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Early Presbyterianism In East Central Illinois 

Rev. Iba W. Allen, A. M., D. D., Paris, Illinois. 

Let me ask you to call upon your historical imagination and 
paint in the inner chambers of the mind a picture, indeed, a 
pictorial series. 

A farm in Kentucky is the background of the first scene. 
A missionary has just started for the New Purchase in In- 
diana. It is September of the year 1822. The day is one of 
golden sunshine and almost summer warmth. The pioneer 
sits upon the driver's seat of a covered wagon, holding the 
reins that guide four horses, and beside him sits his wife hold- 
ing a two-year-old girl in her lap. From the rear an older 
girl looks out. 

Within are the supplies usual for a migration to a home in 
the wilderness, but in addition to these are a few books and 
some missionary reports as well as the minister's Bible. 

Scene second: A lovely autumn day is coming to a close. 
Not by the roadside, for their is no road, but in a glen stands 
a covered wagon. Not far away four hobbled horses are 
eagerly biting the half dried grass. A camp fire is burning 
beneath a giant hickory, and near it sits the missionary's wife. 
A large iron kettle is suspended by a long pole sloping high 
enough above the fire not to burn. The pole's lower end is 
under a log. It runs upward supported by a forked branch 
driven in the ground. The older child is feeding the fire. The 
father is picking the feathers from a wild turkey . A rifle lies 
on the ground beside him. The youngest child is asleep in 
her mother's arms. 

Scene third: It is raining steadily. The horses are sink- 
ing every step into a miry road. Their sweaty coats steam 
in the rain as they struggle slowly onward. In great coat 
and coonskin cap the missionary sits on the driver's seat. The 


back flaps of the wagon are drawn down tight. He is the only 
human being visible. The wagon wheels sink, sometimes 
sharply and deeply. Then the smoking horses strain against 
their collars and the wheels give curious sucking sounds in 
the water and mud. Around a curve the wagon disappears. 

Scene fourth: A log cabin stands where great trees have 
been cleared away. Near it are some stumps, testifying by 
their size to the forest giants that fell before the missionary's 
axe. Between the logs of the cabin walls appear the chips 
that await the plaster to make them firm and keep the wind 
away. The rough stone chimney is unfinished, but smoke is 
coming from it. Little patches of snow are on the ground. 
The clearing is shut in on every side by mighty trees. 

Scene fifth: The cabin is finished. White plaster, flush 
with the outside of the squared logs, shows in all the cracks 
and crevices. The chimney is up to its full height. A door 
squarely fills in the doorway, with a leather thong hanging 
out through a small hole where the knob of a modern door 
would be. The clearing is much larger and in one place young 
corn is growing and bean vines are showing themselves. On 
one log of the cabin is roughly carved: "Cottage of Peace.' ' 

Scene sixth: Under the trees of a grove near a small set- 
tlement are gathered some scores of people. Of homespun 
goods are their clothing, rough and clumsy their shoes. They 
are all brown from the sun and wind. They all face one way 
and their heads are bowed, for with uplifted face the mis- 
sionary is praying. On many cheeks are tears, but it is very 
still in the grove. The only sounds are the missionary's voice 
and the stirring of the leaves. 

Scene seventh: In the corner of a room so small as to 
seem a toy room, a chamber of a child's playhouse, is a bed 
of poles and skins. On it lies an emaciated, white haired 
woman. Beside it sits the missionary. A Bible is open in 
his hands. To the dying woman he reads the words of Jesus : 

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow 


And I give unto them eternal life ; and they shall never per- 
ish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." 

Mr. President, unless some such pictures illustrate the text 
which is to follow, it will seem dry and juiceless, as lifeless as 
a surveyor's description. To understand at all what a farm 
is, after we have read a legal designation of its metes and 
bounds, we must picture its fields and meadows, its spring and 
its woodlot, its fertility and lush life. These last indeed give 
the farm its value and make its legal description worth the 

So is it in this paper. The real religion, the desire for God, 
the longing for eternal life, the aspiration for noble living, 
the craving for some assurance of acceptance with God, the 
hunger of the heart for the divine sympathy and compassion, 
and the complete satisfaction of all these desires in the simple 
gospel preached by the missionary, — these give the real mean- 
ing to the accounts which follow. 

Further, the hardships and struggles of pioneer life did not 
smother these desires, nor the dangers of river and wilder- 
ness deter the missionary. Sacrifice and courage on his part 
and on theirs, faith, prayer, trust and persistence in relig- 
ious duties on his part and on theirs, must be understood to 
get the real significance of the organization of Illinois' early 

The Presbyterian history of eastern Illinois really begins 
with the coming of isolated members of that church from 
eastern states, principally Ohio, Virginia, and east Ten- 
nessee. Here and there a communicant could be found in one 
of the log cabins, in the forests or on the edge of the prairie, 
who longed for the coming of a missionary, desiring to hear 
the gospel preached and to partake of the sacrament of the 
Lord's Supper. 

How real that longing was in many breasts may be judged 
from the fact that often a man or a woman would walk eight 
or ten miles to attend a meeting, would ride or drive twenty 
or thirty. But the formation of churches began when the 


Eev. Isaae Reed, a minister of a little pioneer church in Owen 
County, Indiana ,and a missionary of the Connecticut Mission- 
ary Society crossed the Wabash river on a journey to Paris, 
111. There he organized the first church in this section of our 
state. I quote from a report he made and from his diary. 
"The Cottage of Peace, Ind., Nov. 24, 1824 

Good News from the Frontier. 

"I have just returned from a short missionary tour across 
the Wabash. I was as far out as Paris, Edgar county, Illi- 
nois. Indeed this was the point of my principal aim. I went 
by the particular and earnest solicitation of some people, in 
that vicinity, (who had removed there from Ohio and from 
East Tennessee, but whom I had never seen) that I would 
come and bring them into church order. They had been 
about two years there with their families, and no minister had 
yet found his way to their settlement. The appointment had 
been a good while made, and I was therefore expected. 
Brother D. Whitney also went with me. We crossed the Wa- 
bash three miles above Fort Harrison the fourth inst. That 
night we had a meeting two and a half miles from the river. 
There were present three female members of our church, all 
of them from the state of New York. One had been seven 
years there, and the others four years; neither had been at 
communion since they came into the country, nor had they 
heard a sermon for almost two years — and this purely be- 
cause they had no opportunity. The next day at evening we 
began our meeting in the neighborhood of Paris. Nothing 
unusual appeared. The people seemed pleased to receive us, 
and in the prospect of a church and the sacrament." 

"On the sixth we preached in town. It was a new and 
small place, though the seat of justice of Edgar county. The 
services were performed in a school house. Whilst preach- 
ing, a very uncommon solemnity and deep attention seemed 
to prevail. Numbers were affected to tears. After sermon 
the church was constituted out of the members present. They 
were twelve ; three elders were chosen. An examination then 


commenced of persons who desired to become members ; and 
on the following day, thirteen were admitted on examination, 
and another by letter, making twenty-six. Four adults were 
baptized. And a very deep and tender impression seemed to 
exist in the minds of many of the hearers — many shed tears, 
and confessed, when enquired of, that their minds were 
awakened into concern for their souls. It seemed that a re- 
vival of the Lord's work was begun. They had for nearly 
two years kept up society meetings on the Sabbath, and 
seemed to have desired and hoped and prayed for a preacher 
to come and see them, until they were prepared, when he 
came, to receive him as sent them of the Lord; and they 
seemed to wish to attend to his message and to follow the 
Lord's will. The eighth we constituted a Bible Society auxi- 
liary to the American, and left them. But we did not so soon 
leave the traces of the Lord's work. Where we held a meet- 
ing that night, a woman convinced of sin, when repentance 
was the subject of discourse, wept aloud. 

The next day we had preaching seven miles further toward 
the Wabash; here also members seemed concerned, and at 
night, in another part of the settlement, five miles distant, it 
was yet more manifest. There were several children baptised ; 
one household of eight ; and two days after, six persons were 
admitted on examination to the communion of the church. 

"In short in five days we examined and admitted nineteen 
persons to communion, constituted a church in a settlement 
beyond the point to which any of our ministers before had 
travelled — administered the sacrament twice, baptized four 
adults and nineteen children" 

Now I read an extract from the Eev. Isaac Reed's diary: 

"A Macedonian call had been sent me at Vincennes, the 
first week of August, from Paris, Illinois; I had returned 
word I would come." 

"Sept. 14th, 1825. — I left the Cottage of Peace on my way 
to preach the gospel to them. Rode 25 miles and preached 
at 5 o'clock P. M. Baptised 5 children. This was the house- 

Sig. 3. 


hold of one of the members of the new formed congregation 
of Greencastle. " 

"15th. — Started at sunrise, and went on to Greencastle, 5 
miles to breakfast ; found my friend Mrs. — , very sick of a 
fever. Prayed with her. Hope she may recover. Stopped 
only for breakfast and went on. Passed through 17 miles 
woods with only a single cabin. Met and passed numbers on 
the road. Though very new, it is the leading way from Ohio 
to the upper parts of Illinois, and near where the national 
road is expected to pass. Eode this day 31 miles, and stopped 
with Mr. Samuel Adams; found the woman ill. Spent the 
evening in reading loud to the family a printed missionary 
report, and part of two sermons.' ' 

"16th. — Started at sunrise, and rode to Mr. TVs, 4 miles. 
He is an elder of our little church, on Big Eaccoon creek. It 
was formed near three years ago, by a missionary of the 
General Assembly, but has no minister nor meeting house, 
nor meeting, except when a missionary comes along. Went 
on through a very lonely and wet tract, 10 miles to the Wa- 
bash river. Crossed it 12 miles above Fort Harrison, a place 
famous in the late war. Rode 14 miles further to Mr. 
M'C — *S' where I had appointed to preach. This is on an arm 
of the Grand Prairie in Illinois. ' J 

"On my way I met a man whom I had known 6 years ago 
at New Albany. He had been used to attend my ministry, but 
I had not known anything of him since. Enquired of him re- 
specting his mind — found it troubled and dark, without a 
Christian hope; but uneasy. Exhorted him, and requested 
him to come to the meeting at Paris. This prairie has a grand 
and beautiful appearance. It is dry, grassy, and flowered. 
Preached — the attention was good. Had an interesting con- 
ference with the man of the house, his wife and another wo- 
man. They are zealous Christians in their first love ; each has 
united with the church in less than a year." 

"17th. — Rode into Paris 8 miles. Met the congregation 
at the court house. Preached immediately. Text, Act 16 :10. 
A large number of hearers and very good attention. Or- 


dained a ruling elder and gave a charge to him, and another 
to the congregation. Held a meeting with the session; ex- 
amined and received 2 persons, both young converts. 
Preached again at night to a numerous and solemn assembly." 

" Paris is the county seat of Edgar county, but is a very 
small place of about 8 cabins. It lies on the prairie. The 
church here was formed by my ministry, last November, with 
twelve members. It seemed in a state of revival, and I left 
it with 26. Sixteen had been added — now 42." 

"18th. — Sabbath. Held prayer meeting at the court house 
half after nine A. M. Baptised one adult. Preached and ad- 
ministered the Lord's Supper. There were three tables. A 
large number of hearers, very well behaved. Rode 4% miles 
to lodge. Read aloud to the family a missionary report. 

"19th. — Rode to Paris and preached at 11 A. M. The ser- 
mon was a funeral one for Mr. John Young, missionary, who 
died at Vincennes, Aug. 15th, aged 28 years. He had spent 
some months with these people, where his labors appear to 
have been greatly blessed. Dined and took leave of these in- 
teresting people. They are anxious to obtain a minister, and 
I hope they can soon support one. Rode 10 miles and 
preached at night." 

"20th. — Rode 9 miles to New Hope meeting house. Met the 
congregation and preached the same funeral sermon as yes- 
terday. Here, too, Mr. Y. had labored — been successful, and 
was much beloved. It was a feeling time. Baptised 1 adult 
and 1 infant. This is a wonderful society. It has grown up 
from 9 to 70 members in 10 months, and there seems still a 
reviving influence. They subscribed $10 toward printing the 
funeral sermon. They have built a new meeting house. 
Preached again at night, and baptised four children." 

"21st. — Found where there is a pious lad, now a scholar of 
the Sabbath school; anxious to learn and makes great pro- 
ficiency. I expect he is to be called to the ministry. Rode 11 
miles to the village Terre Haute. This is a singular place — 
has about 200 population and much mercantile business. It 
has no religious society of any order. But at present a great 


disposition to hear preaching. And its gentlemen have 
formed a Sabbath reading meeting at the court house. They 
read printed sermons. There is also a new-formed Bible so- 
ciety and there is a small Sabbath school. I am told, $300 
salary might be raised here for a preacher. Preached to a 
large congregation at night. In the afternoon, visited and 
prayed with the school." 

"22d. — This day was rainy. Eode 21 miles — rested for the 
night; but not without being solicited to preach." 

' i 23d. — Preached a funeral sermon for the death of a mar- 
ried woman — she has left children. Rode 13 miles and lodged 

at D 's on Raccoon creek — this is a Presbyterian family 

from Ireland." 

"24th. — Repassed the long woods to Greencastle, 18 miles 
— preached at night. My friend appears recovering from her 
fever, but is very weak. ' ' 

"25th. — Rose early and retired to the woods. Visited and 
prayed with a sick woman. Met the congregation — prayed — 
ordained a ruling elder, and gave him and the congregation 
a charge. Preached and administered the Lord's Supper, in 
the new church at Greencastle. There were few to commune, 
but many to hear — went home with the elder. When we en- 
tered his house, his son was weeping aloud. The Bible lay 
open on the table — and the first words he spoke were, "The 
Lord has found me." He seemed greatly agitated and dis- 
tressed. I endeavored to direct him to the Savior and read 
and explained to him and the family the parable of the Prodi- 
gal son." 

"26th. — The young man was still serious but more calm. 
Left him a reference to some chapters. Rode home about 24 
miles and found my family in peace. I had been absent 13 
days — rode 222 miles — preached 13 sermons — administered 
the Lord 's Supper in 2 churches — ordained a ruling elder in 
each church — baptized 2 adults and 6 children." 

And now the account of the organization of the Paris 
church from the minutes of the meeting: 


"At a meeting held in the school house at Paris, Illinois, 
November 6th, 1824, after public worship, the following per- 
sons, members of the Presbyterian church were by prayer 
solemnly constituted into a church, by the name of the Pres- 
byterian church of Paris : 

John Bovell 
William Means 
James Eggleton 
Adriel Stout 
Amzi Thompson 
Samuel Vance 
Christian Bovell 
Nancy Thompson 
Barbara Alexander 
Elizabeth Blackburn 
Hannah Baird 
Mary Vance." 
Samuel Vance, John Bovell, and William Means were then 
unanimously elected Buling Elders, — they each having held 
that office in other congregations. ' ' 

"The Session then held a meeting to examine persons for 
membership, when, at a meeting on Sabbath morning, Nov. 
7th, the following were examined and admitted to communion : 

James Ashmore 
Cassandra Ashmore 
Rebecca Ives 
Susanna Means 
Elizabeth Jones 
Polly Wayne 
Eliza Stout 
Jane Ewing 
Margeret Crozier 
Betsy Burr 
Miron Ives 
Sarah Ives 
Asenath McKown 
Rachel Ashmore. 


Four of these, viz: Mrs. Means, Miss Ashmore, Mr. Ives 
and Mrs. Ives, his wife, were baptized ; and the communion was 

Isaac Reed, Moderator. 

(Copy from the Original, abridged May 22, '27. Sam'l 
Vance, Clerk).' ' 

Here are further records of early Presbyterian activity in 
church organization: 

* ' The Records of New Providence Church, Edgar Co., 111. ' 9 

"According to previous notice a number of people of the 
settlement of Sugar Creek met at the house of Mr. Martin 
Ray on the 15th of May, 1829 for the express purpose of or- 
ganizing a Presbyterian Church. " 

"The Revd. Clayborne Young being present opened the 
meeting with prayer, presided and by appointment acted as 
temporary clerk. Motion being made, an election was held, 
for two persons to serve as Ruling Elders and the votes be- 
ing counted it appeared that Messrs. Alexander Ewing, 2nd. 
and John W. McNutt were duly elected and this election was 
publicly announced and the meeting then adjourned until 
Saturday the 16th. Concluded with prayer." 

"Saturday, May 16th, 1829 Messrs. A. Ewing and J. W. 
McNutt having signafyed their willingness to serve and pre- 
sented certificates from New Providence church (E. Tenn.) 
were sollemnly ordained of this church according to the Pres- 
byterian form of government. A door was then opened for 
the admission of members — the following persons were then 
received as members of this church. ' ' 

"See Tabular form No. 1, Page 112. 

Alexander Ewing, CPk. 

Sabbath, May 17th. They sacrament of the Lord's Supper 
was administered. ' ' 

"Monday, 18th. Session convened, Revd. C. Young, Mod- 
erator and reed, on Profession &c." 

"See Form No. 1, Page 112.' ' 

Turning to page 112 of the same book we find ruled columns 
extending across the two leaves of the opened book. It is the 


"Form No. 1," referred to in the minutes. Across the tops 
of the extended pages is written : 

"Form No. 1. Acts of the Session.' ' 

The columns from left to right have the following head- 

"Names, When Eecd., How Eecd., Baptised, Dismissed, 
Suspended, Excommunicated, Restored, Died." 

Here we find the names of the charter members : 

Thomas Art, Mary Art, Elven Tucker, Elisabeth Tucker, 
Margaret L. Ewing, Elisabeth McNutt, George Ewing, Elen 
Ewing, Martin Ray, Jane Ewing, Rachel Ewing, Eliza I. 
Tucker, Nathaniel Ewing, Elisabeth Ewing, Margaret Ray. 

To these names must, of course, be added those of Alexan- 
der Ewing and John W. McNutt, the elders elected. Thus the 
church was organized with seventeen members. 

The following records of historic value explain themselves : 

"At a meeting held in Palestine, Crawford County, Illi- 
nois, on the 14th, 15th and 16th of May, Anno Domini 1831, 
attended by the Revd. Isaac Reed and the Revd. John Mont- 
gomery, the following persons, members of the Presbyterian 
church from different parts, gave in their names and re- 
quested to be set apart and constituted into a Presbyterian 
church, to be called the Palestine church. And after due en- 
quiry and examination they were set apart by prayer and con- 
stituted into a church, (viz:) John Houston, (sen.) and Nancy 
Houston, Nancy Ann Logan, Jane Houston, Eliza Houston, 
Wilson Lagow and Nancy Lagow, Alfred Gr. Lagow, James 
Eagleton, James Caldwell, Phebe Morris and Anna Piper. 
These were constituted into a church on the 14th and on the 
next day there were added Margaret Eagleton, John Malcom 
and Ann Malcom and Hannah Wilson (Sen.) " 

"The sacrament of the Lord's Supper was administered 
and an election held for two ruling elders when John Houston 
and Wilson Lagow were duly elected. John Houston being 
already an ordained elder, Wilson Lagow was ordained on the 


16th and a charge was given to both the elders and to the 

Isaac Beed, Missionary of B. M. G. A." 

The little village of Grandview, ten miles southeast . of 
Paris, has a history of idyllic flavor. A foresighted pioneer 
named John Tate gathered a party in Augusta County, Va., 
and led them to Illinois, where they arrived in September, 

They came in wagons and by families. In this spot on the 
Grand Prairie they settled, giving it a name it well deserved. 
West and north they had as boundary to their view only the 
horizon. East and south they looked to great woods. Fer- 
tility and beauty combined said to them: "Here shall ye 

The thoughtfulness of these emigrants and their high valu- 
ation of religion and education appear when it is known that 
they brought with them their minister and school teacher, the 
Bev. John A. Steele, and their doctor, a brother of the clergy- 

Immediately divine service was held after the simple Pres- 
byterian fashion in their houses, but the following year a 
church building was erected. The congregation was consti- 
tuted a church in proper ecclesiastical form on the twenty- 
seventh day of July, 1838. 

The record follows : 

"Grandview, July 27, 1838. 

Notice having been previously given that a Presbyterian 
church would be organized at this place on this day, immedi- 
ately after sermon, the Bev. John A. Steele, a missionary of 
the Board of Missions of the General Assembly, having re- 
ceived certificates or other satisfactory evidence of church 
membership from the following persons, viz : James Hite, Ann 
W. Hite, John Tate, Nancy Tate, Bobert M. Tate, Susan 
Tate, Margaret I. Tate, Jacob S. Brown, Ellen B. Brown, Wm. 
A. Cale, Sarah Cale, John Shultz, Susan Shultz, Catherine 
Steele, Bachel France, Matthias Snapp, proceeded to orga- 


nize them into a church. On motion Joseph Brown was chosen 
secretary of the meeting. On motion it was resolved that 
four persons be elected ruling elders in this church and the 
following persons being nominated to that effect, to-wit: 
James Hite, Wm. A. Cale, John Tate and Joseph Brown were 
elected. On motion it was resolved that this church be known 
as the Presbyterian church of Grandview. 

On motion Robert M. Tate was elected treasurer. 

Adjourned with prayer. 

Joseph M. Brown, Secretary of the meeting.' ' 

These, Mr. President, are the names of the early Presbyter- 
ians of East Central Illinois and these are the records of meet- 
ings that meant much to the organizers of the churches and 
were influential for good then and to the present day.