Mystery Place: Church celebrated its 175th anniversary

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Ginny Hall | August 12, 2016

Delavan's United Church of Christ, located at 123 E.  Washington St. on the north side of Phoenix Park, is celebrating its 175th anniversary July 31.

According to Albert Beckwith's “History of Walworth County,” this church began in July 1841 with 10 members. The first church was built in 1844 for $1,000. The next church was built of brick and erected in 1856 at a cost of $5,000. It was now 42 feet by 70 feet. 

The church's first pastor, the Rev. Amnon Gaston, also served congregations in Elkhorn and Sugar Creek.

In looking over the early history of this congregation, one finds a number of familiar names: Alvin Beach Parsons, Edward S. Colman, Henry Grassie, the Rev. Joseph Collie, James Parsons, Jacob Cook, C.S. Bailey, Mrs. L. Foster, Lydia Parkins and John B. Shepard.

According to Beckwith, Parsons came to Delavan by 1842.  Apparently there was no record of the exact date of those early settlements. He is listed with a large group of early Delavan inhabitants along with Chauncey Parsons and John B. Shepard.

Beckwith states that Shepard was born in 1803 and died in 1875. His parents were Pelatiah and Elizabeth (Thompson) Shepard. He came from Fulton County, New York, married Rachel Willis and had five children. Sabra Amelia married Reuben H. Bristol. Mary Selina married Edward Colman. Linus Delavan married Clarissa Zulemma. Beckwith does not name the other two.

Charles Stewart Bailey was an associate town supervisor in 1842, 1847 and 1854.

According to the Portrait and Biographical Record of Walworth and Jefferson Counties, Wisconsin, the Rev. Joseph Collie was pastor of this church for 40 years. He was born in Scotland on Nov. 4, 1824, the son of George and Helen (Ross) Collie. The father died the day Joseph was born; he left behind two other sons, George and James. 

In 1836 the mother and three boys traveled to America. They first settled in Kane County, Illinois, where she married Benjamin Jones. Later they moved to Grant County, Wisconsin. Joseph remained with his family until 1844, attended district schools, an academy in Mineral Point and then Beloit College. Next he studied at and graduated from Andover Theological Seminary.

Following graduation he accepted a call in October 1854 at the Delavan United Church of Christ.  On Nov. 4, 1856, he married Ann Eliza Foote. Her father had been pastor of this church prior to Collie. Joseph and Ann had four sons and a daughter: George Lucius, Martha Lockwood, Joseph Arthur, Winnefred Ross and Henry Glenwood. Apparently the daughter died in infancy.

Collie was a strong supporter of the Prohibition party. He was a school director and a town superintendent. He served as clerk of the Beloit Convention for many years. He owned land on Geneva Lake and this became Camp Collie. We now know this area as Conference Point.

Ginny Hall, a Delavan historian, is author of the “Walking around ...” and “Meandering ... ” books, which highlight the history of Walworth County communities.


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