Universalists and Unitarians in La Crosse
A Thumbnail History, 1860-2018

First/St. Paul’s Universalist Church (1860-1930)

Date Event
October 4, 1860 Universalists hold organizational meeting.
1861 Universalists hold Sunday Services led by Rev. Barnes.
1862-1865 Universalists suspend activities due to the Civil War.
June 19, 1865 Universalists receive state incorporation.
July 1865 First Universalist Church ground-breaking, 8th & Cass.
August 1866 First Universalist Church completed.
1870 First Universalist Church votes to rename itself “St. Paul’s Universalist Church.”
1895-1905 St. Paul’s in La Crosse is the largest Universalist congregation in Wisconsin.
1899-1902 Rev. Nellie Mann Opdale is St. Paul’s minister. Departs amidst conflict.
 1920s Declining membership; St. Paul’s Universalist building rented to the Church of Christ.
1930 Universalist congregation dissolved.

Unitarian/Universalist Fellowship of La Crosse (1951-2018)

Date Event
1951 Unitarian Fellowship organized in La Crosse under the leadership of Carroll Gundersen. Fellowship draws significantly from university, business, and medical professionals in La Crosse.
1951-1960 Fellowship holds Sunday evening meetings at the YWCA building (West Avenue & Main).
1961 Fellowship formally organizes as the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of La Crosse, the new name reflecting the nationwide organizational merger.
1961-2004 Fellowship conducts Sunday services, first at the Grandview Building (17th & Main), then at the Southside Seniors Center (1220 Denton).
2004-2007 Fellowship growth led to a move to the Pump House Regional Arts Center, 119 King Street.
May 2007 Fellowship purchases its own building at 401 West Avenue S., first time owning a building.
2007-2016 Unitarian Universalist Fellowship has growth phase.
2016-2020 Fellowship hires Rev. Krista Taves as consulting minister.
2020-2022 Fellowship hires Rev. Leslie Mills as consulting minister.
2022-2024  Fellowship hires Rev. Bruce Johnson as consulting minister.
June 2024 – present Rev. Bruce Johnson retires. The Fellowship returns to being lay-led.