First Presbyterian Church Records

Name of the Collection

First Presbyterian Church Records, 1839-1885
Accession # 1992.008 accrual in 2001
.25 cubic feet

Provenance of the Collection

The contents were created by officers of the First Presbyterian church of Mineral Point from the time of the church's founding in 1839 until the church disbanded around 1885. The ledger book became the property of Sidney Shepard, a former member, at an unknown date, and was donated to the Mineral Point Library Archives by Gordon Shepard, Jr, Sidney Shepard's grandson, in 2001.

Organizational History

On June 13, 1839 a group of fourteen people met in Mineral Point to form a Presbyterian church.  They drafted an organizational charter with the help of the Reverend James E. Quaw, (this is the proper spelling) a missionary from the Dutch Reform Church of New York.  Within the new membership, 3 men became Elders of the church and 2 became Deacons (one man held both posts.)

The Presbyterian Church is a reformed protestant church based on Calvinist theology as presented by the Scotsman, John Knox, who studied under Calvin in the 16th century.  Presbyterian refers to the form of church government which consists of meetings, called “Sessions,” conducted by Elders elected from a congregation's male constituents (the presbytery.)  The theology of the church was conservative and fundamental.  The only sacraments recognized were baptism and the Eucharist, known as the “Lord's Supper.”   They believed in infant baptism.  Church buildings were plain and unadorned. The congregation called their own minister from college educated clergy.

Scots colonists brought the church form to America.  The church had a cooperative relationship with the Congregational and Reform churches in New England and New York, especially in sending missionary pastors to the frontier lands west of the original 13 colonies.  It was such a missionary pastor who helped form the Mineral Point church.

The Elders of the church were responsible for overseeing the discipline, nurture and mission of the congregation.  They were assisted by Deacons who were responsible for the ongoing issues of building maintenance, finance and ministering to the needy within the group.  Church consisted of a Sunday worship service, prayer meetings during the week, school for children and Sessions.  Members' behavior was monitored and a member could be disciplined up to and including excommunication.

Persons were admitted to the church by having a letter from a previous church attesting to the potential member's good conduct and theologically sound views.  If such a letter was not available the person could be tested on various points of theology and admitted by “profession.”

The Mineral Point church grew to approximately 100 members at its peak.  The congregation first met in the courthouse building.  A new church was built in 1844 next to the small building used as the Territorial Land Office on High Street.  The church would serve the congregation until they disbanded around 1885.  The building was purchased by the Salvation Army in 1889.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The collection consists of Series I, Church Records.  The Record book is a leather bound ledger approximately 2.5” thick containing ruled pages.  This is not an official ministerial book issued by a church body.  The contents are handwritten and very legible.  The records consist of the organizational documents composed at the church's founding in 1839, minutes of Sessions, lists of members and baptismal records.

The organizational documents consist of the Charter, which names the founding members, Articles of Faith, a Covenant, and an 8 point Form of Government which define the duties of the presbytery.

The Session Minutes contain names of new members as they were accepted into the congregation.  If the new member was presenting a Letter of Dismissal, their former residence is often named.  The minutes also note each time the congregation celebrated the Lord's Supper and baptisms of both adults and children, who are named.  Elections of Elders, Deacons and other administrators are noted along with general business of the church.  On several occasion, disciplinary actions were taken against members deemed to have fallen down from the church's expectation of conduct.  The minutes begin in 1839 and end in 1881.

The organizational documents and Session minutes take up the first 116 pages.  The bulk of the ledger is blank until the last 14 pages.  Seven of these last pages contain the list of members from 1865 to 1881.  This list often indicates what became of the person after they left the church.  Later years also indicate the method by which the member was accepted.  There are 4 pages of Infant Baptisms from 1875 to 1885 and Adult Baptisms from 1874 to 1877.  A short list of people who donated to the scholarship fund at Beloit College is found here.

The membership was principally white, Anglo Saxon Americans from the middle class of local business people and professionals.  Women as well as men are listed.  Most of the members came from the village of Mineral Point with some people coming from outlying areas.



Box Inventory of the Collection

Box # Contents of Folders Date Span
Series I. Church Records
1 Ledger of Church Records 1839-1885

Collection Arranged by Shan Thomas, 2016
Finding Guide Written by Shan Thomas, 2018