The First Baptist congregation built the
church, which was later became the Memorial Chapel, after they separated from
the Greenfield Baptist Church 1852. The congregation constructed their church
at the southwest corner (where the library and city hall is today) of Wauwatosa
and North Avenue for $2800. The membership was strongly committed to
abolitionism. On of their first actions was to pass a resolution stating
"American slavery is not only an infringement of the rights of fellow man but a
gross violation of the law of God. Therefore we cannot fellowship with any who
hold slaves, or uphold the institution. Enoch Underwood and his wife Harriet
used the closet of their home to shelter fugitive slaves. One such slave was
Caroline Quarrels who escaped from St. Louis Missouri to Milwaukee via the
Underground Railroad. She eventually made her way into Canada where she lived
as a free woman.
The First Baptist Church was used for over thirty
years, until a new church was constructed in 1888. Rev. Underwood's son,
Federick (F.D) purchased the original church and lot for $3000. He had the
furnishings removed, the floor leveled and loaned it to the Wauwatosa
Lightguard for use as an armory from 1888 to 1914.
The high-ceiling hall
on the second floor became a drill hall, meeting hall and gymnasium. The lower
floor contained company quarters, locker rooms, officer's quarters, library and
shower room. The Armory became the center of community social life for the
young people of Wauwatosa. The Lightguard sponsored various athletic teams, who
were renowned throughout the state for their abilities.
In 1914, F.D.
Underwood moved the old Baptist Church/Armory to Section 6 of the Wauwatosa
Cemetery , where it was remolded again to serve as a cemetery chapel. F.D.
Underwood dedicated the Memorial Chapel to the memory off his parents, Reverend
Enoch and Harriet Underwood and to the Reverend Luther and Harriet Clapp of
Wauwatosa's Congregational Church.
Today the Memorial Chapel stands as a
tool shed. This building with the potential of being listed on the National
Register of Historic Places, instead stores lawn mowers and other equipment. It
is badly in need of funds for restoration.
For additional information,
Underwood Memorial Baptist Church website.
First Baptist Church, now used a memorial chapel
- Present day
Picnic at the
Wauwatosa Cemetery in front of the First Baptist Church which was moved there