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Cartwright, Carol Lohry; Shaffer, Scott; Waller, Randal / City on the Rock River : chapters in Janesville's history

12. Religion,   pp. 208-226

Page 214

Disciples of Christ
The Disciples of Christ is an historic name representing three groups that evolved from a
common origin: the Disciples of Christ, the Christian Church, and the Church of Christ. These
groups are often confused today because individual congregations tend to interchange these
names and because other denominations often use the names as well. Although the first
Disciples of Christ church was founded in 1839 in Wisconsin, no formal organization existed
until 1847. By 1865, around 20 Disciples of Christ congregations had been formed in the state,
and evangelists continued to promote church formation throughout the nineteenth century. In
the early twentieth century, the Disciples made a concerted effort to promote churches in rural
areas, and by 1940, the Disciples of Christ had founded a total of 122 churches and preaching
places. In the 1940s and 1950s, most of the Disciples of Christ churches in Wisconsin split from
the organization over theological issues and changed their collective name to the Christian
Church. In recent years, the Church of Christ faction of the Disciples of Christ has established
almost as many churches in Wisconsin as the Christian Church. (Wyatt 1986: vol. 3, Religion,
There is one historic Disciples of Christ church in Janesville, the First Christian Church.
Twenty-six people organized the congregation in 1912 as the Church of Christ in Janesville. For
its first nine years, the church met in a variety of rented quarters. Around 1920, the
congregation purchased a site on East Holmes Street for a church building; the next year, the
Church of Christ in Janesville building was completed at 51 E. Holmes St. In 1930, the
congregation officially changed its name to the First Christian Church. ("History of the First
Christian Church")
Between 1940 and 1950, the membership of the First Christian Church grew from 200 to 435
parishioners. By 1953, the church building was showing the strain from this growth, so the
congregation decided to build a new facility. A suburban site on Highland Avenue was selected
in 1954 and the ground was broken for the new church in 1958. By October 1959, the new First
Christian Church at 1909 Highland Ave. was completed. This new building has served the
congregation until today. ("History of the First Christian Church")
The old First Christian Church at 51 E. Holmes St. is potentially individually eligible for the
National Register of Historic Places because it was the first permanent home of the historic
Disciples of Christ congregation in Janesville. The new church building is too modem to be
significant and is not potentially individually eligible for the National Register.
Two Church of Christ congregations, a faction of the old Disciples of Christ, arose in the 1950s
in Janesville. The Church of Christ at 1344 Oakhill Ave. was organized around 1955 and
acquired its church building around 1970. The Church of Christ at 2103 Roxbury Rd. was
organized in 1952 and erected its building in 1962. Because these congregations are modem,
they are not historically significant, and their resources are not potentially eligible for the
National Register of Historic Places. (City Directories)
Episcopal missionary workers came to the Wisconsin Territory beginning in the late 1820s,
following Native Americans who had been converted to the Church of England in the East and
were moving into Wisconsin. Missionary work increased during the 1830s and 1840s with the
Native Americans and with Cornish and Yankee settlers in the mining region of southwest
Wisconsin. By 1847, there were 25 Episcopal congregations in Wisconsin with 969 members.
Membership grew slowly, assisted by the establishment of a seminary in Wisconsin in 1842.
(Wyatt 1986: vol. 3, Religion :9-2-9-5)

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