Sussex United Methodist Church began without a steeple
Sussex, Lisbon and Lannon churches can be divided into two categories: historic ones founded in the 19th century and the latecomers of the 20th century.
One of the historic standouts is also one of the oldest, Sussex United Methodist Church at N63 W23523 Main St. It was built without a steeple in 1894. Its congregation was founded much earlier, in 1839, only three years after the first pioneer arrived in Lisbon.
The Rev. Griffen, a Baptist minister, moved to Lisbon on June 3, 1839, quickly followed in August by a Congregationalist minister, the Rev. Audway.
They presided over the community's first services in their parishoners' log cabin homes or in the newly constructed Lisbon No. 1 schoolhouse where Halquist Quarry is today on Lisbon (then Plank) Road.
The first Methodist minister, the Rev. Fink, arrived in January 1840, followed by the Rev. Wheelock just two months later. The latter earned the sum of $80 the first year to preach every other weekend, and walk 14 miles from Waukesha to get to work.
A church was built in 1855 at what is today the northwest corner of Waukesha Avenue and Lisbon Road (where Halquist has a decorative stone landscape and a big company sign today) at the western end of a tiny unnamed village that stretched from the east side of the Wisconsin Central Railroad tracks south on Duplainville Road and then west on Lisbon Road to the corner of today's Lisbon Road and Highway 74 (old 164).
The new church served up a mishmash of services in its earliest days. One week it would be Congregationalist and the next week Methodist. That went on until 1884, when the church became all Methodist under its first full-time minister, the Rev. J.S. Lean.
A North Lisbon Methodist Church was built in 1884 about a quarter-mile west of Town Line Road on North Lisbon Road. It served the Greater Colgate area until it was torn down in 1929. Many of its members were buried in the nearby Union (Nelson) Cemetery at Town Line and Schlei roads.
The old Union Church (at the current Halquist corner) was sold in 1894 to a local farmer who used it as a machine shed. It lasted until about the World War I, when it caved in and was demolished.
The Methodist congregation, meanwhile, had built a parsonage in Sussex immediately west of Lisbon Town Hall on Main Street (today's Sussex Family Practice). That parsonage lasted until 1896, when a new one was built next to the new Methodist church on east Main Street, which was built just two years earlier.
That parsonage burned down in 1929 and was immediately replaced. Meanwhile the livery barn behind the church and parsonage was torn down in 1936. The parsonage itself was ultimately moved one block east and north to become the Mike Stadler home at W240 N6533 Maple Ave.
The Methodists also bought a $200 piece of land between old Sussex (1842) and the emerging Templeton (1887) in early 1894 for a new church. They quickly put up what is today's Sussex United Methodist Church - but without a steeple - and held their first service there July 1, 1894.
In the early 1930s, one of the church's prominent members, John P. Kraemer, founder of the Village of Sussex in 1924 and the Sussex Fire Department in 1922, was trying to figure out a way to raise money for Sunday school expenses.
The church's pastor, the Rev. Anton Stury, had a brother, Alfred Stury of Chicago, who was a professional actor. So the three of them staged an annual series of Passion plays using both professional singers and nearly 160 locals.
The first three productions (1932-34) were staged at the Halquist quarry and the final one in 1935 at the Basting quarry on Town Line Road.
Reams of newspaper coverage praised those events and drew crowds of people from Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Iowa.
The church built additions in 1943 and 1957, and the major back wing was added in 1965. The colored church windows were installed in 1922.
Sussex United Methodist Church was growing. A new parsonage was built away from the church in 1997 at N72 W23471 Homestead Road.
The old parsonage and the adjacent Les Clarey home were torn down in April 1998, and a large parking lot and childcare playground were added to the enlarged church plot wedged between Main Street and the former Bug Line Railroad track, now part of the 14-mile Waukesha County Bug Line Recreational Trail.
Sussex United Methodist Church is one of the six Cooperating Churches of Sussex, and at one time was the distribution center for the Sussex Emergency Food Pantry.
Sussex United Methodist Church is likely to continue to grow at its current site and add nearby real estate as it does.
Sussex UMC marks 125 historic years
Parishioners celebrate with picnic Sunday
The Sussex United Methodist Church picked a great day to celebrate its 125th anniversary - 1884-2009. However, it could have just been it's 115th (1894), its 144th (1855), or 169th (1840), as all these dates are significant in the evolution to what the church has today.
On Saturday, Sept. 19, parishioners celebrated their 125th with a picnic, mini midway and tour de force - a massive meal made from roast pig. The meal is something of a tradition for the church that was started by the late Glenn Moody who was raised in Sussex and later became the president of the Sussex Jaycees, the Sussex Lions Club and was a longtime village trustee.
Lisbon got its start in 1836 when the first settler claimed a homestead, Thomas S. Redford, who would later be a member of the Lisbon United Methodist Church - the early name of the Sussex Methodist Church.
In 1840, Rev. Fink of Watertown came to Lisbon to preach and had a large response which led to the first minister being hired, a Methodist Elder Wheelock.
Now there was a period when the Methodist and Congregationalist combined to have services in whatever building was available which might have included the stone Lisbon Plank Road School.
These early Methodists and Congregationalists made a major statement by purchasing a corner lot from fellow pioneer, Levi Russell.
Today, that corner lot would be where Halquist Stone Company has its company, Marquee, on the northwest corner of Waukesha Avenue and Lisbon Road.
Immediately a wooden church was erected on this site and it would last until 1894. The memories of this early church for the two religious groups was they would alternate in using it, thus the name Union Church.
There were generations at the Union Church that saw it become a Bible Christian Society, Bible Christian Church and in 1864, a parsonage was built in the emerging Village of Sussex, near where Lisbon Town Hall was built in 1866 - today the Sussex Family Practice.
Now we get to 125 years ago, June 2-3, 1884, when the Methodist Episcopal Society of Lisbon was formed with the Rev. J. S. Lean as pastor.
The Union Church building would be used until 1894 when the Lisbon East Methodist Church was built in Sussex.
Notable is that on April 11, 1888, Frank Grogan was married by the Lisbon Methodist pastor. Grogan would go on to be a charter member of the Sussex Fire Department in May 1922, and would serve for 10 years. At the initial meeting, he was put on the finance committee to get the money to buy the first fire truck.
Later, he would be one of 16 to sign the successful petition to separate Sussex-Templeton from the Town of Lisbon to form the incorporated Village of Sussex, with Grogan becoming the first village president, serving for 10 years until 1934.
When the 1894 Sussex United Methodist Church was built, the cornerstone read, "Lisbon M.E. Church 1894."
One has to push away the ground brushes on the northeast corner of the church front to see this old cornerstone.
Meanwhile, in 1894, the old Union Church was abandoned and sold to a local adjacent farmer who used it for farm machinery storage and eventually it tumbled down about the time of the Great Depression.
Now a dynamic new member came aboard in 1920 with the coming of the Mammoth Spring Canning Company. One of the principal canning company owners and management team was John P. Kraemer. Kraemer is considered the "Father of the Sussex Fire Department," and "Father of the Village of Sussex," and later in life as the co-founder of the Sussex Lions Club in 1939, and the moving factor behind the scenes in purchasing Sussex Village Park in 1958 for roughly $36,000.
Kraemer was involved in the Sussex Methodist finances.
In the 1930s a source for more money was needed. He and Rev. Anton Stury along with Stury's brother, Alfred, came up with and promoted the idea of having a Wisconsin "Oberrammergu", a set of Passion plays with Halquist Stone Company being used from 1932-34 for the locale of these massive productions that attracted thousands of spectators.
A fourth one was done in 1935 at Town Line Road Basting Quarry.
The killer of these highly successful productions was a little one - mosquitoes, and a weariness for the many local people involved.
The 50th anniversary in 1934 produced a history book as did the 75th in 1959 and 100th in 1984.
The early 1960s saw a massive addition to the church as the back half of the set of rooms, kitchen and dining room, were added with Kraemer again in the leadership role.
Meanwhile, a parsonage was built at the Sussex church in 1896 only to have it burn down in 1929, but then was rebuilt. The site of this parsonage is now the west parking lot.
As 2009 is here, the Sussex Methodist Church is a big church in the local scene, and has become a prominent founding member of the six cooperating churches of Sussex: St. James, Christ Our Savior, Lisbon Presbyterian, St. Alban's Episcopal and Redeemer United Church of Christ.
Today, the pastor of Sussex Methodist Church is Rev. Ron Kral. Ann-Marie Meissner is the office secretary, Debby Jansen is the Youth Director, Pat Keller the Church Council Chair and Kim Laughland is the Staff-Parish Chair.
Officially known now as the Sussex United Methodist Church, it bills itself as the, "In the Heart of the Village," church at N63 W23523 Main St. When it was built in 1894, it was on the extreme eastern edge of the village with the open area to east and separation land to the twin community of old Templeton.