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100 Year Old Church is a Treasure within 129 Year Old Legacy and 1500 Years of Welsh Culture

Moses led Welsh Congregation from Franklin Avenue to Lake Street 100 Years Ago. Minneapolis’ Welsh Congregation formed in Phillips in 1881 and worshipped at Franklin and 17th Avenues in a church they outgrew by 1911. They built a new church on 15th Avenue near Lake Street and were led by Reverend John Moses, their first permanent pastor having served them 28 years before they moved to the new $30,000.building drawn by drafstman William J. Williams who lived at 2433 11th Avenue. See also, The Alley Vol. 33 #2 april 2008 Page 4 “Moses Led Welsh Church from Franklin Avenue to Near Lake Street.

By Sue Hunter Weir

Since at least the 1880s, what we now call the Phillips Neighborhood, has been home to thousands of immigrants and their families, many of whom are buried or have relatives buried, in Minneapolis Pioneers and Soldiers Memorial Cemetery. Their contributions to the city’s early development are among the reasons why the cemetery is on the National Register of Historic Sites (the only cemetery in Minnesota honored with that designation). Many of those buried in the cemetery, quite literally, built the city of Minneapolis. Their presence is still visible throughout the Phillips Neighborhood most notably in many of the old churches which functioned not only as places of worship but as places where the language and culture of the “old country” was celebrated and preserved.

Among those buried in the cemetery are several named Evans, Hughes, Jones, Morris and Williams—most of them the children of Welsh immigrants. (If your house is 100 years old and located between 15th and 17th Avenues from Franklin Avenue to Lake Street, there’s a good chance that someone with one of those names lived in, or built, your house). This year marks the 100th anniversary of the groundbreaking of the Welsh Church located at 2917 15th Avenue South, on the edge of the parking lot behind In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre. It was the last Welsh church built in Minneapolis.
From 1883 until their new Welsh Church opened its doors in 1911, the church’s congregation met in a church located at the intersection of Franklin and 17th Ave. In a history of the church that was published in 1931, in honor of the congregation’s 50th anniversary, William Jones noted that most of the church’s early members “lived within walking distance of their church.” As members of the congregation moved farther south in the city, they felt the need to build a new church in “a more convenient location,” and moved all the way from Franklin Avenue to Lake Street.

On April 15, 1910, the congregation applied for a permit to build a new church, the last one that would be so closely identified with Welsh language and culture. The church was designed by one of its members, Mr. William J. Williams, an architectural draftsman, who lived at 2711 16th Avenue South. Much of the construction work was done and many of the materials were provided by companies located in the neighborhood, including Hughes Heating and Electric, a company which is still in business. The church cost $30,000, a large sum of money in 1910, and the members of the congregation, who took great pride in their thrift and frugality, paid off all but $1,300 of the mortgage by the time that the congregation held its first service in their new church on September 8, 1911.

Music is the heart and soul of Welsh culture, so it was only a few years after the church opened that the congregation purchased a new pipe organ for $4,000. The fundraising effort was led by Hennepin County Commissioner John W. Williams, a druggist whose business was located at 12th and Franklin;
Church membership was approximately 200 people until the late 1930s. By then, fewer people spoke the language, and marriage outside of the Welsh community was common. The congregation disbanded in 1948, but since then the church has been home a number of different congregations, many of them with ethnic and cultural ties. Today it is home to the very active congregation of Iglesia de Dios Monte Sinai.

“1500 Years of Welsh Poetry in an Hour”
An Evening Celebrating Welsh Culture
Potluck at 6:00 PM
Program at 7:00 PM
Featuring John Good of Musical Group “Tramor” Presenting the Poetry. Free and Open to the Public At the Cultural Wellness Center
1527 East Lake Street

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One Response to “100 Year Old Church is a Treasure within 129 Year Old Legacy and 1500 Years of Welsh Culture”

  1. Ezra Warren says:

    My Church (Christian Reformed Church of Geelong, in Geelong, Australia) uses communion glasses from a case engraved with ‘The Welsh Church of Minneapolis, 1908’.
    I was wondering if perhaps this came from this congregation and if it has found its way to the other side of the world.
    from Ezra

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