Short History of Trinity Lutheran Church of Freistadt
In 1817, in Pomerania, Prussia, King Frederick Wilhelm III, attempted to unify his country but actually drove some people away. He declared that everyone in the Reformed and Lutheran Churches would belong to the United Evangelical Church from then on. This, understandably, upset some Lutherans. Conditions got worse in 1830, when it became illegal to be a Lutheran.
About 1100 people from all over Prussia decided these conditions were unacceptable and decided to emigrate to the United States. After several years of working through the legal requirements and waiting for their leaders, who had been imprisoned for continuing to conduct services, they left their homeland forever, and began their journey in five sailing ships in July of 1839.
They arrived in New York in September, then traveled on the Erie Canal to get to Buffalo. Most families chose to remain there. Forty families chose to travel through the Great Lakes to Milwaukee, arriving in early October. About half of the group decided to stay there. The remaining twenty families appointed three men to walk up the Green Bay Trail to choose a place where they could buy about 1000 acres for the settlement, for $1.25 an acre.
Because of the coming winter, the first log cabins were erected quickly and cropland prepared out of the dense forest. They got through the winter as best they could, and, in the spring of 1840, built a log building that became the first Lutheran Church and School in the Wisconsin Territory. It was located where a log cabin now stands at the Trinity Freistadt Historical Site, southwest of the present church, which was built in 1884.
The Historical Site now contains 12 buildings, including a blacksmith shop, bake oven, and displays that change yearly. It is open for tours from May-October. A “living museum event” occurs each year on the 4th of July in conjunction with a parade, live music, and picnic. For more information, please check Facebook: Trinity Freistadt Historical Site or call 262-242-0724.