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
'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 homes. 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 worship. 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 village. 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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