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A Short Historical Sketch of St. John's Ev. Lutheran Church

It was on February 3, 1906, that a group of people met at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Matt A. Mattson to organize St. John's Ev. Lutheran Church. It was the unanimous decision of the group to organize and an application was made to also affiliate with the Suomi Synod. The first officers were: Matt A. Mattson, chairman; Thomas Ranta, vice-chairman; John Maki, secretary; Matt Mattson-Kleimola, financial secretary; and Thomas Finnila, treasurer. Trustees: Victor Luoma, John Mattson, John Maki, Matt Mattson-Kleimola, Victor Willami, and Thomas Finnila.

Two weeks later at the February 17 meeting it was decided to build a church for the newly organized congregation, first gathering finances for the building fund. The actual building was started in the early summer of 1907. There was a small independent Finnish Lutheran congregation of ten members which had building lots at the present site of St. John's Church, but on which there was an indebtedness. On March 28, 1907, members of both congregations met to discuss possibilities of merging. This was possible and so respective meetings were called for April 16, 1907, to vote and legalize the merger, which was accomplished without a dissenting vote. St. John's Church agreed to absorb the indebtedness on the lots, which were duly transferred to St. John's together with the 10 members of the independent congregation. On May 26, 1907, the size and type of church building was decided upon and builders named. Mr. Isaac Hakola of Newberry, father of Mrs. O. A. Koski, was asked to be the builder, but he could not accept at the time, so Mr. Victor Vainio became the builder. The original unit in the form of a cross was completed in 1908 with dedication services held on July 5, 1908, Dr. J. K. Nikander of Hancock, officiating, assisted by Pastor Jacob Mantta of St. John's. 200 wooden folding chairs were purchased at a cost of $100 for the first church seats. These were used until 1922, when the folding theatre chairs were installed. The sacristy was built in 1928, the two-manual pedal organ purchased in 1930. The front stairs were replaced in 1931 and the present furnace purchased by the Luther League in 1932. In 1938 St. John's received a gift of $1381.04 from the estate of Mrs. Emma A. Metzgar. With this substantial gift the altar, pulpit and altar and chancel railings were placed in the chancel. The dedication took place on August 28, 1938, with Dr. John Wargelin, officiating and Pastor L. R. Ahlman, assisting. On the plaque attached to the front of the altar are the words: "Erected to The Memory of Emma A. Metzgar, 1938". Art glass windows were installed in 1950 and in 1954 the church was completely remodeled with an addition of 17 feet the whole width of the building toward the street as designed by Pastor Onni A. Koski. A new entrance leading to both the church parlors as well as the sanctuary, two 10 feet by 16 feet Sunday school rooms downstairs, a 10 foot by 16 foot mothers' room off the sanctuary, and a convenient cloak room on the church floor level were thus made possible. The sanctuary and chancel were re-lathed, replastered, and new lights installed. In this Jubilee Year of 1956 new pews have already been installed and choir lofts built in both wings of the nave. At present a new parsonage is planned to be built east of the church at a cost of about $20,000 to replace the one purchased in 1944 at 1109 Swinton Street.


On April 22, 1906 a call was extended to Seminarian John Wargelin of Suomi College Theological Seminary to become its first pastor. He accepted the call and arrived in the Soo that summer after his ordination into the holy ministry. He served one year and was succeeded by Pastor Jacob Mantta at the end of October 1907 and and who served until August 1911. Pastor Matt Luttinen served the congregation as its third resident pastor from 1912 to June 1921. He was followed by Pastor L. R. Ahlman who lived at Newberry and was pastor of St. John's from 1921 to September 1940, when he resigned due to ill health. Pastor Martin Halinen and later Pastor Arvi Henry Saarisuu both of Soo, Ontario, served as interim pastors until the latter accepted a call and moved to the Michigan side in the summer of 1942. He served a year until July 1943. Pastor Onni A. Koski was the following pastor from the summer of 1944 to September 1945.

Pastor Victor Kuusisto succeeded in 1946 but served only a few months, when death claimed him. Pastor Oliver Hallberg came to St. John's in 1947 and served until 1951. - Pastor Mathias Ruohoniemi followed but served only a very short time in 1952. The congregation was without a pastor until December 16, 1953, when the undersigned returned to the Soo to continue his service after an absence of 9 years.

In the beginning St. John's Ev. Lutheran Church was a part of a larger parish which included Copper Cliff and Soo, Ontario, and Rudyard, Michigan. Later the parish was rearranged, Rudyard leaving to form its own parish, with Newberry, St. Ignace, Dafter, Munising, Grand Marais, Copper Cliff, and Soo, Ontario, and St. John's forming the parish. When Pastor Ahlman resigned in 1940, the parish lines were again shifted so that Rudyard, Dafter, and St. John's formed the Chippewa County Parish. This was the arrangement until 1953, when Rudyard again formed its own, parish, leaving Dafter and the Soo in the parish as it is today. The Canadian churches left the parish at the time when all Canadian work was given to the United Lutheran Church of America.

Published in St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church. 50th anniversary. Sault Ste Marie, Michigan. 1956, 20 p.

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