Our History…to Today


St. John’s was founded in 1839 as a mission by the Jesuits.

John Dietrich Gildehaus and his wife, Anna Clara, donated the original property of about 10 acres, by deed, in 1848.

In 1865, John Dietrich Gildehaus bequeathed the remaining 23-1/2 acres of the so-called “church farm” to be passed to St. John’s upon the death of his wife, Anna Clara.

This brings the total property to 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 under Archbishop John Joseph Glennon.

Photo courtesy of Mark S. Abeln


The original Mission church, built by the Jesuits, was a log church built near the original cemetery.  It was burned to the ground during the civil war.

The present brick church was built in 1863 and is the original church built after replacing the Mission church.

As you enter, just inside the doorway, there is a wooden beam that spans the entire width of the church and is original to the structure.  It is inscribed with “The House of God, the Gate of Heaven”.

Aside from minor re-decorations over the decades and the additions of a few modern amenities, such as electricity, the church has remained relatively unchanged.

The present rectory was built in 1875.

A convent was also built about 1875 and is currently being used as the library and computer lab for the school.

All of the buildings currently being used…the church, the rectory, and the convent…are all of sound construction – about 150 years later – a true testament to the workmanship of the original builders, and of those who followed in wanting to maintain the history of the church.

There are several, smaller shrines on the grounds.

One of the traditions of St. John’s is, on Corpus Christi Sunday (late May/early June), in the evening, to go to each of the three Shrines and, while stopped for benediction, discharge cannons.  A tradition that goes back to 1873…maybe earlier.

There are also two cemeteries on the grounds.

The original cemetery.

Photo courtesy of Mark S. Abeln

Photo courtesy of Mark S. Abeln

Mother of Sorrows Shrine (1873)


The beautiful stained glass windows open to this day.  So, with the use of fans, air conditioning was not added until early in the 21st century (around 2005).

Photo courtesy of Mark S. Abeln

A capital campaign in late 2020 raised enough money to make the first major addition to the church in over 150 years.


This addition will add restrooms to the church – which parishioners and visitors previously had to walk to the school for – and a larger, more formal entry/gathering space or “Narthex”.




Architect rendering