Illinois Genealogy Trails

This excerpt was contributed by Karen Swegle Holt.
Thank you Karen!


Taken from History of Fairview Township and The Village of Fairview, 139th Anniversary, 1836-1975 by H. E. Wood


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In the original plat corner lots were set aside by Foster and Hall to be used for church purposes designating the northeast lots (1,2,3) for the Methodists, the northwest lot (15) to the Baptists, the southeast lot (70) to the Presbyterians, and the southeast lot (84) to the Cumberland Presbyterians. None of these lots were ever claimed for church purposes. In the plat of the first addition, Peter Pumyea made a gift to the Reformed Church of all lots where the present Church and Chapel Stand.

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As soon as the settlers had provided living accommodations for their families, they turned their attention toward the establishment of churches and schools. As has been pointed out the first families were a religious people who immediately provided the necessary facilities for their moral and spiritual needs. Also, they recognized the need for learning, and accordingly, schools were established to provide the more formal training for the children.

Simultaneously with the building of schools, plans were being made for the establishment of a church, which was to be a most important influence in the lives of the early settlers and future generations. The Reformed Church of Fairview, Illinois has several claims to distinction. It is a denominational member of the Reformed Church of America, dating from April 10, 1628. In the years 1836 and 1837 a few families from Somerset County, New Jersey moved to the new western country and settled in and around the present Village of Fairview. The ancestry of these migrant people is traceable to the Dutch Colony of New Amsterdam where the Reformed Church of America had its beginning. When the settlers arrived in the Fairview vicinity the brought with them a deep religious faith and an abiding belief in Christian Education. Through their efforts and devotion the first Reformed Church west of the Allegheny Mountains was established in Fairview; and about thirty-five years ago the D.A.R. commemorated this distinction by installing a bronze plaque with the inscription “First Reformed Church west of the Allegheny Mountains.” This plaque can be observed as one enters the east door of the Church.

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On August 19, 1837 when the new settlement of Fairview consisted of only a log schoolhouse, three log cabins, and a small frame building, a meeting of several interested people met at the home of Daniel Groendyke. As a result of this meeting a request was made to the parent church in New Jersey for help to organize a church in the new settlement. Accordingly, Rev. A.D. Wilson came to Fairview, and on October 16, 1837 the church was organized with three men and five women forming the membership. The first consistory of the church was composed of Clarkson F. Van Nostrand and John S. Wyckoff as Elders, and Aaron Addis as Deacon. Rev. Wilson returned to New Jersey, but when no one would volunteer to become pastor of the new church, he returned with is family on July 1, 1838, to serve the church until his retirement in 1856.

On Monday, November 26, 1838, on the grounds donated by Peter Pumyea the cornerstone of the church was laid; and the church was completed and dedicated on Sunday, October 3, 1841. The architectural construction employed was similar to that to be found in New Jersey and the Mohawk Valley of New York. The building was 45x65 feet with a belfry in which an 850 pound bell was installed to call the people to worship. In the church were sixty-four pews varying in length from nine to twelve feet; the ends were fourteen inches wide and were made of white walnut (butternut); and a black walnut paneled door enclosed the entrance to each pew.

In 1841 the pews were the individual property of the church, but there was a problem of debt which had not been paid so there arose a proposal to sell the pews and convey them by deed to the worshippers. On Saturday, October 23, 1841, the pews were sold by placing an appraised value on each pew according to its location and size. If there was contention over any pew then it was to be sold to the highest bidder. The fixed price for the pews ranged from $30 to $100. Eight pews in the rear of the church were forever to remain free. As families chose to move out or transfer into the church, the pews were to be exchanged at the original fixed rate with no barter or gain taking place. At the close of the sale records show that the following pioneer families had acquired a pew: John G. Voorhees, Richard Davis, Daniel G. Polhemus, Richard Garretson, D. M. Wyckoff, John Berger, John Camron, Peter Ten Eyck, James Latourette, J. W. Suydam, Joseph C. Rockafellow, William Wyckoff, Davie Van Fleet, William Suydam, Johnson DeHart, Aaron D. Addis, Daniel Groendyke, Peter B. Van Arsdale, Lawrence Williamson, Simon I. Wyckoff, Darius Gilmore, H. H. Hartough, Jacob Cox, Isaac Rose, William Hageman, John Lane, Isaac Hageman, Daniel Perrine, Theodore Young, Daniel Broherd, John S. Wyckoff, Peter Pumyea, Cornelius Wyckoff, Stephen V. Robinson, J. V. D. Gaddis, Thomas Beer, Isaac I. Brokaw, Ten Eyck Wyckoff, W. T. Vander Veer, Levinus Sperry, Henry F. Stout, Edwin Shields, Jacob Young, Cornelius Suydam, and A.D. Wilson. This list of names not only indicates the people who acquired pews in the new church, but also indicates the rapidity of the influx of new families into the pioneer village. These pews were replaced during the pastorate of Rev. G. Watermulder (1902-1903) by the present seating arrangement. Many owners of the old pews took them home for sentimental reasons or for the fine walnut lumber in them. Previous to this time the high pulpit was replaced. It was the custom in the early days among many churches for the minister to be located above the general level so that he could look down upon his congregation, and, also, at the same time, he could see those seated in the balcony. As the trend changed toward lowering the pulpit, some wanted the pulpit to remain as it was in the beginning, while others preferred the newer trend.

During the pastorate of Rev. W. H. Van Doren a controversy arose among the congregation over the social behavior of the pastor. It divided the congregation to such an extent that the pastor was asked to submit his resignation. He refused to resign unless he were paid expenses to move back East. At first, the congregation would not listen to this. The dispute among the congregation became so bitter that the Illinois Classis was called in to help remedy the situation. Finally, some expense money for moving was granted the pastor, and he left the church and vicinity in February of 1893. However, the controversy within the church continued throughout the summer. This caused some bitter feeling for a short time as the following item from the Fairview Bee of August 17, 1893, indicates:

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“There was a meeting held at the Reformed Church, Monday ‘to bury the hatchet’. This is hardly a proper term to use in connection with a church difficulty, but the case demands it, and it is hoped for the good of the church, society, and all concerned that the weapon is buried good and deep never to be resurrected again”. The Rev. Mr. Wessels, who was the pastor of the Raritan Church, effected a compromise which saved the church from being broken up.

Another item of interest in the history of the Fairview Reformed Church was a tree planting day. The site of the new Village being almost a treeless prairie suggested the need for shade and landscaping. In the spring of 1863, the Rev. J. S. Joralmon suggested to the families of the church that they plant in the church yard family memorial trees. At the specified time the families came with one or more trees and commenced the work of setting out the trees, according to a previously designed plan. The trees were set in parallelograms, sixteen feet apart in the west part of the ground where stands the church, and eighteen feet apart on the east side where stood the Academy Building. Two hundred seven trees were planted in the church square. Many of these young trees were elms which grew to great size and lent their majesty for more than one hundred years.

In one instance the Reformed Church lost an opportunity for greatness to itself, to the local community, and to a large area of the Midwest. True to Reformed Church tradition, after provision had been made for worship, men began to plan for Christian Education of their children, especially preparation for further ministers. In the year 1766, Gov. William Franklin (son of Benjamin) in the name of King George, granted a charter for the erection of Queens College at New Brunswick, New Jersey. This fact was well known to many of the early settlers of Fairview, as it had been the Church College back East. In 1858, the Particular Synod of Chicago, together with the Classis of Illinois were very seriously considering the establishment of an educations institution. A committee was appointed by the Classis of Illinois for such an institution to be located within the bounds of the Illinois Classis. Fairview, being the mother church of the West, and having the largest membership of any church in the Classis, argued that, by priority right, the school should be located in Fairview. On Saturday, March 5, 1859, a meeting was held locally and in summary the following resolution was adopted: “Therefore, be it Resolve, that we, the congregation of the Dutch Reformed Church of Fairview, Illinois, would recommend to our Consistory to pledge the Classis of Illinois, at its next session, the house and grounds belonging to said congregation, known as parsonage house and lots for the purpose of a grammar school, seminary, college or university, under the care of the Reformed Church denomination, provided said institution is located in Fairview, Illinois”. The Consistory concurred in the Resolution and Rev. William Anderson, then pastor at Fairview, was sent to the General Synod with this offer in hand. He returned with the shocking announcement that he had accepted a call to a church in New Jersey, and that Synod might better give their full support to an already hoped for college at Holland, Michigan, which later became a reality and was named Hope College.

In 1856, during the last year of Rev. A.D. Wilson’s pastorate, plans were initiated to build a parsonage to house the incoming pastor, Rev. William Anderson of New Jersey. The building was started immediately, and was completed in 1857. The building was square in shape with a flat metal roof and observatory atop. There was a double parlor on one side of the entrance hall, and the kitchen was an annex in the rear. It had a cistern, a well and all the improvements of that time, including a study for the preacher, bedrooms, and a bathroom upstairs. The house at the time was built, excelled in style, ornament, and cost of any other in town or area. The Rev. Mr. Anderson was given permission to approve the style and architecture of the home. Total cost of the home was $5,500, a large sum in those days. The debt was paid off in 1865 by subscription. Three acres of ground for pasture, stables, and barns went with the house.

The first Class of the Methodist Church was organized in 1850 and was composed of the following members: Mr. And Mrs. Acil Hubbard, Mr. And Mrs. William Groendyke, Mr. And Mrs. Daniel Rodormer, Mr. And Mrs. Edward Mitchell, and John Mitchell. The ministers the first year were Rev. J. B. Quimby and Rev. T. Moffitt. In the original plat of the Village three northeast corner lots were designated for

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Methodist church purposes. It is assumed that these lots were never used for building a church of any kind. It is quite possible that the Methodists may have held church services in various homes as that procedure was quite common, in pioneer communities, until the membership grew large enough to warrant a special building. By 1850 the church needing a permanent site and wanting a more central location, chose a site farther west which is now occupied by the Russell Fengel Building. The Church edifice was erected in the year 1850-151 at a cost of $1600. Mr. William Groendyke raised $900 of the cost by subscription.

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During this period the schools shared in the building growth of the Township. In 1863 a two-story frame building was erected in the northwest part of town at a cost of $3500. The Fairview Academy was sold and moved east of its original site to the property now owned by Eugene Suydam. The new school was surrounded by beautiful grounds, with delightful grove and lawn not excelled, perhaps, by any public grounds in the County. Its rooms were well furnished, giving ample and comfortable accommodations for 225 pupils. This building was located on the site of the former Fairview Grade School. School was held in this building until 1899 when it was sold and moved to the south part of town, where it was converted into

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a residence and is now occupied by Harry Vollmar. M. M. Cook, who was born in Fairview on November 9, 1855, served as Principal of this school for 15 years before being elected County Superintendent of Schools in 1894. He served in this capacity from 1895 to 1919. Cook served as a teacher in the Grade School before becoming Principal, as we find the following item in the Saturday Leaf, dated October 21, 1876: “We have printed Report Cards for teachers Mapes and Cook. We gladly chronicle this advance in school discipline.”

On June 17, 1899, the people of Fairview voted to build a new school building, and to bond the district not to exceed $10,000. T. H. Travers, J. W. Gaddis, and C. Gilmore, Board Members, were inspecting buildings on Tuesday, June 20, 1899. William Wolfe of Galesburg was employed as architect. The contract for construction was let to Hjerpe and Munson for $7,950. The building was completed in 1900, and continued to be used until 1973 when all school were combined into a K-12 building. Fairview’s first high school was established in 1897, and was held in the building on the corner of Pumyea and Carter Street until the new building was completed. Mrs. E. H. Murphy taught from 1898 to 1900., and she was in charge of both grade and high school. The first Baccalaureate Sermon was delivered in the Methodist Church by the Rev. G. P. Snedaker to the first graduates Edgar Zabriskie, Ruth Wilson, and Carl Polheums who received their diplomas on June 7, 1900. The following year there was no eleventh grade so that the second class graduated in 1902. At this time the high school course was only three years, but in 1908 the fourth year was added.

By 1870 the following schools had been established in the Township outside the Village of Fairview: Maple Grove, Johnson or Pleasant Hill, Pisgah, Rosedale, Smoke Row or Oak Grove, Smith, Sunbeam, and Lamb or Schleich. All or some of these schools were, no doubt, established as early as 1840, but no factual evidence as to date of establishment is available. Some of these schools were moved slightly from their original location, but each continued to function until closed or absorbed by unit districts in the late 1940’s.

As the moral and spiritual responsibility of the churches to the community increased, improved facilities were necessary to maintain the high quality of their services. As mentioned earlier the Reformed Church had acquired more ground, and built a parsonage in 1856-1857. By 1873 the building debt for the parsonage had been paid so it was decided to hold a festival of Thanksgiving to celebrate the fact that all church property was free of debt. The celebration was called the Harvest Home Festival, and it was such a success that the event was continued until the late 1930’s. Through the years people came from side areas to renew old friendships, to enjoy the entertainment, to feast on the famous fried chicken dinners, and to enjoy good Christian Fellowship.

By 1897, when the site of the M. E. Church had become valuable as a business location, the church building was sold and converted into a store building. The last service in the old Church was held on Sunday evening, February 13, 1898, with Rev. B.F. Mattox officiating. By this time the present M. E. Church Building was completed at a cost of $3,000 and was located in the first addition to the original town on the corner of Main and St. John’s Streets.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church, situated at Coal Creek, was organized by Rev. Swartz about 1850. The congregation met in a school house at first, and indeed until 1866, when their present church structure was erected. It is 30 x 40 feet in size, and cost $2,000 of which Swygert family gave $600. Samuel Gourley donated the ground upon which the building stands, and also the ground for the Cemetery.

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