Yankee farmers began to settle the Stoughton area in the 1830s, and in 1847 Vermonter Luke Stoughton platted the town on a crook in the Yahara River. The town grew steadily, thanks largely to the arrival of the Milwaukee and Mississippi Railroad in 1853 and Norwegian immigrants in the 1870s. Stoughton pioneered in other ways, too. At a time when society saw the home as middle-class women’s proper sphere, Stoughton’s Universalist Church welcomed women as pastors. The congregation’s first clergywoman commanded the pulpit from 1869 until 1873; two others ministered briefly from 1883 to 1884 and from 1890 until 1892.
Founded in 1858, the congregation was Stoughton’s first. Shipman designed the cream brick church, but the men of the congregation did much of the construction work. The Greek Revival design centers on a square wooden tower with a slender spire above a pedimented gable, whose shape is accentuated by brick corbeling. The original plans called for a large door at the center of the facade, with a window on either side, but as built, the church reverses that configuration so that entrances flank an oversized two-tier window, with brick pilasters defining the three bays.