Comingof the Pioneer Methodist

There were a numberof these God fearing men, who should receive their full meed of praiseand credit for the work they accomplished, but let us first consider LevinGreen, the pioneer of them all. The history of Illinois Methodism affordsno more picturesque or romantic figure than that of Rev. Green, who wason one occasion referred to by Rev. John Scripps as the “Lord’s Prodigy.”

The first settlement hadbeen made in Schuyler County in 1823 and, in the fall of that year, LevinGreen put in appearance. He was a tall, straight, gaunt man, attired inKentucky jeans, with deer-skin moccasins and coonskin cap, and his comingbrought joy to the Hobarts, who were loyal Methodists. As soon as theylearned the stranger was a licensed preacher, they welcomed him to theirhome and assisted in moving his family from Dutchman Creek, sixteen milesabove on the Illinois River, whither they had come from below St. Louisin a canoe. On the first Sabbath in November, 1823, Levin Green preachedthe first sermon in Schuyler County at the home of Calvin Hobart, and hehad for his congregation the entire settlement, numbering thirty persons.Afterward services were held regularly every two weeks throughout the winter,and here in the wilderness the corner-stone of Methodism in the MilitaryTract was laid.

Levin Green was one of thosequeer products of pioneer times, that cannot be gauged in the standardsof our present civilization. He could barely read intelligently, havinghad no scholastic opportunities, and yet he played a prominent part inthe evangelist work of his day. He was licensed to preach by Jesse Walker,Presiding Elder of Illinois, in 1814, and the early years of his ministrywere spent in Missouri. In his Book of Reminiscences, Rev. Chauncey Hobartsays: “Levin Green belonged to that remarkable class of men, so well knownon the frontier line of civilization. Born where the howl of the wolf andthe war-whoop of the savage were well known sounds; accustomed to supplythe larder from the chase, and to eating bread made of meal manufacturedby the ‘hominy mortar,’ he was of a race of men whose perceptive facultieswere keenly developed by the new and strange surroundings of their exposedlives, and whose resources, mental and physical, were, by the very exigenciespressing upon them, always equal to the demand. To him God, eternity, death,the resurrection, the judgment, Heaven and hell, were vivid and solemnrealities. In many of his discourses he spoke as if these were actuallypresent, being seen and felt by him.”

At the Methodist campmeetingsLevin Green, attired in his buckskin breeches and coon-skin cap, entrancedthe pioneers with his peculiar style of oratory and, in civil affairs,he was accorded honors becoming his station. The love for the romanticpioneer life, however, was ever present and, with the coming of the settlersand homemakers, he left to seek his home anew on the borderline of thewestern frontier, and Schuyler County knew him no more.

In every community thereare men who are looked upon as leaders; men who take the initiative andplan and build for the future. Such a man was Rev. John Scripps in thereligious life of Rushville, and a history of the times would not be completewithout some reference to his life and its activities.

It was in the summer of 1831that Mr. Scripps moved to Rushville, coming here from Cape Girardeau, Mo.,where he had resided since 1809, and although his object in locating inthe city was to engage in merchandising, he entered heartily into the workof up-building the Methodist Church, which had been established a few yearsbefore. No one in the village was more capable of assuming the leadershipof the little congregation than he, for he was then a member of the MethodistConference of Missouri and had done valiant work on the circuit in earlieryears.

As early as 1812, while aresident of Cape Girardeau, Mo., he had been given a license to preach,and in the fall of 1814 he had been employed by the Presiding Elder ofIllinois to travel the circuit while the ministers went to conference.Without his knowledge his name was presented to the conference, and hewas assigned to the Indiana circuit. The following year he was transferredto Illinois, and one of his stations was Kaskaskia, afterwards the firstcapital of the State. In 1816 his circuit covered a portion of Missouri,and to him belongs the honor of holding the first Methodist service inthe city of St. Louis. There was no church in the city and the meetingwas held in an old dilapidated log building used as court house, legislativehall and theater. There, amid the rude scenery of the theater, he preachedto a large audience comprising the entire American population. In lateryears be traveled a circuit in Arkansas, and in 1823 returned to the St.Louis circuit. In the years 1820 and 1824 he was a member of the GeneralConferences. The Methodist Conference in Illinois was not formed until1824, and Rev. Scripps continued a member of the Missouri Conference untilthe division of the church in 1845. Refusing to go South with his conference,he was transferred to the Illinois Conference in 1846 and placed on thesuperannuated list.

Rev. Scripps had practicallyretired from the ministry when he located in Rushville, but his years ofservice had given him a knowledge of affairs that was invaluable to thestruggling little church here. He entered heartily into the work and wasoften called upon to fill the pulpit in the absence of the regular pastor.Rev. James Leaton, in writing of Rev. Scripps in Rushville, says: “Thecoming of such a man and Christian minister into the young society at Rushvillewas hailed as a providence; God’s hand was seen and recognized in it. Hislong experience in the itinerancy, his intimate acquaintance with the workingof Methodism, his personal acquaintance with the ministry, and his influencewith the Bishops pre-eminently fitted him for a counselor and leader inthe young society. How much he loved, how wisely he planned, and how wellhe built, is attested by the permanent and efficient character of the churchtoday.”

Excerpted from HistoricalEncyclopedia of Illinois and History of Schuyler County, 1908, editedby Howard F. Dyson.
Transcribed by Karl A. Petersenfor 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 strictlyprohibited without prior permission. If copied, this copyright must appearwith the information.

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