Friday, November 23, 2012

St. John Lutheran Church (LCMS), Hooper, NE

Lutheran services were first held in rural areas north of Hooper as early as 1868.  By 1871, St. John's had constructed its first church building northeast of the present community of Hooper, Nebraska.  The present church building was constructed in 1911.  In 1955 it was moved into the city limits of Hooper and expanded.  It would be interesting to know exactly how the church building was moved, as the journey would have included crossing the Elkhorn River over a very narrow bridge.  St. John's Cemetery still stands near the original location of the church.

It's with sadness that I learned that St. John's had closed in June of 2012.  The congregation had dwindled to a hand full of people and the decision was made to disband.  By the time I was able to photograph the church interior, the furnishings had been removed and donated to a new LCMS church in Black River Falls, Wisconsin.

The interior of the church is quite plain, though it's probably unfair to make such a judgment in a building devoid of furnishings.  It's likely that renovations in the 1950s and 1970s brought the interior to its present state.

A view from the former chancel area towards the balcony and narthex.  A few scattered mementos of the church's past line the walls of the nave.

A glance into the attic area above the narthex reveals the German heritage of this congregation.  A board, which likely hung above the church's entrance, bears the remnants of its formal German name.

A Wangerin-Weickhardt pipe organ stands guard at the right of the chancel.  The instrument is in playable condition, but does not appear to have been maintained.  More information is available on this instrument from the OHS Database.

The blue-dominated nave windows feature etched glass medallions depicting various Christian symbols.  These windows likely date from the 1970s.

Two windows in the narthex present local agricultural and religious themes.

An article on the closing of St. John Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Hooper is available at the Fremont Tribune.  The church building, lots, and remaining contents (pipe organ, stained glass windows, bell, and fixtures) are scheduled to be auctioned as one lot on December 1, 2012.

I encourage readers to send me your memories of St. John's and any photos you may have to be posted here. 


Anonymous said...

thanks for the pictures of my old church. I knew it was set to disband but I never made it back to see the building one last time and it was nice to see these photos. One thing I thought I would clarify: the blue stained glass windows are actually much newer than that, if I remember right they were installed in the late 90's or early 00's.

I grew up in this church: sunday school, youth group, confirmation, acolyte duties, usher duties, christmas programs, the whole works. This, partnered with the recent demolishment of Hooper Elementary School, have dealt huge blows to my childhood! But, oh well, time marches on. Thanks for posting!

Unknown said...

I believe the first church building, according to my father,
was built north of Hooper on a hillside near the present Logan Cemetery. The building still exists at another location. I know the date of 1908 because the structure was moved to the farm place where my father my was born in 1912. The near by "horse barn" had 1908 on the front of the structure. Near the horse barn sits what I know as the "cow barn". This building is the St John church structure replaced by a new structure in 1911 adjacent to the Schlenberg farm.

At least for me, two events confirm the barn to be the 1911 church.
First, as a youngster my father pointed out to me the now boarded over original arched window openings. Such arched windows are still common in church buildings to this day.

Second, When the church was about to celebrate I believe it's centennial year of its founding. The church's Elders requested of my father a board from the building. Their purpose was to convert the board into a picture frame for displaying a centennial celebration document of the event.

Another event mentioned was the moving of the church building into Hooper. My classmates and I attending District 16 elementary school, were excused from class to watch the church building roll by the school on it's journey to Hooper.

Your article questioned how the church parade crossed the Elkhorn River. Actually the route was not what you assumed. After following the road, but before reaching Hooper the group turned left a the base of the hill dropping into the Elkhorn River valley. They turned left at the Osterloh farm place toward US Highway 77. At this point crossing the Logan Creek became more difficult. The route moved off the road into the Stockfleet pasture. The bridge could not be used due to size. They crossed through the creek bed toward the nearby highway 77. I am told that when moving from the ditch and shoulder onto the highway the building tilted so dramatically to everyone's surprise, the church bell in the tower rang!
From this point on the parade moved through Winslow and west to Hooper and it's final resting place.

Duane Kroeger

Stephanie said...

It is my understanding that my Great Grandfather was the pastor at this congregation back in 1870. His name was Rev. Emil Julius Frese and his wife was Mathilda Frese. I believe their first child is buried in the cemetery but I don't have any documentation to prove this. Does anyone know of any old church records I could verify with?

Stephanie Frese Neujahr