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The first effort to establish a church in Boulder Junction was made in 1921. Mr. & Mrs. Fred Haag, Sr, Mrs. S.J. Williams, and Miss Edith Empey, the public school teacher, were instrumental in organizing a Sunday School which met in the schoolhouse then located on High Lake Road, near Oswego lake. These first Sunday School services were attended by about twenty-four children and about fourteen adults. We must consider this Sunday School the direct forerunner of our present church.
The early history of the church is marked by several beginnings. The initial Sunday School started in 1921 did not survive. Another attempt at establishing a church was made in 1928. The Sunday School was reorganized under the leadership of Mrs. Larry (Wilhelmine) Doolittle, Mrs. C.H. Ashton, Dr. Kate P. Newcomb, and Mrs. S.J. Williams. This group of mothers earnestly felt the need of a Sunday School for the children of the community. Mr. Fred Haag, Sr. was elected superintendent of the reorganized Sunday School. The first meeting of this group was held on Easter Sunday, 1928, with attendance of between seventy and eighty.
During the beginning years, besides Sunday School services, worship services were held once a month, or more often, as visiting ministers could be secured.
In the spring of 1931, the Sunday School entered another phase of development when it moved from the school house on High Lake Road to the one room schoolhouse in the village of Boulder Junction. Dr. Newcomb, Mrs. Larry Doolittle, and Mrs. C.H. Ashton helped in the organizational work. Attendance at the first meeting on Mother's Day was 65. Mr. F.H. Best was elected superintendent. The apparent need for larger quarters necessitated a move from the school to the Town Hall. Mr. Fred Haag, Sr. became the Sunday School superintendent.
It was natural, and to be expected, that as the work of the Sunday School progressed and worship services were held at least occasionally, a longing would be expressed for a church building in which to hold services.
In the spring of 1929, notices were sent out asking all who would be interested in the task of building a church edifice to attend a meeting at the Town Hall. Few people responded to the first two meetings. A third meeting was held and twenty-five to thirty people attended. From this point on, work progressed to the point of actual dedication of a church building in 1942.
In 1940, Rev. Elmer Sloan, who was associated with a Christian organization dedicated to lending Sunday School leadership to pastorless churches, came to Boulder Junction. He and his wife stayed almost a year and did much to bring about the realization of our church.
Our church building is placed on a one-acre wooded site donated by Mr. and Mrs. S.J. Williams. The building committee, S.J. Williams, chairman, set itself to the task of raising funds for a church building.
Rev. Reid Radford, pastor of the Community Church (Presbyterian) of Lac du Flambeau, came to Boulder Junction on Sunday afternoons to hold services during this period.
The two years it took to build a simple frame chapel, 30'x50' is an indication of the obstacles, financial and otherwise, that were faced and overcome. The committee that served was composed of the following members: S.J. Williams, Espen Espeseth, Charles Ashton, Emil Budreau, Myron Gravelle, Mel Kenaga, Larry Doolittle, Theodore Wiese, John Kern, Leroy Sinning, William Woelfle, and Sydney Doolittle. The furniture in the church was made by local craftsmen. The pews were built at Dairymen's Country Club under the leadership of Espen Espeseth and Myron Gravelle. Reverend Radford got a Native American from the Lac du Flambeau Reservation to build a pulpit identical to the one in the Community Church on the Flambeau reservation. The bell was brought from the Oswego Lake Schoolhouse.
The cornerstone was laid on May 12, 1940 (Mother's Day). At last the dreams of the founders had come to fruition. Two hundred-fifty people attended this dedication and gave a generous offering to the building fund. A dinner at the Town Hall immediately following the services helped supply additional funds. They were much needed for at that time only $300 had been raised in a year of effort.
Because of the large amount of volunteer labor and substantial gifts of material goods, it was possible to keep the total cost of the sanctuary at $3000. By the day of dedication, less than $1000 remained as indebtedness. The ladies Aid Society was very active in fund raising and helped considerably toward the reduction of indebtedness.
On May 5, 1941, a certificate for the Organization of a Religious Society was drawn up and filed (June 11, 1941) with the Register's Office, Vilas County. Those who signed the incorporation papers were: Dr. Kate Newcomb, Larry Doolittle, Florence Haag, William E. Woelfle, Mr. and Mrs. S.J. Williams, and Sydney Doolittle. There were forty people in attendance at the meeting that authorized this move.
The Rev. Radford, whose main work was at Lac du Flambeau, urged our growing congregation to start a program to build a parsonage in order to call a full time minister. This was discussed as early as April 20, 1944, but no action was taken. The Annual Meeting held April 6, 1945, moved the adoption of a program leading to the building of a parsonage. April 12, 1946, the Annual Meeting decided to proceed with the parsonage.
During the latter part of 1946 the Goodwill Society was organized and they began their work by contributing to the parsonage fund and a program of service which has continued unabated through the years.
As the parsonage neared completion, the congregation began in earnest seeking a minister. Syd Doolittle was put in contact with Rev. O.B. Olson, superintendent of the Central Conference of the Evangelical Mission Covenant Church of America, and was instrumental in the securing of Rev. Wilfred Hansen as the church's first full-time pastor. Rev. Hansen's first service was on August 31, 1947. Reverend Hansen's contribution to the church showed near doubling of the congregation, development of confirmation classes, and youth groups. All this led to the apparent need for more space. In the fall of 1948 a choir was formed with about 12 members. It has continued to enrich our worship services throughout the years.
It was during these years that the large (36'x52') Fellowship Hall was erected. The cornerstone for the Fellowship Hall was laid on November 13, 1949. The Annual Meeting which met January 14, 1952, authorized the trustees to arrange for a $3000 mortgage in order that the building might be speedily completed. May 14, 1951 (Mother's Day) the addition was completed and appropriate dedicatory services were conducted. The total cost of the addition was approximately $14,000 exclusive of furnishings.
In October of 1951, Rev. Wilfred Hansen accepted a call to a church in Chicago Heights, Illinois and the congregation again turned to the Evangelical Mission Covenant Church of America for assistance in filling its pulpit. Rev. O.W. Carlson served on an interim basis until Rev. G. Rodney Hjelm accepted the call extended by the congregation. After Rev. Hjelm's death in 1953, Rev. Daniel Nelson agreed to accept the congregation as a third charge and began his ministry Sunday, November 15, 1953. In June of 1954, the Community Church of Boulder Junction became Rev. Nelson's only responsibility.
It was during Rev. Nelson's ministry that a new type of outreach came to pass - a Boy Scout troop was organized under the sponsorship of the Community Church.
With the departure of Rev. Nelson shortly after the 15th anniversary celebration in 1957, the parade of faithful pastors serving the church either on an interim or permanent basis continues - Arnold Bolin, Lincoln Pearson, Wilbur Solie, David Gumm, Robert Anderson. Improvements to the physical plant continued to be achieved. 1958 saw a new Communion table dedicated. The following year the parking lot south of the building became a reality.
Fiscal records of this period indicate that the congregation began to accept a responsibility to missions giving. The commitment to missions became a consistent obligation readily assumed by the members. Rev. Solie, who became pastor in 1959, introduced the concept of formal fiscal budgeting, and in 1960 the congregation resolved to establish the missions commitment at 10% of the ministry and general operating budgets. Years later, in 1978, the congregation felt led to increase the percentage of missions giving by appropriating 15% of total identifiable giving for this purpose, a policy which continues to be in effect.
It was in 1963 that a set of chapel chimes was dedicated. In the following year Pastor Anderson accepted the call of the Community Church. About that same time preparations got underway to add a Christian Education wing to the east side of the building. Plans were finalized to include classrooms, a pastor's study and a library in this addition. On October 3, 1965, the new wing was dedicated. The congregation had assumed indebtedness of $20,000 for this project, indebtedness which was paid in full by December, 1972. In addition, a new organ was installed in that same year.
Through the years, the Community Church has demonstrated its interest in the youth of the area, as evidenced by such activities as the early Sunday School and the Boy Scouts, and later in 1967 when a pool table and ping-pong table were installed in the Fellowship Hall to provide a site for the young people to gather in an atmosphere of social enjoyment.
It was during the 1970's that the parsonage was extensively enlarged, the church kitchen was remodeled and a new roof was applied to the church. A bank loan of $22,000 was negotiated for these purposes, which was repaid by August of 1982.
Sound and recording equipment was installed in 1979. This led to the church's effective Tape Ministry which has become extremely important to those who cannot attend services regularly.
By 1984, the Council and congregation began seriously to consider solutions to the need for additional space - space for the larger crowds attending worship services during the summer months, space for additional Sunday School classrooms, space to allow the pastor's study to be separated from the business office, space for increased restroom facilities, space for storage. After a professional study determined that the original building was sound, a congregational decision was made to proceed with a major renovation program which would provide the space for the many requisites which had surfaced. Ground for this new addition was broken on August 3, 1986 and the project officially began later that same month.
Major changes included reversing the floor plan of the sanctuary by moving the chancel to the north wall, which was extended. A new Christian Education wing was added to the west exposure of the building - a unique wing which serves a dual purpose as it was constructed with a removable wall which can be stored so that the entire addition can be used for supplementary seating space for worship services. Partitions between rooms in the existing east wing were realigned to make possible a pastor's study. Rest rooms were moved and enlarged and storage space was added. The entire project was accomplished with no break in the routine programming of the church although various meetings and classes moved from place to place within the structure during the building process.
The last service in the original sanctuary was held on November 16, 1986. For the next four weeks services were conducted in the Fellowship Hall, and on December 21 the congregation moved back into the new sanctuary. All was not completed, but it was usable, and on Christmas Eve 234 people were comfortably seated for the traditional Candlelight Service. The total cost of this undertaking was $190,000. Because of the generous commitment of members and friends of the Community Church, total indebtedness was held to less than $50,000. Membership at the time of completion was over 230.
Much has been accomplished - beginning with those first enthusiastic believers in 1921, and continuing with the many steadfast lay people and dedicated pastors through the intervening years, the hopes, the goals of this church are being realized. All this has been achieved because of just one thing - the FAITH which each of these persons has found in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. There remains much more to be done - and again it will be FAITH which will make all things possible.
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