Centennial sentiments


Riplinger parish to hold 100-year events Sunday


By Dean Lesar



St. John's Church, Riplinger, (above) was first built north of town in 1907, then moved to its current location in 1923.  


Riplinger – All are welcome at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Riplinger this weekend as the congregation commemorates the 100th anniversary of the construction of its house of worship.  For that matter, all are welcome most anytime.


“All are welcome” just happens to be the theme selected for the Sept. 30 celebration that will include a church service at 11 a.m., a dinner at 12:30 p.m., a music program with the Clark County Choraliers and the Spencer Methodist Church group at 1:30 p.m. and a social and sharing time at 2:25.  The setting for the events will be the small church on Second Street in tiny Riplinger, the one that was built a mile north of town in 1907 and moved by steam engine to its present location 16 years later.  It’s been added on to twice since 1923, and now is the place where averages of 40-60 church members come at 11 a.m. every Sunday to share their beliefs and their lives.  Former pastors David Ault, who was the congregation’s longest serving pastor (from 1969-99) and Steven Gjerde (2001-03) are expected to attend.



The church altar area (above) was added in 1943.


Gail Burns is one of the parish members helping to organize the centennial events.  A member of St. John’s Church for four years, she said she has noticed the pews have been a bit fuller in recent years, and those who came each week are part of a larger family.


“It’s doing a little better than it has been,” Burns said while organizing old photographs and news clippings for display this weekend.  “It’s been on the upswing.  It’s a lot of older members, and middle-aged.  It’s a nice family church.”


Candi Mertins is from nearby Loyal originally, and became a St. John’s member when she and her husband settled in the Riplinger region. She said she knew immediately that she had found her church.


“We had never been here, but the moment we walked in the door everybody knew who we were because we worked for a member,” Mertins said.  “I would never want to trade this congregation for anything.”


Rev. Rebekah Tarras is the current pastor of St. John’s in Riplinger and its sister church, St. John’s north of Spencer.  She is the 22nd preacher in the pulpit in Riplinger, and designed the special commemorative quilt that has been sewn for the centennial weekend.  The names of each parish family are being signed onto quilt squares.


The quilt is a tie-in to a unique tale from St. John’s that surfaced a few years ago.  Through connections between a parish family and acquaintances elsewhere, it became known that a quilt hanging in the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Ky., had actually been stitched together by Riplinger hands in 1907.  Through research into genealogy of the area, the previously unidentified 1907 signature quilt was traced back to St. John’s, the only church apparently built in the county that year.  About half of the approximately 80 family names on the quilt have now been identified, and the quilt is to be in Riplinger on Sunday for the events.


The new quilt designed by Rev. Tarras will hang in the back of the church, and will link the congregation to its past.


“Now 100 years later we did our own quilt,” Mertins said.  “It’s really kind unique.”


Another unique aspect of the church’s past is the fact that it was once moved from its original location.  Originally constructed in 1907 near the parish cemetery north of Riplinger, the community picked it up and moved it in 1923.


From a written history compiled by the late Reuben Rex in the early 1980s:


“In 1907, the church was built.  Frank Meyer and his brother, George, were the main carpenters.  As the tower was built, a tornado shifted it, and it had to be pulled plumb by block and tackle, with horses.  That’s why it is double-nailed.  $196 was the carpenter bill.  $25 was the mason bill for Riemer Bros. Brights Mill, west of Atwood, made the shingles, which were hauled by wagons by William Domer Sr., and George Miller. The bell was bought from Sears Roebuck, and was hauled by sleigh from Unity, by George Miller.  As was the custom those days, everybody that was able helped build the church.  Lumber was bought from the Peter Fritz and Ed Pershke mills at Unity.  Pershke made the wainscoting, flooring, etc., and I believe the pews ($210).  Cornerstone was $2.85.  The dedication netted $29.50, on Sept. 30, 1907.


“In 1923, the church was moved to Riplinger by steam engine, by Arthur Wisnosky and others.  A mover from Spencer started to move it, and a mover from Neillsville finished the job.  Land for the new location was purchased from the Riplingers for $200.  The north addition was built in 1943.  Lynn Pickett and Otto Schulz were the carpenters.  Ten stained glass windows were donated by 10 members of the congregation.  In 1945, the first school, built in 1915 in Riplinger, was bought from the district for $1,000 and was remodeled into a parsonage for Rev. August Quandt (1945-49).”


Ten stained-glass windows (left) were sponsored by 10 parishioners and installed decades ago. 



“In 1963, we merged with the North Spencer (Missouri) congregation.  In 1977, a well was drilled at the church.  In 1978, the new front addition was started in November, and was dedicated April 20, 1980.”



“I would never want to trade this congregation for anything.”—St. John’s congregation member Candi Mertins


The cross atop the tower of the St. John’s Lutheran Church steeple in Riplinger has been shining under blue skies for 100 years.




Source: TRG, Wednesday, September 26, 2007, pg. 8.

Transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon.



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