St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church, Champaign, Illinois
Church Book A: 1860-1875 Background
copyright © 1996 by Edwin C. Friedrich
3105 Beacon Bay Place
Davis, California 95616-2701
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church was the first German church in Champaign County, Illinois. It was organized in 1855 only one year after the first Illinois Central train came to town. The first church building was built in 1858 on the corner of Columbia and Randolph Streets when Champaign was still called West Urbana, and was used by the congregation until 1880 when they moved to their second building at Fourth Street and University Avenue.
During the first five years of its existence the congregation did not have a regular pastor, but was served on an irregular basis by Rev. C. A. Th. Selle of Crete, Ill. and various Lutheran ministers from Chicago. The earliest records of St. John's which still exist, and which were filmed by the Champaign County Historical Archives in 1989 (Roll 20), are contained in St. John's Book A. These date from 1860 with the arrival of Rev. G. M. Zucker.
Both Rev. Zucker and his successor Rev. C. F. Th. Mertens, who served the church during the difficult Civil War years of 1861 to 1866, made their entries in the church book in the difficult to read old-style German script. Their successors Rev. Th. Buszin, who remained until 1868, and Rev. H.F.C. Grupe, who stayed until 1875 and closed out Church Book A, although still writing in German, mostly wrote using quite readable English-style script.
According to existing records, the charter members of the church were: Friedrich Beisser, Karl Schubert, Christian Liermann, Charles Fleck, Heinrich Schnuecke (my Great Grandfather), F. H. Lange, Fritz Schreiber, J. H. Lange, F.W. Muenning, John Doss, Christopher Dust, John Nicklaus, F. Meier, William Froehlke, Friedrich Bollmann, August Krueger, George Krueger, Carl Kruse, Johann Possendorf, H.F. Lange, William Eichhorst, John Demlow and J. Trabert. Some of the earliest deacons of the church were reported to be; John Krueger, Karl Fleck, Friedrich Schweizer, George Ihle and William Augustin. Trustees of the church who were listed on city election certifications for 1865 to 1872 for the church were: Henry Schnuecke, Frank Henry Lange, Karl Peters, Friedrich Beisser, Charles Fleck, John Nicolas , Friedrich Bollmann, and Gottfried Kreuger.
The St. John's church records listed in book A are given in the order: Baptisms, Confirmations, Communicants, Marriages, and Burials. In the tabulations which follow, the lists of communicants are not included because they have little value to the family historian except for possibly showing when an individual first started attending or stopped attending the church.
Besides the data shown in the tabulations, the original church records also give: the dates and the names of godparents for baptisms, the dates and the names of a few fathers for confirmations, a few parents names for marriages, and the dates and some additional causes of death and information concerning survivors for burials. It is strongly advised that family researchers not just rely on the present tabulations for data but also check the microfilm of the original records for accuracy and completeness.
It should finally be noted that the same microfilm roll containing the Book A records of St. John's Lutheran church also contains the church's Books B,C and D records which continue through 1988. These records are in general quite legible and fairly easy to read. The microfilm also contains the 1874 to 1927 records of the Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hensley Township, Champaign County, Illinois. An alphabetical tabulation of these was published by the present writer in the Volume 13, No. 3, Winter 1992 issue of Champaign County Genealogical Society Quarterly.