St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church

F.W. Lange

In 1860, a Lutheran Pastor Fritze from Fort Wayne, Indiana visited his widowed sister-in-law, Mrs. Hegwer, who lived on Diamond Creek near Council Grove, Kansas. The Lutheran settlers there pleaded with Pastor Fritze to provide a Lutheran pastor for them. Pastor Fritze learned that there were also Lutheran settlements on Lyons Creek, Clarks Creek, and other German settlers in what is now Wabaunsee County. Upon his return to Fort Wayne, Pastor Fritze visited Pastor Wyneken, the President of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and presented his request for a pastor for the Lutheran settlers in Kansas. There were three candidates in the class of 1861 in the Practical Seminary at Fort Wayne, the last year of its location there, H. Grupe, H. Evers, and F.W. Lange. F.W. Lange received the call as a missionary to Kansas. Since the Civil War was now in progress, it would have been dangerous for candidate Lange to travel to the West by way of St. Louis, so candidate Lange travelled from Fort Wayne to Chicago and from there to Iowa City, Iowa, the end of the railroad at that time. Here he met Pastor Henry Lossner, a Lutheran Pastor and Missionary, who procured a "spring wagon" and a horse. Upon loading the few belongings of candidate Lange into the bed of the buggy, the two then set out for their distant destination in Kansas. They travelled by way of Council Bluffs, Nebraska City, Topeka, and Council Grove and arrived at Clarks Creek, seven miles southeast of Junction City, on the evening of August 13, 1861 where they were cheerfully received into the log cabin home of Mr. Christian F. Wetzel. The trip had taken three weeks and as Pastor Lange later recalled, "During this time we were under God's open sky day and night; we bought bread, as we needed it, from the settlers, and we cooked coffee wherever we happened to be."
F.W. Lange delivered his first sermon in Kansas in the home of Mr. Wetzel on August 17, 1861 on the text from John 3:16. Present at this service were Mr. and Mrs. Wetzel and children, Mr. and Mrs. Bonin, a family by the name of Salchow, a few single persons, and a family from Davis Creek. The next day, candidate Lange made the trip to a brother in law of Mr. Wetzel, a farmer living on Lower Lyons Creek. He then travelled to Upper Lyons Creek, Diamond Creek, Upper Mill Creek (now Templin, KS), Lower Mill Creek (now Alma, KS), and finally returned to Clarks Creek. These six locations became mission- stations and formed one parish. Later, a seventh station at Skiddy (now White City, KS) was added. Meetings were held at the various stations as occasion offered and each station was represented by one delegate. The first meeting was held at the home of Mr. Wetzel, on September 1, 1861, three weeks after Pastor Lange's arrival. At this meeting, the delegates handed their pastor the formal call, which bore the following signatures: C.F. Wetzel of Clarks Creek, Poerich of Lyon's Creek, Fink of Diamond Creek, Lehmberg of Upper Mill Creek, and Hannkammer of Lower Mill Creek.