Church History

Union Grove Congregational United Church of Christ, founded in 1844, has a rich history. Our church has over 170 years of history that is rich in faith, tradition, hope, hard work, loss, celebration, and most of all, God's guidance.
 Sunday School Early 1900

On September 8, 1844, fourteen settlers from this area met with the Rev. Cadwell, who was invited to come from Illinois to assist in organizing a church here. That day they met in a schoolhouse and organized what was called “The Congregational Church of Paris,” which was named for only post office in the area. Our church records of that meeting read as follows: “After a season of prayer, the meeting was opened for business. Then on motion it was resolved that we proceed to the formation of a church, in pursuance of which the names of the following persons were received: Albert G. Northway , Jeremiah Hulbert , Ezra Beene  Phineas Cadwell, George N. Weed , Leander C. Northway ,Jared Collar , Ornan H. Collar, Rhoda Collar , Esther Hulbert ,Eliza Weed , Alzina Northway , Mahala Northway, Mary Wheaton .

 

And so, our church was born, as it says, after a season of 1907 Postcard Church Sepiaprayer. Soon other families moved to the area. One month after the organization of the church, the Edwin Moe family moved here from Ohio and joined the congregation. Descendants of Edwin Moe sit here this morning. Four generations of that original family still worship here, 160 years later. As more people settled this area, the congregation grew and soon desired a church building of their own where they could worship, instead of using the schoolhouse.

 


In 1850 an acre of land was purchased for $50.00. This was located not too far southwest of where we sit today, over on Hwy 11. Then came the work of building the church. Men of the congregation camped about 15 miles into the woods, living in a log shanty while they cut the trees. Others used teams of oxen and carts to haul the timbers to the new building site. After much labor, on September 1, 1851, the new wood frame church was dedicated. It was 30 feet wide by 40 feet long, with two doors on the front, heated by two box stoves. There our congregation worshipped and sang and prayed together. A choir was started under the direction of Dr. A. P. Adams.

 

About 10 years later, in April 1862 the small wood frame church building was hooked up to oxen and chains and moved on top of logs across the field to the new location, where our Sunday School building sits today. It was moved to land that was donated to our congregation. The Civil War had a great impact on our church, as it did on so many families in our nation. In August of 1862 at the close of the worship service, 14 young men were presented with a special pocket testament bible as they prepared to serve as volunteers with Company A, 22nd Regiment of Wisconsin Volunteers. At that same time, these 14 men presented the church with a large Bible that was personally inscribed by each of them. Our church still cherishes this bible today.

 

Mrs Owen High School Age Girls Bible Class 1944The women of the church organized a Soldier’s Aid and sent barrels of food and clothing to the Civil War soldiers. Our church has a long history of reaching out. When the air grew thick with smoke one day in 1871, and a man rode out from Racine with the news that Chicago was burning, our church took action. For two weeks straight the women baked bread and pared potatoes, in day and night shifts. They packed bedding and clothing – whatever could be spared. Each day a wagonload of supplies was taken to Racine and sent by boat to help the victims of the Great Chicago Fire. The church surged in membership in the 1870s, and it was decided that a new, larger building was needed. On January 15, 1878 a new, brick church was completed at a cost of $5,000 with much of the labor done by our church members. Membership at that time was estimated at 550 people. In 1884 our church officially changed its name to “Union Grove Congregational Church and Society.”

 

Just 15 years after it was built, sadly, the church building was destroyed by fire, along with the former wood frame building that stood next to it. The congregation worshipped across the way in what was the schoolhouse, and today is the Masonic Temple. The members swung back into action and immediately began rebuilding. Today we sit in the building that was formally dedicated on June 1, 1893. The cost of the building was $7,000. During that time there was a young-women’s group called the “Lend-a-Hand Society.” They raised $81.00 and with that money bought the beautiful stained glass windows that still today bear their touch with the words, “Look out and not in, Look forward and not back and lend a hand.”

 

Re-Enactment Picture The Old ChoirIn 1924 there was a great need for more space, and under the direction of Rev. Frank Dexter the congregation undertook the huge task of excavating a basement underneath the building. With shovels and much volunteer work, they were able to complete the project by the next year. During the excavation, another fire almost took the building. The fire department saved the building, though there was much damage. Still today we can see charred timbers up in our attic. In 1929 our beautiful pipe organ was given in memorial by the granddaughter of Dr. A.P Adams, who we heard about earlier as the first choir director in our church in the mid-1850s. We see his name inscribed here. We see names of other members on our windows and around the church.

 

Today we honor their vision and hard work. We honor God’s guidance and love as this congregation sought to live out the gospel of Jesus Christ, lending a hand, teaching the children, singing God’s praises. There are many more memories and occasions worthy of mention today, but time will not permit it all. Our congregation came to exist from the season of prayer that was entered into by the 14 original founders back in 1844.  We praise God for calling us into the church so that we too might enter into prayer and service. We who gather today have been recipients of God’s amazing grace. For many of us this has come, in part, through our participation in this congregation.

 

By Rev. Manda Stack, compiled from “150 Years of Service: History of the Union Grove Congregational United Church of Christ”

© 2017 Union Grove Congregational, UCC
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