It was a dark and stormy night, no, really it was, and icy too. It was 1868 and a dozen or so Presbyterians gathered at St James Episcopal Church to discuss building a Presbyterian Church on the growing west side of Milwaukee. But getting there was a challenge. Bridges were under construction so people coming from the east side of Milwaukee took a ferry. Dark, stormy, and icy, it was not a night any sane person would be out, and certainly not on the river. But these were Scots Presbyterians and they were determined to build a church. Who were these stalwart souls? Many of them are named in the church’s windows: (clockwise starting in the SE corner) George and Elizabeth Ogden; Robert B and Euphemia Paterson Williamson; Nellie Meyer; Dr. William D. and Bessie McNary; George Wood, and his grandparents, Alexander and Margaret McNab, and his mother, Margaret A. Wood; Margaret O. Murphy; Augustus G. and Mary E. Weissert; Frederick W. and Elizabeth Ells; Margaret M Davidson and grandson, John Alan Marx; and the Moses Lane Family
Other founders included William Plankinton, Fannie, James, and June Bradford, Levi and Ellen Kellogg, and more.
To build the new church, they chose the young architect, Henry Koch. Two features of his design for the new church convinced them that Henry was their man. First, the church would be red. Not red brick, that wouldn’t be bright or bold enough. It would be made of local cream city brick and painted red. And second, the western steeple would be taller and narrower than had ever been built. When the western steeple was framed up, a local merchant said it was to narrow to be so tall and that he could pull it over with a team of horses. Henry Koch accepted the challenge and the rest, as they say, is history.
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