Church turns 150
Part of Clintonville’s history
By Erik Buchinger
The Clintonville United Methodist Church in has turned 150 years old in 2017.
Pastor Keith Wolf, who has held the position for more than three years, said the church has been a big part of Clintonville’s history.
“It’s been such an integral part of the community for so long, and we continue to try to be that presence in the community where everyone is welcome,” Wolf said. “We are involved in a lot of activities, and I think Clintonville as a community, the churches work well together to provide quite a few ministries.”
Wolf said there are a few celebrations of the church’s milestone coming in the future.
“We are hosting Women’s Lenten Breakfast, and this happens to be our year,” Wolf said. “We’re going to use that opportunity to highlight our church. We’re also going to have a dinner theater program in May 5 and May 6. We’ll be serving a sit down meal and putting on a play during the meal for anyone who wants to come.”
Wolf said more details will come, and the church is planning a worship service and celebration in the fall with no exact date set yet.
According to Wolf, the membership has kept the church going for 150 years.
“It really is the local membership above all,” Wolf said. “They really feel connected with each other like a family, so they don’t just rely on their pastor, whoever it might be. They take it upon themselves to carry on the program and ministries and to start new ones.”
Ella Lewis has been a member of the Clintonville United Methodist Church since 1961 and among her favorite aspects of the church is the welcoming community, which she said is the reason it has been able to sustain 150 years of existence.
“Methodism has always tried to instill in people that no matter what your preferences are or feelings of others, Methodists accept all people of all persuasions,” Lewis said. “We’re open, we have open communion, so anybody is welcome to come in and partake.”
Lewis said belief and support in the church has helped it remain constant.
“I think it’s because of faith and conviction, but it also takes a lot of encouragement,” Lewis said. “The pastors work very hard to instill principal by having projects for the youth, which was always so important because they’re the next generation that’s going to take over the church.”
There have been several changes to the church, Lewis said, but changes are important to the growth.
“It’s been very interesting because there have been so many changes and developments over the years,” Lewis said. “We have to accept the fact that there are going to be changes, and it can be awfully hard for older people to accept that. Changes come as churches grow. We’re trying hard now to encourage new people to come and join our church and be a part of things.”
Wolf said he is interested in taking part in the community more in the future to keep the church going for another 150 years.
“Going forward, our goals are to connect more with the community be an advocate for resources for the Clintonville community,” Wolf said.
The church has hosted suicide prevention training as well as women’s self-defense classes.
“We’re looking forward to doing more of that going forward,” Wolf said. “Also, we have a very vital youth ministry program, so we hope to continue to be a positive resource for the youth in the community. Those are some of our major target areas right now.”
Wolf said he felt welcomed when he originally took the job as the church’s pastor, and he has felt even more comfortable in his new setting since he started.
“It’s a great church,” Wolf said. “I’ve felt loved here. I’m not just saying this, but it’s true. I’ve never had anyone make a major complaint about something because the people work together well.”
Below is an excerpt from an article from the Clintonville Tribune-Gazette from the church’s founders Lucretia Doty and her daughter Mrs. F.M. “Fannie” Guernsey in Nov. 22, 1901 when the church had been in existence for 34 years at the time.
“We came to Clintonville in the fall of 1867…A few small dwellings, primitive in the extreme, a school house and saw mill nestled within a dense forest of hemlock on the bank of the Pigeon River, was nearly all that gave evidence of civilization. Norman Clinton, U.P. Clinton, B.P. Clinton, N.B. Carter, F.M. Guernsey and their families were the only residents, the population of the entire town of Larrabee not exceeding 100.
“During the winter of the same year, a prayer meeting was organized which was held weekly in the little school house which stood where Mr. Nehls meat market is now located, and which forms part of the house now occupied by Clark Thorn. Our prayer meeting was well attended and looked forward to with great eagerness…No church with all the splendor and elegance of decorative art and brilliancy ever shone more brightly than did our little old school house with its one lamp and two or three lighted candles; for Christ’s illuminating presence was there, and every heart fully conscious of the Holy Spirit’s power.”
“Never can I forget the influence at those meetings, neither would I forget them, for all along the years since then, when shadows seemed to settle down so dark and heavy and the future of our church seemed hopeless, the memory of those blessed seasons, which have lingered so preciously near, have served to strengthen my faith and lead me to more earnest zeal.
“The sweetest revival I ever witnessed followed our feeble efforts and somewhere brought to Christ. My dear mother and I gladly plodded through the snow with a lamp and basket of kindling wood to start the fire on cold winter nights, that the prayer meeting might be sustained. The following summer Rev. Joseph Anderson, who was then the presiding elder of Waupaca district, through the solicitation of my mother found his way here and organized a class of 10 or 12. The following persons constituted the membership: U.P. Clinton and wife Mrs. S.E. Clinton, Mr. Chris Hill, Dana Hewitt, Mr. and Mrs. N.B. Carter and daughter, Lizzie Webb, Mattie Clinton, F.M. Guernsey and wife. Rev. Mr. Woodward supplied as preacher at the time the organization was effected. First regular minister appointed after organization was Rev. Chas. Baldock, Oct. 1868. Words were inadequate to express how joyful we welcomed our first pastor and his cherry wife…That year was prosperous, population increased and a number brought into the church.