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Richland County, Illinois
Genealogy and History

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Schools and Churches

Source: "Counties of Cumberland, Jasper and Richland, Illinois: Historical and Biographical"
F.A. Battey & Co, 1884

Submitted by B. Ziegenmeyer


     The first school taught in Richland County was taught in an old log building erected for a tavern, on the old 'trace road,' two miles west of Olney, in what is now Olney Township, in 1822 and 1823, by John I. Chauncey. The schoolroom was partitioned off from one end of the tavern, and Was furnished with slab seats, and board desks. Uncle Elijah Nelson attended that school for four days.

    This first teacher of Richland County, died at the home of Elijah Nelson, in the spring of 1824; his was the first death within the limits of what is now Olney Township. After his death the question arose as to what they should do for a casket; at that time there were no saw-mills in the country.

    John Evins had just erected a cabin in what is now Noble Township, of Richland County, in which he had laid a very nice puncheon floor. It was proposed to take some puncheons out of the floor of this cabin with which to construct the coffin. The suggestion, was acted upon, and John Evins, John Jeffries, John Mathews, John Nelson, and Elijah Nelson constructed the coffin. Thus, in a rude casket made of slabs, was one of the first teachers of Richland County, Ill., consigned to his last home. In 1841, there were four schools held in the county, one at Fairview, one in the Baptist Church near old Claremont, one in the Richard Philips neighborhood, four miles north of Olney, and the other at the Morehouse Schoolhouse, two miles east of Olney. These were all subscription schools, the State fund being so meager that the people refused to organize under the school law. On the platting of Olney, Mrs. Powers became a resident of the village and opened her house for the purpose of teaching school. It would be difficult in any case to trace the growth of the common schools from this small beginning to the present advancement. In 1866, Judge Kitchell having donated the ground, a public school building was erected in Olney, and occupied the following year. This structure is an object of pride to every citizen and is well worthy of their admiration. It originally contained twelve rooms, and with the furniture cost over $33,000. It has since been enlarged by the addition of two rooms, and the number of children to be accommodated is rapidly outgrowing its capacity. The average of the county schools is not of the highest. The county has been unfortunate in some of its County Superintendents, and the policy of the Board of Supervisors has never been of the most progressive character. No time is allowed for visiting schools, but when it becomes necessary to adjudicate some difficulty, then the Superintendent is allowed for this extra service. There are no reports preserved in the office, save for 1883, which renders it impossible to compile the statistics setting forth the development of the school interests. For the last school year the report places the number of persons of school age in the county, at 5,455; the whole number enrolled, 4,574; the number of graded schools are four, one each at Olney, Noble, Claremont, and Parkersburg ; there are in addition, seventy eight ungraded schools. Of the eighty two schoolhouses in use, five are brick, seventy five are frame, and two are log structures. Four districts have libraries valued at an aggregate value of $483. The total value of school property in the county is $84,935; the Olney property alone being estimated at $40,000.    The entire apparatus of the county is put down at $1,559. The average monthly wages of male teachers is $35.95; of female teachers, $24.49. The amount of district tax to support schools is $21,306.50; $6,400 of this being raised in Olney. There is a bonded school debt of $4,162. The total receipts for the year were $47,683.79; total expenditures, $33,025.54, of which $21,975.34 was paid to teachers.


    It is characteristic of the settlement of Richland County that the church influences early made their way here. The earliest denomination was the Baptist, of what is popularly termed the "Hard shell" variety. They built the first place of worship in the county, as early as 1822. This was a log structure called " Antioch" and situated five miles east of Olney on the " trace road." This served for school purposes as well as a place for worship and attracted the devout for miles about on preaching days. William Martin, of Kentucky, was the preacher usually in attendance here. The second church building was erected soon after the first by the same denomination. Its site was on the Fox Prairie, two miles southwest of the present village of Fransonia. This was known as the " Union " Church and was served by a Rev. Mr. Roberts. A few years later, "Shiloh" Church was erected five miles west of Olney on Andrew Evans' property on the " trace road." This was a log structure and was built by the Baptists, Champion Maden being the earliest minister here. During the early history of the church influence, the Baptists were the largely predominating denomination, and some of the leading early preachers were frequently here. Among these may be noted such men as Richard M. Newport, Richard Guardner, Benjamin Coates, Joel Humes, Jerry Holcombe, and Charles Whiting. The Methodists were but little later in the field. The first church edifice of this denomination was not erected until 1842, but their itinerants were found throughout the county much earlier. Among them was the famous Lorenzo Dow, who was here in 1820, and again in 1830. He was remarkable for the force and rude eloquence of his sermons and the eccentricity of his manners. Elijah Nelson relates an incident of his preaching at "Antioch" Church, September 2, 1830. A large number had gathered to hear him. Arriving at the spot, he gravely went to the door of the building, and giving several distinct raps, repeated in a solemn tone the passage of Scripture: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." Seating himself a moment after in the door, he began an affecting and powerful discourse from the text: " Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." The Christian Church, then known popularly as " New Lights," were somewhat numerous, though at an early date there were no houses of worship erected by this sect nearer than Spring Hill, in Lawrence County.

    The first house of worship built by the Methodist Episcopal Church was the log structure in Olney, used for awhile in a triple capacity, as schoolhouse, court house, and place of worship. The first society was organized in November, 1841, by William Cummins, of Mount Carmel circuit, Illinois Conference. The persons composing this primitive church were: W. H. Reed and wife, B. S. Thrapp and wife, Mrs. E. Jay, and J. Notestine. Judge. R. B. Marney and wife joined soon after the organization. Of these original members, only Mr. Notestine survives. The society has been prosperous, and now occupies a fine brick structure erected in 1854 and 1855, at a cost of $2,800. This denomination is the most numerous in the county, having some sixteen places of worship, and several appointments not provided with church edifices. At Olney, there are representative churches of ten denominations, nine beside the Methodist, all of which have sister churches in the country about. These are the Baptist, Moravian, Lutheran, Congregational; Presbyterian, German Evangelical, Roman Catholic, German Reformed, and Christian. The first does not have the large numbers in the county that it once had, but it is represented by several organizations. The same is true of the present status of the Moravians, Lutheran, and German Evangelical churches. The Congregational and Presbyterian churches were originally together, but divided on doctrinal questions. They represent the greater strength of their respective denominations' in the county. The Catholic Church has a sister organization on Grand Prairie, where a church edifice was built in 1844. The Christian denomination, though latest represented in the county seat, has a growing strength in the county, and is represented by several vigorous congregations. In the county seat of the ten organizations, but one has a regular pastor and services, at the present writing. With several, this is accidental, but too many seem to have effected an organization without counting the cost.

    The German population gave rise to a number of church organizations peculiar to this nationality. Of these the earliest was the Evangelical Association, for a sketch of which this volume is indebted to the kindness of Rev. Schlencher, as follows:

Evangelical Association
    In the year of 1842, this part of the country was for the first time visited by a preacher of the Evangelical Association, in the person of Christoph Augenstein, sent by the Ohio Conference. He preached in the houses, but the outlook was not very encouraging. In the year 1843, the Illinois Conference took up a mission, embracing the counties of Wabash, Clark, Owen and Richland. Christ Lindner and Nickolai were sent as missionaries. This year Mr. Henry Zwahlen was converted and joined the church. In 1844, A. Nickolai and G. G. Platz were sent by the Conference, and their effort was crowned with success. In 1845, the above Mission was divided in Dubois and Mount Carmel. Philip Prech, was sent to Mount Carmel, to which Richland County belongs, where he had good success on the Grand Prairie, six miles north of Olney; a few families were converted who organized themselves into a class and chose H. Zwahlen as their class-leader. The names of the original members were: H. Zwahlen and wife, P. P. Bauer, George Yelch and wife, W. Ameter and wife, Fred. Launer, A. Bushany, G. P. Zimmerly and wife, J. Staely. In 1846, G. Mueller and J. Trometer were sent pastors to work on the Mission. In 1847, 1848, 1849 and 1850, Christ Glaus, Samuel Dickover and H. Ragaty were the missionaries sent by the Conference, during these years, in which the membership was steadily growing.

    In the year 1850, the first church was built, six miles northeast of Olney, and called the Grand Prairie Church. In 1853, the Indiana Conference was organized, which Conference took Grand Prairie up as a Mission, and sent Rev. P. Burgner as missionary. This year there was another class organized in the town of Olney, with P. P. Bauer as its leader. There was also a church built in the town of Olney, 32x45, cost $700. From 1854 to 1873, the Revs. B. Ruh, Joseph Fisher, J. Fuchs, J. M. Kronmueller, Charles Wessling, C. C Kohlmeier, W. Wesseler, G. Shmall, H. L. Fisher, Job Berger, Christ Glaus, J. M. Kronmueller and J. Kaufman, were pastors. Rev. J. Kaufman being three years on the Mission,, and in his three years Olney was made a Station. In 1873-75, Rev. C. Tramer was sent by the Conference to Olney Station, and labored with good success; 1875-78, "W. G. Braeckly was sent by the Conference to Olney Station, who also worked with good success, and under his charge the new church was built, a fine brick buildings 45x75, cost   $9,000;  1878-79,  Rev. M.   Speck,  was sent on the Station; 1879-81, Rev. J. C. Young was pastor in charge of the Olney Station; 1881-84, Rev. H. Schlencher was sent by the Conference. The present membership numbers 190. The Grand Prairie class is still served from the pastor of the Olney Station and the local preacher; its membership being twenty-five. Olney Station has a Sunday-school scholarship enrolled of about 200 scholars.

Church of Christ

    There are ten congregations of this denomination in Richland County. Two are in Madison Township, at Parkersburg and Fairview, each of which has a membership of about seventy-five persons. In Decker Township there are congregations at Fransonia and Green Hill, with a membership of about fifty each. In Noble Township there is one, at Brush ville," with a membership of about 100 members under the pastoral charge of Rev. H. M. Sanderson. In Denver Township there are two, with a membership of about 100. There is also one in German Township, "Prairie Hall," which has a membership of upwards of 100; one in Claremont Township, "Eureka," with 110 members, and one in Bonpas Township, " Shiloh," having a membership of 100, under the pastoral charge of Rev. F. M. Sheik. The church at Olney was organized in the year 1867, by W. B. F. Treat, with thirty members. The congregation met in the court house as they had no place of worship of their own, until about 1874, when they secured a hall. In 1878, the church purchased a small frame building and fitted it up at a total cost of about $1,200. The pastors succeeding Mr. Treat have been Revs. Erastus Lathrop, G. W. Morrell, J. F. James, and John Mavity. The church has been without a regular pastor occasionally, and has enjoyed the services of a large number of ministers who were not regularly employed. The membership now reaches to the number of 125 persons. Of the other churches no reliable data can be given. The Baptist denomination number some seven or eight congregations in the county, and the Moravian, two organizations.

St. Pauls Evangelical Lutheran Church.

    As far as is known, Rev. Seacrist was the first Lutheran minister who preached the gospel to the scattered Lutherans in Richland County, Ill.. Rev. Daniel Scherer succeeded Rev. Seacrist, and labored faithfully among the people, preaching the gospel and] administering the sacraments, his field, however, being so large, he called his son Jacob from Gettysburg to his assistance. He preached several years in the log church, in the Schlichenmyer neighborhood, and various other places Rev.   C.  Kuhl  succeeded the  Scherers,  and  organized the Saint Paul's in 1851-52, two miles southwest of Olney; he labored but a few years, and was succeeded by Rev. Hunderdasse, who remained but six months or a year. Rav. Swaney was the next Lutheran minister who supplied the Saint Paul's with the preaching of the gospel for a year or two. Rev. George H. Schnur became his successor in 1861-62, and continued pastor for several years, when he resigned. The congregation next invited Rev. J. M. Hurkey, from Mount Carmel, to preach for them as a supply until they could obtain a regular pastor. In the month of October, 1869, in obedience to a regular call, Rev. J. M. Hurkey became the pastor of the church, and remained so until the fall of 1874. During the pastorship of J. M. Hurkey, the Saint Paul's resolved to]change the place of worship from Schlichenmyer Schoolhouse, to the city of Olney. On the 23d day of September, 1873, the Saint Paul's laid the corner-stone of their house of worship, according to the ceremonies of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. The building is a brick 36x65 in size, and was erected at a cost of $4,500.

    Rev. J. M. Long, succeeded Rev. J. M. Hurkey, in the spring of 1875; Rev. J. P. Schnur, succeeded Rev. J. M. Long in the fall of 1876; Rev. E. A. Best, succeeded Rev. J. P. Schnur in the spring of 1878; Rev. E. Schwartz, present pastor, succeeded Rev. E. A. Best in the spring of 1883.

The original membership was as follows:

John Schlichenmyer, Jacob F. Schlichenmyer, Christian Schlichenmyer, George Steffy, William Schaffer, Philip Steffy, Fredrick E. Schonart, Lorenzo Krippner, Franklin Krippner, Henry Steffy, Jacob Schlichenmyer, Daniel Schlichenmyer, Daniel Kaltreider, Gottlieb Heintzelmann, Henry Krippner, John Sager, George Kaltreider.

Sarah Schlichenmyer, Catharine Schlichenmyer, Mary Schlichenmyer, Eveline Steffy, Susanna Kaltreider, Sarah Steffy, Catharine Mempel, Fredrica Schonart, Elizabeth Krippner, Lydia Kaltreider, Catharine Heintzelmann, Esther A. Sager, Catharine Schaffer. The present membership is seventy.

Saint Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church of Preston
    The Rev. G. H Schnur had been preaching for some time in the neighborhood of the present Saint Paul's Church, but without any organization. In the spring of 1869, Rev. J. M. Single accepted a call from the Claremont Pastorate and commenced preaching at this point. On October 30, 1869, he organized the Saint Paul's Evangelical  Lutheran   Church, with  the  following eleven members, viz.: John Zirkel, Levi Kesler, G. W. Dozer, Socrates Dozer, Henry Stang, Nancy Zirkel, Mary Kesler, Eliza A. Dozer, George Stang, Elizabeth Stang and Catharine Stang. The Rev. J. M. Single was succeeded by Rev. W. Friday, who served the congregation from February, 1871, to April, 1872. Rev. W. Friday was succeeded by Rev. A. Leathers, who took charge of the con°re<ration in the fall of 1873. The next minister in charge of this church was Rev. J. P. Schnur. He commenced his services on the 10th of December, 187(5. Rev. J. P. Schnur was succeeded by Rev. E. A. Best, who took charge of this congregation, in connection with Olney, in the spring of 1878, and served them until the spring of 1883, when Rev. E. Schwartz, the present pastor, took charge of the congregation. The present membership of the congregation is fifty-four. The first officers of the church were Levi Kesler, elder, and George W. Dozer, deacon. They were also the first trustees. A Sunday-school, not very large, but in good running order, is kept up during the whole year. The church house in which the congregation worships is a frame building, and was erected in the year 1871, and cost about $1,100.

Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church

    This church was organized in 1843, by Rev. Sechrist as pastor. The first edifice was erected in the same year in what is now Olney Township. There were forty-one original members. The second edifice was erected in 1862, in Claremont Township, and the name changed to Saint James Evangelical Lutheran Church. It now has 149 members. The following have been pastors: Revs. D. Scherer, J. Scherer, C. Kuhl, C. Hunderdasse, D. D. Swuney, G. H. Schnur, J. M. Hurkey, C. L. Luner, and J. Hursh, present incumbent.

German Reformed Church

    The German Reformed Church at Olney was established and erected by a few families, about ten in number, and mostly all of Swiss emigration. At a meeting on the 24th of June, 1860, the congregation organized itself, and the following members were elected as trustees to manage and facilitate the building of the present church: John Yon Gunten, Christian Bohren, J. J. Feutz, John Schilt and Jacob Miller. Operations were immediately commenced by the said trustees; the building site,  about one acre of ground, worth $300, was deeded by Mr. T. W. Lilley, gratis, and the church was erected during the same year, 1860, at a cost of $2,000. A few years after, a fine bell, the best in Olney, was put in the cupola at a cost of $325. In 1874, the parsonage, near the church, was built by the congregation at a cost of $1,200; the best parsonage in Olney. The first pastor was Rev. G. F. Launer, an ordained theologian from Switzerland. In 1874, the congregation, through the management of its pastor, Rev. Fr. Judtr an old graduate of Basel, Switzerland, associated itself with the German Reformed Synod of America. The present membership amounts to about sixty, and its present pastor is Rev. Eichen.

The German Reformed Church at Grand Prairie
    This church was established by about twenty families, mostly all of Swiss emigration. In the same settlement there were living a number of families known as Lutherans, and the two branches, Reformed and Lutherans, were supporting together one church and one pastor in common, for a number of years, bat matters did not work all right together; the Lutherans being too orthodox for the liberal minded Reformed, and they separated. At a meeting then held by the Reformed members on the 5th day of February, 1852, a resolution was unanimously adopted to establish and form a church of their own. A few of the prominent members then, such as Peter Ingzi, Christian Ingzi, Christian Sterchi, Henry Sterchi, John Jacob Hauck, Philip J. Zimmerle and others, now all dead, took the matter in hand purchased a tract of land of twenty-four and a half acres for a building site, and the present church was then erected at a cost of $800. In 1876 or 1877, a very handsome parsonage was also erected near the church; the first pastor, Rev. G. F. Launer, a theological graduate of Berne, Switzerland. In 1874, the congregation associated itself with the German Reformed Synod of America, through the management of Rev. Fr. Judt, a graduate of the Basel Missionary Society, Switzerland, of many years ago. The present membership is large, amounting to about 100, and its pastor is Rev. Kiper.

Olney Presbyterian Church
    This church was organized January 8, .1858, by a committee of the Palestine Presbytery, with these members: Mrs. Mary Knight, Mrs. Elizabeth Darling, Mrs. Mary McClure, Mrs. Milla Burrell, Mrs. Rebecca A. Wilson, Mrs. Harriet N. Crozier, John Boyd, James Crozier, Mrs. Jane Wilson, John Henderson, Mrs. Jane Henderson, Miss Mary A. Henderson. Elders of the church, since chosen: George W. Cone, D. Marquis, David Smith, John L. Campbell, James W. Beck, Horace Hay ward, William H. Wallace, L. M. Parker, E. Bowyer, J. C. Allen, J. H. Morgan, John Horner, J. P. Wilson. Ministers, since the organization: John Crozier, H. E. Thomas, A. H. Sloat, Solomon Cook, R. J. L. Mathews, John Stuart.

    The church building is a neat frame structure, erected in 1810 at a cost of about $3,000. A parsonage was built in 1864, at a cost of about $1,500. The church and parsonage are on the same lot. The church is out of debt and has a membership of a little over one hundred. In the history of this church the Rev. John Crozier is entitled to special mention, as he was really the founder of the church and has done more since to build up its interests than any other one man. On account of the health of his family he has recently removed to Minnesota.

First Congregational Church
    This church was organized in June, 1873, by Rev. Robert West, of Alton, Ill., with a membership of twenty-six persons. The first pastor was Rev. Edward Anderson, of Boston, Mass. The first officials of the church were G. W. Frithey and Prof. David Edmiston, deacons; Horace Howard, president, Andrew Darling, J. M. Wilson, Gary Gaddis (Robert Byers, secretary), trustees; Mrs. M. V. Byers, treasurer; Mrs. Sarah Edmiston, clerk; David Edmiston, Sunday-school superintendent. The present church edifice, a handsome structure in the Gothic style and one of the finest in the city or county, was erected in 1875, at a cost of $8,000. The church has a membership of about sixty persons and is in a flourishing condition. The pastor is the Rev. D. C. McNair.

Roman Catholic Church 
The Catholic Church is represented in Richland County by two congregations, one at Stringtown, German Township, and the other at Olney. The first, as noted above, was organized in 1844 as an off-shoot of the church in Saint Marie, in Jasper County. It is served by the officiating priest at Olney, and is in a vigorous condition. A Catholic school was organized and a building for this purpose erected in 1879, at a cost of about $300. The membership is composed entirely of Germans, and numbers about fifty families

Saint Joseph's Catholic Church of Olney
This church was organized about 1855. Before the erection of their present place of worship, in 1859 or 1860, mass was celebrated at the house of Mr. McDonnell. The Redemptionist Fathers have a mission here, and a school. The membership numbers about forty-five families.


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