Presbyterian Church History

The date of founding of the Presbyterian Church in Schuyler County is Jan. 31, 1830, and the first meeting was held in a store room on the north side of the public square, then owned by Thos. W. Scott. Revs. Cyrus L. Watson and J. M. Ellis were the leaders in this movement to establish a church and they met with great encouragement. The original members were: Wm. Blair, Thomas Blair, Margaret Blair, Sarah Blair, Hugh McCreery, Sarah McCreery, Mathew McCreery, Jane McCreery, Margaret McCreery, Sarah McCreery, William Moore and Jane Moore.

Rev. Watson took keen interest in the little church that he had established, and ministered to its welfare until 1835. There was no regular place for holding services and the court house, store buildings and taverns served for a place of meeting. Mrs. Sarah Young, one of the early members, once told of a meeting held in the bar room of the tavern. where the sacrament of the Lord's supper was solemnly celebrated.

About 1836 plans were made for the erection of a brick church, where the present edifice is located, but before the structure could be roofed in, winter came and the walls were damaged to an extent that repairs could not be made. The persons who bought the wrecked building, built for the church a frame building as an equivalent, and this was used until 1876, when the present handsome church was occupied. It was during the pastorate of Rev. J. M. Paige, who served is minister from 1873 to 1880 that the new church was erected. The corner stone of which was laid Aug. 23, 1875, with appropriate ceremony.

Among the early ministers of the church were: Rev. Samuel Wilson, Rev. Breese, Rev. Alfred Carrington, Rev. J. T. Tucker, Rev. Henry Bergen, Rev. J. Haswell and Rev. L. P. Kimall, but it was not until 1850 that a regular resident pastor was chosen. A call was extended to Rev. Alex. B. Campbell in that year, and he served as pastor until 1855.

Internal dissentions within the Presbyterian Church, as regards general church doctrines, had its effect in retarding the growth of the local society. During the pastorate of Rev. Samuel Wilson the Presbyterian Church in the United States separated into two branches known as the Old and the New. Rev. Wilson went with the Old School, but the greater part of his Rushville congregation was not in sympathy with his ideas. The New School branch, having the majority, retained the church edifice, but in finishing and furnishing the interior they incurred a burdensome debt. At this juncture the Old School branch proposed to assume the debt, pay a certain additional sum and take the church property. The offer was accepted and it passed temporarily into their hands and Rev. Breese was engaged to preach at stated intervals, and he was followed by Rev. Carrington, and some years afterwards the church property once again came into the possession of the New School. During these early years of the church the discipline was strictly enforced, and it is recorded that Elder Daniel V. Dawley was placed on trial for playing chess for amusement.

The history of Presbyterianism in Schuyler County should also include some mention of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, which was founded here in 1834. Rev. J. C. Jewel was their first pastor and a church building was erected the year they organized, but the society made slow growth, and in after years the members became identified with the Presbyterian Church. Even in the early days of the church, during the period of strife and contention, the local society took a prominent part in affairs, and the Presbytery for this part of Illinois goes by the old name of Schuyler Presbytery.

Excerpted from Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Schuyler County, 1908, edited by Howard F. Dyson.
Transcribed by Karl A. Petersen 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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