Bio: Pitcher, Mary (1832 - 1887)

Contact: R. Lipprandt


Surname: Pitcher, Wicker, Fairbairn


----Source: Medford Area Centennial Book, 1874 - 1974, Medford United Methodist Church, page 77

Pitcher, Mrs.

The first sermon preached in the Town of Medford was in 1875, and was conducted by a Methodist woman, Mrs. Pitcher.

The sermon was preached in the saw mill of James Sample.

Little else is known of Mrs. Pitcher.

----Source: Calling this Place Home: Women on the Wisconsin Frontier, 1850 - 1925, p. 334


Mary's Story (Wicker, Pitcher, probably born in New York, 1832-87)

This story explains how Mary, and then other women, helped establish the Methodist Episcopal Church in north-central Wisconsin.  In 1873, when Mary Wicker Pitcher arrived in the Colby area from Ithaca, New York, with her family (at the age of 41), there was no Methodist church.  Undeterred, she went from place to place expounding the scriptures.  Soon she was holding Sunday services in the schoolhouse, asking visiting minister to preach.  She found a preacher who promised to settle in Colby, but there was no church.  Together with other parish women, Mary helped raise money to buy land and build a church.  Lumbermen contribute logs, mill men sawed them, and the church went up slowly.  It took a decade, but in 1883 the congregation had a wooden church on the corner of Clark and Second Streets, its spire rising high above the row of newly planted trees that crisply marked the edges of the lot.  The women went on to raise enough money to pay off the debt and to buy a four-hundred-pound bell for the church.  By 1885 the women had organized themselves into a Ladies' Aid Society, which held quilting bees and served suppers to raise money for their church.

Women preachers were welcomed in the northern woods, with its dearth of churches.  Settlers listened to whomever would preach the divine word.  We know little about the spread of Methodist through the north woods.  It was probably Mary who conducted the first Methodist service in Medford in 1875 at a local sawmill.  And the sparse records show that Methodist women, both English and German speaking, were active in organizing Ladies' Aid Societies and Foreign and Home Missionary societies.  Their fund raising abilities were legendary, and their story is a part of Mary's story.  She probably died in 1887, but her family stayed on to become long-term members of the Colby Methodist congregation, and other women took up her work.

*The Methodist Church at North Pitcher, NY (a community named for Nathaniel Pitcher) was organized in 1843, with about sixty members. Rev. James Atwell was the first pastor. The church edifice is of wood and was erected in 18434. The present membership is about fifty and the present pastor is Rev. H. Burton Smith.

Biographical Information

*Mrs. Benjamin Pitcher, Mary Wicker (b. 1833 -34, NY - d. 2 May 1887, WI) lived on a farm between Colby and Unity and sometimes preached at the Unity M. E. Church, Page Number: 49.  She is buried in the Colby Cemetery, Colby, Wis. beside her husband.  Benjamin Pitcher died 19 Sep 1908 .

1870 Federal Census, Washington, Trenton, Wisconsin, United States

Mary Pitcher, keeping house 
Gender: Female
Age: 36
Race: White
Birth Year (Estimated): 1833-1834
Birthplace: New York
Household Members
Benjamin Pitcher M 42 New York (1828), Estate value $1,000, Personal value $400
Mary Pitcher F 36 b. New York (1833 - 1834)
Viola Wicker F 12 (1858) Wisconsin

1875 Wisconsin State Census, Marathon County

1 Male & 1 Female

1880 Federal Census, Dist. 86, Hull, Marathon, Wisconsin, United States

Benjamin Pitcher, white married male
Occupation: Farmer
Relationship to Head of Household: Self
Relationship to Head of Household (Original): Self
Father's Birthplace: New York 51 yrs., 1828), United States
Mother's Birthplace: New York, United States
Household Members
Benjamin Pitcher Self M 51 New York, United States
Mary Pitcher Wife F 48 New York, United States, both parents b. NY - Occupation: Preacher

1905 Wisconsin State Census, Hull, Marathon, Wisconsin, Page: 374

Benjamin Pitcher, white married male
Household Members
William Reeves Head M 26y Wisconsin
Lula Reeves Wife F 25y Wisconsin
Benjamin Pitcher M 77y (1828) New York
Jeannette Pitcher F 76y Scotland
William Fairbairn M 63y Canada



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