History of the Presbyterian Church in the State of Illinois
A. T. Norton. St. Louis: W. S. Bryan, 1879.
Submitted by Sheryl
MISSIONARIES AND CHURCHES FROM THE BEGINNING TO 1820.
The first white explorers of the Illinois country were the Canadian French in 1673. Between that time and 1686 they had established several forts and settlements, the principal ones being Kaskaskia and Cahokia. Until 1762 the French were regarded as the sole European proprietors of Canada and the Mississippi valley. In 1762 the French ceded Louisiana, i. e., the country west of the Mississippi, to Spain. The next year they ceded the valley east of the Mississippi and Canada to the British, thus losing not only Canada but the whole of the great interior valley of North America, after claiming the whole and occupying some small portions of it for ninety years.
The British retained their hold of the Illinois country for fifteen years, or until they were dispossessed by Gen. Geo. Rogers Clark in 1778. Few or no Americans had settled in the Illinois country prior to the expedition of Gen. Clark. Until that time the only white inhabitants of the Illinois country were the French and Canadian settlers, and the British troops who occupied the forts.
So far as I am aware the first Presbyterian minister who visited the Illinois country was JOHN EVANS FINLEY. He was from Chester county, Pennsylvania. After descending the Ohio with some companions in a keel boat and ascending the Mississippi, he landed at Kaskaskia in 1797. Rev. Thomas Lippincott tells us his design was to labor in the Spanish colonies on the Mississippi, mainly perhaps with a view to the Indians. If this were so, his labors must have been west of the river. He preached and catechized, also baptized several of the Red Men. Though he had sold his boat and contracted for a dwelling house, he and his companions were induced to leave. To this conclusion they seem to have been led by finding they would be obliged to enroll themselves and do military duty in view of an apprehended invasion from the States. As they were American citizens they could not consent to this. They returned and settled in Mason county, Ky. Mr. Finley's name subsequently appears as a member of Transylvania, and then of Washington Presbytery. This latter had been set off from Transylvania, and included the northeast portion of Kentucky, and extended across the river into Ohio. Rev. Robert Stewart remembers him as a frequent visitor at his father's house in Ohio.
The next Presbyterian ministers —they were licentiates— who set foot on Illinois territory, were JOHN F. SCHERMERHORN and SAMUEL J. MILLS. They were sent to the great Southwest by the Massachusetts and Connecticut Missionary Societies and by local Bible Societies. They commenced their tour early in the fall of 1812, passing through Pennsylvania, Western Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. Their observations of the religious condition of the regions through which they passed were thorough, and their reports deeply interesting. Of Illinois territory they say, "In the Illinois territory, containing more than 12,000 people, there is no Presbyterian, or Congregational minister. There are a number of good people in the territory who are anxious to have such ministers amongst them. They likewise wish to be remembered by Bible and Religious Tract Societies. “On the 29th of December, 1812, they were at Nashville, Tenn., and rode out to Franklin, twenty miles, where Rev. Gideon Blackburn then resided. He advised them to reach New Orleans by the river. Gen. Jackson was then at Nashville preparing to go down the river with 1,500 volunteers. Of these Mr. Blackburn was Chaplain. He introduced the missionaries to Gen. Jackson, explaining their object and wishes. The General received them with great courtesy, and invited them to take passage on his boat. They gladly complied. They say, "After providing some necessary stores and making sale of our horses we embarked on the 10th of January, 1813. We came to the mouth of the Ohio on the 27th, where we lay three days on account of the ice. On the 31st we passed New Madrid; and on the 16th of February arrived at Natchez." They undoubtedly landed at Fort Massac, and probably at no other point on the Illinois shore. Of course they had no opportunity for personal explorations in Illinois Territory. At Natchez they tarried a few days, and then continued on to New Orleans. At that city they found a Baptist minister, but no Protestant church edifice. Their return was through the Creek Nation, in the upper part of Georgia. They reached their homes in July, 1813.
Full reports of this tour were published in the Connecticut Evangelical Magazine and in the Panoplist. Their influence was great in opening the eyes of Eastern Christians, to the spiritual wants of the vast West and Southwest, and of the eastern population generally, to the wonderful material capacities of those regions.
The JOHN F. SCHERMERHORN, mentioned above, was a native of New York, a graduate of Union College in 1809, and of Andover Theological Seminary in 1812. He was ordained in the Reformed Dutch Church. He was a Home Missionary in New York, and labored at Middleburg, in that State, from 1818 to 1829. He was Secretary of the Western Domestic Missionary Society, Utica, New York, from 1826 to 1828; also General Agent of the Domestic Reformed Dutch Missionary Society from 1829 to 1832. He was U. S. Indian Agent among the Cherokees in 1835 and 1836. He died at Richmond, Va., March 6th, 1851, aged 70 years. Of Samuel J. Mills, I shall speak further on.
The next exploring Missionary tour was undertaken in 1814, by the same Samuel J. Mills, with whom was associated Daniel Smith. The expense was estimated at $2,000, and was borne by the Massachusetts Missionary Society, by the Bible Society of Philadelphia and by the Assembly's Committee of Missions. They started in May. The Eastern part of their route as far as Cincinnati, was substantially the same as that pursued by Mills and Schermerhorn, two years before. But from that place they passed through the Territories of Indiana and Illinois to St. Louis. In Indiana their route was through Lawrenceburg and Jeffersonville to Vincennes. Of this Territory they say: "Indiana is peopling very fast, notwithstanding the war. In 1810 it had 24,500 inhabitants. Now its population is estimated at from 35,000 to 50,000. Its principal settlements are upon the Miami and Whitewater, on the Ohio, extending in some places twenty miles back, on the Wabash and White rivers. When we entered this Territory there was but one Presbyterian clergyman in it, Samuel T. Scott, of Vincennes. He has valiantly maintained his post there for six years. His church consists of seventy members. He has three preaching places. Between the forks of White River there is another Presbyterian congregation with about thirty communicants."
The reports they make of all parts of the Western country, through which they traveled, are extensive and deeply interesting. But I must confine myself principally to what they say of Illinois Territory.
From Vincennes they went to St. Louis by way of Shawneetown and Kaskaskia. In a letter dated at St. Louis, Nov. 7, 1814, they say: "In Illinois Territory we were so happy as to meet with universal countenance and approbation. At Shawneetown we saw Judge Griswold, formerly of Connecticut. He favored us with letters of introduction to Gov. Edwards and others at Kaskaskia. This Territory is deplorably destitute of Bibles. In Kaskaskia, a place containing from 80 to 100 families, there are, it is thought, not more than four or five. In another letter they give further particulars. They say: "Nov. 9, 1814, we left St. Louis, crossed the Mississippi and proceeded on our way to Kaskaskia. Gov. Edwards again expressed his earnest desire that the proposed Bible Society for Illinois Territory should go into operation. We did not find any place in the Territory where a copy of the Scriptures could be obtained."
"There is no Presbyterian minister stationed, or laboring in this Territory. Members, who have heretofore belonged to Presbyterian churches, are anxious to have at least occasional supplies. A Presbyterian minister, of talent and piety, might no doubt receive a handsome support, if he would settle at Kaskaskia, preach a part of his time at that place and a part at Ste. Genevieve, and teach a small school at the former. On the 14th of Nov. we left Kaskaskia for Shawneetown. On our arrival, Judge Griswold informed us that exertions were making to form a Bible Society for the Eastern part of Illinois Territory. One man informed us that for ten or fifteen years he had been using exertions to obtain the Scriptures, but without success." From Shawneetown they proceeded to Vincennes, and from thence to the falls of Ohio, where they arrived Dec. 20. On the 5th of January, 1815, they embarked on a keel boat for Natchez. They recommend that "fifty Bibles be sent to Shawneetown and fifty to St. Louis," and add this remark: "It seems to us of infinite importance that one Missionary at least, be stationed in each of the Territories!" i.e. Indiana, Illinois and Missouri.
In a letter containing a general summing up of their observations, and which was dated on the Mississippi, below New Madrid, January 20, 1815, they say: "The Illinois Territory contains about 15,000 inhabitants. Until last summer titles of land could not be obtained in this Territory. Now land offices are opened. The principal settlements, at present, are situated on the Wabash, the Ohio, the Mississippi and the Kaskaskia. The eastern settlements extend thirty miles up the Wabash, and forty down the Ohio. They include the United States Saline, where a considerable number of people are employed in manufacturing salt." This was twelve miles back from Shawneetown, near the present town of Equality. "Shawneetown, on the Ohio, twelve miles below the mouth of the Wabash, contains about one hundred houses. It is subject to be overflowed at high water; but it is continually deluged, like most other towns in the territories, by a far worse flood of impiety and iniquity. Yet even here a faithful missionary might hope to be extensively useful. The people heard us with fixed and solemn attention when we addressed them. The western settlements of this territory are separated from the eastern by a wilderness of one hundred miles. The American Bottom is an extensive tract of alluvial soil on the banks of the Mississippi, eighty miles in length by about five in breadth. This land is endowed with surprising and exhaustless fertility. The high lands back are extremely fertile. Kaskaskia is the key to all this country, and must, therefore, become a place of much importance, although at present it does not greatly flourish. It contains between eighty and one hundred families, two-thirds French Catholics. The people of this place are anxious to obtain a Presbyterian clergyman. Six miles from Kaskaskia there is an Associate Reformed congregation of forty families. Besides this we did not hear of a single organized society of any denomination in the county, nor of an individual Baptist or Methodist preacher. The situation of the two counties above this is somewhat different. Baptist and Methodist preachers are there considerably numerous, and we were informed a majority of the heads of families are professors of religion. A Methodist preacher told us that these professors were almost all of them educated Presbyterians: "And they would have been so still" said he, "had they not been neglected by their Eastern brethren. Now they are Baptists or Methodists." In all this territory there is not a single Presbyterian preacher, and when we arrived we learned that considerable districts had never before seen one. Already have the interests of orthodoxy and of vital godliness suffered an irretrievable loss."
It will be interesting to notice what these men say of St. Louis. The time to which the remarks refer is November, 1814: "It contains about 2,000 inhabitants—one-third, perhaps, are Americans, the remainder French Catholics. The American families are many of them genteel and well informed; but very few of them religious. Yet they appear to be thoroughly convinced by their own experience, of the indispensable necessity of religion to the welfare of society. The most respectable people in town assured us that a young man of talent, piety and liberality of mind, would receive an abundant support. When we consider the situation of St. Louis—just below the confluence of the Illinois, the Missouri, and the Mississippi rivers, so that no place in the western country, save New Orleans, has greater natural advantages—we think it highly probable it will become a flourishing commercial town."
The following general remarks prove those exploring missionaries to have been men of keen observation and sound judgment, "The character of the settlers of these territories renders it peculiarly important that missionaries should early be sent among them. Indeed they can hardly be said to have a character, assembled as they are from every State in the Union, and originally from almost every nation in Europe. The majority, though by no means regardless of religion, have not yet embraced any fixed sentiments respecting it. They are ready to receive any impressions which a public speaker may attempt to make. Hence every kind of heretical preachers in the country flock to the new settlements. Hence also the Baptist and Methodist: denominations are exerting themselves to gain a footing in the territories. If we do not come forward and occupy this promising field of usefulness, they will. Indeed they have already taken the precedence. Some portions of this country are pretty thoroughly supplied with their preachers. Why, then, it may be asked, not leave it wholly to them? We answer, the field is large enough for us all. Many of their preachers are extremely illiterate. Besides, there are many Presbyterian brethren scattered throughout every settlement. To supply them with the means of grace is a sacred duty incumbent on us." These two brethren went on to Natchez and New Orleans, and returned to New England by sea, in the early part of the summer. Neither of them was as yet an ordained minister. Of course, in their extensive travels and many labors, they could not and did not administer the sacraments.
The reports of the two tours of Mills and Schermerhorn, and of Mills and Smith, were extensively published, and awakened a great interest among Eastern Christians in the spiritual welfare of the regions explored.
SAMUEL JOHN MILLS was a man of fine talents, of deep humility, of distinguished missionary zeal and intense Christian activity. He was born in Connecticut, graduated at Williams College, Mass., in 1809, and at Andover Theological Seminary 1812. We have seen how he spent the three years of his licensure. His ordination took place at Newburyport, Mass., June 21, 1815, at the same time with James Richards, Jr., Edward Warren, Benj. C. Meigs, Horatio Bardwell and Daniel Poor. The occasion was one of great interest, as all the young brethren had the Foreign Missionary work in view. Mr. Mills had devoted himself to the service of the children of Africa. In 1816 he was agent for a school for the education of colored young men. In 1817 he was agent for the American Colonization Society. He died at sea, May 16, 1818, aged thirty-five. He was one of those rare men whose ambition was satisfied by setting in motion great agencies, while himself unseen and unknown.
DANIEL SMITH was a native of Vermont. He graduated at Middlebury College in 1810, and at Andover Theological Seminary in 1813. His exploring tour with Mr. Mills is related above. When in St. Louis, in November, 1814, the people urged him to remain. He was unable to do so, but his visit there with Mr. Mills was fruitful in good results. Among these it cheered the heart of a devoted layman, whose name is forever identified with the early history of the Presbyterian Church in Missouri. This was Stephen Hempstead, a native of New London, Conn., and at this time sixty years of age. He had served in the war of he Revolution, and for more than a quarter of a century had been engaged, as his secular affairs permitted, in the service of the Church of Christ. Four of his sons had removed to Missouri, and in 1811 he followed them to St. Louis. For seven months he was in the country without hearing a Protestant sermon, and for three years never saw a Presbyterian minister. After the visit of Messrs. Mills and Smith, he wrote to a Boston clergyman asking him to send a minister to that territory. He estimated there were more than a thousand Presbyterian families in Missouri, while there was not a single church of their order. This estimate was doubtless too large.
After completing his tour, Mr. Smith returned to New England, and was ordained at Ipswich, Mass., to the work of a Christian Missionary in the western parts of the United States, September 29, 1815. In February, 1815, Mr. Smith had spent some days in Mississippi, and while there had, at the request of the trustees, performed the dedicatory services of a new Presbyterian church at Natchez. He became much impressed with the spiritual needs of that State. With a population of 45,000 it had only four Presbyterian ministers. Natchez he thought as important a station for a missionary as any in the western or southern country. These convictions led him to select that city as his field of labor. He was commissioned for that place by the Assembly's Committee of Missions. In 1817 he organized the First Presbyterian church of Natchez. Mr. Smith became a member of the Presbytery of Mississippi. I cannot tell precisely when he left Natchez; but he was at Louisville, Ky., in 1822, and died there February 22, 1823, aged thirty-four years.
We are thus brought forward to the year 1815. Illinois Territory had then about 15,000 inhabitants exclusive of Indians. One ordained Presbyterian minister had landed at Kaskaskia; another, James McGready, had preached a few times in White county. Three licentiates had pressed their feet upon its soil. Two of the three had made the trip from Shawneetown to Kaskaskia and St. Louis and back. That was all. No Presbyterian minister or church in the territory. The next year, 1816, was to witness a change.
The church of SHARON, in what is now White county, is the oldest Presbyterian church in Illinois. It was organized by Rev. James McGready, of Henderson, Ky., in 1816, probably in the month of September. The first book of its records is lost. But the following synopsis of the history of the church is found in the present volume. "The first three ruling elders were Peter Miller, James Mayes and James Rutledge, all of whom had emigrated from Henderson, Ky. The members of the church were from the Carolinas, Georgia, Tennessee and Kentucky. Rev. James McGready had preached for them occasionally for two or three years, coming over from Kentucky where he resided. Doubtless numbers of them had been his parishioners in Kentucky and the Carolinas. Mr. McGready died about the year 1818 or 19. Then the two brothers—William and John Barnett of Tennessee—who were Cumberland Presbyterians, came in as missionaries, held a series of meetings and tried to win over the church to their views. They partly succeeded, so that several of the members and two of the three elders joined them. These two were James Mayes and James Rutledge. They organized a Cumberland church called Hopewell, about two miles from where Enfield now is. When James Rutledge found that Peter Miller—his brother-in-law, the only remaining elder in Sharon Church—would not join the Cumberlands, he returned to the mother church.
Rev. James McGready was succeeded by Rev. Martin B. Darrah. After this time the church was visited by two missionaries from the East, Backus Wilbur and Andrew O. Patterson, who supplied them for a time. This cannot be altogether correct. In 1816 Backus Wilbur was commissioned by the Assembly to labor for two months from the mouth of the Wabash to Kaskaskia, where he was principally to labor. Doubtless his visit to Sharon was in the fall of 1816, very soon after the organization of the church. Of his labors at Kaskaskia have no where seen any notice. Andrew O. Patterson was sent to labor in Illinois in 1820. He may have preceded or followed Mr. Darrah.
B. F. Spilman preached to this church while he was a licentiate, and was ordained to the ministry and installed its pastor in Nov. 1824, by Muhlenburg Presbytery. The members present were Revs. Wm. K. Stewart, David Phillips and Isaac Bard. This pastoral relation continued only about eighteen months. Rev. Isaac Bennet preached here for a time. After this the church was supplied by a number of ministers. Among them Wm. Hamilton, B. F. Spilman, John Silliman, who died in 1838; Andrew M. Hershy, in 1842; R. H. Lilly in 1843. In latter part of 1843 and beginning of 1844, B. F. Spilman; R. H. Lilly again in 1844. John L. Hawkins, from Redstone Presbytery, supplied for about five years, and up to 1850. Wm. Gardner and James Stafford supplied in 1850 and 1851. B. F. Spilman in 1852, 1853 and part of 1854. John S. Howell, from 1854 to 1862, eight years. Rev. R. Lewis McCune, a minister belonging to the Presbytery of Winchester, Va., and who was compelled by the great rebellion to leave his field of labor, Port Royal, Va., was invited to take charge of Grayville, Carmi and Sharon. He complied, commencing at Sharon, July 20, 1862, and giving that church one-fourth of his time. After September, 1863 he gave Sharon one-half of his time until 1864. Rev. Thomas Smith supplied this church occasionally from about 1871 to 1875. It is now under the charge of Rev. B. C. Swan, who spends with them one Sabbath in four.
This congregation has had four buildings for worship. The first one of logs, about one-fourth of a mile north of Peter C. Miller's house, in T. 5, S. R. 8, E. of 3 P. M,, N. E. quarter of Sec. 21. It had one window only, and was roofed with clap-boards. In approaching this house from the south, one passed through a densely grown up wood, on gradually descending ground. On the right, near the opening that surrounded the house, was a stand, consisting of a raised platform between two trees. Logs and split puncheons and slabs were arranged in the shade for the congregation to sit upon. A few steps from this stand, on the other side of the opening, stood the old hewed-log-house, facing southward, with one door in the south side. The pulpit was in the east end, and a small four light window on the right of the pulpit. A hearth of flat rock laid in the floor near the center of the house, served for burning charcoal in cold weather. Such was the appearance of this house in 1828, as described by B. F. Willis. It was in this house that B. F. Spilman was ordained. A man now living in the neighborhood remembers seeing him spread his white silk handkerchief on the floor on which he kneeled during the ordaining prayer.
The next building was about two miles southeast of the first, in T. 5, S., R. 8, E., S. E. quarter of Sec. 34, near A. H. Trousdale's. This too was of logs. The third house, also of logs, was close by the site of the present building. This last is a frame house, of good size, was finished in the spring of 1864, and cost about $700. It is on S. E. quarter of N. W. quarter, Sec. 4, T. 6, S., R. 8, E. A cemetery adjoins this church house, and is owned by the congregation. The whole site of church and cemetery is two acres. The cemetery began to be used more than sixty years ago. The three first church buildings have gone entirely to ruin. Besides the three original elders, I find the names of the following: James H. Rice, in 1829; John Storey, in 1837; Peter Miller and Felix H. Willis, in 1843; Wm. Miller, Robert A. Silliman and John McClellan, in 1848; Ephraim L. Smith, Wm. W. Storey and John H. McClellan in 1866; A. Stewart Adams and Henry Marlin, in 1870.
January 4, 1869, the church resolved to use Rouse's version of the Psalms in their Sabbath worship. This practice is still continued. The use of hymns in social worship and in the Sabbath school is not prohibited.
There have been connected with this church from the beginning about two hundred and ten persons. The present membership is thirty. It is a mother church. Carmi and Enfield are largely formed from it.
Presbytery held a meeting with this church in September, 1827. It was a season of much interest. Great crowds attended, and services were held both in the house and in the grove. The Springfield and Shawneetown R. R. passes within about three-quarters of a mile of the church building. The postoffice and station are Sacramento.
Rev. John Silliman died while laboring here. His remains are buried in the cemetery mentioned above.
This church was at the first connected with Muhlenburg Presbytery, Kentucky.
Of the ministers named in the above account of Sharon Church I shall speak in this connection only of those who labored in the Territory or State previous to the organization of Centre Presbytery. It is worthy of notice that the first Presbyterian church in Missouri—the church of Concord, Belleview Settlement, southwest part of Washington county—was organized within a few days of Sharon, Illinois Territory. CONCORD by Salmon Giddings, August 2, 1816, with thirty members. SHARON by James McGready in 1816—probably in September.
JAMES MCGREADY. I have found no notice of the date of his birth. But he was a native of Pennsylvania, and of Scotch-Irish descent. His father removed with his family to Guilford county, N. C., while James was yet but a child. From his earliest years McGready was remarkable for his conscientious regard to his religious duties. An uncle conceived the idea of educating him for the ministry. James had united with the church at the age of seventeen, and was exemplary in his deportment. Neither uncle or nephew had a doubt of his piety. But a remark from another, which he casually overheard, at first exasperated, and then led him to such serious self-examination that he renounced his old hope and sought the Savior anew. He commenced his classical studies with Rev. Joseph Smith, of Cross Creek and Buffalo congregations, Washington county, Penn. Here, in Mr. Smith's kitchen, he prosecuted, with others, the study of Latin. His theological course was taken under the direction of the famous Dr. John McMillan. He was licensed by Red Stone Presbytery in 1788. He returned the same year to Guilford county, N. C., and set about his work with immense energy. He was uncompromising with the sins most fashionable in that region—dancing, horse-racing and intemperance. The wicked were exasperated; but great good resulted from his labors. In 1796 McGready passed to Kentucky, after laboring a few months in Eastern Tennessee. His principal field of labor in Kentucky was in Logan county, where from 1796 to 1814 he was pastor of Gasper River, Red River and Muddy River congregations. Mr. John Mann, now an elder in Chester church, Illinois, remembers seeing Mr. McGready in Logan county, Ky., and hearing him preach. He was a large man. His voice was strong and heavy, and he was commonly called "Boanerges." He was one of the chief instruments in promoting the great revival which spread through North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky in the latter years of the last and the first years of the present century. For a time he fell in with the Cumberlands. But he saw his error and retraced his steps. In the latter years of his life he resided in Henderson county, Ky., and extended his labors across the Ohio into Southwestern Indiana and Southeastern Illinois. Here, in looking after the spiritual welfare of those who had been his parishioners in Kentucky, he organized in 1816 the church of SHARON—the First Presbyterian Church in Illinois Territory.
Muhlenburg Presbytery covered the western part of Kentucky. It was organized in 1810. Of it Mr. McGready was a member.
As said above he died in 1818 or 1819. His ministerial career must have covered, therefore, about thirty or thirty-one years. His death probably took place before he was sixty years of age.
Of MARTIN B. DARRAH I have nowhere found any mention save in the record book of Sharon church. It is not probable he was a Presbyterian minister.
BACKUS WILBUR was a native of New Jersey. He studied at Princeton College and graduated at Princeton Seminary in 1813. He labored at Dayton, Ohio, and died in 1818.
The ANDREW O. PATTERSON, who visited Sharon church in 1820, was a native of Pennsylvania. He graduated at Jefferson College, Cannonsburg, Pa. He studied theology at Princeton in 1818-19. He had charge of Mt. Pleasant and Sewickly churches, Redstone Presbytery, from 1821 to 1834, Subsequently he labored at Beaver, Pa. He was then missionary agent for a time, afterwards pastor at New Lisbon, Pa., Bethel, Ohio, and West Newton, Pa. He died in 1869.
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN SPILMAN was born August 17, 1796, in Garrard county, Ky., about six miles from Danville. His father was Benjamin Spilman, youngest son of James Spilman, of Culpepper county, Va. James Spilman was the son of Henry Spilman of Westmoreland county, Va., who emigrated from England and lived and died in that county. He was therefore of the fourth generation, on his father's side, from the original emigrant.
There is a well authenticated tradition that the name was originally Spilman, but it was first mispronounced and then misspelled—an i being substituted for an e. An effort was once made to restore the name to its original sound and spelling. But there was not sufficient concert, and habit had become too strong.
Benjamin Spilman—father of B. F.—about 1790 married Nancy R. Rice, of Prince Edward county, Va., and immediately emigrated to Garrard county, Ky. Miss Rice was descended from an English family of that name—a family very prolific of ministers. Among them was Parson David Rice, ordained 1765,the pioneer Presbyterian minister of Ky., Dr. John H. Rice of Va., and Dr. Nathan L. Rice, who conducted the celebrated debate with Alex. Campbell in 1843. The Spilman family in Virginia were originally Episcopalians. Benjamin Spilman, father of B. F., was the only member of a family of eight who did not adhere steadfastly to the Church of England. But early in life he united with the Presbyterian Church, and chose a staunch Presbyterian woman as the partner of his days. She possessed uncommon strength of mind and energy of character. It was mainly through her influence that her five sons were all liberally educated and prepared for professional life. The eldest, James F., was a physician, and died in Bunker Hill, Ill., at an advanced age. The two next, B. F. and Thomas A., lived and died in the ministry of the Presbyterian Church. Charles H. is a physician in Harrodsburg, Ky. The youngest, Jonathan E., after practicing law for fifteen years finally entered the ministry, and is now preaching in Canton, Miss. There were eight daughters—making a family of thirteen children. Of these, B. F. was the fifth.
In 1806 Benjamin Spilman removed from Garrard to Muhlenburg county, Ky., into what is called the Green river country. At that time B. F. was ten years of age.
In 1812 the family enjoyed the preaching of James McGready, the same man who in 1816 organized the church of Sharon, Ill. B. F. was profoundly affected, though he did not profess conversion till some months later.
For a part of the time, while residing in the Green River country, the youth, B. F., drove a four horse team from the landing on the Kentucky side of the river to Salem. While stopping to rest and feed his horses he improved his time in studying the Latin Grammar. But the want of a teacher greatly discouraged him. To leave home to prosecute his studies was difficult. The health of his father was poor, and the family large. His services were needed. But providence interposed. A pain in his back which refused to yield to any treatment, obliged him to give up his teaming business. As he was unfit for any manual labor his parents decided to accede to his ardent desire to prosecute a course of study. It appears that he proceeded to Chillicothe, Ohio, and pursued preparatory studies with Rev. Robert G. Wilson, D.D. He entered Jefferson College at Cannonsburg, Penn., in 1817, and graduated October, 1821. He then returned to Chillicothe and studied theology with Dr. Wilson. He was licensed by the Chillicothe Presbytery, Dec. 3, 1823, and immediately proceeded home that he might preach his first sermon in his father's house.
Meantime Benjamin Spilman, his father, had removed with his family to Illinois. September 6, 1817, he entered S. W. quarter of Sec. 8, and Dec. 14,1818, the W 1-2 of S. E. quarter of Sec. 8, Town. 6, S. R. 9 E, being in all 240 acres. He sold this land to one Houts, June 1, 1836. Probably the date of his entering this land fixes the time of his removal to Illinois Territory. But he did not at once settle upon it. His first residence was at or near Golconda, Pope county. He and his wife, Nancy R., were two of the original members of Golconda Church, organized Oct. 24, 1819, and of it he was made an elder, March 18, 1820.
This, therefore, was undoubtedly the home of his parents, to which the young preacher hastened after his licensure. His text was: "Unto you, therefore, who believe He is precious." The time was probably the second Sabbath of December, 1823.
This was his introduction to Southeastern Illinois. There were then only two Presbyterian churches in that part of the State—Sharon, organized in 1816, and Golconda, organized Oct. 24, 1819. With these two churches he at once began his labors, connecting with them such other needy and promising points as he found accessible. One of these was Shawneetown. The exact date of his first sermon there I cannot give, but it was quite at the close of 1823. He found in Shawneetown only one member of the Presbyterian Church—a female. His appointments here at first were only occasional.
He fixed his residence at Golconda, probably in the latter part of 1824. He was ordained to the ministry, and installed pastor of Sharon Church, in November, 1824, by Muhlenburg Presbytery, as stated above. It was understood, however, that he was to spend with them only one-fourth of his time. This pastoral relation continued only eighteen months. He married, March 17, 1826, Miss Ann B. Cannon, of Cannonsburg, Penn. Without pretending to know, I presume the acquaintance of this young lady constituted the romance of his college days.
Here I will introduce a portion of a letter of Mrs. C. W. Baldwin, widow of the lamented Rev. Dr. Theron Baldwin, and addressed to the widow of B. F. Spilman. It is dated June 25, 1870 : "I met your husband only once. That was on my first arrival in Illinois. There were few roads through the State at that time, 1831, and no stages. Travelers from the East went down the Ohio to where Cairo now is, then up the Mississippi to St. Louis. On our way down the Ohio there was at the time of which I speak, a sudden change of weather, which closed the Mississippi with ice, and there was no road from Cairo to any other place. It was, therefore, necessary for us to turn back, which we did, and succeeded in reaching Smithland, Ky. After two weeks delay we went up and crossed the river in a row boat opposite Golconda. The first person whom we saw on passing up into the town was Mr. Spilman, whom, my husband recognized. He kindly invited us to his house. He was living there at that time, and preaching to the feeble churches in that region. The house was a small frame building, but very comfortable. The only bed in it was divided, and one part laid on the floor. We, being guests, occupied the part left on the bedstead, Mr. and Mrs. S. taking that on the floor. The arrangement well nigh deprived me of sleep, for I felt that such hospitality was a little beyond the Scripture requirement.
"The evening was passed in discussing the missionary work. In devotion to the cause these two young missionaries were one. In doctrinal views and methods of presenting truth they differed. Mr. S. was a "high Calvinist and Old School"—my husband "New School." Hence it was that they were thrown so little together in subsequent labor. I remember hearing Mr. S. say that evening that when he commenced preaching his library consisted of three volumes—a Confession of Faith, a Bible and a Hymn book."
"From Golconda we went to Shawneetown, a part of the way on a jumper, and part on a wood sled. At Shawneetown we procured an emigrant wagon, in which we traveled as far as Vandalia, reaching that place December 24. The roads were little more than trails. I remember only one bridge between Golconda and Vandalia."
He had fixed his residence in Golconda, probably in the fall of 1824, and must have made that place his home until sometime in 1832. He then removed his family to Shawneetown. In May, 1826, he organized the church at that place (tradition says with six members—all females.) The first communion was held November, 1827, when there were ten members—two males and eight females. As they had no fixed place of worship, they occupied warehouses and private dwellings until 1832, when the "old log church" was erected. This was followed in 1842 by a neat brick edifice. Mr. S. continued to labor here as stated supply, preaching at first monthly, and then bi-monthly, until the death of his wife. Through these three years—from 1832 to 1835—he kept up his itinerant labors. He organized the church at Equality May 26, 1832.
November 16, 1833, he lost his infant son, James Franklin, aged four days. A greater sorrow overtook him February 4, 1835, when he was called to part with his wife. He remarks on this occasion, "Never knew what trouble was before."
For about two years he acted as agent of the Western Foreign Missionary Society at Pittsburg. He commenced this service June 25, 1836. For the first year he has left a complete, though very condensed, account of his labors. He visited all the Presbyterian churches in Illinois and the western part of Indiana. The collections he made were small—amounting during the year to $401.18. His salary was $300, and his traveling expenses $45.18. He traveled on horseback, and his labors were constant and intense. Their result is not to be estimated at all by the amount of money raised. His presence among the churches, his faithful preaching, his attendance on the church judicatories, and that general elevation, enlargement of vision and drawing out from the shell of selfishness which attended his presentations of truth, were the great trophies of this service.
While engaged in these missionary labors he made his home at Samuel Boyd's, three or four miles west of New Haven, in the edge of Gallatin county, near George Knight's. A daughter of Samuel Boyd, Mrs. Leah Brocket, now resides in Enfield. A little before he commenced this missionary service, June 25, 1836, his father, Benjamin Spilman, had removed to Montgomery county, near Hillsboro, where he ended his useful life, September 15, 1851, aged eighty-six years and seven months. His wife died January 28, 1848, aged seventy-five years.
In the spring of 1838 Mr. Spilman attended the meeting; of the General Assembly. On his return in June he took board with Wm. McCool, at Equality. In the January next preceding, Gallatin Academy had opened in that village. Of this Mr. Spilman took charge for one year. He attended the Assembly again in 1839. For the year preceding April 1, 1840, he labored as a Home Missionary under the General Assembly's Board of Domestic Missions. In that time he supplied seven congregations—Carmi, Sharon, New Haven, Morganfield, Union, Tilford's and Douglas. The last four were across the Ohio river in Kentucky. In these seven churches there were at the end of the year eighty-nine communicants—thirty-five of whom had been added during the year. Three of the churches had been organized in those twelve months. In 1840 Mr. Spilman completed seventeen years of service in Southeastern Illinois and the adjoining parts of Kentucky and Indiana. He had in that time organized thirteen churches, two of which had been dissolved by deaths and removals.
At the commencement of the period upon which we now enter, we find this record in his own hand-writing: "After living a lonely widower for more than six years, the Lord, who setteth the solitary in families, has, I believe, directed me in the choice of another companion to be the partner of my joys and sorrows, to whom I was married June 22, 1840, and now I am as happy as I ought to be in this changing state. As to domestic happiness my cup runneth over."
This marriage took place in Carmi, at the house of Dr. Josiah Stewart. Mrs. Stewart was a sister of Mr. Spilman, and the mother, by a previous marriage, of Mr. Felix H. Willis, now of Enfield. Ill.
The maiden name of the second Mrs. Spilman was Mary P. Potter. She was born in North Brookfield, Worcester county, Mass, in March, 1814. She went west as a teacher, under the auspices of a society of ladies in New York city, early in June, 1838. She taught for a few weeks in Bethel, Bond Co.; then, by the advice of Rev. Theron Baldwin, went to Carmi, White Co., and continued to teach there till June 22, 1840, when she married Mr. Spilman. She taught more than half the time after that until 1864, when she returned East with her son and daughter. She is now residing at Boston Highlands, 64 Waverly Street.
Immediately after his marriage with Miss Potter, Mr. Spilman removed again to Shawneetown, and resided there till Nov. 9, 1845. He was installed as pastor of Shawneetown; church, April 22, 1843. On the 13th of November, the same year, he buried his son, John Calvin, thirteen years of age. This child gave good evidence of piety.
His labors during his residence at Shawneetown, from June, 1840, to Nov., 1845, were of the same itinerant character. He had the general care of all the churches in that part of the State. This was true, in a great degree, even after the pastoral relation was formed. That relation was dissolved Oct. 4, 1845.
He immediately removed to Edwardsville, in Madison Co., and commenced his labors there, Nov. 9, 1845. His eldest brother, James F., was then located as a physician in that place. His residence at Edwardsville was continued one year—from Nov., 1845, to Nov., 1846. During that time he acted under a commission from the Board of Domestic Missions. One of his quarterly reports is as follows: Churches and stations supplied, nine—Hillsboro, Waveland, Edwardsville, Chester, Liberty, Sparta, Dry Point, Bethany and Belleville, all in the Presbytery of Kaskaskia. Number of families two hundred and thirty-five. Total in communion, two hundred and forty-one; number of baptisms, six; number of Sabbath schools, four; teachers in Sabbath schools, thirty-eight; number of scholars in Sabbath schools, one hundred and ninety-five; Bible Societies, five; Missionary Societies, eight; raised for Foreign Missions, $25.00; sermons preached, eighty-one; monthly concerts attended, four; prayer-meetings established, four; visited ninety-six families; support pledged, $150.00; observance of the Sabbath indifferent; population increasing. From this we gain an idea of his labors from Nov., 1845, to Nov., 1851. He was much of the time on horseback; preaching on Sabbaths and week days; supplying vacant churches; attending prayer-meetings; visiting families; establishing new congregations, and, in general, doing the work of an evangelist.
In Nov., 1846, he removed to Chester and resided there for two and one-half years. He supplied that church on the third Sabbath in each month. He then removed back into the country ten miles. His next residence was in the bounds of Jordan's Grove congregation—the same church called Sparta in his report above. There he resided one and one-half years. This brings forward the time to October, 1851—about six years from his leaving Shawneetown. In that month he went for Mrs. Spilman, who was in Massachusetts. In crossing Lake Erie they were in great danger. At one time the Captain gave up the boat for lost. On the 26th of October he preached in North Brookfield, Mass., Mrs. Spilman's native place. Their return seems to have been by the Ohio river, for he preached in Jeffersonville, Indiana, November 4th. On the 10th they were in Shawneetown, to which place Mr. S. had been earnestly invited to return. There he again engaged in itinerant labor, making Shawneetown one of his stations. In June, 1853, he was again installed pastor by a committee of Kaskaskia Presbytery. In May, 1858, and again at the close of the year, there was a great revival in that congregation. In June, 1858, he visited Boston with his family, making the trip in three days and nine hours. His death took place at Shawneetown, Tuesday morning, May 3, 1859, of pneumonia. His age was sixty-two years, eight months, and seventeen days.
He was buried from the Presbyterian church, Thursday A. M., May 5th. The exercises were conducted by the Elders. The remains were deposited in the Westwood cemetery. The funeral sermon was preached by Rev. Charles A. Campbell, then of Morganfield, Ky., on the first Sabbath of June following. Mr. C. says: "The church was crowded by a grief-stricken audience. The entire community, as well as the church, seemed to feel that they had lost a valued friend, and a spiritual guide in whom was no guile. Every eye overflowed, and the suppressed sob plainly told how deeply they felt their loss."
To correctly delineate the character of Mr. Spilman is a task of no small difficulty to one who knew him only from the reports and writings of others. Most manifestly he was sound in the faith—a Calvinist, but not I think, as Mrs. Baldwin says in her letter quoted above, a high Calvinist. Take the following from his own pen. The article is called, A KEY TO UNLOCK A DIFFICULTY. "Calvinistic Predestination is not fatality."
(1.) God from all eternity had his plan laid, by which he manages the universe. In other words "He foreordained whatsoever comes to pass."
(2.) It comes to pass that all mankind are free agents. Then, this was fore-ordained for "whatsoever comes to pass" was fore-ordained.
(3.) It comes to pass that the gospel salvation is infinitely sufficient for all the human family, and is freely offered to all. This then was fore-ordained.
(4.) It comes to pass that all who reject offered mercy and live and die in sin perish. This then must have been foreordained.
(5.) It comes to pass that God suffers people to sin, i. e. does not prevent it, when we know that he could, by striking the sinner dead, if in no other way. Whatsoever sin therefore he does suffer to be committed was fore-ordained.
(6.) It comes to pass that none are excluded from salvation by any decree of God, as he only ordained to suffer those who are lost to take their own choice between life and death, which they do voluntarily and thus reprobate themselves.
(7.) While, therefore, predestination does no one any harm, it makes salvation sure to all who obey the gospel—and God works as he pleases in accordance with the free agency of man."
This is Calvinism, but it is not high Calvinism, or fatalism. When the great division of 1837 and 1838 took place Mr. Spilman had been fourteen years a minister in the Presbyterian Church. He held to the Confession of Faith; but the above article shows how he held it. It was not the ipsissima verba method. He claimed the right to put upon the language of the Confession his own construction, and to give it his own explanation. He sided strongly with the Old-School, and was perhaps their leading man in the State of Illinois. He did not live to see the reunion of the two schools, and to share the conviction, now so general, that their differences were mainly referable to prejudice. His second wife was a New England Congregationatist. They ever lived in the most perfect harmony. It is not probable that either was conscious of yielding to the other one particle of religious belief.
Mr. Spilman was exceedingly laborious. Take a few facts in illustration. In one year from Nov. 9, 1845, he traveled 3,688 miles on horseback. During six years from the same date, he preached nine hundred and fifty-nine sermons. In the same six years he installed eleven Elders, made two hundred and fifty-four visits, baptized ninety-eight persons, administered the supper thirty-six times and received one hundred and thirty-two persons into the churches. When the sacrament of the supper was administered the services usually continued four days. It was customary to hold two of those meetings each year in each of the churches. He was regular in his attendance upon all Ecclesiastical meetings, often traveling for that purpose very long distances. On several occasions he represented his Presbytery in General Assembly.
Much and almost constant traveling gave him little time for critical study, for converse with the great minds of past ages, or even for any considerable acquaintance with the current literature of the day. But this disadvantage was in part counterbalanced by his power of concentrating his thoughts in his many, long and lonely rides, upon whatever themes he chose. His saddle was, in an important sense, his study. Thus he acquired the power of digesting his subjects, and of arranging and fixing his thoughts in his own mind much as others do with pen and ink on paper. This mental labor he was always performing, and was often hardest at work when a spectator may have thought him wholly idle. Hence his power of preaching without manuscript—the method which he always followed—with readiness, fluency, clearness and power.
His labors were successful. Shawneetown, where he began them in December, 1823, was one of the most unpromising points for ministerial labor in the United States. He found but one person—a female—who was connected with the Presbyterian Church. In November, 1845, he left them a congregation of sixty-six communicants. In the same years he had organized twelve other churches, two of which were in Kentucky. His success when residing in Madison and Randolph counties may be judged from what has already been said. His second residence in Shawneetown was distinguished by the occurrence in 1858 of two revivals, which brought into that church, within ten months, seventy-seven members. Among them were several who have ever since been the pillars in that congregation.
I am not able to state precisely the number of churches he organized during his ministry of thirty-six years, but think it was about twenty. Five or six of these have ceased to exist from deaths, removals and destitution of the preached word. Most of the others have acquired strength and great influence. To have planted in such a place as Shawneetown was in 1823, and watered and matured such a church as existed there when B. F. Spilman was buried, would have been of itself a success worthy of thirty-six years of labor. But this was only a part of the grand result of those thirty-six years. Eternity alone can unfold the mighty whole.
Mr. Spilman was eminently prayerful. The revivals of 1858 were preceded by days and weeks of the most agonizing supplications on his part. Indeed all through his ministerial life his close communion with God was the great secret of his power.
The various ecclesiastical relations which he sustained—all in the same denomination—during his ministry of thirty-six years, in the same general region, illustrate curiously the growth of the country and the Church. He was licensed indeed by the Presbytery of Chillicothe, Ohio, because his theological studies were prosecuted in that city; but he came immediately, and without preaching a sermon elsewhere, to Southeastern Illinois. There he came under the care of the Presbytery of Muhlenburg, and was ordained by them in November, 1824. In 1826 the Synod of Indiana was erected, which included all the churches in this State. This brought Mr. S. into the Presbytery of Wabash, which embraced the churches and ministers in Western Indiana and Eastern Illinois. In 1828 he fell into CENTER PRESBYTERY, which extended over this entire State and Wisconsin. His next change was into Kaskaskia Presbytery in 1831. Finally, a few months before his death, he fell into Saline Presbytery. Thus, without changing his general field, he was a member of five different Presbyteries, and of three different Synods.
Presbyterianism in Illinois owes much to B. F. Spilman. He was the pioneer in the State. For a time he was the only Presbyterian minister, connected with the Assembly, residing and steadily laboring in this vast domain, now containing three Synods, eleven Presbyteries, four hundred and twenty ministers, four hundred and eighty-seven churches, and 43,987 members. All honor to the man who stands, instrumentally, at the head of these grand results!
The SHOAL CREEK CHURCH was organized by Rev. Salmon Giddings, of St. Louis, March 10, 1819, with thirty-five members. The first records are lost, and with them anything like a correct list of their names. But according to the recollection of widow George Donnell, the first elders were Hugh McReynolds, John Laughlin and John Gilmore.
Mr. Giddings, after the organization, paid them occasional visits; and such was the fidelity and activity of the members, that their meetings were held regularly, and large congregations assembled whether a minister was present or not. Their place of worship was a log house, about four miles north of Greenville, Bond county, in T. 6, N. R. 3, E., Sec. 21, N. E. quarter, near a very small creek running into the east fork of Shoal Creek. The Union Grove Methodist church now occupies the same site. In two years it had increased to eighty-eight members, thirty of whom were new converts, the fruit of a revival at a camp-meeting held by Dr. Gideon Blackburn in the very spring of the organization. Another camp-meeting was conducted by the Home Missionaries, Revs. Oren Catlin and Daniel Green Sprague, in 1823. By this the roll was enlarged to one hundred and fifteen. A third camp-meeting, held by B. F. Spilman in 1824, brought the membership to one hundred and twenty-two.
By the Missouri Presbytery, September 15, 1825, Bethel and Greenville churches were set off from Shoal Creek. April 7, 1832, Kaskaskia Presbytery, at its meeting in Carmi, White county, united the two churches of Greenville and Shoal Creek. From that time Shoal Creek ceased to exist as such, and became merged in Greenville church.
Its ministerial supplies previous to the organization of Greenville, September, 1825, were occasional and transient. After that it was grouped with Greenville. It was the mother of Greenville, Elm Point and Bethel churches, and for the first five years of its existence occupied the entire territory now held by these, her children.
If B. F. Spilman was the father of Presbyterianism in one section of Illinois, Salmon Giddings was in another. True, his residence was in St. Louis, but a large portion of his early labors were expended in the counties nearest St. Louis, on the East side of the Father of Waters. It is these labors principally that will here be noticed.
He was born in the town of Hartland, Hartford county, Conn., March 2, 1782. His parents were not members of any church, but were respected for their industry, intelligence and strict morality. They were careful to train their son to fear God, honor his parents and find pleasure in promoting the well-being of his fellow men. He united with the Congregational Church in January, 1807. About the same time he was led to consider the duty of preaching the Gospel. Entering upon a course of study, with the ministry in view, he graduated at Williams College, Mass., in 1811, and at Andover Theological Seminary in 1814. He was tutor for a short time in his Alma Mater. In December, 1814, he was ordained to the work of the ministry. During 1815, he itinerated in Massachusetts and Connecticut. In December, 1815, he was commissioned by the Connecticut Missionary Society to labor in the Western country, particularly St. Louis. He had read the reports of Mills and Smith, published in the Panoplist, and was led thereby to choose that field of labor. He came to St. Louis on horseback that same winter, preaching often while passing through the destitute settlements. The people were hospitable, fed his horse and made him welcome. He slept in their log cabins, partook of their plain fare, prayed in their families, and talked to their children. He reached St. Louis, April 6, 1816, and at once entered upon his labors on both sides the river.
On Sabbath, August 25, 1816, he preached in Kaskaskia, and baptized James L. D., son of Robert Morrison. This child was the since well-known J. L. D. Morrison, somewhat famous in military and political life, and still living. In political speeches he has been known to boast that he was baptized into the Presbyterian Church. There was at that time no Protestant church in Kaskaskia. On the following Thursday he preached at Major How's. James Gaston and his son were present. The father was a Presbyterian Elder in North Carolina; the son and his wife were members of the same church. The next Sabbath, September 1, 1816, he preached at Irish settlement to a large audience.
So far as I can learn, these were his first labors in Illinois Territory, and they correspond in time almost precisely with those of McGready, when he organized Sharon church, in White county.
On Sabbath, the 27th of the next October, he preached again at Kaskaskia, reaching the place, as before, by Ste. Genevieve. At Kaskaskia he met Rev. Samuel T. Scott, of Vincennes. He rode with him sixteen miles east, to Irish settlement, where Mr. S. had an appointment. He then rode back nine miles and preached at Mr. Tindal's. On the first of November he started for St. Louis.
It is interesting to think of the meeting of those two missionaries at that time—probably by appointment. They two were then the only ordained—John McElroy Dickey was not ordained until 1817—Presbyterian ministers actually residing in the three Territories of Indiana, Illinois and Missouri. One of them was located in the principal town of Indiana Territory; the other at the seat of government of Missouri Territory, and their place of meeting was the capital of Illinois Territory. No chronicler has left on record their discussions respecting the spiritual interests of the vast region so soon to become three powerful States.
On May 1, 1817, Mr. Giddings purchased a house and lot in St. Louis, for $1,080. This purchase subsequently became a fortune for his widow and son.
In the spring of 1820, Mr. Giddings attended the meeting of the General Assembly as Commissioner from the Presbytery of Missouri, which had been organized at St. Louis, December 18, 1817. He was appointed by the Assembly a delegate to attend the General Associations of Massachusetts and Connecticut—an appointment which he fulfilled.
The process by which Mr. Giddings, an ordained Congregational minister, became a Presbyterian is worth noticing. It consisted in traveling from New England to Missouri; at least, if that was not the process, there was no other.
As soon as he reaches Missouri he calls himself a Presbyterian, goes to organizing Presbyterian churches, and just as soon as possible unites with three others in forming a Presbytery; and in three years more goes as a Commissioner to the Assembly. "But he had papers." No doubt—papers showing his ordination as a Congregational minister. Yet just as soon as he reaches Missouri he is, and ever after was, a Presbyterian.
He labored in St. Louis for more than six years without a house of worship, constantly calling upon the people to rise up and build. At length this object was accomplished, and in June, 1825, the first Presbyterian church building in St. Louis was dedicated.
On Sabbath, Nov. 9, 1826, Mr. Giddings was installed pastor of the congregation December 4, 1826, he was married to Miss Almira Collins, of Collinsville, Illinois, ten miles east of St. Louis. This lady was born in Litchfield, Conn., July 13, 1790, and died in Quincy, Ill., May 10, 1872.
Mr. Giddings died in St. Louis, Friday, February 1, 1828. The funeral took place the following Sabbath from the church. A vast concourse of people was in attendance. Rev. Solomon Hardy, of Bond county, Ill., introduced the service. Rev. Mr. Horrell, an Episcopal minister, made the address. Rev. John M. Peck, the well-known Baptist minister, of St. Clair county, Ill., closed the service. The remains were deposited in a vault beneath the pulpit.
In due time a marble tablet was placed in the wall with this inscription:
IN MEMORY OF REV. SALMON GIDDINGS, A. M.,
First Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in St. Louis.
He was born in Connecticut, March 3, 1782; became a member of the Church of Christ 1807; was a graduate of Williamstown College, Mass., and a student at Andover Theological Seminary; was ordained to the Gospel Ministry 1814; arrived in Missouri as the First Protestant Missionary, 1815; organized the First Presbyterian Church in St. Louis, Nov. 15, 1817; died in the assurance of a joyful resurrection, Feb.1, 1828, aged 45 years, 10 months, 28 days. As a man, he was kind, prudent and decisive; as a Christian, he was pious, cheerful and prayerful; as a minister, meek, laborious and persevering. His body moulders in its vault under this house of worship, which his labors contributed to erect. His spirit has gone to receive its reward. "Well done, good and faithful servant."
When, in 1853, the edifice was pulled down, that vault was opened. A few bones, clean and bare, were all that remained, save a small residuum of dark, damp dust. The relics were disinterred and placed in a copper urn in a cemetery vault, and, when the new edifice was dedicated, deposited again beneath the pulpit. A son—Frederick Salmon—was born to Mr. Giddings, Nov. 11, 1828, eight months and eleven days after his father's death. This son is now a wealthy and prominent citizen of Quincy, Ill., and a leading member of the First Presbyterian Church of that city. He has four children.
During the entire period of his residence in St. Louis Mr. Giddings continued to make frequent preaching tours in Illinois. Besides the labors above recited he organized the church at Edwardsville, March 17, 1819, with fifteen members; Turkey Hill, in St. Clair county, April, 1820, with eight members; Kaskaskia, May 27, 1821, with nine members; Sugar Creek, March 31, 1822, with twenty-three members, and Collinsville, May 3, 1823, with nine members. Besides, he was one of a committee of four to organize Bethel Church, which was done Sept. 15, 1825, with sixty-two members; and Greenville Church on the same day and by the same committee, with twenty-nine members. The place of these two last organizations was the Old Shoal Creek Church.
Mr. Giddings, in his short ministry in the West, of less than twelve years, planted and occasionally watered thirteen churches—six in Missouri and seven in Illinois.
The next minister mentioned as having served the Shoal Creek Church is Rev. Gideon Blackburn. But as his name will occur at a later period of our history and in a more important connection, I defer until then a fuller notice of this truly great man.
OREN CATLIN was a native of New York. He graduated at Hamilton College in 1818 and at Andover in 1822. He was ordained Sept. 26, 1822. In 1823 he, in connection with Daniel G. Sprague, labored in Illinois. They held a camp-meeting with the Shoal Creek Church, and on April 30, same year, organized at Carrollton, the "First Presbyterian Church of Greene county." These two brethren appear to have traveled and labored together while in this State. But they did not long remain. We hear of Mr. Catlin as pastor in Warren, Mass., in 1829 and 1831; as stated supply of the Presbyterian Church, Cincinnatus, N. Y., in 1832 and 1833; at Castleton, N. Y., from 1834 to 1837; at Fairport, N. Y., from 1838 to 1841; at Newstead, N. Y., from 1842 to 1843, and at Collins, N. Y., 1844 to 1846. He died at Evans, N. Y., Aug. 11, 1849, aged fifty-five.
DANIEL GREEN SPRAGUE was born in Connecticut. He graduated at Brown University, R. L, 1819, and at Andover Seminary in 1822. He was ordained Oct. 2, 1822, Home Missionary in Illinois and Missouri in 1822 and 1823. He was at Hampton and Colchester, Conn., from 1824 to 1844. He was with the Presbyterian Church of South Orange, N. J. from 1844 to 1860.
DAVID TENNEY was a native of Massachusetts. He graduated at Harvard College in 1815 and at Andover Seminary in 1818. He was ordained by the Presbytery of Londonderry, in the third parish of Newbury, Sept. 24, 1818, as a missionary to the destitute parts of our own country. He was sent out by the New York Evangelical Missionary Society to Illinois in 1819. In the early summer of that year he began his labors in the region of Kaskaskia, and died in the bounds of Shoal Creek Church, Bond county, October 21, of the same year. His tombstone bears this inscription: "Sacred to the memory of REV. DAVID TENNEY, who departed this life Oct. 21, 1819, in the thirty-fourth year of his age, and second of his ministry. He was a faithful ambassador of the cross, and a zealous missionary of the New York Evangelical Mission Society, by whom this stone is erected."
EDWARDSVILLE CHURCH, Madison county. This, following the chronological order, is the third Presbyterian Church organized in Illinois.
There have been four Presbyterian Churches here. I shall notice in this connection only the first. It was organized March 17, 1819, by Rev. Salmon Giddings, of St. Louis, with fifteen members. The records are lost, and I cannot give their names. Thomas Lippincott and Hail Mason were probably the first Elders. Mr. Lippincott removed from Milton to Edwardsville in the fall of 1820. Jeremiah Abbot and Matthew B. Torrance were elders subsequently.
The widow of Dr. John Blair Smith, at one time President of Hampden Sidney College, Prince Edward county, Va., came to Edwardsville in 1817. Ten years later, when residing at Springfield, Ill., she says: "When I came to Edwardsville I could find no professor of religion in the place, and for eighteen months after no sermon was preached there. I lived to see a church of nine members, and increased to thirty."
The early members were nearly or quite all of Scotch-Irish descent. Previously to 1828 the church enjoyed no stated gospel ministrations. The fashion was in those days for missionaries to come out from the East and itinerate through Missouri and Illinois, wherever they could find or gather Presbyterian Churches, spending only a few weeks, or perhaps only a few days, with each. In 1818 Rev. Messrs. Benj. Lowe and Samuel Graham performed services of this kind. Messrs. Edward Hollister and Daniel Gould were here in 1821, and labored more or less in Edwardsville. In 1822 came Messrs. Oren Catlin and Daniel G. Sprague. Salmon Giddings also performed much labor this side the river. I suppose Mr. Lippincott himself conducted religious meetings at Edwardsville when no minister was present. In this way, doubtless, his mind was gradually drawn to the ministry.
This was one of the original churches of CENTER PRESBYTERY, which held its first meeting at Kaskaskia, January 9, 1829. It had then thirty-three members. From that number it steadily declined. One year later it had only twenty-five. The last time it was represented in Presbytery was at Greenville, September, 1831. The last time its name appears in the minutes of Presbytery is at the meeting in Collinsville, September, 1833. It died, and from starvation. The only ministerial labors it ever enjoyed were those of passing missionaries, remaining one or two Sabbaths only, and an occasional visit from Mr. Giddings, of St. Louis. It was only by slow degrees and after many failures that the church came to learn the better way.
EDWARD HOLLISTER was born in Sharon, Conn., Feb. 22, 1796, whence he removed with his father's family to Salisbury, Connecticut.
He attended the district school till 1810. He graduated at Middlebury College, Vt, in 1816. He took charge of an Academy for one year in New Castle, Maine. Then he took the full Theological course at Andover, Mass. He was ordained at Bradford, Mass. by the Presbytery of Londonderry, Sept. 26, 1820, together with Daniel Gould, for Home Missionary work. Oct. 10, 1820, he started for Illinois and Missouri under the direction of the Connecticut Missionary Society, and remained under their care until the spring of 1822. He labored at several places in Missouri, and at Alton, Edwardsville and other points in Illinois.
He returned to New England in the spring of 1822 and became pastor of a church in Danville, Vt.
He married Miss Mary Trumbull, of Salem, Mass., August 3, 1823.
His labors as a pastor were eminently successful, but so arduous that his health gave way. He was advised to try a milder climate. He set out alone, and traveled in a chaise to South Carolina. But his health improved so slowly that the pastorate had to be given up. The wife, with her young son, now joined her husband at the South. At Oxford, N. C., they took charge of and successfully conducted a seminary for young ladies.
In the fall of 1834 he removed with his family—wife, two sons and two daughters—to Griggsville, Ill., where he engaged again in teaching. But feeble health and the urgency of friends again took him southward to West Tennessee. From thence he returned again to Illinois, and for five years labored in the ministry at Chili, Hancock county. Subsequently he was engaged for seven years in the service of the Bible Society. After this he took up his residence with his son, Capt. Edward Hollister, at Alton, Ill. Here he closed his useful and laborious life Jan. 11, 1870, in the seventy-fourth year of his age. His widow still survives. Their children were Edward, born June 18, 1824, Wm.T., born June 5, 1828, Mary T., born Dec. 24, 1830, and Emily G., born Oct., 1833. These are all living and married except Mary T. who died unmarried.
DANIEL GOULD was a native of New Hampshire, a student at Harvard College, Mass., and a graduate of Andover Seminary in 1820. He was ordained with Mr. Hollister, as stated above, and traveled with him to Illinois and Missouri. He remained in those States but a few months. In 1821 he was laboring as a Home Missionary in North Carolina, and was afterwards supply pastor at Statesville in that State, where he died April 20, 1834, aged forty-four.
In 1822 ABRAHAM WILLIAMSON was commissioned to labor in Illinois. He preached at Edwardsville, Kaskaskia and Shoal Creek. The latter congregation was the principal scene of his labors. He was long remembered with great interest and affection. He was a native of New Jersey; graduated at Princeton College in 1818; studied two years at Princeton Theological Seminary. After his missionary service in Illinois he was pastor in Chester, N. J., from 1823 to 1853; supply pastor at Mt. Freedom, N. J., in 1856, and died June 19, 1869, aged seventy-nine years.
GOLCONDA Church, Pope county, was organized Oct. 24, 1819, by Rev. Nathan B. Derrow, with sixteen members. Here is a verbatim copy of the original record.
GOLCONDA, ILL., Oct. 23, 1819.
"This day a number of persons convened at the Court-house in Golconda, for examination preparatory to the planting of a church in this place. Sixteen persons, whose names are hereafter recorded, gave in their names for members in a Presbyterian Church in this place, and after inquiry respecting their belief and practice, it was resolved to be planted in a church state tomorrow. Accordingly, on Lord's day, the 24th of this month, after a discourse from Rom. 4th chapter, the church was planted by the persons aforesaid making the following Confession and Covenant. [These are omitted.] They are, therefore, hereby declared a regular church of Jesus Christ, and as such recommended to the fellowship of sister churches and to the attention of the ambassadors of Jesus.
N'n. B. DERROW, V. D. M.,
"Missionary for Connecticut."
NAMES: James E. Willis, Eliza Willis, Joshua Scott, Jane Scott, David B. Glass, Francis Glass, Agnes Glass, George Hodge, John Hanna, Margaret Hanna, George H. Hanna, William P. Hanna, Jane Hanna, James H. Hanna, Benjamin Spilman, Nancy R. Spilman.
ELDERS : James E. Willis was the first. The Elders since appointed are these: John Hanna, Benjamin Spilman and Joshua Scott, March 18, 1820; George Hodge and William Sim, Nov. 26, 1822; Francis Glass and Joseph Glass, Nov. 27, 1824; William A. Glass and John C. Hanna, June 11, 1844; Samuel D. Hemphill and J. E. Y. Hanna, Oct. 21, 1860; John V. Schuhard, M. D., Jan. 11, 1868; William P. Sloan, Feb. 6, 1869; W. S. Hodge, Feb. 12, 1871. The five last named are the present (1879) Elders.
Of their Ministers. Nathan B. Derrow did not visit the church after its organization. Robert A. Lapsley gave them some ministerial services. B. F. Spilman was their next minister. I think it very certain he preached his first sermon here after his licensure, probably on the second Sabbath of December, 1823. It is quite clear that he made his home at Golconda from that time until the beginning of 1832. He seems indeed to have given that church all the ministerial labor it enjoyed from December, 1823, to Nov., 1845. A portion of the time his appointments with them were regular. More often occasional, and the ccasions far between.
To him succeeded William A. Smith, in the latter part of 1845.
John P. Riddle gave them some supply from November, 1852, to November, 1854.
Wm. R. Sim was their minister from February, 1861, till about the time of his death, which took place July 7, 1864. He died and was buried at Golconda.
R. Lewis McCune gave them some supply from November, 1864, to March, 1865.
Solomon Cook was with them from May 26, 1867, to the spring of 1872. The last six months of this time he was pastor.
A. A. Mathes supplied their pulpit for two years from March 25, 1873.
In March, 1877, J. M. Green, of Shawneetown, held a meeting with the Golconda Church, at which thirty-two persons were received on profession. About fifteen of these are still reliable members.
Sherman M. Burton took charge of the church as pastor Feb. 26, 1877, and still continues (1879). This congregation has from the beginning had two places of worship—one in the village of Golconda, the other in the country, on the Vienna road. In town the place of meeting was the court-house, or school-house, or in a building called the Union Church, until, in 1869, they entered their own house, a fine structure of brick, erected at a cost of $8,000.
In the country, the place of meeting was at the house of Francis Glass—two and a half miles west of Golconda—until about the year 1832. Next at the house of David B. Glass—four miles west of Golconda—until about 1840, when a building was erected called Bethel Church. It was a frame building—never entirely finished—and was used until about 1858. It was then sold and the proceeds put into a building called "Bethany" Church, the title to which was with the Cumberlands. The Presbyterians assisted largely in its erection and occupied it jointly with them until 1877.
The next summer our people erected for themselves a neat frame house, called "Prospect" Church, which was dedicated September 1, 1878. It is located at the middle of N. W. quarter Sec. 33, T. 13, S. R. 6 E, of third Principal Meridian.
In April, 1871, a church called GROVE was organized, with seven members, about three miles southeast of where Prospect Church now stands, a site selected, and some means for building secured. But the enterprise was abandoned, and the members re-united to Golconda Church.
There have been connected with Golconda Church, from the beginning, two hundred and sixtv-five members. The present number (1879) is ninety-six. Sabbath-schools are maintained both in town and country, and both are conducted with great vigor.
Connected with the country part of Golconda Church is an interesting and venerable widow lady—Mrs. Agnes Hanna. She was born, in North Carolina in 1796. She is mother of Elder J. E. Y. Hanna, and resides with her daughter, Mrs. J. S. Crawford, near Prospect Church. Her maiden name was Crawford. Her father, John Crawford, was one of the first pioneers in the Illinois country. Mrs. C. P. Bosnian, of Allen Springs, Pope county, Ill., has published some interesting facts concerning him. I here introduce one of her papers, and in her own words:
"JOHN CRAWFORD was born in county Antrim, in the north of Ireland, about the year 1761. He was of Scotch parentage, but of his early life little is known. He emigrated to America in 1782, when only twenty-one years of age, and settled in what is now known as the Waxhaw settlement, in South Carolina. In 1785, he was married to Agnes Glass, with whom he lived for more than fifty years. In the year 1801, he left South Carolina for the then unsettled West. Stopping one year in Tennessee, he arrived in 1803 on the east bank of the Ohio river, and settled three miles above Golconda. In 1808 he crossed the river and settled at the mouth of Grand Pierre Creek, which was his home for twenty-six years. His residence in Illinois was truly pioneer. He had wild beasts to contend with as well as the forest to subdue. On one occasion two of his little boys, who had been sent to drive his cows from the woods, came running back in terror and reported that an 'ugly animal was after the hogs' and asked that the father would 'go and shoot it.' Not going promptly, the children insisted until he took down his rifle, but remembering it was the Sabbath, declined to desecrate the Lord's day by shooting; but the terrified children insisted, as it was a 'very ugly thing, and meant bad to the hogs.' Yielding to their entreaties he followed them, found and shot the animal, wounding but not killing it. Finding he had no other bullet for his gun, he set the dogs on, and the wounded beast rallying, a fearful fight began. Holding the infuriated animal by the hind legs, Mr. Crawford cheered on his dogs, while the little boys threw clubs and stones. They finally killed the enemy, who proved to be a panther of the largest size, measuring nine feet in length. During the fight the panther struck one of the dogs with his paw, fastening the claws in his ear. The old man took both the hind legs in one hand and with the other removed the panther's claw from the dog's ear. Although an old pioneer, it was his first experience with the most ferocious of American beasts. On returning home he announced to his wife, "Noncy, Noncy, we've kilt the divil". On his describing the animal, she exclaimed, "Why, John, it is a panther." He had not realized until then the peril in which he and his children had been placed.
"Mr. Crawford had other and more troublesome foes to contend with than the wild beasts of the woods. The country on the west bank of the river bore at that time a very bad reputation on account of the bands of counterfeiters and river pirates who infested the whole district, and had their headquarters at Cave-in-Rock. Some of the gang became afraid of Mr. Crawford, who, living near them, might become acquainted with facts, which would not be pleasant for them if made public. It was their policy to conciliate such of the settlers as would not engage in their nefarious practices, and by free-hearted hospitality and acts of kindness gain in some degree the good will of their honest neighbors. But our sturdy old frontiersman would not associate with them on any terms, or for any purpose, and they wanted him out of the way. Knowing it was bootless to attack him single-handed, and either unwilling or afraid to kill him, they sought to intimidate him, and by every species of annoyance they could devise either provoke a quarrel or force him to leave his home for a more pleasant locality. They would come in squads of ten or more and lounge around his place all day. On one occasion a dozen armed men came to his house, and sitting about his grounds sent one of their number to aggravate Mr. Crawford to strike him, when the balance were to rush in and put the old man out of the way. But he was prudent as well as brave; and although annoyed almost beyond endurance, restrained his temper and refrained from anything that could give his foes a pretext for murdering him. He was subjected to these raids and insults until the dispersion of the band in 1824, by armed citizens, under the leadership of William Rondeau, James Alcorn and Hugh McNulty. After the death of his wife, in 1824, Mr. Crawford sold his property and went to live with his son, the Rev. John Crawford, a Cumberland Presbyterian, and died at his residence in Gallatin county, July 15, 1833, aged seventy-two years. He bore throughout his long life the character of an upright, straightforward, honest man. Late in life he attached himself to the Presbyterian Church of Golconda. Of twelve children, one son and four daughters survive him, and his descendants are scattered over nearly all the Western country. The venerable widow of the late Geo. H. Hanna, the eldest surviving child of the respected old pioneer, has resided in Pope county more than sixty years."
This is the widow—Mrs. Agnes Hanna—to whom I referred.
NATHAN B. DERROW, originally from New England, was settled over the church of Homer, New York, February 2, 1802, where his labors were blessed with successive revivals. In 1807 he removed to Ohio and made his home in Vienna, Trumbull county. During the nine years he was in New Connecticut, he traveled 11,868 miles; preached seven hundred and eighty-six times; baptized one hundred and twenty-three persons; administered the supper thirty times, and planted seven churches.
In June, 1816, he left that field, having accepted a missionary appointment from the Connecticut Missionary Society, for Indiana and Illinois. He passed through Ohio to Jeffersonville, on the Ohio river, opposite Louisville. Here he spent a few weeks, and from thence proceeded to Fort Harrison, on the Wabash, about three miles north of Terre Haute. He found that country at once destitute and inviting. The population was rapidly increasing. Illiterate and enthusiastic preachers were numerous. Many whole families were found without a book of any kind. When tracts were presented, he was asked to read them by those who could not read themselves.
His labors in the general region of Fort Harrison and Terre Haute were in the fall of 1817, and perhaps the beginning of 1818. He organized at that time a church west of the Wabash, and very near the Illinois line, called at first Hopewell and afterwards New Hope. Its members resided along the valley of Sugar creek, partly in the State of Indiana and partly in the Territory of Illinois. As noticed above, he organized the church of Golconda, October 24, 1819.
He was back again at Vienna, Ohio, in 1825. I can find no further account of him. He belonged, evidently, to that class of pioneer laborers who delighted in frontier work, and in laying the foundations of many generations.
ROBERT ARMSTRONG LAPSLEY was a native of Kentucky. He graduated at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1815. He was ordained as an evangelist by Muhlenburg Presbytery in 1823; was President of Nashville Female Academy in 1834; pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in Nashville in 1850; stated supply in Carthage, Tenn., from 1856 to 1865. Died at New Albany, Ind., February 12, 1872, aged seventy-four.
The HOPEWELL CHURCH, named just above, belongs partly to Illinois. I will notice it briefly. It was organized by Nathan B. Derrow, probably in the fall of 1817, with nine members, John Black, Elder. It was visited in November, 1824, by Rev. Isaac Reed, who resided in Indiana, and was returning from Paris, Ill. At Mr. Reed's suggestion its name was changed to New Hope. April 25, 1825, Mr. Reed says: "It is a settlement partly in Indiana and partly in Illinois. It has been a church for years, but entirely without ministerial supplies." Between that time and August, 1826, it enjoyed, in connection with Paris, Ill., the labors of John Young. An interesting revival took place and the church was increased to seventy. They erected a log house of worship on the south side of Sugar creek, about two miles above its entrance into the Wabash. Mr. Young died at Vincennes about the middle of August, 1826. In September Mr. Reed preached his funeral sermon, both at Paris and in New Hope churches. The sermon was printed.
In 1827 New Hope had these members among others, viz: Elder John Black, Elder Thomas Black, Samuel Peevy, James Baird, George Malcom, Alex. Ewing, James Black, Robert Henderson, David Hogue, James R. C. Ashmore, Thomas McCullock, Martin Ray, Joseph Malcom. Its territory extended up Sugar creek to within ten miles of Paris, and included several families afterward in New Providence Church.
This church ultimately fell a prey to sectarian zeal. Revs. Merrick A. Jewett, of Terre Haute, and Dean Andrews, of Marshall, Ill., Congregational ministers, organized two little Congregational churches, one at each extremity of the New Hope church. Between the two the Presbyterian church was swallowed up. But no good has followed. Of the devourers, one is in articulo mortis, and the other has long been statu quo.
I shall continue in the next chapter to make the dates of the organization of the churches the chronological nexus; connecting with the notice of each church sketches of the ministers who labored with it up to Jan. 9, 1829.
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