History of the United Brethren Church of Rutland
Prepared by Gerald Neath
The area that is now the State of Wisconsin went through many name and boundary changes; starting with claims made by various Eastern States following the Revolutionary War to its becoming part of the Northwest Territory under the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. Following a series of territorial boundary and name changes in the early 1800’s the Wisconsin Territory was established in 1836.
It was in the 1830’s that the frontier started to open up in our area. The lands were surveyed and sold with settlements and commercial enterprises being established by the 1840’s. Factors that helped open the frontier included; the end of the Black Hawk War in 1832, the east-west lead trails that passed through the area from the mining regions in the southwestern part of the territory, and the action by the territorial legislature in 1836, making Madison the territorial capital.
The first settlers in what was to become the Town of Rutland were the families of Joseph DeJean, John Prentis and Dan Pond. They arrived in 1841-42 and settled along the “old Madison-Janesville road”. The road followed the present day Fish Hatchery Rd. to Rome Corners Rd. and Old Stage Road. At this time, west of the Rutland area, along the same roadway---a portion of which was also known as the “Old Lead Trail”---Bartley Runey built a log cabin and tavern which became a favorite stopping place for covered wagons hauling lead ore to the ports of Milwaukee and Racine. This trail continued through Rutland where it divided into the Old Stone Road to Milwaukee and the Old Stage Road going to Janesville, Racine, and Kenosha.
THE TOWN OF RUTLAND
The early settlers of the Rutland area were primarily New England Yankees from Vermont, Maine, Connecticut and New York along with others from Ohio. The southern part of the area had a significant number of settlers from Vermont while those from Maine settled predominantly in the northern part. The early settler, S. W. Graves, in his History of Rutland, described the area as, “almost all burr oak openings with considerable marsh and small part prairie in the north”’
The Native Americans in the area were the Winnebago tribes, known today as the Ho-Chunk. We have only a few references to them by the early settlers. S. W. Graves in his article about Rutland remarked: “When I first came into town (i.e. the area of Rutland) the Indians were very numerous. The would often pitch their tents near some spring and hunt deer for weeks and then move off.”
The Town of Rutland was organized early in 1836, shortly after the territorial legislature passed legislation authorizing its formation. It was named Rutland after a city in Vermont from where many of the early settlers had come. The town’s first election was held on April 7, 1846 at the home of S. W. Graves. Those elected and/or appointed to offices were: Jonathan Lawrence, supervisor/town chairman; David West and Henry Edmonds, town supervisors; S. W. Graves, town clerk; Joseph DeJean, treasurer;
Josiah Cummings, J. Boynton, and O. B. Bryant, assessors; David Tipple, S. W. Graves, and Goodrich Cummings, road commissions.
It was estimated that there were 400 inhabitants in the area by 1845. As the population increased and with more settlers continuing to move in, there was a need for supplies and services to be provided for locally. So, like in many rural frontier areas, a local commercial center developed. It wasn’t uncommon that such areas developed around a common meeting place such as a school or church as well as along a frequently traveled trail and a nearby water supply. The community of Rutland Center developed at the present day intersections of U. S. Hwy. 14, Rome Corners Road, and Old Stage Road. The Rutland Branch of Bad Fish Creek at one time had a dam which accommodated an overshot wheel which supplied the power for a saw mill. Later when a Mr. Alexander from Illinois put in a turban, a grist mill was operated there by a member of the DeJean family.
The two focal points of the community would have been the one room school built on the south side of the present day intersection of U. S. Hwy. 14 and Rome Corners Road and The United Brethren Church and cemetery which was built on the north side of the intersection. Nothing remains of the school; but the church and cemetery remain in tack as the sole landmark of the community’s earliest days.
A post office was established in the town in June of 1846 and was located in the first store in Rutland Center built and operated by Louis Spaulding. In 1880 it was moved to a location NE of the community. The post office was closed in November of 1901.
The community supported a variety of businesses that supplied the needs of the surrounding area. The first store was opened by Louis Spaulding. Several businesses were noted in an article written under the guidance of Rutland Center school teacher, Alma Sveum. The article that first appeared in the Madison Democrat and was later reprinted in The Oregon Observer in 1920 noted the following businesses: John Waterman’s dry goods and grocery store; Rasmus and Peter Peterson’s shoe store, a “repair shop” run by Chilos Shampnor, blacksmith shops owned by Tom Bowen, James Best and William Perkins, and a paint and wagon shop owned and operated by Lawrence and Castle. David Anthony---who built a two-story structure near the mill on Bad Fish Creek---collected local produce which he had taken by D. R. Meloy on a regular basis to sell at a Madison market. A cheese factory was later part of David Anthony’s business.
There was only one saloon. However, it didn’t last long. It has been said that a local resident, Almond Bell, along with a number of other settlers raided the saloon, dumping a large amount of whiskey onto the road, after which the saloon was closed.
There was a hotel owned by a Dr. Nathaniel Crane. His establishment could accommodate 40 people. The building had a dance hall for which the “famous Prichard Band” frequently supplied the music. Dr. Crane was also in the business of “compounding medicines” and selling around around the surrounding countryside.
The land in which the school was built was donated by Albert Waterman. The school was closed in the mid-1930’s.
The continued growth of the community came to a halt after the railroad bypassed it in the mid-1860’s The Beloit and Madison Railroad had planned a line from Magnolia through Evansville, Union, Rutland Center, and Lake View to Madison. However, it was said that landowners in the area were demanding too much for their land and that to the west of the planned route, settlers in the Oregon and Brooklyn areas were offering inducements such as granting free right of ways and buying shares of railroad stock, to provide an incentive for the railroad to locate there.
Platted as the Village of Rutland in 1876, and looking forward to continued growth, instead fell into decline during the later half of the 19th. Century and into the early 20th. Century, until today the United Brethren Meeting House and cemetery are the only recognizable remnants of what was once a community with a promising future.
THE FAITH OF THE EARLY SETTLERS
Bringing one’s family across the frontier in the 1830’s and 1840’s was no easy task. There was land to be had for $1.25 an acre, but it came with an additional price; that of the back breaking work of clearing the land, building dwellings from the resources at hand, and struggling with diseases and the hardships of the weather in addition to many other unforeseen difficulties. Preparations were often made in advance by the men prior to bringing their families to their new homesteads.
It was their religious faith that kept many families strong in the face of so many dangers and hardships.
Several of the early Rutland settlers were members of a Protestant sect called The United Brethren in Christ. The denomination developed out of the evangelical revival movement in the eastern states during the later 18th. Century. It has been claimed to have been the first new Protestant denomination to be founded in the U. S. The origin of the denomination’s name is believed to have been the result of Phillip Otterbein, a German Reformed Church pastor, who was so moved by the preaching of Martin Boehm, a Mennonite preacher, that following a revival he as attending, he folded Boehm in his arms and said, “We are brethren”. The revival took place in a barn near Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1767. However, it wasn’t until 1800 that the denomination was officially organized in Frederick, Maryland. At that time both Otterbein and Boehm were elected the first bishops of the denomination The United Brethren were organized in much the same manner as the Methodist Church and always maintained a close association with that denomination. Over the ensuing years the United Brethren had a history of various changes and mergers. until in 1968 the United Brethren in Christ (Revised Constitution) merged with the Methodist Episcopal jChurch forming the United Methodist Church.
HISTORY OF THE RUTLAND UNITED BRETHREN CHURCH
Settlers espousing the United Brethren faith included some of the earliest settlers of Rutland, As often happened on the on the frontier, families would congregate in homes prior to building a church or meeting house. It was recorded in an early complied history of the church that such a meeting in Rutland was held at a “Father Johnson’s home”. Nothing more is known of this “Johnson” nor is the date known other than it must have occurred about 1840.
Prior to being designated a congregation, groups of believers would organize themselves into “classes” for which they would select “class leader”. Because of the lack of clergy, the leader would most likely be a lay person. The first such “class” of the United Brethren faith organized in Wisconsin was at the home of Joseph DeJean in the early 1840’s Mr. DeJean served as its class leader. The class continued to meet in homes and later around 1847 met in the local school house until the meeting house/church was built.
Rev. James Davis, a missionary for the United Brethren Church, came to Wisconsin in 1842 from the denomination’s Wabash (Indiana) Conference. He established a class in Monroe which later became the first United Brethren Congregation in Wisconsin. After hearing of the Rutland class, he visited the area. He continued to serve as the itinerant minister for the Wisconsin Mission of the church for the next couple of years after which the Rutland Class became a part of the church’s Monroe Circuit which was served by Rev. J. A. Mast and a Rev. Corray.
In 1851 the Rutland Class was organized into a congregation. At the time there were about 65 members and the class leader was John Hanan. The congregation continued to be part of the Monroe Circuit and for the next couple of years (1851-52) was served by Rev. A. Bacher (or Baker?).
On March 16, 1852 the congregation acquired one and half acres of land for the sum of $10.00 from David and Jane Anthony “for a meeting house and burial ground”. Shortly following that, on May 24, 1852, the new congregation filed incorporation papers with the State of Wisconsin. The trustees signing on half of the church were Joseph DeJanes [Jean], [Robert] Taylor Valentine, and A. G. Newton. Other Charter members included Mr. and Mrs. David Anthony, E. D. Shotz [Sholts], Emma Graves, the Burton’s, the Haskin’s, the Prentice’s, and Dan Pond.
In 1852-53 the congregation built a church/meeting house that would become the first building of the United Brethren denomination in the State of Wisconsin. Quoting from an article in The Oregon Observer of August 7, 1924: “The moving spirits in building the church were Joseph DeJean, Garrott Runey, E. D. Sholts, John Hanan, Wm. Newton, Alva Newton, Elder [Rev. W. T.] Bunton, Henry Hanan, Mrs. Morrison and others.” Most likely the Anthony family should be included in this listing among others. Dedication of the new building was held in the fall of 1853.
According to a newspaper article written by Frank Newton some of the lumber was taken from the nearby woods and sawed at the mill of David Anthony while the rest was hauled by ox teams from Stoughton, that being the nearest railroad station. However, another source referred to Wayne Anthony having stated that some of the lumber for the building was brought all the way from Milwaukee by ox team.
Descriptive notes about the building were given as follows: size of building 25 x 35 feet; seating for 75-100; a center aisle and an aisle along each of the side walls; the pulpit front center; wooden pegs were used for nails; the foundation has air jets; the frame is of oak; three windows on each side, two front doors, old style hearing stove; three bracket lamps; wooden structure painted white; and there was said to have been a front porch at one time. A photo showing the front porch has since been found and a porch has now been restored to the structure.
Following the action of the General Conference of the United Brethren Church, meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio, in May of 1857 authorizing the formation of a Wisconsin Conference, Rutland was selected as the site of its organizational meeting. The meeting, held in the Rutland church on September 16-18, 1858, organized the First United Brethren State Conference of Wisconsin. At the time of its organization the denomination had fifteen ministers of whom thirteen were present at the Rutland meeting and it had a state membership of 609. (Note: The historical marker in front of the church has the dates of the conference at the 18th. through the 20th. of September, however, in the original minutes of the conference the dates were recorded as the 16th. through the 18th.) Within this reorganization the Rutland location was designated as a “station” within the Monroe Circuit. A Rev. Zuck who had been ordained in the Wabash Conference (Indiana) and transferred to Wisconsin, became the new pastor for Rutland.
The church went on to host the United Brethren State Conferences of 1860, 1862, 1871, 1882, and 1887.
The 1873 Plat Map of Dane Country shows the location of a parsonage just south of the church on the opposite side of the road. It was probably built while a Rev. John Payne was serving the church. Rev. Payne was recorded on both the 1850 and 1860 Rutland censes returns. A photo of the parsonage taken in 1883 shows the Rev. A. D. Whitney, his wife and their daughter, Grace, standing in front of the house.
On June 22, 1898 the congregation filed a new certificate of organization with the Dane County Register of Deeds, incorporating under the name of The Rutland United Brethren in Christ Church. This may have been done to distinguish the congregation from a group of United Brethren congregations that had withdrawn from the General Conference of the church to form the United Brethren of the Old Constitution; this over the issue of allowing members of a secret society to be received into the church membership. Signers of the document on behalf of the Rutland church were Finly [Finley] B. Best, Chas. A. Emmes, and Ruben Heebner.
The Rutland church would have belonged to the United Brethren Church in Christ (New Constitution) which was to merge with The Evangelical Church and later with the Methodist Church. The United Brethren Church in Christ (Old Constitution) denomination is still in existence today.
In October of 1903 a group of women organized The Mite Society for the expressed purpose “to help keep church property in repair, pay toward the minister’s salary, and any work of charity that the society so votes.” The society derived their name Jesus’ parable about the widow’s mite (Gospel of Mark chap. 12, vss. 41-44).
In addition to sponsoring many social benefits, the Society oversaw the painting and papering of the interior of the church as well as organizing other needed improvements. Later they appointed a committee of three with the instructions that they were to clean up the cemetery and keep it in good repair. The three men appointed were C. D. Anthony, David T. Hanan, and Charles Johnson with the help of Arthur Phillips. It was from this committee that The Rutland Center Cemetery Association was formed in 1908.
The Cemetery Association became formally organized and voted to incorporate on March 27, 1911 when forty-seven area residents met at the church. The Rev. E. D. Upson, chaired the meeting with Frank A. Newton acting as secretary, The papers for the association were drawn up and the following persons were elected to the board of trustees: L. J. Morrison, W. J. Bossingham, C. A. Hannan, Frank Newton, Henry Johnson, W. C. Waterman, and H. S. Smith.
On May 22, 1911 a warranty deed transferred the cemetery property from the United Brethren Church to the new association for the sum of one dollar. The care and management of the cemetery now became the responsibility of the new association.
After about 1920 the Wisconsin U. B. Conference no longer sent ministers to the Rutland Church. Many members of the congregation had either moved from the area or joined other churches. Rev. O. F. Fogo was the last known resident pastor. The church was listed as ‘defunct” in the U. B. Conference inventory of 1916.
At the meeting of the Rutland Cemetery Association of October 14, 1921 a motion was made and passed to buy the Church building for $100.00 as was offered by the Conference of the United Brethren Church. The actual transfer of ownership occurred on January 3, 1922. L. L. Outcalt, U. B. historian mentioned in the in the Conference’s journal that the church was valued at $800.00 but was sold to the Rutland Community for $100.00 and that it was known locally as the “white community church”.
Some time after this time a group of Seven day Adventists used the building for awhile and after that it was only used occasionally for special events.
In 1946 the Church of the United Brethren in Christ united with the Evangelical Denomination. This union was made official at the Wisconsin Conference level in May of 1951 at Monroe. On September 14, 1958 the denomination held a Centennial Program at the Rutland Church commemorating the 100th. anniversary of the Wisconsin Conference of the United Brethren Church. Many former members and ministers of the church were in attendance.
The site of the church cemetery expanded in 1960 when Herman Anthony donated to the association an “L” shaped piece of land to the south of the church and its cemetery.
The Rutland church’s historical significance was recognized in the summer of 1968 when the E. U. B. Wisconsin Conference, then being merged with the Methodist Church to form the United Methodist Church, placed a historical marker in front of the church which reads as follows.
Site of the Rutland United Brethren Church
Erected in 1852
it was the first church building of the denomination
Class meetings were first held in this vicinity in 1840.
The congregation was organized in 1851.
Services were discontinued in 1912
The First Session
WISCONSIN CONFERENCE (U.B.)
Evangelical United Brethren Church
Now United Methodist Church
was held here September 18-20, 1858
with Bishop Lewis Davis as advisor.
Rev. G. G. Nickey was chairman.
Thirteen of the fifteen ministers were present.
Conference membership was 609.
Wisconsin Conference Historical Society
The Cemetery Association continued to care for the church and cemetery until 1974. At a meeting of the Association on May 11, 1974 a motion was carried to dissolve the Association effective June 1, 1974 and to turn over all assets to the Town of Rutland along with the responsibility of maintaining the property. The cemetery and church has since been the property of the Town of Rutland.
Notes on Sources:
Archives of the Wisconsin Conference of the United Methodist Church
(Sun Prairie, WI.) We would like to thank the Conference for providing access to their files which contained complied histories of the Rutland church as well as many historical records and documents.
The Oregon Area Historical Society, 159 West Lincoln St., Oregon, Wi. for access to the original copies of The Oregon Observer newspaper; the treasurer’s book of the Mite Society 1910-1914, plat maps, and complied histories of the Town of Rutland.
Dawn George, Clerk of the Town of Rutland for the Town records relating to the church, especially the Rutland Cemetery Association Minute Book.
The Library and Archival Division of The Wisconsin Historical Society (Madison, WI.) for the microfilmed records of United Brethren in Christ, Annual Wisconsin Conference Proceedings 1858-1893 and other printed materials related to Rutland.
Elizabeth L. Miller, Historic Preservation Consultant, for her research and work on our application to the U. S. Dept. of Interior for our National and State Historic Site designation.
Papers and records from the Herman Anthony family
Block, Herman A., Historical Data: Wisconsin Conference, Evangelical Association, The Evangelical Church, The Evangelical United Brethren Church 1840-1969 (Milwaukee: Ken Cook Transnational, 1971)
Town of Rutland (compiled histories)
Butterfield, C. W. (editor) History of Dane County Wisconsin
(Western Historical Co., Chicago, Ill. - 1880)
Gregory, John G. (editor) A History of Old Crawford County (Vol. 2)
(S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago, Ill. - 1932)
Graves, S. W., (the article on Rutland) from Dane County & Surrounding towns; being a History & Guide (Wm J. Park & Co., Madison, WI. 1877 - reprint 1978, State Historical Society)
Various compiled histories of the Town that have appeared over the past years in The Oregon Observer.
A note from author:
Noted above are only the primary sources. There have been many more, especially dealing with the community of Rutland Center, from which factual agreements and a logical timeline of events are not always discernible. Any additions and corrections would be greatly appreciated regarding both of the community and the church.