By 1840, the Great Plains beavers were almost extinct, and thus, the fur trade in Missouri. The Indians weren't faring well either. American Indians faced thousands of settlers carrying new diseases and a desire for land. In 1825, the Osage Indians, under pressure from the American government, signed away their Missouri and Arkansas territory. The Indians were moved to reservations in Oklahoma. Our area is part of the Osage lands.
St. John's 'Gildehaus', as it is know in the area, was founded in 1839 as a mission called St. John the Baptist by the Jesuit Fathers. It is called St. John's 'Gildehaus' to honor John Dietrich Gildehaus and his wife Anna Clara, who in 1848 donated by deed the original property consisting of about 10 acres. In 1865, Dietrich bequeathed the remaining 23 1/2 acres of the so-called church farm to be passed to St. John's Church upon the death of his wife, Clara. The property in total encompasses about 33 1/4 acres. In February 1939, ownership of the property was passed from St. Louis University (the holding corporation of the Jesuit Missions) to the Archdiocese of St. Louis, Archbishop John Joseph Glennon.
A codicil to Dietrich's will contains the following: "In consideration of what I have done for this church called the St. John's Church at this place, I devise that the priest shall deliver Solemn Mass for me and my family every three months from this time forward. Given under my hand the 22nd day of July, 1865."
Dietrich and Clara lie buried in our cemetery.
The parish is located in a rural, unincorporated area of Franklin County, Missouri. The parish boundaries are in the townships of Union, St. John's and Boles.
The present brick church was built in 1863. The rectory about 1875. Both church and rectory are still of sound construction.
Our Original Community
Our Community Today
From its beginnings in the small forest clearing, its log houses and the densely wooded hills the call to a co
mmunity life was a long call. The individual settlers and pioneers had hardly established themselves when enterprise brought forth some of the comforts required in usual community life. As is characteristic in American development, the trading post or country store was the first evidence of a community central assembly place. At that spot also, the church and school were usually located. Close to the first log church, which was shortly after its erection also used as the church school, was the Gildehaus log store, conducted first by Dietrich Gildehaus and extended into larger uses by his son, Captain Henry Gildehaus, who was a leader of the settlers. Goods were brought into the district over the St. Louis trail road. The closest shopping centers were Gray Summit to the east, Union
to the southwest, and Washington
to the northwest. With the coming of the railroads and better highways, the nature of the inland community was appreciably changed. There was also the boat traffic up and down the Missouri River, with boat landings and trading posts at South Point and Washington as the nearest river ports of St. John's.
The trading post and country store are gone. The church served as a community center at its founding as well as today. Today, St. John's parish consists of over 450 families and is located about 6 miles from Interstate 44. Many parishoners are still farmers raising hogs, cattle and field crops as well as several large dairy operations. While our parish area is still decidedly rural, not suburban, many parishioners commute to work in the St. Louis area. Downtown St. Louis and the Gateway Arch
is but a 50 minute commute from the church. It takes less time to get to work in the city than our forefathers probably did to hitch up a team of horses and get out to the fields they would have to work. The city is close enough to enjoy a Cardinal's Baseball game; Ram's Football; Blues Hockey; St. Louis Symphony; MUNY Opera, etc.
Our church and parish hall are air conditioned and heated by gas. The coal burning furnaces long since removed. The school (pre-school and K-8) has a number of computers and are connected to broadband Internet service. The school also fields sports teams that participate in county wide leagues. And lets not forget our speech team which in its short history has garnered many awards. Our Men's Sodality dinners (chicken in the spring and sausage in the fall) serve over 3,500 people at each dinner, family style, all you care to eat. Charter buses come from as far away as Illinois to enjoy the dinners and a day in the country. The Ladies Sodality Quilt bingos draw hundreds from all over.
We have an active St. Vincent dePaul Society, helping to make life a bit more bearable for those in times of need. Other social and fraternal organizations (i.e., Parish Council, K of C, quilters, choir, lay ministers, Home and School Association, etc.) in the church also offer service to God, church and community.