Richland Baptist Church
Woodford County, Illinois

History of the Baptist Churches of  Woodford County, Illinois
By  A.F.Marshall,  A.B. (Shurtleff College 1879), who has been closely identified with the history of the Baptist Churches of this county for more than fifty years, 1913


CHAPTER II. The Richland Baptist Church.

This was the first Baptist church organized in Woodford county after its organization as a county. From this church many other Baptist churches were organized. It was situated five miles north of Metamora. It was organized at the home of Mrs. Esther Mundell, Sept. 27th, 1844, with 13 members. Four from Pennsylvania, one from Virginia, five from Vermont and three from New York. Those present at the organization were Elders H. G. Weston, Thomas Powell and delegates from several other Baptist churches.

Elder Thomas Brown had preached once a month there for some time, and Elder Thomas Powell and Isaac Merriam occasionally. Elder H. G. Weston, while pastor at Washington, had visited and preached there and was instrumental in gathering the church together. Jesse Hammers was its first deacon and held that office until his death, living to a good old age. Tilton Howard was its first clerk.

During the following winter an effort was made to erect a house of worship, in which they were assisted by Deacon Baclieller, of Lynn, Massachusetts, he being an uncle of the pastor. The house was begun in May, 1845. In 1846 Elder Weston removed to Peoria and until the fall of 1847, the church was without a pastor, only having preaching occasionally. Elder W. Pigsley then became pastor and served the church until 1849.

On the thirteenth of October, 1849, a council was called to ordain one of the members to the gospel ministry, August B. Cramb. This is undoubtedly the first ordination of a Baptist minister in Woodford county. Immediately after the ordination, he baptized his wife, who previously had been a member of the Congregational church. In December, 1849, Elder S. S. Freeman, from Michigan, began to preach for the Richland church. A special religious interest had been manifested under the labors of Elder Pigsley on the river bottom, near the Illinois River, a few miles west of the meeting house. Elder Freeman that winter commenced a revival meeting there and ten were baptized during the meeting, and others afterward. In April 1850 Elder Freeman and several others were dismissed to form a church at Spring Bay. Elder Freeman still continued to preach at Richland part of the time. In June 1850 the Richland church reported 33 baptisms and 61 members. In December 1850 Elder Cramb was dismissed to go into the new church to be formed at Metamora. In June 1851 a council met with the Richland church to ordain John M. Scrogin to the work of the gospel ministry and soon after he became pastor of the Delavan church. During the year 1851 the church reported 8 baptisms and 84 members. During this year the church reported several members dismissed to form another Baptist church. Twenty-nine members residing on Half Moon Prairie, desiring to form a new church asked and received letters of dismissal to form a new organization. In December another colony of nine asked the same privilege to form the Richland Valley church.

During the month of December 1851, Elder Cramb commenced preaching again part of the time. At this time the church was greatly weakened by so many of its members going to other colonies, several of which have become large and flourishing churches, so that in 1852, it only reported three baptisms and 48 members. Part of this time Elder J. W. Stickney preached for Elder Cramb on account of the sickness of the latter. In 1853 the church reported only 23 members.

In February, 1854, Elder C. D. Merrit became pastor of the church, in connection with the Metamora and Half Moon churches. In June following, the church reported six baptisms and 33 members, and in 1855, seven baptisms and 44 members. In March, 1856, the paster commenced a series of meetings, assisted part of the time by G. S. Baily, D. D., which resulted in a precious revival and 22 were baptized, making a total membership of 63, C. D. Merrit being pastor, Jesse Hammers deacon and E. A. Fisher clerk. Elder Merrit still continued his labors until April 2nd, 1859, when the church called S. S. Robinson to labor one half time, dividing the time with Washburn. Abner Mundell was church clerk at the time and Jesse Hammers deacon. On July 23rd, 1859, the church voted to divide the Illinois River Baptist Association.

Elder S. S. Robinson served the church as pastor from March 31st, 1860 to February 28th, 1862. On the 21st of May, 1864, he accepted a call to again become its pastor for one half time. On April 29th a call was made to organize a church on the prairie, the same being the Roanoke Baptist church.

Elder Charles Cross served the church as pastor one half time from April 22nd, 1866 to February 6th, 1869. On the same day as the resignation of Elder C. Cross was received, a call was extended to Elder W. Parker to become the pastor and he served the church until April 6th, 1872. Brother F. W. Smith, a student supplied for a while, the church being without a settled pastor, until the last of March 1873. Elder James commenced as pastor at that time. During the summer of 1873, many desiring a new church, it was decided to erect a new-building in the village of Cazenovia, where a Sunday school had been organized about the 12th of May, 1873, with A. J. Hammers, a son of Deacon Hammers, as superintendent. The new church having been completed, it was dedicated the first Sunday in January 1874. Elder James continued as pastor until September 29th, 1877. In April 1878 Rev. J. B. Brown served as pastor one half time, and in April 1879 Rev. Wood, a student, began to supply the church and continued six months. On September 4th, 1880, Elder Wilson began to serve the church as pastor. Elder Graham served for a while as pastor and on December 13th, 1883, Elder Coffman became pastor, dividing his time with the Roanoke church. On November 8th, 1885, m connection with the Roanoke church a call was extended to Elder Gregory to become pastor of both churches, which call he accepted and served until September 25th, 1887, when Brother M. M. Lewis became pastor and on August 4th, 1888, he was called for another year. In October 1889 the church called Brother Booth, a student, who also served the the Roanoke church, remaining as pastor until some time in 1890, when Brother Berry became pastor, and on January 18th, 1891, Rev. Young was called for one year, and at the close of his labor, the church called Rev. C. E. Cady. He began his labors May 17th, 1892. J. F. Sparks commenced his work in October 1893. preaching his farewell sermon November 10th, 1895. The last pastor was H. A. Stonglite in 1900. This closes the history of the first Baptist church in Woodford county.

CHAPTER IV. The Washburn Baptist Church.

The Washburn Baptist church was located in Woodford county near the Marshall county line. It was formerly called the Half Moon Prairie church, for the name of the prairie on which Washburn now stands.

It was formed from members of the Richland church who lived on the prairie in 1852. It was made up of 28 members, principally from New York, some, however, from Ohio, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Kentucky, while some were natives of Illinois. Elders E. S. Freeman and W. G. Gordon were present at the organization of this church. Elder E. S Freeman was the first pastor, commencing his labor at Washburn before the organization. He continued to preach one half time for a year, two being baptized during his labor. Elder C. D Merrit became pastor in March 1853 and the church enjoyed a revival under his labors Their house of worship was built in the fall of 1854. It was 32x45 feet and cost $2200, For one year it received aid from the Home Mission Society and was self sustaining afterward. One of the principal founders of the church was Peleg Sweet, a brother of Elder Joel Sweet. He had a family of twelve children, four sons and eight daughters, all members of the church, the husbands of the daughters having all been baptized, and nine of the grand children all on profession of faith, making over thirty in his family belonging to the church. The membership at that time was 75. Pastor, C. D. Merrit; deacons, E. A. Sweet and Ebenezer Dunham; clerk, Tilton Howard.

About 1859 the church joined the Bloomington Baptist Association. In 1860 Elder G. S. Baily served the church as pastor. Elder W. E. James commenced his labors as pastor in March 1868, and continued until 1873. Rev. A. B. Tolmlinson served as pastor to 1876, and J. B. Brown, following him, closed his labor in April 1878. After him Rev. John Beal served as pastor from October 1878 until March 1879. In April 1881 the church received Rev. J. J. Gorham to act as pastor, he being still in Morgan Park seminary. On July 2nd, 1882, at a meeting held after church, a committee was appointed to arrange for the ordination of Brother J. J. Gorham, it being decided to hold the ordination services on August 29th, 1882. The following churches were invited to sit in council with the Washburn church: Belle Plain, Cazenovia, Chenoa, Clayton, Deer Creek, El Paso, Green Valley, Lacon, Lexington, Metamora, 1st church Peoria, Roanoke, Tonica and Tremont. The council proceded to organize and to elect officers, choosing C. E. Hewitt, D. D., of Peoria, moderator; Rev. L. C. Morehouse, of El Paso, clerk. Having examined the candidate and finding him ready for ordination, the service was as follows: Sermon, C. E. Hewitt, D. D., of Peoria; ordination prayer, Rev. W. H. Carmicle, of Lexington; hand of fellowship, Rev. A. C. Kelly, of Tremont; charge to candidate, Rev. O. B. Reed, of Lacon; charge to church, Rev. J. B. Brown, of Chenoa; benediction by canididate. The church property was sold February 16th, 1897.

History of the Illinois River Baptist Association and of Its Churches
by Gilbert S. Bailey, 1857
Richland

This church is located in Woodford county, five miles north of Metamora. It was constituted in the house of Mrs. Esther Mundell, Sept. 27, 1844, with 13 members. Three or four of these were from Pa., one from Va., five from Vt., and three from N. Y. Elders H. G. Weston and Thomas Powell, and delegates from several churches were present at its organization.

Elder Thomas Brown, of Tremont, had preached in the settlement once a month for some time, and elders Thomas Powell and Isaac Merriam had preached there occasionally.   Elder Weston, while pastor of the church at Washington, Tazewell county, frequently visited this settlement, and gathered this church together, and became its first pastor, preaching there a portion of his time.   Jesse Hammers was its first deacon, and Tilton Howard its first clerk. During the following winter, an effort was made towards the erection of a house of worship. Deacon Bacheller, of Lynn, Mass., an uncle of the pastor, assisted them.   The house was put under contract in May, 1845. In June, the church reported 3 baptisms and 17 members.

In 1846, elder Weston removed to Peoria, and the Richland church remained destitute of preaching, except occasionally, until the fall of 1847, when elder W. Pigsley commenced preaching to the church, and subsequently became its pastor. In 1847 they reported 22 members, and the same number also the two following years.

On the 13th of October, 1849, a council convened with this church, and ordained one of its members, Augustus B. Cramb, to the work of the ministry. Immediately after the services of ordination elder Cramb baptized his wife, who had previously been a member of the Congregational church. After the ordination, elder T. Powell remained with the church for some days, holding a series of meetings, which were a great blessing to the community. Twelve were baptized before the close of the meetings, and several others after.

In December, 1849, elder E. S. Freeman from Michigan, commenced preaching to this church. A special religious interest had been manifested under the labors of elder Pigsley, on the Bottom, near the Illinois River, a few miles west of the meeting hourse. During the winter, elder Freeman commenced preaching there, and an interesting revival followed. Ten were baptized during the series of meetings, and others afterward. In April, 1850, elder Freeman and several others, were dismissed to form a church, at Spring Bay. Elder Freeman, however, continued to preach to the Richland church. In June, 1850, the church reported 33 baptisms and 61 members.

In Dec, 1850, elder Cramb was dismissed to go into the new church about to be formed at Metamora. Their meeting-house was completed except the painting in the spring of 1851. It is 26 by 36 feet, and cost about $900.

In June, 1851, a council met with the church for the ordination of John M. Scrogin to the work of the ministry. He soon after became pastor of the church at Delevan. The Richland church this year reported 8 baptisms and 84 members. In October, 1851, this church dismissed 29 members residing on Half Moon Prairie, six miles north, to form a new church. In December another colony of nine members was dismissed to form the Richland Valley church. During the same month elder Cramb commenced preaching again for the church part of the time. The members of this church were greatly diminished by sending out so many colonies to form new churches. Several of these colonies have since become large and flourishing bodies. In 1852, Richland reported 3 baptism and 48 members. Elder J. M. Stickney preached part of the time for this church, on account of the sickness of elder Cramb. In 1853, the church reported but 23 members. In February, 1854, elder C. D. Merit became pastor of this church, in connection with the Metamora and Half Moon Prairie churches. He is still its pastor, preaching there every other Sabbath. In June following the church reported 6 baptisms, and 33 members, and in 1855 they reported 7 baptisms and 44 members.

In March, 1856, the pastor commenced a series of meetings there, assisted part of the time by G. S. Bailey, which resulted in a precious revival, and 22 were baptized. Present number of members, 63.
Pastor, C. D. Merit.
Deacon, Jesse Hammers.
Clerk, Emerald A. Fisher.

History of the Illinois River Baptist Association and of Its Churches
by Gilbert S. Bailey, 1857
Washburn

This church is located in Woodford county, near the line of Marshall. It was formerly called the Half Moon Prairie church, from the name of the prairie on which the village of Washburn stands. A number of the members of the Richland church resided on this prairie, and these, with others, were organized into a separate church in January, 1852. It was constituted with 28 members. They were principally from New York, some from Ohio, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and some were natives of Illinois. Elders E. S. Freeman and W. G. Gordon were present at the organization.

The Richland church was six miles distant from them. The population around them then numbered about one hundred and fifty. It is now six or seven hundred. The prevailing denominational sentiments in the community were Campbellite at the time of its organization, but now the Baptists have a large and prosperous church. The Methodist have a class there and a few Campbellites yet remain.

Elder E. S. Freeman was the first pastor of the church, commencing his labors at or before the organization. He continued to preach there half the time for one year. Two were baptized during his labors.

Elder C.D. Merit became pastor of the church in March, 1853, and is still the pastor. The church has enjoyed a season of revival every year under the labors of elder Merit. They have a good house of worship, 32 by 45 feet, which cost $2,200. It was built in the fall of 1854. The church received aid from the Home Mission Society one year, but is now self-sustaining and liberal in benevolent contributions.

One of the principal founders of this church was Peleg Sweet, a brother of elder Joel Sweet. He had a family of twelve children, four sons and eight daughters, all of whom are members of this church. The husbands of the eight daughters have all been baptized, and nine of the grand-children, all upon a profession of faith, making over thirty in his family, and immediately connected with it, who have been baptized. He has now gone to his heavenly rest, and also one of his sons-in-law, elder John M. Scrogin, formerly pastor of the Delevan church.

Present number of members 75. Pastor, O. D. Merit. Deacons, Ebenezer Dunham and E. A. Sweet.
Clerk, Tilton Howard.


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