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It is hard to determine when Wilmot UMC started.  We do know that it was after 1837, when Lewis Hatch became the first person to move into the Wilmot area after liking the location that he saw when on a prospecting trip to the area.  It was also likely after 1839 when Hatch sold his property to Asahel Benham, who, along with his family settled there. Within two years the community of Wilmot developed.  So it was some time during the interim between 1839 and 1876, a Methodist society formed.  Little is known about the how or the when of this formation, but we are sure that they met in homes and were served by circuit riders. 


A quote form the Burlington Standard Press describes what this was like:

“The early settlers were serviced by circuit riders and local preachers who worked on their farms or other occupations during the week, and on Saturday afternoon rode to their respective churches for a weekend of leading worship. These preachers led periodic revival meetings and ministered to the spiritual needs of local Methodists in barns, schools, woodland clearings, parlors, and grassy floodplains.”

Burlington Standard Press – Centennial Celebration 1863-1963, Special Edition on the Religious Development of this area


Rev. Atkinson was the traveling minister to serve both Wilmot and Salem Churches, who likely shared the same charge at this time.  He was a farmer in Waukegan, Illinois who would travel up to serve as the minister for both these communities prior to the construction of the church building.


By 1870, the desire to build a church structure had come up the Wilmot Methodist Society and land for the building was bought from Mr. and Mrs. Ward Benedict, one of the Wilmot UMC’s first trustees.  In fact, this was a piece of the property originally purchased by Hatch in 1837.  To obtain the funds for the construction many members gave, but Mr. J.W. Voak, another trustee and local mill owner was said to have provided the main support of the financing of the building.


While the land may have been purchases in 1870, it took six more years to see the actual church building raised.  The construction of Wilmot United Methodist Church commenced in June 1876.   By November of the same year, the building was complete and Rev. Mr. Atkinson saw to the dedication of this tall red brick and white trimmed structure.  The congregation was particularly pleased with the bell for the steeple which was purchased from VanDuezen and Tift of Cincinnati, Ohio and was set on exhibition during the Philadelphia centennial, which was the same year as the church was built.  An interesting fact related to the steeple in which that bell resides is that it is not at the original height it was built.  This is due to the fact that the steeple was hit by lightning twice and to counter this problem it was shortened to the present height.  Another notable replacement with the building is that only two of the building’s original windows remain. The other windows have broken over time and have since been replaced.


With the erecting of a church structure, Wilmot received its first minister, Rev. Mr. Blackburn, who stayed on for 3 years.  In this new structure the members worshiped, learned about Jesus, studied the Bible, and lived life together.  This commitment to the study of the Bible is exemplified in the fact that in some of the church’s recorded history some of the oldest members of the congregation remember there has always been a Sunday school at Wilmot, though at one point the Sunday school met in the afternoon.


As with many Methodists community meals were a staple of the Wilmot congregation.  In the early part of the twentieth century, church oyster suppers were some of the church’s most popular events.  However when the effects of the World Wars came to America, wartime rationing shifted the meals from oyster suppers to chicken dinners, which the church holds occasionally today.  By 1879, Wilmot UMC was entrenched as one of five churches in Wilmot – the Congregational, the Episcopal, the Roman Catholic, the German Lutheran, and the Methodist Churches.  Today only the Catholic, Lutheran, and Methodist churches still exist, and out of these churches Wilmot United Methodist is the only one still using their original building.  In 1914 Wilmot as it became the first rural community in Wisconsin to be furnished with electric power, and so electrical lighting was added to the church.


It is impossible to say how many people were involved in this early period as membership numbers at Wilmot are unknown.  Either the records were not kept or have been lot to history, but the earliest known membership numbers put membership at 36 people in 1930.  Sadly, twenty years later in 1950 saw a rough period for Wilmot UMC as membership was in the low 20s.  It was noted by a few older church members that some Sundays in this period would see in attendance just the minister, pianist, and 3 or 4 other people.  Thankfully by 1953 this trend started turning around as membership grew to 47.


Yet six years later saw a new problem for the congregation.  In 1956 it was recognized that the church building had not aged as well and was in need of repair. To combat this problem, a committee was formed to identify and deal with the repair issues.  The community raised funds and donated time to remodel the church and expand the basement.  The following year the congregation moved beyond simply repairing the church.  In 1957 part of the lot was bought from the neighboring Carey family to enlarge the church and add parking facilities.  Yet this was not an inexpensive task and to pay for the expansion the church took out a mortgage on the building.  In August, work had begun to enlarge the basement in earnest and in June of 1958 the work was completed.  Additional land was also purchased from the lot south of the church to enlarge the driveway.  These repairs and additions were to have been helpful as by 1959 membership had grown to 84 people.


The needs grew even more by 1960 when membership reached 127 people.  At this time Wilmot was moved away from a charge with Salem United Methodist and became a two point charge with Genoa City.  As well the Women’s groups purchased and installed Red broadloom carpeting in the sanctuary.  While in 1964 the newly formed Methodist Men’s Club lowered the beam ceiling in the nave in the sanctuary, installed indirect lighting and spotlights, and paneling on the walls in the sanctuary.  Thankfully this work, and the presence of scaffolding, did not stop Sunday services from continuing.  Size and growth concerns continued on in 1966.  At this point Wilmot had to decide whether to expand the current church building to meet the increased need for space, particularly for Sunday School, or to build a new building elsewhere.  Wilmot opted to expand the existing building and construction began in the spring of 1966. The three new classrooms and office were dedicated October 30th of the same year.  Three years later in 1969 Wilmot also bought a new parsonage for the pastor to be housed in, concluding its expansion projects for a while.  In 1976, Wilmot United Methodist Church was able to celebrate its centennial with 138 members and a nicely refurbished and expanded church while still keeping most of its main structure in place.  Of course all of this expansion had a price and it was not until 1982 that the church was able to fully pay off its mortgage.  This financial freedom was celebrated with a note burning celebration and brat potluck dinner on May 23rd of that year.

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