The Early History of Ephraim Moravian Church
Excerpt from Early Days of Ephraim by Bishop Clement Hoyler
From earliest times the religious impress of the community was very pronounced. The very ground on which the village now stands was dedicated in pray to a religious purpose, when the founder of the colony quietly stepped aside among the small evergreens and kneeled down upon the white snow. He returned to his companions and told them that he had a strong assurance that their congregation would find a home in that quiet spot where they would be able to worship God with perfect freedom. As it turned out, it was near the very site on which the church was subsequently built and which became the center of the village.
On Eagle Island [Horseshoe Island] the first services were held, the first Sunday school of Door County was conducted, the first church work was undertaken. When, in the fall of 1853, the people took up their abode in their permanent dwellings on shore, the religious life of the community was transferred to the mainland. The Iverson House – larger than the rest and still standing in an excellent state of preservation – became the meeting place of the little congregation. Five gatherings were held each week. Stirring events took place in that historic building. If the wall could speak, they might tell and interesting story.
But from the beginning the settlers planned on erecting a separate house of worship. Plans were prepared for a building 40 x 24, 16 feet high, with a steeple. Quite a debate took place as to where the church should be built. Most of the people preferred the hill, but two were so strenuously opposed to this location, preferred the lower ground called The Commons near the beach, that for the sake of people the others acquiesced.
Early in the fall of 1857 the stone foundation was finished. Before winter set in, the building was under roof. By this time all the funds were exhausted and as there had been a crop failure in the fall of 1857, work came to a standstill and nothing was done throughout 1858. But in 1859 a new start was made.
By the fall of the year work had progressed to such an extent that on the 18th of November the spire on the steeple with an arrow could be put up by Mr. Smith. Iverson built the pulpit, with two pillars for lamps, and assisted with the pews.
Another gift arrived at this time from Bethlehem [Pennsylvania] and was used for lamps, a stove and other equipment. Even a steel bell had been ordered and arrived before the close of navigation.
At last the day of dedication arrived Sunday, December 18, 1859. A graphic account is given in the Iverson Journal. Our chronicler sums up the impressive service with the ecstatic phrase: It was sublime!
The ringing of the church bell for the first time appeared to have created a deep impression and not a few of the hardy pioneers were moved to tears. Memories of the other days were brought back. Gabriel Wathne became the official bell-ringer. He was a man of giant stature. What he did, he did with vigor and vim. Under his mightily strong the first bell lasted only a week.
The new church became the center of an intensive religious work. Many revivals occurred, including one that especially gripped the children. A fine type of earnest and unaffected religious life was developed. This accounts for the fact that Ephraim never had a saloon or public dance hall.
On the 6th of July 1864, the Rev. Mr. Iverson bade a last sad farewell to Ephraim, in order to take up his work in a new field in Illinois. As he stepped out of his house for the last time and closed the door, he cried out with breaking heart: Farewell dear home! Farewell dear Ephraim!
Please visit the Ephraim Moravian Church website for more information about their mission, services, and religious history.