The History of the Hyde Congregational Church
By Pearl McCutchin Hughes
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(This history is based upon the minutes of this church as recorded by the church clerk)
November 27, 1968
The Hyde Congregational Church is located in a beautiful valley originally called Mill Creek Valley. In 1861, this valley was described in the church record as “a moral waste”. Mr. William Webb, a Calvin Methodist and resident of the valley “felt deeply for the destitution of his neighbors in religious matters”. He invited the Reverend David Jones of Arena to preach to them in the home of James Alison. The first meeting was held September 29, 1861 at which six people in addition to the Alison family were present. Religious services were held in this home until it became too crowded for the increased attendance.
December 1, 1861 the people of the valley held a meeting at which they “unanimously resolved to build a house for public worship if they in any way could”. The building was to be 20’x30’ with 12’ posts. The church was English and Welsh.
January 14, 1862, a meeting was held to institute the new church. Delegates present from the churches of Ridgeway, Blue Mounds, and Spring Green resolved that “no place needed a church and preaching more than did the Mill Creek Valley”. Four people presented themselves for membership by letter and four persons joined by profession of faith in Christ. The charter members were Reverend and Mrs. David Jones, Richard and Martha Evans, William Webb, Robert Hamilton, Thomas Hamilton, and Jane Hamilton.
The Covenant and Confession of Faith by the Presbyterian and Congregational Churches of Wisconsin were adopted. The Warranty Deed to the land was duly executed and recorded in the office of the Register of Deeds on December 18, 1862, in Volume 7 of deeds, page 306.
During the following months several new members were received into the church namely: Widow Young, Mrs. Robert Hamilton, Mrs. Thomas Hamilton, Mrs. Mary Hamilton, Mr. and Mrs. Fairbanks, Mrs. Ella Roberts, Mr. and Mrs. Edwards, and Mrs. Evans.
During the years 1861-1863, Reverend David Jones served as minister, William Webb as clerk, and Robert Hamilton as trustee. During the years 1863-1874 no church records are available. It was not until 1874 that the church was revitalized and services resumed. The Mineral Point Convention appointed a committee of William Stoddard and Reverend Adam Pinkerton to secure a preacher and a Sabbath School teacher. New interest in the church became apparent. The building was painted “without and within” and a carpet was purchased. Robert McCutchin, my grandfather presented the church with an organ and instructed his son, John McCutchin, my father, a student at Beloit College to take organ lessons. He did so, and upon his return home, became the church organist. The church was rededicated on New Year’s Day, 1878, and renamed the Mill Creek Congregational Church. A resolution to unite with the Mineral Point Convention of Congregational Churches was adopted. The Confession of Charter Members of the newly reorganized church were: Reverend David Jones, Robert McCutchin, Mrs. Robert McCutchin, Miss Ann McCutchin, Robert J. McCutchin, Mrs. Jane Morback, Mrs. Christie McCutchin, Peter Hubbard, Mrs. Peter Hubbard, Miss Ella Hubbard, Alexander Price, Mrs. Kate Price, Mrs. Mary J. Webster, and Mrs. Mary Goodlad.
The following fall the Mill Creek Church accepted an invitation from the Adamsville Church to unite with them with the understanding that the minister, Reverend Sparrow, divide his time between the two churches.
Thirteen people from Pleasant Ridge presented themselves for membership on December 29, 1878. The next year seven people from Clyde joined the church. Membership totaled 42 in 1880 and 53 in 1884. In 1940 the church roll included only 22 members representing 12 families. In April, 1881 the Mill Creek Church joined with Ridgeway and Adamsville for the purpose of engaging a minister to serve the three churches. The Mill Creek Church was to pay $100.00 toward the minister’s salary. Services were held on alternate Sundays.
Alex Price was elected clerk in 1881. At this time evening meetings were held with Reverend A. Pinkerton of Arena, minster and Robert McCutchin, moderator. Church minutes record the administration of sacraments and the appointment of Alex Price to keep the church door locked. At the annual meeting January 1895, the members agreed to raise the minister’s salary to $250.00. Robert J. McCutchin, A. M. Price, and Thomas Hamilton were elected trustees. John McCutchin, my father, was elected church clerk which office he held for a period of 49 years, from 1895 until his death in 1944.
For a period of years this church was served by ministers from the Arena Congregational Church who also served the Coon Rock Church and the Arena Second Church. Eventually the Mill Creek Church became known as the Hyde Congregational Church and the Arena Second Church became known as the Mill Creek Church. Later the Hyde affiliated with the Barneveld Congregational Church sharing the minister and the expenses. Of the many ministers who served this church, Reverend B.F. Schoenfeld served the longest, a period of 8 years from 1908-1916.
On May 20, 1945 Tom McCutchin was elected clerk to fill the office of the late John McCutchin. Quentin Davis was elected treasurer to succeed E.B. Davis, who retired. Also elected were Norman Duesler, trustee, Reverend Bawden, Sunday School Superintendent, Frank Price and William Pine, deacons. At this time there were 37 members.
This church did not forget its anniversaries. In 1937 it celebrated its 75th anniversary of the formal founding which took place in January 1862. John McCutchin presented a brief history of the church at this meeting.
The 90th anniversary of the formal founding of the church was held June 8, 1952, with an all-day celebration and was attended by 235 members and friends. Arrangements were made by the officers, the Ladies Aid, and the minister, Reverend Monard G. Sanford. The oldest former minister, Reverend B.F. Schoenfeld, Park Falls, Wisconsin was the guest speaker. Other former ministers who took part in the service were: Reverend Ralph Austin, Waupun, Reverend Raymond Bawden, Ridgeway, and Reverend A. T. Wallace, Madison. At noon, a free country style picnic dinner was served by the Ladies Aid. Special music was provided by Tammy and Nancy McCutchin, the Hyde Ladies Quartet, and the Barneveld Choir. A special birthday cake and ice cream were served at the close of the day’s program.
After a most successful 90th anniversary celebration, activities became routine again. An item of interest was recorded in the minutes of January 11, 1953; quote “A church grant in 1863 to Hyde Church of $150.00. They now want $99.00.” No further reference was made to this in the minutes.
The idea of incorporating the church was discussed at several meetings and on June 11, 1955, a decision was made to take the necessary steps to incorporate and the matter was referred to the trustees. This was interesting as Section 8 of the constitution adopted by the church in 1874 provided that “The trustees shall see that they are legally incorporated according to the laws of the states…” The matters of incorporating the Cemetery Association and the installation of electric lights were also referred to the trustees.
During much of the history of this church the following names stand out in terms of leadership and service: Hamilton, McCutchin, Price, Davis, Duesler, Johnson, and Olson. Lena Olson served as organist and Mrs. E.B. Davis prepared the sacraments for Communion for many, many years.
Eventually church membership and interest dwindled. Many of the descendents of the pioneer families moved away. Families sought their own churches in surrounding villages. After much discussion at the annual meetings in 1956 and 1957, a motion was made and carried on April 7, 1957… that “the church be disbanded and letters sent out to all members.” The church doors were thus closed except for the occasional funeral. It looked as though the church would fall into decay.
The church had always been open to people of various faiths and here they worshipped together. In the cemetery, nestling behind the church lay buried not only Congregationalists, but Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, and Catholics. It can be truly said that in faith this church followed Congregational principals, but in spirit it was nondenominational. This was also true of the Ladies Aid, auxiliary of the church to which protestants and Catholics were welcome.
New interest in preserving this church was manifest in the summer of 1966 when a non-profit corporation, the Hyde Community Association, was formed to preserve and maintain the Hyde Church as a historical landmark and memorial to the pioneers of the community. This is one of the few rural churches in Wisconsin thus preserved. The impetus to organize came from new people in this community, Robert McCabe and Clay Schoenfeld, two University of Wisconsin professors with Hyde ties. The present officers of this association are: Tom McCutchin, Arena, president; Clay Schoenfeld, Madison, vice president; Robert McCabe, Madison, secretary-treasurer; Mrs. George Bawden, Arena, and Norman Duesler, Barneveld, directors.
Here’s another brief history of the chapel written by a frequent visitor: https://shunpikingtoheaven.blogspot.com/2014/01/hyde-chapel-iowa-county-wisconsin.html?showComment=1625615915039#c1931825881741257304