Many people are surprised to learn that Bellville is located in one of the strongholds of Lutheranism in the nation. But it has not always been so. Bellville was almost forty years old before the Reverend O.W. Hartman, professor at the Lutheran College in Brenham, conducted the first Lutheran service in 1896. Seven families met shortly thereafter on the 20th day of September, 1896, and organized “The First Evangelical Lutheran Church of Bellville”.
The first fifteen years were unsettled ones with twelve different pastors serving – some were from college and served part time, others shared with other Lutheran congregations at Shelby, Welcome, Phillipsburg, and Giddings and three full-time pastors stayed only a short period in Bellville. Nonetheless, the congregation held together with an ebb and flow of member families and was able to dedicate the first church building in 1898, a church in 1904, and purchase the altar vessels and song books in 1907.
In 1911 , the series began of dedicated pastors who served for extended tenures. And God, working through the pastors and the families, set the course to build the largest church congregation in Bellville. Significant events then quickly followed.
• 1911 – Sunday School and Ladies Aid reactivated
• 1918 – Parsonage
• 1922 – Congregation became financially self supporting
• 1926 – Brick church dedicated
• 1934 – Constitution redrafted in the English language from German
• 1935 – Brotherhood organized
• 1941 – First Vacation Bible School
• 1944 – Benevolent quote to ALC paid in full
• 1947 – Pipe organ installed
• 1956 – Education wing added
• 1978 – Two full-time pastors
• 1978 – Fellowship Hall dedicated
In 1981 Mr C.A. and Anita Mewis donated to St John and 88 acre wilderness including a 22 acre lake located 4 miles north of Bellville off of State Highway 36. With Volunteer help and donations from members, this property has developed into a retreat ministry of inspiration and renewal for the entire area.
In March 1996 the congregation voted overwhelmingly to purchase a 4.5 acre tract of land and improvements situated within the boundaries of the 88 acre retreat. The property consists of a brick veneer home and a cabin with a screened porch.
In September 1996, St John celebrated its 100 year anniversary. The St John 100 year Historical Marker was presented by the Texas Historical Society on August 25, 1996. Congratulations were received from Robert Saunder, State Representative in the Texas House of Representatives, and State Representative Dan Kubiak presented a resolution from the State of Texas. Mayor James A. Bishop presented a proclamation from the City of Bellville. St. John also received a resolution from the Austin County Judge Carolyn Bilski honoring the church in its 100th year.
In 2010 St. John broke ground Building for the Generations. Building for the Generations added a Multi-Purpose building named the “Faith Center”. The Sunday School classes conducted in the basement were moved to new classrooms constructed in the Fellowship Hall. In addition to updating the Sanctuary and Annex, all offices were updated to current codes and interior designs.
Today, St. John is comprised of more than 1,240 members of all ages – worshiping, learning, sharing, and joining together with other congregations in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. In our first 100 years, more than 2,200 souls have been baptized and like number confirmed. We are thankful for the men and women who have preceded us and eagerly welcome visitors and new members to share in the GOOD NEWS.