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Term: Freethinkers in Wisconsin

Definition: Freethought is the philosophy that man rules his own destiny, rejecting the notion that there is any kind of divine intervention in life. Belief centers on the idea that nature and Natural Law guide mankind and that the use of reason, epistemology, and science are the means by which life is validated. Freethinkers usually espoused current liberal ideals of the day, including racial, social, and sexual equality, the abolition of slavery, and the end of political tyranny. Freethought came to Wisconsin with the massive influx of German immigrants in the 1850s, particularly those known as "Forty-eighters" who had fled autocratic German states after the failed revolts of 1848. The first free congregation formed at Painesville, south of Milwaukee, among of group of dissatisfied Lutherans around 1851. The Forty-eighters set about organizing their own free congregations, or freie gemeinde, soon after arriving in Milwaukee. The most noted and long-lived congregation in Wisconsin was the Freie Gemeinde von Sauk County, founded in 1852. In 1852, congregations were reported in over a dozen cities, including Burlington, Fond du Lac, Jefferson, Manitowoc, Oshkosh, Two Rivers, and Watertown. A group in La Crosse County attempted to disrupt Lutheran services across the street, a not uncommon activity among Freethought groups. By 1876, only four congregations submitted reports. The Milwaukee group eventually joined the American Rationalist Association while the Sauk County group affiliated with the Unitarian Church. The German Freethought movement was closely associated with the German Turnverein, social clubs that sponsored lectures and debates and hosted dances, concerts, and other social events. Freethinkers also published a number of newspapers: Banner und Volkesfreund was the leading Freethought paper from 1855 until 1880. The second largest group of Freethinkers were Czech who were easily swayed to Freethought due to their feelings of alienation from the Catholic Church in Wisconsin. Many Czechs formed strong ties with fraternal halls and used them rather than separate "churches" to espouse Freethought philosophy. Freethought began to decline in the late 19th century for a number of reasons, one of which was the very nature of Freethought itself. Its anti-religious and anti-Christian views were too extreme for many people, alienating many would-be sympathizers. Another reason may have been the lack of cohesive ideals within the movement as freethinkers rarely agreed on any social or economic philosophy aside from anti-religion. By the early 20th century, most Freethought congregations had disbanded or joined other mainstream churches, though the Free Congregation of Sauk County continues to this day.

[Source: Wisconsin's Cultural Resources Study Units, Wisconsin Historical Society]

98 records found

Faast, Benjamin F. 1884 - 1948
Fairchild, Col. Cassius (18291868)
Fairchild, Gov. Lucius (1831-1896)
Fairchild, Hiram Orlando 1845 - 1925
Fairchild, Jairus Cassius 1801 - 1862
Fairchild, Thomas E. 1912
Falge, Louis 1861 - 1918
Falk, Franz Lorenz 1824 - 1882
Falk, Harold Sands 1883 - 1957
Fallows, Samuel 1835 - 1922
Farley, Chris 1964 - 1997
Farnsworth, William 1796 - 1860
Farrar, Charles Samuel 1826 - 1903
Farrington, Edward Holyoke 1860 - 1934
Farrow, Margaret A. 1934
Farwell, Leonard James 1819 - 1889
Fassett, Norman Carter 1900 - 1954
Father Solanus Casey (1870 - 1957)
Favill, Stephen 1823 - 1906
Faville, John 1847 - 1927
Favre, Brett Lorenzo, 1969 -
Feinberg, Milton
Feingold, Russell D. 1953
Felder, Emma 1927 - 2008
Fenenga, Melmon Jacob 1858 - 1933
Ferber, Edna, 1885-1968
Fergus, Scott C. 1955
Ferrall, R. Michael 1936
Ferry, George Bowman 1851 - 1918
Fiedler, Otho August 1873 - 1948
Fields, Daniel B. 1952
Fifield, Samuel S. 1839 - 1915
Fillmore, John Comfort 1843 - 1898
Finch, Asahel Jr. 1809 - 1883
Fink, Albert 1867 - 1950
Finney, Frederick Norton 1832 - 1916
Finns in Wisconsin
Fire Nation
Fischer, Daniel 1952
Fish, Carl Russell 1876 - 1932
Fish, Irving Andrews 1881 - 1948
Fish, Ody J., 1925 --
Fisk, Theodore 1859 -
Fitch, Charles W. 1819 - 1899
Fitch, Grant 1859 - 1940
Fitzgerald, Jeff 1966
Fitzgerald, Scott L. 1963
Five Nations Confederacy
Flannigan, Allen J. 1909
Flemish Bastard
Flintrop, Richard A. 1945
Flynn, Gerald T. 1910
Flynn, James T. 1944
Fogo, William Montgomery 1841 - 1903
Folle Avoines, Fol Avoine, Folle Avoine
Fontanne, Lynn 1887 - 1983
Ford, Winifred 1876 - 1957
Forsyth, Thomas, 1771-1833.
Fortis, Louis G. 1947
Foster, Carlton 1826 - 1901
Foster, Edward Augustus 1829 - 1902
Foster, Nathaniel Caldwell 1834 - 1923
Foti, Steven M. 1958
Four Legs, Ho-Chunk chief, dates unverified
Fourier, Charles, 1772-1837
Fowler, Chester Almeron 1862 - 1948
Fox Indians
Fox, Albert Charles 1878 - 1934
Fox, Thomas P. 1946
Frackelton, Susan, 1848 - 1932
Frame, Andrew Jay 1844 - 1932
Frank, Glenn 1887 - 1940
Frank, Kurt A. 1945
Frank, Louis Frederick 1857 - 1918
Frank, Michael 1804 - 1894
Frankfurth, William 1829 - 1891
Franks, Jacob 1760 - 1840
Fraser, Thomas 1820 - 1893
Fratney, Frederick 1815 - 1855
Frear, James Archibald 1861 - 1939
Freehoff, William Adolph 1889 - 1950
Freese, Stephen J. 1960
Freethinkers in Wisconsin
French in Wisconsin
Frey, Frank Jacob 1859 - 1937
Frick, William Keller 1850 - 1918
Friedman, Oliver Albert 1893 - 1957
Friend, Jacob Elias 1857 - 1912
Frisby, Leander Franklin 1825 - 1889
Friske, Donald 1961
Fritschel, Herman Lawrence 1869 - 1957
Froehlich, Harold V. 1932
Frost, William Dodge 1867 - 1957
Fry, Rupert F. 1871 - 1935
Fuller, Margaret, 1810-1850
Fuller, Oliver Clyde 1860 - 1942
Fullsavoines
Fusseder, Francis 1825 - 1888

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