Transcribed by: Ellen Booth.Page 338
Religion was one of the first interests that claimed the attention of the early settlers of this section, and the first religious society formed was upon a voluntary basis, to meet the existing spiritual wants of the period. As early as 1820, Joseph Smith and wife, James Haynes and wife and William Holland and wife organized themselves into a class of the Methodist order, under the leadership of Mr. Holland. This was the first religious society formed in this entire section, and constituted the basis of the first M.E. Church in the county. Soon after its formation, Rev. James Simms, the first “circuit rider,” took charge of this interest. The Cumberland Presbyterians were in the field in quite an early day. The first church building erected in the present limits of Athens Precinct was the Lebanon C. P. Church in the extreme northwest corner. The first was a log house, quite primitive in style of architecture and in it various appointments. This building was constructed near the close of 1824 or early in the beginning of 1825. Having served its day and generation, it was removed out of the way and superseded by a commodious frame structure. This in turn gave place in 1866-67 to the present substantial brick building which occupied the spot today. Rev. John M. Berry, the great apostle of Cumberland Presbyterianism in Menard County, was the first minister and labored for the congregation a number of years. Revs. Thomas Campbell and Gilbert Dodds also preached here in an early day. Among the early communicants were the families of Robert White, William B. Short, Francis Rayburn, James Williams, Harry Riggin and Martin Higgins. The North Sangamon Presbyterian society was organized at Springfield in 1832. Among the first members of the organization were John Moore and family, Elijah Scott, John N. Moore, a Mr. Stillman and J. Kennedy Kincaid. The members from Indian Creek attended services for a time at Springfield. After the building of the frame house above alluded to, the society worshiped some years with the Cumberlands. Finally, they erected a substantial brick building about two miles east of the old Lebanon Church, in which the society has since held its meetings. As a full and complete history of the Church as been prepared for the general county history by Rev. William Crozier, the present Pastor, we deem it necessary to trace it in detail in this portion of the work. A Cumberland Presbyterian Church was organized at the residence of Richard Fulkerson, in the summer of 1867, by Rev. J. C. Van Patton, of Springfield. R. Fulkerson, James Estile and William Price were chosen Elders, and A. A. Fulkerson and John Woods, Deacons. A neat church building was erected in the fall of 1867 and has been regularly occupied since the society was organized. The present membership is about fifty. Rev. George Flowers was the first regular Pastor for the congregation.
Rev. J. Stephenson is laboring for the society at present. Not only have the citizens in and around Indian Point manifested an interest in whatever has had a tendency to increase the happiness and welfare of the living, but in the provision made for the dead they have exhibited a spirit of enterprise not often met with in the country. Indian Point Cemetery, as a corporate body, was organized Feb 14, 1870. It encloses seven acres, beautifully situated for burial purposes. It occupies a commanding position overlooking Indian Creek and the surrounding county. It is tastefully laid in blocks, drives and avenue, and the lots are ornamented with various kinds of shrubbery. All moneys arising from the sale of cemetery squares or lots, by the terms of the organization, are kept in an endowment fund, the interest, thereof to be expended in improving and ornamenting the cemetery. The present value of this fund is not far from $3,000. The object of those engaged in organizing this cemetery has been to endow the corporation and not themselves, to provide and leave guarded a fund for its maintenance through all future time. Many of the early pioneers of this section have here found a last resting-place, and the chiseled marble shaft erected by surviving love to their memory attests the veneration in which they were held while living. The interests of the cemetery are entrusted to the hands of a board of directors, who are chosen at stated periods.
Among the first to sit in judgment upon matters of litigation, between their fellow-citizens were Matthew Rogers and John N. Moore. Henry C. Rogers, following in the footsteps of his father, has long held the office of Justice of the Peace. The first death of which we have been able to obtain any reliable information was that of Capt. Hathaway, which occurred in 1822. John Jennison and Martha McNabb were the first to plight their vows to each other before the hymeneal altar. The first birth has been lost in the mists of antiquity though it is an event that doubtless occurred. While the railroad interests of the county have been given in detail in the general county history, yet the prominent part taken by Col. John Williams, a citizen of this section, in the completion and operation of the Springfield and North-Western Railroad, by means of which he has placed the citizens of this precinct under lasting obligations to himself, renders it altogether proper that mention of it should again be made in connection with this part of the history. The original charter for the road leading from Springfield via Petersburg, Havana and Lewistown to Keithsburg or Rock Island on the Mississippi was granted in 1853. Sangamon County failed to vote her allotted amount of stock and this in connection with other untoward events so discouraged the company that the enterprise was wholly abandoned. By special act of Legislature, the charter was revived in 1869, and late in the fall of 1870, work was commenced at Havana, and vigorously pushed through Mason and a part of Menard. It was completed to Petersburg in 1872, and, in the fall of 1873, reached Athens and Cantrall. At the last named point (eight miles north of the capital) the panic struck the company, and further operations looking to the completion of the road ceased.