The La Farge United Methodist Church is celebrating 150 years as a congregation this year. Members of the church’s 150th Anniversary Committee are planning a series of special events and services to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the church. Members, former members, friends and family are invited to participate in the celebrations and events that will culminate with special services over the weekend of Oct. 7-8.
According to the church’s archives, the first Methodist Episcopal meetings were held in the log schoolhouse in section 17 of the town of Stark in 1867. (Today, that area is known as Star Valley and is located in the Kickapoo Valley Reserve along the Old Hwy. 131 Trail.) The Rev. C.N. Cunningham was the first pastor and organized the meetings in the winter of 1867-68. The congregation included about 18 members and included Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Smith, Mr. and Mrs. Dempster Seely, Mr.and Mrs. Irvin Nixon, Mr. and Mrs. William Bacon and daughter, Mrs. Stimble, Adelia Farnhan, Mr. and Mrs. Peter Barton, John Byar, Emma Byar, Synthia Moore and Mary Miller. The members of the congregation continued to worship in the log schoolhouse until 1871.
A new church building was erected that year on the hill at the south end of the Kickapoo River town of Star in section 20, town of Stark. This new church was known as the “Star Chapel” or the “Methodist Chapel” and was located at the north end of the present Chapel Hill Cemetery. The lumber for the new church was furnished by Dempster Seely and A.W. DeJean, and was sawn in the nearby Seely and DeJean mills located at Seelyburg. The Nixons, Seelys, DeJeans, Bert Wood and many others donated the work on the new church.
In March 1871, the first revival meeting was held in the new church building, closing with a total of 55 members in the congregation. In 1872-73, the Rev. R. S. Mockett was the pastor and deacon at the Star Chapel.
Over the years, the Methodist Chapel at Seelyburg added an Epworth League (young adult association) and a Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) chapter. A hearty Sunday school for children was also introduced and singing books for the children’s choir were purchased. In 1898, a new organ was purchased for the church and a year later, the church’s name was changed to the La Farge Methodist Episcopal Church at the conference meeting held in Baraboo.
Much of the information on the earliest years of the Methodist church came from an article published in the Dec. 1, 1938 issue of the La Farge Enterprise newspaper and written by Luella Steinmetz and Carrie Bold. The two ladies wrote the article on the church’s history as part of a dedication to the remodeling of the Methodist church in La Farge that was completed that year. There will be more about the move from Chapel Hill to La Farge by the Methodist congregation in an upcoming article.