Church: York Center Church (History - 1980)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Lindsley, Wilcox, Benedict, Greer, Foster, Rowe, Bixby, Carlson

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 7/17/1980

York Center Church (History -1980)

It was in the 1870’s when settlers found good land in what was first known as “District 25,” probably named for Township 25 North. These settlers had faith in the “Greater Powers That Be” by holding worship services in various homes and later in the Livingston School, near what became the “Poor Farm.”

The area became known as the “Turner District” which was customary in naming school districts according to the family owning the land surrounding the schoolhouse or the one being the kingpin in the community.

The first post office was a half mile west of the York Center Community at the George Lindsley home. The first mail was brought by stage coach from Black River Falls and later from Neillsville.

It was the Fox River Lumber Company which gave a land grant of six acres for a church and cemetery. The York Center United Methodist Church is still carrying out the agreement by celebrating the centennial of the congregation at that location this month.

There was a sawmill on O’Neill Creek, southeast of where the church now stands. This settlement was named Wilcox for the boss of the sawmill. It became York Center when the post office was removed.

Adonijah Benedict was the first postmaster of Wilcox. There was a store along with the post office (rather the post office was a small portion of the store). Stock for the store was brought from Black River Falls. Benedict donated the land across from the church land for a town hall. The abstract carries the statement that no alcoholic beverage were to be served on the land. (Any violation means the land must revert back to the owner of the farm.) The tempo of the community remains.

First Church

The first of the churches was built in 1880 and remains in good condition. A Rev. J.P. Greer was the pastor until 1881. He lived in Spencer and rode horseback to his charge. It was his plan they used in laying out the cemetery.

The Rev. Greer was a very busy pastor with the construction of the church. In addition to being pastor at Spencer in 1879, he was also pastor at Loyal. One can only wonder whether he did some of the travels by horse and buggy or whether it was all on horseback.

The church had no basement. A space heater took care of the needs at the time. The Town Hall took care of gatherings which were not of religious nature. For many years the Modern Woodman Hall stood to the east of the Town Hall.

The first seats of the church were homemade benches, around the edges, and chairs, in the center. The altar rail and pulpit were added later.

The Rev. G.N. Foster instigated revival meetings. Those were hard times, but in 1883 he planned a parsonage. According to the conference report, the completed parsonage was worth nearly $800 and nearly paid for. It was at that time that it was reported that York had a new church at the cost of $225 with $140 indebtedness. Evidentially it took some time to get things completed. (The Rev. Foster and his wife died within a few days of each other in the 1918 flu epidemic.)

It was in 1897 that the church was enlarged. Services were held in the Town Hall during that time. By 1899, a belfry and annex were added along with new pews and a pulpit. There was a rededication in February of that year.

The church was remodeled in 1941 and lights were added in 1947-48. In 1949, an altar carpet was laid with aisle runners added in 1952. When the road was blacktopped in 1958, it was widened, and the steps had to be changed to the west rather than north. About this time, the Youth Fellowship gave the United States and Christian flags for dedication.

Revival Times

It was the Rev. Foster, who started camp meetings in a beautiful woodland southwest of the church with ministers and people coming from miles around to worship in the big tent in 1886. In about 1890, there was a week-long meeting in the woods east of the Lincoln School on the south side of the road.

A revival meeting was held at York on August 26, 1900, with 39 probationers recorded.

Many of the family members stayed with the church through the years. Adonijah Benedict’s grandson, Rollie Benedict, and great-grandson, Nyle Benedict, are active members of the church and great-great grandchildren’s names are on the membership roll. Another early name in the community is the Rowe family. There are 65 members in the York Center United Methodist Church and Sunday School is held regularly during the school year. The Women’s Society meets regularly.

Following a customary practice, election day dinners are served at the Town Hall, and each fall a community supper is held. Seven years ago a dart ball club was organized, which is now ecumenical, providing winter entertainment.

Mr. and Mrs. Nyle Benedict take care of the cemetery with George Bixby doing the mowing. The Bixby’s also are the janitors.

In celebrating the centennial this month there will be an ice cream social in the evening along with an antique show Thursday, July 24. Friday evening, July 25, is a hymn sing. On Saturday, July 25, a dinner will be held at the hall for visitors and the community.

On Sunday, July 27, worship service at 9:30 a.m., with the district superintendent, the Rev. William Carlson, as speaker. A potluck dinner will be served at the Town Hall followed by a memorial service in the afternoon.



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