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First Presbyterian Church, Neenah, Wisconsin, 1848-1998; 150 years of mission and ministry

Hamilton, Mary A. K.
My first sabbath in Neenah,   pp. 6-7

Page 6

'My 'FirstSabbath in NXeenah 
(Written by Mrs. Mary A. K. Hamilton for a church anniversary.) 
     On a peaceful Sabbath morning in the 
month of June, 1848, a row boat shoved from the 
shore, near the drooping swaying branches of the 
Council Tree. It contained the family of the 
proprietor of the Winnebago Rapids, Mr. Jones 
and two young girls, lately arrived guests. 
     The day was filled with the charm of early 
summer, made musical by bird songs and fragrant 
with budding leaf and flower. The boat floated 
down the swift current on the river, skirting the 
banks overhung with the luxuriant growth of 
wild vines, festooning bush and tree. Landing 
and crossing the log corduroy road, they came to 
a large wooden building painted white, standing 
on a slight elevation, at the southeast corner of 
Wisconsin Avenue and Walnut Street. 
     The lower story was occupied by two stores, 
between which a broad stairway led to an upper 
room, where were gathered for worship those 
seeking in this far-away West to renew sundered 
ties and vows. This room extended over the rear 
part of the stores beneath. The floor, woodwork, 
benches, pulpit and choir rail were of unpainted 
pine; the walls of rough brown plaster. The 
windows, open to let in fresh air and sunshine 
were held in place by nails. 
     Outside, the prospect was not more invit- 
ing. The ground, lately cleared of forest trees, 
was bristling with stumps, while a little farther 
south-east, among flags [wild iris], reeds and 
rushes, the hoarse croak of the festive frog 
proclaimed a swampy swale. 
     The pulpit, at the east end, was occupied by 
Rev. H. M. Robertson, a man young in years and 
experience, as this was his first charge. His father, 
being a minister, he had inherited perhaps a 
fondness for Calvinistic doctrines, which he often 
gave to his hearers in strong doses, relished as 
truth, so long as he withheld technical terms. He 
sugar-coated the doctrinal pill, which perhaps 
this mixture of people needed to keep them in 
the straight and narrow way, after having left 
behind the restraints of their early life and 
     At the opposite end of the room was an 
elevation of two steps, where the musical mem- 
bers of the community, young and some not quite 
so young, with Elder Lindsley as chorister, ren- 
dered in an energetic if not artistic manner the 
songs of Zion. 
     Between these two extremes, the benches 
were more or less filled with men, women and 
children. The day being warm, some of the men 
had left their coats at home, appearing in shirt 
sleeves, while their wives in all the glory of white 
sun-bonnets well-mated these sturdy sons of toil. 
One noticeable peculiarity was the absence of any 
aged or infirm. The strength of robust manhood 
was here, waiting, under Hope's alluring banner, 
the fulfillment of the sanguine dreams of youth. 
Each profession and various calling found a 
representative in the audience here gathered for 
     Occasionally the sharp crack of asportsman's 
gun in the woods nearby suggested another way of 
spending the Sabbath. 
     This was our first introduction to the First 
Presbyterian Church of Neenah. A few weeks 
after, we attended the Congregational Church 
held in a little log school house, near the city 
park, corner of Columbian Avenue and Elm 
Street. Rev. 0. P. Clinton, in the prime of years 
and usefulness, here dispensed the Word, while 
Deacon Mitchell led the singing. This Sabbath a 
man came in, leading two little girls and the seats 
being occupied, he seated them on the top of the 
stove. One could not help wondering how soon 
they would be done enough to turn. Through 
these two church organizations was the spiritual 
food meted out to the dwellers in this rural 
     The ladies of the Presbyterian Church, 
although the 'weaker vessels,' anxious to help in 
every good work, formed a sewing Society meet- 
ing to sew in the afternoons. They made flour 
bags, blue hickory shirts (a fine blue stripe), white 
shirts, aprons, needle books, and knit woolen 

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