Almost 200 years before Elsah appeared on any map, and well before white settlers began to occupy the Elsah riverfront, the limestone cliffs near the village witnessed the passage of many strangers in a new land.
In 1853, James Semple, a General in the Black Hawk War, bought land at a site near present-day Grafton. He had the land surveyed, laid out the town, and named it Elsah. To attract settlers, Semple gave land to anyone who would build a home of native stone. He donated land for a Methodist Church, a village meeting hall, and the school, which he built.
The early Elsah Methodist Society met in private homes until their parsonage was built in 1859 to serve the Grafton Circuit of the Church. Church service then took place in the parsonage. In 1874 Elsah’s Methodists built and dedicated the present-day church. It is of frame construction, Gothic in style, with a native limestone foundation. The church itself is twenty-six by forty-two feet.
Elsah generally shared a minister with nearby Methodist churches. For example, in the early 1880s, the same pastor served Elsah, Salem, Otterville, and the old Bethel church near McClusky.
Today, the pastor serves Elsah, Alton Grace, and Hartford United Methodist churches.