Heritage Site Plaque.
Development of the text for this page relied heavily on the anecdotal memories of several people writing of their experiences or that gleaned from their relatives. Much of the writing is identical to the others, with a few differing tidbits that make it difficult to determine who started the chronicle. Dates recalled are not always the same which led to the effort to find as much factual corroboration as possible.
Rather than re-type all the text from the resources, a compilation of pertinent information is presented about the development of the Methodist church and its places of worship in Waterford rather than its religious development. Please click on the links in the Sources below to read texts in their entirety. The links provide a more complete look at the development of this faith community.
History of the early Methodist Episcopal Church
Excerpt from Ruth Albee’s History of the ME Church.2
The Methodists continued to meet in the brick school for a few more years even after the Congregationalist’s offered use of their new church facilities. Over time, the Methodist attendance fell off and services were discontinued.
Later in the 1860s, James McChesney, a Christian public school teacher, re-organized a Sunday School program in the brick schoolhouse which spawned renewed interest in the Methodist church. Rev. Painter, a Congregational Church Pastor from East Troy, was assigned to the Waterford circuit in 1869, becoming the first official minister. He came to Waterford to live and occupied the parlor room of the Edward Groat home which was two homes west of the church. The Groat Home is the original McLeish Home at 406 W. Main St. whose history is found on the Heritage Homes page. There, they would hold the first prayer meeting in the parlor room with four devoted Methodists, Rev. Painter, Mr. and Mrs. E.M. Groat, and George W. Stone.2
As the group grew, they moved to the new grade school completed in 1868 which was on the site of the original brick schoolhouse. They continued to grow and prosper until the facilities were no longer large enough to comfortably accommodate them. Again, the Congregationalists invited the Methodists to use of their facilities, but were turned down.
According to the source 1 document, there was a great revival of religious interest in Waterford during the winter of 1869-1870 time frame, which states “among the converts were men about town who were not interested in the things of the soul who did an about face and began again at this time”. Enemies became friends. The home lives of many were completely changed.”
This would be the beginnings of the English Methodist Episcopal Church in Waterford.
During 1868, the English Methodists bought a parcel of land on Main Street from Charles Moe where they planned to build their church.
Prior to the time that the new schoolhouse was built, German immigrants were beginning to populate the area and were looking for a German Methodist Church to join. A passing stranger (name unknown) met Mr. Frederick Wallman, a German immigrant and local merchant, at the depot in Burlington. During their conversation about where to find a German Methodist church, he offered his services as a minister. The offer was accepted and worship services proceeded in the little brick schoolhouse, just as others had done in the past.
After a few years, a German church society was formed because they wanted a church of their own. In 1870, worship services and Sunday school began in the basement of the Congregational Church by Rev. Jacob Schaefer, their first authorized German minister.
A dilemma existed – the Germans didn’t understand the English service and the English didn’t understand the German service. So, they shared their religious practices and social events together, but worshiped separately. A German service was held in the forenoon and the English service in the afternoon.
In 1868, the Germans decided to build their own church on land donated by Philip Mitsch, the lot now known to locals as “the triangle” at the intersection of Main and Racine streets. They were restless without a permanent home and in 1870 and 1871, proceeded with construction under the direction of their second pastor, Rev. Conrad Englehard.
Much of the carpentry work was done by Chas. and Wm. Noll, church members, while the pews, altar rail and pulpit were built by George Wallman, a fourteen-year-old working from his fathers cabinet shop.4 It was finished in 1872 at a cost of $1600 and dedicated in August of 1873.7 They offered the use of their new facilities to the English Methodists, but they chose to continue to meet in the schoolhouse while working on their own church two blocks east.
For 14 years, “the “commodious” Congregational church stood proudly on the side of the hill facing the Village with its wide steps leading up to the second floor while touting its tower and belfry. Unfortunately, it was not a comfortable building for its attendees since the upper floor was one large room built too high which made it difficult to heat, while the lower level had the opposite problem with low ceilings.”2 References state that it was not of quality construction and as it fell into disrepair, it would become the victim of nature.
A spring wind in 1882 storm ultimately took down the bell tower as it had become the last remaining remnants of the church. Mr. Henry Beier, one of the founders of the German church society, seized the opportunity to purchase the bell and donated it to the German Methodist church, which had been without a summoning sound for 10 years.
For the next 50 years, the two congregations would grow side by side sharing religious practices and events, but with different pastors and a different language.
In 1922, with the advent of the English language now being common in the community, a meeting was held on May 12, to discuss plans to join the two churches in favor of the English facility. A common pastor was appointed for both churches. This, and a general decline in the German church’s membership caused by the lack of comfort in their church design led to its demise.
After a three-month trial period, agreement was reached and the old German church was dismantled sometime around June in 1923. Some of the good materials, including the bell, would be used in the remodeling of the English Church. In the meantime, worship services were held in the high school. A larger church, with additional and better facilities resulted – including electric lighting, art glass windows, and a better heating system. Parishioners helped to construct most of the church which cut the cost on construction.
Dedication of the newly-remodeled Community Methodist Episcopal Church was held August 26,1923. Unification was complete.
Sketches of the two churches merged into one.2, p. 97
Evolution of the ME Church Facilities.
A parsonage was purchased for the Church pastor on the northeast corner of Jefferson and Washington streets.
124 South Jefferson Street – First ME Parsonage c. 1920’s, Wisconsin Digital Collection.
This church would serve its purpose for more than 30 years until an updating of the facility was necessary. A new organ was purchased and changes were required to fit it in the allotted space. New light fixtures were installed along with new carpeting. In 1959, a new Educational Unit was completed in the lower level along with a Fellowship Hall.
During 1979, a remodeling committee was organized. Plans were drawn by architect Clayton Juno of Waukesha to include a new entrance to the East, reversal of the church’s interior, and stairway access to the downstairs bathrooms. The old hardwood pews were replaced with upholstered pews arranged in two sections forming a center aisle. The pulpit and altar were on the west end. Modern light fixtures and ceiling fans were installed to improve light levels and circulate the air. All the carpeting was replaced with complementary colors. The project was completed in the summer of 1980.
Plans were also made to buy the Stalbaum property to the east and join it to the main church. It was to be used as an annex for the Callen Memorial Library and meeting rooms.
In March, 1984, new white vinyl siding was added to give the church a fresh new look.
During the 1980s and early ’90s, the Waterford area had a growth spurt. Church membership grew to a point where a new and larger church was needed. Land was procured a few blocks south at 455 South Jefferson Street. Groundbreaking was completed in April, 1994 and work started in June. The old church was de-consecrated at the end of 1994. The new church celebrated its first worship service January 1, 1995. Click HERE for its location.
The following are interesting excerpts taken from “CHRONOLOGICAL HISTORY – WATERFORD COMMUNITY UNITED METHODIST CHURCH” compiled by Ruth Albee and Dorothy Bryant and are found in the digital archives of the Waterford Public Library. See link below.
1859 – Methodists used the Congregational Church on the site of present Waterford Union High School.
1870 – English Methodist Church organized October 9th.
1872 – Church members were forbidden to dance, play games of chance, attend theaters, horse races, circuses, or hold dancing parties. This remained law until 1924.
1873 – English Church was erected and dedicated December 28.
1923 – Dedication of United English and German Church – August 26.
1924 – Removed list of forbidden amusements.
1927 – Natural gas installed in the church and parsonage.
1932 – Quit claim deed from A. and M. Rittmann adding five feet to the west side of the parking lot.
1935 – 141 active members.
1938 – Interior of church painted at a cost of $485.
1939 – Name changed to “THE METHODIST CHURCH”.
1945 – Property of the old German Church was deeded to the Village of Waterford with the provision that it be made into a memorial or park site and that it not be for commercial use. The church was to erect a suitable marker designating the location of the church.
1948 – New organ installed, new furnace installed and kitchen remodeled.
1952 – New garage and breezeway added to the parsonage.
1954 – Church exterior was painted.
1956 – Additional land purchased north of the church – 25 feet from Potokars for $300 and 70 feet from Stalbaums for $100. The land was to be used to build an educational unit onto the north side of the church.
1959 – New educational addition consecrated October 3.
1968 – New parsonage built. Exterior of church repainted.
1970 – New chimes installed at a cost of $2500.
1978 – Energy saving repairs done to the church.
1980 – Membership – 155.
1982 – Membership – 134.
1988 – New public address system installed at a cost of $6350.
1992 – Fund drive started for new church.
1994 – April 10, Groundbreaking for the new church on Jefferson Street.
1994 – De-consecration of the Main Street Church. The building was purchased by B. and C. Lindau who repurposed it as an antiques and collectibles business with small shops in the basement.
Lead Researcher: Robert E. Gariepy, Sr.
NOTE: Should the reader have further documentation to enhance the content of this web page, please contact the Lead Researcher through director@ExploreWaterford.com. We are particularly interested in pictures or historic artifacts that may be shared. Credit will be given.
- Community United Methodist 150th Anniversary/A History of Waterford and the Community United Methodist Church/p.2.
- History Community United Methodist Church Waterford, Wisconsin. p108. http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/WI.HistComUni.
- “CHRONOLOGICAL HISTORY – WATERFORD COMMUNITY UNITED METHODIST CHURCH” compiled by Ruth Albee and Dorothy Bryant. Date unknown.
- Waterford: Stories of Waterford and Its Busy Life, Waterford Post, 1923. https://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/WI/WI-idx?type=article&did=WI.WPLStories.i0031&id=WI.WPLStories&isize=Mz
- Heritage Site Plaque Design by Robert E. Gariepy, Sr.
- Property data from Racine County Register of Deeds.