Photos contributed by Phil Husband - Article from the Homecoming Booklets
This history was published in the Pike Co. Republican by Jess Thompson
August 20, 1941, August 27, 1941 & September 3, 1941
Bethel Church and cemetery are located on soldier bounty lands created by act of Congress May 6, 1812. These were military lands set up here in the old Illinois Territory and known as the Military Tract. They comprised 160 acre bounty tracts for soldiers of the War of 1812. The first owner of the land on which Bethel stands was John Bazel of Anne Arundel county, Maryland, a valiant soldier in the American armies in the second war with Britain. Bazel was with Captain Leonard and William Ross in the battle of Sackett's Harbor, May 23, 1813, when five hundred Americans drove back 1300 British soldiers, sustaining frightful losses. The Rosses were founders of Atlas in the summer of 1820.
The grant from the United States government to John Bazel of the 160 acres on which Bethel is located is dated July 27, 1818. Illinois was not yet a state. It was still Illinois Territory. Bazel transferred his freehold estate here in the northeast quarter of section 2 to Jeremiah Hughes of the City of Annapolis, Maryland, July 20, 1821. The consideration for the entire 160 acres was $50. On March 2, 1839, Hughes transferred this tract to Parrack Owen who already owned an adjoining 160 acres, which with his new purchase gave him title to the entire east half of section 2, or 320 acres. On January 26, 1840, Owen gave Richard Wade a quit-claim deed to the entire 320 acres, including the present site of Bethel, for $194.
It may be of interest to know that the land on which Bethel stands was once sold at the door of the state house at Vandalia for less than 3 1/2 cents an acre. This sale occurred on December 2, 1823. The state capital was then at Vandalia. The sale was made by then State Auditor E.C. Berry to James Micthcell, investing later in James Strong, assignee of Mitchell. The sale included six quarter sections of land in Newburg and Spring Creek townships (including the quarter section on which is Bethel), the entire 960 acres being knocked off to the purchaser for $33.18, which represented the taxes, penalties, etc., for the years 1821 and 1822.
On April 12, 1846, Richard Wade and Hannah Wade (formerly Hannah Pearcy) his wife, deeded the present church tract to Trustees John Dimmitt, Richard Wade, Manley Thomas, Philip Greenow and George Lytle for a consideration of $10 and the further consideration that the property be used as a site for a church or place of worship for the society of Methodists in America. The first church had actually been erected, pursuant to an understanding with Richard Wade, in 1843, or about two years before the formal transfer of the site to the church's trustees.
The religious history of the Bethel neighborhood dates back to the dim beginnings of Pike county secular history. Lewis allen, a grandson of the Boones, was preaching in the cabins of the early settlers here around Bethel as early as 1822. Here, too, to the cabins of the pioneers cameJesse Elledge, another grandson of the Boones and kinsman of the noted Daniel, his preaching dating back to 1821 and 1822. Elledge was known as the "Morning star of Christianity" here in the valley of the Illinois.
In data pertaining to this church recorded by the late James B. Nettleton, dated Feb. 29, 1888, it is set forth that the Griggsville circuit was originally a part of the Atlas circuit, which was the first circuit formed between the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. Previous to its formation, however, its settlement had been visited by the renowned missionary, Jesse Walker.
Appointments of the Atlas circuit, as recorded by Mr. Nettleton (the record being now in possession of his daughter, May Nettleton of Griggsville), were as follows:
1826, William Medford; 1827, Samuel Bogart; 1828 (year in which Peter Cartwright held a great camp meeting at Atlas), Asa D. West; 1829, Samuel Bogart; 1830-31, Spencer W. Hunter (died 1839).
At the conference of 1832, the work was divided and all north of McGee creek was formed into the Rushville district and all that portion south of McGee constituted the Blue River Mission. At the next session of the conference the name was changed to Pittsfield circuit, the new town of Pittsfield having sprung up on the prairie in 1833.
Rev. W. D. R. Trotter, revered among the early day preachers, was in charge of Blue River Mission in 1832-33. He was a missionery here as early as 1800. A balance sheet of his receipts and expenditures during the year 1832-33 in the Blue River Mission shows that he received from the Mission $88; the conference paid him $12 in addition, making his salary $100 for his services for the year. He rode the circuit on horseback, putting up at the cabin of some settler when night overtook him.
Rebecca Burlend, who sleeps in this cemetery and whose book on pioneer life in this region, first printed in London in 1848, is considered one of the finest stories of pioneer settlement in the English language, gives us a picture of the "shouting Methodists" of this neighborhood in the closing days of the Atlas Mission in the'winter of 1831-32.
Prior to leaving England, Mrs. Burlend had been for nearly 20 years a member of the Wesleyan Methodist Society, and consequently she felt wishful as soon as her circumstances would allow, to join the religious body called the Methodists in America. The Atlas Mission was at this time under the stewardship of the, great Peter Cartwright, and a branch of that organization had taken root in this neighborhood. Mrs. Burlend thus tells of her first attendance at a class meeting of these "shouting Methodists", which was held in a log house (the house of George Lytle), which stood very near the site of this present church:
The company being assembled and seated, the one acting as leader rose from his seat, which was a signal for the others to do the same. A sort of circle or ring was then immediately formed, by the whole assembly taking hold of hands, and capering about the house surprisingly. Their gesture could not be called dancing, and yet no term I can employ describes it better. This done, worship commenced with extempore prayer, not indeed in language or style the best selected, but with this I have nothing to do. I have no right to question the sincerity of the individual, and if his taste differed from mine it was no proof that his was wrong.
All the persons present being again seated, an individual started from his seat, exclaiming in a loud and frantic shriek, "I feel it" , meaning what is commonly termed among them the power of God. His motions, which appeared half convulsive, were observed with animated joy by the rest, till he fell apparently stiff upon the floor, where he lay, unmolested for a short time, and then resumed his seat. Others were affected in a similar manner, only in some instances the power of speech was not suspended, as in this, by the vehemence of enthusiasm, for I can not give it a more moderate name."
This of course was all new to the English emigrant but was a manner of worship that was common to the early religious history of this region.
Reverting again to J. B. Nettleton's splendid record of the early church, we find the following preachers served this settle ment in the days of the Pittsifleld Circuit.
1833-34, Wilson Pitner; 1835, Enoch Thompson and Barton H. Cartwright; 1836, William H. Taylor; 1837, Spencer W. Hunter and Warner Oliver; 1888,. Spencer W. Hunter and Edward Troy. 1889, David Madison and one to be supplied; 1840, Charles Atkinson and Ezekiel Mobley; 1841, Moses Clampit and Nathaniel Cleaveland; 1842, William T. Williams and Samuel Elliott; 1843, Asabel L. Risley and D. J.Snow; 1844, Asabel L. Risley and one to be supplied. In 1845, the Pittsfield Circuit gave way to the Griggsville Circuit.
A movement which resulted in the present church was begun in 1841 by a number of the members of the Griggsville Methodist church who lived in the country southeast of Griggsville. It was proposed among them that they organize a class in the neighborhood so that they might meet together oftener for divine worship. John Dimmitt was appointed leader by this group.
The class comprised John Dimmitt, John Harvey, Hiram Dean, William Boone Scholl, Nathan Phillips, Mrs. Nancy Dimmitt, Mrs. Nancy Harvey, Mrs. Wealthy M. Dean, Mrs. Nellie Scholl, Mrs. Nancy Phillips and Mrs. Ann Bickerdike, widow of George Bickerdike, the Pike county pioneer.
Hannah Pearcy, later the wife of Richard Wade, was the first addition to this pioneering band. Rev. Moses Clampit received her into the church one night in 1841 at the home of William Scholl, after preaching from the text, "Now therefore the axe is laid at the root of the tree; every tree which bringeth forth not good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire."
Shortly after this, Mrs. Rebecca Burlend and Mrs. Peter De La Fontanelle united with the society by letter. Mrs. Burlend had previously been a member of the society at Detroit; Mrs. De La Fontanelle brought her letter from New Haven, Conn.
The first member of the first church class who died was Ann Bickerdike, widow of pioneer George who was the first of the English Bickerdikes in America and who in 1828 built the cabin (but recently torn down) a short distance north of present Bethel, to which he took his bride, Ann Philips, daughter of Nimrod of the famous Philips Ferry, in 1832. Ann Bickerdike died March 22,1844.
Meetings were held frequently in the home of William Scholl, a descendant of the noted Boone family of Kentucky to which belonged Daniel Boone. Moses Clampit preached occasionally through the week at Scholl's house and it was at one such meeting that he first advocated the formation of a separate society. The class met sometimes in a log school house in the neighborhood.
In 1842 a camp meeting was held on Blue River, from which resulted a great religious awakening. About 50 persons were converted, among them Martin and Mary Pearcy Anthony, Manley Thomas and wife, Mrs. Matilda Evans Lightle (died in 1891). Mrs. Margaret Pearey Wade (died 1886). Other early members who probably united about 1842 included Mrs. Susan Evans (died 1855), Mrs. Mary Wade Husband (died 1866), Mrs. Grace Wade Turnbull (died 1891), and Mrs. Nathan Jester. Mrs. Hannah Wade Dimmitt (died 1872) and Thomas and Nancy Lytle, were other early members but the date of their joining is not recorded. Also, among the early members should be named Mrs. Melinda Lytle, who died in 1894, and Mr. and Mrs. Charles Nettleton, who were members from shortly after their arrival in this country until their deaths; he died in 1864 and she in 1858.
About this time John Harvey was made a class leader and he and John Dimmitt worked together for the good of the society.
In 1842, when Samuel Elliott was preaching, circuit preaching was established and the members met at Richard Wade's. This continued until the first church was built in 1843. John Harvey and his wife often entertained the circuit riders of those days in their home, among them Peter Cartwright.
The first Sunday school was organized at Richard Wade's with John Dimmitt superintendent and David Watson assistant. From the indisputable records of Emma Bickerdike, author in 1906 of a most authentic history of the church, we learn that on a Saturday afternoon in May, 1843, a number of men who had met at Richard Wade's fell to talking aibout the need for a place of worship. The country was new, times were hard, the settlers had little money. They, however, were men of action, not to be discourged by the circumstances of their environment. They agreed to furnish most of the raw material and do the labor themselves. Richard Wade agreed to give the land, an agreement fulfilled in his deed to the trustees in 1845. The trustees were George Lytle, Manly Thomas, Philip Greenow, Richard Wade, and John Dimmit.
Work was begun. Mr. Dimmit and Mr. Wade made the shingles from the native forest trees. Manley Thomas sawed the lumber and Martin Anthony, Nathan Jester, Calvin Hanley and others hewed the timbers. In July 1843 the frame was raised. Soon after about $60 was raised and John Dimmitt was sent to St. Louis by the members to buy doors, window sash, glass and nails. In October the plastering was done and in November the church was seated with slab benches, pieces of scantling left from the building and anything else that could be used for the purpose. (It was not permanently seated until 1848)
Following completion of this woodland edifice, a two day meeting was anounced to begin on a Saturday early in December 1843. This meeting served in lieu of a formal dedicatory service. Rev. William Johnson was to preside on the occasion but did not arrive until Saturday evening, so that the first sermon Saturday morning was preached by Rev.D. J. Snow. Rev. Johnson preached Saturday evening and Rev. .Snow again Sunday morning. The services were continued about. ten days,
Two names for the new society were offered, one by John Dimmitt, who suggested the name "Olive Branch", the other by George Lytle, who offered the name "Bethel." A vote was taken and Bethel was chosen.
The second member of the early society who died after the church was built was Manley Thomas, March 30, 1844, eight days after Ann Bickerdike. He was the first adult buried in Bethel cemetery.
When Dr. James Leaton came onto the circuit in 1848 he formed two more classes at Bethel, naming. James Watson and John Wade as leaders.
During Dr. Leaton's pastorate a revival was held, accessions to the church at that time including James Bickerdike, Elizabeth Bickerdike (Burlend), Mary Bickerdike (Sleight), Margaret Anthony (Allen), Martha Anthony (Bickerdike), John Anthony, Catherine Harvey (Goldman), and Mrs. Maria Dean Stoner.
In 1848 John and Hannah Bickerdike became members and about this time William Thackwray and wife were received into the church. On the same day their four youngest children were baptized, namely; James, Samuel, Louise (Shinn), and Mary A. (Hayes). Two older children were members, Sarah Ann (Turnbull) and Elizabeth (Parker).
In 1854 the church was painted and the cemetery fenced. In October 1855 occurred the first marriage in the old church, that of Ashley A. Bentley and Mary A. Dimmit, with Rev. Milo Butler officiating. The last marriage solemnized in the old church was that of Walter D. Bentley (son of the first couple) and Julia Rhodes, Sunday, Aug. 6, 1882, with Rev. T. D. Weems officiating.
In the years 1859 and 1861 some old-time camp meetings were held in the grove north of the church. In 1861, with Civil war raging and many from the community away on the battlefields, the church was for a time without a pastor, but occasional meetings were held. During the Civil war the church was also used for a time for school purposes. Emma Bickerdike, historian of the church, was among those who attended school in the old church.
Bethel schoolhouse was not founded until 1865, when H. B. Wade. Deeded ground to the school trustees, B. H. Cooper, J. H. Lockwood and H. B. Wade for that purpose. In 1866 the church was painted inside and out by William Lavell. Lavell and his wife were members from about 1848 to 1851. He was a loca1 exhorter and sometimes addressed the Bethel congregation. In February 1867 a great revival conducted by Wingate Newman, pastor in charge, resulted in a hundred conversions and many accessions to the church were made.
In April, 1880, a new Mason & Hamlin organ was placed in the church, being the first musical instrument owned by the Bethel society.
The last funeral in the old church was that of Jacob Goldman, who died March 28, 1883. He was a pioneer settler who had helped raise the first house in Pittsfield and who had hewed the first timber used for building purposes in Griggsville. Once he saw 86 deer feeding where now is Bethel cemetery. He was for many years a class leader in the Bethel society. His funeral was held in the old church just a few days before it was moved away to make way for the new building.
The old church was 30 feet wide and 36 feet long, with a 12-foot ceiling. There were three windows on each side, two in each end, and double doors entering from the east.
It is not documented when the first Violet Missionary Society was organized at Bethel. The young ladies were an industrious group. Theymet at different homes on a monthly basis. The meetings consisted of prayers, scriptures and preparing needed goods for M.E. missionaries in other parts of the world such as quilts, clothing and non-perishable food. Members in 1897 were:
Front Row L-R - Grace Dimmitt Foreman, Grace Turnbull Bickerdike, MRs. Rev. Morrison, Bessie Bickerdike Large, and Hannah (Nannie) Bickerdike Ellis.
Middle Row - Reba Bickerdike, Anna Birch Penstone, Alice Butterfield Seehorn, Margaret (Daisy) Bickerdike Sneeden, Lena Turnbull Dixon.
Back Row -, Grace Glenn Sleight, Alice Lister, Grace Harvey Laird, Rhoda Stevens Jester, Ellen Nesbitt North, Lena Dimmitt.
Rev. Thomas D. Weems was appointed to the Bethel charge in 1881, succeeding Rev. A. P. Stover, Preston Wood was then presiding elder of the Griggsville district. The Griggsville circuit comprised Bethel, Detroit, Flint and Hinman. On June 26, 1888, Hinman was succeeded by Asbury, a new church being built. Earlier in Rev. Stover's time (1878-79) the Griggsville circuit included Bethel, Flint, Hinman Chapel, and Shelley school house.
Rev. Weems had a reputation as a church builder and in the second year of his pastorate he convinced his Bethel congregation that they needed a new house of worship. In February, 1883, he began taking subscriptions for a new church, soon he had enough pledged to warrant a contract, which was let to Arch Campbell and son of Griggsville.
On Tuesday, May 22, 1888, a cold shivery day with a bitter freeze that night, the corner stone for the new church was laid with impressive ceremonies, the presence of a large gathering. The exercises were conducted by the pastor in charge, assisted by Preston Wood (presiding elder), Rev. John A. Kumler and other ministers. On August 26 the new Bethel Methodist Episcopal church was dedicated free of debt by Rev. Dr. Hiram Buck, one of the ablest members of the Illinois Conference at that time. He was assisted ,by Rev. Preston Wood, John A. Kumler, Henry Wilson and Jonas H. Dimmitt of Iowa, one of the sons of John and Nancy Dimmitt of the early church. Near the end of the service Rev. Weems suggested a collection be taken to buy a new communion service and in a few minutes the offering amounted to over $30
The site of the new church (the present edifice) was 82 by 55, with audience room, two class rooms, gallery and vestibule entrance. The cost, including bell, carpet, chairs, lamps and all inside, furnishing, with walk and yard fence, was $3,544.80. The sum of $38 remained in the treasury at that time.
In 1904 a concrete walk and steps with a platform in front was laid. Extensive repairs including reshingling were made in 1906.
Among the early class leaders were, Thomas Demmitt, (died in 1895), a pillar of the church as long as he lived in the community; James Bickerdike, a leader for 43 years, from 1860 until his death in 1903; George Evans (died in 1905), a leader for 30 years, from 1860 untilhis removal by letter in 1890; John R. Anthony, a leader from about 1860 to 1868, when he - removed to Kansas; Braxton H. Cooper, a leader for nearly 20 years, who died in 1890; Henry Rhodes, a leader for a number of year until he moved to Baylis, where he died in 1898; John Elliott, who died about 1870; David W. Jester (died 1912) who was leader for many years, and also a trustee.
Others serving tor shorter periods were H. C, Wade, G. G. Harvey, A. E. Rhodes, John Burlend, J. W. Loveless and Virgil Foreman. May Nettleton recalls that Rebecca McAllister, second wife of David W. Jester, started a Sunday school class in the old Bethel church, with Edith Husband (Pyle), Louise Husband (Glenn) and herself. Rebecca was a daughter of Rev. Yarrow and Rachel (Jones) McAllister. Mrs. Pyle thought they were about five years old when, Rebecca started the class. She taught about 16 years. There were eleven in the class when she quit. May Nettleton says that her father, James B. Nettleton, was recording steward as far back as she can remember, until he was succeeded by Emma Bickerdike. James B. Nettleton joined Bethel church during a revival in the winter of 1851-52, joining John Wade's class. Moses Elliott was for many years an official member of the church. He died in 1882. Christopher Turnbull, who died in 1878, was long recording steward of the circuit. William Burlend was a member of the board of stewards until his removal to Griggsville, where he died in 1900. Bernard W. Flinn was identified with the interests of the society for a number of years before he united with the church. He was a trustee when his death occurred in 1900. He was treasurer of Pike County 1879-84. Aaron Dean, who died in 1905, had been a trustee for many years. He was a son of Hiram L. and Wealthy M. (Saunders) Dean of the Bethel pioneering group of 1841. David Green, a local exhorter and student of astronomy, was a member of Bethel from 1851 until his death in 1888. His wife, Margaret, was a member until her death in 1887.
Yarrow McAllister, father of the 101-year-old Civil war veteran, Edwin McAllister of Griggsvillee, was a local preacher and a life-long member of Betbel. He died in 1885. Daniel Burns, was converted in 1844 and was a member at Bethel and Griggsville until his death in 1912. Mrs. James Elliott was a member until her death in 1906 at the age of '92. Mrs. Sarah Anthony and Mrs. Jennie Higbee, daughters of John and Nancy Harvey, were Bethel members, in early girlhood. Mrs Higbee died at her home in Griggsville in 1930, aged 95.
Mrs. Martha Rhodes and Mrs. Sarah Flinn worshipped at Bethel, although the former was reared a Presbyterian and the latter as one of the Society of Friends. Mrs. Rhodes died in 1910, aged 87, and Mrs. Flinn died in 1914, aged 92. Mrs. Hannah Dalby, an invalid for 62 years, joined the church in 1848 and was a member, until her death in 1918 at the age of 89.
William Lightle and John Bickerdike united with Bethel in early manhood and remained members until death. Both served in official capacities. Mrs. James Bickerdike and Mrs. Elizabeth (Bickerdike) Burlend both became members in 1848. Frank Dimmitt, George Husband, Fred Jester, Wesley Loveless, David Jester and Ernest Lightle served as Sunday school superintendents.
Sunday school teachers who served many years included Elizabeth Bickerdike (later, Mrs. William Burlend), who taught the primary class for 46 years; Mrs. William Lightle, who taught the adult women's class about 20 years until she passed away in 1903; Mrs. Hannah Wade, who taught 26 years; Mrs. Aaron Loveless who taught the older girls class for many years and died in 1927; David Jester, who taught the adult men's class until his death in 1912. Mrs. Ella Husband taught the intermediate class of girls for many years, and John Burlend taught the boys. Mrs. Rebecca Jester taught a class of girls at one time, as did also Miss Annie Burlend and Mrs. Virgil Foreman, all now dead.
Mrs. William Moore taught an adult class from about 1920 until her death in 1929. She was assisted by Mrs. Mollie Kiser, who died in 1932
Others prominent in the early church (all now dead) included Mr. and Mrs. Frank Turnbull, Mr. and Mrs. James Nettleton; Mr. and Mrs Will Harvey, Mr. and Mrs. Dick Wade, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Birch, Miss Emma Bickerdike, Mr. and Mrs. James Dimmitt, George Burland, Mrs. Oscar Large, Mrs. John Sleight, Mrs. Samuel Dixon, Mrs. Lewis Hayden, Mrs. Emma Dean Miller and Mrs. John North.
An early pastor on the old Bethel circuit and the first pastor (1833-34) after Blue River Mission was succeeded by Pittsfield circuit was Rev. Wilson Pitner, a very earnest worker and one well fitted for conducting revivals and camp meetings. On one occasion during a camp-meeting, while discoursing upon the day of judgment and the appearance of Gabriel with his trumpet on the great and awful day, the dazzling array of saints robed in white etc., the women of the assemblage became very happy and set up a shouting which completely drowned the stentorian voice of the exhorter.
In order to quiet the gathering, the minister reached back for the cow-horn which he used for calling the audience together, and began blowing it. This added to the frenzied excitement which had seized the congregation, and many, in their almost fanatical enthusiasm and without looking to see whence the trumpeting came, believed that Gabriel had indeed come, and was in their very midst blowing his trumpet. The early historian relates that it was some time before the crowd could be quieted.
Another early minister of the circuit was Rev. Spencer William Hunter, who organized the Griggsville Methodist church in 1835. Rev. Hunter died in 1839. He was the last minister appointed to the old Atlas circuit (1830 - 31). He later served on the Pittsfield circuit in the years 1837 and 1838.
Rebecca Burlend, whose great story of pioneer life in the Bethel neighborhood has thrilled both England. and America, often walked from her pioneer log cabin, home in the north part of Detroit township to attend church at pioneer Bethel. It is related that she carried her shoes and stockings in her hands until she came within sight of the church, when, seated on a stump or rock, she donned the precious apprel.
Wolves sometimes followed the parishioners of the early church, going to and from worship. Aaron Dean, settler in the early Bethel neighborhood and long identified with the church, walked three miles every day to his shop in Griggsville, where he worked for $1.25 a day. He related that wolves often followed him on his trips.
The old ox cart was a common method of conveyance to the early church. Mr. Dean related that he and his family were enroute once to a Thanks!iving dinner in an ox cart, and that the oxen ran away and precipitated them all into the brush.
George Evans, who served the church so faithfully as a class leader for 30 years, was a son of George Sr., who served in the second war with Britain and who is one of two veterans of the 1812 war who are buried at Bethel.
The songbirds of the early church were two young daughters of the William Boone Scholls, who were members of the first society of 1841 from which emerged the Bethel church. In the pioneer days of the first church it is related in an old commentary that these two young women often raised their voices in song that filled the Wildwood.
Richard Wade, who deeded the present site of Bethel to the trustees (of whom he was one) in 1845, came with his wife Nancy to Pike county in 1826 and first settled on the river road up from Philips Ferry. His wife died in 1838, and there being no doctor available she was tended by Rebecca Burlend who administered the juices of native herbs with those medicinal properties she had become so familiar among the English peasants. Nancy is buried beside her husband in Bethel cemetery. Richard Wade later married Mrs. Hannah Pearcy, widow of John Pearcy, and it was Richard and Hannah who conveyed the Bethel site in 1845, two years after the first church was buided. Richard Wade died in 1855 and his wife (Hannah) in 1859. She is buried beside her first husband, John Pearcy, in Bethel cemetery.
Following is a list of ministers and their assistants who have served the Bethel society since 1845, when the Pittsfield circuit was succeeded by the Griggsville circuit. Ministers prior to 1845 were named in the preceding installment.
1845, William H. Taylor and Asahel E. Brawn; 1846, William H. Taylor and Harvey S. Shaw; 1847, Christopher J. Houts and Lewis Dwight; 1848, James Leaton (source in his old age of much valuable information concerning early Bethel); 1849, John Van Cleve;,J850, John Van Cleve and Jehn Anderson; 1851, Hardin Wallace and Daniel H.Hatton; 1852, Michael Shunk; 1853, William T. Bennett, Emmar Elliatt and J. H. Davidson.
James Leaton in 1848 served the following charges an the Griggsville circuit: Bethel, Perry, Griggsville, New Salem, Hinman's, Chambersburg, Cobby's, Jeffers, South Prairie, Kimball's and Detroit. In 1849-50-51 the circuit included only Bethel and Griggsville. The J. B. Nettleton recard states that in 1854 the circuit was attached to Perry and called Perry circuit. Peter Akers was presiding elder af the district (Quincy) from 1844 to 1850, inclusive. In 1851, Griggsville district was formed and W. D. R. Tratter became presiding elder. In 1852, Tratter was succeeded by Hardin Wallace. In 1852 the circuit included Bethel, Perry, Chambersburg, Cobby's, New Salem, Belmont, South Prairie and Kimball's. In 1853, Pleasant Grove was added to the above circuit, and in 1854 Union was added and Cobby's, Belmont; South Prairie, Kimballs and Perry were dropped.
Ministers from 1854 to 1857, inclusive, were: 1854. Samuel H. Clark and, Solomon McCall; 1855, Milo Butler and J. W. Sinnock; 1857, Granville Bond and J.H. Kabrick.
R. W. Travis became presiding elder af the Griggsville district in 1856. In 1857 the circuit included thirteen charges, namely, Bethel, Pittsfield, Chambersburg, New Salem, Union, White Oak Springs, Pleasant Grove, Flint; Birkhead's, Hinman's, South Prairie, Woods and Groves school houses. In 1858 the circuit was again changed to Pittsfield circuit.
Ministers from 1858 to 1864, inclusive: 1858-59, Caleb P. Baldwin; 1860, J. R. Lacke and Rev. McElray; 1861, James P. Dimmitt assigned but removed before close of year to fill vacancy as presiding elder, succeeding B. F. Northcutt. Thamas Bonnett succeeded Dimmitt in 1861; 1862, James Brown Wade assigned but did not serve. Vacancy filled by George J. Barrett. These were Civil war times. 1863-64, Thamas J. Bryant.
W. H. H. Moore became presiding elder in 1859 and was succeeded by B. F. Northcutt in 1861. James P. Dimmitt succeeded Narthcutt late in 1861 and served through 1864. In 1865 the circuit was changed back to Griggsville and Emmar Elliatt became presiding elder. The church had the following ministers from 1865 to 1870, inclusive: 1865, John C. Wells assigned but resigned before close af year, being succeeded by Jonas H. Dimmitt; 1866-67, Wingate J. Newman (period of great camp-meetings in grove at Bethel); 1868, Wingate J. Newman and J. K. Miller; 1869, John G. Mitchell and J. H. Smith; 1870, John G. Mitchell.
Emmor Elliott, presiding elder, died in 1868 and was succeeded by Asa S. McCoy.
In 1871, the circuit was changed to Detroit and James P. Dimmitt and Howard Miller were the ministers that year. In 1872 the circuit was changed back to Griggsville and the following preachers and assistants served the church:
1872, James P. Dimmitt; 1873-74, L. F. Walden; 1875-76, Henry C. Adams; 1877, Sampson Shinn; 1878-79-80, Augustus P. Stover; 1881-82-83, Thomas D. Weems; 1884-85, Matthew Boyd McFadden; 1886-87, George B. Wolfe; 1888, James Brown Wade; 1889-90-91, J. L. B. Ellis; 1892-93-94, P. F. Gay; 1895-96, C. R. Morrison; 1897-98-99-1900, Nathan English; 1901, Charles L.Flowers; 1902-03-04, Henry F. Cusic; 1005, Samuel Nelles Madden; 1906-07-08, John Wesley Waltz; 1009, S. R. Reno; 1910-12, J. M. Tull: 1913, R. L. Stores; 1914, D. U. Park and George Winters; 1915, George L. Losch; 1916, Rev. Waters; 1917-18, R. H. Lotz; 1919, J. M. Tull; 1920-21, H. H. Fletcher; 1922, John L. Hess; 1923, Paul Groclaude; 1924, O. H. Meyers; 1925-27. A. C. Adams; 1928, Albin C. Geyer.
Latest ministers of the church include O. F.Jones (lbeginning 1929), Keith Schofield and M. M. Want.
Presiding elders from 1869 on include Asa S. McCoy 1869-72, James P. Dimmitt 1873-74, A. T. Orr 1875-78, Preston Wood 1879-83, M. A. Hewes 1884-86, M.W. Everhart, 1881-92, Horace Reed; 1893-96, William F. Short 1897-1902, Robert Stephens 1900-1907.
Edna Rhodes Biddle, lady on the far left. Aunt Lizzie Bickerdike, teacher in the front row dressed in black. Nannie Bickerdike is in the photo. Edith Burlend Myers is in the 2nd row on right, 2nd girl from Aunt Lizzie Bickerdike. Wm. Burlend is in front of her.
Facts contained in this history of the church were obtained from records of the eaxly missions, the life stories of some of the old circuit riders, records of historical incidents from the files of the Griggsville Press and The Pike County Republicin, a history of the early church prepared in 1886 and revised by Emma Bickerdike in 1906, the neat and accurate records of J. B. Nettleton which he so carefully checked with the Historical Appendix in the Conference Minutes of 1887, the records preserved by May Nettleton and Rose Schmidt, the records and recollections of Robert W. Bickerdike and of other descendants of the pioneering church.
Emma Bickerdike, in her delightful review of the church in 1906, related that she drew upon the facts contained in a review 21 years before and which had been obtained from old settlers who were yet living and who had been young people when Bethel was a new society. No event, she said, was recorded until the old settlers had agreed as to the date and the occurrence itself.
Those from whom much information was obtained included James Leaton, D. D., Rev. Jonas H. Dimmit, Rev. James P. Dimmitt, Mrs. Mary ANthony, Mrs. Clarissa M. Cleveland, MRs. Wealthy M. Dean, Mrs. Gardner, King Phillips, Thoams Dimmitt and James Bickerdike. These great workers in the early church, with their many memories of that pioneer period, are long since dead.
Bethel cemetery, like a number of other Pike county cemeteries, started from a single wilderness grave, the site of which is now lost. A century ago (in 1840 or 1841) a pioneer family of the neighborhood chose this beautiful spot as the last resting place for a beloved child.
Several years passed before another grave was dug there. Not until 1844 did the place begin to be accepted as a neighborhood burying ground. Meanwhile, in 1843, the first Bethel church had been erected near the spot where the first burial was made.
According to a recollection handed down in the Northup family and repeated to the writer many years ago by the late Anson N orthup of Griggsville, the first burial at present Bethel was that of a child by the name of Lytle, whose parents lived in that neighborhood. The child, according to Mr. Northup's recollection, went out into the forest one day astride his pony. The pony came back without his rider. A search was made and the torn body of the child was found in the forest. The child had been clawed to death by a panther.
No one now living remembers this first grave. All trace of it is gone. It is known that families by the name of Lytle were pioneers in the Bethel neighborhood. Class meetings of the early Methodist society were sometimes held in the home of George Lytle, who is buried in Bethel cemetery, as are his wife and others of his family. George Lytle, born June 10, 1812, died July 8, 1874. His wife who was Matilda Evans (This is an error - she was Malinda Casteel). Whether the child who was killed by the panther was a member of this family is not known. Melvina Lytle, who died in 1848, and David Lytle who died in 1850, were children of George Lytle. Both are buried in Bethel. Otho Lytle, who died in 1857 at the age of 15, and Thomas Lytle who died in1846 at the agoe of 40, are also amont the Lytle burials, along with others of the name of later date. Bethel is also the burying ground for those families who spell the name "Lightle".
The first adult burial in Bethel cemetery was that of Manley Thomas, who died March 30, 1844. He is buried in the northwest part of the original burial plot, as is his wife, Nancy, and a son, Uriah. Manley Thomas was one of the founders of the Bethel church. He was converted at a great camp-meeting held on Blue river (Big Blue creek) in 1842. He was one of the first board of trustees and it was he who sawed the lumber for the first church in 1843.
The second adult burial in the cemetery was that of Josias wade, who died April 15, 1844 at the age of 76. He was ancestor of many of that name who are buried at Bethel, and ancestor of some of the great workers and benefactors of the early church. Josias was a soldier in the old Indian wars and was with Daniel Boone on one of the expeditions against the Indians in the Ohio country. He was with gen. Wm. Henry Harrison at the battle of Tippecanoe in Indiana Territory in 1811, when the celebrated Chief Tecumseh's warriors were defeated and the town of his brother, the Prophet, destroyed. Josias Wade and the elder George Evans, both soldiers of the war of 1812, are buried within six feet of each other in the northwest part of the original cemetery. George Evans died Feb. 15, 1865 aged 84.
The elder Richard Wade, who deeded to the Bethel trustees the land on which the church and part of the cemetery are located was a son of Josias Wade by his first wife, Dorcas Brown. Born in Kentucky in 1796, he came to Pike county in 1826. His wife Nancy, died May 6, 1838. She was buried in another cemetery but her body was later removed to Bethel, where she rests beside her husband, who died September 3, 1855. Richard had married again, his second wife being Hannah Pearcy, widow of John Pearcy.
The earliest death recorded on the stones in Bethel is that ofJohn Pearcy, who died May 1, 1835. He was buried elsewhere and the body was later removed to Bethel. His widow, Hannah, who became the second wife of Richard Wade is buried beside him. She died September 2, 1859.
The original burial plot was donated by Richard Wade, one of the first trustees of the church, and included the old cemetery lying north and west of the church. This was not plotted and in the blue prints is designated merely as "space filled with graves."
In 1871 the Bethel Cemetery association was initiated for the purpose of purchasing the old burial plot and adding to it such ground as appeared to be needed for cemetery purposes. First officers of this association, chosen in 1871 were: Bernard W. Flinn, president; Francis Dimmitt, treasurer; James b. Nettleton, secretary; John Wade, Martin Anthony and James Bickerdike, directors.
A compilation of data pertaining to the cemetery made by Miss Ivah Moore, school teacher, in 1933, shows that the original cemetery comprised 2.02 acres. An addition on the south was purchased in 1871 from James Brakefield and was deeded to J. P. Dimmitt and Christopher Turnbull for $100. It comprised 3.75 acres. The purchase price of $100 was raised by subscription. In 1873 the ground was deeded to the Bethel M.E. Cemetery association.
In 1893 E.R. Stoner and wife deeded to the directors of the cemetery association the tract known as the North Addition, consistingof 2.48 acres. The directors at that time were J.B. Nettleton, James Bickerdike, J.M. Phillips, Aaron H. Dean and David W. Jester.
On October 8 and 9, 1918, the then county surveyor, J.M. Hardy, surveyed the cemetery ground at the instance of the trustees. It consists of church yard, 0.37 acres; original or old, 2.02 acres; South or new, 3.75 acres and north addition, 2.48 acres.
Stephen Thompson of East Lynne, IL, although not himself buried there, did much to further the corporation movement and to provide for the perpetual upkeep of the cemetery. He was the first to donate to a cemetery endowment fund, which later has grown into a considerable amount. In 1916 he made the first donation of $150. His wife, Emily Hammerton Thompson who died April 6, 1904 is buried at Bethel, as is her sister, Eliza Hammerton, who died August 15, 1897. They were daughters of W. and s. Hammerton. Both were natives of Lincolnshire England.
Flags and bronze markers designate the graves of many who served in America's wars. In the cemetery stands a stone-draped shaft dedicated to four young soldiers of the neighborhoo who lost their lives in the Civil War. Their brief stories appear on the four faces of the shaft.
They are: George Bickerdike, English-born who enlisted in Co. K, 2nd IL Cav. July 1861 and who fell at the battle fo Holly Springs, Dec. 30, 1862 aged 30; Edwin Nettleton, native of Thomer, Yorkshire England, who enlisted in Co H 73rd IL Inf. August 8, 1862 and who fell at the battle of Misson Ridge Nov. 25, 1863, aged 22; David Pearcy, who enlisted in Co K 2nd IL Cav. July 1861 and who died at Paducah KY March 18, 1862 age 18; and Samuel Anthony, who enlisted in Co H 73rd IL Inf. August 8, 1862 and who fell at Chickamauga, Sept. 20, 1863 age 19.
Another of the early burials was that of James Render, born in England in 1797, who died Sept. 16, 1848. John Saunders Dimmitt, one of the many Dimmitts buried there, died at McKendree College, Oct. 18, 1851.
Rebecca Burlend, whose "True Story of Emigration" immortalized the Blue Creek country and its early settlers, is buried in the cemetery near the little church in which she worshipped in pioneer days. Her great narrative of pioneer life in the interiorof North America, first published in London in 1845, was reprinted in America by the Lakeside Press of Chicago as a Christmas edition in 1987. Beside Rebecca, who died Jan. 31, 1872, lies her husband, John Burlend who preceded her on April 4, 1871. Around them lie many of the early settlement who trod the scenes of Rebecca's story.
In the cemetery is a stone marking the grave of ANdrew Philips, noted ferryman of the early day and long the proprietor of the famous Philips Ferry across the Illinois river near present Valley City, a ferry founded in the dim beginning of Pike county history by Andrew's father, Nimrod Philips. Andrew died Oct. 4, 1864, aged 63. Near him is the grave of a daughter, Cena A. Philips who died Aug. 12, 1854. She was a sister of Ann Philips Bickerdike, member of the class of 1841 from which emerged the Bethel church.
On the stones in Bethel church-yard may be read the names of many noted families of this early English settlement. Among them are the names of Bickerdike, Wade, Dixon, Loveless, Rhodes, Moore, Jester, Hayden, Cook, Seniff, Murphy, Welty, Burns, Burlend, Sleight, Kesterson, Goldman, Lister, Philips, Biddle, Evans, Crane, Elliott, Fielding, Shinn, Thomas, Colman, Hill, Dalby, Birch, McLain, Perry, Walsh, Moor, McMahan, Hammerton, Thompson, Allen, Ellis, Blezzard, Dempster, Render, Husband, Dimmitt, Stoner, Bentley, Yelliott, Dolbow, Lightle, Lytle, Spence, Nettleton, Smith, Scott, Anderson, Wittner, Windsor, French, Dunniway, Croft, Wisdom, Carrell, Wilson, Stevens, Finch, Orrill, Brooks, Freeman, McAllister, Turnbull, Nesbit, Hall, Miller, Anthony, McCallister, Foreman, Newport, Walker, Jennings, Cummings, Bollman, Jameson, Birchard, Flinn, Cushman, Kirk, Pearcy, Green, Large, Thorp and Page.
This was typically an English settlement. Here the grasses grow upon the graves of many English emigrants and their descendants. They lived and died and never heard of a telephone or an electric light or a talking machine or a radio transmission or a flying machine or a horseless cariage. Their last resting place is here at the edge of the ancient wildwood where they settled and lived and labored while wilderness was king.
Closs at hand stands a section of the ancient wood; but the wild life that once inhabited it and which they knew in early days is gone. Another generation comes to worship in the little church on the spot where they were wont to sing the happy songs of David, and round about dwells another race who will never know the trials and heartaches of a pioneer existence. The rude, implements of husbandry to which their hands were accustomed are no longer known in the bustling farmsteads that have arisen on the sites of the early-day cabins. ALong the neighboring highway, once a wilderness trail over which they lumbered in their rude oxcarts, glides a new vehicle driven by a power they never knew; and faint through the still atmosphere drifts the scream of the iron horse, where once (practicularly during the Black Hawk war) they were expectant of the red man's whoop.
Around them in the l ittle churchyard are gathered many of their kith and kin and those who neighbored with them in the pioneer settlement. Here in this little country churchyard the elegiast might find inspiration for another elegy, for here "where heaves the turf in many a moldering heap' lie at eternal rest the rude forefathers of the Blue Creek country. Homely indeed were the lives of these, our pioneers, and obscure their destinies but as we pause beside their graves we may well say, "Here lie the real architects of the present; their's the hand that hewed from the wilderness a homeland for the generations to come; their's the feet that broke the way for those who were to follow them."
And pausing beside their graves we may well close this history with these lines from Cushman;
"Renew their breed, Almighty God,
Those pioneers of yesterday;
Renew in us, Almighty God,
The spirit of the pioneers."