Religion Closely Allied With Growth Of Falls
Several Denominations Represented; Baptist Is Oldest Church In State
The first Baptist church of Sheboygan Falls was organized on February 11, 1838, at the home of A. G. Dye, which was then located at the northeast corner of N. Eighth street and Niagara avenue, in the city of Sheboygan. Later the meetings were held in the old school house at Sheboygan Falls, until the present building was erected in 1849-50, on the site where Kroeger's wagon shop now stands on the northwest corner of Buffalo street and the right-of-way of the North Western railway.
In 1856-57, when the railroad was extended through Sheboygan Falls, it trespassed upon the church property. In 1872 the building was moved to its present site. In 1904 a basement was finished and in 1909 the front entrance was built as it stands today. At the same time new furnishings were installed.
For a number of years, during the early history of the church, the bell, which still hangs in the tower, was rung daily at 6 and 7 a.m., at 12 noon, and at 1, 5 and 9 p. m. There being no factory whistles, this bell kept the community informed as to the time of day. The day on which President Lincoln died, the bell tolled constantly from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m., different men taking turns at the rope.
The First Baptist church of Sheboygan Falls has the distinction of being the oldest Baptist church in Wisconsin, having a record of 90 years continuous activity from the date of organization.
Many of the pioneer settlers of the county were connected with this church, among whom may be mentioned A. G. Dye, J. H. Denison, (Deacon) William Trowbridge, Albert Rounseville, Nathan Sargent, David Giddings, and Ebenezer Tupper.
Since its organization, the church has been served by twenty-one pastors, ten church clerks and seven treasurers.
The pastors were:
1845-1847......Rev. Mr. Hitchcock
1847-1856......Rev. Abner Lull
1857-1858......Rev. D. W. Wilcox
1858-1859......Rev. O. D. Taylor
1860-1861......Rev. H. S. Knowles
1862-1866......Rev. Abner Lull (second call)
1866-1870......Rev. Simpson Todd
1871 ......J. L. Jackson (student)
1871-1873......Rev. William Roney
1873-1877......Rev. P. Work (died)
1877-1881......Rev. H. H. Beach
1881-1884......Rev. John Churchill
1885-1891......Rev. E. E. Dresser
1891-1893......Rev. D. C. Smith
1894 ......Rev. S. Willshire
1895-1898......Rev. C. T. Everett
1898-1905......Rev. E. E. Dresser (second call)
1905-1912......Rev. F. F. Parsons
1913-1914......Rev. O. P. Miles
1918 to date.Rev. C. D. Mayhew
The first mention made of Sheboygan Falls in the annals of Wisconsin Methodism appears in 1843, at which time, it is recorded, David Lewis was appointed to the circuit. He rode from Milwaukee, stopping at Saukville over night, leaving some of his books to pay for his lodgings. Then he started for his destination, distant about thirty miles, twenty of which were without human habitation. He reached Sheboygan Falls the same day and found a hearty welcome at the home of James Gibbs whose wife was a Methodist. The following Sabbath he preached a sermon at Sheboygan and that evening at Sheboygan Falls.
An earlier pioneer, the Rev. H. W. Frink, was sent here in 1837, the name of the circuit being Sheboygan, but owing to the impoverished condition of the country, the circuit was neglected from the autumn of 1838 to that of 184?.
The first society at the Falls was organized in 1846. The Rev. J. S. Prescott, its pastor, traveled the immense circuit entirely on foot.
The first house of worship was built on the present site in 1851. The meeting, called for the purpose, was held on May 19, 1846, at which time it was found that $1,646.24 was available for building purposes. The building was completed and was dedicated on November 5, 1854, on which occasion $2,010 was raised in less than 30 minutes. The church board at that time included L. Cheeseman, J. Sully, E. Quinlan, D. J. Gould, H. Ackerman, W. Long, J. D. Parrish, H. W. Clark, and John Bryant.
The year 1859 was memorable by reason of the annual conference which was held at the Falls, beginning April 20 of that year. Owing to the impassable condition of the roads and the absence of railroads, many ministers did not reach the seat of the conference until the third day. This dissatisfaction was so great that the date for holding future conferences was changed from spring to fall.
An unpleasant circumstance occurred at this conference. The Rev. J. W. Wood, presiding elder, Janesville district, had divorced his wife and married another "for reasons other than one specified by our Lord as the only ground of justification for such action." Bishop Osmon C. Baker, presiding, called Mr. Wood and after a hearing the latter was expelled from the ministry and membership in the church.
In 1893 the parsonage was practically rebuilt under the leadership of Andrew Porter, and in 1901 extensive improvements were made, including opalescent memorial windows for Mr. Bryant, Mr. Melendy, John and Jane Parrish, Eunice P. Rounseville, Ephraim T. Bond, William and Mary Sully, Hiram and Catharine Barrager, the Rev. Matthias Himebaugh, and Hulda and Marie Himebaugh. In 1906 to 1911 an addition was built to the rear of the church and a steam heating system installed. The addition provided two Sunday school rooms and room for a two-manual pipe organ which was the gift of A. E. Henry. The Rev. R. S. Ingraham endowed the pipe organ for $3,000.
Two new memorial windows were placed in the front part of the church building, bearing the names of Harmon L. Henry and Eveline Galaway. The above mentioned improvements, amounting to $10,000 were the combined gifts of the Rev. R. S. Ingraham, E. G. Trowbridge, A. E. Henry, and Charles Weisse.
Looking over the records reveals that Hon. George Spratt is the only surviving member who has been identified with the church since it was built in 1851. The following have been members for thirty-five years or over: W. P. Bryant, Mrs. John Newhouse, Mrs. Lucy Hopkins, Mrs. Emma Kalmerton, Ida Leason, Salome Hubbard, Dr. and Mrs. R. M. Nichols, Laura Nichols, Hattie De Long, Emma Chaplin, and others whose names are recorded in the Lambs Book of Life.
John Houwers has been superintendent of Sunday school for over twenty-five years.
The property of the Falls Methodist Episcopal church, as it stands today, could not be duplicated for much less than $50,000. The main auditorium has seating capacity of 300 and the church parlors are well equipped to meet the social and religious needs of the coming generation. There are now 136 resident members and thirty non-resident members. The Woman's Foreign Missionary society has thirty-four members; the Dorcas, or Ladies Aid, about 60 members; a Service society comprising thirty-five young women of the church, and the King's Heralds numbering twenty members. The Junior league has a membership of seventy, which meets every Wednesday to receive Christian instruction.
The present official board included the following members:
John Houwers, superintendent of Sunday school
Sarah Spratt, superintendent of Junior League
Mrs. Pfeifer, President of Dorcas society
Mrs. N. Te Selle, president of W. F. M. S.
Esther Nichols, president of Service society
Aug. Posner, financial secretary and treasurer
Trustees: Geo. Spratt; W. P. Bryant; W. Dicke; W. Luth; W. H. Barragar; Peter Ingelse; Robert Schultz; and R. M. Nichols
Stewards: Arno Webben; Mrs. Weisse Farden; Mrs. Ed. Kerskamp; John Wilterdink; John Houwers; Laura Nichols; Sarah Spratt
Communion Steward: Mrs. Simester
Robert Pfeifer is an ordained deacon and will be graduated from Harvard this spring.
The following pastors have served the church since its beginning:
1849-1851......Rev. L. S. Prescott, Rev. D. Lewis, and Rev. Himebaugh
1851-1853......Rev. T. D. Golden
1853-1855......Rev. R. W. Barnes
1855................Rev. M. Bennet
1855-1857......Rev. Thos. Wilcox
1857-1858......Rev. J. W. Anderson
1858-1859......Rev. T. O. Hollister
1859-1860......Rev. H. B. Crandie
1860-1861......Rev. H. Requa
1861-1862......Rev. A. C. Huntley
1862-1864......Rev. S. W. Ford
1864-1865......Rev. J. Lewell
1865-1867......Rev. J. C. Robbins
1867-1870......Rev. A. A. Reed
1870-1872......Rev. C. E. Carpenter
1872-1873......Rev. I. S. Eldridge
1873-1874......Rev. C. R. Pattee
1874-1876......Rev. P. M. Fulmer
1876-1878......Rev. I. F. Boynton
1878-1881......Rev. C. D. Pillsbury
1882-part of year Rev. D. V. Teed
1883-1884......Rev. G. H. Trever (eighteen months)
1884-1885......Rev. E. A. Wanless
1885 (part of year Rev. C. Bristol
1886 (part of year W. Simmons
1886-1888......Rev. Wm. Trever
1888-1889......Rev. J. B. Beadle
1889-1891......Rev. G. W. Pratt
1891-1894......Rev. Andrew Porter
1894-1897......Rev. Thos. James
1897-1900......Rev. J. V. Trenery
1900-1902......Rev. T. W. Sprowls
1902-1905......Rev. Chas. Wentworth
Oct. 1905-Oct. 1906......Rev. D. H. Carmichael
Oct. 1906-April 1911.....Rev. R. S. Ingraham
May 1911-Feb. 1913.....Rev. R. W. Smith
Feb. 1913-Sept. 1916...Rev. Carl F. Ludwig
Sept. 1916-Sept. 1918..Rev. Samuel Olsen
Sept. 1918-Sept 1920...Rev. J. S. Ellis
Sept 1920-Sept 1922....Rev. F. A. Pease
Sept.1920-to date...........Rev. Geo. Simester
During the past five years the church and parsonage have been repainted and other improvements made, amounting in all to $3,000, every dollar of which has been actually paid. About fifty members have been received into the fellowship from probation or by transfers. One of the largest week-day schools for religious education in the Wisconsin conference is being conducted through the school year.
The St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran society was organized 1855, prior to that time the Lutherans living in and near Sheboygan Falls having been served by the Rev. Mr. Sterbers of Sheboygan. The first minister of the young congregation was the Rev. Mr. Rolfs and it was during his time that the first house of worship was built at a cost of about $400. This building is still standing opposite the present parsonage.
The Rev. Mr. Rolfs was succeeded by the Rev. Mr. Multenosky who remained for a short time. He was followed by the Rev. Mr. Ottmann, who served as pastor for nine years. During his pastorate in 1869, the present parsonage was erected. The first floor was arranged for living rooms and the second floor for the parochial school.
After the Rev. Mr. Ottmann, the Rev. J. J. Hoffmann served the congregation for about four years when the Rev. J. M. Hieber became pastor of the church in 1880 and continued until 1894, at which time he accepted a call into the Illinois district. After the Rev. George Wildermuth arrived from Edgerton, church services were held in the building purchased during the Rev. Hieber's pastorate, and this remained the house of worship until October 31, 1915.
During the Rev. Mr. Wildermuth's administration from 1894 to 1913, the parsonage was remodeled and a new school house built. The church edifice was enlarged and a new altar, pulpit and pipe organ installed. In 1913 the Rev. Mr. Wildermuth resigned his pastorate and the congregation called it present pastor, the Rev. J. Biehusen from Crete, Nebraska.
On Sunday, July 4, 1915, the new cornerstone of the present new church building was laid, and on Sunday, December 19, the same year, the edifice was dedicated.
The new church is a beautiful, modern, and in every detail a practically arranged edifice. In the basement is a spacious, assembly room, kitchen, stage, dressing room, boiler room and toilets. A ladies' rest room is located near the east entrance to the auditorium. The latter is furnished with comfortable circular pews and at the west end are located the trustee's room, altar niche and sacristy.
Special reference should be made to the beautiful windows which are of art glass containing the following biblical pictures: The Four Evangelists; The Flight to Egypt; Christ in Bethany; The Sinking Peter; The Baptism of Christ; The Blessing of the Bread; The Good Shepherd; The Disciples of Emmaus and the Angel announcing the birth of Christ. Above the balcony is a beautiful picture, "Come Unto Me!"
The dimension of the present building is 40 by 97 feet and is a credit to the co-operating spirit of the membership. The entire cost of the edifice at the time it was completed twelve years ago was $23,000. At the present time it could not be duplicated for less than $50,000.
Since 1922 services have been conducted bilingually, the service in German every Sunday morning at 9:30 and in the English language at 11 o'clock.
The congregation maintains a Christian day school, has a Ladies Aid society of about 100 members, a church choir and a young people's society. The present membership numbers 125 voting and 500 communicant members.
From the beginning the children of St. Paul's congregation have enjoyed the advantages of a Christian day school. At first the pastors of the church also served the school; but later a regular teacher was engaged. Since it was first begun, the following teachers have had supervision over the school: Messrs. Theiss, Richter, Schauss, Roehl, and Kurth, and the Misses Wolbrecht, Hartwig, Voit, and Beata Roska (now Mrs. Herbert Wildermuth)
E. G. Roehl is the present treasurer of the congregation.
Owing to the resignation of Miss Roska, P. Bachmann, a graduate of the Lutheran Teachers' Seminary at River Forest, Ill., was called and assumed his duties in September, 1915. When he left for Indiana in 1922, August Hoffmann, of Milwaukee was engaged to fill the vacancy.
The Reformed church of Sheboygan Falls was organized on July 24, 1856. During the first years of its history, the membership was limited and therefore was unable to support a resident pastor. As a mission station for a number of years, the organization received the part time service of some of the neighborhood pastors of the Reformed church. Those who are especially remembered are the Rev. Mr. Dunnewold of Gibbsville, and some years later the Revs. John Sietsema and Peter Siegers, both of Sheboygan.
For three summers the church was served by students of the Western Theological Seminary of Holland, Mich. Three ministers who labored here for a summer each during their student days are the Rev. Ralph Bloemendaal, Rev. Henry Harmeling, and Rev. B. F. Brinkman.
In 1898 the church received its first resident pastor in the person of Rev. Fred J. Zwemer, and since that year, with the exception of brief periods, the church has been served by men living in Sheboygan Falls and rendering full time service.
Beginning in the year 1898, the pastorate comprised the following:
1898-1903......Rev. Fred J. Zwemer
1904-1907......Rev. Peter C. DeJong
1908-1911......Rev. John H. Tietema
1912-1917......Rev. Bernie Flikkema
1918-1919......Rev. Herman Van Der Ploeg
1920 to date...Rev. Raymond J. Lubbers
The present house of worship was erected in 1883 and was enlarged in 1909. The need of a more commodious building is keenly felt by the present congregation, and building funds are being raised by several organizations connected with the church.
At present the congregation comprises seventy-five families with a total membership of 324. Of this number, 190 are communicant members.
The St. Mary's congregation of Sheboygan Falls, was organized on May 16, 1896. Work was started immediately on the building and the edifice was dedicated on August 30, of the same year, by the Most Rev. Frederick H. Katzer, D. D., archbishop of Milwaukee.
The membership at the time of dedication included twelve families.
The house of worship was rebuilt in 1919 and rededicated on April 21, 1920, by the Most Rev. Seb. G. Messmer, D. D., archbishop of Milwaukee, The new building has a seating capacity of 400, and at the present time there are 140 families, comprising 610 persons, included in the parish.
A contemplated project for which plans are being considered, is the erection of a parish school.
The pastors who have served the parish in order of succession are as follows:
1896 to 1903.....Rev. Mr. C. F. Keyser
1903 to 1912.....Rev. Mr. B. Saibreiter
1912 to 1914.....Rev. Mr. F. H. Schneider
1914 to present time....Rev. Mr. George Goesl
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