Transcribed from the Book
"Counties of Cumberland, Jasper, and Richland, Illinois"
Originally published 1884
F.A. Battey & Co. Chicago, Ill.

    The character of early society in Cumberland County was not such as to encourage the rapid growth of church influences. Many of these people were. members of church organizations, but there were so many difficulties in the way of maintaining regular services that it was a good many years before it was attempted. Camp meetings were held as early as 1830, and scarcely a year passed without them, These were principally under the auspices of the Methodist Church, though all denominations attended and gave their support Among the early settlers there was quite a strong Presbyterian element, who early scoured the services of REV. HULL TOWAR, a Methodist and founder of Jewett. Among the other early preachers in Cumberland County, were GEORGE  HENSON, — HALFACRE, W. E. SMITH and WILLIAM OWENS. There were occasional itinerants of the pioneer order, whose manners were marked more by force than elegance. It was probably of one of these that the following incident is related as happening within the limits of this county: In the early settlement of the county the sacred desk of the minister was often supplied from the humblest walks of life. And it was not infrequently the case, that these impromptu speakers, made telling points, and in their rude, quaint manner, impressed upon the minds of sinners the great danger in which they stood, and revealed to their startled minds the frowning face of offended Deity. But one case we have a recollection, of, in which the minister attempted to draw a practical illustration of the various Christian Churches, and as the sequel will show, was himself disappointed in the result. The minister in question resided at our neighboring town of Greenup (and does so yet), and while riding to the place of worship was busily conning’ over in his own mind the subject he would select to speak from on his arrival at the house of God, and while passing through the forest, inadvertently plucked from a convenient twig a hazel burr, and at once his mind was made up as to the subject of his discourse. Arriving at the church, he ascended the pulpit in all the conscious pride of one inspired to speak words of truth and salvation to a sinful world. Being of that faith known as Christians. or Campbellites, he was over eager to make a point in behalf of the doctrines of his faith, and after the usual preliminaries had been gone through with, the speaker arose and opened his discourse in a self-possessed, confident manner. by stating that there were a great many creeds and doctrines extant in the world, and that theologians were as far apart in many of their church forms and their religious beliefs as earth was from heaven, and that all could not be right; that some of the churches, it was true, approximated to the true faith, but there was but one church that embraced the true theory and practice of the doctrines inculcated by the Savior of mankind, and that was the church he had the honor to unworthy represent. “For instance,” said the speaker (at the same time producing his hazel burr), “this hazel burr I hold in my hand represents the church. “This,” says he (tearing off the burr from the nut) “represents the ‘soft shell ‘Baptist, a mere outer garment, fallible, easily destroyed, and not capable of resistance or self-preservation—a mere nothing, without merit, and insignificant within itself. The next substance you discover,” said the speaker, “is the hull, which represents the ‘old hard shell’ Baptist, and is of a more durable and lasting nature, formed by nature to resist to a greater extent the warring of the elements, and the corruption of time, yet with all of its apparent strength and beautiful formation, it is only another garment which hides from your view the true and only church of the living God. Beneath its solid walls is the kernel, the spirit and life of the Christian religion, the Christian Church itself; and to further demonstrate the illustration, and lay bare to your understanding the truth of my theory, I will remove the shell and reveal the kernel, which is the Christian Church, to your carnal eyes.” And the speaker proceeded to crack the nut, when, to his consternation, and to the surprise of the audience, out rolled a hideous black-headed worm, that had eaten through the outer covering of the “soft shell” Baptist, pierced the solid walls of the “hard shell" and entered the citadel of the true church, devouring it as it went. The speaker was nonplused and amid the surprise and merriment of the audience the meeting was summarily closed, and it was not a great while before the minister also closed his ministerial career, and devoted himself to more congenial pursuits.
    The first church building was a hewed log structure in the southeast corner of Sumpter Township. This was long known as the Salem Methodist Episcopal Church, and was remarkable for its powerful revivals. It was built about 1840, and ten years later was the only church in the county. It rotted down, and was only removed in 1881 or 1882. This denomination has good frame churches at Toledo, Neoga, Greenup, Jewett, Christian Run, Shiloh and Bethel. The organization at Greenup probably dates back further than any other in the county. It was a regular station in 1839 and was probably organized as early as 1835. An old log schoolhouse was used as a place of worship for years, until, in 1851, the present frame structure was erected. The Protestant Methodists have a fine brick church in the west part of Woodbury Township, known as Zion Chapel.
    Among the earlier churches built was the Presbyterian place of worship at Neoga village, in 1854. This was organized by Rev. Joseph Wilson, who was the first person to preach in the village. This organization has had a. thrifty growth, and numbers some 130 members. This denomination had a considerable membership at Toledo, and, in 1866, two lots were donated by the Board of Supervisors to this organization for a building site, but it failed to use it. The Presbyterians have a church, also, at Greenup, where a neat frame church building was erected about 1876. The Baptists have an organization at Neoga, where they built a place of worship in 1872, in Neoga Township, in connection with the Christian denomination, and elsewhere in the county.
    The Christian denomination has a large following in the county. Some of the early ministers of this denomination were REV. THOMAS GOODMAN, BATTEY, WHITE, and BENJAMIN DAVEE, D. S. CONNER was also an early itinerant of this denomination. This denomination has only been noticeably present in the county since 1860, but it has organizations now at Hazel Dell, which has a frame building of its own; at Washington schoolhouse, in Crooked Creek Township; in Union Township; in the eastern part of Neoga Township, where a frame church is owned jointly with the Baptist; Corinth Church, frame building in edge of Woodbury Township; at Janes­ville, which worships in a frame church of its own; at Webster schoolhouse, in Cottonwood Township; and at Plum Grove schoolhouse, in Greenup Township.
    The Free Methodists, a sect better known as the “Perfectionists,” have a frame church at Toledo, erected in 1883. This sect has a considerable representation in the county, and maintains an energetic crusade in behalf of their doctrine. A large tent, known as the tabernacle, is moved about from place to place in the county, in which services are held.

BENJAMIN DAVEE  Is the Great-Great Grandfather of Barb Z. Co-Host of this site, if anyone reading this connects to his line I would love to hear from you.

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