Church: Neillsville - Methodist (100th Anniversary - 1958)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Northcott, Devos, Fleming, Kleckner, O’Neill, Ward, Cady, Brooksome, Holt, Schiesel, Borde, Lambert, Janke, Peterson, Devos, Ferrine, Manz, Williams, Huddleston, Schwantes, Diers, Hemp

----Source: Good Old Days: November 12, 2008; contributed by Dee Zimmerman and transcribed by Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

November 1958

The 100th anniversary of Methodism in Neillsville will be marked in special centennial services here Sunday, Nov. 9.

Assisting in the program will be Bishop H. Clifford Northcott of Madison, and Dist. Supt. Raymond J. Fleming. Bishop Northcott will deliver the centennial sermon during the 11 a.m. service. His subject will be, "A Day for the Church."

In the afternoon a concert and homecoming service will be conducted at 2 p.m. by Layman A. L. Devos, who will present the welcome. The service will include an address by the Rev. Mr. Fleming on "Grace for the New Day," a reading of the church history and greetings from former pastors.

In their historical publication compiled for the 100th anniversary celebration, the Methodist claim to have been the first to hold religious services in Clark County. An occasional Methodist clergyman held services at intervals prior to 1850. However, before the Civil War these services were being held with greater frequency, averaging about one a month and the followers in the city were served by the old-time circuit riders.

These services were held in the building now occupied by the Kleckner elevator, which was a grist mill. The circuit riders that visited Neillsville, conducted services gave comfort and solace of religion to the members. In return they were provided with the hospitality of the homes of members.

As it was generally in Wisconsin, so it was in Clark County that the Methodists were not only the first to hold services in the county, but they also erected the first church building in the county at Neillsville in 1869, on a lot give by Mrs. James O’Neill. The present church building stands on this lot.

For many years this building served not only as a church, but also as a public meeting place for concerts, political speeches and holiday celebrations. When the present church was built in 1895, the original building was moved to a lot just north and is still in use for public meetings. It is known as the Veterans of Foreign Wars hall, and is the meeting place of the Assembly of God Church. (The first church building was later removed. D.Z.)

The Rev. R. R. Ward, a Methodist minister from Black River Falls, preached the first sermon in Neillsville in 1847. He was a guest at the James O’Neill home and conducted the services there. In 1858 Neillsville was made a regular stopping point for the circuit rider, and at that time the Rev. James Cady visited here once every three weeks. Rev. John Holt, who stayed only a short time, succeeded him in April 1859. In the fall of 1861 the Rev. William H. Brooksome came to remain three years. Following this it became a custom to assign ministers for longer periods.

In 1868, the records show, the first efforts were made to raise money, other than regular offerings. The congregation accepted flour, groceries and various other articles, as well as coin. Like many other churches and institutions in the community, the early 1930s found the church in financial struggle. By 1940, members realized the need for improvements and began raising a fund for them. The Ladies Aid Society, always a moneymaking organization, saw to it that the kitchen was improved with new stoves.

The men of the church, with Burton Wells in particular, built accommodations in the church for the ever-growing choir. "A Key at a Time" method was used to finance the new organ during the 1940s.

It became evident in the 1940s and early 1950s that extensive improvements were in need. The Rev. Virgil Nulton was pastor. The kitchen was completely modernized and the main sanctuary was remodeled.

During the last year a new plan was voted upon for further improvement and expansion of the church school education system and for better parsonage faculties. A new church entry was completed in 1958 and more space in the sanctuary has been incorporated by the elimination of folding doors.

The first church parsonage that any of the members recall was the house just west of the Neillsville Armory, now occupied by the Donald Schiesel family. After that the parsonage for many years was at 214 Grand Avenue, now owned by Walter Borde. In 1933 the property east of the church, and now the present parsonage, was a gift from Hays Lambert.

The present organizations of the church are:

The Women’s Society of Christian Service. This organization took the place of the Ladies Aid and has been engaged in many activities. The group has a membership of 72. It meets once a month and carries out the outlined program on the conference level. The group also has expanded into four active circles, the Bethany, Lydia, Naomi and Priscilla. At present another circle is in the formative stage. The society carries out a missionary program, of Prayer, World Community Day, Week of Prayer and Self Denial, and sends representatives to each district and sub-district meeting.

The Methodist Men’s Club, organized in 1956, meets once a month and promotes general church interest. Officers are August Janke, B. H. Peterson and A. L. Devos.

The Methodist Youth Fellowship is an active society, which meets once a week with a devotional program. Officers are: Bill Perrine, Katherine Manz, Mary Manz, Darlene Williams, and Mrs. Warren Huddleston as adult counselor.

The Sunday school department has an enrollment of 125. Mrs. Donald Schwantes is primary superintendent, and Mrs. Charles Diers, Jr., is senior department superintendent. Other officers are Mrs. William Perrine and Mrs. Warren Hemp.