St. James Evangelical Congregational Church

Dixon, Lee County IL

The beginning of St. James Evangelical Congregational church is dated between 1867 and 1871. The first church was known as the St. James Evangelical Lutheran church and was originally united with St. Paul's Lutheran of Nachusa.

It was part of the early Lutheran work in this area, which included St. Paul's Lutheran of Dixon, St. Paul's of Nachusa and Zion Lutheran in Nelson Twp. west of Dixon.

The first place of worship for the St. James congregation was the brick school house at St. James corners in South Dixon Twp. The first date mentioned is Jan. 24, 1870, when the Lutheran work was divided into these four churches. The first pastor was the Rev. E. Miller, who served until 1875.

The members numbered 36 on April 16, 1871, when mention was first made of a communion service. The first member to be confirmed was George W. Bruner on that date. Eight years later the membership was 125. Three years laer, however it had dropped to 85 because of a number of members moving to other localities.

Some loss to the congregation must have resulted in 1887 when St. Paul's Lutheran church in Nachusa was dedicated. Those desiring to join that congregation were free to do so after making proper application to the pastor. The membership has fluctuated much in the years following and is now 44.

The congregation which gathered each Sunday in the brick school house soon recognized the need of a building of their own. This need was met in 1877 when the present structure was dedicated at a cost of $3,200. Two men of the congregation were outstanding in planning and seeing the project to completion, Harmon Lindeman and Hiram Uhl.

Dedicated also was the kerosene chandelier, which is still in use although now fitted for electricity. Mr. and Mrs. Abraham Barron gave the chandelier as a gift to the church. The Rev. J.P. Sanderson was pastor when the building was erected and dedicated. During the years 1912-1915 the church basement was dug and fitted for use. The record states that much work was donated to lower expenses. This improvement was made during the pastorate of the Rev. I.B. Helsey.

Minor repairs and additions were made to the church building, including a new furnace and carpeting, in the years that followed. In 1944, however, complete redecorating of the interior was undertaken at a cost of $949.50.

The first church parsonage was located on the site of the present library in Dixon. Records indicate it was at first under control of the St. James congregation, but in 1893 one-fourth interest was given to St. Paul's church of Nachusa. Shortly after, the property was sold and a new parsonage was built on Galena avenue.

In 1908, because of the gift of Mrs. Catherine Barron, the undivided half of the parsonage was mortgaged. When this property was sold, the church had no resident pastor and no parsonage was procured. The church now rents an apartment for the present pastor and his family.

St. James, together with St. Pauls' of Nachusa made up what was known as the South Dixon charge, until 1905, when the charge was divided. Twenty years later the congregation shared its building with the Eldena church, which was burned, and in turn received the services of their pastor, Rev. Goss. This arrangement was necessary for only one year. In 1926 the congregation reorganized and became affiliated with the Immanuel Lutheran church of Amboy (Iowa Synod). The congregation shared the services of the Rev. Paul H.G. Bredow for two years.

The church again became a part of a charge in 1930 when it united with the Eldena charge, comprising Eldena church and Kingdom church. This affiliation continued until 1935, when the church ceased to be part of the Eldena charge and was served by its own part-time pastor.

This arrangement was altered in 1939, when the congregation voted to become a part of the Evangelical Congregational church. Last year the church as assigned a resident pastor, who is also serving a new congregation at Rock Falls. A number of organizations have contributed much tot he work of the church throughout the years. The Women's Missionary Society was the first organization to be formed within the church. Much aidhas been given to the church since its founding in 1889, but the society's contributions to the mission field has been most important. Many foreign fields as well as home missionary undertakings have had help from it. At present membership is 24. A much larger organization came into being in 1909, the Ladies Aid Society. From the beginning this society has been a community organization with members not belongint to the congregation. The church is indebted to this society for its help in maintaining the building and supplying many improvements. Its present membership is 33.

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