The picturesque community of St. John is stop number 26 on the Wetlands and Wildlife National Scenic Byway tour. Visitor highlights include the unique structure of the Stafford County courthouse, Church on the hill, WPA projects, and St. John Science Museum, Luculle Hall Museum and Ida Long Goodman Memorial Library to name a few.
The city was established in 1875, originally known as Zion Valley settled by members of the Church of Jesus Christ, a.k.a Later Day Saints or Mormons.
The first building in what would later become St. John was a small white church on a hill, called the Mormon Temple. An elder in the church blessed St. John and said that as long as a member of this faith lived there, the town would never be destroyed by a cyclone.
The church still stands one block to the northwest of the city square.
In 1879, the St. John Town company platted the town, which was named after then Governor John Pierce St. John. Some at the time thought it was an attempt to influence their bid for the county seat designation.
The process for county seat went through several elections with none of the contenders receiving a majority. During a run-off election a cyclone, (tornado) hit the city of Stafford the main challenger for the county seat. The ballot box was destroyed and ballots were scattered. A third election named St. John the winner, but the issue remained “unsettled” until the first county courthouse was constructed in 1886.
The local economy is based on ranching, farming and oil production and is surrounded by fields of wheat, corn, milo, soybeans, garden crops, pine trees and large groves of shelter belts, and timber claims.
St. John is famous for it’s downtown city square, fountain, and small town appeal where children ride their bikes to school, the store or park, and horse and riders strolling residential streets is not an uncommon sight.
The three-tier fountain in the center of the city square is a draw for many.
From 1909 through 1913, local ladies, members of the Hesperian Club, raised $5,000.00 and purchased a “fountain popular for the times.” The fountain stands in the center of the square which is surrounded by an ornate block wall. The square also boasts a small scale Statue of Liberty.
The Square is carefully cared for by St. John residents. A somewhat recent streetscape project around the business side of the Square includes installation of a new sidewalk, planting of flowers and trees, and the building of brick benches embedded with historic tiles crafted by local artisan Carol Long. All of this, and a stunning Courthouse, make St. John’s Square worth a stroll and a stop for lunch or a snack.
Visitors will love the St. John Jubilee. This Memorial Day weekend celebration has been a community event for decades. The community traditionally welcomes summer with alumni homecomings, entertainment, and special events.
Each December, Christmas Magic brings horse-drawn carriage rides, Santa, a community soup supper, and business open houses.
In the fall, the Lucille M Hall museum offers a Victorian Tea event showcasing different themes and interests of the early pioneers of the area. Hall was a teacher and world traveler. The museum is carrying on her passion of introducing children to the cultures outside their community. When completed the museum will house a small educational theater and displays.
St. John is home to the St. John Science Museum A.K.A. Hood’s Haven. The museum was recently featured in American Profile magazine and attracts visitors from schools, groups, and individuals across the Midwest. A collection of electrical displays depicting developments in electricity and sound through the nation’s Industrial Revolution. Museum curator, James Hood demonstrates phenomenon from the Tesla’s coil and Jacob’s ladder to a hydrogen-powered engine.
The small community also boasts a progressive library in the Ida Long Goodman Memorial Library, with high-speed wireless Internet, Wii Station, and community room.
St. John is one of the southern gateways to Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, a wetland refuge of significant importance to a variety of migrating waterfowl. QNWR is the winter home for several Bald and Golden eagles. It offers a wide range of opportunities for birdwatchers, hunters, fisherman and nature lovers of all ages. It is also the southern starting point for the Wetlands and Wildlife National Scenic Byway that passes through QNWR and Cheyenne Bottoms in Barton County.