loos, John Kramer, Fred Haber and William Strauss. A dual parish was proposed by the President of the Missouri Synod, President Wolfram of Waterloo, Iowa. It would include Oskaloosa and Four Corners at Lockridge. Services were in German every two weeks. Rev. Duerr served the parish from 1913-1915 and in July 1915 he began serving only in Oskaloosa, continuing until December 1919. From 1920-1924 the transition was made from German to English services, with English at 10:00 a.m. and German at 11:00 a.m. Then during the pastorate of Rev. F.J. Oetjen 1925-1941, German service was replaced entirely by English. There was growing concern for a larger church building and during the pastorate of Rev. Theodore Gutknecht this was accomplished at North A Street and B Avenue. In 1913 St. John congregation began receiving financial assistance from Iowa District East of Missouri Lutheran Church, up to $100 a month. In July 1953 the Church District of Missouri Synod made an agreement with the St.John congregation that if the members would hold a special financial drive to retire their debt with the District, the debt would be cancelled and St.John would become self-supporting. Since then St. John has been self-supporting. In 1960 land on Glendale Road (Merino Avenue) was acquired from Adolph Scheuermann and the congregation built a new church home, which was completed and in 1985 the mortgage was burned. In 1987 the congregation chose to build a parsonage on land adjoining the church, and a ranch-style brick home was completed.