History of the Churches of Black River Falls

Submitted by Joan Benner jmbenner@tznet.com

From the Jackson County Banner,

Published at Black River Falls, Wisconsin

July 27, 1867, Page 3

About a year and a half ago our paper made brief allusion to our churches, without giving many particulars. We this week present as complete a history of them as it has been possible to gather from old residents. We are indebted to Judge PRICE, Dr. WASON and others for information.

The Methodist Church

Twenty years ago about fifteen citizens of Black River Falls united their efforts for the purpose of building a church and parsonage. The logs were cut on the land between the new Presbyterian church and the Brewery, and hewed on two sides. The site was about where the BRICK Blacksmith Shop is now located, and the building was about 16 by 20 feet--to be used for two purposes--to hold religious service in and for the preacher's place of residence. It was a Methodist institution, and the first church edifice erected in town. It was raised with a good deal of trouble and two gallons of whiskey. At this stage of the game, the religious enthusiasm seemed to decrease, as it does at the present day occasionally, and the church remained without a cover for some time. Finally Judge PRICE took the matter in hand, and put on all the necessary finishing touches.

Rev. Mr. WOOD was sent here by the Wisconsin Conference, and remained two years, giving excellent satisfaction to his flock. He was a great favorite with not only members of his church, but all the citizens. He is now a resident of Herseyville, in Monroe County, where he is preaching to an appreciative flock. A Mr. SNOW was next to locate here, and remained one year. He had been a counterfeiter for years before, and of course did not suit this community. He has since been arrested and set to work in a State Prison--a place better suited to his nature and disposition than a Methodist pulpit. Our informant puts him down as a "dirty dog."

In 1851 and '52, Rev. Jesse PARDUN preached here by authority of the M. E. Conference. It is due that we say that Mr. SNOW was not sent here by the Conference. Judge PRICE says he was an "itinerant vendor." Next came the Rev. Mr. SCHROFF, who remained two years. He is spoken of as a good Christian and preacher. Then came Rev. W. MAYNE, in 1855. In 1856 the society thought itself strong enough to erect a church edifice, and accordingly took the necessary steps. The building was 30 by 50 feet--18 feet posts, and was capable of seating 400 persons.

In 1857, a gentleman named RUSSELL was in charge. Then Rev. Mr. BEAN, whom our informant says was a blubber-headed rogue. He was followed by Mr. HAW, HACKNEY, BROCKSOME, JOHNSON, ANDERSON, TAYLOR and AKERS, the present person in charge. In 1863 the church was remodeled and greatly improved. It is a well-arranged edifice, and reflects credit upon the society. It will seat not less than 450--is provided with a good bell and organ, the latter of which was procured with the money taken at the Mite Societies held the winter and spring of 1866. This church is provided with a very fair choir.

The Congregational Church

In the year 1859, the Rev. Mr. BIGELOW, a Congregationalist minister stationed here, urged the people to aid in building a church edifice for that society. The work was carried through with but little difficulty. The building was 20 by 40--16 feet posts, and could seat about 250 persons. Mr. BIGELOW did not remain in town long. It will be remembered that we published a notice of his death last year. At the time of his death he was residing in Minnesota. Soon after he left here, the Presbyterians rented the church, and Rev. Mr. J. G. WELLS, formerly of Missouri, became their pastor. Mr. WELLS has held the position ever since, and is much thought of as a preacher and citizen. In the year 1866 the Episcopalians bought the church, and Rev. S. H. WOODFORD, a promising and eloquent young preacher, was sent here. Mr. WOODFORD remained about six months, and finding the duties more than he could bear, in connection with his studies, he retired. He is, we believe, attending school in the State of New York. He is kindly remembered by a large circle of admirers in Black River Falls. We shall be glad to hear that he is to return here. Since Mr. WOODFORD left, the church has been used by the Presbyterians, Baptists and Universalists.

In the spring of 1865, Elder WELLS commenced making preparations to construct a church building for his society. A great share of the timber and lumber was secured that year, but the frame was not put up until the summer of 1866. That year it was enclosed, and this year it is expected that the finishing touches will be put on. When fully completed and painted, it will be the finest appearing edifice in the place. It is 30 by 52, 20 feet posts, and will furnish room for about 500 persons. The society has a good choir. Much credit is due Mr. WELLS for his perseverance in the matter of getting so good a society and building. No one doubts his christianity. We hope he will remain with our people for many years to come.

The Baptist Church

The summer of 1866 the work of raising money with which to build a Baptist church began. Work on the building did not commence until last spring. The Rev. Mr. MARVIN has done much toward procuring a suitable building for the society, for which we presume he receives their hearty thanks. It is 30 by 50, 18 feet posts, and will furnish room for 400 persons. It is expected that it will be completed and in readiness for use the present year. Elders CARD, POST, PLUMLEY and MARVIN are the only preachers the society has had. We are pleased to note that the society is increasing in size and usefulness.


The Methodist Society has a membership of 62, the Presbyterians 30, the Baptists 20. All of the churches are well supported, and as a general thing, are largely attended. As we have repeatedly stated, the people of Black River Falls are more liberal in their support of churches and preachers than any city of its size we know of. In all probability the Catholics and the Universalists will build churches within a year from this time.

Plenty of churches and good schools tell well for any town, and so far as the former is concerned, our village is quite well supplied, with hopes of still further enlargement.


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