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Chicago: O.L. Baskin & Co., Historical Publishers
186 Dearborn Street


Page 300

Transcribed by: Jeanie Lowe

Cotemporaneous almost with the erection of the pioneer's cabin, came the Methodist circuit rider. Usually these itinerant preachers were the first in the field, and, traveling from settlement to settlement, they held meetings in the settlers' cabins, or, in pleasant weather, in the groves-"God's first temples." As soon, therefore, as half-a-dozen families had settled upon the site of the present city of Petersburg, the Rev. Mr. Springer, mentioned in connection with the Methodist Church of Athens, and who was a brother to Mrs. Isham Davidson, an early settler of the place, came on his circuit and commenced a meeting in Mr. Davidson's house in 1835. He continued to preach at Davidson's residence until the reaction of the little log schoolhouse, when it became a temple of worship as well as of learning. This house was used, and after it, the frame schoolhouse, until the erection of the Methodist Church in 1846, in which edifice they still worship at the present day. The first appointed circuit rider by Conference was Rev. Michael Shunk, in 1837-38, so often referred to in the history of both Menard and Mason Counties as a pioneer preacher. Among the early members of this venerable church were Isham Davidson and wife, George Davidson and wife, Jacob West, Parthenia West, E.B. Spears, Ellen Spears, Elizabeth Harrison, John Bagby, Caroline Bagby, M.H. Harrison, Susan Smith, Ellen Young, Christina Alkire, Anna Engle, Frances Webb, W.P. Elam and Martha Elam. In 1846, Rev. James Newman, the Pastor, deeming the society of sufficient strength to erect a building, set to work and succeeded in arousing sufficient interest to erect the present edifice. It has been recently remodeled, improved and modernized, until it presents a very handsome and attractive appearance. Among the improvements are new paper, new pulpit, new chandeliers, a re-arrangement of the seats, and many other little items, adding beauty and comfort. All these changes have been wrought under the administration of Rev. W.O. Peet, now in his second year as Pastor. Among the Pastors who have administered to the spiritual welfare of this church are the following, who officiated in the order named: Revs. James Shaw, H.C. Wallace, T.C. Wolf (two years), S. Goldsmith, W.W. Roberts, N.R. Whitehead, S. Goldsmith (two years), W.N. Rutledge, George W. Reed and the present Pastor, Rev. W.O. Peet. The Church is in a flourishing condition, maintaining an interesting Sunday school and prayers meeting.

We are indebted to Mrs. Hill for much of the history of the Presbyterian Church of Petersburg. She is one of its original members, and had thoughtfully preserved a paper containing a sermon preached by Rev. Maurice Waller, in which is given a brief history of the Church. This paper she kindly placed at our disposal, and from it we extract the following item of interest:

"The first church of Springfield, which may well be regarded as the mother church of this immediate region, was organized by Rev. John M. Ellis, in January 1828. The North Sangamon Church was organized in May 1832, by Rev. J.S. Bergen. The name of John Allen, one of the first Elders of this Church, appears as one of the members received upon examination into the North Sangamon Church at the time of its organization."

The following is from the records of the Petersburg Church: In December, 1839, a number of person met in Petersburg, Menard County, agreeably to previous notice, and were organized into a church by Rev. Thomas Galt, known as the Petersburg Presbyterian Church, under the care of the Presbyterian Assembly of America. The following members were admitted by letter: James White, Sr., John Allen and Parthenia Hill, from North Sangamon Church; S.L. Hallock, Second Church, Springfield; Richard Dey, from Presbyterian Church, Laurenceville, N.J.: Catherine Conover, from Dutch Reformed Church of New Jersey, and upon examination, Eli W. Hoff, William L. Conover, Phoebe Conover and Laurenah Conover, in all, ten members. For some time after organization, they worshiped in people's houses and in the schoolhouse. In 1842, a building was erected, and dedicated May 12, by Rev. John W. Little. Rev. Mr. Galt preached for them occasionally the first year, and again from 1842 he appears as occasional preacher until 1846-47. The first regular Pastor of this Church who resided in town, commenced his labors in 1847, and gave three-fourths of this time to it. He was succeeded, in 1857, by Rev. J.A. Pinkerton, who continued in charge for thirteen years. In 1871, Rev. John Mehan, of Pekin, took charge of the Church as temporary supply, and remained seven months, when Rev. George Wood, of Jacksonville, took charge, and continued until 1872. In February of this year, Rev. Maurice Waller assumed the pastorate, which position he held for six years. During his administration, the elegant church, which is an ornament to the town, was built. It was dedicated in the fall of 1847, by Rev. William Harsha, of Jacksonville. At present, the church is without a regular Pastor, but is attended occasionally by the Rev. Mr. Nevins, of Jacksonville. A flourishing Sunday school is maintained and largely attended.

The first services of the Episcopal Church held in the county took place in the Methodist Church of Petersburg, May 26, 1867, by Rev. I.S. Townsend, of Jacksonville. Mrs. Thomas L. Harris was almost the only representative of the Episcopal faith in the town, and it was through her influence that Rev. Mr. Townsend was induced to come here. In October of this year, she organized a Sunday-school class in her own house, of eleven scholars, which increased to fifteen on the next Sunday. She continued to collect them together at her house every Sunday for two months, when the school was removed to Mrs. Thomas Bennett's, as being more convenient to the majority of attendants. It was held at Mrs. Bennett's until the following spring, when Mrs. Dr. Antle tendered the use of her residence, which was used for some time. Bishop Whitehouse made a visit to the place, and confirmed those who were desirous of uniting with the Church, the Lutheran Church being used on the occasion. It was also tendered for the use of the Sunday school, and regular services were held in it once a month by Rev. Mr. Townsend. Rev. James Cornell became Rector in 1871, and remained about a years, and was succeeded by Rev. William Gill of Jacksonville. Through the untiring efforts of Mrs. Harris and a few other zealous workers, means were finally raised for the purpose of erecting a church, and in October 1873, the corner stone was laid on a lot presented by Mrs. Harris (in the northern part of town), by Bishop Whitehouse, assisted by Rev. William Gill. It was completed and dedicated August 30, 1874., by Rev. Mr. Gill, who remained with them until December of that year, when he removed to Colorado. For some time, services were read by lay members. In 1876, Rev. W.W. Steele became Rector and continued until 1878, when he was called to Dixon, and again they were without a regular minister. Starting with one member (Mrs. Harris), it has now twenty-eight; and the Sunday school, from eleven scholars, has increased to an attendance from seventy-five to one hundred, who are instructed by some half-dozen or more competent teachers.

The German Lutheran Church was organized in Petersburg in the spring of 1861. Among the original members were Harmon Scherding, John Scherding, Henry Messmann, Henry Fischer, J.P. Bela, J.H. Stagemann, Jerry H. Stagemann, Jerry Bonties and others. They bought a house used by Diedrich Fischer as a carpenter-shop, which they fitted up as a temple of worship, where they met for some time and held services without a preacher. They finally secured, as Pastor, Rev. Paul Lorentzen, and purchased a parsonage adjacent to the church, at a total cost, for both edifices, of about $1,750. In 1863, Rev. Mr. Lorentzen was succeeded by Rev. Peter Dahl, he by Rev. Mr. Schmidt, and he by Rev. William H. Schmidt, who remained the Pastor until his death, in 1872. Rev. Mr. Dubiel was their next preacher. He was succeeded by Rev. John Karminsky, he by Rev. Mr. Deichmann, he by Rev. Charles Behrends, and he by Rev. Mr. Conrad, the present minister. Services are held in the German language, and the congregation numbers about thirty members.

In the latter part of the year 1862, a society of the Roman Catholic faith was organized. The first services of this denomination were held in the private residences of Cornelius Rourke, Adam Johns and John Lucas. As the meetings increased in importance, they were held in the schoolhouse and Court House, until their numbers increased to such an extent as to render it necessary to build a church, which was completed, at a cost of $5,000, and services held in the new edifice in the fall of 1860. The dedicatory services were held by Rev. Father Mettinger, and at the time of the completion of the church the Society comprised about fifty members. The following are the Priests in charge of the Society since its organization: * Fathers Quigley, Zebell, Jarnsen, Fitzgibbons, Costa, Clifford (the latter at the laying of the corner-stone), Mettinger (at dedication), Jaques, Cleuse, Wegman, Sauer and Ahne. Father Ahne has four some time been in bad health and has been forced to resign his charge in consequences, hence the Church is without a Pastor at present. The Church now numbers 1,500 members. (This includes all members of families who have been baptized or christened from parents down to infants.)

*The first seven named, as Missionaries, the remaining five as regular Pastors or Rectors.

There is but one Catholic Church in Menard County, and much praise is due to the zeal and energy of Messrs, Rourke, Luthinger and others, for this prosperous organization and its elegant temple of worship. A parsonage has been erected adjacent to the church, also a schoolhouse, together with stables and other necessary buildings, increasing the failure of the church property to about $8,500. During the pastorate of Father Sauer, the school building was erected, in which a "mission school," as it is termed, is carried on under the present charge (or for the year just closed) of Sisters Augustine and Teresa. It is attended by from sixty to eighty pupils.

The first years of the Christian Church at Petersburg were rather checkered. Forty years or more ago, a society was formed under the charge, or through the exertion, of Aaron B. White, which continued for some years, receiving spiritual consolation now and then from passing ministers. About 1842, several preachers congregated and held an "open-air meeting," one bock southwest of the pubic square, which resulted in a great "shaking of the dry bones of the valley," and a large addition was made to the number of believers. From this time until 1850, religious services were held by the society in the Court House, which seems to have, at certain periods, served as a temple of worship for all the religious bodies represented in Petersburg. About this period (1850), many of the early members having died and moved away, the society became considerably reduced and meetings finally ceased altogether, except as an occasional minister passed through and preached a sermon. In 1862, it was again organized under the influence of William White, and, with varying success and fortune, existed until 1875, when it was re-organized by Elder D. R. Lucas, and, July 30, a "tent meeting" was commenced, which lasted until the 12th of September. This increased the membership to nearly two hundred. Having no church edifice, a hall was used as a place of worship, but being over a livery stable, as a dernier resort, they moved to the Court House. At the close of the revival mentioned above, an effort was made to build a church, which resulted in the erection of the substantial brick building standing in the northwest part of the town, and which was opened for services on the first Sunday in March 1876, Elder D.R. Lucas preaching the dedicatory sermon. Elder M.M. Goode was secured as Pastor of the Church in February 1876, and is still laboring in that capacity. The Church is in a very prosperous condition, with a membership of about two hundred and seventy-five, and a Sunday School correspondingly flourishing.

Of the Baptist Church, we were unable to obtain any information beyond the following, from a history of it already published: "The Baptist Church was organized in 1854, with fourteen members, the Presbytery being Revs, N. J. Coffey and H.P. Curry. In 1856, it built a comfortable brick church, 35 x 60 feet, at a cost of $4,000. The list of Pastors who have filled the pulpit from time to time, of this church are N.J. Coffey, H.P. Curry, M.P. Hartly, T. Clarke, A. Blount, P.G. Clarke, J.M. Winn, ___ Clarke and A. Scott. The Church, by death and removals, was so weakened that, for several yeas, it was without a regular Pastor. Rev. H.P. Curry, who assisted in the first organization of the Church, and who has ever been a pillar of strength in the society, for whose advancement in Central Illinois he has labored with great earnestness and zeal for many yeas, is at present the Pastor. The society at Petersburg now numbers about eighty members, thirty of whom were added during the past year." The above was written about 1874, and we learn t hat, at the present time, the Church is again without a Pastor.

The Cumberland Presbyterian Church was organized, in 1870, by Rev. James White, with some seven or eight members. He preached to them occasionally, occupying the Court House, for one year. The society then became dormant, and so remained until 1874, when it was re-organized by Rev. R.D. Miller, with nine members, viz.: Dr. H.A. Harris, C.L. Hatfield, W.R. Edgar, C.H. Thomas, D.M. Bone, T.E. Clarke, Miss Anna Shepherd, Miss Elizabeth Barclay and Mrs. Lucy Thomas. The Session was Harris, Hatfield and Clarke. Ever since-reorganization, services have been held in the Court between forty and fifty members. The session is comprised of D.M. Bone, C. L. Hatfield and B.P. Blood; Deacons, C.H. Thomas and Robert Carver. A new church edifice was begun the present summer, and, at this writing, is nearing completion, which will cost not far from $5,000, and will be one of the handsomest churches in town. To Mrs. Dr. Antle, we are told, more than to any other one person, is the society indebted for the erection of this edifice. John Barclay, one of the most promising young ministers of this church in his day, in Central Illinois. He died in this county about twenty-five years ago, and was a brother to the Miss Barclay mentioned in the organization of the society. A flourishing Sunday school is maintained, under the superintendence of C.L. Hatfield.

Freemasonry and Odd Fellowship, those benevolent institutions that exert so wide an influence for good, usually follow close in the wake of the Christian Church. We know that the causes of which acute them are beneficent and good, because the results achieved are so grand and glorious. Freemasonry was introduced in Petersburg nearly forty years ago. Clinton Lodge was organized under dispensation, in October 1842. In due time, it was chartered as Clinton Lodge, No. 19, A., F. & A.M. The first officers were: John Bennett, Worshipful Master; Martin S. Morris, Senior Warden; John McNeal, Junior Warden; Jacob West, Treasurer; John Broadwell, Secretary; David McMurphy, Senior Deacon; and W.B. Kirk, Junior Deacon. The present membership is 115, and the officers are as follows; John Bennett, Worshipful Master; Homer Stewart, Senior Warden; R.S. Stevens, Junior Warden; H.W. Montgomery, Treasurer, J.G. Strodtmann, Secretary; J.R. Carver, Senior Deacon; and J.R. Jarad, Junior Deacon. As a matter of interest to the fraternity, we make the following extract from a local writer: "Clinton Lodge was named in honor of ex-Gov. DeWitt Clinton, of New York. To perpetuate his memory and great virtues, the Masonic brethren have caused to be built, for the ornamentation of their lodge-room, a 'shell monument,' consisting of a collection of shells arranged with genius and skill. As the number of Clinton Lodge indicates, it is one of the old Lodges of the state." Mr. Bennett has served the Order as Worshipful Master for nearly a score of years, and, as appreciation of his earnest labors to advance the interests of the society, his brethren have honored him, the present year, by again elevating him to the Oriental Chair.

De Witt Chapter, No. 119, Royal Arch Masons, was organized March 25, 1868, with the following as its first set of officers; Hobart Hamilton, M. E., High Priest; T.W. McNeely, E., King; J.T. Brooks, E., Scribe; John Bennett, Captain of the Host; H.W. Montgomery, Treasurer, and J.G. Strodtmann, Secretary. The Chapter has now sixty-one members, and the following officers; Hobart Hamilton, M.E. High Priest; J.H. Traylor, E., King; Fred Wilkinson, E., Scribe; Anson Thompson, Captain of the Host; T.C. Bennett, Principal Sojourner; C.E. McDougall, Royal Arch Captain; H.W. Montgomery, Treasurer, and J.G. Strodtmann, Secretary.

St. Aldemar Commandery, No. 47, Knights Templar, was organized October 27, 1875, by Right Eminent Sir Hiram W. Hubbard, Grand Commander of the State. The first officers were; Eminent Sir Hobart Hamilton, Commander; Sir. T.W. McNeely, Generalissimo; Sir Charles B. Thacher, Captain General; Sir Anson Thompson, Senior Warden; Sir Edward Laning, Junior Warden; Sir F.P. Antle, Treasurer; Sir. J.G. Strodtmann, Recorder; Sir J. M. Sawyer, Standard Bearer; Sir J.T. Brooks, Sword Bearer; Sir T.C. Bennett, Warden, and Sir J.E. Dickinson, Captain of the Guard. There are the name of twenty-six Sir Knights on the roll, and the officers for 1879 are; Eminent Sir T.W. McNeely, Commander; Sir Fred Huggins, Generalissimo; Sir J.M. Sawyer, Captain General; Sir T.C. Bennett, Prelate; Sir Anson Thompson, Senior Warden; Sir E.W. Eads, Junior Warden; Sir F.P. Antle, Treasurer; Sir J.G. Strodtmann, Recorder; Sir I.N. Stevens, Standard Bearer; Sir C.B. Laning, Sword Bearer; Sir Fred Wilkinson, Warder, and Sir John T. Brooks, Captain of the Guard.

Bennett Chapter, No. 19, Order of the Eastern Star, was organized January 18, 1872. The first officers were; John Bennett, W.P.; Mrs. Isaac White, W.M.: Mrs. James W. Judy, A.M.; Mrs. A.D. Wright, Treasurer, and Mrs. John Bennett, Secretary. The officers for 1879 are Homer Stewart, W.P.; Mrs. J.E. Dickinson, W.M.; Miss Elizabeth Beckman, A.M.; Mrs. W.S. Conant, Treasurer, and Mrs. Jennie Harris, Secretary.

The Masonic Fraternity, in connection with the Harris Guards, are now engaged in the erection of a substantial brick building, the upper story of which will be used as a Masonic Hall. The corner stone of the edifice was laid with appropriate ceremonies, under the auspices of the Grand Lodge of Masons, on the 9th of September of the present year, by Most Worshipful William Lavely, Past Grand Master of the State. We shall refer to this building again in another page.

Salem Lodge, No. 123, I.O.O.F., was organized under dispensation April 13, with the following charter members; B.F. Stevenson, C.N. Goulding, J.H. Collier, Theodore Baker and Z.P. Cabaniss. The first officers were; John H. Collier, Noble Grand; B.F. Stevenson, Vice Grand; Z.P. Cabaniss, Secretary, and Theo. Baker, Treasurer. The Lodge continued under dispensation to the 14th of October, when it was chartered, and, for the first few years following its organization, it flourished almost beyond precedent. At the end of the firs year, it had enrolled upward of fifty members. This prosperity continued until the commencement of the war in 1861, and from that and other causes, its fortunes waned and its membership became much reduced in numbers. The few remaining members even contemplated a surrender of their charter, and a vote upon the question, we are told, was actually taken, when the dormant energies of the lukewarm were aroused, and the Lodge received a new lease of life. The financial difficulties which had for some time harassed it, were overcome, and from that time it has prospered. Its present membership is fifty, and its officers are; W.P. Elam, Noble Grand; E.M. Morris, Vice Grand; A.J. Kelley, Secretary; Douglas Bale, P. Secretary; Robert Frackelton, Treasurer.

An Encampment was organized under dispensation, August 16, 1871, with the following original members; J.W. Cheaney, John W. Briggs, James W. Bracken, Richard Mullen, Alfred E. Mick, George Clemens, W.S. Conant and Charles Fricke. The first officers were; James W. Cheaney, W.P.; J. W. Briggs, H.P.; J.A. Bracken, S.W.; A.E. Mick, Scribe; George Clemens, Assistant Scribe. At the October session of the Grand Encampment, a charter was granted to this body, and it was regularly instituted as Charity Encampment No. 125, I.O.O.F. It has a membership, at present, of twenty, and is governed by the following corps of officers; Richard Mullen, C.P.; A.E. Mick, H.P.; A.J. Kelley, Scribe; Charles Fricke, Treasurer; Robert Bishop, S.W. , and Douglas Bale, J.W.

Rebecca Degree Lodge, No. 92, I.O.O.F., was instituted May 5, 1876, and re-instituted March 3, 1879, with sixteen members, to which have since been added twenty-six, making a total membership of forty-two. The following officers were installed in March 1879, and still fill their chairs; R.S. Frackleton, N.G.,; Mrs. Sarah C. Cheaney, V.G.; Mrs. Helen L. Zilly, Secretary; Mrs. Belle Coneys, Financial Secretary; Mrs. Nancy Pemberton, Treasurer, Charles Fricke, Warden; Mrs. Mary E. Mick, Conductor; E.M. Morris, O.G.; Mrs. Margaret Clemens, I.G.; J.W. Faith, R.S.N.G.; W.P. Elam, L.S.N.G.; Mrs. Mary A. Mullen, R.S.V.G.; Mrs. Martha J. Elam, L.S.V.G., and Robert Bishop, Chaplain. Meetings, the first Thursday of each month.

Social Lodge, No. 1306, Knights of Honor, was instituted December 26, 1878, and has, at present, thirty-five members, with the following officers; D.M. Bone, Dictator; J.R. Carver, V. Dictator; J.M. Walker, Asst. Dictator; A.J. Kelley, Reporter; Arthur Young, Financial reporter, and Thomas Levering, Treasurer.

1879 Index

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