To The
Lee County Churches

Transcribed by Karen Holt
Taken from The Ashton Story: A Continuing History Of The Town And Its Newspaper, compiled by Robert R. Dean 1987.
Bob was Editor and Publisher of The Ashton Gazette from 1940-1979. There is no copyright to this pamphlet.

Early Beginnings—Of the Church Community p. 9-10

The first church erected in Ashton was the Methodist in 1863. Methodism developed from the historic Chapel Hill log church built in 1836 in Lafayette township a mile west of the intersection of Chana and Flagg roads, and the Mt. Pleasant church built in the summer of 1856 north of Ashton (Chana road and Illinois 38). However the coming of the railroad and the start of a town named Ogle withdrew support from the rural church as meetings began to be held in the new settlement. In 1859 services were transferred from a vacant room over a store owned by Alfred Chapman to a small stone school house on the southeast corner of a site serving Ashton’s schools located at Main Street and Paddock Ave. In 1863 the Methodist Episcopal Church was built at North Third Street and Evans Ave. According to the late William D. Quick, pioneer settler and local historian, the structure was first built as a warehouse and was moved from somewhere near the railroad to its location on the hill and rebuilt as a church. In the 1870s the entry was remodeled and a belfry added. A new church was built in 1900 and in 1911 the entry way to the church was changed. In 1971 a United Methodist Church was built in the northwest part of town, at Richardson Ave. and North Fourth St.

The second church in Ashton was a Free Methodist Church built in 1864 and claimed to be the first of that denomination in the state. It was founded by Rev. J.C. Terrol and at one time shortly after its organization numbered 90 active members.

St. Mary’s Catholic Church in 1866 was the third church to be built in Ashton, becoming a landmark due to its hilltop location and tall steeple. John Thompson was the carpenter who erected the church at North Third St. and Brown Ave. Never having a resident priest, the church served at various times by priests from Rochelle, Dixon and Oregon parishes. Over the years membership decreased as a number of families moved away, and the church property was sold in 1927 and the building torn down. The church had sold the north lot in 1914 to the village as the site for a water tower.

The German Baptists erected their church, also in 1866, just outside the village to the south at a site later part of the Ashton Cemetery. The Christian Church was built in 1868 after meetings were first held in the school house. The chapel was located at what is now 199 North Douglas Ave. It was bought by the Evangelical congregation in 1884 and used until 1893. The building was later converted into a residence.

The Evangelical Church had its beginning in Bradford township as early as 1849 when preaching services were held in the neighborhood of the Bradford school. In 1859 the Bradford Church was built and in 1872 a church was built in Reynolds township. An Ashton Mission was formed in 1875, meeting in local homes. In 1884 the congregation purchased the chapel of the Christian Church on Douglas Ave. and in 1893 a frame church was built at the corner of Main St. and Paddock. Again in 1910 the church had become too small for the growing congregation and a new brick church was built on the same site at a coast of approximately $6,600. Two Sunday School rooms and a pipe organ chamber were added in1934. Following the union with the United Methodist Church in 1966 and the building of that church in 1971, the old Evangelical United Brethren church building was sold and torn down.

The First Presbyterian Church was organized in April 1867 by 15 charter members under the leadership of Rev. Alex F. Morrison. The Presbyterians were joined by the Lutherans in the building of their first church home in 1877 at the northeast corner of Main St. and Paddock Ave. Until the year 1891 the building was owned and used jointly, the congregations worshipping one Sunday in the morning and the next in the afternoon. In that year the Lutherans built their own church at Paddock Ave. and North Third St. Remodeling of the Presbyterian building in 1914 when aside room was added hanged the structural appearance and in 1934 a kitchen and dining room were added. On June 19, 1949 new pews and new pulpit and communion furniture were dedicated. In 1966 the congregation merged with the new United Methodist Church and the church building and manse were sold to the Ashton Bible Church.

Lutheranism in Ashton actually dates back to the late 1860s when Rev. William Uhl who established the church in Franklin Grove in 1863 and his successors invited Lutherans living in the vicinity of Ashton to conduct services in several country school houses. St. John’s congregation was officially organized in June 1877 and joined with the Presbyterians in building the first church. A lot at the corner of Paddock Ave. and North Third St. was purchased and a frame church built in 1891. The congregation outgrew its church building, so in the fall of 1925 the frame building was dismantled and a new $35,000 Gothic style brick church was erected. And addition housing Sunday School rooms and a choir room was added later.

A community church which predated Ashton’s founding was the Washington Grove Christian-Congregational Church organized June 27, 1843 by John Walworth and constructed of logs on the north side of the Chicago, Grand Detour and Clinton Stagecoach Road, now Flagg Road. In 1858 a one-room frame church was erected on the south side of the road, the land on the north side where the log church had stood becoming known as the first cemetery, and five years later, in 1899, the church building was replaced by the present two-room structure. Rev. W.S. Sanford, one of the 30 or more pastors, served the longest, from Sept. 1928 to Nov .1948. In 1932 the Christian and Congregational Church bodies united to form the Congregational Christian Church. Since 1973 students from the Oregon Bible College have served the church.

Church History Continues in the 1960s p.39-40

Ashton church history continued in the making in the 1960s when that decade saw the merger of the Evangelical United Brethren, Methodist and Presbyterian congregations into one church body, and the establishment of two other churches—the Ashton Bible Church and the First Baptist Church.

By the dawn of the 1970s the Baptists had built a new church (in 1966) just north of Ashton, the Bible Church members had purchased the former Presbyterian church building (in March, 1966), and the newly formed United Methodist congregation was in the process of building their new church at Richardson and North 4th Street in the Northwest corner of town. Both of the former Methodist and E.U.B. buildings had been razed when the new church was completed in 1971.

The Methodists and Presbyterians united June 30, 1963 and formed a new church, the United Methodist Church of Ashton. On July 14, 1963 there were 153 uniting in membership at the constituting service.

The E.U.B.s joined the Ashton merger in 1967 after a vote of their respective general conference Nov. 11, 1966 in Chicago approved the union of the tow denominational bodies…The first worship service as a united church was held Jan. 4, 1968.

The movement to build a new church building culminated in a 105-81 vote taken May 3, 1970. Ground was broken Oct. 1, 1970 for a new $265,000 church building at Richardson Ave. and North Fourth St., the site of the former Kersten ballpark. The new church was consecrated Oct. 3, 1971 and dedicated free of debt Oct. 11, 1981.

The 1960s also saw the founding of two new churches in the Ashton Community. Following are accounts of their beginning and development.

The Ashton Bible Church was organized in 1963 with meetings held in community homes. In March 1966 the former Presbyterian church building was purchased, and since then a number of improvements have bee made in the church property. The former parsonage was torn down in 1980 and parking facilities provided. The church auditorium ceiling suddenly collapsed on a week-day morning, June 21, 1983, but church members rallied from their misfortune, rebuilding the ceiling ,remodeling the church sanctuary, redecorating walls, installing new lighting and recarpeting. In May 1986 the church bell tower was remodeled, the bell taken down and stored for future use when plans materialize for an educational wing and a court-yard structure to house the bell. Additional land across he street was also acquired in the spring of 1986.

The First Baptist Church. The Baptist denomination was organized In Ashton early in the h1960s, first as a mission of the Como Baptist Church of Sterling holding weekly services in the Cluts Funeral Home in Ashton. On Oct 8, 1964 the Ashton Baptist Chapel became the First Baptist Church of Ashton in a constitutional service held at the Mills & Petrie Memorial Building. Rev. Darrell Highsmith was the first pastor and during his leadership a $30,000 church was built just north of Ashton on Highway 38. Ground was broken May 15, 1966 and the new church dedicated in November 9166.

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