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Religion in Pioneer Illinois


©Illinois Genealogy Trails History and Genealogy

Transcribed by Kim Torp

BAPTISTS. The first Baptist minister to settle in Illinois was Elder James Smith, who located at New Design, in 1787. He was followed, about 1796-97, by Revs. David Badgley and Joseph Chance, who organized the first Baptist church within the limits of the State. Five churches, having four ministers and 111 members, formed an association in 1807. Several causes, among them a difference of views on the slavery question, resulted in the division, of the denomination into factions. Of these perhaps the most numerous was the Regular (or Missionary) Baptists, at the head of which was Rev. John M. Peck, a resident of the State from 1822 until his death (1858). By 1835 the sect had grown, until it had some 250 churches, with about 7,500 members. These were under the ecclesiastical care of twenty-two Associations. Rev. Isaac McCoy, a Baptist Indian missionary, preached at Fort Dearborn on Oct. 9, 1825, and, eight years later, Rev. Allen B. Freeman organized the first Baptist society in what was then an infant settlement. By 1890 the number of Associations had grown to forty, with 1010 churches, 891 ministers and 88,884 members. A Baptist Theological Seminary was for some time supported at Morgan Park, but, in 1895, was absorbed by the University of Chicago, becoming the divinity school of that institution. The chief organ of the denomination in Illinois is "The Standard" published at Chicago.

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