First Presbyterian Church


City of Janesville, Rock County, Wisconsin

Courtesy of Carol

The First Presbyterian Church, of Janesville, Wis., was organized in the old stone
Academy building May 5, 1855, by a committee of Dane presbytery, consisting of Rev. Mr. GARDNER, of Madison; Rev. Mr. PARKS and Rev. Moses W. STAPLES, who had recently come from Marshall, Texas. Rev. Dr. SAVAGE, of Milwaukee presbytery, and Rev. Mr. ROBERTSON, the synodical missionary, acted with them.
Of the twelve charter members, all of whom were received by letter, Warren
NORTON, Mrs. Lydia B. NORTON, John D. W. REXFORD, Mrs. Synthia M. REXFORD, Lyman J. BARROWS, M.D., Mrs. Caroline J. BARROWS, Auston E. BURPEE, Mrs. Eliza BURPEE, Joseph A. GRAHAM, Mrs. Elizabeth GRAHAM, Samuel LIGHTBODY, Mrs. Mary MILLER, only two survive, Mrs. C. M. REXFORD and Mrs. C. J. BARROWS. The church was duly organized, Mr. GARDNER preaching the sermon from Nehemiah 2:18: "Let us rise up and build." J. D. W. REXFORD and Warren NORTON were elected and installed elders. On the next Sabbath, communion service was observed and Mrs. M. W. STAPLES was received by letter. During the following week the trustees purchased a lot (the site of the old building) and arrangements were made to erect a chapel. In the latter part of May, Mrs. STAPLES visited at St. Louis to solicit financial aid for the building and returned in two weeks with sufficient to justify breaking ground at once. Early in September the chapel was dedicated In October, 1856, the synod of Wisconsin held its sessions in the new chapel and Mr. STAPLES was duly installed as pastor. At that date the membership of the church had more than quadrupled, being then fifty-three. Mr. STAPLES continued pastor till the summer of 1858. He subsequently served in the pastorate at Kankakee, Ill., and as secretary of the Virginia Bible Society, dying September 3, 1892, at Catskill, N.Y. On October 10, 1858, the Rev. Oliver BRONSON was chosen pastor and installed on the 24th day of the same month.
The succeeding pastors were Rev. George C. HECKMAN, August, 1860 to
1861; Rev. Mr. CARPENTER, 1861 to 1862; Rev. Charles Lemuel THOMPSON from Horizon, Wis., April, 1862, to February, 1869 (now secretary of the Presbyterian Board of Home Missions); Rev. D. G. BRADFORD, June 1868, to December, 1869; Rev. Thomas C. KIRKWOOD, May, 1871 to February, 1873 (now synodical missionary for Colorado): Rev. Joseph W. SANDERSON, September, 1873 to January, 1880; Rev.. William Fiske BROWN, October, 1880 to October, 1903. When Milwaukee presbytery met in the little old Presbyterian Church at Janesville in May, 1871, Mr. BROWN, then a home missionary at Black River Falls, Wis., was there ordained by them as an evangelist. Of his thirteen years' pastorate, the most memorable reminder is the new church, built free of debt, costing about $17,000, exclusive of the lot, which was $2,300; the organ, $2,500, and memorial windows and furniture represented about $2,000 more. The corner stone was laid June 12, 1891, and the building was dedicated February 18, 1892, paid for by the 260 different subscriptions which Mr. BROWN then reported and which made ten feet of names.
Mr. John G. REXFORD writes: "But the planning and building of this edifice
was not the only important event that marked Dr. BROWN's pastorate; the records show a steady growth. April 1, 1881, there were 150 members, and the total contribution for the year was $1,630. April 1, 1903, there were 264 members, Sunday school 273, and the year's contributions had been $3,524. During these thirteen years of his pastorate, 260 names were added to the church roll. June 14, 1891, fifty-eight new members were received, of whom fifty-five then first made public profession of Christian faith."
Rev. Edward H. PENCE served from November, 1893 to March 1900,
having 275 additions to the church. (He is now pastor of the prominent Fort Scott Church, of Detroit, Mich.) Rev. J. T. HENDERSON, from Parkville, Mo., was pastor from September 9, 1900 to 1905, and received 140. During his pastorate a parsonage was bought. Rev. J. W. LAUGHLIN, D.D., was installed in October, 1905. In May, 1908, the church reports 505 members; the Sunday school, 350. (Both SANDERSON and BROWN were elected at different times to the office of synodical missionary for Wisconsin.)
The list of elders to date is Warren NORTON, John DeWitt REXFORD,
Fred L. CHAPMAN, Henry PULLAN, Willard MERRILL, Daniel URQUHART, E. Storrs BARROWS, Charles H. GATES, Samuel ROLSTON, Edward RUGER, John STOCKMAN, John H. KINNEY, F. S. J. BARROWS, M.D., William H. BLAIR, James SHEARER, James MOUAT, Samuel WADDELL, A. A. JACKSON, J. M. SHACKLETON, James MILLS, M.D., Robert AIRIS and James LAMB. Edward RUGER, first elected in 1873, has been in almost continuous service ever since, and is senior member of the present session.
[Source: Rock County, Wisconsin: A new history of it's cities, villages, etc., Vol. I, by William Fiske Brown (editor-in-chief); ©1908 C. F. Cooper, Chicago, IL; pp. 286-288]

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