Monday, April 20, 2009

Celebration of St. John School's 125th Anniversary

St John school opened in the year 1884, so the year 2009 is the 125th anniversary. A special anniversary worship service is scheduled for Sunday, July 5, 2009 at 9 a.m. in the Health, Human Performance and Athletic Center on the Concordia campus.

This will be the Fourth of July weekend, so it will be a good time to visit Seward.

Some re-union activities for former students will be organized for the weekend. If I learn anything about those activities, I will pass the information along in this blog.

I just found out about this today, and unfortunately I already have planned two other trips during this year. I think I probably will not be able to come. Maybe I will, though. Where there's a will, there's a way!

Highlights of the school's history are provided at this link (pdf). Some excerpts follow here:

In 1870 the town of Seward was legally incorporated. A small group of German-American Lutherans held its first worship service in the home of C.F. Krooeger. Pastor Karl Theodore Gruber of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Middle Creeek conducted the services. (I lived for a year next to that church in Middle Creek.)

On July 4, 1876, a group of Seward Lutherans met to discuss formally organizing a congregation. In 1877 nine charter members signed the congregation's constitution. In 1878 the congregation was incorporated under Nebraska law. Services were conducted in the County Courthouse and later in a Presbyterian Church.

In 1879 the new church building, located at the corner of Third and Seward Streets, was dedicated. The building measured 24 by 40 feet and 14 feet high.

In 1884 Pastor Friedrich Koenig became the congregation's first pastor. In that same year, the congregation paid $264.15 to build the school building, which was attached to the church. Pastor Koenig taught all 18 students

In 1885, the congregation canceled the insurance on the school building and instead committed the property to God's protection.

In 1886 the congregation voted to conduct one of the services during its annual autumn mission festival in the English language for the "Americans" who would be present. In that same year the congregation joined the Missouri Synod.

In 1892 Herman Martin accepted a call to serve as the first full-time teacher. Enrollment had risen to 51 students. Mr. Martin taught them all in the German language in the mornings and in the English language in the afternoons. The school began charging tuition -- 75 cents a month for one child and $1.25 a month for two children. (Poor families were not charged tuition.)

In 1893 the congregation, which now numbered 145 members, offered the Missouri Synod 20 acres of land and $8,000 if the Synod agreed to build a teachers college in Seward. The Synod agreed.

In 1894 the new college -- called The Evangelical Lutheran School Teachers Seminary -- was dedicated. Classes began under the instruction of Professor George Weller.

In 1901, the elementary school added a second teacher. Enrollment now numbered 90 students.

In 1905 the seminary became a college when the Synod added two years of "Normal school."

In 1906 the elementary school became the "training school" for the teachers college. The elementary school was relocated to the campus, where Schuelke and Streiter Halls stand today.

In 1918 the congregation began conducting some of its church services in the English language.

In 1929 a new elementary school building was constructed at the current location on Columbia Avenue. The cost of the property and building totaled $30,000.

In 1944 the congregation voted to allow its male and female members to sit together and to receive Holy Communion together, instead of separately.

In 1945, most of the services were conducted in English. Every Sunday there were two English services and only one German service.

In 1955 the frequency of German services was reduced to only once on the third Sunday of each month.

In 1956 an addition to the school building was constructed. The addition contained four classrooms, a gymnasium and a lunchroom.

In 1964 six more classrooms were added to the building. Enrollment was about 430.

In 1968 a church was added to the school building.

In 1973 the school added a ninth grade, as Concordia High School was closed.

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