Grand Prairie Township, first named Stearns Precinct, was established May 7, 1872. Originally comprised of township 19, range 1 west, and the eastern half of township 19, range 2 west, this precinct lost part of its territory when Burrows Township was created. The name "Stearns" was taken from a settler by the same name who operated an inn for teamsters in the precinct in 1870 and, in 1872, organized a school there. Later, when a controversy arose between him and another settler in the eastern part of the township, it was decided to call the precinct Grand Prairie and thus avoid favoritism.
Some of the prominent men in the early history of the township were: Sam W. W. Wilson, J. F. Schure, D. L. Braun, Willian Gentleman, Jacob Judd, Herman Wendt, Henry Wassenberger, Dietrich Becher, Willian Schelp, Thees Mohlman, Michael Wieser and Johann Friedrich Hellbusch.
No accurate record of the first voting remains in this precinct but either Half-way House or "Spoerry's School" was undoubtedly the location. In 1933, the voting place was moved to the District 28 school, a two-room structure with a basement
Some of the early teachers in Grand Prairie Township were: Minnie Owens, Lydia Bloedorn, Margaret Cronin, Mayme Cronin, Kittie Linnehan, Richard McGuane, Albert Cramer and Tom Regan.
In the first year of its organization, the precinct had registered voters, including: John Braun, William Gentleman, Johann Heinrich Hellbusch, Peter Parr, Henry Spoerry, William Snider, John P. Brown, Robert Gentleman, William Egger, Peter Ripp and O. E. Stearns.
St. John's Evangelical Church, U.A.C., member of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod was organized January 5, 1879. The first settleers in the St. John community in the Grand Prairie Township, emigrated from Germany and worshipped at Christ Lutheran Church in Bismark Township, and walked or drove ox-teams hitched to lumber wagons.
The Rev. C. Baumhoefener, pastor of Christ Lutheran Church, accepted a call and was followed in the pastorate by Rev. E. A. Frese. He came to Stearns Prairie in 1874 where he supplied the pulpit in the Spoerry school house situated one mile west of the present church. Five years later, January 5, 1879, the first meeting for organizing a congregation was held in Spoerry school house. At this meeting, a constitution was drafted and the following officers elected. Rev. E. A. Frese presided as chairman and Wilhelm Patschke, Wilhelm Hoefelmann, and F. Rhode were elected elders. The first ones to sign the constitution were W. Patschke, W. Hoefelmann, F. Mueller, F. Mulack, H. Wendt, F. Rhode, Gottlieb Stickel, Martin Froelich, C. Brandt, and J. F. Schure. Johann Hellbusch was ill that day and unable to attend the meeting.
These early pioneers had left their homeland, bidding final goodbyes to family and friends to find a new country with freedom of worship. At the time of their arrival here, pioneer conditions prevailed. They lived in dug-outs, sod houses and cabins and endured extreme hardships of grasshoppers and prairie fires. Indians were not aggressive, but a nuisance with their begging.
The toil of our brave forefathers to establish a church was foremost in their hearts and minds, and they knew that they could not live be bread alone, but had need of the bread and water of life, the Word of God.
The new congregation was blessed and flourished under the leadership of Rev. Frese. This proved to be a satisfactory arrangement and more souls were added to the church. What joy in 1884 when these early settlers could dedicate a church to the Triune God and no longer have services in the school. Mr. Johann Heinrich Hellbusch offered to deed five acres of ground to the congregation without cost. This site was accepted and a 20x34x12 foot was erected and dedication services were held November 2nd of that year. This structure forms part of the present school building.
This has been copied in part from the centennial book of St. Johns Church. 1879-1979