In my O’Shaughnessy Chronicles novels, Mary O’Shaughnessy is a devout church-goer. Her husband, Will, attends church mostly to please her. Occasionally, he comes away with a bit of preacher’s wisdom that’s applicable to his life.
Church was important to my grandparents, Elizabeth “Lizzie” and Will Fitzsimons, the real-life inspiration for the fictional Will and Mary O’Shaughnessy. My grandmother’s real-life hometown of Linden, Wisconsin, became in my novels Mary’s fictional hometown of Hinton, Wisconsin. And in Linden is a beautiful old church that is close to my heart, and part of my family’s history.
Linden Methodist Church dates back to my great-great-grandparent’s time. Constructed out of local rock, it was completed in 1851 and still stands today at Main and Church streets in downtown Linden. The architect and builder was Thomas Blake.
One of five children, my grandmother was born in Linden in 1876 and spent her childhood there. After their marriage, my grandparents lived in Mineral Point. Later, they also lived in the southwest Wisconsin communities of Avoca and Ridgeway.
My grandmother’s family were active members at Linden Methodist Church, back to the time of its construction. It became a key element in some of their most important life stories.
My great-great-grandfather, Nicholas Stephens, a hard rock miner drawn to Iowa County’s booming mining industry, arrived in Linden from Cornwall, England in 1837. Sadly, while she was attending aservice at Linden Methodist Church in 1859, my great-great grandmother was told that he had been killed by Indians in British Columbia.
The church’s steeple was added in the 1870s. And in 1882, when my grandmother was six years old, chimes first rang out from its bell tower. Certainly, those hourly chimes are a sound my grandmother must have associated with her childhood.
I am a lover of old things. I write historical fiction, after all.
When I visit Linden today, I think of how in my grandmother’s day such church clocks marked time for everything of importance – the start and end of each school and work day; noontime on a long summer day when children were expected to be home for dinner; its echo on an otherwise silent, snowy winter night.
Linden Methodist Church has been listed on the National Register of Historical Places since 1978. Today, it remains an active congregation with regular Sunday services.
Sadly, the church clock hasn’t chimed for many years, its mechanism long ago worn out. However, a fund raising effort is currently underway to replace the mechanism, so it may someday ring out again.
My grandmother, Lizzie, was an avid Methodist all her life, beginning in her youth at Linden Methodist Church.
She and my grandfather were married on April 6, 1898, at the Primitive Methodist Church – today the Congregational United Church of Christ — in Mineral Point.
My grandfather was raised Episcopalian, but converted to Methodism when he married my grandmother. His parents were active Episcopal Church members in Mineral Point. He was Sunday School superintendent of the small, rural Plum Grove church when he lived on a farm outside Mineral Point.
I remember when I was young my grandmother participated in all the women’s guilds and activities and never missed a church service, if she was able. She also was an avid supporter of all their anti-drinking campaigns. She read the Bible regularly and also read a little devotional each day, called the Upper Room.
Many of my Stephens ancestors are buried just down the street from Linden Methodist Church, in Linden Cemetery.
Continuing a tradition started by my mother years ago, I and my cousins visit Linden Cemetery every Memorial Day weekend, to put flowers on our ancestors’ graves. We also visit the Mineral Point, Dodgeville, and Ridgeway cemeteries,
On a picturesque Sunday this past spring, I went there with my cousin, Wayne.
Linden Methodist Church and Linden Cemetery are among my favorite places in southwest Wisconsin. They are part of Iowa County’s historical tapestry, that has deeply shaped my life and fed my novels.
If you haven’t read my novels yet, I encourage you to download a free sample chapter. Let me know what you think!