Unpacking Historical Artifacts at the Intersection of Nation-State and USA Church History in Wisconsin
A Story of Evangelicals in the American Baptist Convention for Thanksgiving Day in Green Lake, WI
Green Lake Conference Center is a beautiful year-round Christian conference center set on the deepest lake in Wisconsin with a rich and interesting history dating back to the early 1800s.
Winnebago Indians, Pioneer Settlers, a wealthy Chicago couple, a Chicago development company, American Baptist visionaries and Christian leaders of today are all part of this special and spiritual place where God moves and people connect.
The first people to walk our grounds were Winnebago Indians. By the early 1800s as many as 500 Indians camped around Green Lake. Believing the Water Spirit lived in Green Lake, every Winnebago had to come here once in their lifetime to worship.
Note well how the choice of words used presumes unquestionable ownership of stolen land. The speaker implies that the Indigenous Tribal People of the North American Continent were caretakers holding these spaces for their rightful and righteous owners. They even have the unmitigated gall to acknowledge that "Their!" campground was actually a sacred place for the Winnebago Tribe. But they never share what actually happened to the caretakers of sacred lands.
Chris Briswold and his family constructed a Log Cabin in the mid 1840s on an 80 acre parcel of land in a part of what is now the conference center's property. Their log cabin still stands in the back of the property. When you see the size of this one room cabin, you wonder how Chris, his wife, and five children could ever exist in such a small area!
But who owned and cared for the land the Briswold's occupied? What happened to the prior occupants? Why does this not matter to an insular cult of religious pro-slavery(?) and or abolitionist(?) idealogues? No doubt they feasted wearing warm cotton and wool, and would have been very clear neither were "made" from plants or animals native to Wisconsin.
Victor Lawson, a "printer's devil" in Chicago, was the successful publisher of the Chicago Daily News. He met his eccentric wife Jessie in the church choir. They honeymooned in Green Lake.
Interesting choice of words, "printers devil"
a person, typically a young boy, serving at or below the level of apprentice in a printing establishment.
A printer's devil was an apprentice in a printing establishment who performed a number of tasks, such as mixing tubs of ink and fetching type. A number of famous men served as printers' devils in their youth, including Ambrose Bierce, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Fuller, Thomas Jefferson, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Joel Chandler Harris, Warren Harding, Lawrence Tibbett, John Kellogg, Lyndon Johnson, Hoodoo Brown, James Hogg, Joseph Lyons, Albert Parsons and Lázaro Cárdenas.
Also interesting is the reference to the property buyer's wife as "eccentric". But in the spirit of the toxic white masculinity rampant among the American Baptists, I will not burden this essay with all the pejorative misogny behind that vocabulary when applied to women.
In the summer of 1888, Jessie took friends for a boat ride on Green Lake. A sudden storm caused the captain to put in on Lone Tree Point, named because of the large cottonwood tree at its end. There, huddled in a shack, Jessie decided to purchase the very spot as a refuge from the pressures and harried life of the city.
This vignette makes me wonder: Who were the original owners and how much they were paid?
Before the year was over the Lawsons had purchased 10 acres, including the point, and Lone Tree Farm was begun.The Lawsons added farm to farm until the estate included more than 1,100 acres.
The Lawsons had some serious generational wealth that allowed them to expand their Chicago portfolio in the bucolic "far north" suburbs of their day.
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