A tower restored: Plover Methodist church gets back its crown
By Kris Leonhardt
PLOVER — The Methodist Episcopal Church is often credited as the first Methodist denomination to form in the United States of America. Under the leadership of founders John and Charles Wesley, it grew to become one of the largest Protestant denominations in the country.
As the religion began to grow in America, pastors began traveling through districts to serve multiple congregations.
In the beginning, one minister served the communities of Keene, a community started with a sawmill and a foundry along the Buena Vista Creek; Buena Vista, a community which was located 700 feet east of Keene; Calkins; Neuman; and Plover.
Services began in family homes and schoolhouses, and other municipal facilities.
In 1861, the Plover Methodist congregation built its first church on the north side of the Green Bay & Western Railroad tracks, north of the present day Heritage Park site. The Presbyterian Church had built a church a half block south of the Methodist church, as settlers began arriving in the area.
An October 1895 Gazette article shows the shifting landscape, as new residents came to Portage County and more ministers were assigned to lead them. It reads, “Rev. C.W. Turner will again look after the spiritual wants of his congregation at Amherst, and Rev. W.G. Cooper will have charge of the Buena Vista and Newman churches. No appointment was made for the Plover and Calkins houses of worship, the places to be supplied. Rev. L.B. Bullock, late pastor of the Methodist churches at Plover and Almond, has been put on the superannuated or retired list and Rev. T.C. Rochelle will look after the Almond charge.”
One parishioner recalls the choir room in the old church being used as a kitchen, with meals served in the vestibule. Meals were later served in the old town hall.
As the nearby Presbyterian congregation diminished, the first Methodist Church was moved south and east of Plover to become the Calkins Church and later torn down in the early 1900s.
The Methodist congregation then purchased the Presbyterian Church and began services there.
In the early 1930s, the church underwent a major remodeling. The basement and kitchen was enlarged and running water was added, to serve the congregation as a parish hall. There they hosted funeral meals and “10 cent suppers.”
The idea of the 10 cent supper came during the Great Depression. The economic downturn made jobs and money scarce. The church’s Lady’s Aid group created the 10 cent supper to help provide for the congregation’s families.
In a potluck style, families were asked to bring a dish and pay 10 cents to enjoy the full meal.
In 1943, the church celebrated their 100th anniversary, recounting the first service which was held the summer of 1843, led by Reverend J. Hurbert, who came from the southern part of the state to lead them.
Continued in the next edition