The date of foundingof the Presbyterian Church in Schuyler County is Jan. 31, 1830, and thefirst meeting was held in a store room on the north side of the publicsquare, then owned by Thos. W. Scott. Revs. Cyrus L. Watson and J. M. Elliswere the leaders in this movement to establish a church and they met withgreat 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 JaneMoore.
Rev. Watson took keen interestin the little church that he had established, and ministered to its welfareuntil 1835. There was no regular place for holding services and the courthouse, 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 thebar room of the tavern. where the sacrament of the Lord’s supper was solemnlycelebrated.
About 1836 plans were madefor the erection of a brick church, where the present edifice is located,but before the structure could be roofed in, winter came and the wallswere damaged to an extent that repairs could not be made. The persons whobought the wrecked building, built for the church a frame building as anequivalent, and this was used until 1876, when the present handsome churchwas occupied. It was during the pastorate of Rev. J. M. Paige, who servedis minister from 1873 to 1880 that the new church was erected. The cornerstone of which was laid Aug. 23, 1875, with appropriate ceremony.
Among the early ministersof 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. Acall was extended to Rev. Alex. B. Campbell in that year, and he servedas pastor until 1855.
Internal dissentions withinthe Presbyterian Church, as regards general church doctrines, had its effectin retarding the growth of the local society. During the pastorate of Rev.Samuel Wilson the Presbyterian Church in the United States separated intotwo branches known as the Old and the New. Rev. Wilson went with the OldSchool, but the greater part of his Rushville congregation was not in sympathywith his ideas. The New School branch, having the majority, retained thechurch edifice, but in finishing and furnishing the interior they incurreda burdensome debt. At this juncture the Old School branch proposed to assumethe debt, pay a certain additional sum and take the church property. Theoffer was accepted and it passed temporarily into their hands and Rev.Breese was engaged to preach at stated intervals, and he was followed byRev. Carrington, and some years afterwards the church property once againcame into the possession of the New School. During these early years ofthe church the discipline was strictly enforced, and it is recorded thatElder Daniel V. Dawley was placed on trial for playing chess for amusement.
The history of Presbyterianismin Schuyler County should also include some mention of the Cumberland PresbyterianChurch, which was founded here in 1834. Rev. J. C. Jewel was their firstpastor and a church building was erected the year they organized, but thesociety made slow growth, and in after years the members became identifiedwith the Presbyterian Church. Even in the early days of the church, duringthe period of strife and contention, the local society took a prominentpart in affairs, and the Presbytery for this part of Illinois goes by theold name of Schuyler Presbytery.
Excerpted from HistoricalEncyclopedia of Illinois and History of Schuyler County, 1908, editedby Howard F. Dyson.
Transcribed by Karl A. Petersenfor Schuyler County ILGenWeb
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