Johannisburg: A church, a handful of houses and an old mill pond

News-DemocratAugust 31, 2013 

I like to pick out isolated dots on the map and visit them.

That's how I ended up in Johannisburg in extreme western Washington County. It sits amidst a bunch of rural blacktop roads named after birds - Cowbird Road, Nuthatch Road, Sklylark Road - with a tiny grid of unexpected city street names - Main, Second, Washington, Water and Franklin.

It has a church, St. John's United Church of Christ, 176 years old and going, eight or nine houses and an old mill pond, all surrounded by tall corn and soybeans.

When the corn is harvested, the tall church steeple is easily visible from Illinois 15, south of town and east of St. Libory.

Stan Droege, 81, is the clerk of Johannisburg Township, and a lifelong resident of the tiny town of Johannisburg. His son now lives in the house where his parents once lived, he said.

Johannisburg is like many small communities in the metro-east which once had stuff, now don't, but still somehow are on the map.

"I don't think it ever was incorporated," Droege said. "But it used to have a few things.

"I remember my father tearing down the local store. There also was a brick factory and a flour mill." The flour mill left behind the mill pond.

The mailing address for residents is Addieville, about 10 miles to the east. Before that, the post office was in Venedy, about a mile away.

It can lead to some confusion particularly for delivery drivers, Droege said.

"You get guys running around in Addieville looking for Main Street. They don't have one, it's in Johannisburg," he said.

St. John's was founded in 1837 by German immigrants as an Independent Evangelical Lutheran church called St. Johannes Church.

A few years down the road, part of the congregation had differences and split off to form St. Salvator Lutheran Church in nearby Venedy. Another group made a more harmonious split because of distance and formed St. Peter's Evangelical and Reformed Church, now United Church of Christ, in what was once called St. Petersburg, now Stone Church.

The name and other things about the church became anglicized through the years. It used to sponsor an annual picnic but that faded out and the church sold its bar and supper stand pavilion to Addieville.

When their denomination merged with the United Church of Christ in 1957, so did St. John's. The church became a member of the Big Six UCC Parish for a few years in the 1970s along with Darmstadt, Biddleborn, Lenzburg, Fayetteville and Stone Church.

Now it is tiny but still mighty. A church history on the Internet touts how picturesque the church is. The church shares a pastor with Zion United Church of Christ in Addieville.

"Our average attendance is probably 19 for the year," Droege said.

Have a column idea? Call Wally at 618-239-2506 or 800-642-3878; or email: wspiers@bnd.com

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