St. John's United Methodist Church (UMC)
301 East University Ave.
Excerpt from the 'Exploring Historic
November 12, 2006
St. John's UMC was organized in 1882. The first Church was a frame building built at the crossroads between Georgetown and Round Rock and was called the Brushy Church. The present sanctuary was built in 1906 of native limestone in Gothic Revival Style. This was called the Swedish Methodist Church, and in 1938, was changed to St. John's Methodist, and later became St. John's United Methodist in 1968. The first sixteen pastors were Swedish, and the Swedish language was used until the late 40's.
Today commemorates the one hundredth anniversary of the building of our sanctuary, which shows the farsightedness of those who planned into the future for the rest of us. It is our responsibility, as those who have received and cherished this legacy, to also look to the future and to dream dreams and have visions that come into reality for those yet unborn. In doing so, we honor our founders' faith and help further the spread of the Good News of Jesus Christ to all who have yet to hear it.
A Brief History of
Historical Narrative by Charlene Haley Price
St. John's United Methodist Church as it is
today, in its one hundredth year anniversary, has members who
trace their ancestry to Swedish emigrants who were settling in
the area in the last half of the nineteenth century.
"It may be said that the Swedish emigrants to Texas, 'stemmed from the example of a single individual, Swante M. Swenson of Barkeryd, Jonkopings lan Smaland'. After S. M.'s first visit back to his homeland the emigration started. So strong was his persuasion and influence that the Swedes came to Texas where the climate was warm, instead of settling as immigration authorities advised, in the northern part of the United States where the weather was akin to that of Sweden."
As Swedish individuals and families arrived, they worked hard for those who had already obtained farms or businesses, usually without pay until payment for their passage to Texas was satisfied. At the end of the indentured time, the individual or the family would rent or buy his own business or farm, and help a member or members of his family to come to America. Many worked their way over on the ships that brought them.
As early as 1871, Swedish settlers near Union Hill, known generally as the Brushy area, began holding Methodist worship meetings in their homes. This area was also called the Crossroads and was located three and one half miles south of Georgetown, Texas. The first services were held in Swen M. Johnson's home. The homes of Mrs. Jonas (Maria Hilma) Christerson, the Widow Rebeca Lundblad, C. J. Monson, Enoch and Adla Johnson, and others, were soon opened to the spirited sermons of Reverend Carl Charnquist Reverend Charnquist had come to Austin, Texas from Michigan in 1871. He became organist for the Swedish Lutheran Church, but soon was drawn to leading others through his revival preaching’s. He was the great-grandfather of Dr. Ellsworth Peterson (Mrs. Wilmer Peterson's son, and organist at First Methodist Church, Georgetown). Rev. Charnquist conducted Swedish services in the various homes through 1880. He traveled by horse and buggy and served as a circuit preacher, establishing missions and churches in the area under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.
The homes at Union Hill soon became too small to hold all the worshipers, so they used the nearby school house. Swedish Lutherans and Swedish Methodists both apparently used the schoolhouse, though not necessarily at the same time Hostile-differences arose, with some of them directed at Reverend Charnquist_ Meetings were often disturbed, furniture broken and efforts made to force Reverend Charnquist from the Methodist group His efforts at establishing a formal congregation were not successful at this time.
Victor Vitting served the group from 1880-1882. In 1882, Reverend P. R. Juhlin came from Burlington, Iowa to serve the Swedish Methodist group. During his ministry "three acres of land were purchased for $40.00* to build a church. The land was located northwest of the cross‑roads of Rabbit Hill Road and Old Round Rock Road. The Swedish Methodist- Episcopal Brushy Church (Svenska Metodist-episkopalforsamlingens) was formally organized on March 10, 1882 with a number of people taken in on approval. The church was built for $2200.00 and was dedicated on October 28, 1883.
"The church stood near two old cedar trees which still grow today in the cemetery in the churchyard. The early pioneers of the church are buried in this cemetery, which is still maintained by the Cemetery Committee and the Seekers' Sunday School Class, all of St. John's.
In 1906, the present white limestone church was designed by C. H. Paige, Jr. in the Gothic Revival Style and was built by Swedish carpenters.
It measured 43 x 73 feet, with a seating capacity of four hundred. The nave (Greek word meaning ship) contains the seating arrangement for the congregation the rear portion of the present church was constructed so a balcony could be added to seat sixty people. The beautiful stained glass windows have been described as priceless by experts who repair them, as materials used in making the glass are no longer available. The stained glass windows were made in Kansas City for approximately $557.00.
The window on the east wall, nearest the altar, is in memory of Mrs. C. J. (Anna) Carlson, formerly Anna Christerson. She was the daughter of Mrs. Jonas Christerson, and sister to Hedda Sandberg (original founders) and great aunt to Mabel Lindell, Ruth Carlson, Edwina Adams and Tommy Sandberg. The center window of the group of three was donated by the family of Carl Monson, father of the original founder, Carl J. Monson.12 The middle window of the west wall was donated by the wife of C. S. Lindell, (Mrs. Matilda Munson Lindell) in his memory. Mr. Lindell was an uncle to Mrs. Alma. Crone and Hilmer Lindell.
The third and last window on the west wall was donated by the family of William E. Sandberg, original founder, in his memory. One of the most significant and impressive windows is found in the back of the congregation, but toward the front of the building. It depicts the Good Shepherd and was donated by the Sunday School of the old church at Brushy. Symbolism in several of the windows is depicted as follows: the cross and crown (victory through suffering); the open Bible (Revelations); the anchor (steadfastness); the Lily (innocence and purity); the Fleur de lis (majesty of Christ); and the Stone Tablets (Ten Commandments).
The twelve pews located in the rear of the sanctuary were original to the old church- The pulpit was hand made by Henry Lundblad and William Sandgren. The ceiling is made of beaded wood; the large wooden beams are there for support. The watercolor hanging in the vestibule was done by Carl Bergquist, Jr., son of Rev. C. W_ Bergquist, pastor 1927-1948.
The light fixture in the back of the church was originally in the old church at the Crossroads- Kerosene was used in the lamps. The shades have since been turned down and the fixture wired so that it could be used in the main section of the new church. In recent years, it has been moved to the back area.
The beautiful windows, inspiring steeple and native stone combined, gave the church an Old World look. The total cost of the church was $11,000.00.
A special dedication ceremony was held in December, 1906 at which time the cornerstone of the new church was laid. "A well-thumbed Bible, a Swedish and a Georgetown paper, a daily paper, the officials' names, and other mementos were placed in the cornerstone. Tom Lundblad, then a boy of thirteen, remembers well that beautiful fall day. He was there when the bell rang in the morning and still there when the whistle blew that night to end the day. There were speeches, singing, rejoicing, testimonials, and, of course... gemsom smorgasbord, and at 4:00 P.M. peach cobbler and ostkaka with cream!"
After the celebration, the day of reckoning came_ Money was needed to pay the church debt of $10,000.00.
Dr. O. E. Olander, a well known pastor and at that time district supervisor from Austin, was invited to conduct a drive to raise money for the church. "He arrived by train three days early to scrutinize the stores, banks, gins and farms. He knew a cotton crop when he saw one! That next Sunday in church he read a short text about the rich man's barns bursting with grain. Then he praised the Temple built to the glory of God, such a Temple as he had never seen, all done by cotton, which the Lord seemed to have especially blessed that year. He asked if there were any in the audience who felt like they had been blessed and had a few dollars they could spare to clear the title to this great edifice. If so, they should come and place it on the altar. His compliments and praise worked. Members rushed forward with purses open and told him, 'Here am I'.
"Mr. Tom Lundblad remembered, You have read how Jesus drove the money changers from the Temple with a rope. Well this day the money men had been invited. They were there. They brought money, purses, and pouches. Even my Daddy, Henry who was known (and this was not denied by his sons) as tight-fisted.
"'He got so enthused, seeing the dollars roll so free, he handed Pearl over to Mama and (in church mind you!) stepped up and told Dr. Olander that he himself would give an extra $100.00 for every $1000.00 the doctor could raise that day. Mama rolled the whites at him, but it turned the tide. Money rolled in faster than ever. Men would add an extra $100.00 just to make papa Pay.
When Dr. Olander had $5,000.00 subscribed, he looked over at Daddy, grinning till his face was red as a beet and asked, 'Are you still with me, Henry?' Henry nodded, yes, so the doctor started again.’
The men went home shouting that the church debt was paid, with money left and cotton in the fields to be picked. It was a great day in the life of the church.
In 1906 the name of the new church was changed from Brushy Swedish Methodist Church to the Georgetown Swedish Methodist Church, with a membership of 160, Sunday School 140, Epworth League forty-five, and Ladies' Aid Society fifty members.
Swedish morning services were conducted in the Swedish language until the nineteen forties at St. John's. Swedish services were discontinued altogether in the early forties except for occasional special services such as Jul Otta. Jul Otta is the traditional Swedish early morning Christmas Day candle-lighting service. This tradition is still being observed in church today.
Rev. C. W. Bergguist came to the Georgetown Swedish Methodist Church in 1927 and for twenty-one years he was the pastor of the church. Rev. Bergguist arranged in December, 1930 to have the annual Southern Methodist Conference at Georgetown Swedish Methodist Church.
The Swedish Mission Conference was merged in 1926 with the Gulf Conference and the Southern German Conference to form the Southern Conference of The Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1939, the Southern Conference was divided and was then known as the Central Texas Conference. At this time the Georgetown Swedish Methodist Church became known as St. John's Methodist Church.
The little church progressed at its own rate with an enrollment of 110 during 1942.
During the late forties and early fifties, the church was going through a period of hard times, and it was difficult to meet the church budget.
With the help and leadership of several outstanding, dedicated pastors, the church grew and prospered through the years.
Reverend Charles J. McAfee came to St. John's in 1955, initiating Sunday night services and special prayer time at the altar rail. St. John's celebrated its 50th anniversary during his ministry.
The traditional Methodist money-making project, "Lord's Acre, Lord's Hour", was begun at St- John's in 1966, when Reverend John Williams was the minister, and has been continued every year in the fall- Many years ago it was a custom for farm people to set aside one acre's yield for the Lord. Salaried people gave a day's wages. Today the custom has been enhanced with a turkey dinner, sale of crafts and home-baked goods, as well as a sharing of money offerings.
During Reverend Williams' ministry, St- John's provided an extended ministry to Northside Methodist Church. St. John's pastor conducted early morning Sunday services at Northside and performed necessary ministerial services for the congregation.
In 1968, the Methodist Church united with the Evangelical United Brethren Church and was called the United Methodist Church.20 The present white brick educational building (older part) was built during Reverend Terry Nelson's ministry, 1967-1969, for $42,000.00. Previous educational buildings included the Epworth League Hall, built in 1921 with $1250.00 borrowed from the Centenary Board. A former frame barracks, used by Southwestern University, was donated to St. John's in about 1954 for a nominal fee and moved to the church grounds. Church members remodeled the building and used it, as well as the League Hall for education rooms. The old League Hall may still be seen in San Gabriel Park where it serves as the Woodmen of the World Lodge meeting place.
In 1976, St. John's participated in the nation's Bi-Centennial celebration by opening its doors to guided tours of the church, noting the history, architecture and decoration of the structure. During Georgetown Community's Ethnic Day celebration, held at Georgetown Community Center in 1976, St. John's members sang in a Swedish choir, and sold Swedish foods such as Spritz, Rosettes, brown bread, ostkaka, coffee cake, molasses cookies, Swedish meatballs, and Swedish coffee.
The 1970's saw a significant population growth. The church was in a very favorable position to benefit from the growth explosion and had been steadily increasing in membership.
When Reverend James Smith arrived in 1979, the growth and promise of new things began.
During Reverend Smith's ministry, the new educational wing was financed, built and consecrated at the Charge Conference in 1979. The total cost of the new addition was $22,000.00. Four new Sunday School classes were organized and an expanded nursery was provided. The parsonage was completely redecorated. Protective covering was placed over the stained glass windows.
The church sanctuary was painted and renovated in preparation for the Centennial Celebration.
Reverend Smith has initiated many new programs, traditions and rived some old customs. These include a taped sermon ministry and a meals on wheels program for the shut-in members, an impressive "hanging of the greens" Sunday evening service. This service occurs the first Sunday evening in Advent and includes the Advent Wreath and lighting of the Advent Candle, both a contribution from the Lutherans of Germany; the hanging of the wreaths in the choir loft and on the chancel doors, hanging of the greens in the pulpit and chancel, and placing the candles in the windows. (The candle holders were made by Reverend Bergguist from the ends of apple crates). From stories and legends of the past, the greenery, such as fir, cedar and pine, have come to be known as trees of life and symbolic of Christ.
The second year Reverend Smith was at St- John's, he surprised the congregation at the traditional Jul Otta Christmas service by giving shiny red apples to the members, a custom remembered by many from long ago Christmas days. These apples were said to be "the best apple one would have all year long".
Lifelong members were invited by Reverend Smith to come forward on the first Sunday in December and hang the Chrismon ornaments on the tall fir tree.
Reverend Smith's dynamic ministry has seen the Centennial Celebration theme integrated into many of the church's activities and programs, culminating with the Centennial Celebration itself.
St. John's serves the community through participation in the Ministerial Alliance, and the Community Bible Study. The Bible Study members use the church's educational building facilities for their meetings.
St. John's has reflected the growth of the Georgetown area during the last few years, with a current membership of 600. All areas and age divisions have shown growth and are continuing to grow, increasing the talent and potential of St. John's. The congregation looks forward to a bright future as the old, the new and the future grow together.
St. John's Cemetery