LAKE MILLS -- Little white churches dot the countryside of Wisconsin making up the history of church congregations founded by immigrants.
The Lake Mills area is home to several of these "little white churches," but one of them started as a simple log cabin structure now on display at the Aztalan Historical Museum.
The Mamre Moravian Church congregation is celebrating the 160th anniversary of the congregation and the 20th anniversary of the log church's dedication after it was moved to Aztalan in 1999.
The Mamre Moravian Church, first dedicated in 1861, was built near the Crawfish River, south of Hubbleton, in Milford township from trees felled on the property. The church was built by its congregation of 15 recently emigrated German families with the help of neighbors of other faiths.
The congregation grew quickly in the early years and outgrew the log church by 1871. A frame church and parsonage were built in 1874. The log church was dismantled and moved to sit beside the new church on County Highway Q. In 1874 the log church was dedicated again, but this time as the Sunday School in the new parsonage.
Jefferson County has been home to a vibrant Moravian church community since the 1840s.
Then, Moravians began moving into Jefferson County and settling among the Irish and English pioneers.
Their first Jefferson County church was Ebenezer, built in 1853 between Watertown and Johnson Creek. Churches and rural preaching stations followed at Lake Mills, Newville, Oakland Center, Pipersville, Aztalan and Milford.
In 1996 the parsonage, which was no longer used, was razed, bringing the log structure to light after it had been built over by later additions to the building. The log church was dismantled for the second time and moved to the Aztalan Museum site.
Moving the structure was a joint effort of the Lake Mills-Aztalan Historical Society and the local Moravian churches under the guidance of Lyle Lidholm of Watertown, a barn builder who helped to build Old World Wisconsin.
The little white church standing today on County Highway Q was built by the congregation in 1903. A renovation project at the church has been going on for some time and is near completion. The steeple at the church was rebuilt and the roof replaced. The congregation still meets once a month for services at the church including Christmas Eve.
Don Wegner, coordinator of the church, is a member of one of the original families of the congregation. Only a few members still remain, but the church has taken on another life as a wedding ceremony venue over the last several years.
The Mamre Moravian congregation will celebrate the 160th anniversary of the congregation at the Mamre Moravian log church at the Aztalan Museum Sunday at 1:30 p.m. To celebrate the occasion Rev. Tim McNurlen, a traveling preacher will preach to the congregation. The congregation will also meet June 16 at 1:30 p.m. at the Mamre Moravian Church on County Highway Q at 1:30 p.m. for a historical presentation in the history of the congregation and the buildings. On June 23 at 1:30 p.m. Rev. Dave Sobek will preach at the official 160th anniversary service followed by a pump organ concert.