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Historical / architectural resources survey, Village of Thiensville, Ozaukee County
([2003])

Chapter 12: religion,   pp. 57-58


Page 57

Historical and Architectural Resources Survey
Village of Thiensville                                                     Page 57
CHAPTER 12
Religion
The Village of Thiensville has a unique religious history in that it was not until 1919 that the first
formal church building was constructed. In fact, the community during the nineteenth century was
known as "The Churchless Town." Many of the area's first settlers, including John Henry Thien,
identified with a German intellectual movement that was distrustful of organized religion. This
movement eventually culminated with a failed 1848 revolution that served as a catalyst for German
settlement in Wisconsin. While no church congregations or facilities existed in Thiensville during
the nineteenth century, worship services frequently occurred in private homes with the first service
occurring in 1838 in the home of Isaac Bigelow. It was conducted by Reverend Hiram W. Frink,
who was a traveling Methodist minister.92
By 1919, twenty-two families petitioned the Milwaukee Archdiocese ofthe Roman Catholic Church
for admission as a mission church. Land at the northeast comer of Wisconsin and Orchard streets
was donated by Peter and Josephine Ellenbecker and a pre-fab, frame church was "put together" and
placed on the foundation on 24 October 1919. Named St. Cecilia Catholic Church, the first service
in the building occurred on 23 November 1919. The congregation grew and it received parish status
in 1926 and constructed a larger facility designed by the Milwaukee architectural firm of Kirchoff
& Rose, located at 138 W. Buntrock Avenue (Photo Code 82/4) that was dedicated on 22 June
1940. Six years later, St. Cecilia's received its first resident pastor, Reverend Peter Bronner. The
first rectory, which was used for only a short time, was located on W. Freistadt Road, just west of
N. Main Street (no longer extant), while the Walter Rowe Residence at 105 S. Orchard Street
(Photo Code 82/10) was utilized from the late 1940s to 1961, when it was moved to the former home
of Dr. A.H.C. Carthaus at 101 Ellenbecker Road (Photo Code 82/2). In 1955, St. Cecilia's
organized a Catholic elementary school located at 116 N. Orchard Street (Photo Code 83/16). It
consisted of six classrooms, a gymnasium and a living area for the three nuns that were the teachers.
In 1961, the convent portion of the school was moved to a Cape Cod-style residence located at 121
Ellenbecker Road. Two years later, a large addition for both the church and the school was
constructed (Photo Code 83/17). By 1976, St. Cecilia's had a membership of approximately eight
hundred.93
The second church to organize in Thiensville was Grace Lutheran Church. In the early twentieth
century, non-German Lutherans in Thiensville traveled to Cedarburg for church services held in
English; however by 1927, the group desired a Sunday school in Thiensville, which was held at the
Fire Station and Village Hall at 101 Green Bay Road (Photo Code 75/13). The next year, local
residents decided to create their own congregation in Thiensville. Land was purchased at the
92Mohr, ed., History of Thiensville, 14, 86.
93Ibid., 86-91.


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