150 Years Strong


20240207_133121-1--21874-St. John’s Lutheran Church was formally organized and adopted the recommended constitution of the Iowa Synod in August. As early as the 1860s, various Lutheran pastors served intermittently in the area. The first permanent pastor to serve the new congregation was Rev. C. G. (or C. J.) Mehrtens who was born in Germany in 1839. Pastor Mehrtens served St. John’s for only one year during which time, a small house of worship on Galloway Street between Hobart and N. Barstow was completed. The 1883 Plat Map showing the “German Lutheran Church” was provided by the Chippewa Valley Museum. No picture of the church has yet been found. This stained-glass window is said to have been from that first church. It says: “EV LUTH ST JOHANNES KIRCHE”

1875-August, Rev. George Meier was installed as pastor and served St.John’s for two years.

1876-November, it was resolved to build a parsonage near the Galloway church. This picture of that parsonage was found in the St. John’s Golden Jubilee booklet from 1924. Under the picture it stated in German: “Das alte Pfarrhaus”.

1877-November, the Rev. George Recknagel was installed as Pastor, initiating an era of longer-tenured pastors. It was during this time that they decided to build a new church.

1879-before the property for the church was purchased, the St. John’s Cemetery on Omaha Street was acquired.


1881-August 19, four lots were purchased from Eau Claire Lumber Co. Price, $600, of which the lumber company donated $100. It was through the work of the Ladies Aid that these lots were purchased and it was their treasury that helped toward the building of the Dewey Street church and its furnishings.

1884-March, St. John’s purchased pews, pulpit, and altar.

1884-June 27th, the Dewey Street church was dedicated. That morning, a short service was held in the old church on Galloway on the north side, and led by a brass band, the entire congregation marched to the new church in a body. The new church on Dewey Street would continue to serve the ever-growing congregation for a total of 71 years.

1884-the congregation decided to build a parsonage (22’ x 30’).

1885-a parsonage was built adjoining church.

1887, the first school house/parish hall was constructed.

1888, St. John’s was incorporated under laws of the State of Wisconsin.

1889-Pastor A. F. Augustine (sometimes spelled Augustin) became the pastor.


1892-The Church bell was dedicated, which is still in use at our Highland church location. The German engraving on the bell, “Der Herr ist heir und ruft” means: The Master (Lord) is here and calls.

1894-February 13, Youth group first formed. In the same year, a pipe organ was purchased.


1904-April 12, Women’s “Ladies Aid” officially formed (precursor to ALCW and current Women of the ELCA). A “first group” started before 1904, but had disbanded by 1889.


1914-1915, a new parish hall erected at the cost of $12,126.


1924-August 17, the congregation observed its 50th, Golden Jubilee year.


1930-the Buffalo, Ohio, Iowa, and Texas Synods merge to form ALC.

1933-September 1, Pastor George Vollmer was installed. He was the first minister to be born in America (of German Parents). During his tenure, the first Boy Scout Troop was formed.


1946-October 6, Reverend Roy B. Schmeichel, Milwaukee, recently discharged U.S. Navy Chaplain, was installed as pastor.

1949-October 2, St. John’s 75th, Diamond Jubilee Anniversary was celebrated. The steeple had been removed by the time this photo was taken.


1951-a fund drive was launched and building committee was activated.

1952-seven lots were purchased on East Hill (the Highland location).

1953-a new parsonage was acquired at 1719 Laurel Avenue, EC.

1954-the growth of the congregation led to the decision to relocate the congregation to a new site at its present location, 1804 Highland Avenue. On March 28th, the ground breaking of the new church took place.

1955-May 1, St. John’s Lutheran Church on Highland was dedicated. The cost with furnishings and equipment was $375,000.


1960-the ALC and ELC merge to form the ALC.

1962-October 28, the mortgage burning ceremony took place ($150,000 repaid in a little over 7 years).

1964-May 17, the Moeller pipe organ was dedicated. Cost $42,000.

1966-December 11, the dedication of the first addition to the education annex took place at a cost of $95,000.


1973-January 28, the dedication of the second addition to education unit took place (Offices, classrooms, storage-$155,000)

1974-October, the church’s Centennial celebration took place and a pictorial directory was issued.

1976-the Ge Lang Laotian Family was sponsored.

1978-October 29, the St. John’s apartments were dedicated. This project was a venture in providing good, affordable housing to the elderly.


1981-December 13, the elevator was dedicated.

1988-January 1, the ELCA was formed by the merger of the ALC, LCA, and AELC.


1997-September 8, was the first day of class for St. John’s Christian Preschool

1998-Summer, the Promise Room, an all-purpose room, was renovated. In August, the church website was set up by member, Bruce Finseth.

1999-the Congregation celebrates the 125th anniversary of St. John’s.

1999-Summer, the St. John’s playground built and preschool rooms remodeled.


2002-September 29, the congregation raised over $60,000 on “Miracle Sunday” to help build an elementary school (Imani School) in Kaisho, Tanzania, Africa. St. John’s support of this school continues.

2007-the St. John’s apartments built 21 new garages.

2009-July 9, the Church Council approves St. John’s new mission statement: St. John’s Lutheran Church is a people formed in the waters of Christian baptism to be a fountain of life for all who gather here, overflowing into a river of compassion for the world.


2012-August 1, New technology (TV screens and a computer) was installed in the sanctuary.

2014-December 14, “Kiki Hats, The Musical!” was performed by the Children’s Education Hour. Over 1,000 hats were made and donated to the community.

2015-June 3, DRS Sound Inc. installed the Hearing Loop T-Coil in the sanctuary at a cost of $6,143.

2015-September 13, “God’s Work. Our Hands.”, An annual synod-wide opportunity to celebrate who we are as the ELCA. St. John’s participated in various events to serve our community.


2020-March, the Covid 19 pandemic hits and in-person services stop temporarily and are held via Facebook. A Safety Taskforce is formed that helps make recommendations to the council about protocols and procedures. Masking, drive-through communion, and Zoom meetings, became the norm.

It is to those who are not mentioned by name that we, the current members of this congregation, owe our greatest thanks. It has been their faithful, every day, ordinary witness as followers of Jesus Christ and their commitment to the proclamation of Christ’s word that has truly animated the life and ministry of this congregation.

Those not mentioned by name are the ones who have given us our heritage and, for the most part, it will be those who are not mentioned by name that will carry us faithfully into the joyful work of discipleship as we join in bringing the love of Christ into the world.

As we celebrate God’s faithfulness to us over the past 150 years we say, “Thanks be to God” for all the Saints who inspire us in our service to the ministry to the Gospel.

Thirty-one Pastors

C.G. (or C.J.) Mehrtens-1874-1875

George Meier, Senior Pastor, 1875-1977

George Recknagel, Senior Pastor, 1877-1889

August F Augustine, Senior Pastor, 1889-1933

John George Henry Vollmer, Senior Pastor, 1933-1946

Roy B. Schmeichel, Senior Pastor, 1946-1975 and Visitation Pastor, 1975-1992

William Metter, Associate Pastor,1968-1973

John Frederick Mager, Visitation Pastor, 1973-1977?

Alfred H. Langhough, Senior Pastor, 1975-1985

David J. Kilde, Associate Pastor, 1976-1985 and Senior Pastor, 1985-1994

Scott Allen Tunseth, Associate Pastor for Youth and Ed., 1984-1988

Timothy G. Staveteig, Associate Pastor for Life and Growth, 1986-1989

Thomas W. Bryan, Associate Pastor, 1988-1995, and Senior Pastor 1995-2007

Sandee D. Christoffersen, Associate Pastor for Life and Growth, 1989-1995

Charles Solberg, Interim Senior Pastor, 1994-1995

Ned S. Lenhart, Associate Pastor, 1995-2001

J. David Whelan, Pastoral Assistant, 1995-1996

R. Howard Fehr, Visitation Pastor, 1999-2001, and Associate Pastor, 2001-2005

Natalie Leske, Associate Pastor, 2001-2004

Karen Hofstad, Associate Pastor, 2006-2009

Alice Hamm, Interim Senior Pastor, 2008-2008

Jack Olson, Visitation Pastor, 2008-2011

Nathan Aaseng, Lead Pastor, 2009-2018

Roger Benrud, Interim Associate Pastor, 2010-2010

Curt Rohland, Visitation Pastor, 2011-2014

Julie Brenden, Lead Pastor, 2019-2022

Christine Emerson, Associate Pastor, 2010-2023 and Lead Pastor 2023-Present

Four Interns have served St. John’s

Richard Kittilstad, Intern, 1973-1976

David Sands, Intern, 2005-2006

Kari Burke-Romarheim, Intern, 2006-2006

Mary Eide, Intern, 2007-2008

Six “Sons of the Congregation” have been ordained


1961    September 10-Douglas Soley

1964    May 24-LaMoine Jacobs

1964    July 26-Bryn Carlson

1975    June 15-Wayne Garman

1976    November 28-Richard Kittilstad

1985    June 9-Jeffery Tarras


Julie Long

One member commissioned for missionary work in New Guinea

1965    May 2-Miss Beth Krause

Youth & Education Directors

Susan Nicolai, Gary Polden, Nancy Sawyer, Ruth Lundblad, Gordon J. Pueschner, Sean Whelan, Kristen Haukness, Julie Kahl, Chris Sims, Matthew Svestka

Choir Directors

Jeremy Neff (also organist), Robert Knight, Daniel Newman, Ron Mastin, Janelle Brinkman, Jennifer Kuehl, George Utphall, Paul Gilbertson, Nick Hefty, Roxanne Litchfield-Holey, Mark Lundin, Larry Bauer, and Kathy Tunseth


Oscar Waller, Dr. Shirley Jean Olsen, Jean M. Mundt, Donna Benrud, Linda Ranney

Pre-School Directors

Teri Hanson, Deb Hay, Nancy Hanson, Phyllis Meier