St Paul’s is a tiny white country church like you see on old postcards or in the background for modern wedding photo shoots. It is tucked away on a quiet gravel road between Rozellville and Stratford in Marathon County Wisconsin.
I have known for several years that I had some family buried in the churchyard there, but I hadn’t really explored the church records to see what information they held. This winter I had a great visit with the current pastor and had a chance to dig into the church records that they still have on site. I made a few interesting discoveries!
The Kroening family were loyal members of St Paul’s. The names of Johann and his wife Frederike (my 3rd great grandparents) are recorded, along with many of their children and grandchildren. The pages in the old registry record marriages, births, confirmations, and funerals.
In the photo, you can see the father’s names listed in the fourth column. The names of Wetterau, Sell, and Kroening are all listed there. Emil Wetterau and John Sell were married to the daughters of Johann Kroening, and John Kroening is Johann’s youngest son.
1896 is the year St Paul’s church registers began and you can see that these families were a part of the congregation – already having babies – from the very beginning. It turns out that these families did more than just attend church at St Paul’s – they helped to found it!
From the 125th anniversary book published in 2018, I learned that St Paul’s was founded by a group of immigrants who met to form a cemetery association on 1 May 1880. They organized into a group called “Den Friedhoffin der Letzten Haimat”, which literally translated means “the cemetery in the last home.” Adam Zimmerman, Jacob Reichert, and John Reichert were elected officers and the founding members were Gustar Wolff, John Kroening, Martin Wetterau, E.W. Cook, Ernest Wallman, George Koehler, and Nicholas Hoffman.
This group formed the foundational membership of St. Paul’s in the Town of Day. Traveling missionaries would perform services in the homes of the families whenever they would pass through. This was the status quo for 13 years until the group met with Rev. L. Thom from Marshfield to organize a new church.
The present St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Town of Day was organized on 23 July 1893. Original charter members included J. Sell, E. Kroening, and E. Wetterau among others. The original church building dedicated on 8 November 1896 still stands.
The information in these books is invaluable to a family researcher. There were children listed here who had been born and died and left no other paper trail. There were family links – maiden names of mothers, parents listed in their child’s marriage entry, home villages from the places these people immigrated from – all which could be lost without these records.
My best find of the day was a home village location for my 3rd great grandfather, Johann. His place of birth is listed in his death entry as “Heckenberg, Pommerania”. Where the heck is Heckenberg??
That question will have to wait for another day…