First Presbyterian Church, Galesville, Wisconsin
Rev John Frothingham was the first installed pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Galesville, Wisconsin. The present pastor, Michael Hibbs, researched Rev. Frothingham to portray him during a community celebration in October 2007. He sent me the following story which he believes was written for the 100th Anniversary of Galesville. He also sent some scans of historical records in John's handwriting. They can be viewed in my Gallery.
History of First Presbyterian church of Galesville, Wisconsin
Written by: (Author Unknown)
The history of Galesville churches dates back to earlier than when the first church edifice was built in 1863-'64 and dedicated on Jan. 1, 1865. That little frame courthouse north of the present Public Square served for many purposes other than for what it was erected. It was the only place for gatherings. Circuit riding pastors of various denominations held services in the courtroom on the second floor, Also funerals were held from there. So, 10 years passed after Judge George Gale platted his village before a house for worship was built.
Among those early-days visiting clergymen was the Rev. J. M. Hayes. History records him as being the first to take steps toward organizing a Presbyterian congregation in Galesville. That was in the year 1856. In 1859 the society was duly constituted under the pastorship of the Rev. D. C. Lyon of Winona, Minn., who conducted services at fairly frequent intervals in homes of members or in the courthouse. Not until 1860 was a regular pastor called, the Rev. John Frothingham being secured through the efforts of the Rev. Sheldon Jackson, another circuit-riding pastor who at different times preached in the courthouse.
The Rev. Mr. Frothingham and his wife came from an eastern state. They arrived in the hamlet of Galesville July 17, 1860, and the next morning the clergyman went about the village making acquaintance. The next day he was driven to Decorah Prairie and the Glasgow community, where he was entertained by the Dicks and McMillans. He arranged to hold services for these communities at a convenient point every Sunday afternoon. His first sermon in Galesville was preached July 22 in the courthouse. His first funeral service was on Aug. 3, when an infant child in a Parker family died. He was ordained as pastor of the church Oct. 28 in the parlor of the Presbyterian parsonage.
Pastor Frothingham at once took up the matter of a church edifice with members of his flock and townsmen. Judge George Gale donated a lot for the site, and subscription lists sent around. After a donation party was given the pastor and his lady, he announced in the Galesville Transcript he would head the list with all the cash received from the event. But because of the stringency of the money market, subscriptions were slow in coming in. As late as in February, 1863 the pastor wrote he was very much discouraged. That was the turning point. Judge Gale, Alexander A. Arnold, W. A. Johnston, J. C. French and D. Goodno rescued the project from being dropped. Not only did they contribute liberally but they made the rounds of village and country, receiving subscriptions ranging from $5 to $50. By three months later enough money had been raised to buy a greater part of the lumber needed. On May 11, the pastor, with W. P. Clark and George Stearns went to Black river, and with teams from Decorah Prairie got out some small lumber. The next day, with Stearns' oxen and teams supplied by C. E. Perkins, and assistance from Thomas Hunter and a Mr. Boyce, the heavy timbers were loaded and hauled to the church site. From then on, lumber sawed by the Douglas mill at North Bend was rafted down the river.
But then something most discouraging happened. On July 18 the lumber hauled to the church site was destroyed by fire, the origin of which is not recorded. This delayed work until Oct. 19, when the first timbers of the church were laid. From then on the work progressed as rapidly as money could be collected to pay for material and labor. Many men of the congregation gave their work for free; nor were women of the congregation idle. In many ways they contributed to the project. On one occasion they realized $75 from dinners at the county fair. But finally the long-awaited day came. On the last day of the year 1864 the ladies of the congregation and others gathered in the forenoon, swept and cleaned the church, and in the afternoon made curtains for the windows and completed a pulpit cushion. An extract from the pastor's diary reads: ·'Jan. 1, 1865, Our glorious day for the dedication of the new church. Thermometer above zero. Edifice full and services interesting. Sunday school at 3 p. m. Mr. Wells preached in the evening to a large congregation." And that was written 90 years ago.
Pastor Frothingham served until November, 1868, when he accepted a call to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he died four months later. While residents here, an infant, born them died. In the lower part of Pine Cliff cemetery are three small white headstones, one of which marks the grave of little Linda.
A story that has come down from the pioneers in connection with the building of the church is that one day the pastor observed there was not enough lumber to finish the belfry before dedication day. Neither was there money remaining for more. At the parsonage was a corncrib, then empty. Quoth the pastor to himself, "What use is that now?" Hastening home, he called his wife, saying, "Margaret, I have solved it." "Solved what?" queried Margaret. "The problems of the belfry," he replied, and immediately he proceeded to take the corncrib apart.
Such was the undertaking to build that little frame church at a cost of $1,250. Even with the wildest imagination, Pastor John Frothingham as he towed the lumber of his wrecked corncrib to the church to complete the belfry, could not have visioned the day when in the rear of his church would be built a parsonage at a cost of $30,500.
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This site was last updated 01/15/12