BrownCounty Methodist Episcopal Church 

 
By Wm. W. Bower, M. D.,PH.D

The territory now includedin Brown county, Illinois, was formerly not only included in Schuyler county,but was also with Schuyler county, included by the Illinois Annual Conferenceof the Methodist Episcopal Church in Peoria circuit, before there wereany settlements in this territory; afterwards Atlas circuit, and next Spoonerriver circuit, which circuits included all of the territory between theIllinois and Mississippi rivers, from their junction as far north as toSpoon river, in Fulton county, and previously to include Peoria. And althoughsome of the preachers appointed to this circuit by the Illinois Conference,in all probablility, traveled through part of this territory, there wereno hearers for them to preach to.

In settling up this territory,it seems that the Methodist Episcopal Church had its representatives onthe “sod” very nearly if not quite as soon as any other denomination ofChristians.

A few Methodist familiessettled here as early, probably, as 1827 or 28, and some more in 1829-30to 1835. Levin Green and family, Granville Bond and family, Sackett’s,Berry Orr’s, Vandeventer’s, Reids, Brown’s Hamilton’s, Peevehouse’s, McGaskill’s,Jonathan Miller’s, Hervy Bates’, Isaac Lee’s, John Sex’s and George Sadler’s,etc.

Methodist preaching occurredbut seldom during these times, and was dispensed mostly, by those who clearedand farmed their own land, built their own houses, raised their own cornand potatoes, bacon and beans, etc., during the week, and preached the”everlasting Gospel of the SON of GOD” on the Sabbath day. While all werepoorly clad, some were at times scarcely able to clothe themselves sufficientlyrespectable,to appear before the people in those times, without the assistance of theirgood neighbors, when the best of them were clothed almost exclusively intheir home-spun and home-made, furnished by their good, self-denying andindustrious housewives, mothers, sisters and daughters. While an occasionaltraveling preacher, going from his one distant appointment to another,would stop to rest and recuperate, probably only for the night at one ofthe hospitable “cabins,” when in the greatest of haste the children wouldbe dispatched to the neighbors, and from one to the other word would bepassed, and the people would assemble in due time to hear what the preacherwould have to say to them about the salvation of their souls.

In 1832 another slice wastaken off of the northern part of this vast field of labor, andRushville circuit was formed, which still included the territory of Browncounty, and being again somewhat reduced in size, gave the circuit preachersmore time to devote to the development of Methodism in this territory;and from this time on there were still other Methodist families who cameto settle in different parts of the territory, and some of the neighborsof those already here were converted and joined the church, and the demandbecame still greater and more preaching was required. But there were probablyno regular appointments for preaching made by the circuit preachers untilabout 1833 to 1836, when a regular four weeks’ circuit was established,embracing parts of Adams, Hancock, McDonough, Fulton, and Pike counties,which included all of the territory of Brown; and Dr. John P. Richmondwrites me, that when he was appointed to the circuit in 1836, there weretwenty-six regular appointments scattered over all this territory, andpreaching at each place every four weeks. He then adds: “We traveled onhorseback with the old-time saddle-bags under us; we took the shortestroutes, swam the creeks when necessary, (there were no bridges then); wealways had kind neighbors and hospitable entertainment wherever we stopped;the fare was frugal but healthy,–the traditional ‘yellow-legged chicken’did not often appear, (there were probably too many foxes around then),but we received the best they had,–cornbread, bacon, beans, cabbage, potatoesand coffee (mostly rye), etc.”

During these times the preachingwas mostly done by H. Summers, Peter Cartwright, T. N. Ralston, Peter Boring,W. H. Window, Wilson Pitner, W. T. Williams, D. B. Carter, Spencer W. Hunter,John P. Richmond, Peter Akers and John S. Barger, assisted by a numberof faithful and earnest local preachers, among whom were Levin Green, W.H. Taylor, _____ Smith, Ezekiel Mobley, Granville Bond and others, andof which W. H. Taylor, E. Mobley and G. Bond afterwards became very faithfuland effective traveling preachers.

The first sermon preachedin this territory, in all probability, was preached by Levin Green, a localpreacher, as early as 1829 or 1830. The first sermon by a travelingpreacher, not much later, probably 1830 or 1831, by Spencer W. Hunter,who formed a class or society about 1831 or 1832 at the house of LevinGreen, about three or four miles north of Mt. Sterling, where Mr. JohnRoberts now resides. It consisted at first of L. Green, wife and daughter,Benj. Grista and wife, Granville Bond and wife, Mrs. Mary Orr and Mrs._____ A. Neal; and during these times it cost something to be a Methodist,in the way of self-denial, cross-bearing, persecution, etc, even here inthis enlightened country; but the little band stood firm in the conflict,and the Lord of hosts blessed not only their labors, but themselves alsoin their labors. They increased in the strength of the Lord, and they “contendedearnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints,” and the Lord continuedto add to them from time to time. Their class increased in numbers andusefulness, and in 1837 they considered it necessary to build a log church(and school-house) in their neighborhood, on the farm of Granville Bond,which was the first structure erected for Methodist worship in this territory,in which the Lord was worshipped in great earnestness and sincerity, withmuch benefit to themselves and their neighborhood.

In 1847 or 1848 they builtthe Ebenezer Church (and school-house) a few miles southwest of the oldone, and the “Bond class” was transferred to the new church and the oldone abandoned. Their worship was faithfully and successfully continuedhere until about 1875, when through the earnest and zealous labors of Rev.Granville Bond, who had retired as a superannuate of the Illinois Conferenceafter many years of earnest, faithful and successful labors in the ranksof the intinerant ministry of his beloved church, located at the MoundStation, a few miles still further southwest of this “old home,” a newand excellent church was built at a cost of $2,400, and dedicated to AlmightyGod, free of debt.

And the “Bond Society” wasagain transferred to this place, when again the venerable Brother Bond,with his family and former neighbors united to worship the Lord of Hoststogether in great peace and comfort, until a few years later he was translatedfrom “the Church militant to the Church triumphant,” where “they rest fromtheir labors and their works do follow them.” And his venerable and highlyhonored widow, a few of his children and grandchildren, neighbors and neighbors’children, who still survive him, continue to worship the God of their fathers,none “daring to molest or make them afraid.”

Bethel Church was built about1838, quite close to the Adams county line, in the “Lee neighborhood,”some five or six miles southwest of where the town of Mound Station wasafterwards located. It was built of hewed logs, at a cost probably of $150,by the exertion and for the benefit of a class which had been organizedin the neighborhood two or three years previously, who worshipped in itquite comfortably until about 1866, when it was abandoned as a preachingplace, some of the members having removed to Mound Station; the societywas also transferred to, and became a part of the Mound Station charge.

In the northwestern partof our territory a society was also organized at an early day, and probablyas early as 1834 a double log-church (and school-house was built at Hamilton,close to the line between Adams county and the territory which afterwardsbecame Pea Ridge township, Brown county. It was first built on the Adamscounty side of the line, but most of the members living on this side ofthe county line, some controversy afterwards arose in regard to its location,when in 1842 it was moved across the line into Brown County, and was usedby the society for worship until the spring of 1848, when it was burneddown, and not rebuilt. Most of the class had their membership transferredto Clayton, in Adams county, and others to Mound Station.

A society had also been formedat an early day in the McCaskell neighborhood, in Pea Ridge township, whichheld their services at the house of Daniel McCaskell usually, until in1851 preaching was discontinued and the society was afterwards disbanded.

The first Methodists in Mt.Sterling were Mrs. ____ Brazelton, the Kirlins, Wilsons, Mrs. Brainerdand Mrs. Cheseldine; but they had no Methodist preaching until 1837, whenDr. J. P. Richmond first preached at Kirlin’s tavern, on Main Street, oppositewhere R. Smith’s drug and hardware store now stands. But only occasionalservices were held here for several years, until through the energy ofhim who was “in labors more abundant,” the untiring Granville Bond, whowas exceedingly anxious that Methodism should here also have a firm foothold;and to him the Methodists and other citizens are mostly indebted for thegood frame church that was erected in 1840, just south of where Dr. J.Dearborn’s office now stands, at a cost of probably $500. Preaching wasthen kept up more regularly, but no society formed until about 1842 or1843, when one was organized by Wm. J. Rutledge, preacher in charge.

In 1850 a parsonage was alsobuilt in Mt. Sterling by the Circuit, as a residence for the Preachersof the Circuit, and was occupied by them until 1872, when it was condemnedas unfit for such services; but was sometimes used by them afterwards,and sometimes rented for a trifle, to someone else until 1876, when throughthe untiring business energy of L. F. Waldin preacher in chargea very good and nearly new parsonage was purchased, and with a few improvementscost $1074, and payment made for the same.

The church built in 1840became quite dilapidated by 1858 when a new one, considerably larger andmore comfortable was erected on Main Cross and South streets, at a costof probably $2500 or $3000, and in 1879 was repaired and a new vestibuleand belfry added thereto, at a cost of $500 more, making a very neat andcomfortable house of worship.

A brick church was builtat Ripley about 1852, which with some repairs in later years still remainsin use, in pretty good condition. A class had also been organized hereat an early day which passed through many vicissitudes, and at presentis still in active operation.

A society had also been formedat the log school house south of Logan’s Creek near Thomas Glenn’s, about1836 probably by Wilson Pitner. Preaching and class meetings were heldpreviously at Thomas Glenn’s and also at Brown’s a few miles further west.The society afterwards was mostly disbanded, some having their membershiptransferred to Versailles and some elsewhere.

At “Bluffs,” southeast ofVersailles, and at Reeds, south of Versailles, there was preaching at anearly day, and societies organized in probably 1833 or 1834, before Versailleshad an existence. Meetings were held from time to time, preaching, class-meetings&c., at these different places with great success, until after Versaillesbecame a more central point and a church was there built, when the surroundingclasses were here united together.

Religious services continuedhere, the Lord blessed the labour of his servants; revivals took placeand many were added to the church. In 1867 it was set apart from Mt. Sterlingcircuit by the Illinois Annual Conference, Chambersburg added to it, andVersailles circuit was formed; with a separate preacher appointed by Conference.But the following year, it was again returned to the Mt. Sterling circuitand so remained until 1872 when it was again separated and continues anindependent circuit to the present time. In 1872 they numbered 80 membersand at present 185.

We now come to notice a fewthings about the south-western portion of our county, which was mostly,and part is now under the jurisdiction of Perry circuit. There was a classformed in the neighborhood of the Council School House, consisting of CoulsonTucker and wife, Geo. Kirts, wife and daughter, Mark Marden and wife, JohnWilson and wife, Reuben Wilson and family, Benjamin Adams and wife, andlater Thos. Scanlan and others; meetings were held as usual at privatehouses; but were afterwards held at the Council School House where revivalswere held, the work advanced, others were added to their number, theirclass reorganized and finally in 1873 they built Marden Chapel a few milessouth of the Council School House, at a cost of about $700, which theystill “occupy” in the Master’s service.

Still farther to the southwest,religious services were conducted at the house of Father Walters’ and others,later at the Grove School House, until about 1857 when the Washington SchoolHouse was built at a more central location in the school district, whichwas also arranged for preaching, and the society held their services init, and where a glorious revival took place under the supervisionof Curtis Powel and others; when the old class was reorganized and manymore added. Some years later, to accommodate some of the more influentialmembers, the society again returned to the Grove School House. And in 1874they built “Hebron Church” which they continue to occupy to the presenttime. Still a little farther west, at the White Oak School House, and inthe neighborhood of the town of Buckhorn, a little farther north in Leetownship, societies were organized, preaching and other religious servicesconducted, until about 1860 when “Hedrick Chapel” was built in the townand their services conducted in it, until 1865 under the management ofW. McK. Gooding preacher in charge; considerable dissatisfaction arosebetween the society and preacher in regard to the expression of sentimentsconcerning the Rebellion: when he refused to preach any longer for them,and their relations were indefinitely severed.

When they afterwards unitedthemselves with the Methodist Episcopal Church South, as will more fullyappear in the next chapter, the church property was sold a few years afterwardsto Alexander Hedrick, to satisfy a small mortgage which he held againstit, and which the official members of the circuit did not think worth whileto pay, and hold the property under the circumstances.

The society at White Oakschool-house being of the same sentiment and in the same condition as theBuckhorn society are united also with the Church South.

In the northeastern partof the country there was a society formed by the labors and influence mostlyof Rev. Joseph Dunbar, a local preacher, but was organized with twenty-sevenmembers by S. H. Clark, preacher in charge of Mt. Sterling circuit, inthe spring of 1856, and they remained a part of Mt. Sterling circuit untilCamden circuit was formed, when it was attached thereto, and still continues.They have been holding their meetings at No. 1 school-house up to thissummer (1882), when considering it necessary, they have just completeda very comfortable church in the neighborhood, which they will occupy inthe future.

Quarterly meeting occasionswere much more highly appreciated during the early days of Methodism. Themembership would come from far and near to hear the Presiding Elder andto enjoy the love feast services and were always greatly refreshed andencouraged, and the business of the circuit also transacted.

The salaries of the preachers,on an average during the following decades, as nearly as can be now estimated,were about as follows: to wit, in 1841 about $155; in 1851 about $175;in 1861 about $450; in 1871 about $800, and in 1881 about $860.

Camp meetings were also heldin the early days; there were two or three held in the neighborhood ofRipley, about the years 1836 to 1839; there were probably several heldin the neighborhood of Versailles a little later. The first was held atVersailles Springs by J. B. Seymour, preacher in charge of Versailles circuit,during the summer of 1867, and one or two still later.

In the summer of 1852 onewas held on the Mound in Lee township, close to where the trestle-workof the railroad now is. There was another held in the summer of 1858 inthe neighborhood of White Oak Springs, Buckhorn township, Granville Bondpreacher in charge. Another at the town of Buckhorn, in Lee township, inthe summer of 1861, J. W. Jackson, preacher in charge. The entire numberof members in the county at the present time, as nearly as can be estimated,is four hundred and fifty.

The foregoing would hardlybe complete without adding the following list of preachers and PresidingElders, appointed by the Illinois Annual Conference, with their circuitand districts from the time Mt. Sterling was organized in 1841 to the presentday, (1882):

DateCircuitPreacherDistrictPresiding Elder
1841Mt. SterlingA. F. RogersQuincyJohn S. Barger
1842Wm. J. Rutledge
1843N. ClevelandN. G. Berryman
1844Wm. J. Rutledge
1845W. G. PiperA. L. Risley
1846J. B. Houts
1847J. P. Richmond
1848Jesse CromwellPeter Akers
1849Vincent Ridgley
1850B. F. Northcott
1851GriggsvilleW. D. R. Trotter
1852D. H. HuttonHardin Wallace
1853J. CromwellQuincyJ. Montgomery
1854W. B. Barton & 
G. R. Clark
R. E. Guthrie
1855
1856S. H. ClarkGriggsvilleR. W. Travis
1857
1858H. C. HockensmithRushvilleW. J. Rutledge
1859Geo. Montgomery by Conferenceand D. O. Carmack appointed to Quincy Mission, but they were exchangedby the Presiding Elder, and D. O. Carmack came to Mt. Sterling, and wasreleased by 2d Quarterly Conference of the circuit and A. T. Stone appointedto take his place to the end of the year.QuincyB. F. Northcott
1860Mt. SterlingMichael ShunkQuincyB. F. Northcott
1861Granville BondGriggsville
1862Jas. P. Dimmett
1863Thomas BonnellQuincyJas. Leaton
1864Geo. M. Crays
1865R. ChapmanW. D. R. Trotter
1866Geo. M. Dungan
1867Wm. C. LacyW. E. Johnson
1868Versailles and Mt. SterlingD. H. Hatton
1869W. H. TaylorGriggsvilleA. S. McCoy
1870W. H. Taylor
P. L. Turner
QuincyPeter Wallace
1871
1872Mt. SterlingGeo. M. SpencerGriggsvilleA. S. McCoy
1873R. ChapmanJ. P. Dimmett
1874
1875L. F. WaldinA. T. Orr
1876QuincyJ. P. DIMMETT
1877J. C. Sargeant
1878C. A. ObenshainG. R. S. McElfresh
1879
1880A. Bucknor supply of P.Hillerby by Pre. Elder Reuben Gregg
1881W. R. Goodwin

Versailles Circuitwas organized 1867, G. W. Dungan preacher; Quincy district, W. E. Johnson,Presiding Elder; and was again included in Mt. Sterling Circuit until 1872.

1872VersaillesJ. G. BonnellGriggsvilleA. S. McCoy
1873U. WarringtonJas. P. Dimmitt
1874T. J. Bryant
1875A. T. Orr
1876J. B. SeymourQuincyJas. P. Dimmitt
1877A. M. Davidson
1878A. M. DanelyG. R. S. McElfresh
1879O. H. P. Ash
1880P. L. Turner
1881GriggsvilleP. Wood

RIPLEY CIRCUIT FORMED

1853RipleyJ. CavettQuincyJ. Montgomery
1854Levi ShelbyR. E. Guthrie
1855D. P.  Lyon
1856
1857S. McCallB. F. Northcott

Was returned toMt. Sterling circuit until 1876.

1876Ripleyto be sup’d Con. Mr. Glass,P. E. supplied by G. MooreQuincyJ. P. Dimmett
1877

And was again addedto Mt. Sterling circuit, and still continues in the southwest of Browncounty.

MT. PLEASANT CIRCUIT WASFORMED.

1858Mt. PleasantJas. HerdRushvilleW. J. Rutledge
1859J. W. JacksonQuincyB. F. Northcott
1860

Was then returnedagain to Mt. Sterling circuit until 1863, and called Mounds circuit.

1863Mounds Ct.supl’d H. CoreyQuincyJames Leaton
1864W. M. K. Gooding

In conclusion, thewriter wishes to acknowledge his great indebtedness and many thanks tothe Rev. James Leaton, of Rushville Station, the efficient conference historianof the Illinois Annual Conference, especially, as well as to Dr. John P.Richmon, now of Tyndall, Dakota Territory; formerly one of our energeticpioneer preachers. Also to our venerable Sister Bond, widow of our longto be remembered Brother Granville Bond; and a few others, for valuableinformation used in compiling and verifying the facts, hereinbefore described.

Source: The CombinedHistory of Schuyler and Brown Counties, Illinois, 1882
Transcribed for SchuylerCounty ILGenweb by Carol Longwell Miller.

Copyright 1999-2006 Judi Gilker; all rights reserved. For personal use only. Commercialuse of the information contained in these pages is strictly prohibitedwithout prior permission. If copied, this copyright must appear with theinformation.

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