Marker Logo HMdb.org THE HISTORICAL
MARKER DATABASE
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
New Berlin in Waukesha County, Wisconsin — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
 

Freewill Baptist Church

Restored

 
 
Freewill Baptist Church Marker image. Click for full size.
By Paul F, August 13, 2010
1. Freewill Baptist Church Marker
Inscription. Wisconsinís first Freewill Baptist congregation, organized by Yankee pioneers Rev. Rufus Cheney July 11, 1840, Built this Greek revival style edifice, 1859. As Abolitionists, they were active here in the Civil War.
But the dwindling congregation disbanded in 1925, incorporating into the Prospect Aid Society to maintain the building which was dubbed the “Prospect Aid Meeting House” and open to the community.
After a devastating arson fire, 1985, a grassroots group: Prospect Hill Restoration Foundation, restored the edifice which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
 
Erected 1956 by Waukesha County Historical Society. (Marker Number 21-04.)
 
Location. 42° 56.655′ N, 88° 9.615′ W. Marker is in New Berlin, Wisconsin, in Waukesha County. Marker is at the intersection of W. National Avenue and Racine Avenue, on the right when traveling west on W. National Avenue. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 19750 W. National Avenue, New Berlin WI 53146, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 3 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Cheney-Faulkner Cooper Home (approx. 0.4 miles away); Childhood Home of Wisconsin Governor Julius P. Heil (1876-1949)
Freewill Baptist Church Marker image. Click for full size.
By Paul F, August 13, 2010
2. Freewill Baptist Church Marker
With National Register plaque
(approx. 0.6 miles away); Linnie Lac (approx. 1.1 miles away); Park Arthur (approx. 1.7 miles away); "Cornfalfa" Farms (approx. 2.2 miles away); Janesville Plank Road Tollgate (approx. 2.8 miles away); Muskego Beach Amusement Park (approx. 2.9 miles away); "Do I Smell Pizza-Burgers?" (approx. 2.9 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in New Berlin.
 
Additional comments.
1. History of the Freewill Baptist Church
The Freewill Baptist Church began at the home of Rev. Rufus Cheney on July 11, 1840. Cheney was born in New Hampshire in 1790 and ordained in 1810. When the church began, baptisms by submersion were held at a spring in the woods. A schoolhouse was built across the street from his house in 1844.

The schoolhouse was moved on rollers in 1848 to the top of the hill known as Prospect Hill. Then on the same land in 1859 a church building was built. The design of the building was classic Greek Revival with a rare sunburst design on the front of the church. The Sunday School had seven teachers. During
Freewill Baptist Church image. Click for full size.
By Paul F, August 13, 2010
3. Freewill Baptist Church
the first 20 years the church had 135 members.

In 1866, the Ladies Aid Society was formed, and it was their duty to raise funds in various ways for the church. A parsonage was also built for the church around that time. The church had four rows of pews, with the two center rows separated by a low partition. The room was heated by two box stoves using wood cut from John Cheney's woods. John was Rufus's son. Originally, hymns were started with a tuning fork. Later an organ was installed in the balcony, and the choir sat around it. Prayer meetings were held on Wednesday evenings at the home of John Cheney where hymns were sung to the accompaniment of a melodeon.

During World War I the church supported a French war orphan named Jeanne Bizet who was 9 years old. In 1925, Prospect Hill lost it's identity due to the post office moving. This caused the people of the town to move out of the area as well. The church building was no longer used for church services by the Prospect Hill Baptist Church. The Ladies Aid Society absorbed the church and property to become the Prospect Aid Society. The building was rented by many organizations for their functions after that including other churches.

In 1985, an arson fire gutted the building leaving four walls, a Bible, and the bell. Wanting to preserve the church building, the Prospect Hill Restoration Foundation was formed
National Register Plaque image. Click for full size.
By Paul F, August 13, 2010
4. National Register Plaque
and $200,000 was raised to restore it. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.
    — Submitted June 15, 2011, by Linda Hansen of Waukesha, Wisconsin.

 
Categories. Abolition & Underground RRChurches, Etc.
 
City of New Berlin Historic Landmark Plaque image. Click for full size.
By Paul F, August 13, 2010
5. City of New Berlin Historic Landmark Plaque
Freewill Baptist Church Original Bell image. Click for full size.
By Paul F, August 13, 2010
6. Freewill Baptist Church Original Bell
Original Church Bell Marker image. Click for full size.
By Paul F, August 13, 2010
7. Original Church Bell Marker
Wisconsin's First Freewill Baptist Church was organized in 1840 and built in 1859. The bell was installed circa 1890. the Ladies' Aid Society, by raising funds over three years tailing gooseberries, sewing carpetbags, and serving oyster suppers, purchased the bell from the G. Campbell & Sons Centennial Bell Foundry in Milwaukee in 1889. The cost was $118.40. The bell called people to church and tolled for funerals until 1925 when the church closed for lack of members. The ladies assumed ownership as Prospect Aid Society. The bell cracked when it fell in the 1985 arson fire. The church was later restored and the bell was replaced. Bell provided by Prospect Hill Restoration Foundation. May 20, 2007
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on August 17, 2010, by Paul Fehrenbach of Germantown, Wisconsin. This page has been viewed 1,104 times since then and 41 times this year. Last updated on August 19, 2010, by William J. Toman of Green Lake, Wisconsin. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on August 17, 2010, by Paul Fehrenbach of Germantown, Wisconsin. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
Paid Advertisement