Methodist Episcopal Church South
Methodist Episcopal Church South
By John S. Stutsman

This church organization is the outgrowth of the Christian Union Church. In giving a history of this church it is very necessary, to relate some of the causes that gave rise or led to its organization in Schuyler County. Especially is this necessary, to know why there are two Methodist Churches in the county. For some years before and during the war, many ministers and Churches assumed a political attitude, and took sides in political partisanship. Public exercises professedly religious, were frequently interspersed with, what many believed to be an unscriptural agitation of political questions. Professed ministers of the gospel often taught lessons that did not accord with the gospel of peace, as understood by many good men. The declarations and sayings of many church members, and some ministers, concerning those whose political opinions and ideas of loyalty did not accord with their own, was characterized by such language of intolerant malice as made the ordinary mind yet retaining self-control grow sick showing plainly a want of that Christian spirit and charity that should control the feelings and actions of all professed Christians, ignoring the fact that honest differences of opinions may exist between loyal and patriotic men as to the policies and measures to be pursued by the government in any emergency. Just before and during the war, some ministers professing to be called to preach the gospel of peace, so far forgot or ignored their high calling, as to step aside into the cesspool of political agitation and deliver political harangues from the stump, and not infrequently from the sacred desk was heard things pertaining to state affairs, thus making their time and talents to subserve the interests of their political party, to the shameful neglect of the interests of immortal souls. Those things became grievous to those that believed the doctrine of the cross should be held inviolate and should never be mixed with worldly politics. Under these circumstances many truly pious persons, and a few ministers, in the State of Illinois, persons who believed with Mr. Burk that no sound ought to be heard in the church but the voice of healing charity, left off attending church, where they were constantly exposed to the chances of having their honest convictions denounced, their motives impugned, and their blood stirred by insulting insinuations. They felt sorely grieved, and were deeply distressed, being compelled to live without the means of grace. They hung their harps as it were upon the willows, and longed for the privileges of Godís house without being disturbed by any of the behests of political parties and for the Gospel of the Prince of Peace unmixed with political fanaticism. A number of these dissatisfied Christians in different parts of the state organized under the name of Christian Union Church some as early as the year 1864, the Methodist element largely predominating.  In the year 1866 some of the citizens of Schuyler county and men too whose loyalty and patriotism could not be questioned by any one, took the necessary steps to organize the Christian Union Church in Schuyler county. The first society was organized at Kinderhook School-house, in Rushville Township, January the 1st, A. D. 1867, or near that time by Rev. Rumsey Smithson, with ten members. The next society was organized January the 17th, A. D. 1867, at Sugar Grove in Woodstock township, by Rev. D. T. Sherman, Superintendent of the Springfield district of the Christian Union Church, with four members. On April the 20th, A. D. 1867, the Rushville circuit of the Christian Union Church was organized, and the first quarterly council was held at Kinderhook school house. At a council of the Christian Union churches of Illinois held at the city of Clinton in June A. D. 1867, it was resolved to change the style and title of said church, to that of Episcopal Methodist Church, Illinois conference, and to embrace with its boundary the State of Illinois, and said council further resolved to receive and adopt the doctrines and discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, as the doctrines of said Episcopal Methodist Church.  Bishops Marvin and Doggett of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, according to previous request visited this council, after the above resolutions were adopted, and received said Church into the communion and under the jurisdiction of the Methodist Epsicopal Church South.

In August A. D. 1868 a society was organized at Rushville with five or six members, by Rev. William R. Howard, Presiding Elder of the Springfield District. In February A. D. 1869 Rev. Rumsey Smithson assisted by Rev. D. J. Snow who supplied Rushville circuit for a short time as preacher in charge, held a series of meetings in Rushville which resulted in a gracious revival of religion. Quite a number were converted and fifty-five names added to the church. In the latter part of the year A. D. 1869 Rev. W. B. Johnsey organized a Society at Haleís Ridge School House, with seven members. He also organized a society about the same time at the Davisí School House, with eight members. During the two years that Rev. W. B. Johnsey served as  preacher in charge, Rushville circuit  was  blessed with a good degree of prosperity. In January A. D. 1871 Rev. W. B. Johnsey organized a society at Wardís School House with twenty-six members; this society has been very prosperous and have built a good church house and changed the name of the place to Mount Carmel. Some time about the years 1871 or 1872 Rev. R. P.  Holt organized a society at Bethel School House, which seemed to prosper for a while, until the members by removal, emigration and otherwise became scattered, and the appointment was discontinued for two or three years, but recently has been revived and at present is one of the appointments of the circuit. In the year A. D. 1874 Rev. W. B. Beagle organized a society at the McGowen School House with seven or eight members, which has increased till at present it numbers some twenty members, and is still one of the appointments of the circuit. The Illinois Annual Conference of Methodist Episcopal Church was held at Rushville, September the 4th, A. D. 1872, Bishop Enoch M. Marvin presiding who expressed great satisfaction with the status and growth of the conference, it being only about five years since he was present and assisted in receiving it into the jurisdiction of the M. E. Church South. The present conference year 1881 and 1882, under the ministry of Rev. Joseph Metcalf and Rev. S. A. Cecil, has been one of the marked success and prosperity for Rushville Circuit. Nearly all of the appointments have been blessed with gracious revivals of religion, and one hundred and sixty-five members have been added to the church during the year. The most noted of the revivals was at Sugar Grove, where through the untiring efforts and labors of S. A. Cecil, the membership was increased from eight to eighty-five members. Two new church houses have been built during the year, one at Davisí School House named Union Chapel, and one at Bethel. Rushville circuit has grown till at present it requires two preachers to give every two weeks preaching at all of the appointments. There is at present about two hundred and seventy-five or three hundred members on the circuit with eight regular preaching appointments. The society has four good church houses, and four good Sunday Schools in a prosperous condition, with three hundred and sixty-five scholars attending. During the first years of this church organization in Schuyler county it received some very strong opposition, especially from the Methodist Episcopal Church, but since the Cape May Conference where the two churches were represented, and where they agreed upon an amicable settlement of their church difficulties, there has been a more fraternal feeling between the two churches. The members seem disposed to treat each other as Christian brethren, which is truly gratifying to all lovers of Christianity, and we trust is another grand step in the great work of spreading scriptural holiness over the land, and the upbuilding of Christís Kingdom.

We append a list of the Presiding Elders and Circuit Preachers that have served Rushville Circuit each year from the first Organization, up to the present time A. D. 1882.
Year Year Presiding Elders Circuit Preachers
1867 D. T. Sherman  George M. Effinger
1868 W. R. Howard W. D. Cox
1869 R. Smithson  D. J. Snow, supply
1870  R. Smithson W. B. Johnsey
1871  S. J. Catlin  W. B. Johnsey
1872 M. R. Jones John A. Beagle
1873 J. B. Harris Enoch Harper
1874 T. F. Rogers W. B. Beagle
1875  T. B. Harben T. M. Prickett
1876 T. B. Harben J. A. Greening
1877 R. F. Hays J. A. Greening
1878 S. J. Catlin A.  Merrill
1879  G. W. Gilmore N. A. Auld
1880 C. C. Mayhew (N.A. Auld & W. A. Cross)
1881  C. C. Mayhew (Jos. Metcalf & S. A. Cecil)

Source: The Combined History of Schuyler and Brown Counties, Illinois, 1882
Transcribed by Carol Longwell Miller for Schuyler County ILGenWeb.

Copyright 1999, 2000 Robin L. W. Petersen; 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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