Religion at the Wisconsin Phalanx

Religion played a major role in the initial development of Ceresco. Early citizens desired to practice their Christian religion without the distractions of urban life. Originally, church services were held every Sunday at the phalanx and sometimes multiple times a week. A Sunday school was also established. However, it appears over time the dedication to organized religion evaporated and the church eventually had little influence of the daily lives of Ceresco residents.

The lack of religiosity was criticized in surrounding areas. Reverend Franklin G. Sherrill was the first pastor of the Congregational Church of Ripon. He recorded that religious meetings declined almost immediately at Ceresco. While in 1885 the Chicago Times suggested the services were maintained until the community disbanded. More evidence seems to support Sherril’s observations. He referred to the church as a “sham church” and was disgusted that it lasted only six weeks. Other individuals were upset by the decline in organized religion at Ceresco.

Reverend Cutting Marsh was a Presbyterian preacher from nearby Waupaca who visited Ceresco shortly before its end in 1850. Throughout its existence he criticized the community for not practicing organized religion and claimed it was the leading reason behind the phalanx’s collapse. He referred to members as heathens whose morals were corrupted.

In their defense, association members claimed they still practiced their individual faith. At the time, most Christians thought the only way to express one’s spirituality was to attend church service and so the faith of those who worshiped more privately was often challenged. It seems true that citizens did not congregate, but it does not necessarily prove the members lost their faith.

A major reason for discontinuing services likely was the diversity of Christian denominations at Ceresco. Christians ranged from Congressionalists, Methodists, Baptists and Presbyterians, while other less recognized groups likely existed as well. The extent to which these various groups congregated amongst themselves is not known.

The lack of continuity in religion likely severed some early bonds within the community, however, the skeptics never seemed to prove the Cerescan's were irreligious. When researching religion at the Wisconsin Phalanx it is important to consider if they lost their faith or strictly decided organized religion did not fit their lifestyle.

Primary Sources

A letter originally written for the Chicago Tribune by Warren B. Chase in 1849. It was reprinted by the Wisconsin Tribune of Mineral Point. Chase defends the spirituality of the people at the phalanx.

June 29, 1849
Wisconsin Tribune


The following document is a letter written by Reverend Franklin Sherrill on his visit to Ceresco after it collapsed in 1851. It appears he was looking for a residence for members of his congregation. Look closely at page 3, where he began writing about the affect of religion on Ceresco and his opinion of it.

January 16, 1851

Franklin C. Sherrill Letter,
Oshkosh SC 93
UW Oshkosh Archives and
Area Research Center


Table of Contents

1. Development
2. Geography and Physical Description
3. Rules and Regulations
4. Labor
5. Women of Ceresco
6. Religion at the Phalanx
7. Demise of the Wisconsin Phalanx

Other Resources

Recommendations for Ceresco Research Questions and Projects

Annotated Bibliography