History in Brief

“A church bears, sometimes for generations, the impress made by the original settlers, and no department of historical investigation possesses greater interest than that connected with research along this line.  Even when the group of pioneers and some of the descendents have passed beyond, there still remains something to indicate the character of these early Welsh namely the Bethesda Church…”

                               Rev.  John Pugh Jones, [ Pastor  from 1925 to 1936]

Christian Endeavor Party1845 – Founded as Cilmaenan Sunday School of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist denomination.

Services were held in the home of John Hughes on Cilmaenan Farm for the first 9 years.  The Welsh name Cilmaenan derived from Cil (stone) and Maen (architecturally, a corner or angle) was later anglicized to the name “Keystone Farm.”  The first minister was Rev. William T. Williams, a Circuit Preacher.

In 1851, the Milwaukee Railroad laid track near the site of the future church building, a modernization that would later provide quite the inconvenience when they decided to detach the church’s road from Sunset Avenue at the tracks for safety reasons.  Now we may be more off the beaten path, but our little cul de sac is quiet and cozy.

More circuit preachers came through, the Rev. Daniel Jenkins in 1852, the Rev. Thomas Rice in 1853.  In 1854, they moved worship to the home of David Jones of Parc Farm where services of the living room congregation continued for three more years.

1857 – First church built on the corner of Sunset and  Bethesda Church Road, although it wasn’t called that back then.  That was when they chose the name Bethesda.  The church members numbered just 28, with 24 children attending on Sundays as well.  That building ended up storing  grain as part of a member’s  farm when the church history was written up in 1963.

1876 – The present building was finished by builder G.D. Evans.  The pulpit and the pews were made at the same time and are still in use (with the additional cushioned upholstery on the seats).  The pulpit was patterned after the one in use in Waukesha’s Baptist Church, while the pews were modeled after those of the local Congregational Church.  A year later they had installed Rev. R. H. Jones as their first pastor.  He provided for them and Jerusalem Church in Wales and the two Welsh Heritage Churches remained yoked until 2005.

“The early pastors it is related preached for twenty-five cents a sermon.  Week days they worked upon farms.  Early pastors rode on horseback to the church.  Lunch was brought for them by church goers before they left to preach at Jerusalem.”

                                Rev.  John Pugh Jones, [ Pastor  from 1925 to 1936]

View1964In 1919, on April 9th, they installed a new piano purchased with the help of $300 legacy left by Mrs. S. D. James.  Following close upon the heels of this musical miracle, the congregation voted, on May 18th to unite with the Great English Presbyterian Church.  This was a change because the Welsh, unlike other immigrants, hoped to create a new community as well as a new home in the New World.  They didn’t assimilate as readily as other cultures.  They tried to keep their language and marry their own kind, and brought their resentment of English oppression with them.  Sunday School classes continued to be taught in Welsh at Bethesda until 1925, or so the story goes.


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