History of St. John Lutheran Congregation
During the 19th century, religion in German did not retain the purity we like to think existed after the Reformation. There was an age of "Rationalism", founded on the idea that man's reason was the safest guide in everything. This led again to the idea that man is saved by good works, because that is the reasonable thing to believe.
Some of the people looking for a better place in which to safeguard and promote their faith in Jesus as the only way to Heaven were the founders of our Missouri Synod who emigrated to Missouri in 1836. Another family was the Dicke family. Still more were some pioneers who settled in the Town of How, Oconto County.
Peter H. Dicke became interested in being a missionary to American after reading appeals from the Missouri Synod Lutherans. He studied theology in Nurnberg, then came to America and continued studying in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Pastor Dicke served 5 years in Michigan, then in Mayville, Wisconsin, later in Belle Plaine and Pella in Shawano County, and in 1874, he moved to Town Washington, near Cecil.
Late in 1875, William and Johanna Bartz homesteaded a tract of land in Oconto County. In the spring of 1876, Johanna, carrying their infant son, Franc, and with Marie, their four year old daughter, trudging at her heels, walked some 25 miles along wilderness trails leading through the Indian Reservation to have the child baptized by Rev. Dicke. When Pastor Dicke heard that there were a few other Lutheran families near there, he said, "Now it is time that these people also have the word of God preached to them."
Not regularly, but faithfully, and as often as possible, Pastor Dicke traveled by horseback to the Town of How. He held services in the home of Herman Yakel, the oldest settler in the Town of How.
When Edward Suring settled on the present Ruben Rakow farm, Pastor Dicke held a second service in their home. Besides the Herman Yakels and Edward Surings, the attendants at these services were: Robert Yakel, William Bartz and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Moewe, Carl Schroeder, and Mrs. Henry Johnson.
It was several years before our people were able to raise collections to pay even a part of the expense of Pastor Dicke's trips here.
His attitude was: "What else could I expect? Had I not come to America for that very purpose, to be a missionary?"