Site 5 Wee White Kirk/Knight's Lake

Site 5 Wee White Kirk/Knight's Lake

Wee White Kirk

From the Wee White Kirk you will discover several other sites of early settler history when the Muirs were here. First, you can view this United Presbyterian Church built in 1865, then walk through the historic adjacent cemetery called the "pioneer cemetery" by John Muir. You can also view or walk down the road that John Muir and friends David Taylor and David Gray helped build as a corduroy road, and then drive past Knight's Lake, now called Mulhern Lake where Daniel Muir rebaptized his children with full immersion baptism.

The Corduroy Road

Standing in front of the Wee White Kirk, look to the north up 13th Road. That is one of the many roads first built as a "corduroy road" over wetlands and swamps in Marquette County. This was a common practice that used Tamarack logs because they stand up to moisture so well. In the early settler years, roads were one of the top priorities of County government and citizens were charged a poll or road tax. Instead of paying a tax, they could work to build roads. There was a road boss assigned to sections of the county who would either collect the tax or assign road crews to build and maintain roads. John and the "twa Davies" as the Davids were called (twa means two in Scottish) were assigned this road to build. Muir credits Gray and Taylor with teaching him about poetry and literature. Taylor is buried in the cemetery at the Kirk. The photo show some fourth graders walking the road. It's all asphalt now but you could still see logs sticking out from under the asphalt until it was all ripped up and redone in the 1970s. Below is a section of Tamarack log "road" made for a John Muir exhibit in Montello in 2010. You can see why it was called corduroy. Dirt and sticks would often be used to fill in between the logs to make the drive over them smoother.

The Wee White Kirk

Now scroll down and view the inside of the Wee White Kirk. Kirk means church in Scottish. The first religious services were held in people's homes. Daniel Muir was a preacher of the Disciples of Christ. Daniel Muir was an often-invited preacher around the area, according to research done by John Muir’s biographer Linnie Marsh Wolfe and people liked his low-key, sincerely felt (but long) sermons and the fact he didn’t expect a payment for his work. In 1851, a United Presbyterian Church of North America was organized in the Town of Buffalo. In 1865 the UP congregation built the Wee White Kirk and it still stands today on 13th road, the road that was partially a corduroy road built by John Muir and Davy Gray and Davy Taylor. When first built, the only benches were around the outside of the room. Pews were added later. Also, only singing was allowed with no instruments at first. The Scotch/Irish congregation would sing the songs acapella and the Reid brothers who are buried here in the cemetery lead the singing. People would walk up to six miles to come to church on Sunday. The women would often take off their shoes until they got in sight of the church, then put them on, in order to save the wear on them. On the day they were finishing work on this building, a rider on horseback came up the corduroy road and told the workers that the Civil War had ended.

“An acre of ground was reserved and fenced for graves, and soon consumption came to fill it. One of the saddest instances was that of a Scotch family from Edinburgh, consisting of a father, son and daughter, who settled eighty acres of land within half a mile of our place. The daughter died of consumption the third year after their arrival, the son one or two years later, and at last the father followed his two children. Thus sadly ended bright hopes and dreams of a happy home in rich and free America.” John Muir in The Story of My Boyhood and Youth

The Pioneer Cemetery


Life was hard for settlers and many succumbed to disease, accident, childbirth difficulties or other tragedies. John Muir called the cemetery next to the Wee White Kirk the “pioneer cemetery.” His sister called it the Louden Graham Cemetery when she wrote to John about the death of their brother-in-law. Besides two nephews and a brother-in-law of John Muir’s, the cemetery holds the graves of many of the most influential people in the young John Muir’s life including the Duncans who encouraged him to take his inventions to the State Fair and the McReaths whose pet raccoon Muir wrote about in his autobiography.

The grave stone above is of George Galloway, the son of David and Sarah (Muir) Galloway. He drowned in the Fox River on his 19th birthday. His father David is buried in a grave close by. David Galloway was a friend to John Muir and was greatly respected for his kindness. He believed that people should only take tracts of land big enough to make a living and not push the Indians off all the land.

Also nearby is the grave of David's parents. George Galloway was a tenant farmer in Fifeshire, Scotland. He was an innovator of draining bogs and rehabilitating worn soil. He was one of the first farmers in Scotland to use a barometer to forecast weather. John Muir whittled a barometer. His drawing of it is below. It is very likely that he learned about them from Mr. Galloway. John thought highly of him and his wife.

William Duncan was closely tied to the Muir family. He built his house by the side of the road instead of up a long drive.It was a symbol of kindness to build so close to the road. William was a stone mason and miner in Scotland and is the one who taught Daniel and John how to check for bad air in the well John was digging when they moved to Hickory Hill, their second home in Marquette County. He taught them to throw water down the well, drop in brush on a rope to stir up the air and lower a candle to see if the air was good. John almost died at the bottom of the well before they knew to do this. Duncan also leant books to John Muir including Scott’s Waverly Novels. The Bride of Lammermoor is one of these, a melo dramatic tale of lost love. Duncan is also remembered for telling Daniel Muir that he needed to feed John and the rest of the family more than mush and milk.It was at a time when Daniel Muir had the family on the Graham diet, no doubt, a vegetarian diet that was supposed to quell lustful and sinful thoughts. Daniel took John to a doctor who also said the boy needed meat. William is also the one who encouraged John to take his whittled inventions to the State Fair in Madison.

His wife, Jean Hannan Duncan Jean was a midwife who helped most of the babies in the neighborhood into the world. She spun her own wool from her own sheep and made a whole bolt of cotton cloth into sheets the year before she died.

David Taylor is one of the Twa Davies that helped John on the corduroy road and who shared literature with him when his father wanted him to only read the Bible and religious tracts. He was Buried with only boulders as markers and this gravestone was placed in 2015. It is a boulder from the base of a historic granary that once stood on land owned by Daniel Muir and is now in Packwaukee. The verse was written by David and only recently discovered. It is from a longer poem of his. Taylor lived two miles north of the cemetery. He and his mother, grandmother, and two uncles settled adjacent to the east of the Muirs. The Taylor family arrived in 1854. David was 16. He wrote to David Gray that some winters he was very lonely. To James Whitehead, another neighborhood boy, he wrote, “My seclusion is almost without parallel. I have seen no living sould for many days. I am very tired, nobody to care for, nothing to see but snow and sky, nothing to look forward to but death. I do not remember the time I was so heart hungry for someone to talk to.” He belonged to the Old Settlers Club and wrote papers to be read there. He was absent from the meetings in the late 1880s but it was said that his paper “in conception, poetic sentiment and language bespoke the writer’s originality and high rank as a logical reasoned and word-painter." Even though their house, just east of the Muir’s had thin walls and was bitterly cold in winter, the lower rooms were lined with books. George Mair wrote that Davie had a wonderful memory and that the family had remarkable literary tastes. David loved poetry, his favorite being Byron, Moore, Shelly, Coleridge, and Tennyson. David had “big luminous eyes and a sensitive face.” He and David Gray who went on to be a well known newspaper editor and writer were best friends.

David Taylor stayed on at the farm after the other members of his family died and he was known for the apples he grew. When James Whitehead visited the year before he died, Taylor said, “I feel I am being hurried forward by flight of time, till soon I shall be placed in the little row over there in the graveyard.” Taylor died alone and his body had to be removed through a window in the upstairs level. After he died James Whitehead wrote, “His companionship was a source of pleasure and delight…He was the Gamaliel at whose feet I sat a willing pupil, delighted, charmed, electrified by the magnetism of his wonderful personality. He possessed a poet’s fervid fancy and was passionately fond of paintings, flowers and music. In his wanderings among the woodlands that surrounded his home he would turn aside from the beaten path lest his presence might disturb the sweet carol of birds. Taylor would transport you on wings of thoughts into other ideal realms, peopled by beings and surrounded by images such as his own fertile imagination could alone produce.”

David Gray was the other of the "twa Davies." He is not buried here, but corresponded with David Taylor over his life time. He became a well known newspaper editor in Buffalo, New York and a known poet. He was also a good friend of Mark Twain's (Samuel Clemens). The photo shows David Gray, right, with Samuel Clemens in the center. In 1857 Gray was living in Buffalo. He wrote to Taylor, “O, I wish you had me a day, the now, Davie—ony a day—up there somewhere between your field and the old Observatory! It would be worth millions to me. The weather has lived out the summer, now; the air to-night is clear and cold, with a brisk breeze. I can fancy you in the old howff, as vividly as possible, and almost persuaded myself, a minute ago, that I was threading my way among the trees, between Willie’s and Davie Mair’s. If I am—

The stars are out, and eastward fly Some scattered clouds along the sky; The night is clear, but sharp and shrill, The wind is whistling o’er the hill, And with a dreary autumn sound The trees are stirred, above, around. Oh! With a sweet and strange surprise Each sigh o’er floods me, soul and eyes.

In 1862 David Gray wrote to David Taylor, “….I would like to have one long summer-night with you. We would start from the river-side, about gloaming, and sit a half-hour on every fence, as we came up. By that means, the moon would be large and white ere we reached the weird swamp, where the mist used to meet us and the tamaracks were wont to whisper and shudder as they listened. Passing the Peutherer shanty (is it haunted?—it ought to be; for was ever a cleaner bit of domestic tragedy than it knew, enacted?)—passing that, I say, we would mount the knoll and look down into those round basins of mist which I see often in my dreams; and then we would go back, again, I think, by Davie Mair’s fence; and the marsh is about the best place for us,--there, accordingly, we would seat ourselves and have it out.”

Knight's Lake

From the Wee White Kirk, drive west on O, then take a quick right (south) on 13th. You will pass Grouse Road. Continue on 13th and you will see Knight's Lake on your left (west).

Knight’s Lake is named Mulhern Lake today for the Mulhern family who lived along its shores and farmed there for many years. This is where Daniel Muir conducted full immersion baptism for his children. The disciples of Christ believed that because infant baptism was not talked about in the New Testament, only adult baptism was the true baptismal rite. Knight’s Lake was the site of full immersion baptisms for many years. Religious services were held in a log cabin on Knight’s Lake. THERE IS NO PLACE TO PARK, BUT AS YOU DRIVE ALONG 13TH ROAD, YOU WILL COME IN VIEW OF THE LAKE. Look across the lake from the road. It was someplace on the opposite side of the lake that religious services were held and where Daniel re-baptized his children including John Muir. You can drive around the lake and travel north on 14th road which is a Wisconsin Rustic Road that will take you to Grouse Rd. Turn east on Grouse to find Hickory Hill, Muir's second home in Marquette County.


Keep reading to learn more about this land, religion of Daniel Muir and Asahel Knight who owned the lake where John and his siblings were rebaptized by their father.

Above is a photo of the Township of Buffalo 1855 census that shows Asahel Knight and his family living there. Below is a later map used to show the land that Asahel purchased and settled around what was to become known as Knight's Lake.

The year before Daniel Muir rebaptized his children, he attended a religious revival in Montello. Below is a short newspaper piece about that revival where people were baptized in the Montello River.

If you are interested in the story of religion and the conservation movement connection, an excellent book is Inherit the Holy Mountain by Mark Stoll. Stoll came to Marquette County to research Muir's boyhood for the book.

Knight’sLake, today called Mulhern Lake, is one of five significant sites in theMarquette County John Muir Neighborhood. It is where Daniel Muir re-baptized his children. Here is what we know about Knight’s Lake.

In 1857 Daniel Muir took his children toKnight's Lake (now Mulhern Lake) to baptize them (Millie Stanley The Heart ofJohn Muir’s World). Although they hadbeen baptized as infants, Thomas Campbell, the founder of the Disciples ofChrist, the sect that Daniel adhered to, encouraged people to drop infantbaptism because it was not in the Bible, but adult baptism was. Thomas Campbelland his son Alexander were from Ireland.

Asahel C. Knight purchased landaround what was to be called Knight’s Lake in 1849. Land records show that he purchased the easthalf of the northeast quarter and the south west quarter of the north eastquarter of section thirty-one in Township fourteen north of Range teneast. It consisted of 120 acres.

AsahelC. Knight was born in New York. The 1850 census shows Knight, 45 years old, hiswife Louisa and two-year-old daughter Harriet living in the Township of Buffaloin Marquette County. He was still inBuffalo in 1855. In the 1860 censusKnight is listed with a 39 year old Elvina, 12 year old Rota J and 4 year oldSilas E. While at times, transcriptionof names is wrong, it would seem Louisa may have died and Asahel remarriedsince the age is different for Elvina. The original document is not readily available to view, but it could bethat Harriet was mistakenly transcribed as Rota since the age and birthplacematch in both censuses. In 1870 Knightis listed alone on the census as a farmer on the same land as a Wilson. Louisa would have been 22 and Silas 14 butthey are not on the census. We do notknow where any of this Knight family is buried.

Churchservices, like schools, were an important part of early settler neighborhoodsin Wisconsin. After statehood in 1848and as more and more settlers-built homes in Marquette County, the Disciples ofChrist and other religious sects like United Presbyterian met together tolisten to preaching elders or travelling preachers. They met in homes, schools, and finally, newchurches built by the settlers.

DanielMuir was a preacher and in the Township of Buffalo was one of the bestliked. He was invited to many communitiesto preach and he never asked for payment. On Sundays he arrived at worship in "blacks, fringed plaid andchimney-pot hat." (Linnie-Marsh Wolfe Son of the Wilderness) He spokequietly and gave hour and a half long sermon after hymn singing and three quartersof an hour-long prayers. A letter fromSarah Muir Galloway to John tells about their father preaching in Montello andat French’s Creek which is located just south of Knight’s Lake.

Daughterof William Duncan, Scottish neighbor to the Muirs and important in young John’slife, was one of the last recorders of those who knew John Muir in MarquetteCounty. She reported that her mother,Jessie Duncan, told her how her father William met Daniel Muir as he was taking his children toKnights Lake. “William Duncan recalledthat he was out in his yard one warm Sunday morning when Daniel Muir came bywith his team pulling the lumber wagon with all his children in it. Daniel told William that he was going tobaptize them in the nearby lake.”

WilliamDuncan was an important neighbor to the Muirs. He loaned John Muir Waverly novels and other books and encouraged Johnto take his inventions to the State Agricultural Fair. His wife, Jean Duncan, encouraged John topursue his dreams. She is remembered asa very kind woman and one with “second sight.” Jean once had a pet pig follow her to church when the services were heldin a log cabin at Knight’s Lake ( ).

Knight’sLake was renamed Mulhern Lake in 2010 for the Mulhern family that settled onthe lake in 1912. Mulherns settledbefore this at another location in the Township of Buffalo.

KathleenMulhern Ganzlin who was 92 in 2010, took some time from a family reunion thatyear to recall her childhood days on the Mulhern family farm settled in 1912 byBen (Bernard) Mulhern and Mae (Mary) McIntyre Mulhern. The Mulhern children attended Graham School(named for Louden Graham who donated land for the pioneer cemetery) and she wassent a year early because she cried so much when her brothers and sisters allwalked down the road to school.

Asstated above, Daniel Muir was a Disciples of Christ preacher who believed infull immersion for baptism. Later areafamilies also practiced full immersion and Kathleen can remember as a childhiding behind a tree and watching church goers being immersed in the lake on aSunday.