St. John Lutheran Church, Bauer, Michigan


Early Photo, 1882-1964 *******************  1950 Photo of Church

Church Built in 1964

History of St. John Lutheran Church
Corner of 48th Avenue and Fillmore Street
Ottawa County, Michigan

100 Years of Mercy – 1875-1975

Why did so many of our ancestors leave their homes in Germany and came to this country in the middle 1800’s?

One reason, the Peace Conference at Vienna in 1814-1815, after Napoleon’s defeat, resulted in an uneasy peace and a divided Germany. Young men fearing further wars came to the U. S. seeking freedom.

Another reason, Frederick William III, king of Prussia, proclaimed a union of Lutheran and Reformed churches in 1817 known as "The Prussian Union". Many Lutherans resisted this union but pressure from the king in 1821 and more forcefully in 1830. This prompted many Lutherans to leave to enjoy religious freedom

It took between six to thirteen weeks by sailboat to reach America. Travelers had to provide their own food for the journey. They left their homes, their churches, and many left close family behind.

When our founding fathers came to Allendale and Blendon Townships, the land was covered with heavy, virgin forests. The work was difficult to prepare the land for farming. The nearest trading post was Grandville or Grand Rapids. Katarina Boesch Behrens frequently walked to Grand Rapids to sell the butter she churned. She carried it in yoke over her shoulders.

The one thing they missed most, however, was their Lutheran Church. They longed to experience the fellowship of Christian people worshiping together.

The Lutheran Congregations affiliated with the Missouri Synod had been established in Grand Haven and Conklin. They met together and discussed the possibility of establishing a Lutheran church here. Alber Voelker and his wife, Fredericke Gahn Voelker lived on 56th Avenue in what was later known as the Fred and John Tambke place. It was a large frame house. The Voelkers invited Pastor Spindler from Grand Haven to come to their home and conduct a service. The friends and neighbors were invited to come an worship also. When more people came to attend worship than could be comfortably accommodated in private homes they rented the Blendon School.

Maria Brandt walked from her home on 42nd Avenue to Blendon School for Confirmation instruction. Wilhlemine Eikelberg Maas walked from her home on 66th Avenue to the Blendon School, and later about five miles to the church on 48th Avenue and Fillmore Street. This was in 1871.

By 1875 the congregation had grown and they decided to become affiliated with the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. A constitution was adopted and then accepted by the Michigan District of the Luther Church – Missouri Synod. This marked the formal organization of St. John Lutheran Church.

Church records from 1871 to 1875 list the following members:

Jacob and Elisabeth Bachmann
Claus and Katharina (Boesch) Behrens
Conrad & Maria Bing
Margaretha Bing
Johann and Barbara Bohl
Johann and Maria (Schmidt) Brandt
Johanna Crull
Ernest and Dorothea Eikelberg
Carl and Maria Ehlers
Ludwig and Caroline Guetshorr
Katharina Hermann
Theodor Holland
Otto Kolberg
Mr. and Mrs. Lauterbach
August and Louise Lemke
Emma Kemke (Lemke?)
Friedrick and Wilhelmine Maas
F. W. and Bernike Meyer
Edward and Wilhelmine Meyer
Nicolaus and Elisabeth Orf
Simon Orf
Johann Orf
Johann and Sophie Otto
Wilhelm and Fredericka Otto
Mr. and Mrs. Reimer
Wilhelm and Dorothea (Schmidt) Schilling
Maria Schilling
Friederick and Dorothea Schmidt
Claus and Metta (Boesch) Tambke
Claus Tambke
Anna Tambke
Johann and Elisabeth (Schmidt) Topp
Amanda Topp
Albert and Fredericka Voelker
Augusta Voelker
H. Wagner


After meeting in peoples homes the services were held in the Blendon School. On Christmas Day, 1881, the congregation adopted plans for their first church building. It was 28 feet wide, 50 feet long and 20 feet high. In December, 1882 it was dedicated.

A tower was also added to the building. The building committee consisted of Andreas Reuster, Wilhelm Schilling, Claus Behrens and Johann Otto.

In 1902 land was obtained across the street from the church on the south east corner of 48th Avenue and Fillmore Street. A parsonage was built there. It served as the pastor’s residence for about seventy years.

In 1937 the church building was raised and a basement added for the teaching of the children of the congregation. About this time electricity was brought into the church building and the interior of the church was renovated.

There were many new members of the congregation and more space was needed. Permission from the heirs of the Bing family to purchase additional land adjacent to the church building was denied. The congregation then purchased four acres of land from Norman Wagner on the northeast corner of 48th and Fillmore.

Plans for a new educational building were drawn up and on Pentecost, 1959, ground-breaking ceremonies took place under the supervision of the Building Committee: Chairman, Kenneth Hansen, John Brandt, Harvey Gerlach, Charles Snyder, Sr., and Donald Sheridan. After a year and a half the education building was dedicated on 22 January 1961. Services were held in the new structure, only on a temporary basis, until the necessary funds could be raised to build a new church. The new church building was designed and constructed by our own church members under the supervision of Chairman Kenneth Hansen, Arthur Schmidt, Herman Abel, Alvis Torno and John Brandt.

The member of St. John Lutheran Church with Rev. William Weber as pastor, dedicated their new church building on Pentecost, 17 May 1964.

In the Spring of 1971 the congregation received a bequest from the estate of George and Matilda Reister, life-long members of St. John. The bequest was the beginning of a fund to build a new parsonage which was built and dedicated on 14 May 1972. The building committee was composed of Forrest Scott, Chariman, Wallace Blair, William Carlon, Russell Heiss, Herbert Reister, John Rickert, Harold Schilling, and Garry Scholten.

The first pastor to serve the congregation was Rev. F. W. Spindler, pastor at Grand Haven, from 1871 – 1875.

After the formal organization, Rev. H. Brauer became the pastor. He was also the pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Agnew – located near Pigeon River - 1875-1883.

In 1883 Rev. W. Burmester became the pastor at Grand Haven and served the Blendon congregation as well. He would travel to Jenison by train and be met by members of the congregation. Her served from 1883 to 1891.

Grand Haven congregation then called the Rev. E. A. Brueggeman as pastor and he served the Blendon congregation until 1893.

A retired pastor from Grand Rapids, Rev. C. Schwankowsky became the next pastor. As there was no bridge over the Grand River on M-50 (now M-45), Rev. Schwankowsky had to travel by way of Jenison on the Interurban. He served until 1899.

Then Pastor M. Toewe from Grand Haven became the pastor serving until 1902.

After being minister by pastors of other congregations for more than thirty years, St. John’s members made plans to have its own pastor. In 1902 a parsonage was completed and the Rev. C. Guschke became our first resident pastor. He also taught in the church school. He was pastor until 1904.

From 1904 to 1907 the Rev. S. L. Broecker was the pastor.

From 1907 to 1909 the congregation was without a pastor.

In 1909 Rev. C. Huth accepted the call to St. John’s. He also served a congregation at Robinson which became a part of the Blendon parish in 1916. His daughter, Mrs. Ruth Lowing, was the organist for both congregations. He served faithfully for 19 years and died 19 December 1928. The congregation felt a deep personal loss at his death.

In 1929 Rev. O. Riedel accepted the call to the Blendon Robinson Parish. The congregation at Agnew was also added to the parish during that year. He served until 1933.

Rev. R. Mohrhardt served as pastor from 1933 to 1937.

Rev. Edward Ruhlig accepted the call to the Blendon-Robinson-Agnew Parish in 1938 and served until 1941.

The Rev. Karl Trautmann was installed as pastor in 1942 and served through the difficult WWII years leaving in 1945.

Rev. Roland Rauber accepted the call in 1946. In 1947 the Agnew congregation became part of the Holland parish. Pastor Rauber served the dual parish of Blendon-Robinson until 1954.

During the long vacancy that followed Pastor Rauber’s leaving, the Rev. Leland Hoyer, Institutional Chaplain in Grand Rapids served the congregation.

In 1956 the congregation called Rev. William Weber and her accepted it. He served the parish until December, 1964 when he retired from active ministry.

In November, 1964, the congregation resolved to withdraw from the dual parish with the Robinson congregation. The Rev. Luther O. Dau, our next pastor was the first to serve only St. John’s, Blendon.. Rev. Dau became part-time Lutheran campus pastor at Grand Valley State College. He served the congregation until June, 1967.

The Rev. Ronald Lehenbauer was installed as pastor on 21 July 1968 and served until 3 December 1972.

On June 24, 1973 the Rev. Walter W. Roberts of South Portland, Maine was installed as pastor and continues as pastor as we observed our church’s centennial.

The Sunday School as we know it today was organized in 1935 by Pastor Mohrhardt.

Sunday School Superintendents:

Pastor Mohrhardt – 1935-1938
Ervin Debois – 1938 – until his death on 7 December 1941
Arnold Reister – 1941-1954
Clarence Reister – 1955-1963
Gordon Neuman – 1964-1967
William L. Kennedy – 1968-1969
Robert Sheridan – 1970-1973
Vernon Reister – 1973-

Transcriber: ES
Created: 27 January 2007