St. John Lutheran Church, formally organized in 1799, is an important Wythe County historical landmark located at the intersection of Interstate 81 and U.S. Routes 21/52. The congregation came into being as a result of the migration of German settlers into the Western part of the county following the Revolutionary War. At its inception the new mission was yoked with sister Lutheran congregations organized in Wythe County before 1800 – St. Paul Church (1776), Zion Church (1791) and Kimberlin Church (1797).
St. John Church was served for years (1798-99) by the Rev. Bernhard Willy, a Reformed pastor from the Shenendoah Valley. He was responsible for organizing the Lutheran churches of Wythe County under a common constitution.
In 1799, George Daniel Flohr, a native of Germany who came to America as a schoolmaster, arrived in Wythe County as a licensed minister after receiving training at Hebron Lutheran Church, Madison, Virginia. Father Flohr, as he was affectionately known, was called to be the first pastor of St. John Church where he served until his death in 1826. He also served as pastor of St. Paul and Kimberlin Lutheran Churches near Rural Retreat and Ebenezer Lutheran Church in Smyth County. His extended parish included the New River Settlement in Montgomery County and Lewisburg in Greenbrier County (West Virginia). The influence of Father Flohr on the Church and the community in Southwest Virginia is immeasurable.
Under inspired leadership, St. John Church prospered and grew. It’s place of influence in Wythe County and church circles in Southwest Virginia continued for a full century under such pastors as Rev. James A. Brown and Rev. Alexander Phillippi, both of whom were leading educators in the church and community.
This influential Church spawned a number of new mission congregations near Wytheville, namely Lebanon Church (1851), Holy Trinity Church (1876), St. Luke Church (1888), St. Mark Church (1891), Poplar Grove Church (1897) and Holy Advent Church (1915).
Eleven pastors, including three future college presidents, came from St. John Congregation.
The original building, believed to have been constructed in 1800, was used for a half a century. The present frame structure was dedicated in 1854 and underwent extensive remodeling in 1885. Since that time it has been preserved as well as possible without noticeable structural change.
After the beginning of the 20th century, the membership of St. John began to decline as the population clustered around the railroad and the town churches. In 1924 the congregation, now small in membership, resolved to merge with Holy Trinity Lutheran Church. An essential part of the merger resolution provided for perpetual care of the St. John Church building and Cemetery and an annual homecoming service at the ‘mother church’ in August of each year.