Roanoke Churches - Past and Present
Woodford County, Illinois Genealogy Trails

The Roanoke area area has been served at one time or another by a total of ten churches. Two are now closed, one organized here was moved to Linn Township, one organized in Linn Township was moved to Roanoke, and six are still serving; two of the six in their original buildings - the Brethren built in 1858, and the Methodist in 1875 (torn down and rebuilt by 1974).

Christian Church

The organization of the Christian Church dates back to 1846 when a Rev. Abner Peeler, a pioneer in religious work, preached in school houses, private homes and open air in the "grove". It was known as the "Campbellite Church" in the early days. There were 16 members. Rev. John Oatman later became pastor.

A building was completed in 1873 on ground in the east part of town donated by David T. Fauber. The building was located on the east side of Monroe Street and one block north of Front Street near the creek. The cost of the 60x36 ft. building was $3500 as built by the firm of Stephenson and Snyder. It seated 280 persons. Jonathan Wilson was one of these who pledged $1000. C. M. Stephenson was another strong supporter.

Membership numbered 80 in 1878. James Kirk was Pastor, B. G. Kindig, J. R. Wilson, and Joseph Wilson were Elders, and I. H. Fischer, C. L. Stephenson, and C. K. Snyder were Deacons.

In 1893, a new baptistry was built and dedicated. Prior to the completion of the baptistry all new members were baptized in the creek just north of the church. At times, baptisms were held in Eureka because of high water in the creek.

For some years it was conducted in conjunction with Eureka Christian Church. Eureka College furnished many student pastors to keep it going.

As the village grew, most of the new growth was north of the railroad tracks and the membership dwindled in size. Many of the members attended the Methodist Church because it was closer.

Some of the other early ministers were J. G. Waggoner, W. H. Waggoner, August Larson, E. E. Higdon, Burl Sealock, Amos Wilson, John F. Smith, and Paul Rosborough. At times these ministers would come from Eureka in the morning on the Santa Fe Railroad and return in the evening.

In 1929, the congregation agreed to discontinue services. The building was sold to Joe Amigoni on October 15, 1937. Mr. Amigoni sold the place a few days later to J. H. Lock of Kappa, who began to raze it.

United Methodist Church

In 1848, the Methodist Church began holding services in member's homes. Soon Bunch Grove School, one mile east of Roanoke, became a stop of the newly formed El Paso Circuit served by C. P. Hall. Meetings were later held again in homes in town until 1875, when a one-room white wooden building was erected on the then west edge of town at the corner of Church and Broad Street, the site of the present church. There was no basement; a stove was used for heating and the entrance was a wooden platform leading to large double doors. During the years 1898-1908, the Roanoke Church was combined with Eureka and from 1908-1932 with Benson. At present the Pastor serves both Roanoke and Secor.

Many building improvements were made over the years. Around 1915, members who were unemployed because of the mine strike raised the building and put a basement under it. During the 1930's, the building was partitioned, soundboard installed, and a vestibule added on the east entrance. An organ, wooden pews, plumbing, central heating and carpeting were added at various times.

When the depression hit it caused a loss of church income. Many of the church's activities were curtailed. This loss of income did not stop the people from making many improvements to the building during the 1930's. Most of the labor and materials needed were donated. J. B. Snyder did much of the work and supervised it. A new entrance was made by removing the old wooden doors and adding a roof extension on the east. The basement door was plugged and a new entrance to the basement was made in the southwest corner of the newly built vestibule. New overhead lights and matching lights for the sanctuary were installed. Mrs. Grover Springer commissioned L. A. Cravens to make a lighted cross for the center of the sanctuary. The cross was made from the old altar rail of the Methodist Church and was donated by Mrs. Springer in memory of her husband.

In the latter 1930's a church in Abingdon, Illinois, disbanded and had a sale of its furniture. A group of people from the Roanoke Church went there and bought some much needed furniture. The articles bought were the present 22 wooden pews and the pulpit. The cost was about #100. More things were desired, but the church could not afford them at the time.

Since 1953, the congregation has been involved in a three-step building program. A tri-level parsonage was built in 1961 at 309 N. Church Street; a brick education building built in 1964 on Broad Street providing classrooms and a much used fellowship hall. In April, 1973, the congregation voted to build a new sanctuary facing Church Street and attached to the fellowship hall, to be scheduled for completion in 1974.

The congregation has grown from a small group of people in 1848 to 100 members in 1920, to the present congregation of about 225.

Thomas Moots was the first pastor to reside in Roanoke. Some of the others who have served were: Earl Fahnestock (1917-23), Thomas Bartram (1927-33), Clair Wolf (1935-41), John Byrne (1964-65), Oliver Zivney (1966-73), and the present pastor Lloyd Vinnedge.


Panther Creek Church of the Brethen

Near the middle of the 19th century many Easterners came to Illinois in covered wagon. Among these were several members of the Peters Creek German Baptist (Dunkard) Church near Salem, Virginia.

James R. Gish and his wife Barbara (Kindig) moved to what is now Roanoke and homesteaded the northwest portion of the present village in 1850. In 1852, David Martin and Jacob Negley held meetings in the community and baptized James R. Gish and his wife, George Gish, Tobias Kindig and wife, P. A. Moore and wife, and Lee Anna Brown. There were thirteen charter members who organized the church in the fall of 1852.

James R. Gish was elected to the ministry and preached his first sermon in 1852 before the fireplace in the kitchen of his father's new home, located one ;mile north of Roanoke. John Barnhart also preached in this house using the front porch for a pulpit. George Gish also preached.

Homes were used for services until 1858 when the 30 by 40 feet auditorium of the present building was erected on the site near Greene Township. The land was purchased for $60 and the meeting house built at a cost of $1500. Jeremiah Tauzer was treasurer for many years. His record book from the 1860's is still preserved.

The early church grew rapidly and served as a meeting place for the entire community. Attendance was far beyond the capacity of the house even after the aisles were filled with wagon seats and benches. In summer many stood in doorways and at windows. Horses and conveyances lined the road on both sides and four ways from the crossroads. membership in 1878 was some 240. Characteristic practices were long meter singing without instrumental accompaniment, led in the early days by Barbara Gish and Clarinda Moore. Ministers occupied a long bench before the audience and at the opening of services would pass a Bible from one to the other until one felt moved to rise and speak. A sermon of at least an hour was expected. Love Feasts or communion were held regularly and were generally announced for "early candle light" and during or near full moon to facilitate night travel. On these occasions many members living at a distance came and spent the weekend with relatives, members and friends. Occasional protracted meetings by visiting ministers became an annual practice as did the fall harvest or "all day meeting" as it was commonly called. These meetings were attended by the community at large and were a major influence on the growth of the church. District meetings were held here in 1871 and 1873. A number of visitors were housed in the upstairs of the church. The kitchen was also located on that floor.

In 1883 the north wing was added. The members felt there was a need for a town church because of many people coming in to work at the mine. A building was purchased in the 1890's at the corner of Ann and State streets. It was used for afternoon church services and Sunday School. It was sold on February 29, 1904. James R. Gish deeded three acres of ground adjoining the church property in 1896. This was to be used for a parsonage site but building plans did not materialize. However, a parsonage and four acres of land was purchased in 1898 and more acreage added later. The parsonage was sold in 1970 due to the sharing of the Pastor with Oak Grove Church of the Brethren. In the 1950's a room was added to the church for the furnace, rest rooms, and Sunday School.

The Sunday School was organized in 1873 with an enrollment of 160, then the largest in Woodford County. George Gish was the superintendent. The first meeting of the "Sisters Aid Society" was held June 2, 1908 at the home of Mrs. J. McCauley. Blance Barnhart was the first president.

Some of the Pastors who have served this congregation are: J. J. Kindig, J. W. Gish, John W. Switzer, Amos Yordy, Edward Cawley, J. E. Small, Ira Hiatt, Paul Leckron, Ralph Thomas, Derwood Toxell, and the present Pastor Wilbur Fischer. Present membership is 63.


Apostolic Christian Church

The Roanoke Apostolic Christian Church dates back to 1857 when Benedict Weyeneth moved to the prairie from Morton, Illinois. He was originally commissioned to minister to a small settlement in New York, but later moved to central Illinois. Weyeneth had heard that a railroad was to be built from Pekin to Chicago and he surmised that it would go through the Prairie land of Woodford County. He decided it would be a good place to start a settlement, so he moved to a farm west of where the present church is located.

The first assemblies of the Apostolic Christian congregation in the Roanoke, Eureka and Metamora area were held in homes and in barns in the Partridge area just west and south of Metamora. As the need for a larger place of worship became apparent and as more of the congregation were settling on the Prairie near to where Elder Weyeneth was living, a frame building was erected, in 1861, three and one-half miles west of Roanoke, the site of the present church.

The building was enlarged in 1864 and again in 1872. These structures were built of wood and, as was common in the early days, shelters were provided on the premises for the horses and buggies. In 1929, the building was extensively remodeled to include brick veneering and the provision of modern facilities. A small addition was made in 1955 and again in 1958, when more room was provided for Sunday school, dining room, and nursery.

There were many who walked to church from Eureka and Roanoke in early years. From Roanoke, the first mile followed the railroad tracks and from here a board walk consisting of 2x12 planks laid end to end, a distance of one and one-quarter miles, was laid to the church. There were occasions when visitors came from Morton and Peoria on the train. the train would stop at the crossing, about one and one-half miles east of the church, and the visitors would get off the train there and be escorted to the church by local members, either on foot on the board walk or with horse and buggy. In some instances, some would walk to the mid-week services from the east edge of eureka and then walk home when the services were over.

Later, some felt the need for a church building in town to accommodate the congregation for mid-week services, so a small church was built in the 400 block of West Davidson. A small room in the rear of this building was used for German school in summer and sometimes in the winter. When transportation was no longer a problem, mid-week services were held in the country church, and the Roanoke building was torn down.

Membership in the prairie church came principally from the communities of Eureka, Metamora and Roanoke. Increased attendance at church and Sunday School over-taxed the facilities, and in 1955, after careful consideration, it was agreed to build a second church in Eureka. This building was dedicated in 1957 and resulted in a redistribution of the membership.

On June 19, 1964, the building was destroyed by fire. Since the membership still preferred the country location, the ruins were hauled away and a new building erected on the same site. This was dedicated on October 30, 1966.

The Elders who served the congregation through the years were: Benedict Weyeneth, Conrad Fehr, Michael Mangold, John W. Schmidt, David Mangold, and Leroy Huber. The present Elder is Eugene Bertschi.

Baptist Church

The Baptist Church was organized in 1865 with 32 members. Records show that a Rev. Sumner Robinson was the first Pastor.

A church was built in 1866 seven miles north of Eureka. Membership in 1878 was 55 with 70 in Sunday School. Names of some of the families attending this church were: Kellogg, Lightfoot, Marshall, Bally, and Fagot. The Pastor in 1878 was Rev. M. L. Fuller.

The congregation was later disbanded because of lack of members, and in 1905 the Roanoke and Metamora Mennonite congregations purchased the building, remodeled it and it became the Harmony Mennonite Church.

In 1929, the Harmony Church was closed and the building dismantled and moved to the Pleasant Hill area west of Morton, Illinois. It is now used as the Pleasant Hill Mennonite Church.



Trinity Lutheran Church

The group of Lutherans, mostly of German extraction, and living in Linn Township, first met and were ministered to by Pastor Buskin of Secor.

In a special meeting on October 22, 1871, it was decided to organize a congregation of their own. Claus Beenders and H. harms were elected Elders. Albert Meyer and Epke Reents were named to supervise a school connected with the church. Services were to be conducted in the German language and for some time the congregation was known as the German Lutheran Church.

In 1873, three acres of land donated by Albert Meyers, Claus Beenders and D. Meyers became Trinity Lutheran Cemetery. This same year the congregation built a parsonage.

In September, 1874, a call was extended to Pastor Carl Weber of Goldberts, Pennsylvania, which included the obligation to teach school to the best of his ability. His salary was $400 per year, a free house and use of two acres of land.

In April, 1880, the congregation decided to build a new church at a cost of $2213.73. Habbe Schlomer was awarded the contract. In November, 1880, the church was dedicated with two services and a concert by a band from a Lutheran Church in Peoria.

As Roanoke grew in the late 1800's, a mission school conducted by Mrs. Hannah Schlomer Ladendorf was started in Roanoke during the summer months. The church grew rapidly from 1880 to 1922. The German language was still used two Sundays a month for services in the early twenties, but by 1922 the records of the church were kept in English. In 1922, the church was moved from Linn township to Lincoln Street in Roanoke. Two steam engines were used to move the building. One engine pulled the structure while the other was used as a brake engine. The house that was on the site was moved to the west and used for a parsonage.

In 1946, the Diamond Jubilee of the congregation was celebrated. In 1957, a $30,000 enlargement and modernization of the building was completed. The remodeling included an extension of the building to the north. The following year a new organ was installed, and in 1960 the congregation dedicated an addition to the south of the original building. The new vestibule with its two multi purpose rooms cost $22,000 plus much volunteer labor.

A new parsonage was built on the Ladendorf property, which had been bequeathed to the congregation, on the corner east of the church. It was built with the help of volunteer labor and dedicated in 1967. The Moser property adjacent and north of the church was purchased in 1968 and a paved parking lot built.

On October 22, 1971, the congregation celebrated its 100th anniversary with special services and programs conducted by former Pastors Fred Pfotenhauer and William Eifrig. To celebrate the 100th anniversary is a privilege, but to have a daughter of the original congregation alive, even though she was already three years old when the congregation was organized, is a privilege indeed. Such is the case of Mrs. Gertrude Stunkel, the former Gertrude Reents, who was born January 28, 1868.

The Trinity Lutheran congregation has had 14 pastors in the past 100 years. They are: Theo Buszin (1871-1874), C. Weber (1874-1879), Theo Pissel (1879-1899), B. Graupner (1899-1910), K. F. Kinse (1910-1922), E. C. Schutt (1923-1927), W. F. Eifrig (1927-1932), F. Pfotenhauer (1933-1936), E. W. Hahn (1936-1946), A. C. Meier (1946-1947), M. Beer (1947-1956), L. Mietzner (1957-1963), W. H. Lubkeman (1963-1964), John S. Ricker (1964-1974), and Charles Johnson (1974).

St. Peters Lutheran Church

The very first record of St. Peter's Lutheran Church was a deed drawn up August 27, 1858, for two and one-half acres of land for the purpose of building a Lutheran Church and cemetery made out to Harm Monk, Henry Kalwarf, and Wilke Hogelucht. The land mentioned in the deed lies four miles south of the present church property and the cemetery mentioned is still maintained by St. Peters. On August 23, 1863, the property fro the present location in Linn Township was purchased and the old church building moved to the new location in 1871 and used as a school house for 13 years.

Roanoke Mennonite Church

The Roanoke Mennonite Church dates back to the early part of the 19th century when German speaking Amish-Mennonites from the Alsace-Lorraine area of France and Germany came seeking religious freedom and abundant land to farm and raise their families. They settled along the Mackinaw River and the prairies around Roanoke and held church services in homes several times a month.

In 1875, a frame building was erected on a site of ground given by C. S. Schertz on the northeast corner of his farm located two miles west and two miles south of Roanoke. The building was dedicated in August, 1875. In 1882, an effort was made to start a Sunday School, but it was discontinued because of opposition. Later it was started again and has continued since. Sunday evening meetings were begun in 1901 mostly for young people, but are now well attended by all age groups.

Christian Ropp and David Schertz of the Hudson area were the first leaders. Others who were ordained later were Joseph Wagner, Christian Reeser, Christian Schrock, and Joseph Rediger. Some of these later moved to Nebraska. Peter Zimmerman, also ordained, later moved to Kansas and then Missouri. In 1887, John Smith and C. B. Reeser were chosen as ministers of the church, and a few years later Smith was chosen as bishop. It was not unusual for the church to have several ministers serving at the same time. In 1895, two more ministers were chosen - C. S. Schertz and Peter D. Schertz. These ministers were farmers and took turns preaching. They received no salary.

Revival meetings were held in church and often lasted one or two weeks. C. F. Derstine came from Pennsylvania in 1914 for two weeks and was asked to come to the Roanoke Church as a young pastor. He moved to Eureka in 1915 and continued preaching here until 1924, then going to Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. Ezra Yordy was chosen to be minister in 1917 and ordained bishop in 1925, an office he held until his retirement in 1957. J. L. Harnish came to Illinois from Missouri, spent five years in Peoria in city mission work and was ordained in 1922 to the ministry. He moved to Eureka in 1925, serving as associate pastor at the Roanoke Church until his retirement.

Since the retirement of Yordy and Harnish, three ministers have served the Roanoke Church - Wesley Jantz from Kansas, Norman Derstine from Virginia, and Percy Gerig from Oregon. Percy Gerig is the pastor at the present time.

In 1920, a new brick building was erected to replace the frame building built in 1875. A large section was added to the brick building in 1956, giving the church a sanctuary with more seating space plus additional Sunday School rooms. 


St. Joseph's Catholic Church

In 1893, $600 was pledged toward building a Catholic church in Roanoke. An indenture (Warranty Deed) made on December 23, 1893, between Peter Kennell, his wife Anna Kennell, and John Lancaster Spaulding, Bishop of Peoria, for the sum of $100 granted and sold lots Number 7, 8, and 9 in Block Two in Kennells Addition to the Village of Roanoke, Illinois, to the Bishop of the Diocese for the purpose of building and starting St. Joseph's Church in Roanoke. This is the site of the present building.

The first baptism recorded was that of Malami Maria Provost on December 31, 1893, by Rev. Alex Centner, O. F. M. the first Priest. The second baptism was that of Maria Fanciska Hester on February 4, 1894.

In 1894, the church building wad dedicated and services held once a month on the second Sunday.

the first marriage recorded is that of Augustus Schuler and Emma Winter on February 13, 1896, by Rev. Samuel Gelting, O. F. M. The second marriage recorded is that of August Mueser and Rose Lotscher on December 28, 1901, by Rev. J. E. Chapuis.

The first death recorded is that of Catherine Mueser who died on January 10, 1896, and was buried in Roanoke on January 12, 1896, by Rev. Samuel Ott.

Thirty-one Priests have served St. Joseph's. Franciscan Priests have been in charge since 1921. Some of those who have served longer periods are Rev. Generose Stronk, Rev. Felician Sanford, Rev. Adrian kohl, Rev. Roger Hengehold, Rev. Carol Meyer, and the present priest, Father Jordon Telles.

The cornerstone for the present church was laid April 29, 1958, and the church was dedicated on June 8, 1958.


Linn Township Mennonite Church

The Linn Township Mennonite Church was organized in 1910. The congregation first assembled in a vacant house on the Peter Kennell farm five and one-half mile east of the first location.

In 1916, a building was erected one-half mile east of the first location. Shelters were also built near the church for the horses and buggies. A larger building was needed and built in 1964.

Those serving the congregation through the years were: Peter Zimmerman, John W. Kennell, Joe J. Kennell, Sam Unzicker, Dan Hostetler, and the present ministers are John Hostetler, Harold Hostetler, and Dave Ulrich.

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