Historical Sketch of the Unity
Methodist Episcopal Church
1879-1964--Unity Centennial Booklet
Contributed by Jean Dahl & transcribed by Tanya Paschke & Stan Schwarze
We seem to have been an unsettled charge. When first mentioned in the Year Book it was Spencer and Unity. In 1880 & 1881 we were in the Eau Claire District. James Lawson was District Superintendent.
Prior to Sept. 1879 our people were served occasionally by traveling preachers of different denominations. But in the fall of 1879 Rev. Warren Woodruff was sent to Colby and Unity jointly, living in Colby. Services were held here then in the school house. At this time lots were donated by Mr. Ed. Creed for a Church building and the Church started while Rev. Woodruff was here. But the Church was not occupied until the next year when Rev. Chas. Barker came to serve the Church. He lived at Unity. He was here one year.
In 1882 we were transferred to the Portage District. Rev. E. E. Clough was Supt. A supply pastor was sent, an old man who came for Sunday services. Rev. Woodley came for a few months and gave us Sunday services, but did not reside here. In the Spring, or early Summer of 1883 Rev. Arthur Chalifant came as a resident pastor. He was the first of our young pastors to bring a helpmate to our community. Then another elderly man named Rev. W. P. Hill came and gave us services until our Supt. found Rev L. W. McKibben, another young man, to take his place. He was a very quiet, dignified man and any one who could get him to smile or laugh, felt they had done something wonderful. It was while he was here that the interior of the old Church was finished and decorated. He did much of the work himself and all the painting. It might be well to mention here that Mr. Pond, Mrs. Henry Holmes’ father built the pulpit, a table, and made the pews. He also built the belfry. Also it might be said, Mrs. J. Bowden helped to raise the money for the bell; the same bell that now calls us to services.
Rooms were fixed in the old D. J. Spalding boarding house and for over a year he spent part of his time here and part at Colby. The second Fall he was here, while at Conference he wrote Mr. Vaughan that before returning he would visit the mining district in the northern part of the state and bring back a Golden Headed Silvernail. This set the stewards to puzzling over what he meant. And sure enough they were right. His bride had golden hair and her name was Silvernail. They were here one year longer after that, living at Colby and their eldest daughter was born there. We all thought a great deal of them. He was a wonderful preacher.
We were then transferred to the Ashland district. Rev. H. N. Bushnell was the Supt., and we found ourselves with Spencer. Next Rev. A.M. Lumpkin was appointed pastor but Rev. George Derby came in his place. This was in 1888. His sister kept his home for him at first before he was married. They lived in Unity. He did very good work among the young people. His sister and wife were both earnest workers. Rev. G. R. Chambers followed Rev. Derby in 1889. He was married while on our charge, his wife came from England to join him.
We were then again changed back with Spencer, with a fine old man as our pastor, Rev. G. M. Foster who was with us two years and lived at Spencer.
Next came Rev. E. P. Sanderson who made his home in our town. He was with us one year. Rev. A. J. Davis was the District Supt. At this time we had Rev. D. P. Olin, as pastor who lived part of the time at Colby, and at Christmas time moved to Spencer. Then again we found ourselves with Colby. In 1895 C. H. Towne was with us living in Unity. He was great on prophecies. Their youngest daughter Mary, was born here. Rev. C. H. Chase followed him, living at Colby. He was a Free Methodist and was very emotional.
Then in 1897 came Rev. S.A. Hoffman. He told us he wrote his sermons in German and then translated. Consequently he was slow of speech and we felt like helping him. It was during his stay that the Colby parsonage was built.
Rev. E. G. Visher followed next, being with us for four years. He and his lovely wife were loved by all. They lost a little daughter while here, and Mrs. Visher’s health broke down. A.M. Pilcher served as District Supt. He was followed by F. M. Height. It was an important event when the Sist. Supt. came every quarter to discuss the business of our Church. Those early quarter conferences were real get together meetings. It would take two hours or more to go to Colby in a lumber wagon with mud, in places up to the hubs.
Rev. W. M. Phillpott was with us two years serving Beaver and Maple Grove also. Then in 1904 Rev. W. J. James came. It was while he was here that the cyclone June 3rd, 1905 laid our church flat. He was a good leader and with many willing helpers started the work on the Church we now have. The insurance helped and much work was donated.
An article in the 10/20/1905 Marathon Co. Register describes the laying of the Cornerstone for the new church: "The laying of the cornerstone will be attended with appropriate ceremonies Saturday afternoon, Oct. 21st, at 2:30 o'clock. Presiding Elder Frank M. Haight will deliver the address. The general plan of the building is to have a basement under the entire structure to be used as classroom and by different societies. It will also be brick veneered instead of clapboarded. The committee in charge of work expect to have the building so far completed that the basement can be used in which to hold services during the coming winter, the stone work of which is all completed except the laying of the cornerstone which will take place as above stated. The cost of the building when completed will be in the neighborhood of $2,500.
The program for the cornerstone laying is as follows: Hymn 'Coronation', No. 180; Prayer by the pastor; Anthem 'Peace Be Within Thy Walls'; Address by Rev. F. M. Haight; Hymn No. 657 by the Choir; Ritual Services, Hymn No. 658; ;Laying of the stone; Benediction." The basement was soon in shape so services could be held in it that winter. The frame work was on the foundation and the brick ready to be laid. Charles Cole of Colby was the chief carpenter doing practically all the interior finishing. As you will notice nearly all the window were donated by church and other societies. In December of 1905 Rev. James took him a helpmate from our town, Miss Nellie Vaughan. The next fall he went to Evanstown to Theological school and with him went our first town boy G.W. Vaughn to make preparation for a life’s work for his Master as a Minister.
In 1906 we had been transferred from the Ashland Dist. to the Eau Claire District. The District Supt. being F. W. Straw. Rev. G.W. Austin was the pastor. This year the church was plastered and interior work sons; and the furnace was installed. He followed Rev. James’ example and chose his wife from among the Unity girls, Miss Mabel Hall. He was here one year. In 1907 we were again back with Spencer with C. M. Christensen as pastor. While he was here, in January, the new Church was dedicated. Dr. S.W. Trousdale came and preached and handled the finances, and before the day was over more that enough was pledged to cover all expenses.
In 1908 Rev. D. S. Householder followed Rev. Christensen. He also lived in Spencer. In 1909 the Annual Conference saw fit to place us back with Colby with Rev. R. Prescott. In 1910 Rev. Herbert Bastow came to serve us as pastor and feeling the need of a helper sent to England for his girl friend and met her in New York City. He bought a return ticket and she bought a ticket so they traveled on different roads from New York to Chicago, but they finally arrived here together.
In 1911 with S. A. Bender as the District Supt, Rev. W. E. Marsh was appointed as our pastor. In his second year, services were discontinued at Maple Grove. He was followed by Rev. R. R. Braddock who was here three years, living at Colby. Rev. J. W. Irish was the next District Supt. In 1916-1917 Rev. H. C. Hall was the pastor.
Next came Rev. J. H. Paul who was with us two years. Then we had a new District Superintendent Rev. W.F. Tomlinson and Rev. J. G. Vance came as our pastor. He left us during the summer to take advantage of attending a government school, as it would be too late if he had finished the conference year. The last few pastors mentioned lived at Colby serving both places.
Now Unity decided to have a pastor all alone and asked for a young man they could support. Rev. R. L. Fleming. We were obliged to loan him to Colby part of the time. He was with us two years and two months. He was another who took one of our girls to be his life companion and helper, Miss. Fern Cook. About this time, two of our home boys decided to dedicate their lives to the Master’s service. Lee Holmes and his brother, Peter. Later Lee took another of our girls for his helper and homemaker, Miss Merle Cook. It was during Rev. Fleming’s stay here that Dr. Taylor and his singer Mr. Fleming held revival meetings. Our next pastor was W. N. Grandy. He was another young man who married while he was here. We were sorry when he decided to go to school, instead of remaining. He was followed by H. G. Gardner.
Rev. E.H. Goodell became the 1st Supt of the Eau Claire District. Rev. C.W. Hanscom was another young man who was appointed here and served the charge for two years.
Our next pastor was Rev. Floyd Fahlgren, who was here three years. He also chose one of our girls, Miss Bernice Fuller to help him make a home and be a helper in his work. The minutes say Hope Chapel was added to his work and the last year Colby was again put on our Charge. It was during this time that Wallace Sorenson decided to give his life to the ministry of the gospel. Then in 1930 Rev. F.M. Blish came, who was here two years living in Unity but serving Colby and Hope Chapel as well.
After the expired term of Rev. Goodell the Rev. A.D. Willett was appointed the District Superintendent, and Rev. S.E. Bushendorf was our pastor for two years. He resided in Colby. Then in 1933 came our present Paul Nulton and his happy family of wife and four children. And if you could see the baskets in the hall of the Church for them at Christmas time you would get some idea of what a warm place they hold in the hearts of the people.
It was when Rev. Derby was here that we had our first Young Peoples meeting. They discontinued soon after the Chambers came and started again later. They became an organized Epworth League the first year Rev. James was here. Mr. D.B. Vaughn was a faithful worker in the Church and S.S. being superintendent of the Sunday School for many years. He was Steward, trustee, janitor and sang in the choir. He and his family were always found at the Church unless unavoidably detained.
We must not forget to mention Elder Dix, a fine old man who lived in Colby but who visited from house to house and preached in the school houses. (And when at an old log school house he spread a large red handkerchief on the floor on which to kneel, it made the young people smile.) He was odd in many ways but a sincere good man. Mrs. Pitcher lived on a farm between Colby and Unity preached for us some times.
Nor must we neglect to mention Grandma Creed who with Mrs. Darling, Mrs. Drake and Mrs. J.W. Slater, were leaders in all social doings for the Church. Such times as we used to have. One of them would make a wonderful cream cake three stories high and pieces would be sold for five cents a slice. Sometimes there were objects in the cake like a thimble, a dime or a penny and the girls would sell button hold boquets. We must not forget to mention Mr. J.W. Salter who though not a member of the Church was always ready to do his share to help the welfare of the Church and in the rebuilding of the Church gave largely.
In 1921 Mr. Fancher came. He was not here long before he had organized a choir as we did not have one at the time. It seemed to revive the Church wonderfully. He also was the one who was instrumental in getting the piano for the Church. When he left, Mr. Messer took charge of the choir for quite a few years. Then Gerald Scott and now Graham Thayer is leading. I believe Mrs. Scott and Mr. Messer are the only ones left of the original choir started in 1921. But there have always been loyal workers who have helped to make the choir a success.
In the earlier days we used to have revival meetings in tents, and several times we have had special help for such meetings. The Unity Church has to its credit, one girl, Miss. Venda Hanson who became a deaconess, who now works in Milwaukee. Our Sunday School has had a Cradle Roll for over thirty years. About 1911 or 1912 our Sunday School was organized as a Missionary Sunday School.
We had a flourishing W.F.M.S. (Womens Foreign Missionary Society) but it was disbanded in 1929 and the money put in the World Service fund. About four years ago the society was started again. There is now also a Kings Heralds Society and a Junior Epworth League. Many of our Sunday School scholars have gone from here and found work to do in helping to carry on the good work in other places. And you will find many who used to be our faithful helpers in other churches.
We will all remember our faithful Mrs. Mary Hanawalt. We still miss her and Elizabeth. There are oh so many others who should be named but they are too numerous to mention. But all helped to make our church what it is. I ought to mention the Ladies Aid and one who is confined to her bed quite a good deal, who was our President for many years, Mrs. Minnie Cook. Too much cannot be said for all our Aid and all the faithful workers. I cannot tell, or even begin to tell what they have done. It was organized into a Methodist Aid about thirty years ago. For a while it was a Union Aid, as many of the earlier members were members of other churches before they came here to live.
(The preceeding portion was written in 1937. What follows was written in 1964 as the Church was closing.)
The last few paragraphs have contained a bit of reminiscing and now we shall continue with the continuity of pastors that served our church.
Rev. C. Paul Nulton served Unity and Colby from 1933 to 1938. He, with his wife, Ethel, and their family lived in the Colby parsonage.
In 1938 Rev. Harry Lee and his son Sidney, moved into the Colby parsonage and were with us until 1941. Sidney later married a Unity girl, Ramona Firnstahl.
1941 brought Rev. A.C. Riley, his wife Jean, and their fine family. They came to live in the Colby parsonage and serve Unity and Colby. His family contributed greatly to our choir and Epworth League. He served until 1943. From 1943 to 1947 Rev. Ferguson and his wife worked in our churches. He was followed by Rev. and Mrs. F.J. Smith. Both Rev. Ferguson and Rev. Smith lived in Colby while they served Colby and Unity. Rev. Smith was with us from 1947 – 1952.
Spencer was added to the Colby, Unity charge in 1952 and Rev. Schall was appointed to serve the three churches. He came with his wife and their four children, living in Colby for a very short time, moving then to the Spencer parsonage. From then on all the pastors lived at Spencer. Rev. Schall served from 1952 – 1956.
1957 brought Rev. Roger Knutson; his wife and family. In 1958 they left us to serve for a time at Tomah, later he became a Chaplain.
Rev. David Passett, then became our pastor and with his wife served from 1958 to 1961.
From 1961 to 1963 Rev. Ralph Koelemay and his wife worked among us, followed by Rev. James Hagen, wife and family served the three charges.
In 1964 the Unity church closed its doors and Rev. V.R. Edgerly from Wisconsin Rapids purchased the building for the Pentecostal Church of America. The building was dismantled and he re-assembled it as a Church. The basement was filled in and green lawn soon took over where once we gathered to renew our spirits and worship our God.
Today the memories live on in the hearts and minds of those whose lives had been shaped at the altar of that Unity Church.
This history of the Unity Methodist Episcopal Church was written by Mrs. Mary Fuller in 1937 and supplemented in 1964 at the time of the closing of the Church. This remarkable Church sent five into the ministry: Lee and Peter Holmes, G. W. Vaughn, Wallace Sorenson, and Karen Peterson; the latter serving in the Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church. Also, five pastor’s wives: Fern (Cook) Fleming; Merle (Cook) Holmes; Bernice (Fuller) Fahlgren; Nellie (Vaughn) James; and Mabel (Hall) Austin. Also one Deaconess: Venda Hanson. The Church building, which was bought by the Pentecostal Church was rebuilt in Rhinelander.
Rev. Kenneth Barnes 1988
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