Founding of Our Church

AUGUST 17, 1839 – The Beginning

The First Congregational United Church of Christ was founded on August 17, 1839, by Rev. Aratus Kent (of Galena, Illinois) and by Rev. Albert Hale (Springfield, Illinois). Founded as a Presbyterian church, the new organization began with nine charter members. The first minister, Solomon Chaffee (1840-1841), was employed half- time in Platteville and half-time at the Presbyterian Church in Mineral Point.

One of the nine charter members was Rev. Alvin M. Dixon who along with his wife, had founded and was operating the Platteville Academy in the basement of the Episcopal Methodist Church (which became the United Methodist Church on Main Street).

One year later (1841- 1842) Rev. Dixon became the minister of the recently formed Presbyterian Church. A two story wooden building was soon constructed (1842) at the corner of Bonson Street and Cedar Street. (This building still stands next door to St. Mary’s School. It has been converted into an apartment house.)

The new church held worship services on the first floor of the building while the Platteville Academy used the upstairs rooms for classes. This building became known as the “Old Academy”. It was here that Rev. Ebenezer Bradford (1842-1844) and Rev. Jedediah D. Stevens (1844-1847) served as pastors.

1849-New Directions

A few years later (1845) the church purchased two lots on Market Street between Bonson and Court Streets. The land measured 80’ by 90’ and cost $111.00. It faced the Town Square (now known as City Park). On December 11, 1846, a small brick church (40’ x 50’) was built on that land. In 1847, Rev. John Lewis became the pastor of the church (1847-1860). He worked closely with Josiah Pickard, a prominent educator and church member, to further develop the Platteville Academy. On January 20, 1849, the members of the church passed and published two resolutions. The first resolution was against slavery and the second was in favor of temperance. Six months later (July ,1849) the name and form of government of the church was changed from Presbyterian to Congregational. The beloved Rev. Lewis, pastor of thirteen years, died and was buried in Hillside Cemetery.

1869-A New Building

During the difficult years of the Civil War and emancipation, Rev. Jeremiah Evarts Pond was the pastor (1861-1871). He and his wife were very cultured and highly educated. During that time the old small brick church was torn down (1869), and the bricks and materials from it were used to construct the building in which the congregation now worships. During the period of time that Rev. Alfred Perry Johnson was pastor (1870-1886), there was a post-war depression and the famous Chicago Fire. Large numbers of people joined the church.

Early Activism

It was in 1877 when the Methodists joined us in the Temperance Movement. Platteville voted out the saloons a year later. The Congregational Ladies Literary Society began 1 year later (May 22, 1886). Mrs. Sarah Buck, a Reading Teacher at the Normal School (formerly the Platteville Academy), became the first woman to preach from the pulpit. Rev. Homer Wright Carter was the minister (1886-1892) at the time of the 50th Anniversary of the church. The seven years (1893-1900) during which Rev. Charles A. Wright was the minister were “ones of plenty and of growth for the church.” The “Church Parlors” were added onto the back of the church.
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