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Trinity Lutheran Church —Millston, Wisconsin


Millston is a community of 135 residents in west-central Wisconsin, sixty miles southeast of Eau Claire. U.S. highway 12, connecting Chicago to Minneapolis, runs through Millston. Today I-94, just at the edge of Millston, carries much of the traffic past Millston. A rail line from Chicago to Minneapolis also runs through Millston. The well-known Twin Cities 400 train traversed the route for many years—400 miles in 400 minutes. The track is still well kept; frequent trains pass through Millston, though none stop.

In the mid to late 1800’s, the logging industry flourished; sawmill operations sprang up, and logs were floated down the Black River to Onalaska (La Crosse). The areas of Black River Falls, Warrens, Tomah and Wisconsin Rapids also contained many marshes—difficult for logging—home to wild cranberries. Commercial cranberry farms and bogs dot the area today.

In the 1850’s Mr. Hugh B. Mills settled southeast of Black River Falls, now Millston Township. He operated a sawmill on Robinson Creek (it burned down in 1863), started Mills’ Tavern (hotel) on the road from Black River Falls to Tomah, and operated a farm. His “tavern” became Mills Station, a stop on the rail line from Chicago to Minneapolis. In 1874 Mills built a sawmill on Wyman Creek near Mills’ Station, thus officially beginning what is today Millston. His house next to the sawmill still stands. Mr. Mills owned hundreds of acres of timber and farm land. He became co-founder of the Jackson Bank of Black River Falls.

By the 1880’s, German Lutherans had also settled in the area east and northeast of Millston in Knapp Township. The land was better suited for farming than the land in the immediate Millston area was. A church named St. Luke’s was organized. The school building from the disbanded logging villages of McKenna and Zeda was moved to the four-corners area of Knapp Township, to serve as St. Luke’s Lutheran Church. The congregation became a member of the Wisconsin Synod. 

In 1955 Pastor Robert Mackensen began serving St. Luke’s. In 1960 he and a majority of the members of St. Luke’s left the Wisconsin Synod. They formed Trinity Lutheran Church with fifty-six members. The congregation began meeting in Millston in a church which the Mills family had built, known as the Millston Union Church, not affiliated with any one denomination or confession. Trinity continued to rent the Union Church building for 25 years. Trinity joined the newly formed CLC in 1962.

In 1968 Trinity purchased a lot in Millston for a mobile home for its pastor, and eventually placed a pre-built home on the same site. Because the Union Church building was small and the congregation was growing, Trinity purchased additional property next to the parsonage and began a building project. Work progressed over the course of six years. The new church, seating 125, was dedicated in December, 1988.

In 1990 Trinity had 130 members. During the ensuing years, however, the numbers began to dwindle. At this writing there are twenty-eight members, many of whom have roots in Knapp Township. This small group is determined to continue. With the energy of several new members, Trinity has renewed its outreach efforts. Trinity has mission festival, going door-to-door to invite community members. An annual highlight is the spring choir concert presented at Trinity by the ILC Tour Choir prior to its ten-day choral trip.

In 2015 Trinity aligned itself with Morning Star of Fairchild and Peace with God of Onalaska, Wisconsin. Pastor Richard Kanzenbach serves all three, using a rotation of retired pastors, ILC seminary students, and ILC professors to assist in conducting weekly services at Trinity. By God’s grace the Gospel message of REST from the guilt of our sins, REST from the burdens of this life, and REST in heaven through Jesus our crucified and risen Savior continues, and prayerfully will continue, to sound forth from the little flock in Millston, for the welfare of their own souls and the souls of others!

The congregation has been served over the years by pastors Robert Mackensen, James Sandeen, Robert Mehltretter, Clarence Hanson, Mark Bernthal, Mark Gullerud, Mark Bohde, Arthur Schulz, Matthew Ude, Lawrence Bade, Burgess Huehn, and currently Richard Kanzenbach. Numerous vacancy pastors from ILC and Eau Claire have also served.

Richard Kanzenbach is pastor of Morning Star Lutheran Church in Fairchild, Wisconsin, Trinity Lutheran Church in Millston, Wisconsin, and Peace with God Evangelical Lutheran Church in Onalaska, Wisconsin.