Milwaukee County Presbyterian Churches

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From History of Milwaukee County 1881


IMMANUEL PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (after merger with North Presbyterian) 1871
(Source: History of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, The Western Historical
Company, Chicago; A.T. Andreas Proprietor, 1881, pg. 826-829)
Presbyterianism in Milwaukee is almost contemporaneous with the commencement of the city. The first seeds which has grown the large overshadowing plant of the present having been sown early in 1837. On the thirteenth day of April of that year Rev. Cutting March, at the time missionary to the Stockbridge Indians, assisted Rev. Moses Ordway, founded, in the old Court-house, the first Presbyterian society known in Milwaukee. It consisted originally of eighteen members. Previous to this time, in 1836, Rev. Hiram Barber, a Congregational clergyman, had visited the new settlement and officiated several times. The first record of this Church is dated December 12, 1837. The little society so auspiciously began in the old Court-house, had slowly but steadily started on its upward course, until now they wish to take measures for the further perfecting of their organization as a Church. As the original document will be of interest, it is given below, entire:

"Notice is hereby given that a meeting of the Church and congregation stately working in this house will take place on Tuesday, the 12th of December, next, at two o'clock P.M., for the purpose of electing trustees and doing such other things as are necessary to a legal organization of the Religious Society, according to the statute in such cases made and provided.

"This notice was published from the pulpit of the Presbyterian house of worship, corner of Second and Wells streets, in the Village of Milwaukee, west side of the river, three successive Sabbaths. Pursuant to the above notice, the Church and congregation met. On motion, Daniel Brown was appointed to supply the place of an Elder to preside at the election. On motion, it was resolved that "this Church and congregation have three trustees"; whereupon they proceeded to ballot for the same and it was found John Y. Smith, Jas. H. Rogers and Albert Fowler were duly and unanimously elected. On motion, it was resolved that "the name and style of the Religious body be "The First Presbyterian Society of Milwaukee."

"We the undersigned having presided at an election of trustees this day, holden by "he First Presbyterian Society of Milwaukee", do hereby certify that John Y. Smith, Jas. H. Rogers and Albert Fowler were duly elected according to the statute, and that, on a division by lot of said trustees into three classes according to Sec. 4 of said statute, for the purpose of determining the period of service of each of said trustees, it resulted as follows: 'That the said John Y. Smith is to serve three years; Albert Fowler, two years, and Jas. H. Rogers, one year each from the date forward,'"

(Dated Milwaukee, 12th December 1837.)
In July, 1837, the Rev. Gilbert Crawford, formerly of Lockport, N.Y., commenced his labors as pastor of the young society. He was never installed, but continued his service until the Fall of 1839, when he again returned to New York.

He was succeeded by the REv. Stephen Peet, of Green Bay, October 7, 1839, who served as leader to the little flock until June, 1841.

In the meantime, though, an inadvertency not explained by the record, the statutes governing the organization of religious bodies in the State had not been fully complied with; and in the next entry on the record, dated February 6, 1840, the following is found:

"Resolved. That a committee of three be appointed to investigate the Statutes of Wisconsin relative to the organization of religious societies; also to examine the previous formation of the First Presbyterian Society of Milwaukee-consider the propriety of a re-organization; and, if deemed expedient, to draft a constitution, and report at an adjourned meeting; the committee to consist of A. Finch, Jr., Rev. S. Peet, and W.P. Proudfit."

This adjourned meeting was held Monday evening, February 10, the minutes of which are as follows: "The meeting was called to order by the Rev. S. Peet, Moderator. The committee appointed as aforesaid, through their Chairman, Mr. Finch, made the following report, viz:

"The First Presbyterian Society of Milwaukee, by the statute under which the are organized, has become extinct, in failing to comply with the requirements of the statute in the election of Trustees. Second. That they deem it expedient and necessary to enter upon a new organization; and third, report the following constitution to the Presbyterian Society."

Here follows the constitution; after which, the minutes further tell us that-"The report of the committee was accepted; the constitution was taken up, considered by sections, and adopted; resolved to proceed to the election of officers; where upon, the following persons, were duly elected to serve until the next annual meeting of the society:
For President, Rev. Stephen Peet.
Trustees, Andrew G. Miller
George D. Dousman
Samuel Brown
Edward Vinton
Asabel Finch, Jr.
W.P. Proudfit
Harrison Reed
Shortly after the formation of the Church in 1837, a small house of worship was erected at the corner of Second and Wells streets. In size, it was about 20 x 25 feet. This was occupied by the society until 1840. The congregation had then, so increased in numbers that the little chapel afforded insufficient accommodations and under the date of August 24, 1840, the record shows the following resolution to have been adopted:

Resolved. That we lease of Jas. H. Rogers the room in his block recently finished off, for the purpose of meeting in the same for worship, etc., on the following terms, viz: Said Rogers is to lease the room to the society, and for the rent of the same, is to have the privilege of renting the slips therein, which are go be setup at auction and sold, under the direction of the Trustees, for one year, all of the avails of which are to be appropriated for the rent of said room. Adjourned. A. FINCH, Jr., Clerk.

This hall was occupied as a place of worship until `1842; those members of the congregation living on the east side of the river passing over on a float bridge at the point now occupied by the Grand-avenue bridge.

Early in 1841 the advisability of building a new church edifice was taken into consideration, which resulted, on March 2, of the passage of the following, at a regular business meeting of the society:

Resolved. That we will build a meeting house 42 by 60 with a basement story of brick and superstructure of wood with a steeple, and finished according to plan and specifications.

Resolved. That we let the job of building said meeting house to Messrs. Wm Payne and N.C. Prentiss, for the sum of $3,300, they furnishing all materials for the building and to finish it according to plans and specifications submitted.

Work was immediately commenced upon the building and basement was finished and occupied by the society in the Autumn of 1842. Work upon the auditorium proper was delayed somewhat and it was not until January, 1844, that it was ready for occupancy.

January 24, the church was dedicated by the pastor, the Rev. A.L. Chapin. In this connection may be said that the building was enlarged in 1847, twenty feet being added to its length at a cost of $1,000, and was re-opened for public worship the 21st of November of the same year. The edifice was again extensively remodeled in the Autumn of 1852, the cost of the new improvements being in the neighborhood of $3,000. It was reopened for the second time on the first Sabbath of January, 1853. The building is still standing at the corner of Martin and Milwaukee streets, the upper portion being used as a hall for the Knights of Honor, while the basement has been devoted for secular purposes.

Previous to Mr. Chapin, namely June, 1841, until the Spring of 1842, the Rev. Cyrus L. Watson had charge of the little flock. For nearly a year after his departure the Church was without a regular minister. On the 13th of June, 1843, Rev. A.L. Chapin was invited to the charge for one year and was ordained and installed by the District Convention of Milwaukee, the 24th of January, 1844. His pastorate continued six years and was terminated by his election to the Presidency of Beloit College, in 1850. The pulpit was supplied for the ten months next ensuing by the Rev. N.C. Chapin. In August, 1850, a call was extended to the Rev. Wm. H. Spencer, of Utica, N.Y., who commenced his labors on the 20th of October, of that year, and was installed by the Presbytery of Milwaukee, May 11, 1851.

The growth of the society up to this date had been steady and encouraging, but few incidents of note affected the even tenor of their ways, with the exception of the following, which is taken from the records of August 8, 1846, and shows that the tremblings of the gigantic throes which a few years later were to shake the country to the foundation were even then felt in the Northwestern Territory.

At a meeting held at the office of A. Eldred, called to consider the proprietary of allowing Mr. Codding to lecture in the church on the subject of Slavery, as requested by E.D. Holton, (committee for the purpose of obtaining the church for the friends of the slave). The following preamble and resolution were unanimously adopted:

WHEREAS, We think it inexpedient to allow the occupation of our church for any meeting whose action is political, or to any party whose organization is political even in part, although the course of such party, or the action of such meeting, may be founded in justice and humanity, and the end they profess to have in view meet without warmest approval; therefore,
"Resolved. That we can not give our consent to the occupation of the First Presbyterian church by Mr. Codding as a lecturer for the object for which we suppose it is requested by the committee."

Mr. Spencer closed his ministry in 1854. During the Summer and Fall of 1855 the pulpit was temporarily filled by Rev. A.S. Benson. In 1856 a call was extended to the Rev. S.G. Spees of New York, which was accepted, and he remained pastor of the society for three years, when continued ill health compelled his resignation. He was succeeded by the Rev. J.L. Corning, October 6, 1859, who discharged the duties of pastor until February 19, 1861, when a difference of views caused his retirement. Rev. J.G. Towne was the next pastor, and remained in as spiritual advisor of the society until previous to the union of the church and the North Presbyterian in 1870. In 1869 the first mutterings of the troubles which the church was to undergo in the years following were noticeable. The west side of the river had increased so largely in importance and population that it was deemed necessary by many of the members, notably, those residing on that side of the river, that a new society should be formed on the West Side. Accordingly, at a meeting held March 29, 1869, it is state that "Messrs. John Plankinton, Jos. B. Bradford, H.H. West and A.B. Cleaver tendered their resignations as trustees of the society." In being understood that this move on their part was prepatory to the formation of a new society on the west side of the river, and which ultimately took shape in the organization known as Calvary Church, the history of which will be related further on.

The North Church, as well as the First Presbyterian, suffered from the movement and it was felt that a union of the two churches would do much to strengthen the cause. October 24, 1874, resolutions favoring a union were presented at a meeting of the First Church and adopted. The next month the union was effected and the consolidation organization took the name of Immanuel Church. An act was passed by the Legislature of 1871, allowing the separate bodies of trustees to transfer all property held by them to the corporate body existing under the above title, and under this act the transfer was made. The further history of this organization will be found under the head of Immanuel Church.

First Presbyterian Locations:
1837 - old Courthouse of Milwaukee County
1837 - erected small house of worship at 2nd & Wells St. in the 
Village of Milwaukee
1840 - outgrew building so leased room from James H. Rogers in his Block.
1841 - constructed new Church building on corner of Martin & Milwaukee Sts.

First Pastors:
Rev. Cutting Marsh - organizer - 1837
Rev. Moses Ordway - co-organizer - 1837
Rev. Gilbert Crawford - first pastor - 1837
Rev. Stephen Peet - 1840
Rev. Cyrus L. Watson - 1841
Rev. A. L. Chapin - 1844
Rev. N. C. Chapin - 1850
Rev. William H. Spencer - 1850
Rev. A. S. Benson - 1855 (Interim Pastor)
Rev. S. G. Spees - 1856
Rev. J. L. Corning - 1859
Rev. J. G. Towne - 1861
Rev. Eddy - 1865

First Trustees - 1837
       John Y. Smith
       James H. Rogers
       Albert Fowler

Constitution Committee - 1840
       Asahel Finch, Jr.
       Rev. S. Peet
       William P. Proudfit

Officers - 1840
       Rev. Stephen Peet - President

       Andrew G. Miller
       George D. Dousman
       Samuel Brown
       Edward Vinton
       Asahel Finch, Jr.
       William P. Proudfit
       Harrison Reed 

Members & Trustees who resigned in 1869 to form West side of Milwaukee 
Presbyterian Church, Calvary Presbyterian
       John Plankinton
       Joseph B. Bradford
       H. H. West
       A. B. Cleaver


Merged with members of First Presbyterian church in 1871 and
(Source: History of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, The Western Historical
Company, Chicago; A.T. Andreas Proprietor, 1881, pg. 830)

The North Presbyterian Church was organized January 31, 1849. It was an outgrowth of a desire on he part of the Old School Presbytery to establish a foothold in this section, and accordingly the Rev. Mr. Frazer was sent out for the purpose of organizing a church body, holding the tenets of that school. For nearly a year previous to the organization Rev. John N. Buchanan had held religious services, part of the time in Plymouth Church, then only lately erected, and part in a building near the corner of Chestnut and West Water st