The Thomas Burton mentioned is my second Great- Grandfather, and I noticed he
also preached at Pleasant Hill for a time. His youngest son was also a preacher,
who died in Marion County in 1955.
Submitted By: Clayton Burton
Notes for JOEL (*) SIMMONS:
After settling near what was later known as Divide, Illinois so named because
of a land ridge nearby that separated the watershed of the Mississippi and Ohio
Rivers. Joel helped found the "Simmonstown" church, presently the Panther Fork
Baptist Church and was the first teacher and helped found the Simmons school, later
known as the Panther Fork School. Both the church and school were located on his property.
Joel, a schoolmaster built a log schoolhouse on a protion of his land where he kept
school without pay. In 1866 he organized the Panther Fork Baptist Church with 19 members,
11 of which were members of his family. He served as church clerk for 11 years while
his son-in-law, Thomas Burton, served as pastor without pay. The church survived for
13 years before they has a "meeting house"; the meetings were held in homes during the
winter; in a brush shed with split log seats during the summers. In 1867 he set aside
three acres of his land as a gift to the church on which to build a meeting house.
The church is one of the strong country churches in Jefferson County today.
The name "Panther Fork" orginated some years later when his son-in-law, Joel McDaniel
killed an attacking panther with a pitchfork. After the law required the naming of
the counties and townships, the officials decided to name townships after the first
settler whenever possible. When Joel Simmons learned of the decision to name Simmons
Township, he walked the distance of twelve miles to Mt. Vernon to inform the officials
that a man named Field had lived there temporarily; hence, the name was changed to
Panther Fork Baptist Church