pages 100 - 119
CHURCHES AND RELIGIOUS SOCIETIES.
From Mr. Beggs's Early History of the West and Northwest, page 131, I
learn that "in the year 1825, Jesse Walker formed a class of sixteen members,"
composed of the following persons, to wit, "Jesse Walker and wife; James Walker
and wife; Sister Dixon, the wife of the proprietor of Dixontown, on Rock River;
Sister Hamlin and another sister, converts that winter; William Holland and
wife; William Eads and wife; William Blanchard; Rev. Reeves McCormick, and Mary
Clark." He also speaks of a camp-meeting had about a mile above Peoria, the next
summer; and a year or two afterward of a camp-meeting on Farm Creek, three miles
east of Peoria; and he gives the names of several Methodist preachers who
officiated here, in those days. Be all this as it may, when I came to the
country, in November, 1831, these people were mostly gone, and the whole thing
seemed to have been forgotten. I never heard it mentioned. There was then no
religious society of any kind, nor a preacher of any kind, in the County of
Yet we occasionally had fervent preaching, by those who felt it their duty to travel to the remotest ends of the earth in search of the 'lost sheep of the House of Israel'; and peradventure, some times, by those who took that mode of paying their traveling bills. I remember to have heard preach, before any church was organized here, Rev. Mr. Heath, then of St. Louis; Rev. John St. Clair, from Ottawa or thereabouts; Rev. Joel Arrington, from I know not where; Rev. Zadoc Hall, who, I believe, is yet alive and in Woodford county; Rev. John Brich (an elderly English gentleman, who would have been, like Goldsmith's country clergyman, "passing rich with forty pound a year"; and with that would "ne'er have changed, nor wished to change, his place"; but the trouble was, he did not get the forty pound a year, and, of necessity, had constantly to change his place. In short, he was a good old man, who had mistaken his calling; and, though every body else saw it at once, he never ascertained that fact, and, having no place at which permanently to preach, he traveled abroad, preaching in the most out-of-the-way places. It was said at the time, but I know not whether it was true, that a drove of wolves caught him, in the great prairie extending through Henry and Mercer counties, and eat him up; Rev. Jonathan G. Porter, who made shoes of week-days, and preached on the Sabbath (but what became of him I know not. He was a 'Henglishman', who sounded an h before every vowel where there was none, but omitted every one he met with); Rev. Flavel Bascom, Rev. Romulus Barnes, and Rev. Ozias Hale. Mr. Hale did not preach long. It soon became manifest that he had likewise mistaken his calling, and he withdrew from the ministry. After living a few years in great retirement near Hale's Mill, he died, a good, but not a useful man. He was brother to two very clever men, who were long well known here, but who are now both dead, viz., William and Asahel Hale.
The first Christian church organized in Peoria, of which I had any knowledge, until I saw Mr. Beggs's book a few days ago, was a Methodist-Episcopal church. It was organized in 1833, by Rev. Mr. Heath and Rev. Mr. St. Clair. It was organized with the following members : Jonathan G. Porter, Samuel B. King and his wife, Mark M. Aiken, Laura Hale, Hannah Harker, and Abigail Waters. The meetings were held in the 'old court-house', and in private dwellings, until 1840, when a frame building was erected, on the present church-lot, corner of Fulton and Madison streets. In 1844 fifteen feet were added to the rear of this building, making it in all a house 43 feet long by 40 wide. In this house the society worshiped until the spring of 1849, when it was sold to James McFadden, who removed it to the corner of Water and Harrison streets, where it still stands, and constitutes a part of the Central Hotel. In the mean time, the society had been building a large brick edifice, 90 feet long by 60 feet wide, on the same lot. This they began in the summer of 1847, and got completed in about two years. It was dedicated on the 9th of September, 1849.
Although other branches of the Methodist Church have sprung up in the city, this one has continued to increase, and has at present about 220 members. Rev. J. P. Brooks is the present minister, and Rev. L. B. Kent is the presiding elder.
There is a very pretty little frame edifice, on Chestnut street, between Adams and Jefferson streets, of which the members are mostly, if not all, Germans, and yet are Methodists, in connection and good standing with the great Methodist-Episcopal Church of America. This society has only been in existence about two years. Rev. Henry Thomas is their minister.
There is a Methodist society whose place of worship for several years was at the intersection of Perry and Eaton streets; but they have recently removed their meeting-house from that place to the intersection of Jefferson and Evans streets. They are in fellowship with the great Methodist-Episcopal Church. Rev. Henry Apple is their pastor.
On the bluff, at the head of Main street, is a fine new church, built by funds devised by Mr. Ashael Hale, called Hale Chapel. The worshipers here I understand to be about 150, and to be in connection with the Methodist-Episcopal Church. Rev. W. A. Spencer is their minister.
In 1852 the Germans organized a Methodist church, in which the worship is carried on in the German language. Whether they are in connection with the general Methodists or not I have not learned.
At the corner of Fifth and Monson streets is a small chapel for the colored people who belong to the African Methodist-Episcopal Church.
Since the Presbyterians have again united as a band of brothers, the following anecdote may amuse the present generation without hurting anyone. In 1834, the strife that ultimately split the church in twain was brewing; and although the common people did not then, and do not now, know what they quarreled and divided about, those who made the split did know what they were after, and, some time before the split actually took place, were shaping things so as to have the majority in the General Assembly when the crisis should be upon them. There were hardly then Presbyterians enough in Peoria for one society, much less to form two; and one society being organized, it was known that the synod would not recognize a second. Joshua Aiken, Moses Pettengill and Enoch Cross were Presbyterians of New-School predilections, and they made arrangements to organize a church with such materials as would cast their influence in favor of the New-School party, and they appointed the 21st day of December, 1834, for that purpose; and as Romulus Barnes and Flavel Bascom were missionary preachers agreeing with them in this matter, and were officiating as such in Illinois, they were sent for to perform that duty. They organized a church of eleven members, of which the three above-named gentlemen were appointed elders. These were all New-England men.
But, while these things were transpiring, there was a counter-current at work. Samuel Lowry was a zealous Old-School Presbyterian, from the north of Ireland, and deemed it very important to prevent the other party from getting the start. He found the old gentleman, Mr. Brich, of whom notice has been taken, and on the 22d of the same month organized a church of persons of Old-School proclivities, to wit: Samuel Lowry, Mrs. Gray, Mrs. Taggart, John Sutherland, Nelson Buck, and perhaps two or three others.
Here was a fine prospect for an interminable ecclesiastical litigation, between brothers Aiken and Lowry, each one endeavoring to prevent the other's church from being recognized by the synod; and those who were acquainted with the persistence of the parties expected nothing less, for both of them belonged to that class of stern, old-fashioned Christians,
"Who never knelt, but to their God to pray,
Nor even then, unless in their own way."
soon after this the great split in the Presbyterian Church took place, and the
Old-School branch recognized Mr. Lowry's church, and the New-School the other,
which was commonly called Mr. Pettengill's, as Mr. Aiken was much from home and
finally died, and Dr. Cross moved away.
In the summer of 1835, Rev. Isaac Keller, an Old-School Presbyterian preacher of some ability, removed from Maryland, with his family, to Peoria; and in the fall of the same year, Mr. Henry Schnebly, with a large family, came from the same state. In the mean time Mrs. Lindsay, with a large family, mostly Presbyterians, had come from Pennsylvania, and Clark D. Powell from Virginia. These additions, being Old-School men, enabled the Old-School party to present a bold front; and, but for internal divisions, they might have made a strong party. The world never knew—perhaps I never knew —the real cause of the schism. I suppose, however, the real cause was a strong disposition in Mr. Lowry to rule whatever he was concerned with, and an equally strong disposition on the part of Mr. Keller not to be ruled. The ostensible cause, however, was a discovery that Lowry, who was insolvent, had taken the deed to the church-lot in his own name. Be all that as it may, Mr. Keller, who had preached for the society, withdrew and preached in the court-house until his party became strong enough to build a church, which they did on Fulton street, the same now occupied by the Jews as a synagogue. They abandoned the old organization, and on the 31st of October, 1840, organized themselves as an Old-School Presbyterian church, and elected as elders Mr. Henry Schnebly, Clark D. Powell, and Joseph Batchelder. For this organization Rev. Isaac Keller preached several years; but having settled permanently in the country, and being somewhat advanced in life, he was succeeded by Rev. Addison Coffey, a lean, tall man, of feeble health, whose morals and orthodoxy were never questioned. He died in the ministry at Peoria. During his ministration the church on Fulton street was sold to the Universalists, who afterward sold it to the Jews, by whom it is now occupied, and during that time the present church, on the corner of Main and Madison streets, was built. The bell and steeple have since been added.
After the death of Mr. Coffey, viz., in October, 1855, Rev. Robert Johnston was installed as pastor to this congregation. He preached for it until his death, which happened on the 19th of August, 1864. If I say this man did not mistake his calling—that he was the right man in the right place,-—I know no man who I think would be inclined to contradict me.
After Mr. Johnston's deaths Rev. J. H. Morron was installed as parson of that church, and he occupies that position now.
When this church was organized, it was composed of 24 communicants; in 1851, of 120; but now it has a much larger number.
On the 7th of December, 1853, the Old-School Presbyterian church was amicably divided and out of a part of its members a church was organized called the Second Presbyterian Church of Peoria. They built a church at the corner of Madison and Jackson streets, and obtained for their preacher Rev. R. P. Farris. The old church, from that time forward, was called the First Presbyterian Church of Peoria. Rev. Robert P. Farris preached for the second church, for a time, and was succeeded by Rev. Samuel Hibben. After his death Rev. William E. McLaren preached for it several years. After he left, Rev. H. Y. D. Nevius was installed, and preaches for them yet. That church has now about 185 communicants.
The Presbyterian church organized by Mr. Brich died a natural death. The most of the members followed Mr. Keller. Messrs. Lowry, Powell and Sutherland moved away, and all died. The church and church-lot went to pay Mr. Lowry's debts, or for some other purpose, and were not accounted for. In facts there had ceased to be any one to account to for them.
I stop the press to say that, since this work was handed over to the printer, I have just received from Rev. John G. Bergen, who was once a leader in the Presbyterian Church, a letter dated February 2d, 1870, from which I copy the following: "There was a commission of the Synod of Illinois, vested with synodical powers to call before them persons and papers, of which I was chairman; and we met at Peoria (if I remember correctly) in 1842; and we investigated and adjudged on the whole matter of the difficulty: dissolved the church which Mr. S. Lowry claimed to have organized, and for which he said Rev. Mr. Brich prayed, and proceeded to organize, with the power of synod committed to us, a Presbyterian church, in due form, over which Mr. Keller became stated supply."
This proceeding, I suppose, was gotten up by Mr. Keller's party, to clear the record of the then defunct church which had been organized by Messrs. Lowry and Brich, so that the organization of a church for Mr. Keller might not seem unpresbyterial.
On Walnut street, near the corner of Walnut and Water streets, is a church called Calvary Mission, which was gotten up mostly by the exertions of Mr. William Reynolds. It was commenced as a Sunday school, but by degrees was developed into a church. Christianity in general has been taught there, more than any particular sectarian doctrine; yet the society is substantially a Presbyterian society. It has been nurtured mostly by Presbyterians, and William Reynolds, the principal founder, and sole elder at its organization, is a Presbyterian, and Rev. John Weston, the pastor, is a Presbyterian. This society was organized into a church on the 28th day of June, 1867, and already contains many members. Since the organization, Dr. J. Carey has been added to the eldership.
Another Sunday school of this kind, mostly under the auspices of Mr. George H. Mcllvaine, has lately developed into a church, and Rev. George Johnson has been employed to officiate as its parson. Their place of worship is in a small meeting-house at the corner of Green and Clay streets. Their numbers I have not learned. The society has heretofore been called Grace Mission but it will now probably take the name of the Fourth Presbyterian Church. Several of the principal religious societies have established, in the suburbs, Sunday schools of this kind, which may or may not develop into churches.
The Presbyterian society organized by Messrs. Barnes and Bascom increased in numbers, and in 1835 built themselves a small frame meeting-house on Main street, 28 by 50 feet square. When this church was organized, it consisted of but eleven members. In October, 1847, it had increased to twenty-two members.
In 1852 this society built themselves a brick church, on the ground of the frame one, at a cost of $8,000. This entailed upon them a debt which lay like an incubus upon them for seven years. Finally, "on Thanksgiving morning, November 25th, 1859, Deacon Pettengill, who held the obligations, presented the whole amount, $4,074.07, as a freewill offering to the church." However, before this glorious jubilee had arrived, to wit, in October, 1855, twenty-two members withdrew from this church, and resolved themselves into a New-School Presbyterian church, as is seen below. This church has met many difficulties, but upon the whole its march has been Onward. It now numbers 172 communicants.
At a time when abolitionism was very unpopular, this was called an abolition society, and a very decided abolitionist. Rev. William Allen, preached for them. A publication went abroad that on the 13th of February, 1843, a meeting would be held in said church to organize an abolition society. A counter meeting was called at the court-house to counteract that movement. Strong resolutions were passed against the abolitionists, and a determination expressed to suppress the meeting peaceably if they could, but forcibly if they must. A committee of respectable citizens was appointed to appear in the abolition meeting, and read a parcel of resolutions to them. Although these were respectable men, they had on their side all the rabble of the city; and when all these, with their rough looks, made their appearance, the abolitionists thought it was no place for them, and left. With some difficulty, the better class prevented the rabble from pulling down the house. They did not prevent them, however, from running the preacher's buggy into the lake. The Rev. J. A. Mack is their pastor.
Those who withdrew from Mr. Pettengill's church, and resolved themselves into a New-School Presbyterian church built a brick house of worship on the corner on Fulton and Monroe streets, and have kept up their organization ever since: first as a New-School church since the union of the two branches as the Fulton-Street Church. Rev. Mr. Hovey is their pastor.
On the third of March, 1855, a Cumberland-Presbyterian church was organized, and they built themselves a small house of worship, on Monson street, between Fourth and Fifth streets, and obtained for their preacher Rev. S. T. Stewart. He has long since left, and I believe they have now no preacher. Their number is small I believe they have disbanded, and sold their meetinghouse to the Episcopalians, for whom Rev. John Benson preaches.
Through the zeal of a Mr. S. Glover (whose piety proved to be not at all equal to his zeal and talents), a very respectable edifice was built, at the corner of Madison and Liberty streets, and a respectable society of worshipers collected there, who called themselves United Presbyterians. As I understand it, they were seceders. They were Presbyterians in every thing, except that they would not sing Watts's hymns, which the Presbyterians do. They flourished for some time, but their favorite preacher fell from grace, and quit his country for his country's good'. They were generally respectable people, and were not responsible for their preacher's conduct; yet they seemed unable to survive the blow. They kept up their organization for some time, but finally sold their place of worship, and I do not know that they have now any preaching. Their meeting-house has gone into the hands of the 'Turners'.
On the 27th day of October, 1834, a Mr. Palmer Dyer organized an Episcopal church in Peoria, which he named St. Jude's Church. Augustus O. Garrett was, at that time, keeping a tavern at the corner of Main and Washington streets. Mr. Dyer put up there as a traveler or boarder, and, as there was no house of worship in town, preached in Mr. Garrett's ball-room. He proposed to organize a society for religious worship. There were few, if any, Episcopalians present, but no body objected to preaching, and all were more or less ardently in favor of it. So he organized an Episcopal church, without any reference to the kind of religious training his audience had had, or the religious opinions they entertained. I have not a list of the members of his church, if he made any, but his officers were as follows: Palmer Dyer, Rector; Edward Dickinson and Samuel C. Baldwin, Wardens; Augustus O. Garrett, Joseph C. Frye, William Mitchell, Rudolphus Rouse, George Kellogg, P. A. Westervelt, William Frisby, and Andrew M. Hunt, Vestrymen; William Frisby, Clerk. By those who knew the above gentlemen this would not be considered a very 'high church'; yet it is said that Bishop Chase owed his elevation to the position of Bishop of Illinois to this same Rev. Mr. Dyer and his St. Jude's Church, and that he recognized it for several years as a very proper Episcopal organization; yet at a subsequent time he ignored it, and treated it as never having existed, and organized in its stead another, which he called St. Paul's Church. This is the society that built the large church at the corner of Monroe and Main streets, to which Mr. Cracraft long preached, and which now has for its rector Rev. James W. Coe. The cornerstone was laid, with considerable ceremony, by Bishop Chase, in 1849, and the church was finished and dedicated on the 15th of September, 1850. This society is composed of about 63 persons.
There is a house of worship on Monson street, between Fourth and Fifth streets, called St. Paul's chapel, under the ministration of Mr. John Benson, who is understood to be a 'high-church' Episcopalian.
The first Baptist society was organized in Peoria on the 14th of August, 1836. Rev. Henry Headley preached for them in the Court-House for some time. Rev. Isaac D. Newell took charge of this congregation on the 22d of October, 1843. Several others have ministered to them since, and some times they have been without a parson. No one, however, whom they have had left a fairer record than Rev. H. G. Weston, who, when I last saw him, was preaching to a large congregation in the City of New York. They built a church while Mr. Newell was then pastor, on Hamilton street, fronting on the public square, which they occupied for many years. Finally they sold it to one who turned it into a billiard saloon, and in lieu thereof, for the sum of $10,000, they bought a church, in July, 1864, which the Unitarians had built, at the corner of Madison and Fayette streets. Then membership is between 200 and 300, and Mr. S. A. Kingsbury, D. D., is their preacher.
Another Baptist church was organized on the 24th of January, 1855, and for several years Rev. John Edminster was their pastor. They built a meeting-house on Adams street, between Locust and Persimmon streets. Rev. W. T. Green is their present pastor. To Rev. Messrs. Edminster and Weston is mainly due the honor of establishing this church.
On the 24th of August, 1852, the 'First German Baptist Church' was organized. They first held worship in the basement of the First Baptist Church. They now worship in a meeting-house on the corner of Jefferson and Elm streets, and Rev. J. Merz is their pastor.
There is a small society who glory in the name of Christians, and are not pleased with having any other name applied to them, but people generally call them Campbellites. As I understand it, they are Baptists, simple and pure, but they are not held in fellowship by the others—not because they are not as much in favor of baptism as they, but because they denounce all creeds and confessions of faith. This society was organized on the 1st of November, 1845; but it has not prospered, and I do not know whether they continue their meetings. They built a house of worship on Seventh street, between Franklin and Monson streets.
In 1847 the Roman Catholics organized a church which they called St. Mary's Church, and they built a large house of worship at the corner of Jefferson and Eaton streets; They have had various priests, but the one who officiates now is Rev. John Mackin. They report about 2,000 members. In connection with this church is a large school-house, nearly ready for the reception of pupils, which will cost about $12,000, and be sufficient to accommodate 500 scholars.
On the 10th of September, 1861, the Rev. Henry Doyle, then in charge of St. Mary's Church, established an appendage to it, which he called St. Patrick's Church. This church continued as an appendage to St. Mary's Church until March 1st, 1868, when it became an independent church, with Rev. Michael Hurley as priest, who continues to officiate in that capacity. He claims fifteen hundred members. Their place of worship is in the small frame church at the corner of High and Cedar streets.
Attached to this church, and subject to the supervision of Father Hurley, is a common school of about two hundred pupils.
At the corner of Spencer and First streets is a tolerably large Catholic church, in which the Rev. William Deiters is priest. They claim 2,000 members. They are Germans, and the sermon is preached in the German language. Attached to this church is a school kept by Sisters of Notre Dame, who teach about 300 scholars in the German and English languages.
There is a select Catholic school, kept by the Sisters of St. Joseph, near the intersection of Madison and Hamilton streets. They have about 160 scholars. Although this is a sectarian school, I have been informed by a Catholic priest that it is more patronized by Protestants than by Catholics.
The Catholics are opposed to our public schools, because the Protestant Bibles are read in them and Protestant prayers and hymns are used in them, and have taken the most of their children from them, and intend to withdraw the rest as soon as they have provided sufficient accommodations.
In 1847 there was a society of German Protestants organized into a church, who called themselves the Evangelical Association. They have a small church at the corner of First and State streets. Rev. F. W. Walker is their pastor.
The German Protestants have a society called the ' Evangelical Lutheran Church', organized December 1st, 1853. Their house of worship is on First street, between Fisher and Goodwin streets. Rev. M. J. Tjaden is their pastor.
A place of worship called the 'German Evangelical Lutheran Trinity Church' is located on the corner of Jefferson and Maple streets. It was organized June 28th, 1853, by Rev. F. Boeling. The number of communicants is 350. The present minister, who has charge of the congregation, and who has had charge of it for nine years, is Rev. Paulus Heid. With that church three parochial schools are connected: one located on North Madison street; another on South Adams street; and the third near the church, on Jefferson street.
On the 3d day of January, 1847, was organized a New Jerusalem or Swedenborgian church. They first built a temple on Jefferson street, immediately to the northeast of Mr. Lightner's residence, and this they occupied for a good many years; but now they have erected a very good, though not a large, house of worship on Hamilton, street, between Jefferson and Madison streets. Rev. G. F. Stearns is their pastor.
A Universalist society was organised here on the 6th of May, 1843. At first they had no house of worship but in process of time they bought the meeting-house built by the Presbyterians, on Fulton street, but which is now owned by the Jews. After using that for several years, they sold it, and were for a while without a place of worship; but they have recently built upon Main street, between Perry and Hale streets, a very fine house of worship—the most expensive one in the city; Rev. R. H. Pullman is then pastor.
The Unitarians have not flourished in Peoria; In June, 1840, Rev. Benjamin Huntoon organized a Unitarian society here, and from his zeal considerable results were anticipated; but he returned to New England, and his church went down.
In January, 1855, a Unitarian church was organized under the auspices of Rev. James R. McFarland. They had their meetings, for some time, over Mr. Joseph Clegg's clothing-store, at No. 47 Main street; but they soon afterward built a very comfortable house of worship at the corner of Madison and Fayette streets, and held their meetings there for some time; but, for some cause I can not explain, the church went down, and their house of worship passed into the hands of the Baptists.
In 1846, Michael Ruppelius, a very good sort of a German, organized a religious society of forty members, which he called simply the 'Protestant Church'. This society was composed mostly, perhaps altogether, of Germans. In 1851, Mr. Drown's Directory says he had 150 members. He preached to them several years, in the Court-House. Finally he quit that business, and betook himself to the business of a conveyancer, and followed that for some time before his death. What went with his little society I never knew.
In early times there were no Jews here, or, if there were, they were not known as such. But in process of time, as foreigners came coming into the country, it was found that many of them were Israelites, and they occasionally had worship to themselves on Saturday: Sunday being no holy day with them. On the 2d of May, 1863, they were organized into a regular religious congregation, since which time their services have been as regular as others. The Rev. Marx Moses is the officiating pastor or priest.
Besides the above religious societies, that may be called churches, we have a number of religious organizations that would hardly bear that name: for instance—1st, the various mission Sunday schools above referred to, which have not been developed into churches; 2d, the 'Peoria Bible Society'; 3d, the 'Young Men's Christian Association'; 4th, the 'Peoria Branch of U. S. Christian Association'; 5th, the 'German, Roman Catholic, St. Joseph's Benevolent Association'; 6th, the 'Hibernian Benevolent Society'; 7th, the ' Ladies Hebrew Benevolent Society'; 8th, the 'Peoria Ladies' Soldiers' Aid Society'; 9th, the 'Union Relief Society'.
Besides these, we have a number of secret societies, said to be benevolent institutions, such as the different orders and grades of Free-Masons, Odd-Fellows, Sons of Malta, Druids, Sons of Temperance, Oriental Order of Humility, etc., about all of which I am most profoundly ignorant. From their exhibitions, however, on gala-days, and at funerals, some of them are manifestly very numerous.
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