St. John's Church, Cappeln, MO


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A Narrative History follows the Historical Time Line



Sermons delivered by circuit pastor (Herman Garlichs of Femme Osage) at homes of early settlers in what was soon to become Cappeln, MO.


40 acre plot of land donated to begin the St. John's congregation by Johann H. Borgelt. Log church built near present site of school house. Also platt of the cemetery laid out.


Serious cholera epidemic in this area, resulting in a number of unmarked graves in the cemetery.


Our church served on the circuit by Casper Bode, pastor at Femme Osage.


Official charter as a church: St. Johannes Evangelical Gemeinde. Our first resident pastor was called, Rev. S. Seybold.


Years of construction of our present stone church. Delayed because of the Civil War.


School built for Christian education in the German language, dedicated 10 Oct 1875


Steeple spire and bell added to the front of the church


Frauen Versin (Women's Fellowship) founded.


Jugenverein (Youth Group) founded


Present church parsonage constructed.


First Sunday School classes in English


One English service offered each month.


Merger of the German Evangelical and the Reformed churches in America.


Fellowship dining hall built for a cost of $950. Dedicated 29 Nov 1939


Anniversary celebrating the 100th year of the building of the original log church, held on 26 May 1940


St. John's is yoked with Frieden's, New Melle as a two point parish.


First telephone installed at church parsonage.


The Evangelical and Reformed Church joined the Congregational Christian to form our present denomination, the United Church of Christ.


Parsonage extensively renovated by volunteer help from the congregation.


Stained glass windows added to the sanctuary for the Palm Sunday service, 15 Apr 1962


Celebration of the 100th anniversary of the beginning of our stone church's construction, 27 Oct 1963


"All pew" observance of Holy Communion became the regular style of celebrating the Lord's Supper


St. John's votes to donate the offering from the second Sunday of each month to the Missouri Conference for our United Church of Christ work known as Our Church World Mission, a practice that still represents part of our wider commitment to Christ's church.


Our present constitution was adopted and we changed our name officially to St. John's United Church of Christ.


"City" water comes to St. John's as the first lines were installed to bring the New Melle water system to our church.


Hulda Webbink honored for forty years as organist.


Theodore and Erna Brakensiek honored for fifty-one years as church custodians.


Church Newletter begun, now known as "The Glad Tidings"


New restrooms added to the church hall.


The first woman in our history is elected to the Church Council, Donna Brakensiek. The beginning of a 20 year service as church treasurer.


Church cemetery stones repaired and straightened.


East and west rooms added to the vestibule of the church.


First woman in our history elected to the office of congregational president, Mabel Schmidt.


St. John's celebrated its 125th anniversary of its official charter date of 1857 with an event known as Die Ste. Geburtstag (the 125th Birthday).


Church roadside sign erected, on property donated by Theodore and Erna Brakensiek and Harwin and Elsie Beier.


St. John's Congregation welcome a group of 14 visitors from Westerkappeln, Germany. Heritage service in English and German held on Oct 18th.


Pastor Rev. Jones starts serving only one church after pastoring Frieden's and St. John's for 20 years. The Yoke between Frieden's and St. John's is removed.


Carillon (Chimes) installed and handbells purchased in memory of Herman and Lydia Freese, by their children.


Old storage shed, south of church removed. New large storage building constructed north of Picnic grounds.


New hard wood floor installed in historic school house on church grounds.


In February, Rev. Devin Jones changes from part time to full time Pastor.


St. John's celebrated the 25th year of Rev. Devin Jones as our pastor, May 17th


First church website installed.


July 11th newly installed air conditioning used for first worship.




Narrative History

The earliest beginnings of the history of St. John's Church dates back to the late 1830's when several waves of German immigrants arrived in the Missouri River Valley with the hope of settling family farms and finding a new way of life in a land said to be rich in natural resources. One of the most cherished possessions these settlers brought to their new home was their religious faith. . . the Deutsch-evangelische (German Evangelical) faith. The earliest founding of one of these German Evangelical churches was near by Femme Osage, about 1833.

About the year 1835 several families in and around what later became known as Cappeln, MO, secured the services of the Femme Osage pastor, Herman Garlichs to come to this neighborhood as a "circuit" pastor and occasionally hold church services. For some years services were held in the Schultz family home about four miles west of the present site of the church. Then in early 1839 a forty acre plot of land was given to the St. Johannes Gemeinde" (St. John's Congregation) by the Borgelt family. This is the same site that has remained in the hands of the congregation for some 140 years. It was on this location in 1840 that the first church structure was built. It was a log building situated just east of the present school house, there it stood and was used as the worship sanctuary and Christian eduction building until it was replaced by the present stone church in 1865.

Also during those early years of the 1840's the tract that has now become our cemetery was laid out. One of the earliest marked graves is that of E. Meiersiek, 1845. In 1852 a serious cholera epidemic swept through this community, claiming many lives. The open southern edge of the cemetery, bordering on the road between the parsonage yard, is actually the site of a number of unmarked graves, victim of cholera.

The church continued to be served as part of the circuit by the pastors from Femme Osage. Beginning in 1845, we were served by the German pastor Casper Bode, until 1857. In that year the church was in a position to adopt an official charter and call its first pastor. Thus in 1857 we became the "St. Johannes Deutsch-evangelische Kirche" (St. John's German Evangelical Church) and the congregation called its first resident pastor, Rev. S. Seybold, who resided in the first "Pfahrrhasu" (parsonage) that sat about 50 feet south of the present one.

Construction on the present church, in which we now worship, was begun in 1863. The building material chosen was local, Missouri limestone, quarried near Marthasville, Mo.

Above the entry to the sanctuary one can still plainly read the dedication stone, "Deutsch-evangelische St. Johannes Kirche, 1863". The stone was made ahead of time. Even though construction was delayed, the date was left intact.

Sometime in 1875, it became apparent that a special building was needed for Christian education and the study of the German language. Thus our present school house was built and has remained much the same today. The official dedication date is listed in the church records as 10 Oct 1875. The school house served for many years as the place in which pastors conducted "German School" and Catechism studies (also in German). This language education was such an important part of German heritage in the Cappeln/New Melle area that children were dismissed from public school at certain times of the year to attend parochial classes here.

Through the years our school house has been used as a meeting room for our youth groups and the Women's Fellowship. It has been the site of many "quilting" days and in recent times it has been used for Sunday School classes. It is not fully restored to its old style with many original items and serves as our church museum . . . a tribute to the devotion and faith of our ancestors.

As the years have unfolded in our congregation, much care and concern has always surrounded our church building. In 1890, a steeple, bell and vestibule added to the entry way, giving a place out of the weather to gather and bringing to the tiny valley the sound of the church bell, so much a means of communication in the early years. The present steeple and bell are original, even the crowing weather vain is as it was near the turn of the century. The vestibule was enlarged with side rooms by members of the congregation in 1978, providing much needed space.

The Rev. Johann Stroetker served St. John's from 1899 to 1918. His tenure of 19 years is the second longest pastorate in our church history. Rev. Stroetker had a family of eight children that eventually outgrew the one story parsonage. About 1906 the present parsonage was built and its first occupants were the Stroetker family.

In the winter of 1960-61 extensive remodeling was undertaken to make the parsonage more "modern" on the inside and considerably more energy efficient. At the same time, the front picture window was added as well as the attached garage.

The coming of the 20th century brought an increased awareness of the needs of others in the world outside of small community. It was only natural then that two service organization were formed in our church which still exist today. The "Frauen Verein" (our Women's Fellowship) and the "Jugenverein" (our present day Youth Fellowship) encouraged social activities in the spirit of Christian friendship and volunteered their services for charitable work in such location at the Emmaus Home for the retarded near Marthasville and even some of the church related hospitals and institutions in the city of St. Louis. Our Youth Fellowship, to some extent, and our Women's Fellowship, on a fairly large scale, still continue this fine Christian mission of being of help to others.

This increased awareness of the ever-widening understanding of the world in the 20th century finally brought about the use of the English language in the official activities of St. John's, Cappeln. In 1927, Sunday School classes were taught for the first time in English. Then in 1932 one "English" church service per month was begun. Gradually English became the "language" at church until sometime in the 1940's when only one German service was offered each month.

The year 1936 marked the first of two major name changes that our church experienced. Two years previous, our German Evangelical denomination had officially joined the Dutch Reformed Church of America, thus forming the denomination known as the Evangelical and Reformed Church. This "official" name required two years of thought and deliberation on our local scene . . . but at last we became known officially as St. John's Evangelical and Reformed (E & R) church.

In 1957, our E & R Denomination merged with the Congregational Christian Churches of America, thus forming the present name of our national church, the United Church of Christ. So once again we were faced with the task of establishing a new identity. It was not until 1967 that we "officially" adopted the new denominational name, St. John's United Church of Christ.

In 1939-40 , our present church fellowship-dining hall was constructed. The major funding for this project, at a cost of $950., was provided by our loyal Women's Fellowship, known in those days as our "Ladies Aid". At that same time, the spring of 1940, our church celebrated the 10th anniversary of the building of the original log church Tradition has it hat the small cross above the south wall of the church is made of wood from the first church.

A monumental step in the scope and depth of the pastoral leadership at St. John's was taken in 1945. At the request of our neighbor church, Frieden's (peace) in New Melle, conversations were begun about the feasibility of becoming a "yoked" parish. The concept was that the smaller Frieden's congregation would be able to have a greater quality of pastoral leadership if they were able to share the expense with the large St. John's church. In that same year, both churches agreed to the idea and we became the yoked parish of St. John's and Frieden's, calling as our first "joint" pastor the Rev. Robert H. Froeschner. This sisterhood as a joined parish, continued until 1992 . . . quite harmoniously.

Another monumental celebration in the life of our congregation was the observance of the 100th anniversary of the construction of our present house of worship. Although it was commonly known that the church was actually completed in 1865, the "sentimental" date (as shown on the dedication stone) was 1863. Thus in preparation of this celebration our church was painstakingly refurbished. Hardwood flooring was installed in 1957, the interior was replastered and repainted and a mural "Jesus the Good Shepherd" was added in early 1962. True stained glass windows, with religious emblems, were purchased and installed just in time for Palm Sunday, 15 Apr 1962. Finally 27 Oct 1963, St. John's observed its 100th anniversary of the stone church building. Under the pastorate of Rev. Edwin Winnecke, the sermon at the morning worship service was offered by our former pastor, Rev. Robert Froeschner, and the sermon at the afternoon service was given by yet another former pastor, Rev. Robert Fricke.

Throughout these years of ministry and service, our church has always held a high regard for the work of Christ's Church in the world, knowing that in our small way, though benevolence, we can be a part of that ministry. St. John's has always striven to participate lovingly in the mission work of our denomination, thus in 1966 the congregation voted to designate the church offerings from the second Sunday of each month as our gift to "Our Church World Mission" (O.C.W.M.) . . .a decision we have honored ever since.

The 125th anniversary of the founding of "St. Johannes Deutsch-evangelische Kirche" (now known as St. John's United Church of Christ) was celebrated in 1982. Our 125th "Geburtstag" (birthday) was held on Sunday, September 26th, in the church with a two part worship celebration. The sermon at the morning service was delivered by the head minister of our Missouri Conference, United Church of Christ, the Rev. Dr. Rueben P. Koehler. Highlighting the morning service was the celebration of holy communion, led by Dr. Koehler in the German language. The Afternoon service had as the guest minister, Rev. Paul J. Bode, grandson of the Rev Casper Bode of Femme Osage (one of our first circuit pastors).

A new church sign and marquee were erected near Highway D to indicate the entrance to St. John's congregation was host to a group of 14 visitors from Westerkappeln, Germany. The group was housed in the homes of various members of St. John's church. They were provided a history tour of the local area and a day trip to the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, MO. A heritage service was conducted in English and German as part of St. John's worship on Oct. 18, 1992 followed by a fellowship reception for the visitors, their host families and the congregation.

The congregation and Pastor Jones worked out plans that enabled him to serve St. John's as its own pastor, not yoked. This was a position in the ministry of St. John's that had not been in place since the late 1930's.

A carillon system (clock and hymn chimes) was installed in 1993 in the steeple of the church. This was a gift given in memory of Herman and Lydia Freese by their children Mabel Busdieker and Raymond Freese and their families. A secondary part of this donation was a two octave set of hand bells for St. John's ministry of music.

Among the structural changes on the church grounds were the removal of the older storage shed south of the church and the construction of a new storage building to the north of the picnic grounds, done in 1996. In that same year, a new hardwood floor was installed in the school house to replace the old one that had shown signs of semi collapse.

In February, Rev. Jones began serving St. John's as its full time pastor. This was a significant event, since St. John's had not been served thus since 1938. Following 1938 St. John's had been served either by bi-vocational pastors or as part of a yoked parish.

1997 was also a year of celebration for the congregation and Rev. Jones and wife Marilyn. May 27, 1997 marked the 25th year of Devin Jones as St. John's Pastor. A surprise worship and dinner was given Pastor Jones and Marilyn with many guests and gifts. The keynote speaker was Rev. E. Gayle Engel, Conference Minister of the Missouri Conference. Rev. Jones' 25 year pastorate is the longest in St. John's history.

The happenings and history of St. John's Church became better known and appreciated in 1998 by the installation of St. John's own website on the Internet. Through the work of Raymond Freese, Ruth Busdieker, and Pastor Jones, history, photos, genealogy, and current events were made available to all who would connect to the church website. St. John's site was also added as a link to the website for the city of Westerkappeln, Germany.

A first occurred in the summer of 1998 with the installation of central air conditioning in the church. The first worship service in the air conditioned St. John's church was held on July 11, 1998.


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