Betty ( ) has sent us some wonderful info on Bliedorn from the booklet "100 Years of Faith, Family and Fellowship -- St. John's Lutheran Church, Bliedorn".  In addition to information on the church, there is quite a bit on the Bliedorn settlement.  Copies of the book are still available.  You can email Betty for more info.


The community known as “Bliedorn” was settled predominately by Germans from the Schleswig-Holstein area of northern Germany. It is interesting to note that the name “Bliedorn” means a thorny bush with white flowers. Bliedorn, located in the heart of Berlin Township, was the only village in that township. Berlin Township, formerly included in the township of Olive, was separated and created in February of 1856. During World War 1, the township name was changed from Berlin to Grant when anything suggestive of Germany was considered offensive. Most of the land in Grant Township was purchased by individuals from the government in the 1850’s, and a number of the farms have been handed down in the same families since that time. 

The small settlement of “Bliedorn Station” as it was known, developed into a general store, post office, a blacksmith shop, and a creamery, making it a rural trading center. The Bliedorn family was instrumental in developing this settlement. Martin and Julia (Wulf) Bliedorn immigrated to the United States from Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, in 1864 and settled in Orange Township near Grand Mound. Martin followed the carpenter trade for about one year. He then became engaged in farming in Orange Township for nine years. At the end of that period he moved his family to Berlin Township where he purchased one hundred and sixty acres of land in Section #14. He engaged in general tanning and stock raising with good success until his death in 1901. On March 25, 1901, he tragically lost his life when he was killed by a Chicago and Northwestern train. Ironically, it was also the wedding day of his son, William. A newspaper clipping from the Clinton herald is quoted as saying, “His team became frightened at a Northwestern train which struck the vehicle fair on the crossing, resulting in his instant death. Deceased was well known in this county.” 

William Bliedorn, born January 27, 1873, in Orange Township, was appointed the first postmaster after the post office was established on February 14, 1898 Mail was hauled from Grand Mound in a two-wheeled breaking cart. The post office remained in existence until March 15, 1905, when rural free delivery came into being. 

The absence of a German church in the area left many people without i church home. An acre of land donated by Martin Bliedorn helped establish "Deutsche Evangelical Johannes Kirche” of Bliedorn, Iowa, in Berlin Township of Clinton County. A donation whose namesake has proved to be as long lasting as the church that was built. According to the deed, Martin Bleidorn gave the acre of land on which the church was to be built, which is contrary to many other published articles which gave credit to his son, William, for the donation of land. 

Just a few months after the start of the congregation, when it was decided that it was time to build a church, the first “extra” fundraising event occurred. Once the decision to build was made, members were asked to donate what they could towards the cost of construction of the church. All members were also asked to help with the actual building in whatever way they could to keep the cost down. The record book lists every donation that went into the building fund. Most donations ranged from $1.00 to $10.00; however, there were a few $50.00 and $70.00 donations. On April 20, 1897, the congregation participated in the laying of the cornerstone. On June 27, 1897, the church was dedicated. Early church records show that the cost of the church and the house came to $1,100.00. The members appointed to the building committee were: Matthew Gohlmann, Gottlieb Nick, Wilhelm Schwartz, and J. C. Wulf.  

Over the years, many fundraising efforts have insured the survival of St. John’s. When money was needed in the early church, men went around to collect donations. When money ran out they would go around again. (It isn’t hard to imagine why this method eventually evolved into a weekly event!) 

Many of the older members recall that whenever more money was needed, an extra collection was taken, or a fund-raiser was planned. Many of the early fund-raisers were church suppers. Because the church only consisted of a worship sanctuary, it was decided that members would take turns having them at their homes. A former member of St. John’s recalls a few of these when she was young. She said her parents cleaned out one large room upstairs where all the children were sent, and the adults ate downstairs. How many church members would welcome the idea of opening their homes and kitchens to public dinners today? 

Another interesting fundraising idea can he found in the church record book. The date --    January 11, 1908, -- the entry, “To repair the chimney of the church and parsonage, it was decided to build a chicken house.” According to members this was not an unusual method for fund-raising in conservative farm country.  

Bliedorn School    ~    District #6 

The following information was compiled by Durward Gohlmann, a student at District #6 for eight years. Durward’s grandfather was Christopher J. Gonlmann, a charter member of St. John’s Lutheran Church. Christopher J. Gohlniann hauled milked from farmers in the area to the Bliedorn Creamery. 

District #6 was located five miles west of Welton in what was first called Berlin Township, but in 1920 was changed to Grant Township.

The school building was located about four hundred feet east of the St. John’s Lutheran Church. The school yard was about 200 ft. x 200 ft. The school house was 48 ft. x 50 ft. and was built in the center of the yard with three long windows on each side of the building. There were two toilets (one for boys and one for girls) built in each back corner of the school yard. A coal shed was in the middle and back of the school house. The school house had a 12 ft. x 12 ft. projection with south door and coat hooks on the inside entry of the building. There was a 20 ft. x 10 ft. platform in front of the doorway and a wooden flag pole at the side of the entry way. There was a bell tower with a bell on the south rooftop of the building. 

There was a coal fired heating stove about 6 ft. from the doorway. A wash stand with basin and a water pail with a dipper for drinking were located on the left wall. At the north end of the building was a stage 24 ft. wide x 8 ft. deep and 6 inches high. The teacher’s desk and chair were placed here with the chair back to the north wall. A pedal organ was on one side of the stage and book shelves on the other. Kerosene lamps on metal brackets hung on the walls on either side. There were four rows of double desks facing the teacher. The largest in the back and the smallest in the front. All of the desks were fastened to the floor. The teacher was also her own janitor. The children carried the water from the neighbors in a three gallon pail and a broom stick was put through the handle of the pail so two could carry the water pail. A long, handled dipper was placed in the pail and everyone drank from the same dipper. 

In the early days, the teacher traveled to school by horse and buggy. The horses were left in the barn at the Henry Geffers farm just north of the school. A school day was from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. with a fifteen minute recess each half day and one hour for dinner and games. A lot of games were played. One being baseball with a sponge rubber ball.  

In 1917, the teacher was Ellen Hughes and the students were: Elsie Paulson, Della Paulson, Harry Paulson, Emil Paulson, Arnold Schlickting, Gladys Rusch, Ellen Smith, Mildred Smith, Edith Smith, Martha Geffers, Gilbert Geffers, Edna Geffers, Minnie Geffers, Kermit Schmidt, Arnold Schmidt, Beryl Wulf and Durward Gohlmann. The teacher would pick up Durward with her horse and buggy on her way to school.   

In 1920, there were fourteen families in the school district. School enrollment was from fifteen to twenty-five students. Teacher’s salaries were $50.00-$60.00 per month. The County Superintendent would make a surprise visit once or twice a year. He would have words of praise or criticism for the teacher.

There is a photo of the school and two photos of students.  Those in the photos are: 1. Frieda Smith, Alma Geffers, Dalla Schneden, Miss Margaret McLaughlin (teacher), Maggie Wieck, Sophia Schneden, Fern Wulf, Ellen Smith, Harry Smith, Mike Smith, Hugo Geffers, Raymond Cooper, ? Paulsen, ? Paulsen, Martha Geffers, and two sons of Charles Paulsen.  2. Edna Wulf, ? Busch, Carlyle Meints, Ronald Gohlmann, Glen Rusch, Melvin Wulf, Melba Irons, Vera Wulf, Lester Wulf, Durward Gohlmann, Alice Irons, ? Busch, Minnie Geffers, Kermit Schmidt and Portia Grant, teacher.

Bliedorn Store

One account says that William Bliedorn erected a store building on the southeast corner of the homestead farm.  Edna Geffers tells about the store being connected to a house by a closed in area and a man by the name of Hersam running it.  Later he sold it to a couple by the name of Fred and Mary Mecklenburg.  (There is a photo of Fred and Mary in front of the house/store) According to Edna Geffers, the Mecklenberg's never maintained a store, but only lived in the house.  The store's location was said to be located to the west of the church.  A Clinton County Historical Society report says the store had a loading dock and a second house.  Margaret (Maggie) Griebel's account says the Mecklenburg's lived in the east part of the building, and that the store was closed soon after 1914.  Another account from Mrs. John (Mary) Gohlmann states that the store was in the house that was used as a parsonage.