On June 7, 1870, the Cross Evangelical Lutheran Congregation, Unaltered Augsburg Confession, was founded. Its first services were held in a rented home, which also contained a Lutheran school.
Just one year earlier, in 1869, the first African-American church in Milwaukee, St. Mark African Methodist Episcopal Church, was founded at the corner of Fourth and Cedar (Kilbourn). For nearly the next 100 years, Whites and African Americans worshiped separately.
In 1875, the Cross congregation built a new church on donated land at 16th and Fond du Lac, moving into their new 65×40-ft. church on Christmas Eve, 1876.
By 1895, Cross added a new front structure, including a tower and steeple, plus a new balcony and pipe organ inside.
After the Civil War, African-Americans started to migrate north, pushed by threats of lynching from some Southern whites.
By 1900, 860 African-Americans lived in Milwaukee, mostly in an area called Bronzeville, between 2nd and 12th streets, and Highland and Walnut. At the same time, many of German and Scandinavian descent lived in the area around Cross Church, just four blocks west of Bronzeville.
In 1923, Cross Lutheran Church dedicated a new school building and parish hall.
In 1930, ground was broken for a new church building large enough to seat 700, and a parsonage — the one that still serves us today.
Over the next 30 years, the congregation grew and added a succession of seminary student pastoral assistants and pastors to the staff.
In 1953, Cross Lutheran reached its peak membership at 1938 confirmed members and 2638 baptized members.
By the 1950s, the African-American population in Milwaukee had grown to 21,772.
Freeway construction in 1953 cut right through the heart of Bronzeville, and the Hillside Housing Project displaced many.
1953 was also the year of Peak Membership at Cross Church, with ,1938 confirmed memers, and 2,638 baptized members.
Cross Lutheran’s first African-American members, attracted to the church by its Day School, were baptized at Cross in 1957, and confirmed in 1959 by Pastor. R. J. Lillie.
In the 1960s, migration from the south increased the African-American population to 62,458, attracted by the availability of jobs in foundries, meat packing plants, and tanneries.