St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
The congregation at Lyons Creek (rural Herington, Ks.) has much for
which to be thankful. Its history is a testimony to the kindness and grace
of God and it remains a vital congregation due to the power of God's Holy
A seminary candidate named F.W.
Lange came to Clark's Creek, near Junction City, in the early 1860's
to begin his ministry. Soon he became a traveling missionary founding preaching
stations at upper Lyons Creek, lower Lyons Creek, upper and lower Mill
Creek and at Diamond Creek. These preaching stations became the first Lutheran
congregations in Kansas. Services at St. John's, Lyons Creek date back
to Sept. 18, 1861.
Work was difficult due to a lack of good roads and railways. In fact,
there were no roads at all. The first missionaries were taken westward
from Leavenworth in ox-drawn wagons. They went long distances to do their
work on horse back or in open wagons.
The early missionaries had to combat many difficulties. Indians, though
not usually hostile, would often come to their homes and beg for food.
Separation from loved ones was also to be endured. The Grangers and Methodists
were busy trying to win over German Lutherans. Worship services were most
generally held in homes or public schoolhouses.
A salary of $180 anually plus a house in which he could live was established
for Rev. Lange. In addition, he was to be given five bushels of corn and
one half sack of flour from every member. However, crop failures, drought,
and the hardships brought about by the Civil War made it difficult for
the settlers to get a start in Kansas. Therefore, after Pastor Lange had
served for two years, he had received not quite one hundred dollars in
cash. The poverty during this time was made evident in a letter written
by Pastor Lange to Rev. M. Meyer in Leavenworth in which he remarked: "It's
easy enough for you to scold; for although you have no surplus of money
either, you can at least scrape up enough to buy a postage stamp. That
I cannot do here, for my people have no money." He was so destitute that
his parents, who lived in Washington, Missouri, provided new clothes for
him. Rev. Meyer, the second missionary to Kansas, also shared a few dollars
with Pastor Lange. Pastor Lange served the congregation for only two years
and in 1863, he accepted a call to serve the new congregation at Humboldt,
In 1863, Rev. C. Berner accepted the call to serve the preaching stations
established by Pastor Lange. He was installed by Pastor Lange on Pentecost
day of the year 1863 and made his home near Council Grove in the Diamond
Creek parish. Pastor Berner took care of all of the stations that had been
established by Pastor Lange, but after two years, it was found advisable
to divide the parish.
The parish was therefore divided in 1865 and Pastor Berner moved to
Upper Mill Creek where he served the stations on Mill Creek and Diamond
Creek. Rev R. Koehler was called and installed on the Seventh Sunday after
Trinity, 1865 to serve the stations on Lyons Creek and Clarks Creek. He
resided at Lyons Creek with Mr. William Ziebell and later occupied a house
owned by Mr. John Poerich. Pastor Koehler served the congregation for two
years and accepted a call to Missouri in 1867.
In 1867, the future of the church was uncertain. The Civil War was
over and many people were experiencing hard times. For two years, the congregation
had no regular Lutheran pastor - many depended on the ministry of a pastor
of the Reformed faith. A visit in 1869 by the Rev. F. J. Buenger, President
the Western District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, gave the people
new hope. In 1869, a call was extended to the Rev.
C.H. Lueker of Cape Giradeau, Mo. He accepted the call and became one
of only seven Lutheran pastors in the state. Pastor Lueker served the church
for 19 years and was also instrumental in establishing preaching stations
at Cottonwood Falls and Elmdale in Chase County. As early as the fall of
1870, he made a long trip up to Mitchell and Lincoln counties to help establish
a congregation on Bullfoot Creek, south of Lincoln Center.
The congregation at Lyons Creek built him a two-room log parsonage.
The parsonage was also used for church services. Due to an increase in
attendance, a new church was built at a cost of about $1000.00. The church
building was dedicated on Jan. 29, 1871, the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany.
Rev. Theobald F. Walther of St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Humboldt, Kansas
was the guest speaker for the dedication service. Two days after the church
dedication, Rev. Walther mysteriously disappeared
on the way back to his home church in Humboldt and was never heard from
The present stone parsonage
was built in 1881 at the cost of $1,300. The rock for the parsonage was
quarried and hauled from a place near the Marion/Dickinson county line.
When it was completed in October of 1881, the two-room log parsonage was
converted into a school.
In 1887, the people of the Shady Brook area (near Woodbine, Ks.) were
given permission to organize a separate congregation and in November of
1888, Pastor Lueker accepted a call to Indiana.
In 1889, the Rev. Otto Mencke received and accepted a call from St.
John's. He was installed on April 2. A new school house, which is the present
one, was built the following year at a cost of $600. In 1891, the congregation
became a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and
other states (later the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod). On August 6, 1899,
the cornerstone of the present
church building was laid and the building was dedicated on December
3, 1899. The cost of the building was $6,000.
In the early 1900's, a number of daughter congregations were founded,
St. Paul's of Ramona in 1904 and St. Paul's of Herington in 1908. The churches
at Okarche, Oklahoma and Tampa, Ks. Also owe their beginning to the mission
efforts of Pastor Mencke. All this mission work did have a stunning effect
on the financial abilities of St. John's, but the congregation continued
to work for the expansion of God's Kingdom.
Pastor Mencke accepted a call to Bremen, Ks. He gave his farewell address
on August 30, 1914 after serving the congregation for more than 25 years.
Pastor Mencke died while in service at the congregation at Bremen.
The next pastor, the Rev. Paul Pennekamp, began his ministry at St.
John's in 1914. Pastor Pennekamp helped organize the Ladies Aid Society
which was established in May of 1918. It joined the Lutheran Women's Missionary
League on December 13, 1957. Mrs. C. A. Hass, a member of St. John's was
instrumental in organizing the LWML in Kansas and was also the first president
of the Kansas LWML.
The Ladies Aid has been a helping hand and a great blessing to St.
John's congregation. Much missionary and charitable work has been accomplished
through their efforts. The members have always been deeply concerned about
the spiritual welfare of the aged and shut-ins. They have been leaders
in making the church look presentable and keeping it in good repair. They
have purchased folding chairs, new altar and pulpit paraments, and have
given generously to the renovation of the parsonage and interior of the
church. They often make quilts and gather clothing for Lutheran World Relief,
the Good Shepherd Mission in Kansas City, and the Haskell Indian students
in Lawrence. The Ladies Aid serves bereaved families and also participates
in bridal and baby showers. The ladies visit nursing homes, entertaining
them with singing and bringing them lunch. The ladies also extend help
to Lutheran Braille work, Lutheran Social Service, and Vacation Bible School.
The records reveal the Society's liberal financial aid for the Kingdom
of God at home and abroad.
After 5 years at St. John's, Rev. Pennekamp accepted a call to Clayton,
St. Louis County, Mo.
The next pastor called was Rev. John H. Rengstorf of Kansas City, Kansas.
He accepted the call and was installed on Jan. 9, 1921. During his pastorate,
Rev. Rengstorf helped effect the separation of the position of pastor and
teacher. After 1922, the work of teacher of the day school was delegated
to someone besides the pastor. Pastor Rengstorf served the congregation
for 9 years. Ludwig Janzow, one of the teachers called by St. John's, served
the congregation from 1933 to 1940.
The next pastor, Rev. George Klattenhoff, began his ministry at St.
John's on May 10, 1931. On August 13, 1933, a pipe organ, costing $1,325,
and a newly decorated church were dedicated. In the autumn of 1933, the
basement of St. John's was excavated, all the work being done by the members
of the church. On August 14, 1952, a tornado completely destroyed the church
steeple. The Jarvis Construction Co. Of Salina rebuilt the steeple. In
1955, the church was again renovated and redecorated. Several items, such
as candelabra, cross, Agenda, pulpit Bible, and flood lights were given
by individual members.
Rev. Klattenhoff accepted a call to Iola, Ks. His farewell sermon was
given on Sept. 30, 1956 after serving the congregation for more than 25
years. The Christian day school was closed in 1957.
The Rev. J. Einar Bach was called from Palmer, Alaska and was installed
on Nov. 17, 1957. Again the property received a "face lifting." This time,
the parsonage kitchen and utility room were added and a new garage and
barn built. In June of 1961, Pastor Bach received and accepted a call to
Clay Center, Ks.
In 1957, the Ladies Aid joined the Lutheran Women's Missionary League
and a Couples Club was organized.
The St. John's Lutheran Laymen's League was organized on March 16,
1959 with 27 members. Their chief purposes were to aid the Lutheran Church
- Missouri Synod in word and deed, to encourage one another to participate
actively in the work of the local congregation, and to help increase in
the members a deeper consciousness of Christian stewardship. Sponsoring
the "Lutheran Hour" and the Lutheran television "This is the Life" has
been an ongoing project of the International Lutheran Laymen's League.
This local group started as a men's organization. During the years of this
men's group, a memorable event of the men frying steaks for their wives
around Valentine's Day comes to mind. Another event was sponsoring the
boy's ball team, involving boys from St. John's and Immanuel, Shady Brook.
In early 1967, the original Couples Club disbanded to merge with the
LLL, thereby welcoming women to attend LLL meetings. Through the years,
the group has served the congregation in various ways: buying flag stands
for the front of the church, the lighted church sign outside in the front
of the church, gifts of money for the redecorating of the church basement
and sanctuary, and membership in the audio visual library. International
and District LLL scholarships and college grants have been supported, as
well as the Lutheran Hour program and special children's programs on television.
A booth at the Tri-County Fair in Herington has been the most recent project
for the group.
St. John's was without a pastor for four years following the departure
of Rev. Bach. In 1965, a call was extended and accepted by the Rev. R.D.
Baerwolf to serve the dual parish of St. John's and Trinity Lutheran Church,
Ramona, Ks. He was installed on July 28, 1965.
In October of 1965, St. John's Altar Guild was organized with 11 members,
5 of whom are still active in the group. The guild prepares the church,
especially the chancel, for worship. It also keeps the vestments of the
pastor and organist clean and in good repair.
The basement was renovated and remodeled in 1967 and 1968.
St. John's has had a Young People's Society for many years. On March
28, 1936, this group became affiliated with the Synod's Walther League.
In 1979, the group became affiliated with the Synod's latest youth fellowship,
namely, the Lutheran Youth Fellowship (or LYF). The LYF holds meetings
each month. Some of their annual activities include: an ice cream social,
Christmas Caroling, Thanksgiving baskets for the elderly and shut-ins,
Easter breakfast and distribution of Wheat Ridge seals. The main purpose
of the organization is to provide Christian fellowship and activities for
the confirmed young people of the congregation.
Pastors who have served
St. John's after becoming a dual parish in 1965 are as follows:
Rev. R. D. Baerwolf................1965-1972
Rev. George Kristik................1972-1974
Rev. Joe Jones.....................1975-1978
Rev. Dale Werling..................1980-1983
Rev. Tony Troup....................1984-1989
Rev. Allen Wolzlein................1990-
Rev. John Riebhoff.................Current
In 1984, a preschool was organized by Mrs. Cindy Troup. Meeting in
the church basement, enrollment has been anywhere between 6 and 12.
In 1986, St. John's again received a "face lifting." Pew cushions and
ceiling fans were donated by individual members, new carpet was installed
and the exterior of the church painted.
We don't know what lies before us, but remembering God's blessings
of the past and recalling his promise to love us and leave us never, certainly,
"He who began a good work in us will perfect it until the day of Christ
Jesus." Lord Jesus, come quickly!
SOLI DEO GLORIA!!
(Sources: History from St. John's 100th and 125th Anniversary celebrations.)
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