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Rev Augustus Phillips
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Birth: Mar. 27, 1825
New York, USA
Death: Apr. 30, 1907

The establishment and first two decades of Wrightstown's Freewill Baptist congregation are inexorably tied to the career of Augustus Phillips, one of northeastern Wisconsin's most remarkable religious figures in the second half of the nineteenth century. Phillips was born on March 27, 1825 in Marcellus, New York. Three of Phillips' five brothers became Freewill Baptist ministers serving congregations in New England.

Phillips apparently received no formal education. He left home at the age of eleven and went to Ohio, then back to New York, and then to Rhode Island, working as a farm laborer and woolen goods manufacturer. In 1846 he married Minerva Greene, and in 1851 the couple moved to Wisconsin, where he purchased 160 acres of land in an unincorporated settlement known as Sniderville, approximately 2 miles northwest of the village of Wrightstown. This farm, later expanded with the purchase of additional acreage, was the family's home for the next 54 years. [5] In September 1864 Phillips enlisted in Company E of Wisconsin's 42nd Infantry Regiment; he was mustered out in June 1865, after distinguished service, with the rank of corporal. [6]

Phillips' religious activities began soon after he arrived in Wisconsin. He served as a lay preacher beginning in the mid-1850s at the "earnest request" of his neighbors, preaching to Methodist congregations, a practice he may have continued for ten years. He was ordained a Freewill Baptist minister in 1866. [7]

On January 6, 1866, Phillips and fourteen men and women met and organized Wrightstown's Freewill Baptist congregation. Two years later they acquired land and began constructing their church in the village. Within a few years, some of the original members organized separate Freewill Baptist congregations at Sniderville and at Greenleaf, another unincorporated settlement approximately four miles east of Wrightstown. Phillips is credited with establishing all three of these congregations, and he served all three as pastor until 1885. In that year he withdrew from the pastorates of Wrightstown and Greenleaf but continued as pastor at Sniderville, finally retiring from that pulpit in 1905. [8]

In his ministry Phillips was known for "a breadth of charity for all Christian denominations." He stressed "that it was the reaching of higher and better thoughts, and the realization of a better life, that was embodied in the Christian teachings, rather than the difference of creeds." One observer commented in 1874 that "it is just like Elder Phillips to preach a real sensible sermon—one that makes plain the meaning of the scripture lesson, and gives the seeker after divine truth new impetus." [9]

Since the church's membership records are lost, we cannot say with certainty exactly how large Wrightstown's Freewill Baptist congregation was during Phillips' pastorate. Contemporary sources certainly suggest that under his leadership the congregation increased from its original founding membership. In December 1874 ten new members were reported to have joined the congregation within one week, and in May 1875 another seven new members were reported. In September 1881 a local correspondent recorded that "quite a large number were taken into the fold." One source gave the size of the congregation that same year as seventy members. [10] Baptisms of new members were conducted by immersion in the Fox River. [11]

Phillips was known for leading successful revivals throughout his pastorate. In September 1876, for example, a revival began in Wrightstown "which bids fair to be equal to the one recently held over at Greenleaf, where . . . between 40 and 50 conversions have taken place within the past 6 weeks. . . . That the good work which has thus far been much more successful than those of little faith could hope for, will go forward until the enemy is compelled to retire from the contest, and the report ‘all quiet on the Fox,' and every where else, will be in order, is the wish of a large majority of the people in Wrightstown." [12]

In addition to preaching in the three churches at Wrightstown, Greenleaf, and Sniderville, Phillips also exchanged pulpits with other Freewill Baptist ministers throughout the region, including Kaukauna, Oshkosh, Shiocton, and Hortonville, preaching to the latter congregation every other week "for quite a long time." [13] Phillips and lay members of the Wrightstown church also attended Quarterly Meetings of the Waupun District at various communities throughout northeastern Wisconsin. [14]

Although the record is silent, it is probable that Phillips did not receive a regular salary as pastor of the Wrightstown church. Instead (and typical for the time), the members periodically held "donation" or "benefit" events (entertainments and suppers) to raise money for their pastor. Typical was a "chicken pie festival" held at one of Wrightstown's meeting halls in February 1876 which netted $54.95. [15]

Although serving the three Freewill Baptist congregations at Wrightstown, Greenleaf, and Sniderville took a considerable amount of Phillips' time, he continued as a full-time farmer on his Sniderville acreage (in the 1870 and 1880 U.S. Federal censuses his occupation is listed as farmer rather than as minister). Not surprisingly as he grew older the strain of this work began to take a toll on his health. Already in 1875, when he was fifty, his health was a concern to his parishioners. [16] In May 1881 Phillips suffered a serious accident at his farm. While hauling a load of hay the wagon ran over a stump, capsizing the load and throwing the pastor and his son Mowry to the ground. Phillips suffered an injury to his spine which initially was feared to be life-threatening. Fortunately for his congregations Phillips' recovery was swift; barely one month later it was reported that "he has preached three times since his hurt." [17]

To restore his health Phillips and his wife took two extended trips during his Wrightstown pastorate. In 1875 they traveled to Rhode Island, the state they had left twenty-four years earlier, to renew family acquaintances. [18] Following his May 1881 accident he took a one-month "vacation" to Kansas, where one of his sons had settled. [19]

In 1885, when he turned sixty, Phillips apparently decided to withdraw as pastor at the Wrightstown and Greenleaf churches, devoting his time to his farm and the Freewill congregation at Sniderville. [20] During the remaining twenty years of his pastorate at Sniderville Phillips continued on occasion to preach in the Wrightstown church. [21] He also conducted weddings and funerals for members of the Wrightstown congregation, either at the Wrightstown church or at private homes. [22]

In October 1905 Phillips preached his farewell sermon to the Sniderville Baptist congregation; Baptists from Wrightstown, Kaukauna, Appleton "and other places" attended. A public reception was also "largely attended . . . it being one of the events to be remembered and recorded as a landmark, in the history of our social events." Phillips sold his Sniderville farm and he and his wife moved to Eau Claire to live with their son Clark. Phillips died in Eau Claire on April 30, 1907. His body was returned to northeastern Wisconsin by train, his funeral "very largely attended, people from Menasha, Greenleaf, Kaukauna, Wrightstown and De Pere being present." Phillips was buried in the Sniderville Baptist cemetery. A correspondent who attended the funeral undoubtedly expressed the sentiments of Phillips' former Wrightstown parishioners: "Father Phillips (as he was sometimes called) was beloved by all who knew him, and no one could go far astray who would heed his teachings—as he lived and died a true, pure Christian; and I know that hundreds have been made better by his teachings; and though we will not mourn as those that have no hope, yet we will miss his kindly face and wise counsel." [23] Phillips' wife Minerva died on January 6, 1913, and is buried next to him in the Sniderville cemetery (now the South Lawrence Cemetery).

Family links: 
  Minerva A. Greene Phillips (1825 - 1913)*
  Erwin Augustus Phillips (1847 - 1931)*
  Melvin F. Phillips (1852 - 1897)*
  Mowry Phillips (1857 - 1942)*
  Arthur M. Phillips (1859 - 1938)*
  Minerva A. Phillips (1861 - 1862)*
  Elbert Merton Phillips (1869 - 1902)*
  Clark Phillips (1870 - 1950)*
*Calculated relationship
South Lawrence Cemetery
De Pere
Brown County
Wisconsin, USA
Created by: Sandi Walker
Record added: Dec 18, 2002
Find A Grave Memorial# 7018421
Rev Augustus Phillips
Added by: Sandi Walker
Rev Augustus Phillips
Added by: wvy
Rev Augustus Phillips
Cemetery Photo
Added by: Grave Walker(L Kopet)
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Click on image for full size.

The 'salt of the earth.'
- winnie
 Added: Nov. 10, 2012
My great great great grandfather. What a legacy. CR
 Added: Apr. 29, 2011
A Freewill Baptist minister who had a large influence for good. Rest in peace.
- wvy
 Added: Mar. 2, 2010

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