Herald JournalHerald Journal, Aug. 22, 2005

140 years of rich German history at St. John’s

By Lynda Jensen

In 1865, Pastor Heinrich Sprengler, along with a number of German settlers, established a new church nearby the hamlet in Carver County now known as New Germany.

The new church was called St. John Lutheran Church, located in Hollywood Township.

This church eventually would provide the seedbed for several other congregations springing forth in the area – St. Peter’s in Hollywood Township, St. Peter’s of Watertown, Zion of Mayer, St. John’s of Winsted, and St. Mark’s of New Germany.

For the next 70 years, the congregation would conduct its services in German.

In fact, the church enjoys an early rich German heritage, as documented by the Centennial History Book of the St. John Lutheran Church.

Amongst the very first Germans to attend the congregation were names such as Borchert, Frick, Lorch, Sorge, Schaumburg, Keitel, Muelich, Lange, Arnold, Strissel, Noeske, Mandler, Narr, Speier, Zimmermann, and others.

Pastors changed often in the next several years due to illness and a shortage of pastors.

In 1870, the congregation applied toward the Missouri Synod and requested a resident pastor.

One was found, Pastor Friedrich Boesche who graduated from Concordia seminary in St. Louis, and was paid the sum of $200 per year, with a number of families pledging in kind contributions such as polewood for fuel.

He served both Hollywood and Bergen, forming one parish, but also served people in Howard Lake, Winsted, Watertown and Helvetia, the latter which was a small settlement one mile north of Mayer.

Many times, the pastor would trek through dense forests and mosquito infested swamps on foot, according to the history book.

The pastor also served as teacher, since a school was established to serve the area children.

Over the years, a parsonage was built and series of church buildings were constructed to accommodate the needs of parishioners.

An 1,800 pound bell was purchased and placed in the steeple of the church in 1901.

The congregation further added to the church facilities in 1910 by buying a two manual Vogelpohl and Spaeth pipe organ.

A split in the congregation occurred March 26, 1914 when parishioners voted to keep the church where it was in Hollywood Township instead of the village of New Germany. The vote was 51 to stay, and 34 to move.

Those who wished to move were granted releases to form a new congregation in New Germany, St. Mark’s.

In 1917, a complete reconstruction and enlargement of the church building took place, which included the addition of a new transept to the building with full basement, compelte replastering of all walls, enlargement of the balcony and new leaded art glass windows. The total cost of the project was about $6,400.

Up until this time, the services were conducted in German. In 1935, the congregation began conducting an English service after the regular German service each third Sunday of the month, with more English introduced into the regular services the following year.

In 1937, electricity was installed into the school.

The church continued to thrive until this day, passing its 100th anniversary in 1965, and now its 140th to be celebrated Sunday, Aug. 28.

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