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Trenton Freewill Baptist Church

In Washington County, the first confirmed Freewill Baptist minister was Reverend Alonzo P. Curtis, born in Ohio in 1815. Reverend Curtis came to the town of Farmington, where he purchased 80 acres in Section 31 on October 14, 1845.

Rev. Waller (photo courtesy Jack Copet)
Less than a year and a half later, Reverend Curtis was joined by an old friend and colleague from Lykens, Crawford County, Ohio named Reverend Comfort Babcock Waller. Reverend Waller was born on July 24, 1813 in Washington County, New York. In early 1832, shortly after converting to and becoming a Freewill Baptist minister, he, his new bride Nancy (Batchelder) and his mother and step-father moved from New York to Ohio where he helped establish a permanent Freewill Church on his land. Reverend Waller wished to continue on and looked up Reverend Curtis when he moved to the town of Trenton in 1847.

Once the two ministers were together again, they sought a location to erect some sort of place for worship for the Freewills in Washington County. Reverend Waller purchased land in Section 6 of the town of Trenton, which bordered on a lake that was referred to as Waller’s Lake. It was here that the two men would often baptize people by the only true means in a Freewill’s mind: immersion. Just like Jesus was baptized by his cousin John the Baptist, so too were the locals that joined the Freewill faith in Washington County in Waller’s Lake (now Wallace Lake).

Land was donated by one of the “parishioners” to erect a church: the Barber family. On this land was erected a bi-purpose fieldstone building where services were held, as well as it being a school for the children. The Reverend Curtis was pastor of the church for the first few years, before Reverend Waller finally had his first chance at being a pastor.

Trenton church, undated (photo courtesy Jack Copet)

It is not known what happened to Reverend Curtis, but one would guess that he moved on to other communities to continue spreading the Freewill agenda. Meanwhile, Reverend Waller became a focal point for the Freewills in Trenton and the surrounding communities. Each Freewill Church belonged to a “Quarterly Meeting”, which was essentially a collection of local churches that worked together. In 1851, Trenton/Farmington joined the Fond du Lac Quarterly Meeting. However, as many Freewill churches did, the Trenton church left the Fond du Lac “QM” and joined the Marquette QM, which would later be called the Waupun QM in 1858.

The local church/school on the Barber property began to be referred to as “Waller School” and the church “Waller’s Baptist Church”. By early 1860, the Freewill community was fully dedicated to the support of Reverend Waller. In February of that year at a fund raiser, several of the parishioners suddenly grew sick and began vomiting. It was discovered by a doctor that two chickens used for the pot pies served at the fund raiser had ingested mandrake root, giving the people food poisoning. Fortunately, no one died from the event, but there is little doubt that Reverend Waller felt somewhat responsible that the people supporting him would get so ill.

Nancy and Comfort B. Waller, circa 1863 (photo courtesy Jack Copet)
At any rate, Reverend Waller saw the Freewill community continue to grow in Washington and neighboring Sheboygan County. It was at this time, that he decided to start the Freewill Baptist church in the town of Scott in Sheboygan County. He then alternated services between Trenton and Scott on Sundays.

However, by 1863, the Trenton Freewill Baptist Church was considered to “have disappeared” by the Freewill denomination. The post Civil War era, after several of the parishioners had their sons fight for the Union (the Reverend Waller lost his son David (right, author’s collection) at the infamous Andersonville Prison in 1864), the demand for Freewill services began to taper off. Probably due to the loss of his son, the Reverend Waller looked for some change and moved with his family to Fond du Lac County in 1868. He did fill in at other churches in communities like Waupun and Fond du Lac and served again as a pastor at Oakfield.

The church/school stayed open for other events and was often the place for picnics and other events in the 1860s and into the early 1870s. The weakened church which saw the deaths of many of its parishioners and with the departure of Reverend Waller. It resurrected on February 22, 1872 when a new Freewill church was erected in Boltonville in the town of Farmington. The new parish comprised of 20 members, with other people visiting the church for services.

The Trenton and Scott churches merged into the Boltonville Freewill Baptist Church collectively. It was here that the Reverend Waller gave his final sermon in the fall of 1890, shortly before his death February 23, 1891 at his daughter’s home in Lake Mills.

Eventually, the Waller School was utilized as a public school for the growing number of Germans settling in the town of Trenton. It was called Gomber School, District Number 3. The school was consolidated with districts 1 and 9 and the building was sold to John Labott for $85.00 He razed the building, brick by brick, and built a home on River Road. The land was then sold back to the Barber family for $5.00. It was settled in as a private residence, as it stands today.

The Boltonville Freewill Baptist church faded away as well. In 1911, there was a meeting between the Baptists and Freewill Baptists of the North and East portions of America. It was called the Northern American Baptist Convention. At this historic meeting, the Baptists agreed that the notion of predestination was cast aside over the years, and the two denominations became one again.

Now the Freewill church is long gone, with the area being constantly redeveloped for new homes. The cemetery still stands proudly on the southeast corner of Wallace Lake and Trenton Roads. It is maintained by the local 4H group.

Parishoner Families

Both church and school records are gone, and one can only piece things together from bits of information to make an accurate guess as to what the Waller Church and its members once were:

  • The common surnames found in the cemetery, books and census are: Barber, Bullard, Ellis, Frisby, Hill, Moore, Nelson, Newcomb, Stevens, Stewart, Waller, Wilger, Young.

  • The list of the graves that can still be identified inside the Waller Cemetery includes:

    Barber, Marilla Born October 28, 1810 Died January 7, 1887
    Barber, Mary J. Died February 10, 1865, aged 20 years 4 months 24 days
    Bullard, Sanford Died July 18, 1850, age 54
    Frisby, Evelyn d/o G & L Frisby Died May 9, 1876, age 22 years, 4 months and 25 days
    Hill, David Died March 24, 1850, aged 68 years
    Hill, Sarah wife of D. Hill Died April 24, 1864, aged 81 years
    Moore, George H. Born September 10, 1830 Died May 27, 1905
    Moore, Lauretta w/o G.H. Born May 8, 1831 Died July 9, 1899
    Nelson, John Died February 5, 1858, age 5
    Nelson, Warren Died February 2, 1858, age 2
    Newcomb, Charles Died November 3, 1857, age 67 years, 6 months 4 days
    Stevens, William Died April 4, 1865
    Stewart, Olive d/o A. Stewart Died February 22, 1888, age 30 years, 6 months 15 days
    Stewart, Sarah Born August 1830
    Waller, Almon son of H & H Waller, Born July 6, 1857 Died October 6, 1858
    Wilger, Eli Died February 2, 1858
    Young, Abraham Died 22, 1882, aged 60 years, 10 months 4 days
    Young, Gilbert H. Born December 20, 1858 Died August 14, 1884
    Young, Mary w/o Abraham Died October 21, 1888, age 64

  • From the census records from 1850, one can also add detail for the families in Farmington, “North Bend” and Trenton that comprised the Freewill Baptist Church in Trenton.

Bullard Family: Sanford Bullard was born in 1801 in Vermont. He was a farmer who married a woman named Martha. She was born in 1800 in Switzerland. They had at least four known children: A.J. (born 1842 in Wisconsin), George W. (born 1843 in Wisconsin), Reuben R. (born 1846 in Wisconsin), and Warren C. (born 1849 in Wisconsin).

Curtis Family: Reverend Alonzo Curtis was born in Ohio in 1815. He married a woman named Martha (born in 1819 in New York). They had at least four known children, all bon in Ohio except their last child, who was born in Wisconsin: Mary A. (born in 1842), Josephine (born in 1844), Randle E. (born in 1847) and A.L. Curtis (born in 1849). He purchased land in Section 31 in the town of Farmington on October 10, 1845, when he bought 90 acres. Note: Alonzo’s wife’s name is listed as Addaliza in Footprints in Farmington, which could be either an error or an indicator that he remarried.

Alonzo Curtis’s homestead was a log cabin, with land that he cleared. It was sold to Andrew Miller, a German native who moved to Barton in 1866 and purchased the Curtis farm on February 12, 1873. Miller built a stone house nearby on the land and apparently razed the log cabin after their new home was complete.

In North Bend, there was another Curtis family. This was Ameda J. Curtis, born in 1823 in New York. He was a farmer who married a woman named Addisa (born in 1829 in Ohio). It is most likely that this could be the Reverend Curtis’ younger brother or some type of relative.

Frisby Family: The only Frisby family in the area was in Trenton. This was the Lucius Frisby family. Lucius was born in 1793 in Vermont. He was a farmer who married a woman named Lovina, who was also born in 1793 in Vermont. By 1850, they had five known children: Cullen (born in 1815 in Vermont),Isaac (born in 1821 in Ohio), Clara (born in 1825 in Ohio), Leander (born in 1825 in Ohio), and Allen (born in 1831 in Ohio). Leander was listed as being a “law student”, but where he attended is unknown. Also in the household was an Altha M. Reynolds (born in 1823 in Ohio), an Dabey (spelling?) (born in 1849 in Wisconsin). Interestingly enough, the actual head of the household was listed as Math Delano (born in 1826 in New York) and his wife Sarah A. (born in 1828 in Ohio).

Isaac was married and living on his own. He was a teacher and was married to a woman named Sylvia (born in 1824 in Ohio). They had one daughter, Avis, born in 1849 in Wisconsin.

The next household after Isaac was another Frisby, Cullen. Cullen was a farmer who was married to a woman named Belsen A. (born in 1826 in New York). They had two known children in 1850: two daughters, Elwin (born in 1843 in Ohio) and Pluma (born in 1846 in Ohio). Most likely, Cullen was Isaac’s older son.

Hill Family (See Waller family)

Holt Family: The Holt family patriarch was Martin Wheeler Holt, born in 1820 in New York. He married Sallie Lorain Black (born in 1823 in New York). Martin and Sally had four known children by 1850: John M. (born in 1841), George Rensalaer Holt (born May 26, 1844 in Lykens, Crawford County, Ohio), Rufus A. (born in 1844 in Ohio), and Norman W. (born in 1848 in Ohio). Most likely, the Holt family already knew the Wallers and Curtis families back in Crawford County, Ohio and set out to join them in the town of Farmington.

George (left, author’s collection) became a Freewill Baptist minister himself, having attended Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan from 1866 through 1873. The college was founded by Freewill Baptists who were looking for a place to both educate and give proper training for becoming a minister – a seven year program.

While attending college, he returned to the Reverend Waller’s home in Oakfield, Fond du Lac County in 1868, where on July 1, he claimed the Reverend Waller’s daughter, Marilla (right, author’s collection) as his bride. They moved to Michigan where George became a Freewill minister and served in Jackson, Michigan, before going out to Parma and Hilton, Monroe County, New York.

They would have three children: Luella Jane (left; August 19, 1869-February 22, 1889), Vida Ellen (right; March 15, 1874-1955, who married Charles Buell), and Elna L. (below; February 22, 1877-1944, who married Thomas Stothard).

Marilla died on June 10, 1894 in Hilton, New York. Reverend Holt would then marry Anneta Myers (February 18, 1852-1950). The Reverend Holt would die on August 18, 1931 in Hilton as well.

Moore Family (See Newcomb family)

Myers Family: Although there are no Myers buried in the “Waller Cemetery”, one possible indicator that this family was Freewill Baptist is that Henry Truesdale Myers married the Reverend Waller’s eldest daughter, Ann Elizabeth, on March 25, 1854 in the town of Trenton (right, author’s collection).

The Myers surname appears next to each other in the 1850 Census in the town of North Bend, where the Wallers resided. The head of the first household was the father of the aforementioned Henry Myers, Jacob. Jacob Myers was a farmer born in 1802 in Pennsylvania. He married a woman named Almira, who was born in 1808 in Vermont. By 1850, they had three known children: Henry Truesdale (born January 25, 1827 in Hubbard, Trumbull County, Ohio) , Elizabeth (born 1833) and Clara (born in 1844). All the children were born in Ohio. Jacob purchased 80 acres in Section 30 of the Town of Farmington on May 20, 1846.

The next household listed in the 1850 Census was William Myers, born in 1816 in Ohio, possibly a brother to an older Jacob, whose parents might have migrated from Pennsylvania to Ohio in the time between their births. He too was a farmer. William married a woman named Sarah, who was also born in 1816, but in Pennsylvania. They had three known children by 1850: William P. (born in 1840), Jacob (born in 1841) and Elizabeth (born in 1846); all the children were born in Pennsylvania.

According to the Myers family Bible, the Myers family moved on to the town of Trenton, Dodge County, Wisconsin. This most likely explains why there are no remnants left behind in Washington County.

Nelson Family (No information)

Newcomb Family: In the town of North Bend, just a few households away from the Waller family was a Johnathan More, who was a farmer born in 1820 in Vermont. He married a woman named Evelyn (see below). They had one known child: Ella, born in 1848 in Wisconsin. The reason the Moore family (spelled More in the 1850 Census) is listed here is because the next person listed in the household is a Newcomb.Charles Goodrich Newcomb was born on August 10, 1823 in Massachussetts. He was a farmer who married a woman named Jenie (born in 1825 in Massachusetts). They had one known child: Charles (born in 1849 in Wisconsin).

The family goes well beyond Charles. His father, Charles Jarvis Newcomb, was born on April 29, 1790 in Bernardston, Massachusetts. He married Philena Scott on November 19, 1817. They had four children: Charlotte Augusta (June 12, 1818-February 14, 1892), Emily Adeliza (December 1, 1820 in Vermont-December 17, 1884, who married Johnathan Moore, Jr., above) the aforementioned Charles Goodrich, and Henrietta Maria (August 13, 1838 in Massachusetts-February 25, 1875). Henrietta married the Reverend Waller’s eldest son, Harlow Milton Waller (right; May 18, 1836-August 13, 1913).

Harlow and Henrietta had four children: Almon Henry (July 6, 1858-October 6, 1858), Ida (born on February 7, 1861 in Brown County, Kansas, married Valentine Schilling), Myrtle I. (April 16, 1866-September 27, 1900, married Elliot Irvin) and Lillie Maud (February 15, 1872-October 10, 1927, married David F. Bruner).

Charles Jarvis died in Trenton on November 3, 1857. After his death, some of the Newcomb family moved to Shakopee, Minnesota, where his widow Philena died on January 10, 1880.

Stevens Family: The Stevens family had its name spelled “Stephens” in the 1850 Census, in the town of Farmington. The patriarch was Asa Stevens, born in 1818 in New York. He was a farmer who married a woman named “F” born in 1812, also in New York. They had at least two known children: Henry (born in 1831 in New York) and William Stevens (born in 1842 in New York). From the markings of his grave, William served in the Union Army during the Civil War.

Stewart Family: There was only one Stewart family living in North Bend, the William Stewart family. The last name was spelled “Steward” in the 1850 Census. William was a farmer born in 1810 in Scotland. He was married to a woman named Jenie (born in 1815). They had six known children in 1850: Mary (born in 1840 in Scotland), James (born in 1842 in Scotland), John (born in 1844 in Scotland). Then it appears the Stewart family immigrated to the United States between 1844 and 1846. In 1846, their next child, Jane was born in Wisconsin, then came Elizabeth who was born in 1849 in Wisconsin.

Also in the household was Andrew Stewart, most likely the younger brother of William. He was born in 1819 in Scotland and married a woman named Mary (born in 1824 in Scotland). They had one known child in 1850: William (born in 1845 in Scotland).

Waller Family: As was mentioned, the Reverend Waller was born in New York on July 24, 1813. He and his family migrated to Ohio in 1832. There he had his first seven children in Lykens, Crawford County, with his wife Nancy Batchelder (April 26, 1814-May 25, 1885): Ann Elizabeth (mentioned in the Myers family), John (died in infancy), Harlow (mentioned in the Newcomb family), Mary (May 3, 1839-July 12, 1921, married Enoch Eastman), David (1841-September 20, 1864, died in Andersonville Prison), Marilla (mentioned in the Holt family). Then on April 17, 1851, a set of twin boys: Alonzo Laren and Lorenzo Alonzo completed the family (right, author’s collection).

David Hill was the step-father of Reverend Waller (1782-March 24, 1850). Sarah (Waller) Hill died on April 24, 1864 in Trenton.

Nancy died six years before the Reverend Waller, who followed her on February 21, 1891. They are buried in Oak Center Cemetery (which was the Freewill Baptist Church cemetery in Oakfield, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin).

Wescott Family: It appears the “patriarch” of the Wescott family was Morgan Wescott, who purchased 120 acres in Section 32 of the Town of Farmington on June 12, 1846.

This is the historical account, however, a letter sent by Fifth Corporal George T. Wescott (left) of Company D, Twelfth Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteers. The Sixth Corporal was the Reverend Waller’s future son-in-law, George R. Holt. Corporal Wescott fought side by side with Harlow and David Waller, as well as George Holt. He was on the mission with David and sent his parents a first-hand account of what occurred. This letter was duplicated in the History of Washington County, Wisconsin. (1912).

On the same battlefield before Atlanta Corporal George T. Wescott, of the same company and regiment, wrote to his parents in Boltonville:

“* * * I will attempt to write you a few lines to let you know that I am yet alive and in pretty good health. You will undoubtedly know all about the battles and our movements here, long ere this reaches you. When I wrote last, we were around to the right, but since then have marched five days to get around to the left, or east. On the 20th (of July, 1864) we came to the front, south of Decatur, where we formed in line of battle with skirmishes thrown out in advance and drove in the rebel pickets. It was then dark, so we had to stop and throw up a few rails to protect us through the night. On the morning of the 21st, our regiment was ordered to make a charge on the rebel lines, which we did, with the balance of our brigade for support. We advanced in good line till the rebel skirmishers fired on us, when we started on a double quick, and were soon close upon them. So sudden was the movement that many of the rebels did not have time to leave their rifle pits and were taken prisoners. We were so anxious to catch all of them that we did not stop here, but kept on, and drove them into their second line of works.—The Fourth Division could not drive them from this line, and we being far in advance, had to fall back to the works we had already taken, and the ‘rebs’ following us close upon our heels. When, as we thought, we were safely within our works, where the rebels would not molest us, we were greeted with a galling fire from all quarters, which compelled us to leave our works again, and retreat farther back, somewhat mixed up, with a sad loss. As for myself, I have not received a scratch, but I received a ball in my hat, which I considered a pretty close call. When we were ordered to move to the left, I saw that there was a general rush to get inside of the works, so I kept back a little, and saw many of my comrades fall from the deadly shower of bullets that was pouring in upon them. I was close to the ‘rebs’, but still kept outside of the works till I had a chance to climb over quickly. There was a squad of twenty-five rebels within a few rods of me, who ordered me to halt, so I turned and emptied my rifle at them, and then jumped inside. But there I found it about as dangerous as before, and the dead and wounded were lying all around me. After awhile we got some rails and stuff which we put up to protect us, and I know that one rail which I had just placed, kept a ball for me. At last the firing ceased altogether, and we heard no more from them, except an occasional shot to remind us of their presence. The dead we were obliged to leave out till after dark, when all were brought in. I helped to bring them in, and the following is a list of our company, which I think is correct:
“Killed.—Corporal Edwin E. Frisby; Corporal Emery P. Smith; William Hockman; Mathias Lampert, Jr., Wellington Stannard.
“Wounded.—Corporal D. J. Sullivan, hand, light; Corporal George R. Holt, leg, flesh. Eugene Callaghan, arm and breast, severely. Eugene Callaghan, arm and breast, severely; William Ebert, arm and side, severely,; P. E. Gibson, leg; J. M. Holt, both shoulders and back; William W. Myers, leg, flesh; Christopher D. Smith, breast and leg, severely; J. M. Wheeler, elbow; Charles C. Smith, finger; B. F. Marsden, leg, flesh; John Lampert, leg, severely—since died.
“Missing.—Moses Whalen, wounded; Nicholas Harris, probably wounded; David M. Waller; Solon Darlin.
“The casualties among the officers were: Maj. Gen. McPherson, killed, July 22nd; Brig. Gen Gresham, wounded, 20th, and died the 22nd; Brig. Gen. Force, wounded, 22nd; Capt. Price, Co. D, wounded, 22nd; Capt. Stevens, Co. B, wounded, 22nd; Capt. Gillispie, Co. E, missing, 21st; Capt. Wilson, Co. C, wounded 21st.
“The regiment lost on both days, in killed, wounded, and missing, 184 men; Co. D lost 20.
“On the morning of the 22nd the Fourth Division advanced their lines, and occupied the works (without opposition) which we had charged on the day before three times, but could not take, which gave us more room on the right with no cross-fire. But the worst had not yet come, for at noon they commenced a fire on our left and rear, when the 16th Corps fell back, and our division came near being outflanked. Those on our left changed from one position to another several times, and on our right there was quite a stampede. It was a fine sight to see, which I cannot fully describe. One regiment of our division came on the run, and broke through our lines, but we kept quiet, and changed to the rear, where we laid down in a line, and were partially protected, but were under a heavy fire all afternoon. The ‘rebs’ charged in three columns, and tried to break our lines, but did not succeed. If they had, it would have been a sad disaster. They took a part of our line, which gave them the inside of a fort, and Co. B of our regiment on the outside. The rebels planted three stands of colors within one rod of our men, and kept up a fire all night, but in the morning they had gone before it was light. From where I stood, I counted 48 dead rebels, and I do not know how many more there were. It was an awful day, and those who were at the battles of Shiloh and Fort Donelson say this beats all yet, and I believe it does. We took on this part of the line about 5, 000 prisoners. I do not know how many our side lost, altogether.—The rebels sent in a flag of truce, for two hours, to exchange and bury the dead, but could not accomplish all in that time. They say they will fight us here till they are all dead. We are strengthening the works here, and Col Bryant is in command of the brigade * * *

“G.T. Wescott”

Wilger Family: The fact that there are no other Wilgers is what one would guess means that the family moved to another area after Eli’s death in 1858. He was not in the 1850 Census, meaning that he most likely was a child. Only one Wilger family could be located in the vicinity, specifically Farmington. It is the most logical theory that this was his parents and siblings.

Peter Wilger was a farmer born in 1795 in Germany. He was married to a woman named Catherine (born 1799 in Germany) and had five known children by 1850, all born in Germany: Mathias (born in 1830), Peter (born in 1833), John (born in 1835), Nicholas (born in 1838), and Margaret (born in 1841). Peter purchased 80 acres of land in Section 34 of the Town of Farmington on September 11, 1846.

Young Family: The only young family located was the Abraham Young family in the town of Trenton in the 1850 Census. Abraham was a farmer born in 1805 in Maine. He was married to a woman named Mary (born in 1801 in Maine). They had five known children at the time. All of the children were born in Maine. The children were: Isaiah (born in 1834), William (born in 1836), David (born in 1838), Mary (born in 1840) and Angus (born in 1845).