Nekoosa United Church of Christ
205 Market Street - Nekoosa, WI  54457  | Phone 715-886-3371

Sunday Worship: 9:30   Church School: 9:45 - 10:45   Nursery Care: 9:15 - 10:45
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The History of the Nekoosa United Church of Christ

"The place of the Rapidly running waters!" Thus, the native-American name, Nekoosa. Gently nestled along the mighty Wisconsin River, both the town of Nekoosa and the Nekoosa United Church of Christ have their roots in the bustling paper mill industry of the late nineteenth century. Azel W. Patten of Appleton, a prominent Wisconsin businessman who was both a stockholder and a director in the Nekoosa Paper mill, understood the importance of a solid spiritual life of the workers in his mill and of their families. He donated land for a congregational church and provided the community with a completely furnished and ready to worship building.

The building was completed and dedicated December 17, 1893. Rev. William Kilbourne of Grand Rapids (now, Wisconsin Rapids) was the presiding minister. Guest ministers included Rev. Homer W. Carter of Beloit, WI, and Rev. George C. Haus of Madison, WI. The first Sunday School was organized on the same day. The early history of Nekoosa began with the French traders and backwoodsmen who came through this region; then settling in what was known as "Point Basse". Early conflicts between European settlers and the Black Hawk Indians resulted in the death of Chief Nekoosa. It was shortly after this last battle that the name of the settlement was changed from "Point Basse" to "Nekoosa" in honor of the chief.

The first sawmill was built by Daniel Whitney in 1831. It was located on the east bank of the river by the ferry landing. In those early days there were two ferries that served traffic across the river. One was near the present business center and was called the "Upper Ferry". The other, called the "Lower Ferry" was a cable ferry and was located about a half mile below the mill at the site of Historic Pointe Basse. The ferries were replaced with a steel bridge in 1917.

Nekoosa as a community had its beginning in 1893 with the establishment of the Nekoosa Paper mill. It was in this same year that Mr. Patten made his generous gift to the Congregational Church, beginning the faith journey that continues today. The church records show nineteen new members added to the roles in September of 1894, and an additional eight members in 1895. This is the same year that a Ladies Aid Society was formed, which continues today as UCC Women United. A hundred years later (1993) the congregation numbered close to 400 members.

In 1901, Rev. Benjamin E. Ray threatened to resign if the church did not build a parsonage. The parsonage was built next to the church in the same year. Rev. Ray stayed, but not for long, as the 1903 Annual Report announces his departure. The land comprising the two lots officially became the property of the congregation on September 23, 1902 when the deed was presented to the Trustees with the signatures of T. E. Nash and L. M. Alexander.

The church record shows that the first nine pastors to serve the Congregational Church were each here for a very short time. The 100th Anniversary booklet stated that this was due to the fact that they were always the last to get paid and that they were sometimes not paid at all. This changed with the arrival of Rev. C. A. O'Neil on Easter Sunday of 1915. He served the congregation for 34 years, and is credited with greatly increasing the membership while making numerous improvements to the property. Finances also improved, and the record shows that his paycheck was provided him, in full, in a timely manner.

One of the ministers who served for only a short period in Nekoosa was the Rev. William H. Short. He and his wife, Caroline, arrived in July of 1906 and soon delighted the congregation with the birth of their son, Frederick Wallace Short. Rev. Short eventually left the active ministry to work toward the formation of the League of Nations. In 1979, his son Frederick published "The Man Behind The League of Nations"; an account of his father's early years in church ministry (including his short time in Nekoosa) and his later work in helping to form the international organization that became the predecessor to the United Nations.

September of 1957 saw the construction of the new Educational wing, reflecting the growth of the congregation and the importance of Christian Education. Until this time Church School classes were held in the sanctuary of the old building. The educational wing was the first building project since the parsonage in 1901. The Ross property next to the church was also purchased; providing space for a parking lot and the eventual construction of the new church.

1957 was also a landmark year for two other events. It was in 1957 that the Rev. John Steinberg, son of Harvey and Mary Jane Steinberg, was ordained to the Christian Ministry. He was the first member of the congregation to be called to full time service in the church. It was also the year that the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church voted to become the United Church of Christ. This began a process in which each congregation of the Congregational Christian churches would study, pray and eventually vote on participation in the union. It was in 1962 that the congregation officially voted to join the newly formed denomination; becoming the Nekoosa United Church of Christ.