ThePresbyterian Church 

 

Rushville PresbyterianChurch Dates Beginning To Jan. 1830
Cyrus Watson Credited AsBeing Founder; Present Church Built

When into Rushville, theembryo metropolis, came Rev. Cyrus Watson in quest of Presbyterians, hefound only three families of that faith, the Blairs, the McCreerys, andthe Moores, and the little band determined to organize the First Presbyterianchurch of Rushville.

It was when they were seekinga room in which to organize their church, that Thomas W. Scott offeredthe use of his store on the north side of the square. It was in this locationon January 31, 1830, that Rev. Cyrus Watson, assisted by Rev. J. M. Ellis,started on its way the Presbyterian church which has served the city ofRushville and its members for 118 years.

At that first meeting inthe Scott store there gathered the little band of organizers, and seatedon boxes and boards were William Blair, Thomas Blair, Sarah Blair, MargaretBlair, Hugh McCreery, Sarah McCreery, Mathew McCreery, Jane McCreery, MargaretMcCreery, William Moore, and Jane Moore, and a few spectators, among whomwere James McCreery, a lad of 15.

At this organization meetingof the First Presbyterian church, Thomas Blair and William Moore were chosenruling elders, and Thomas Blair was also the first clerk of the session.Schuyler Presbytery was organized at Rushville, September 28, 1833, andembraced all the territory from the Illinois river to the northern boundaryof the state of Illinois.

Following the organizationof the church, Rev. Watson remained in the vicinity for a year, beforegoing east for the same length of time. During his absence, Rev. Asa Turnerof Quincy, afterward known as the Father of Congregationalism in Iowa,preached here occasionally, and Rev. Elisha Jenny served the church forsome months. Returning to Rushville, Rev. Watson was engaged as halftimepreacher for this church, spending the other half time in missionary laborson the whole field. That meant long, weary miles on horseback or on foot,thru forest trails, wading marshes, fording rivers, enduring hardshipsalmost beyond belief, that he might hold up the standard of the cross.His meagre salary came almost entirely from the American Home Missionarysociety, for Rushville was a mission station for 20 years.

In 1833 Rushville receivedan accession to its population that probably had more influence on thecommunity and affected its character more than any other.

It was from east Tennesseethat the following families came: Mikaja Warren, Abraham Tolles, RensellerWells, and Robert A. Russell, and a young man named Willis Carson. Theywere all Presbyterians, with the exception of Robert A. Russell, who atonce united with the Presbyterian church and was elected an elder.

Built First Church In 1836

After long and faithful servicein the founding and upbuilding of the Presbyterian church in Rushville,Rev. Cyrus Watson resigned his pastorate in September, 1835, leaving achurch of 50 members. The following May, Rev. Samuel Wilson was engagedas stated supply, and it was in the first year of his ministry, in 1836,that a permanent house of worship was built, the record of the deed tothe church site bearing date of October 10, 1836.

There was much rejoicingover the first church home, altho its walls were unplastered and the floorwas of only loose boards, and church seats were fashioned from puncheons.It was home, and gave promise of brighter days to come, and the buildingwas soon made more complete and furnished, and 40 years later was removedto make room for the present church. It was August 23, 1875, that the cornerstonewas laid for a new $15,000 brick structure, which is the present beautifulchurch edifice at the corner of West Washington and North Monroe streets,and which is closely adjacent to the modern manse, the home of the Presbyterianpastors and their families.

Rev. Samuel L. Wilson succeededRev. Watson as church pastor, and when he took over his charge in 1837,there came the troublesome times of the division of the church into Oldand New schools, when even this small organization was rent asunder andexisted in two factions for some years. This separation made six churchorganizations in the little village of less than 1,000 population – theMethodist Episcopal, the Cumberland Presbyterian, the Baptist, the Christian,and the Old and New Presbyterian. Rev. Wilson was Old School Presbyterian,and he resigned the charge, hoping to prevent friction.

During the next 10 years,from 1840 to 1850, came to the Old School branch Rev. Breeze and Rev. AlfredCarrington, and to the New School Rev. J. T. Tucker, Rev. Henry Bergen,Rev. T. J. Haswell, and Rev. Lycurgus Kimball. Revs. Carrington, Haswelland Kimball died here, and their graves are in the Rushville cemetery.

Pastor Paid $400 in 1851

The first settled pastorof the First Presbyterian church was Rev. Alexander B. Campbell, who camein September, 1850, having just graduated from Lane Seminary. Thirty yearslater, at the 50th anniversary of the church founding, an interesting letterfrom Rev. Campbell was read, a letter that described in detail the receptionhe received when he came here as a new pastor for the First Presbyterianchurch in 1850.

Rev. Campbell, first engagedas stated supply pastor, on October 7, 1851, was installed as pastor, withthe munificent salary of $400, that in the words of the record, “his mindmight be free from all worldly care.” The salary was probably equal tothe average at that time, and demanded a great effort from the feeble church,for it was then they first cast off their dependence upon the AmericanHome Missionary society. After serving five years as pastor, Rev. Campbellleft Rushville in 1855.

In the year 1856 Rev. J.Fowler filled the pulpit for a time. He was a son-in-law of “Father Brown,”a retired Presbyterian minister, who, with his wife was a blessing to thechurch, and to the Sunday school a legacy was left by “Mother” Brown.

On the last Sunday in theyear 1856 a young minister who preached in Rushville was invited to remain,and the following November was installed as pastor, and so this churchhad the honor of being the first charge of Rev. Samuel E. Wishard, D.D.,and his services as a beloved pastor here extended over a four-year period,at a salary of $600 a year.

The names of the followingpastors follow on the roll: Rev. L. R. Jones, Rev. I. T. Whittemore, Rev.T. S. Reeve, Rev. Ira M. Weed, Rev. R. C. Swinton, and Rev. W. C. Burchard.Rev. Weed simply supplied the pulpit for three months, and Rev. Powell,who taught a private school here, preached for a time, and all of theseterms of service were brief. Indeed, during the first 42 years, until thegoing of Mr. Burchard in 1872, the church had 15 ministers, only two ofthem pastors, three of whom stayed four years each and the others for shorterterms. However, all left according to the records, for causes entirelybeyond the control of both pastor and people, and good feeling always existed.

Even tho it took an infiniteamount of tact and grace to keep harmony among people who differed so widelyin views – religious, social, and political – those men and women of theearly day church were agreed on the vital things concerning God and man,therefore in due time all the wide differences of the church were blendedinto one harmonious whole, and the Old School, the New School, and theCumberland Presbyterians were united, and all worshipped happily underone roof.

Following the departure ofRev. Burchard in 1872, Rev. L. C. Littell filled the pulpit for a timebefore retiring from active service.

Present Church Built In 1877

In 1873 Rev. James A. Paigebegan a pastorate which was notable for several events. It was the longestpastorate this church had enjoyed-seven and one-half years; there was agreat revival in 1877, when Dr. Wishard assisted the pastor; the new churchwas built; and the 50th anniversary was celebrated. The cornerstone ofthe building was laid on Monday, August 23, 1875, and the first serviceswere held in the Sunday school room in March, 1877. Rev. Paige resignedin 1880, after witnessing the period of growth and Prosperity for the church.

At the Semi-Centennial anniversaryof the First Presbyterian church held in Rushville, Saturday evening, January31, 1880, the pastor, Rev. James A. Paige, presided, assisted by Rev. R.C. Matthews, D.D., of Monmouth, Rev. H. K. McCombs of St. Louis, and Rev.Dr. Window of the M.E. church. The historical address was delivered byR. H. Griffith, and letters were read from Rev. Cyrus L. Watson of Peoria,who organized the church; from Rev. A. B. Campbell, the first pastor ofthe church, and from other former members and pastors of the church.

In January, 1881, Rev. D.W, Evans was called to the pastorate here, but his death occurred in Decemberof the same year, and his grave is in the Rushville cemetery.

During the period of 118years since the organization of the First Presbyterian church of Rushvillea total of 34 regular pastors have served, along with a number of statedsupplies, those who have supplied the pulpit for a few months, and a numberof the children of the church became ministers of the Gospel.

Former Prominent Workers

Upon the elders of the earlyday depended in a large measure the life and prosperity of the Presbyterianchurch. In the beginning are enrolled the names of Thomas Blair and WilliamMoore. Five years later, Daniel Watson, John Young, David S. Taylor, WilliamBlair, and Robert Russell. On down the years is Samuel Hindman, James L.Anderson, William E. Withrow, John McCreery, Peter H. Holmes, Wm. K. Young,R. H. Griffith, William Speed, Thomas H. Matthews, S. M. Hume, AugustusWarren, George G. Clark, A. J. Byrns, J. M. Coyner, John Putman, L. R.Caldwell, Willis Carson, Charles H. Goodwin, N. T. Veatch, and F. H. Patch.At the time of the 80th anniversary celebration held in 1910, L. D. Erwin,Samuel Young, and H. B. Roach had served since 1882, 28 years; H. A. Babcock,15 years; C. B. Griffith, six years; and W. W. Knowles, five years.

To R. H. Griffith, a manwho strongly stressed the vital importance of cultivating peace, harmony,and love in the church, is given the distinction of having served for thelongest period as an elder-47 years. H. B. Roach is next with a serviceof 44 years. Mr. Roach also served for the same period as clerk of thesession. Mrs. Anna R. Anderson served 25 years as church organist, mostof the time without compensation.

John Young, one of the earlyelders, organized the first Sabbath school in Rushville, and it was heldin the log court house located on the north side of the square. His son,John A. Young, was the first child to be baptized in the Presbyterian church.

The Presbyterians met withthe same privations experienced by the other denominations, and duringthe years from 1830 to 1837, the congregation’s places of worship werein school houses, private homes, and the court house, and one of the earlymembers related that a meeting was held in the bar room of the villagetavern, located on the northeast corner of the square, where the sacramentof the Lord’s Supper was solemnly celebrated.

During the first 42 yearsthe Presbyterian church had 15 ministers, only two of whom were installedpastors.

Dr. Edward L. Gibson, thelatest church pastor, delivered his farewell sermon on September 26, aftertwo years of faithful services and left Rushville last week to accept thepastorate of the Henry Presbyterian church.

Presbyterian Pastors In Past118 Years

The list of pastors who haveserved the Presbyterian church in the past 118 years, and the length oftheir service, is here given:
1830-1835–C. L. Watson.
1836-1838–Samuel Wilson.
1839-1840–J. T. Tucker.
1843-1844–Henry Bergen.
1847-1849–J. T. Haswell.
1849-1850–L. P. Kimball.
1850-1855–A. B. Campbell.
1856–J. Fowler.
1857-1861–S. E. Wishard.
1861-1862–J. L. Jones,
1862-1864–Q. T. Whittemore.
1864-1865–T. S. Reeves.
1866–Ira M. Weed.
1866-1869–R. C. Swinton.
1869-1872–W. C. Burchard.
1872–L. C. Littell.
1873-1880–J. A. Paige.
1881–D. W. Evans.
1882-1889–S. C. Palmer.
1890-1892–W. F. Cellars.
1892-1899–E. L. Lord.
1900-1905–S. L. Allison.
1905-1908–J. A. Johnston.
1908-1912–C. A. Foreman.
1913-1917–James H. Smith.
1917–A. E. Saunders.
1917-1919–H. W. Stillman.
1919-1923–C. E. Fiske.
1923-1925–Ira C. Livingston.
1925-1927–George E. Muran.
1927-1935–Alex. McFerran.
1937-1942–Wm. R. O’Neill.
1943-1945–Guy M. Kinman.
1946-1948–Dr. E. L. Gibson.
 

The First Presbyterian church,at the corner of West Washington and North Monroe streets, is the oldestchurch building in Rushville, having been completed in 1877. First classesin the Sunday school rooms of the new church were held in March of thatyear. The cornerstone of this impressive edifice was laid March 23, 1875,with Elders William Speed and R. H. Griffith representing the session andW. H. Ray and L. D. Erwin representing the board of trustees. Rev. L. W.Dunlap of Mt. Sterling, then one of the oldest ministers in the state,gave the address. The cornerstone was laid at the northeast corner of thechurch by W. W. Wells, and in it were placed the history of the church,a copy of The Times and The Citizen, a piece of Swedish money, and a copyof the Bible.

During the pastorate of Rev.William R. O’Neill, several thousand dollars were spent in improving thechurch with the addition of a basement, which is fitted up for church gatheringsand dinners, along with a full equipped kitchen. Within the past year thechurch has been newly decorated thruout the interior.

The RushvilleTimes, October 7, 1948
The Rushville Timesby permission.

Copyright 1999, 2000 RobinL. W. Petersen; all rights reserved. For personal use only. Commercialuse of the information contained in these pages is strictly prohibitedwithout prior permission. If copied, this copyright must appear with theinformation.

Returnto Presbyterian Church index

Return toRushville Township index