Brown County Methodist Episcopal Church
By Wm. W. Bower, M. D., PH.D

The territory now included in Brown county, Illinois, was formerly not only included in Schuyler county, but was also with Schuyler county, included by the Illinois Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Peoria circuit, before there were any settlements in this territory; afterwards Atlas circuit, and next Spooner river circuit, which circuits included all of the territory between the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, from their junction as far north as to Spoon river, in Fulton county, and previously to include Peoria. And although some of the preachers appointed to this circuit by the Illinois Conference, in all probablility, traveled through part of this territory, there were no hearers for them to preach to.

In settling up this territory, it seems that the Methodist Episcopal Church had its representatives on the "sod" very nearly if not quite as soon as any other denomination of Christians.

A few Methodist families settled here as early, probably, as 1827 or 28, and some more in 1829-30 to 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 occurred but seldom during these times, and was dispensed mostly, by those who cleared and farmed their own land, built their own houses, raised their own corn and potatoes, bacon and beans, etc., during the week, and preached the "everlasting Gospel of the SON of GOD" on the Sabbath day. While all were poorly clad, some were at times scarcely able to clothe themselves sufficiently respectable, to appear before the people in those times, without the assistance of their good neighbors, when the best of them were clothed almost exclusively in their home-spun and home-made, furnished by their good, self-denying and industrious housewives, mothers, sisters and daughters. While an occasional traveling preacher, going from his one distant appointment to another, would stop to rest and recuperate, probably only for the night at one of the hospitable "cabins," when in the greatest of haste the children would be dispatched to the neighbors, and from one to the other word would be passed, and the people would assemble in due time to hear what the preacher would have to say to them about the salvation of their souls.

In 1832 another slice was taken off of the northern part of this vast field of labor, and Rushville circuit was formed, which still included the territory of Brown county, and being again somewhat reduced in size, gave the circuit preachers more time to devote to the development of Methodism in this territory; and from this time on there were still other Methodist families who came to settle in different parts of the territory, and some of the neighbors of those already here were converted and joined the church, and the demand became still greater and more preaching was required. But there were probably no regular appointments for preaching made by the circuit preachers until about 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. Richmond writes me, that when he was appointed to the circuit in 1836, there were twenty-six regular appointments scattered over all this territory, and preaching at each place every four weeks. He then adds: "We traveled on horseback with the old-time saddle-bags under us; we took the shortest routes, swam the creeks when necessary, (there were no bridges then); we always 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, potatoes and coffee (mostly rye), etc."

During these times the preaching was 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 number of faithful and earnest local preachers, among whom were Levin Green, W. H. Taylor, _____ Smith, Ezekiel Mobley, Granville Bond and others, and of which W. H. Taylor, E. Mobley and G. Bond afterwards became very faithful and effective traveling preachers.

The first sermon preached in this territory, in all probability, was preached by Levin Green, a local preacher, as early as 1829 or 1830. The first sermon by a traveling preacher, 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 Levin Green, about three or four miles north of Mt. Sterling, where Mr. John Roberts 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 in this enlightened country; but the little band stood firm in the conflict, and the Lord of hosts blessed not only their labors, but themselves also in their labors. They increased in the strength of the Lord, and they "contended earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints," and the Lord continued to add to them from time to time. Their class increased in numbers and usefulness, 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, with much benefit to themselves and their neighborhood.

In 1847 or 1848 they built the Ebenezer Church (and school-house) a few miles southwest of the old one, and the "Bond class" was transferred to the new church and the old one abandoned. Their worship was faithfully and successfully continued here until about 1875, when through the earnest and zealous labors of Rev. Granville Bond, who had retired as a superannuate of the Illinois Conference after many years of earnest, faithful and successful labors in the ranks of the intinerant ministry of his beloved church, located at the Mound Station, a few miles still further southwest of this "old home," a new and excellent church was built at a cost of $2,400, and dedicated to Almighty God, free of debt.

And the "Bond Society" was again transferred to this place, when again the venerable Brother Bond, with his family and former neighbors united to worship the Lord of Hosts together in great peace and comfort, until a few years later he was translated from "the Church militant to the Church triumphant," where "they rest from their labors and their works do follow them." And his venerable and highly honored 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 about 1838, quite close to the Adams county line, in the "Lee neighborhood," some five or six miles southwest of where the town of Mound Station was afterwards 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 organized in the neighborhood two or three years previously, who worshipped in it quite comfortably until about 1866, when it was abandoned as a preaching place, some of the members having removed to Mound Station; the society was also transferred to, and became a part of the Mound Station charge.

In the northwestern part of our territory a society was also organized at an early day, and probably as 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 afterwards became Pea Ridge township, Brown county. It was first built on the Adams county side of the line, but most of the members living on this side of the 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 used by the society for worship until the spring of 1848, when it was burned down, and not rebuilt. Most of the class had their membership transferred to Clayton, in Adams county, and others to Mound Station.

A society had also been formed at an early day in the McCaskell neighborhood, in Pea Ridge township, which held their services at the house of Daniel McCaskell usually, until in 1851 preaching was discontinued and the society was afterwards disbanded.

The first Methodists in Mt. Sterling were Mrs. ____ Brazelton, the Kirlins, Wilsons, Mrs. Brainerd and Mrs. Cheseldine; but they had no Methodist preaching until 1837, when Dr. J. P. Richmond first preached at Kirlin's tavern, on Main Street, opposite where R. Smith's drug and hardware store now stands. But only occasional services were held here for several years, until through the energy of him who was "in labors more abundant," the untiring Granville Bond, who was exceedingly anxious that Methodism should here also have a firm foothold; and to him the Methodists and other citizens are mostly indebted for the good 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 was then kept up more regularly, but no society formed until about 1842 or 1843, when one was organized by Wm. J. Rutledge, preacher in charge.

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

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

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

A society had also been formed at the log school house south of Logan's Creek near Thomas Glenn's, about 1836 probably by Wilson Pitner. Preaching and class meetings were held previously at Thomas Glenn's and also at Brown's a few miles further west. The society afterwards was mostly disbanded, some having their membership transferred to Versailles and some elsewhere.

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

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

We now come to notice a few things about the south-western portion of our county, which was mostly, and part is now under the jurisdiction of Perry circuit. There was a class formed in the neighborhood of the Council School House, consisting of Coulson Tucker and wife, Geo. Kirts, wife and daughter, Mark Marden and wife, John Wilson and wife, Reuben Wilson and family, Benjamin Adams and wife, and later Thos. Scanlan and others; meetings were held as usual at private houses; but were afterwards held at the Council School House where revivals were held, the work advanced, others were added to their number, their class reorganized and finally in 1873 they built Marden Chapel a few miles south of the Council School House, at a cost of about $700, which they still "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 School House was built at a more central location in the school district, which was also arranged for preaching, and the society held their services in it, and where a glorious revival took place under the supervision of Curtis Powel and others; when the old class was reorganized and many more added. Some years later, to accommodate some of the more influential members, the society again returned to the Grove School House. And in 1874 they built "Hebron Church" which they continue to occupy to the present time. Still a little farther west, at the White Oak School House, and in the neighborhood of the town of Buckhorn, a little farther north in Lee township, societies were organized, preaching and other religious services conducted, until about 1860 when "Hedrick Chapel" was built in the town and their services conducted in it, until 1865 under the management of W. McK. Gooding preacher in charge; considerable dissatisfaction arose between the society and preacher in regard to the expression of sentiments concerning the Rebellion: when he refused to preach any longer for them, and their relations were indefinitely severed.

When they afterwards united themselves with the Methodist Episcopal Church South, as will more fully appear in the next chapter, the church property was sold a few years afterwards to Alexander Hedrick, to satisfy a small mortgage which he held against it, and which the official members of the circuit did not think worth while to pay, and hold the property under the circumstances.

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

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

Quarterly meeting occasions were much more highly appreciated during the early days of Methodism. The membership would come from far and near to hear the Presiding Elder and to enjoy the love feast services and were always greatly refreshed and encouraged, 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 held in the early days; there were two or three held in the neighborhood of Ripley, about the years 1836 to 1839; there were probably several held in the neighborhood of Versailles a little later. The first was held at Versailles 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 one was held on the Mound in Lee township, close to where the trestle-work of the railroad now is. There was another held in the summer of 1858 in the neighborhood of White Oak Springs, Buckhorn township, Granville Bond preacher in charge. Another at the town of Buckhorn, in Lee township, in the summer of 1861, J. W. Jackson, preacher in charge. The entire number of members in the county at the present time, as nearly as can be estimated, is four hundred and fifty.

The foregoing would hardly be complete without adding the following list of preachers and Presiding Elders, appointed by the Illinois Annual Conference, with their circuit and districts from the time Mt. Sterling was organized in 1841 to the present day, (1882):

Date Circuit Preacher District Presiding Elder
1841 Mt. Sterling A. F. Rogers Quincy John S. Barger
1842 " Wm. J. Rutledge " "
1843 " N. Cleveland " N. G. Berryman
1844 " Wm. J. Rutledge " "
1845 " W. G. Piper " A. L. Risley
1846 " J. B. Houts " "
1847 " J. P. Richmond " "
1848 " Jesse Cromwell " Peter Akers
1849 " Vincent Ridgley " "
1850 " B. F. Northcott " "
1851 " " Griggsville W. D. R. Trotter
1852 " D. H. Hutton " Hardin Wallace
1853 " J. Cromwell Quincy J. Montgomery
1854 " W. B. Barton & 
G. R. Clark
" R. E. Guthrie
1855 " " " "
1856 " S. H. Clark Griggsville R. W. Travis
1857 " " " "
1858 " H. C. Hockensmith Rushville W. J. Rutledge
1859 - Geo. Montgomery by Conference and D. O. Carmack appointed to Quincy Mission, but they were exchanged by the Presiding Elder, and D. O. Carmack came to Mt. Sterling, and was released by 2d Quarterly Conference of the circuit and A. T. Stone appointed to take his place to the end of the year. Quincy B. F. Northcott
1860 Mt. Sterling Michael Shunk Quincy B. F. Northcott
1861 " Granville Bond Griggsville "
1862 " " " Jas. P. Dimmett
1863 " Thomas Bonnell Quincy Jas. Leaton
1864 " Geo. M. Crays " "
1865 " R. Chapman " W. D. R. Trotter
1866 " Geo. M. Dungan " "
1867 " Wm. C. Lacy " W. E. Johnson
1868 Versailles and Mt. Sterling D. H. Hatton " "
1869 " W. H. Taylor Griggsville A. S. McCoy
1870 " W. H. Taylor
P. L. Turner
Quincy Peter Wallace
1871 - - - -
1872 Mt. Sterling Geo. M. Spencer Griggsville A. S. McCoy
1873 " R. Chapman " J. P. Dimmett
1874 " " " "
1875 " L. F. Waldin " A. T. Orr
1876 " " Quincy J. P. DIMMETT
1877 " J. C. Sargeant " "
1878 " C. A. Obenshain " G. R. S. McElfresh
1879 " " " "
1880 " A. Bucknor supply of P. Hillerby by Pre. Elder Reuben Gregg " "
1881 " " " W. R. Goodwin
Versailles Circuit was organized 1867, G. W. Dungan preacher; Quincy district, W. E. Johnson, Presiding Elder; and was again included in Mt. Sterling Circuit until 1872.
1872 Versailles J. G. Bonnell Griggsville A. S. McCoy
1873 " U. Warrington " Jas. P. Dimmitt
1874 " T. J. Bryant " "
1875 " " " A. T. Orr
1876 " J. B. Seymour Quincy Jas. P. Dimmitt
1877 " A. M. Davidson " "
1878 " A. M. Danely " G. R. S. McElfresh
1879 " O. H. P. Ash " "
1880 " P. L. Turner " "
1881 " " Griggsville P. Wood
1853 Ripley J. Cavett Quincy J. Montgomery
1854 " Levi Shelby " R. E. Guthrie
1855 " D. P.  Lyon " "
1856 " " " "
1857 " S. McCall " B. F. Northcott
Was returned to Mt. Sterling circuit until 1876.
1876 Ripley to be sup'd Con. Mr. Glass, P. E. supplied by G. Moore Quincy J. P. Dimmett
1877 " " " "
And was again added to Mt. Sterling circuit, and still continues in the southwest of Brown county.


1858 Mt. Pleasant Jas. Herd Rushville W. J. Rutledge
1859 " J. W. Jackson Quincy B. F. Northcott
1860 " " " "
Was then returned again to Mt. Sterling circuit until 1863, and called Mounds circuit.
1863 Mounds Ct. supl'd H. Corey Quincy James Leaton
1864 " W. M. K. Gooding " "
In conclusion, the writer wishes to acknowledge his great indebtedness and many thanks to the Rev. James Leaton, of Rushville Station, the efficient conference historian of the Illinois Annual Conference, especially, as well as to Dr. John P. Richmon, now of Tyndall, Dakota Territory; formerly one of our energetic pioneer preachers. Also to our venerable Sister Bond, widow of our long to be remembered Brother Granville Bond; and a few others, for valuable information used in compiling and verifying the facts, hereinbefore described.
Source: The Combined History of Schuyler and Brown Counties, Illinois, 1882
Transcribed for Schuyler County ILGenweb by Carol Longwell Miller.
Copyright 1999-2006 Judi Gilker; all rights reserved. For personal use only. Commercial use of the information contained in these pages is strictly prohibited without prior permission. If copied, this copyright must appear with the information.

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