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A Trails Media Guide ~ Available Fall of 2001

Copyright 2001 All Rights Reserved

This Preface and Table of Contents are offered as a pre-release preview of the book. As such, there will be some minor changes before print publication.

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“Ancient sites beckon you to hit the road soon”  

From actual fortune cookie received by authors before traveling over 9,000 Wisconsin miles


Where Does One Find The Sacred?

People have always sought out those special places where there seems to be a strong connection with the divine. The ancient Celts referred to them as “thin places,” where the veil separating Earth from the spirit world was virtually transparent. They are the places that inspire feelings of awe, of reverence, of reassurance.

Throughout history, certain geographical spaces have attracted people of a certain religion or belief system – sometimes, more than one. Jews, Christians, and Moslems all claim the Jerusalem as a sacred city. Early Christian churches were often built on land already considered sacred.

For the traveler seeking to find the spirit – however he or she chooses to define that term – Wisconsin provides countless opportunities. Most sacred sites simply exist quietly. There may be one right down the street, and you may not know it. This book will help you find some of them. Some will still need to be discovered. When we began to list the sites for inclusion, we found no single resource for the information in this book. We found many instances of cultural or scientific selectivity and lots of confusing and contradictory data. 

Certainly, every person defines the concept of sacredness differently. You may have your own sacred site in your home or backyard that is yours alone. You may find someone else’s beliefs strange, and therefore find someone else’s sacred site hard to accept or comprehend. This book will provide locations and descriptions of sacred spaces you may want to visit – either because they reflect your own belief system or they teach you about someone else’s belief system. We purposely did not include the private or fragile places that we became aware of, unless the owners or protectors approved or insisted that we do so.

The State of Wisconsin is blessed to be home to huge number of sacred sites, many of which have features that make them unique in all the word. We started with an accumulated database over 850 sites. This database included some of the oldest holy places in the state. These sites have meaning for ancient peoples as well as modern people. They transcend time and dogma to truly become “thin places.” Since sacredness is outside of time, sites of great antiquity as well as brand new structures are included in the guide.

Because Wisconsin has so many sites considered sacred by various people, we had to choose criteria carefully for inclusion in this book. Among those sites are retreat centers, churches, temples, cemeteries, and effigy mounds. Generally, each sacred sites described or listed in this book has one or more of the following qualities:

v     It is considered sacred by a group (or groups) of people, not an individual.

v     It is on the National Registry of Historic Places, or is otherwise of historic significance. Properties on the National Registry must be associated with either events of broad historical significance, or with the lives of persons of outstanding importance; other elements in the evaluation of NRHP sites include distinctive characteristics of a particular architectural type, or high artistic value. For this book we also included sites that were the subject of legends, which made them culturally significant.

v     It is otherwise unique. Some of the sites have national significance.

Then we rated the sites in four categories: historic relevance, uniqueness, aesthetic beauty, and intrinsic value (the “awe” factor). Obviously, these are highly subjective categories, but the transcendent quality of these places needed a certain subjective, perhaps spiritual, response. Although historic and scientific information is included in this guide, this guide is intended to be an experiential guide. We traveled over 9,000 miles to qualify the sites included. This guide represents the highest-rated sites.  

Most of the sites can be visited for free, or for a small admission. State parks require a fee that can be in the form of an annual pass for all state parks. The public may view all of the sites listed here. Some are open all the time; others require advanced arrangements (we’ve included phone numbers and contacts so you can call ahead). Some can only be viewed outside, usually due to antiquity.

Various rules of conduct are appropriate for various sites. For example, some churches may require formal dress. Silence is appropriate at most sites, especially at Native American effigy mounds. It is inappropriate to picnic on the mounds. It can be considered rude to walk on graves (including burial mounds). There are some other guidelines that apply to the traveler in all places:

 v     When visiting a sacred site, especially if it represents a belief system different from your own, be cognizant of the reverence others have for it. Be respectful of others’ beliefs about the location, even if you don’t share those beliefs.

 v     Ask questions when appropriate. Take advantage of the visit to find out something you didn’t know. But be respectful of people who may be at the site to worship. The site may only be open during worship periods. Make the time to stay and ask questions when worship is concluded.

 v     Ask about the appropriateness of taking photographs; although most public places do not have such restrictions, certain ceremonies are highly inappropriate to record in any manner.

 v     It is always appropriate to pray or meditate quietly at any of these sites, but do not enter an altar area or touch sacred items without asking or being invited.

 v     Do not expect to be included in ceremonies of traditions you do not belong and do not engage in ceremonies not approved by the current caretakers of the site. If there is any doubt, then ask.

 v     Most importantly, these places have been considered and most continue to be considered holy places, sacred to at least one group of people in the history of human existence in this land. Ask yourself, “What makes this sacred?” Can you “feel” it?

 May all your journeys and pilgrimages to sacred places be fruitful, nurturing and healing. May the “thin places” bring you closer to things divine, allowing you to catch a glimpse of the spirit worlds not normally seen.


The Rev. John-Brian Paprock

Teresa Peneguy Paprock

Table of Contents




Preface: Where does one find the Sacred? 


Introduction: Religion in Wisconsin

Chapter 1 – Greater Milwaukee

Recommended Sites in Greater Milwaukee

Catholic Sites

Episcopal Sites

Orthodox Sites

Presbyterian Sites

Other Churches

Buddhist Sites

Islamic Sites

Jewish Sites

Native American Sites

Other Sites 

Chapter 2 – Southeast Wisconsin

Recommended Sites in Southeast Wisconsin

Episcopal Sites

          Early Wisconsin Episcopal Churches

United Church of Christ/Congregational Churches

Catholic Sites

Lutheran Sites

Presbyterian Sites

Baptist Churches

Orthodox Churches

Other Christian Sites

Native American Sites

Mound Sites

          Washington County

          Jefferson/Walworth Area

          Rock County

          Waukesha County

Unitarian Universalist Sites

Jewish Sites

Islamic Sites

Eastern Religious Sites

Other Sites

Chapter 3 – Northeast Wisconsin

Recommended Sites in Northeast Wisconsin

Native American Sites

          Door County Sites

          Reservation Sites

Natural Sites

Catholic Sites

          Wisconsin’s Holy Land

          Father Allouez

          Other Catholic Sites

Episcopal Sites 

Methodist Sites

Lutheran Sites

Other Christian Sites

Jewish Sites

Church Camps and Retreat Centers


Chapter 4 – Northwest Wisconsin


Recommended Sites in Northwest Wisconsin

Apostle Islands

Ojibwe Reservation Sites

Native American Mission Churches

Parks, Mounds and Other Related Sites

Orthodox Churches

Catholic Sites

Other Sites

Chapter 5 – Southwest Wisconsin

Recommended Sites in Southwest Wisconsin

Mound Groups

          Four Lakes (Yahara River)

          Wisconsin River North

          Wisconsin River West

          Mississippi River South

Other Native American Sites

          Legendary Waters

          Stones With Stories

          The Heights

          The Depths

Lutheran Sites

Catholic Sites

          Shrines and Grottoes

          Mazzechelli Churches

          Monasteries and Retreats

          Cathedrals, Churches and Chapels

Methodist Sites

Presbyterian Churches

Episcopal Churches

United Church of Christ Sites

Orthodox Churches

Other Christian Sites

          Labyrinth Sites

Unitarian Universalist Sites

Buddhist Sites

Jewish Sites

Other Sites


Category Appendices:

          A. Baptist Sites 

B. Buddhist Temples in Wisconsin

          C. Catholic Sites

          D. Episcopal Sites

          E. Jewish Sites

          F. Lutheran Sites

G. Methodist Sites

          H. Wisconsin Effigy Mounds

          I. Islamic Sites

          J. Orthodox Churches in Wisconsin

          K. Presbyterian Sites

          L. Religious Retreat Centers by County

          M. United Church of Christ (Congregationalist) Sites 

N. Wisconsin Unitarian Universalist Sites


Selected Bibliography


Site Index

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