Archives and Rare Books, University of Cincinnati

The Sacred Spaces of Cincinnati and the German Influence
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St. John's Unitarian Universalist Church

St. John's Pastors
Here, Pastors J. Ludwig Meier (Meyer), Hugo G. Eisenlohr and August Kroell, are pictured in the church’s 1914 publication The Hundredth Anniversary of the German St. Johns Church: Thirtieth Anniversary of the Pastorate of Hugo G. Eisenlohr, Pastor.
Scanned image courtesy of University of Cincinnati Libraries, Archives and Rare Books Library

A direct descendant of the German Lutheran and Reformed Church founded in 1814, St. John’s has a long and rich German history. According to church records, Moravarian missionary Joseph Zaeslin gathered German Protestants and Catholics alike to worship together in the first German language services in Cincinnati at his German Evangelical Lutheran and Reformed Church.

Though the church did not officially affiliate itself with any denomination until 1924 when it joined the American Unitarian Association, and welcomed all German speaking peoples, the church’s early meetings were often full of controversy and arguments between those from northern Germany and those from southern Germany. Don Heinrich Tolzmann writes in Das Ohiotal — The Ohio Valley: The German Dimension about a debate in which the members argued for or against the construction of a new church so enthusiastically that “on one beautiful Sunday the Swabians and the non-Swabians became so heated about this project, that the ramshackle floor collapsed as a result of the foot-stamping and noise-making, and the squabblers were all brought together in the unity in the basement below.”

It was decided that a new church would be constructed. The new church was built on the corner of Twelfth and Elm Streets in Over-the-Rhine and first hosted services in 1867. The tension, however, led to several splits in the congregation as well as splits in the resulting congregations. The United Protestant Evangelical, North German Lutheran Church, German Evangelical St. Paul’s Church, Sts. Peter and Paul, Independent German Evangelical Protestant, St. Matthaeus and Philippus United Church of Christ are all descendants of the German Evangelical and Lutheran and Reformed Church. Today, the congregation meets at a church designed by architect John Garber on Resor Avenue and welcomes members from all religious, racial and ethnic backgrounds.

St. John's Pubication St. John's Publication

In the church’s 1914 publication The Hundredth Anniversary of the German St. Johns Church: Thirtieth Anniversary of the Pastorate of Hugo G. Eisenlohr, Pastor, equal space was given to German and English with one German page for every English page.
Scanned image courtesy of University of Cincinnati Libraries, Archives and Rare Books Library

Bibliographical Sources:


The Bicentennial Guide to Greater Cincinnati: A Portrait of Two Hundred Years, by Geoffrey J. Giglierano, Deborah A. Overmeyer, with Frederic L. Propas, The Cincinnati Historical Society, 1988, page 222

German American Churches and Religious Institutions in the Greater Cincinnati Area, edited by Don Heinrich Tolzmann, German American Studies Program University of Cincinnati, 1999, pages 24, 29-77

Das Ohiotal– The Ohio Valley: The German Dimension, edited by Don Heinrich Tolzmann, Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., New York, 1993, page 167

St. John’s Unitarian Universalist Church, http://www.stjohnsuu.org/index.php