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History of St. John's
Lutheran Church in Sterling
contributed by G Knopp
Prior to the founding of the German Lutheran
Church at Sterling, Germans living in the area likely conducted lay services in their
homes. They were served only occasionally by Lutheran Missionaries and Circuit
Preachers who visited periodically to conduct marriages and baptize the newborns.
Frederick Menke of Tittabawassee (1852-1907) was one
of these missionaries, who conducted several marriages in Sterling from 1885-1887.
Pastor Menke's home church during this time was St. John's Lutheran Church
in Pigeon (Berne), Michigan.
About 1875, a school building was built just
northwest of the center of town. About 1883, it was expanded and additional rooms
were added. By 1888, need for school space was such that a new, larger school was
built. The old school building was acquired for use as the German Lutheran Church.
On September 4, 1887, the first services were
conducted. Caroline Daley, daughter of William Daley and
Anna nee Fahl, became the first child baptized in the
new church. The church was known as Evangelische Lutherische St.
Johannes Kirche, or, in english, St. John's Evangelical Lutheran
Church. Formal incorporation was completed on November 8,
Pews were acquired in a most unusual way.
Each family was to pay $5.00 to have a pew made. Cabinet makers
John Redmond and John Kaschub did the handiwork. When completed,
only the family that paid for it was permitted to use it. These are the same pews
that are in use today in the church.
Early pastors of the church were:
Richard Praetorius (1855-1939), about Sept
1887 to June 1889
Pastor Carl Albert Harrer (abt 1866-?), about
June 1889 to June 1891 *
John Henry Westendorf (1869-1922), about January 1892
to February 1892
Pastor Henry Abelmann (1845-1918), about May 1892 to October 1893
Pastor C. G. Wagner, about January 1894 to March
Frederick C. Vierke (1834-1901), April 1896 to July
Eduard E. Rupp (1878-1959), October 1899 to August
Pastor Adolph J. Clabuesch (1879-1927), November 1902 to
December 1907 *
John Joseph Roekle (1884-1954), July 1908 to October
Pastor Herman John Kionka (1858-1920), November 1910 to May
Pastor Theo C. Gieschen (~1889-?), March 1913 to April 1918
Pastor Alfred F. Maas (1895-1962), June 1918 to June 1920
Pastor Paul G. Naumann, October 1920 to
Pastor Louis G. Meyer, December 1924 to July
About 1920, a new church building, which stands
today, was erected.
One member of the congregation who was baptized
in the church entered the ministry. Carl Heinrich Schmelzer was born in Sterling on January 16,
1895. He was a 1920 graduate of the Evangelical Lutheran Theological Seminary
at Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. He married Bertha Klenk on June 30, 1920.
Early records of the church indicate one member
killed while in military service. Richard Julius Maibouer was born March 14, 1892.
He was killed March 16, 1919 in Germany. Memorial services were
conducted on April 6. His remains were returned in 1920 and buried in the Sterling
Virginia Adams, in her 1976 historical essay:
"History of the Sterling Area, Vol. I", wrote of the German
settlers who founded St. John's Lutheran Church in Sterling in 1887:
"The names of these first members of the
congregation have been preserved down through the years: John Treichel, John Felske,
Peter Fahl, Gottfried Hertzberg,
Gustav Hertzberg, Jacob Klein,
Julius Maibauer, Gottfried Marks,
William Schmelzer, George Streuer,
Christian Sonnenberg, Carl Templin,
William Sinn, Michael Felske,
Erdmann Netzlaff, John Kaschub,
Louis Klein, Immanuel Klenk, and Carl Pehlke."
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