Religions in Portage County
The Religions of Portage County
May 24, 1969
(This article has been broken into two parts for ease of reading)
Catholic Churches Protestant Churches & Jewish
Now that we have concluded the rather lengthy discussion on the Catholic churches in Portage County, we can proceed on in our study towards a new topic, that or the Protestants. Although they are a minority, population wise, the number of churches are more than twice or three times more numerous than the Catholics.
To follow the sequence of discussion that was used in discussing the Catholic religion, the Lutheran churches will thus be studied first.
There are three very significant groups of Lutheran in this country. the ALC or the American Lutheran Church with about 2.5 millions members, the LCA or the Lutheran Church of America with a membership of 3.5 millions, and the Missouri Synod which has about the same number or membership as the LCA.
The American Lutheran Church is mainly composed of Norwegian and German ethnic groups. The old ALC merged with the Evangelical Lutheran Church (mainly Norwegians) in 1960 to form the present ALC. The Lutheran Church of America is pretty well mixed in ethnic groups, although the original group was mainly of Dutch ancestry. The old LCA merged with the Augustana (Swedish group) and Suami (Finnish group) Senates in 1962 to form the present LCA. While the Missouri Synod has maintained its identity since it was organized in 1848. Its members are mainly or German ancestry.
There are no significant differences between the three groups, and what differences they have are purely of tradition. The Missouri Synod can be considered as a conservative group, the LCA as a liberal group because many of its churches are in big cities along the eastern parts of the country, and the ALC can be put in between these two. As of the present, the ALC and the LCA members can worship in either place, while the Missouri Synod does not allow this. But there have been a great deal of speculations that all three groups will merge into one in a very near future.
The two biggest Lutheran churches are located in the city of Stevens Point. One belongs to the American Lutheran Church, that is the Trinity Lutheran Church, while the other, St. Paul Lutheran Church, belongs to the Missouri Synod. Their membership are 1,454 and 1,224 respectively, not very large as compared to that of the Catholics, but considering the fact that the majority of the people here are of Polish ancestry, this is quite a significant group.
Although the first attempts to locate the scattered church membership possibilities among the Scandinavian Lutheran people, mostly Norwegians, in Stevens Point were made as early as 1857, the Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran Congregation, now known as the Trinity Lutheran Congregation, was not established until April 27, 1873.
The first attempts were made by a Norwegian missionary pastor, the Rev. Nils Brandt, pastor of Rock River and other congregations. He visited Stevens Point once or twice a year, and it is believed that the first church service was conducted in the home of Mr. Joel B. Scott.
Until 1873, Stevens Point was considered a "Mission Church". When the local congregation was established, there were 28 male members. Incorporation procedures were completed and the new congregation was officially created on April 26, 1874, a year after it was organized. The first pastor called here in 1873 was the Rev. Nils Berge. As the congregation had no church, services were held at the Presbyterian Church.
In 1880, the first Sunday school was organized by Ole L. Sande, Jacob Reduson and John A. Murat. Soon after, the choir, the Ladies Aid Society and a Girls’ Club were started. Gradually the church took steps to keep pace with the changing times. Early services were conducted in Norwegian. But as more and more people of other nationalities joined the church, some of the services were held in English. Beginning in 1913, all services were in English.
In 1892, the congregation was reincorporated under the state laws of Wisconsin, and on March 20, 1898, it was decided to officially change the church’s name to Trinity Congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. At this time, church facilities were still shared with the Presbyterian Church, and as memberships in both churches grew, the Trinity group decided upon a separate church. It purchased a lot on the corner of Brawley and Strong avenues, and in 1901. the church was completed.
In 1913, the congregation decided to hire a full-time pastor. Before this time, ministers were serving and living in other towns. The Rev. Theodore H. Ringoen accepted the job in that same year. A pipe organ was installed in the church in 1928 and the name of the church was changed to the First English Lutheran Church in 1929. It resumed its former name of Trinity Lutheran Church in 1949.
In 1950, the church decided to build a new church, and the basic design of the present church, distinctly modern, was accepted a year later. It was completed and dedicated in 1954. The church presently owns properties valued at $420,000 and has a liabilities of $l52,000.
Other Lutheran churches that belong to the American Lutheran Church in Portage County are Peace Lutheran Church in Amherst, Lutheran Church at Nelsonville, North New Hope and South New Hope (but this had been closed for quite a few years now), and Faith Lutheran Church at Rosholt and Alban.
Peace Lutheran Church in Amherst was organized in l877 when the area was last growing with numerous Norwegian immigrants. These Norwegians decided to settle out on the eastern portion of the county because the land and climate "is like home". The land was full of boulders and rocks, because of the terminal moraine, and in order to plough the land, these Norwegians had to dig them out with their bare hands with the aid of horses and simple implements. They did not complain of the hardships though, because their desire to settle in that area, which was so much like the soil back in Norway to them, was much too great to allow for any complaints,
Services were held in the homes of different members of the congregation. But the decision to build a church was soon to come. In 1879, the church was built and dedicated. It was a simple white church with the Rev. Nils Forde as its first pastor. But, unfortunately, it was burned down in 1951, causing the congregation to meet for services at some other sites. It was only temporarily though, for the decision to build a new church was made immediately. The basic architectural design of the present church is very modern, as can be seen in some of the illustrations (not included in this site), and distinctive. It was completed in 1954 with a very distinctive structure in the bell tower called the "Free Standing Tower".
The present membership total is 367 with the Rev A. P. Tidemann as the pastor.
The Nelsonville Lutheran Church also belongs to the American Lutheran Church. Nelsonville is a village of 171 people, but it has a membership of 248 persons. This can be accounted for by the farmers living outside the village who come to worship in town. Some of these worshippers are retired people who want to live in a remote place far from the crowd
It was organized in 1887 by a group of Norwegians who, at that time, covered practically the entire eastern portion of Portage County. They decide to build a church, and did so in 1888 when it was dedicated. The Rev. Finn Magelson became its first pastor. Norwegian was used during the early stages of the church, but changed to English as more and more people of different ethnic backgrounds began to move in. A proof that the people who first organized and built the church were Norwegians are the Norwegian inscriptions that can be seen above the two side doors inside the church leading to the sacristy.
The church is relatively simple and is white in color. This same church that was built in 1888 still stands today, but a remodeling job was done in 1956, adding a second story to the old one-story building. This enlargement was necessary because of the increase in number of worshippers. A new organ was recently purchased to add to the attraction of the church.
The Rev. A. P. Tidemann is the present pastor of the church. He also is the pastor at the Peace Lutheran Church at Amherst, as have been mentioned above.
Not too far away from Nelsonville, straight north to be exact, is the town of North New Hope, which is very small. But one is probably surprised to see that the church has quite a large congregation, 232 as of last count. Most of these worshippers, like those in Nelsonville, are farmers and retired persons.
A member of the American Lutheran Church, it was organized, again by a predominantly Norwegian group with some Germans, in 1865, the oldest Lutheran church, under the ALC group, in Portage County. The Lutheran church in Scandinavia in Waupaca County, which was organized in 1855, was the mother church of all the Lutheran churches of the ALC in Portage County. But when this church was organized, it became the mother church. The church was built in 1886, but it burned down in 1925 when the present church was built. Its present pastor is the Rev. Paul O. Monson.
About three-quarter of a mile down the road stands the Lutheran church of South New Hope, which was organized in 1889, and a church was built in 1925. It broke off from the North New hope church because of religious controversies. It had been closed for the last few years. But because of its antiquity and more so because of its altar which was built to the likeness of those in Norway, the Wisconsin Historical Society has launched a movement to organize the church into a historical landmark
Still another mile down the same road is another Lutheran church; often called the Benson Corner’s Church built in 1926. This church broke off from the mother church at North New Hope. The fact that there are only 25 parishioners that belong to the church, and hiring a pastor from Madison who comes up to conduct services every Sunday, leads to a speculation that the break-up was more than a religious dispute. But, unfortunately, the author could not find any answer to the mystery. The church itself is relatively new; it must have been remodeled recently, and simple.
The last Lutheran church under the ALC group is the smallest of the lot, in size that is. It is located in the township of Alban, and thus is called Alban or Faith Lutheran Church. Its appearance is very humble, both in size and looks. Its present pastor is the Rev. W. W. Peterson.
Having discussed the Lutheran churches under the ALC, we can now turn to those that belong to the Missouri Synod group.
There are four of them in Portage County, St. Paul Lutheran Church in Stevens Point, Amherst and Junction City, and St. John Lutheran Church in Almond. Again, because of its size, St. Paul Lutheran Church in Stevens Point should be discussed first.
Worshippers of St. Paul Lutheran Church, prior to 1872, were served by a missionary sent here by the Missouri Synod. Services were held in local homes when the Rev. J. Strieter was commissioned to serve the local group. He also held services in the surrounding communities. About 1865, Wausau called on Candidate J. J. Hoffman to serve its congregation. While he was serving there he also took over the congregations in Stevens Point, Almond, Amherst and Wisconsin Rapids.
Early in the fall of 1872, St. Paul Lutheran Church had its real beginning, a modest start, with only a dozen families, primarily Germans, making up the membership of the newly organized group. The first congregational meeting was held on October 2, 1872, when the constitution was drafted and adopted. The Rev. W. C. Schilling became its first resident minister; he also served the congregations at Almond and Amherst. After fifteen years as pastor he retired in 1887.
German was the only language used during that time, and it was not until the summer of 1909, under the Rev. B. O. Richter, English was introduced in the services together with German.
On August 18, 1934, the church was struck by lightning and was totally destroyed in the ensuing blaze. The congregation met and decided to build a new church on the same site. The new stone church of Old English Gothic architecture was dedicated in December of 1935.
The present parochial school, the only non-Catholic school under the parochial school system in Portage County, had its almost forgotten roots in the efforts of several generations ago. The school had been conducted on church property in 1889 by a theological student in his vicarage year, A. Krusche. The second edition of St. Paul Lutheran School was started in the fall of 1909. The modern version of the school was initiated in September of 1955, when classed were begun in the church basement. Classes were held for the first time in the new school building in April of 1958. It presently has an enrollment of 98 pupils attending form first to eighth grade with four teachers supervising the school.
Its present membership total 1,224 souls, which means those who are pledged or baptized to the church, but those that are committed, meaning that the persons have to be over fourteen years of age and have received communion, are much less in number. An average of 620 persons attend the Sunday’s services. Its present pastor is the Rev. Melvin Dake.
St. Paul Lutheran Church in Amherst was organized in 1867 by a group of Germans, but the church was not built until 1872. This church still stands today, but the congregation had another church built in 1953 in a New England Colonial style. Its altar, in contrast to the Peace Lutheran Church in the same town of Amherst, is much more elaborate with a statue of Jesus and other decorations, while that of the Peace Lutheran Church only decorate its altar with a plain brass cross suspending from the ceiling.
Its present pastor is the Rev. John F. Muller who is a very interesting man to know. He lost both of his legs from a disease. But he did not let this loss deter him in any way from performing his duties. He does his preaching from a wheel chair, and is quite efficient in doing other things for himself.
The membership at the present is 271 souls, much smaller than its counterpart the Peace Lutheran Church. The ratio used to be much greater, but recent migration out to the eastern portion of the county of the Germans accounted for the rise in membership.
St. Paul Lutheran Church at Junction City was organized in 1918 with the church being built in the same year. A new church was built six years ago. This is a relatively new church as compared to the rest, which were mostly started in the 1800’s. The present membership is 440 souls of which 305 are committed. The pastor is the Rev. Edward N. Bartell
St. John Lutheran Church at Kellner was organized in 1865, representing one of the oldest Lutheran churches in the county. Its present membership is 445 souls of which 276 are committed. The pastor is the Rev. Carl Gaiger
The last Lutheran church under the Missouri Synod group in Portage County is St. John Lutheran Church located in Almond. It was organized in 1870 by a group of Germans. The present pastor is the Rev. Desmond Jose. The church now has 445, souls, and 276 of those are committed, as members
The author has mentioned the three different groups in the Lutheran denomination earlier, but so far the Lutheran Church of America has not been written about. This is because the LCA does not have any parish that belongs to the group in Portage County. Although it is the biggest group of the three, it has most of its parishes in the eastern part of the United States, around the big cities. Most of its members are of Dutch ancestry, and they have a large concentration out in the eastern part of the country, especially in New York and Pennsylvania. So it is not surprising that Portage County, settled mostly by Polish, German and Scandinavian immigrants, does not have a Lutheran church under the LCA group.
There is reason to believe that the first church congregation in Portage County may have been organized in Plover in the mid-1840’s by the followers of the Methodist faith led by a home mission pastor, the Rev. J. Hurbert. Services were probably held in log cabins of the various members, and in 1850, in the room of the County Court House. The county seat was still in Plover then. The county commissioners’ proceedings state the Court House was being used that year "for public meetings and public worship", but failed to mention the name of the people. It was not until 1861 that this congregation succeeded in building a church in Plover.
As in the studies of the Catholic and Lutheran churches, we will begin our discussion of the Methodist churches in the city of Stevens Point.
The first Methodist worship service in Stevens Point was held in the "Raftsman’s House", which more than a century ago occupied the present site of the Copps Company office and warehouse at 144 Main Street. Although the first church was not organized until the summer of 1857, this first service was conducted in 1845 by a Methodist preacher, a Rev. Hurbert who, as mentioned above, also conducted the services at Plover.
When the first church was built 112 years ago, it was called the Methodist Episcopal Church, and the pastor in charge was the Rev. William Spell, who remained there for a year. Before the church was erected, services were held in the district school building at 420 Clark Street, where all of the religious groups of the city conducted their services at that time. The Rev. E. Cook, President of Lawrence University at Appleton, dedicated the new church on March 14, 1858. The Rev. W. B. Holt was the resident pastor.
In 1866, the church building was moved from its Strongs Avenue - Brawley Street location to 450 Clark Street, corner of Strongs Avenue. Under the pastorate of the Rev. M. McChesney, a new church on the northeast corner of Strongs Avenue and Brawley Street was dedicated on December 7, 1890.
The name of the church was changed from the Methodist Episcopal to St. Paul’s Methodist Episcopal. It cost $12,000 not including the stained glass windows, which were donated as memorials
In 1939, the word Episcopal was dropped from the Methodist Church name nationally and the local church then assumed its present name of St. Paul’s Methodist.
In 1960, a Japanese-American minister became the pastor of the church; his name was the Rev. Perry Saito. He did not remain for long, when the Rev. Theodore Schwartz came in 1961. The Rev. Schwartz is a very interesting person. He received his doctorate degree a couple of years ago and will be leaving for Chicago to perform a new duty as psychoanalyst to the priests and nuns throughout the nation who may have problems of any kind
The groundwork for the Wesleyan Methodist Church, still a young church in Stevens Point, was laid in 1943, when the Rev, and Mrs. Charles Butcher were appointed by the Wisconsin conference to do evangelistic work here.
The Butchers moved to Stevens Point and started their work in July of that year. In March 1944, they held special services in the Old Armory. In February of 1946, the Butchers had a home and chapel built on Center Street and Welsby Avenue. The Rev. Chester Finley was the first minister to speak in this chapel.
In 1953, the Rev. Nunzio Cotrone succeeded the Rev. and Mrs. Butchers. He rented a building formerly used by the Church of Christ in 1953, and in 1954 purchased it. The Rev and Mrs. Donald Berry took over the job in 1954, and under them the members increased and active church groups were organized.
The congregation in Plover was not organized until 1856, although there had been services held since the 1840’s, and the first church was not built until 1861. According to some of the names being involved in organizing the church, such as Olson and Quincy, it appeared to be that they were mostly Scandinavian.
In 1859, even before the church was built, the congregation had a membership of eighty. But after a hundred years, the membership only grew to 250, not a very substantial increase. The church, built in 1861, was remodeled in 1920 and was kept in use until 1964 when the congregation, under the pastorate or the Rev. Arland Azerill, decided to construct a new church. It is beautifully designed and is quite impressive. A separate bell tower adds a very distinctive attraction to the church, which is quite small due to its fewness in the number of membership. It is the first thing that one will see driving into Plover from Stevens Point.
The Rev Richard Hansen came in January of 1967 when he also performed his duty as pastor at the Methodist Church in Buena Vista. In the fall of 1968, he added the Methodist Church in Amherst to his list.
The Methodist Church in Buena Vista was organized in 1858 by a group primarily of German immigrants. In 1859, the number of membership was 50, but because the town never made any substantial growth, the number only increased by 21 in a hundred years. The congregation can be proud of one thing though, that it always has a hundred percent participation every Sunday.
The present church is the same one that was built in the 1860’s, with remodeling jobs done on it once or twice during its long history. As was mentioned above, the Rev. Richard Hansen is its present pastor.
The Amherst Methodist Church was organized in 1854 by a group of Scandinavian. Its membership was 138 in 1859, but its ratio of growth is not quite on the same level as the ratio of growth of the town. In a hundred years, the membership only increased by 41 to 179.
In 1954, the congregation decided to add a new church onto the old one. The basic design is of the New England Colonial style and is very beautiful and distinctive. The inside is fully carpeted but because the number of its members is not large, the church is quite small. Since the new addition was made, the old church has been used as a meeting room for any occasions that may arise.
The Baptist church was one of the first churches to be organized in the county. In the late 1840’s, (this date is probably incorrect – webmaster) the American Baptist Publication Society (now known as Judson Press) sponsored six Chapel cars which were taken by railroad to many out of the way places in the north-western parts of the state where there were no churches. These Chapel cars were railroad coaches made to seat as many as 175 persons and also provided living quarters for a missionary family.
To this area came the Rev. Chas Rust with the "Glad Tidings" Chapel car, and founded many Baptist churches in the area, including Bancroft and Almond, which were organized in 1901, and l902. One of these Chapel cars, "Grace", is on display at the Green Lake Baptist Assembly grounds. Both of these churches are quite small and simple because they arc out in the rural areas, and the majority or the people belong to the Catholic churches.
As for the city of Stevens Point, there are two Baptist churches, the First Baptist Church, organized in 1855, and the Bible Baptist Church which was only organized recently, in 1963 to be exact.
The First Baptist Church was among the first churches organized in Stevens Point. It was organized in 1855 in the district schoolhouse at 420 Clark Street, later known as the Lizzie Cadman home. Mr. Elder Craw was responsible for organizing the congregation and regular meetings were started in the spring of 1857, when Dr. D. H. Cooley became the first resident pastor.
The Rev. A. B. Watts, who was ordained in June 1873, organized to build a new church at the site of the present church in 1877. A fire damaged the church in 1888 and the congregation went without a church or pastor. But it was rebuilt in 1889.
The Rev. James Blake, probably the best known and the pastor with the longest record of service, came to Stevens Point in 1904, but resigned to take a pastoral job in Milwaukee in 1910. He came back, however, in 1912 and remained till his death in 1933. Under him, the present church, built of brick, was built on October 29, 1916. The work included the building of the new auditorium, and the old part of the church became the gymnasium, the guild room and the nursery Its present membership is 250 with the Rev. Wayne E. Christensen as the pastor.
The Bible Baptist Church came to the city of Stevens Point in 1963 and bought the hundred-year old Linwood School building in 1965. Before this, three or four families gathered and met at the homes of the members in Whiting. The Rev. Stanley Lightfoot came in 1966 and became the first resident minister. The church is very small and old, as may have been noted, because it only has about 80 registered members.
There is a basic difference between the two churches. The first Baptist Church, under the American Baptist Church group, is a much more liberal group than the Bible Baptist Church which belongs to the General Association of Regular Baptist.
We have now completed the discussion of the major churches and can proceed to study the rest of the Protestant churches.
The Episcopal Church of the Intercession, the first church in Stevens Point, received its beginning in 1852 through the efforts of General Ellis, then receiver of the U.S. Land office. He came to this territory from the East under the sponsorship of the Episcopal Church. He stopped in Ohio and then came to Green Bay where he organized a parochial school. He was then appointed land agent for this territory and came to Stevens Point. As soon as he got here, General Ellis, a lay reader, began to conduct services in his home in 1848.
Subscription was started by Gen. Ellis in December of 1852 to build a church. The first church building in Stevens Point , a frame structure with some Gothic features, was erected in the corner of Church and Clark streets. It was completed in July 1853, and in August the first services were held there by the Rev. Stephen Millet and the Rev. Thomas Greene, the latter becoming the first rector on Nov. 13, 1853.
The first frame parish schoolhouse was built at Church and Clark streets in Nov. 1854 on land donated by Gen. Ellis. It was opened on January 2, 1855, to provide gratuitous education for children of the poor, but was later discontinued. Father Greene was the first headmaster and the congregation soon outgrew the little church, and a site on the north-east corner of Church and Ellis streets, a block south of the first church, was purchased. Work began on the new church in 1892, and was completed in 1894 at a cost of $35,000. The rector at this time was the Rev. Reginald Heber Weller who arrived on February 18, 1890. On February 1, 1901, he resigned to take up a new job as the Bishop co-adjuter of the Episcopal Diocese of Fond du Lac.
On February 26, 1915, a disastrous fire destroyed the Guild Hall adjoining the church on the north, and badly damaged the interior of the church. But, fortunately, the loss was covered by insurance and repairs were made soon after. The longest term for any pastor was the Rev. Edward C. Lewis who came here in 1939 and just recently retired.
The other Episcopal Church to be found in Portage County is Olaf’s Episcopal Mission in Amherst. It is very small, both in size of the church and congregation, There are about four families in Amherst that belong to the church. There is no resident minister, but a minister from Waupaca does come to town every Sunday to conduct services. His name is the Rev. Edmund Webster.
The Frame Memorial Presbyterian Church was originally called First Presbyterian Church of Stevens Points It was in the process of becoming a Presbyterian church during the period from 1853 to 1865, having been locally organized by a group of interested persons who called themselves Congregationalists. Although the congregation functioned under the care of the Old Fox River Presbytery, it did not become Presbyterian until 1865. It was actually an outgrowth of two separate lines of religious activity that preceded it.
The Rev. Gordon B. Meyer, who came here in 1853, was credited by officers of the church with having provided leadership responsible for an upsurge or interest and activities, as well as growth in Sunday School and congregational membership.
The records show that a society of the Congregational Church was incorporated August 15, 1853. The first minister was the Rev. George Turner. In 1854, Rev. Turner was received into the Presbytery of Fox River, in session at Berlin, from the Congregational Association of New York and Brooklyn, and the First Congregational Church of Stevens Point was taken under the wing of the Presbytery.
As far as the records show, no other Presbyterian minister resided in Stevens Point until the Rev. Edward F. Fish began work in August 1864. In that same year, a conference of Congregationalists and "Old" and "New School" Presbyterian was held in Stevens Point. The outcome of it was the organization of the First Presbyterian Church on January 25, 1865
The present church was built between 1892 and 1896. It was named in honor of Walter R. Frame, its minister from 1884 to 1890. The total cost was $19,669. The cornerstone was laid September 27, 1892, and in the spring of 1893, the Sunday school room was completed and used for services. The rest of the building was not completed until 1896. By that time membership had grown to about 200. Its present pastor is the Rev. Richard Steffen.
Peace United Church of Christ, on Dixon Street and Wyatt Avenue, came into existence a short time before the turn of the century as the Friedens Germeinde. It was also known as the German Evangelical Friedens Church in those early days, as well as Peace Evangelical Church and Reformed Church before the adoption of its present title.
The congregation was founded on September 10, 1895. According to the church records, the first service was conducted by the Rev. C. E. Hartenstein of Colby at what had been the old Episcopal Church of the Intercession, on Clark and Church Streets. The congregation was incorporated on January 8, 1896.
Among those early day leaders, who were founders of the congregation were Fred Stieler, John Zimmer, George Thith and others. The first resident pastor of the congregation was the Rev. G. Ludwig. It was during his pastorate that both the present church and parsonage were built, the church in 1897, and the parsonage in 1898. Before the erection of the church, the newly organized congregation met for worship in a building on the South side known as Zimmer’s Hall.
The church was organized under the name of Peace Evangelical Church, translated from German, and in 1935, following the merger of the Evangelical Synod of North America with the Reformed Church, the name was changed to Peace Evangelical and Reformed Church, In June of 1957, following the merger of the Evangelical and Reformed denomination with the Congregational Christians, the name was changed to Peace United Church of Christ. Its present (1969) pastor is the Rev. S. E. Birkner.
The Jehovah’s Witness congregation was established in Stevens Point in 1916. Meetings of the worshippers of this denomination were held in the homes of the members until early in 1930, when the group rented the Odd Fellows hall for its services. This meeting place was used by the group until 1943, when Kingdom Hall at 228 McCulloch Street was secured. Mr. Ralph Silvernail was the first congregational servant in 1916.
This building was used until 1957, when a new modern stone building on Highway 10, east of the city limits, was completed. When the congregation was organized, there were about 30 members. In 1958, there are 147 active ministers with 25 associate members. The present congregational servant is Mr. Luke Laszewsk.
The Assembly of God Gospel Tabernacle congregation was established in Stevens Point in the late 1920’s. The first meetings were held in a tent on the corner of Jefferson Street and Michigan Ave. At that time, the local congregation was known as an Assembly of God Mission. Out of town speakers were secured for the tent meetings, and musical talent came from other towns. The Rev. E. G. Block of Mosinee came here to conduct the services and was the local congregation’s first pastor
The first plans called for the construction of a church at McCulloch Street and Wyatt Avenue under the supervision of Rev. Block, the first resident pastor was the Rev. Emil Lindquist who came here in 1931.
The local church received its Certificate of Fellowships, dated January 29, 1931, certifying that the tabernacle had entered into the cooperative fellowship with the Wisconsin and Northern Michigan District Council of the Assemblies of God.
The construction ox the present tabernacle, at 1128 Church Street, started in August of 1932 under the supervision of Rev. Lindquist. The present pastor is the Rev. Paul Bicket.
The Church of Christ in Stevens Point is an outgrowth of a number of years of development. The Rev. Wilson Mallory began prancing in this area in 1894-1895. For several years he preached in school houses, or wherever he could get an audience. He preached in such places as Colby, Granton, Knowlton, Lindwood, Mill Creek, Unity and Woodville. There were established congregations in these places at the turn of the century.
The church began meeting in Stevens Point when it bought a building at 914 Ellis Street, now the Wesleyan Methodist Church. At the time the Stevens Point congregation was founded, there was a group meeting in Lindwood. While the Stevens Point group met at Ellis Street church, the Linwood group met in the Linwood Schoolhouse and later in the home of Ed Frost and others. By 1925, the group had ceased to meet at Linwood, and most of those who owned any means of transportation went to Stevens Point for services.
The first resident evangelist was Leslie E. Diestelkamp. He came to Stevens Point once a month, from Green Bay, for a year before moving here in 1944.
The present facilities at 501 Strongs Avenue were purchased in 1952 under Mr. Lowry who became the resident evangelist in 1951. Membership in 1958 was 75 with the average Sunday morning attendance of 65. From this church, two others have started, Marshfield Church in 1952, and Wausau Church in 1954. The present evangelist is James Dillinger.
The First Church of Christ, Scientist was founded early this century. Two residents of Stevens Point, although unknown to each other, became interested in Christian Science about the same time. One was Miss Ethel Scott, the late Mrs. Robert K. McDonald, and the other was Mrs. Emma Lamb, a music teacher in Stevens Point. These two eventually discovered that they were interested in the same thing and agreed to meet each other at the home of Mrs. Lamb to read a Bible lesson. This meeting was the beginning of the present church.
Gradually, others became interested until there was a small group formed which met for the first time on Sunday December 6, 1914, at the McDonald’s home on St. Louis Avenue, now South River Drive. Regular Sunday services were conducted continuously in the various homes of those participating, until they accepted the hospitality of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Whittaker who offered their home to be used as a meeting place.
In January of 1926, the group was accepted as a society by the Mother Church, the First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, and became known as the Christian Scientist Society, Stevens Point. In December 1935, the members had purchased the former German Methodist Church at 301 Center Street, and in 1938, remodeled it. In that same year, the Society qualified as a branch church of the Mother Church and became known as the First Church of Christ, Scientist, Stevens Point.
A free, public Christian Science Reading Room had been maintained by the church since 1938 in various locations in the city. In 1957, a new lot was purchased at the northeast corner of Main Street and Minnesota Avenue for the construction of a new church edifice, which provides room for an auditorium, Sunday school, and a large reading room.
The Jewish people of Stevens Point and central Wisconsin area organized a congregation of Hebrew faith here in September of 1904. Within little more than a year, they had purchased land, built a synagogue and dedicated a building. "At a meeting of the Jews of this city, it was decided to organize a congregation of Hebrew faith," said a news report in the Stevens Point Journal in September 1904. "The following officers were elected: president, Israel Shafton; vice-president, S. Jacobson; secretary, I. Bunin; treasurer, A. Green. It will be called the Congregation Beth Israel."
The congregation numbered some 25 active members at that time. From the start of the congregation until 1952, Albin Garber served as cantor. A remodeling project was carried out in 1951 costing $13,000.
Active organizations in the congregation today are B’nai B’rith, a men’s group which was formed in 1915 and is affiliated with the parent national organization and Sisterhood Beth Israel, whose membership is made up of women of the congregation who automatically become members of the group.
As we conclude the paper, the author sincerely hopes that the discussions that have just been made will be of some value to the readers.
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