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Lake Mills Moravian Church

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    Index to Moravian Church


LAKE MILLS, 1881-1936

Historical Sketch of the Lake Mills Moravian Church


The local Moravian Church enjoys the distinction of being the largest congregation of its denomination in the Western District.  Its telling results bear witness to the untiring Home Mission labors, so faithfully performed, in this vicinity, and dating back to those early pioneer days of Jefferson County Churches, when the "Circuit Rider" was much in evidence.


John Gottlieb Kaltenbrunn, grandfather of the late Mrs. Calvin Oehler and Mrs. John Joeckel, is the time-honored pioneer teacher and Gospel minister, who has been termed the "Circuit Rider" of the Moravian Church in Jefferson County.


In labors abundant, he traveled for many miles on horseback, supplying the German settlers, south and southwest of Watertown with the means of grace.


Moravian congregations at Watertown and Ebenezer


Having established Moravian congregations at Watertown and Ebenezer, as early as 1850, this indefatigable Home Missionary, at first crossing a small wooden bridge connecting the shores of the Rock river, near Grelton, and later, when this bridge was washed away by Spring floods and never rebuilt, fording this river on horseback, started three preaching places near Lake Mills.


As prospects for the establishing of permanent churches became more promising, between the years of 1854-1856, he received an assistant, in the person of the Rev. John Kilian.  He arrived at Lake Mills in May, 1856, preaching his first sermon on June first, in a vacant Lutheran church in Waterloo Township, and, on that same Sunday, he held a service in a school house in Oakland Township, afterwards called North Salem.  In the course of the following days, it became evident that Lake Mills was the most suitable place for locating as pastor, which he did.


Two families, members of the Moravian Church in Germany, namely those of Johannes Bruns and Andreas Joeckel and some twenty other persons located in town, expressed a strong desire for having a Moravian minister locate here and organize a church.  The legal organization of the local congregation took place at a church council held Nov. 30, 1856, with twenty-five charter members signing the Brotherly Agreement or constitution.  The first officers, elected that day, were as follows: John Heinrich Bruns, August Rosenberg, Heinrich Oberbeck, Emil Christian Graeber and Andreas Joeckel.


The Messrs. Atwood and Cook kindly presented them with a parcel of ground on what is now Fremont St., about one block above the lake shore.  Here building projects were begun in the fall of 1856 and the first house of worship was dedicated on Oct. 18, 1857.


Under the leadership of the fourth pastor, the Rev. G. F. Oehler, father of Calvin Oehler, a Sunday School and various societies were organized.  The work kept growing steadily and a larger, namely the second church building, was erected on the present site, at the juncture of Madison and College Streets, and dedicated in the year 1872. 


Following the pastorate of the Rev. J. M. Levering, who later became a bishop of the church, and whose pastorate terminated in 1883, a joint pastorate of the pioneer "Circuit Rider", the Rev. G. Kaltenbrunn, and the Rev. Theodore Kant as Junior Pastor, took place.  The latter was the father of the present pastor.


During the pastorate of the Rev. Wm. Strohmeier the second house of worship again became too small and the present church edifice was erected and dedicated on Dec. 18, 1898.  The longest pastorate was that of the late Rev. Otis E. Reidenbach, whose loving memory is still cherished by many, as he served the congregation faithfully for twenty years, until the Rev. Henry Richter took charge in October, 1920.  The latter, likewise, has a service of fourteen years, as the second longest pastorate, to his credit, in which he labored indefatigably for the upbuilding of God's Kingdom.  His present field of labor, since September, 1934 is at Freedom, near Appleton, Wisconsin.


The congregation (Moravian Church of Lake Mills) expects to celebrate its 80th birthday in this Centennial year of our city.  The membership on January first, of this year, numbered 730 communicants and a total of 936 souls.