Written by board member Patti Yana
Nestled on the boundary line between Fond du Lac and Winnebago County sits one of the best kept secrets in Fond du Lac County. The Peniel Church, completed in 1856 is located on County Road FF. The original building was enlarged in 1868 and a kitchen added in 1871. A vestibule was built in front in 1894.
The church began as a Calvinistic Methodist congregation, but by 1920 they were known as the Welsh Presbyterian Church. In 1955 they united with the Presbyterian Church with English services. The Peniel Church dissolved in 1977 and members transferred to churches of their choice in the surrounding community. However, the church is still maintained by a devoted group of nine trustees who keep the building up and running.
The church has no running water, heat or AC, but does have electricity for lights and ceiling fans. An outhouse graces the grounds as a testimony to times past and is still functional today. The church building’s floor actually slopes to the sides to represent the inside of a ship. Stained glass windows, movable pews, a piano, and a working 100 year old organ complete the ambiance of days past. The curious two door entrance takes us back to the days when men and women entered through separate doors and sat on different sides of the church.
The Winnebago County Historical & Archaeological Society decided to help this small dedicated church community preserve this historic building by making a donation to their preservation project. After doing so, the WCHAS Board was graciously invited for a tour last fall. What an awesome historic gem! The building is still occasionally used for weddings and funerals and some Sunday “sings”. However, the main event called a Gymanfa Ganu is held annually on the fourth Sunday every August at 2:30. Last fall’s “sing” drew almost 250 people to help them celebrate 160 years! This tradition started 93 years ago in 1923. The church even has one member who boasts that she has been at every Gymanfa Ganu starting as an infant! We were also rewarded with a few songs on the historic organ and piano.
The Wisconsin Historical Society’s History of the Oshkosh Welsh Settlement 1847-1947 lists the John Rodgers Morgan family as members. The WCHAS was honored to be a part of helping to preserve this part of history on behalf of the Morgan family.