Clark County, Wisconsin


Except From The 1880-1980 Centennial Book


York Center Methodist Church

In The Beginning

The first church services in the area near York Center and in the County Farm area apparently were held in a schoolhouse near the County Farm. The earliest settlers in the York Center area attended them and also held prayer meetings in their homes.

In 1873 a new log schoolhouse had been built on the Livingston land one-fourth of a mile west and a half-mile north of the present church. Adonijah Benedict and his family had come to the Town of York that year. Perhaps he was a bit older than many of his neighbors as he had served in the Civil War, and he and his family had been members of the Methodist Church in Fond du Lac County. He became a leader in organizing the Sunday School and served as its class leader. Other early members that are mentioned are C. Benedict, Samuel Pease, H.A. Lawrence Sr., Mr. and Mrs. Jessie Lawrence, S. Lawrence, John Palmer, T. Snyder, J. Bolton, S.W. Bolton, Martha Gailand, S.D. Gibson and Mary Phalon.

In September, 1879, Greenwood and Loyal separated and Loyal, Spencer, and York Center became a charge. They were served by Rev. J. P. Greer until September 1881. Rev. Greer lived in Spencer and came on horseback to Loyal and York Center. He helped plan the building of the church with the help of Burt Lindsley and Burton Lawrence and also laid out the cemetery. The great-grandfather Lawrence and others who had been buried in home yards were soon moved to the new cemetery.

In September 1884, Rev. Foster came. During his pastorate the permanent record of Loyal and York Center began. He was a young man. Beside acquiring many new members for the churches, he supervised the planning and building of the parsonage at Loyal. The work, except for plastering, was nearly all donated. The records of the early years at York Center that were kept at Spencer were all destroyed in a fire at the church in Spencer in 1886.

In 1960 Fern VandeBerg compiled much of this information about the early history of the church. She continues, "The Jerry Davis family will be remembered for their singing. Belle played the organ to accompany them and which ever of the other two girls and five boys that were at home, along with their father and mother, Jerimiah and Mary Davis, sang often at church and for funerals throughout the locality. Belle (Davis) Mortimer, also was the organist for Sunday School for many years.

"More people called for enlarging of the church. The remodeling and enlarging of our church began during the pastorate of Rev. Knudson in 1897. Services were held in the town hall during the time of building. The changes consisted of an annex and belfry on the west, new windows, concrete steps at the entrance, new pews, new pulpit and bell. Rededication services were held in February, 1899 with Rev. H. W. Bushnell D.S. coming to assist with the meeting.

"During the first years there was no organ in the church and when it was mentioned, a few objected-to purchasing one, thinking it was unnecessary, but one was purchased. When Burt Lindsley heard that some threatened to throw the new organ out of the church, he took his own down there. Later the new Kimball was installed and used for more than fifty years. (See article about the Free Methodist Church in the York Town section). When a piano was purchased, the old organ was given to Mrs. W.E. isusie) Benedict who often played it at church as a child.

"In November, 1941, the late Abie Turner and son Clayton began the work of redecorating the inside of the church. Nu-wood was used to completely cover the ceiling and walls. During 1947-48, electric lights and an oil burner were added. In 1949, new altar carpet was laid, and in November 1952, aisle runners were given in memory of Mrs. Wendell (Mildred) Crothers who had lately passed away."

"On August 28, 1949, York Center's congregation celebrated its Church's 70th anniversary and held a homecoming which was attended by over 200 people Dinner was served in the town hall nearby. The Pastor Virgil Holmes presided at all services of the day. District Sup't Paul B. White preached the anniversary service at 11 a.m. Special music was provided by the Dubes Male Quartet. At 2 p.m. homecoming services, Rev. Lee Holmes read fhe church histor y which was written by Mrs. Walter Rowe. Rev. W. J. James, a retired minister and twice a pastor of our church, brought personal greetings and the sermon was preached by Rev. Raymond Fleming, a former pastor.

"In1958 the road past the church was blacktopped. The widening of the road made it necessary to make a narrower porch and set our entrance steps to the west. This work was done by a few men of the church and Rev. Bennett."

Fern VandeBerg said in her 1960 history, "I am indebted to m6mories of the late Mrs. Walter Rowe and recollections of different early time friends and neighbors." We are so happy that she and others recorded events so that we have them and a record of the 100 years of progress.

"The following are some of the early members, along with some later ones who moved in or grew up here and who were helpful in the church work. Almeda Lawrence, Jaspher Fischer, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Adams, Joe Palmer, David Rogers, Mr. C. L. Humiston,,Mr. and Mrs. George Root, Mr. and Mrs. John VandeBerg Sr., Mrs. Estella Mortimer, Mrs. S.A. Lindsley, Mr. and Mrs. Clyde Smith, Mr. and Mrs. W.W. Warner, Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Rowe, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Graves, Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Davis and family, Mrs. Mary Fulwiler, C.M. Campbell, Wm. Smithers, Mr. and Mrs. Amos Fulwiter, Mr. and Mrs. Walter Rowe, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Teatz, Mr. and Mrs. Emil Korth, Mrs. Bert Walker, Mrs. Julia VandeBerg, Mr. and Mrs. James Young, and Mr. George Mortimer who was church secretary for 15 years and Sunday School treasurer for over 25 years."


by Verla Rowe Hales

The history of the York Center Church began in the early 1870's. The early settlers of York with a few exceptions came from the southern counties of the state in covered wagons looking for land which could be purchased for little money and made into homes and farms. They found only dense woods with but few roads or trails and almost no bridges over the streams. Many families came with oxen and took many days or even weeks to travel. My grandparents Mr. and Mrs. Wflliam Rowe and my father, Walter who was one year old, were among those who came by oxen in 1873.

After building log houses for their families, the settlers wrote back to encourage their friends to come. The mail was carried to Neillsville by neighbors who in return would bring mail and groceries, even to carrying a sack of flour on their shoulders. These people began to wish for a church and services. They heard of services being 'held at the County Farm school several miles away. (The school was located just south of the corner below the old County Farm.) Several went on foot and some with oxen. They held prayer meetings in the homes. A Lapw log school house was built on the Livingston land 1/2 mile- west and 1/2 mile north of the present church. Church was held there until the Rev. Greer, who served the church from Spencer and came on foot or horseback started to plan the building of a church.

A grant of six acres of land was secured from the Fox River Land Co. as a site on which to build the new church. The logs were cut from the land and sawed into lumber for building the church. Many come from far and near to cut and haul logs to the mill. Others cleared the land. Some hewed blocks for the first foundation. It was later replaced with a stone foundation. Homemade benches were used for seats. A cemetery was started in 1880. In 1946 a Cemetery Association was formed. It is one of the best kept cemeteries in the county. There was no organ in the early years, but when one was discussed several families objected. Later a Kimball organ was bought and used for fifty years. In later years a piano was purchased. Some of the early settlers were Adonijah Benedict, Almeda Lawrence, Horace Lawrence Sr., Joseph Fischer, S.D. Gibson, Sam Adams, Sam Bolton, Wesley Bolton, Joe Palmer, Josh Johnson, DavW Rogers, George Root, Estella Mortimer, Mrs. Sarah Lindsley, William Rowe, C.M. Campbell, Wm. Smithers, W.W. Warner, Mrs. Mel Turner, Walter Graves, Jerry Davis, A.P. Fulwiler and many more. The church was enlarged in 1899 by William Rowe and Sylvester Pease and his son. It had been redecorated and electricity added in the 1940's. In 1976, new doors were installed and in 1978 it was redecorated, which adds to the appearance of the church by the side of the road.


(These are excerpts from the history as written by Mrs. Walter Rowe (Sadie) for the 1949 celebration of the 70th anniversary.)

At the time the church was first built in 1880, only the east wing was built, the main part of the church today. The church was well filled from the first with families who came from miles around with oxen and wagons. Homemade benches and seats were placed around the outer edge, with chairs through the center., Later an appropriate pulpit and altar rail were added. At this altar many people knelt and found God. At about the same time the cemetery was laid out and staked. Rev. Greer, Bert Lindsley, and Burt Lawrence did the work. The first to be buried there was Ida Lawrence Turner, young wife of Pint Turner. Many other families moved in, including Mr. and Mrs. Walter Graves, Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Davis, Mary Fulwiler, Amos Fulwiler, and Mr. and Mrs. Robert Teatz, as well as many others. It was necessary to enlarge the church. The remodeling and enlarging of our church building was begun during the pastorage of Rev. F.O. Knudson in 1897. Services were held in the town hall during the time of building. The changes consisted of an annex and belfry on the west, new windows, concrete steps at the entrance, new pews, a pulpit and a bell. The rededication service was held in February 1899, with the Rev. H.W. Bushnell, D.D. coming to the church to hold the meeting. The York Center camp meeting should be mentioned, which was started during the pastorage of Rev. G.N. Foster. Ten acres of beautiful woodland joining the church ground on the southwest was leased from William Rowe and here ministers and people for miles around gathered for one week each summer. They met under a large tent to listen to the most inspiring music and preaching. Rev. Limokuler and his wonderful singing, Rev. Foster and others were long remembered.


(We are indebted to Rev. Fleming, now retired and living in Marshfield, who provided these mentions of our church from his collection of yearbooks.)

The earliest mention of a name (for the church) is in the Conference Yearbook of 1894, in which the District Sup't. (then called "Presiding Elder") says in his report, "We have had two camp meetings on the District, one at York Center with much profit to that rural district." York Center was then in the Ashland District. Up until 1939 the statistical and treasurer reports were Charge totals rather than totals for individual churches. Any reports like members received, Sunday School membership, salary, benevolences given, etc. were totaled and credited to the church which headed the Circuit. However, each year the District Superintendent gave a summary report in which individual churches were recognized for some achievement. The following are the references to York Center, or occasionally referred to as "York".

1897 - "Improvements have been made at York Center."

1898 - "Loyal has enlarged its church at York Center."

1900 - "Rev. George Brown has solved the problem of revivals and evangelists by being his own evangelist and calling to his aid neighboring pastors who assisted him in a revival meeting at York which began Aug. 18, which is continued almost up to this day. Some conversions and a great religious awakening in that neighborhood is the result."

1903 - "The $75.00 debt on York Church has been paid."

1906 - Loyal and York Center were placed in the Eau Claire District.

1912 - The statistical report was labeled "Loyal and York." (A single report.)

1925 - "Revival services were held in a number of places with outside assistance. At Stanley and York W.F. Grandy of Withee was the evangelist.

1938 - "New roof on the church at York Center."

1939 - "Loyal church interior decorated with Nu-wood, $750, and York Center $250."

1950 - "The 70th Anniversary was held at York Center, Virgil Nuiton, Pastor, Aug. 28, 1949." (The pastor named here is in error. Rev. Virgil Holmes was then the pastor.)

1957 - "Loyal and York Center were left without a pastor on Sept. 2, when the Rev. Charles Swanson passed away. Without pastoral leadership since that date the laymen from both churches have done heroically providing for services every Sunday."

1959 - "York Center tiled the sanctuary floor."

1961 - "Aug. 28, 1960, York Center celebrated its 80th anniversary with appropriate services. Rev. Paul Doering is pastor."

After our merger with the East Wis. Conference and the E.U.B. Conference in 1969 no individual District reports are included.

Rev. W.J. James (served York Center - Loyal 1923-29) but according to his story he must have been here for a short time much earlier. This is his account as he told it at the 1949 celebration.

"In those early days (1894 or 95) I was known as the "boy preacher" of the conference. I could not vote until after my first service at the York Center Church had ended. I had begun my first work at Pittsville, and, assigned to the new charge, packed most of my belongings to go by freight. At that time a railroad had been built up into York, and my belongings were entrusted to it." He then continued on ahead, in his preaching Prince Alberts and with such other things as he could carry.

The freight was long in coming, and roof of the Loyal church needed shingling. So the boy preacher went up on the roof, Prince Albert and all, and helped with the shingling job.

Finally, Mr. James heard that his freight had been deposited along the railroad track. there being no freight. shed or depot agent. (Romadka?) He went and got his stuff. There was nobody to whom to pay the freight charges. Presumably they are unpaid to this day, Mr. James said.

The following are things which Rev. James noted had changed during his ministry: 1. The Sunday dinner was prepared on Saturday so that there had to be no cooking on Sunday. 2. It -was considered wrong to shave on Sunday, or to blacken shoes. 3. There were no baseball games on Sunday, no picnics were held on Sunday, and no Methodist would dance--ever.



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