Church: Owen UCC History (1910-1979)

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Owen, WI United Church of Christ History (1910-1979)


Original Congregational Church of Owen, WI
Ready to leave for the Sunday School Picnic

Owen, Clark County, Wisconsin
(by Prudence Turney)

The First Congregational United Church of Christ of Owen dates back to 1894 when a Sunday School was organized. This was done before the original schoolhouse was built. The Sunday School was held in the homes of Mrs. W. M. Barden and Mrs. Louis Johnson under the leadership of George Howard. This arrangement was temporary until the year 1898 when a Congregational missionary, the Rev. John Willon, visited Withee and held Camp Meetings there and at Babb's Mill. The Rev. Willon visited Owen and in December of 1899 inspired the people of Owen to establish a permanent Sunday School under the leadership of A. G. Johnson and his co-laborers.

In early 1899 Rev. James Austin was placed in charge of missionary work for the area and services were conducted from time to time in homes, schools, and tents during the summer months.

On December 4, 1903, the first Ladies Aid was organized at the home of Mrs. F. C. Griffin. Members present were: Mrs. G. F. Bolmon, Mrs. F. C. Griffin, Mrs. C. M. Hall, Mrs. B. A. Harris, Mrs. J. F. Hughes, Mrs. A. R. Owen, Mrs. R. D. Stoker, and Mrs. J. P. Weirich.

The Ladies Aid was organized before the Congregational Church and later become the women's organization of the church. Today, the Women's Fellowship is still very active and supportive of church activities.

The preliminary organization of the church was held in the schoolhouse Jul 8, 1906. It was voted unanimously to organize a Congregational Church in Owen. The Rev. Abraham Bell conducted the meeting and read the order of procedure from the Council Manual and "letter missive." On Jul 13, 1906 invitations were planned to pastors and delegates for the organizational meeting of the proposed church. By unanimous vote a "letter missive" was issued to call a council on Jul 16, 1906 at two o'clock to complete the work. The Committee elected to write the letter was A. G. Johnson, W. W. Beebe, and Mrs. J. P. Weirich.

On Jul 16, 1906, a council meeting was convened in the KOTM Hall (Knights of the Maccabees) with Dr. Homer N. Carter presiding. A history of the religious work in Owen was read by Mrs. Louis Johnson followed by questions from the council as to reasons for organizing a church in Owen.

The Council moved to meet in private session which was interrupted by an invitation to take a ride on the train, used by the John S. Owen Lumber Company for logging purposes, to a camp where a steam loader was at work. The invitation was unanimously, precipitately, and gratefully accepted and the private session of the council was held in the caboose, all motions being carried at the rate of about twelve miles an hour.

(Quoted from early minutes)

On February 10, 1907, A. R. Owen's offer of a lot on which to erect a church was unanimously accepted, on on August 5th, plans were submitted by the Krasin Brothers, Contractors, for the proposed church building and accepted by the building committee. Old church records are not clear about how money was raised to pay for the new building. Excerpts read as follows:

September 13, 1907 --"A motion was made by Mr. Bolman that the Trustees of the Church be instructed to fill out application to the Church Building Society for a grant of eight hundred dollars."

March 11, 1 908 - - "No word, as yet, received from Congregational Building Society in regard to the promised aid in building of church. Mr. Wiley reported that the contractors were to receive 50% of the sum named in the contract when the roof was on and 50% of the balance when the building was plastered."

May 11, 1 908 - - "Resolved that the Trustees of the First Congregational Church, consisting of Rev. Rowe, A. G. Johnson, G. F. Bolmon, T. H. Wylie, and J. P. Weirich, having reported that they had secured funds enough with a grant promised from the Building Society of the Congregation Church, and that they have erected a building, and some has been accepted. They further report that the building society have advised them, that, owing to the stringency in the money market, the promised funds have not been available, that we hereby authorize the above named Building Committee to negotiate a loan from the State Bank of Owen for a sum not to exceed $1500 payable on or before six months from date, with interest at 7%. When said grant from the Building Society of the Congregational Church is received, some shall be endorsed as part payment thereon."

June 23, 1908 - -"A letter was read from the Congregational Building Society in which it was understood that all indebtedness against the church building must be paid before a loan could be made. A motion was therefore made that Mrs. Bolmon, Rev. Rowe, and J. Weirich act as a committee to see the Officers of the Ladies Aid to advise them of the circumstances and as certain if the funds in their possession could not be secured for that purpose. A motion was made and carried that the church take an annual collection for the Church Building Society. Resolved that this church approve of the execution and delivery to the Congregational Building Society of the mortgage or mortgages required by said society according to the conditions upon which aid is voted and agrees that all installments provided for therein shall be promptly paid."

Church services were first held in a room of the old wooden school house, then in the gymnasium of the new school building, which is now the grade school, until a church building was erected. The church was built on chicken pie suppers served in the room under the stage of the old Opera House, the only equipment there being a table and benches, a stove and dishes--everything else had to be brought in.

The years following 1908 were years of quiet growth through the efforts of the congregation, the Ladies Aid, and hard-working pastors. Owen changed from a lumbering town to one of industry amidst a growing agricultural community. In 1921, a parsonage was built to the south of the church.

In the winter of 1941, the Rev. William P. D. Powe returned to military service, leaving his wife, Fern, and son, Robert, in the parsonage. On Sunday morning, March 16, 1941, both the church and parsonage were completely destroyed by fire. The contents of the church were lost, but most of the furniture in the parsonage was saved. The following Tuesday a meeting of the Church Board was held at Lizzie Williams' home to plan for church services during the time that the congregation would be without a church building. Father Ortmayer of St. Katherine's Episcopal Church offered the use of the Community Hall for services Sunday afternoons and evenings this offer was gratefully accepted. The insurance policy paid $3500 after the fire. However, it was discovered that a $1000 grant from the Church Building Society and a mortgage loan for $1000 were both outstanding, leaving $1500 with which to reconstruct the church.

Dr. Wicks met with the Board and advised that all possible speed be given to securing a good minister to take charge of the field and erection of the new church building. Sunday evening, March 23, 1941, services were resumed in the Episcopal Community Hall with Dr. Theodore Faville, State Superintendent of Congregational Churches, presiding, and he advised that conference funds were available for rebuilding the church. A building committee was appointed: George Winrich, Chairman, Elmer Hoselow, and Robert Nissen, with Prudence Turney to act as secretary. The committee was empowered to purchase a parsonage at a cost not to exceed $3000. The Oscar Griebenow home was purchased for $2700 and has continued to be the home of the minister.

Dr. Wicks assisted the congregation in hiring Wesley A. Hotchkiss, a student at Northland College, as a minister. He preached his first sermon on Jun 15, 1941, and assisted the contractor with carpentry throughout the summer, in addition to his pastoral duties. In September, he was married. As the parsonage had been rented, he and his wife, Mary Ellen, lived in the upstairs of the Hoselow residence.

Dedication of the new church, August 9, 1942
The building of the church progressed rapidly during the summer and fall and on December 21, 1941 the first service was held in the new church at which time Rev. Hotchkiss delivered his Christmas sermon. The church locked many of the finishing touches the rough floor was covered with building paper and folding chairs were used, but it was a most happy occasion. A beautiful silk flog was presented by the living charter members of the Ladies' Aid. The finishing work on the church progressed and on August 9, 1942, the dedication of the new church took place. Dr. Charles Wicks and Dr. Howard Jones of Madison assisted Rev. Hotchkiss in the morning service. Everyone enjoyed a picnic dinner, including the rural churches of Reeseberg and Wolter's Corners, who were guests. At two o'clock in the afternoon, Dr. Theodore Faville gave the dedication sermon. The mortgages on the church were burned during an afternoon service on April 14, 1 946.

The church continued to grow in membership, and by the year 1956 the need for additional space resulted in an addition to the church, which enlarged the sanctuary and dining room, and added a new kitchen, Sunday School rooms, and pastor's study. Thanks to local banks for their financial support, the labor of the men and women of the church, and the poster, the Rev. Ralph Claybaugh, the addition to the church was completed and dedicated May 26, 1957. The Rev. Myron Glick a former minister of our church, was guest speaker for the morning service and the Rev. Jess Norenberg, State Superintendent, was speaker for the dedication service in the afternoon.

The years from 1957 to 1961 saw the completion of the merger of the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Churches into the United Church of Christ. On May 7, 1961 the Owen Congregational Church adopted a new constitution that aligned it with the new United Church of Christ.

Pastor Margaret E. Shepherd & Owen, WI Congregational Church in 1981

The following is a list of ministers who have served the Church:

Rev. James Rowe (1906-1910), Rev. A. W. Cook (1910-1914), Rev. W. H. Sargent (1914 -1920) Rev. E. C. Clark (1920-1922), Rev. W. H. Sargent (1922-1925), Rev. W. P. Powell (1925-1936), Rev. P. F. Pfaffman (1937-1939), Rev. Wm. P. D. Powe (1939-1941), Rev. Wesley Hotchkiss (1941-1944), Rev. Walter Spencer (1944-1945), Rev. Clarence Guthrie (1945-1947), Rev. Myron Glick (1947-1951), Rev. Arthur Meinhardt (1951-1954), Rev. Clarence E. Guthrie (1954-1955), Supply Rev. Ralph Claybough (1955-1963), Rev. Robert Goessling (1964-1969), Rev. Hilding Petersen (1969-1972), Kurt Sampson (1972-1974) Student Pastor Donald Stats (1974 -1976), Student Pastor Rev. Loren Swanson (1976-1979), Rev. Margaret E. Shepherd (1979 - ).



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