Macon County Illinois
The Methodist church was established when there were but few inhabitants in the country, and has kept pace with the population, constantly advancing until it has reached its present [ed., 1876] membership.
The first Methodist preaching done in this county, was in the Steven’s settlement; and the first organization was effected there by Rev. W. L. Deneen, which formed part of what was then known as the "Salt Creek Circuit," Peter Cartwright being the presiding elder. This organization was formed in the fall of 1829, and consisted of about twelve members, of which the following are some of the names: Buel Stevens and wife, Luther Stevens and wife, Dorus Stevens, Joseph Stevens, Hollenback, David Owen and wife, and John Frazee. In the following year several additions were made to the society from the families of Jonathan and Isaac Miller, who moved to the county.
The same year Dr. Wm. T. Crissey, Alonzo Lapham and their families moved from Edgar County and settled in Decatur and vicinity, and connected themselves with the church.
The first Methodist camp meeting was held the same year, in the Stevens neighborhood, on the farm of David Owens, on what is now known as the Andrew Williams place. This was reserved for a camp ground several years.
In the fall of 1831 the preaching and society were transferred from that neighborhood to Decatur.
So far as is now known, the first preaching by a Methodist minister in Decatur was in May, 1831, by Rev. W. S. Crissey, who came from Indiana on a visit to his uncle. Dr. W. T. Crissey. In the same year several preaching places were established in Macon County.
The first Methodist church building in the county was erected in 1835, in the town of Decatur. It was a frame building, twenty-five feet by thirty feet, and a very rude, insignificant structure compared with those of 1876. From this beginning as seen from its early history, it has progressed to what is shown by following facts concerning its present [ed., 1876] standing:
There are now in Macon County seven English and two German stations and circuits, making nine, all of which have regular pastors.
There are thirteen English and two German churches in the county.
The entire membership of the county consists of 2030 members.
There are fifteen church buildings and five parsonages.
The above church property is valued at $140,000. There are also of this denomination fifteen Sunday schools with about 2,000 scholars, and a requisite number of teachers and libraries.
In addition to the above, there is in the city of Decatur an African
M. E. Church of forty members, with a church house valued at $1,500. There is also a flourishing Sunday school
of forty members at the same place.
Was organized in the house of Mr. Samuel Powers, on the 1st day of May, 1852, by the Rev. Robert H. Lilly, who was appointed a committee for that purpose by the Presbytery of Palestine. The members at the organization were, David Hopkins, Catherine, his wife, and Lydia, their daughter, Nancy Eagar, Mrs. Mary Lilly, Miss Agness McCormick, John Nicholson and his wife Julia, and Robert Moffit and his wife Elizabeth. David Hopkins was elected and installed first ruling elder. Rev. Augustus F. Pratt gathered up this little church and preached to them one year. After him the Rev. David Manfort, D. D., then quite an old and feeble man, served the church faithfully till October, 1854. About the middle of the next month the church secured the services of the Rev. Erastus W. Thayer, who preached ably to them till the spring of 1857.
The congregation up to about this time worshiped in the old court house, then in the old academy, and in a new building which was erected on east Main Street, on a lot belonging to Dr. Roberts and designed ultimately for a store house. About this time, the congregation, having increased in numbers and pecuniary strength, began to take the first steps towards the erection of a church edifice, which resulted in the brick church on Prairie Street.
The next minister was the Rev. P. D. Young, who preached one year, and left, for reasons to the writer unknown. Rev. T. M. Oveatt was invited to the charge of the church in July, 1855, and was, in the following spring, installed as the first regular pastor of this church. He continued in the pastoral relation till Jan. 1863, and was succeeded in the following spring by Rev. D. C. Marquis, who was called from this church to the North Presbyterian Church in Chicago [ed., now the Fourth Presbyterian Church], in January, 1866. The church, during the pastorate of these last two men, had a steady and a much more rapid growth. Mr. Marquis, though a young man, just out of the Theological Seminary at Chicago, had preaching powers of no ordinary character. His sermons were evangelical, clear, and profound, and were delivered with great force and animation. If he has had any equal as a sermonizer among the young men in central Illinois, it was his immediate successor, the Rev. Samuel Conn, now of New Albany, Indiana. Both these gentlemen were early honored with the degree of Doctor Divinitatis; because by native power and hard study they earned the distinction. Mr. Conn's health, which was never firm, suffered under the labor and care of the church, and in September, 1865, he closed his labors here. During the last year of Mr. Conn's pastorate a second church was organized in connection with what was called the New School General Assembly, with forty-two members from the First Church, and seven from other quarters. This branch of the church enjoyed the very acceptable services of the Rev. A. L. Brooks till after the union of the two General Assemblies, when he accepted a call to Danville, Illinois, and the two churches united into one harmonious church. The elders of both churches were elected to constitute the session of there-united church. After Mr. Conn left the Rev. John Brown, D. D., came over on Saturday and supplied this church during the greater part of the next winter.
In the spring of 1869 Rev. James E. Moffatt, a young man from the Chicago Theological Seminary, was settled as pastor and remained four years. After him came the Rev. Robert McKenzie, and preached a few months over two years.
In September, 1876, Rev. W. H. Prestly accepted a call to this church, and is now preaching most acceptably to full houses.
The church, which began with ten members and one ruling elder, now has about three hundred members, a full bench of ruling elders, and full boards of deacons and trustees.
A large and successful Sunday School is organized under the auspices of this church.
The first sermon by this denomination ever preached in Macon County, was by Rev. John Berry, and was in an old log schoolhouse three and a half miles southwest of Decatur, near the present residence of P. M. Wikoff.
The Mt. Zion Cumberland Presbyterian Church was organized on the 24th of April, 1830, at the house of the Rev. David Foster, with the following members: Allen Travis, Peggy Travis, Andrew Wilson, Mary A. Wilson, Alexander M. Wilson, Nancy Wilson, Katharine Wilson, James D. Campbell, Lovina Campbell, Andrew Davidson, Asseneth R. Davidson, Elizabeth Bell, Alexander Bell, Nancy Jane Bell, John Davidson, Rhoda Davidson, Rebecca Travis, David Davis, Polly M. Davis, John Smith, Peggy Smith, Samuel Davidson, Elizabeth Davidson, Nancy Davidson, Eleanor Davidson, William D. Baker, Manila Baker, Robert Smith, Nancy Smith, Robert Foster, Margaret Foster, David Foster, Anna Foster, Wm. C. Foster, Isabel Foster, and Nancy Allen Foster.
The following are, the names of the ministers who have had charge of this congregation: David Foster, by whom the church was organized, Neil Johnson, Daniel Traughber, Samuel Ashton, John D. Cowan, J. T. A. Henderson, John C. Smith, R. T. Marlow, R. T. Lester, R. G. Carden, N. M. Baker, and P. H. Crider, the present [ed., 1876] pastor.
The church has at present about 175 members, and a Sunday School of about 70 members. The first Sunday School in the county was organized at this place by the Rev. David Foster in 1831. The first superintendent was James Scott, and Andrew Wilson, assistant.
The North Fork C. P. Church was organized in April, 1855, by the Rev. John C. Smith, at the Emerson school house, and consisted of 54 members, all but six of which had previously been members of the Mt. Zion congregation.
Present [ed., 1876] membership, 52.
Present [ed., 1876] membership of Sunday school, 66.
The successive pastors have been, Daniel Traughber, John C. Smith, Joseph R. Lawrence, G. W. Kinsolving, W. P. Baker, M. Dillow, W. L. Bankson, and N. M. Baker, the present [ed., 1876] pastor.
The first Sunday school in this vicinity was organized by Miss Charlotte Emerson, sister of the late Judge Emerson, who acted as superintendent and teacher. This was organized in a small house in her father's yard, in the year 1840.
Bethlehem C. P. Church was organized in 1850, by the Rev. John C. Smith. It consisted of 51 members; some of which were from Mt. Zion and Mt. Carmel congregations. At present [ed., 1876] it has 100 members, and a Sunday school of 60 members.
The successive pastors have been John C. Smith, Abner Lansden, James Pantier, N. M. Baker, W. Pinckney Baker, Ryan,Thomas Montgomery, J. T. A. Henderson, Robert G. Carden, J. R. Lowrance, T. G. Stansberry, and the present [ed., 1876] pastor, W. L. Bankson.
The Madison C. P. Church was organized by the Rev. John C. Smith, from members formerly belonging to the Bethlehem and Mt. Carmel congregations, and has a flourishing membership and Sunday school. The present [ed., 1876] pastor is Rev. Jesse Beals.
This church was organized in the year 1830, by Elder Joseph Hostetler, of whom a biographical sketch may be found in another part of this book. The place of organization was in the old log court house, which then stood on the west side of the old square, but has since been moved east of Decatur.
The charter members of the organization were, Thomas Cowan and wife, Warner G. Strickland and wife, Elizabeth Cantrall, Stephen Shepherd and wife Dr. Bartley Gorin and wife, Col. Joseph Johnson and wife, Charlotte Turpin, and Mrs. Harrold, none of whom are now living.
The following have served this church in the ministry: Joseph Hostetler, John W. Tyler, George A. Patterson, James Fanning, B. W. Henry, Robert Foster, J. P. Lancaster, Hughey Bowles, Walter P. Boyles, Wm. Harrow, Tobias Grider, A. J. Kane, W. B. Happy, Wm. Ebert, Dr. John Hughes, Wm. C. Dawson, P. D. Vermillion, Ira Mitchell, Lucius Ames, A. D. Northcutt, and the present [ed., 1876] pastor, F. S. Haynes.
The present [ed., 1876] membership is 225. Its Sunday school was organized in
1855, by E. M. Nabb, who was its first superintendent. Ransom Wright, W. E. Nelson, W. W. Shockey, W. E. Brigham,
L. B. C. Leffingwell, N. S. Haynes and W. L. Hammer have succeeded to the superintendency. The present [ed., 1876]
enrolment of this school is 154. The value of church property is $10,000.
The first sermon preached in this county by a U. B. preacher was by Rev, James Parks, in the spring of 1848, at the house of Rev. M. T. Chew, five miles southwest of Decatur. The first class consisted of these two persons and Mrs. M. T. Chew. In the fall they petitioned to the annual conference to send them a preacher. James Parks was licensed by the conference and returned to act as minister of this small class. There were but three families in the community, and often there were but two or three present at the meetings.
The first church in Decatur of this denomination was organized in 1856, by the Rev. M. Ambrose, in the old Masonic Hall. The charter members were, S. B. McClelland, J. E. McClelland, Rachel McClelland, S. W. Hamsher, Sarah Hamsher, Jacob Bohn and Mary Bohn. The next year they succeeded in erecting a church house on Cerro Gordo and North Main streets.
The following are the names of the ministers who have had charge of this congregation: M. Ambrose, A. Winsett, T. A. Tawney, S. P. Hay, L. M. Bennett, H. H. Hilbish, A. A. Shesler, S. Levick, H. Elwell, L. Fields, and Isaac Kretzinger, the present [ed., 1876] pastor. In 1873 the church purchased two lots at a cost of $2,350 and erected a new house at a cost of $5,000. This is located on the corner of Broadway and Edwards streets. The present membership is 85, and a Sunday-school of 115 scholars.
The following are the statistics of the county:
Number of church houses, 10.
Members in county, 500.
Number of Sunday schools, 11.
Total number of scholars, 620.
Total value of church property, $19,600.
The Decatur Baptist church (United Baptist) was organized on the 14th of September, 1843, in the house of David L. Allen [ed., David L. Allin].
It was composed in its first organization of the following members of the United Baptist church of Springfield : David L. Allen [ed., David L. Allin], Julia E. Allen [ed., Julia E (Read) Allin], Thomas H. Read, Elizabeth Read, David Brett, Margaret Brett, Henry Rigs, Malinda Rigs, Lemuel Allen, Robert Allen, Margaret Pratt, and S. C. Allen [ed., probably Samuel C. Allen]. It was organized by Elder H. W. Dodge.
The first house of worship, on the northeast corner of Water and William streets, was dedicated Dec. 27, 1857. They have now a much more commodious and elegant building on North Street, between Water and Franklin streets. The successive pastors have been, H. W. Dodge, Moses Lemon, B. Carpenter, C. H. Gates, N. Alvord, J. N. Tolman, B. F. Thomas, S. G. Miner, F. M. Ellis, F. G. Thearle, S. F. Holt, J. C. Banham, and W. G. Inman. The present [ed., 1876] number of members is about 175. It has also a flourishing Sabbath School of over 200 members.
THE ROLLING MILL CHAPEL
Was erected by the Baptist church in 1871, at a cost of $2,500. It has a Sabbath school of 150 members.
This was organized in the year 1855, with 14 members. House of worship on South Main street, near Brambles' Grove.
There is also a new church of this denomination at Oreana.
This church is located five miles southwest of Decatur. It was organized in 1846, with the following members: John Burke, Micajah Burke, L. B. Ward [ed., Lewis B. Ward], Elizabeth Ward, Coleman Brown, Elizabeth Brown, Ephriam [sic] Cox, Nancy Cox and Amos Walker. The successive pastors have been, Robert Henson, J. W. Vaughan, John Turner, F. S. Randolph, S. B. N. Vaughan, and others. The membership at present [ed., 1876] numbers about 40. It has a Sunday school of about 40 members.
The cemetery at this church, perhaps the oldest in the county, was commenced in the year 1829 or 1830. A Mr. Mangrin and wife were the first buried there.
This church never had a regular church organization in this county, though there have been ministers and preaching since a very early day indifferent localities throughout the county. There is a membership of about 50 persons, who belong to the different societies throughout the Sangamon Association, which extends throughout Central Illinois. The first minister of this denomination who preached in this county was William Shields, who was the contractor for the old court house. The next was Michael Mann, from Logan County, John B. Moore, C. B. Stafford, John Alsbury, Charles Alsbury, Stephen Hugle, Chester Carpenter, Richard Newport, Daniel Parker, P. McCary, Lemuel Davis, William A. Thompson, Joseph Richardson, Edmund T. Morris, William L. Campbell, A. W. Murray, James H. Ring, and John H. Myers have successively preached to the people of this denomination throughout the county. Mr. Myers, who is one of our oldest native born citizens, is now preaching regularly in the city of Decatur, and expects to organize a church during the spring of 1877.
This society was organized in 1854, by Rev. D. P. Bunn. The early members of the organization were Joseph Spangler, Sr.;Joseph Spangler, Jr.; Jacob Spangler, J. B. Hanks and wife, John Rickets and wife, John Capps and wife. The present [ed., 1876] membership is about 75. The successive pastors of the church have been, D. P. Bunn, (14 years,) S. S. Hebberd, S. F. Gibb, and M. W. Tabor. The present value of the church property is $10,000.
A Sunday school was organized in connection with the church in 1854, and has continued uninterruptedly since, with a present membership of 50.
Decatur Church. — This church was organized in May, 1857, by Elder A. J. Fenton, with 11 members, viz: Jackson Fisher and wife, Mrs. Howenstine, Mrs. David Givler, David Hamsher, John Hamsher and wife, J. Fenton and wife, Mrs. Fisher, and Jacob Knisely. The successive pastors have been, A. J. Fenton, David Kyle, J. H. Hurley, James Worner, Connelly, Thomas DeShen V. R. White, J. B. Soule, S. M. Newcomer, Henry L. Soule, O. V. Kennison, and W. B. Allin.
Present [ed., 1876] membership, 75.
There is a Sunday school under the control of the church of about 75 scholars.
Value of church property, $4,000.
There are churches of this denomination at Boiling Springs, Hickory
township; Fairview, in same township; Warrensburg and
St. Patrick's Church was organized in 1854, and the present [ed., 1876] church building erected in 1863, which, at the time, was the most costly church edifice in the county. There is a membership of something over three hundred families, and a large Sunday school in connection with the church. The present pastor is the Rev. Mr. Hickey.
St. Johns, of Decatur. — This church was organized in 1856, with the following members: Wm. Prather, C. H. Fuller, M. S. Fuller, Cyril Fuller, Maurice Fuller, Chas. B. Smythe, Elam Rust, M. E. F. Rust, Chas. M. Smythe, J. W. Richardson, Jas. Simpson, Sarah Simpson, Emma Lutrell, S. D. Macy, A. S. Halbert. The successive Rectors of the church have been. Rev. S. R. Child, Rev. W. L. Bostwick, Rev. E. P. Wright, Rev. Wm. M. Steel, Rev. Silas Totten, D. D., Rev. S. D. Pulford, Rev. P. McKim, Rev. W. W. DeWolf, and Rev. Stephen H. Granberry. The latter is the present [ed., 1876] rector.
Note: We notice the different churches of Maroa, Macon, etc., in connection with the history of those towns found in Chap. VIII.