Our Story - Part 1: 1837-1873

The Lutheran Church of St. John was established as the first German Protestant Church of Quincy. For some years prior to 1837 a small flock of German Protestants assembled regularly on Sunday afternoons in a building on Fifth between Maine and Jersey Streets, where a Pastor Hunholz would preach to them. This small flock was undecided about the exact type of church they wanted.

In spring 1837, under the leadership of Pastor John Gumpel, the group drafted and adopted a constitution and became known as "The German Evangelical-Protestant Congregation and the United Lutheran and Reformed Confessions". This little group went forth with much enthusiasm.  In fact, civic leaders John Wood and Archibald Williams donated three lots on South Seventh Street between York and Kentucky so that this group might immediately erect their own house of worship.  In 1838 this goal was realized by the completion of the so-called "Hill Church". It was a frame structure, 30 feet by 55 feet, built about thirty steps above the street level.  Construction cost was $1,600. At this time, the church had a membership of 102 genuinely German names.

One of the biggest difficulties in establishing this congregation was the rapid succession of clergy who served the small flock.  Pastors came and went in rapid succession during the first eighteen years of the Congregation’s history. Pastor Carl Daubert came in 1840 and served for three years.  He was succeeded by Pastor Drude from Germany, who only preached a short time because of health reasons. Next came Pastor William Bauermeister, who served until 1845. On April 5, 1845, Pastor Christopher Jung came to serve the Protestant congregation.  During his pastorate, internal dissensions concerning Scriptural doctrines arose. One group accused the other of teaching false doctrine. This caused a schism; Pastor Jung and his adherents seceded in 1848 and established an opposition congregation (presently known as Salem United Church of Christ). Such a division proved to be a severe blow for the little band of faithful Lutherans and, to make conditions more precarious, they were now without the guidance of a Lutheran pastor.

The next seven years are about the saddest chapters in the history of St. John’s.  During the years 1848-1855 the church was served by Reverends Reiss, Burmeier, Harding, Vollmer, Kuhl, Geitz, and Harkey, though none confessed and practiced an adherence to the Lutheran Confessions.  One bright moment during these years was the fact on December 26, 1848, the congregation discarded its former name and adopted the name "The Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. John, U.A.C." (The initials "U.A.C." stands for "Unaltered Augsburg Confession of 1530;" numerous congregations have these initials carved into their cornerstones to indicate that they subscribe to the original Augsburg Confession and not to its later revisions).  Soon after, the congregation acquired its incorporation permit.

On May 16, 1855 Reverend Christian Popp began his tenure as Pastor of the Lutheran Church of St. John.  Pastor Popp was a hard working pastor who insisted on sound Biblical teachings.  The congregation experienced real inward growth in Christian knowledge and love and outward growth by adding many people to her membership.  During this time a new constitution was drafted and adopted.  The first school building was erected with Pastor Popp serving as the teacher.

During this time the congregation was a member of the General Synod of 1820, which was the first joint body of smaller American Lutheran groups (i.e. the Pennsylvania Synod, the Ohio Synod, the Tennessee Synod).  The General Synod had a liberal reputation.  No mention of the Bible or Lutheran Confession could be found in the General Synod’s constitution, and its leadership maintained a lax Confessional base.  It is not known how St. John became a member of this church body.  In 1861, however, Missouri Synod Leader Dr. C. F. W. Walther heard about this group of Lutherans and through Dr. Walther, the congregation secured Reverend William Baumstark, a graduate of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, who served as pastor during 1861-1863.

Reverend Jacob Seidel was the next pastor to serve at St. John’s.  It was during Pastor Seidel’s tenure that the congregation affiliated with the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.  Since the congregation was now prospering, it became necessary for the pastor to devote his time to pastoral duties and not to school teaching duties.  In 1864 Mr. G.A. Wiesel was called to teach in the school.  Thirty-six (36) pupils were enrolled in 1864, and additional help was needed.  In 1866 Mr. H. Steuber was called to take charge of a second room.  Soon the old "Hill Church" proved inadequate.  In 1868 the first church was razed, the ground was cut to a lower level, and the church and parsonage were built in spite of “war-time” prices.  This new church was 92 feet long, 43 feet wide, and 29 feet high. Originally the tower was 175 feet in height. The cost of these buildings was $20,000.