When Diedrich Knickerbocker set about writing the history of New York, that his subject might have a broad foundation, he went back to the beginning of the world. In giving a sketch of the Presbyterian Church, in Menard County, we may not go back as far in order of time, and yet, it may interest those who read this sketch to know something of the early planting of the Presbyterian Church in Illinois, and especially this central portion, where our lot is cast. In 1797, just three years after Anthony Wayne's victory over the Indians at the battle of the Fallen Timber, and five years before Ohio was admitted into the Union as a State, and when all the vast territory covered by the States of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois was yet under Territorial government, an effort was made by a Presbyterian minister to plant the Gospel ordinances of Christ according to the Westminster Standards, upon the soil of Illinois. Rev. John E. Finley, a Presbyterian minister from Chester County, Penn., to Mason County, Ky., coveted the privilege of being the first to plant the Church of Christ upon the territory of the future great State of Illinois; and also in the Louisiana Territory, in what is now the State of Missouri. In 1797, Mr. Finley descended the Ohio River in a keel-boat, with several of his neighbors, members of the Presbyterian Church, and ascended the Mississippi, and landed at Kaskaskia, with the bold design of planting the standard of the Cross in the Spanish Colonies west of the Mississippi River. Mr. Finley probably had ultimate reference to a mission among the Indians. He preached the Gospel, catechised and baptised several of the "red men." But, in short time, he was led to abandon the enterprise. A few years later, while Capts. Lewis and Clark, under the recommendation of President Jefferson and by appointment of Congress, were exploring a route over the Rocky Mountains, and descending the Columbia to the Pacific, earnest ministers of Christ were planning the conquest of these regions for Christ. In the years 1804, 1805 and 1806, short missionary excursions were made to the vicinity of Vincennes by Rev. Messrs. Samuel Runnels, Samuel B. Robinson, James McGrady and Thomas Cleland, members of the presbytery of Transylvania in the State of Kentucky. As the result of these labors, the First Presbyterian Church was organized in Indiana, near Vincennes, and was then named, and still is known as Indiana Church. This was in 1806. During the years 1810, 1811, and also in 1814 and 1816, Rev. James McGrady spent a considerable time in the southern counties of Indian and in Illinois, and in 1816, or some accounts say, in 1814, Mr. McGrady organized Sharon Church in White County. This was the first Presbyterian Church in Illinois, and its honored name still stands on the roll of the Presbytery of Cairo.
About the same time, Revs. J.F. Schemerhorn and Samuel J. Mills visited Kaskaskia, and left a deep impression of their zeal and fidelity, especially in the family of Gov. Ninian Edwards. At that time, there was not a town of a thousand inhabitants in Indiana, Illinois or Missouri, unless it was Madison, Vincennes or St. Louis. Sparse settlements were scattered along the eastern part of Illinois as far north as the Vermilion, and on the west side as far north as Quincy. All the northern part of the State was a wilderness, with here and there an Indian trading-post. Peoria was Ft. Clark and Chicago only appears on the maps as Ft. Dearborn. The fort was on the south side of the Chicago River, and on the north side just opposite was John Kinzie's agency and trading-post. A few mud and stick shanties along the river near the agency, and at Wolf Point on the west side, was all the town there was on the site of the great city of Chicago. In 1821, Rev. Dr. Gideon Blackburn, the founder of Blackburn University, was in the full ride of his popularity as a most effective preacher of the Gospel. He passed through the State and held a camp-meeting at Shoal Creek, in Bond County, where there was a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and many were converted, and a church was there formed. Rev. Abraham Williamson, from Princeton, N.J., also Rev. Messrs. Orrin Catlin and Daniel G. Sprague, from Andover, Mass., preached in that part of the State and organized a church at Carrollton. In 1825, Rev. John M. Ellis arrived in Illinois, and spent a year or two with the Church of Kaskaskia. About the same time, the Rev. John Birch, a Scotsman who had spent his earlier years in his native country and in England, came to America, and, after a few years in Southern and Western Ohio, came to Morgan County, Ill., where the village of Jacksonville had lately been laid out. Here he labored, and had organized a church before any one came to his aid. He was succeeded by Mr. Ellis, who, besides his zeal as a preacher of the Gospel, had initiated those movements which led to the establishment of Illinois College. Mr. Ellis was one of the seven ministers who were organized into the first Presbytery of Illinois, known as the Center Presbytery of Illinois.
January 30, 1828, a church was organized by Mr. Ellis at Springfield, and was called the Sangamon Church, after the name of the river near which, and the county in which it was located. This Church was composed of nineteen members, of whom only five lived in the village of Springfield, and these were all women. The membership was scattered over a region of twenty miles around, and several of them (Messrs. John and John N. Moore) in what is now Menard County. It is worthy of note that this organization was made in the house of Mrs. Elizabeth Smith, widow of Dr. John Blair Smith, a very eminent man in his day, and once the President of Hampden and Sidney College, Virginia. The Church of Edwardsville was also organized in her house, when she lived there in 1819. The original Elders of the Sangamon Church at Springfield were John Moore, Samuel Reid, Isaiah Stillman and John N. Moore. Ever since about 1820, people from different parts of Kentucky had begun to settle on Indian Creek, then a part of Sangamon County. Many of these were Presbyterians and Cumberland Presbyterians. The Presbyterians had united with the Sangamon Church; but it was impossible that they should have the full benefit of the privileges of a church twenty miles away, with high waters and often impassable roads between. Soon after the Sangamon Church was organized, the Rev. John G. Bergen, lately from New Jersey, began his labors as the Pastor of the Church. But he did not confine his labors to Springfield, but made extended missionary tours in every direction, and preached the Word wherever an opportunity offered. During the winter of 1828-29, Mr. Bergen visited Vandalia, then the capital of the State, and preached befoe the Legislature. On his return, in January, 1829, he went to the Moore neighborhood, on Indian Creek, and there formed the acquaintance of Elder John Moore, the patriarch of the Moore family. Mr. Moore was a Virginian by birth, but had emigrated to Kentucky in early life, while the Indians were still a terror to the white settlers. He is represented as having been greatly useful in planting Presbyterianism in the Green River country. He passed through the great revival at the beginning of the century, and took an active part in it, but opposed the extravagances by which it was characterized. His wonderful knowledge of the deep things of God began with the study of an old torn and coverless book, which he found in the garret of his father's house. "Law Death, and Gospel Life" was its title, probably written by Dr. Bellamy. This book he read, and reread, until its thoughts were inwrought into the very texture of his soul. Mr. Moore came to Indian Creek in 1822. After Mr. Bergen came to Springfield, he found in Mr. Moore a warm and trusted friend, and was his companion in many a preaching tour. It is related of him that once, during the summer before the deep snow, they rode together 130 miles north to organize a church in Union Grove, in what is now La Salle County. On their return, Mr. Bergen preached at Holland's Grove, where the town of Washington now stands, a few miles east of Peoria. At this service, nearly all the settlers were present for seven miles around, including a company of Potawatomie Indians, who, by invitation, attended the service, filing in one by one, and taking their seats on the floor, near the minister.
In 1832, the time had come when it was thought that the interests of religion required a separate Presbyterian church organization north of the Sangamon River. On the 20th of May, 1832, a meeting was appointed at the Lebanon "Meeting-house," the place of worship of the Cumberland Presbyterians. Mr. Bergen preached an appropriate sermon, after which a church was organized, consisting of thirty-two members, all presenting letters from the Sangamon Church, at Springfield, and, as this church was on the north side of the Sangamon River, it very appropriately chose the name of the North Sangamon Church, the name which it still bears. The names of the original members were as follows, vis.: Elijah Scott, John Stone, Andrew Moore, Samuel Moore, Alexander Barnett, David Walker, Milton Rayburn, Phoebe Moore, Margaret S. Moore, Stephen Stone, Ann Barnett, John N. Moore, Mary Moore, Jane Patterson, Panthy Barnett, Hannah Baxter, Jane Rayburn, Polly Walker, Matilda Walker, Elizabeth Walker, Jane Walker, Ann Walker, John Moore, Ambers Stone, Jane Scott, Lucy Stone, Polly Stotts, Catherine Stone, Jane Casey, Isabella Walker, Alexander Walker and William Stotts. At the same time, the following persons were received on profession of their faith in Christ: John Allen, Henry C. Rogers, Sarah H. Rogers and Elizabeth Patterson. John Moore, John N. Moore, and Alexander Walker, were elected Ruling Elders. As their first place of worship, the North Sangamon Church occupied, a part of the time, the log meeting house built by the Lebanon congregation of the C.P. Church, and then they assisted the Cumberland brethren in building a frame church, which has since been replaced by their present commodious brick church. In consideration of aid thus rendered, the North Sangamon congregation had the use of the Lebanon house of worship one-half the time until 1844, when they built a frame church of their own, 28x86 feet, which was occupied seventeen years, until 1867, when the present brick edifice was finished and dedicated to the worship of the Almighty God, with appropriate services by John G. Bergen D.D., who had organized the church thirty-five years before. Rev. George W.F. Birch, Pastor of the Third Presbyterian Church in Springfield, assisted in the services. As to ministers who have served this church, either by invitation of the Session, or by appointment of Presbytery, we may mention the honored names of Rev. William K. Steward, Rev. Thomas A. Spillman, also Rev. George W. McKinley, who often supplied the church and presided in the Session. The first minister who regularly supplied this church, was the Rev. Samuel Foster, a licentiate from New England, who was ordained as an evangelist by the Presbytery of Sangamon, in the year 1833. Mr. Foster served this church only a little more than one year. The measure of success attending his ministry does not appear from the records. But the history of this church seems to be marked with frequent additions on profession of faith. After Mr. Foster left, the church remained vacant for nearly a year, when, in 1835, Rev. Alexander Ewing entered upon his labors. His name first appears as Moderator of the Session, at the house of Mr. Stephon Stone, in Irish Grove, March 22, 1835. On the 13th of June following, thirteen persons were received by letter. North Sangamon Church, which had only had a separate existence of four years, was now about "to become two bands." At a meeting of the Session held April 2, 1836, Mr. Bergen presiding, it was resolved to apply to the Presbytery of Sangamon for a separate organization at Irish Grove. Preparatory to such organization, thirty-one persons, living at and near Irish Grove, asked for, and obtained letters from the North Sangamon Session, with a view of uniting in the new organization. The Irish Grove Church was soon after formed, and Mr. Ewing, who lived at the grove, gave half his time to that church, and the remainder to the church at North Sangamon. This arrangement continued until the beginning of the year 1837, when the controversies between the New and Old School culminated in a separation in 1838. The North Sangamon Church adhered to the Old School Assembly, and remained in connection with the Presbytery of Sangamon, and was without a settled Pastor from early in 1837, until late in 1838. At this time Rev. John W. Little, of the Central Congregational Association of New York, was received by the Presbytery, and became the stated supply of this church and Irish Grove, giving one-half of his time to each church. This relation continued with mutual good-will, until Mr. Little's death in June 1842. The church was then supplied by Rev. Thomas Galt, for one-half his time until 1850, or nearly seven and one-half years. In the third year of Mr. Galt's ministry there seems to have been quite a revival, and nineteen persons were added to the church on profession of faith. In November, 1849, Rev. William Perkins began to supply this church on the alternate Sabbaths, when Mr. Galt preached at Irish Grove. Mr. Perkins continued his labors until November 1, 1851. They were then without a Pastor until the fall of 1853, when Rev. R. A. Criswell began his labors, and, in November of that year Mr. Criswell was ordained and installed Pastor, and continued his labors until November 1, 1866, when he resigned his charge, and ceased to minister to this church. In April, 1867, his pastoral relation was dissolved by Presbytery. This pastorate seems to have been much blessed. During the thirteen years of Mr. Criswell's ministry there were sixty-three additions on profession and forty-nine on certificate, clearly showing that the continued pastorate of one man with ordinary faithfulness is more condusive to Church growth than the frequent changes. Soon after Mr. Criswell's resignation Rev. R. A. Van Pelt, formerly from Pennsylvania, but more recently from Wisconsin, began to serve the church, and continued as the stated supply for about two years with a reasonable measure of success.
During the summer of 1869, after Mr. Van Pelt ceased his ministrations in the church, Rev. Mr. Reese supplied the church for a short time, but his health failing, he was obliged to give up his charge, and eventually to retire entirely from the work of the ministry. In the fall of 1869, the church invited Rev. John Crozier, then Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Oxford, Ohio, to become their Pastor. This invitation was accepted, and Mr. C. began his ministry in this church about the middle of November, 1869. In March following, at a regular congregational meeting, with Rev. S. J. Bagle of Mason City, presiding, the church made out a regular and unanimous call for the labors of Mr. Crozier as their settled Pastor. This call was duly presented to the Presbytery of Sangamon, in session in the First Presbyterian Church of Springfield, in April, 1870, and, being found in order, was placed in the hands of the Pastor elect and accepted, and, in August following, the installation was consummated, Rev. Messrs. D. J. Strain, J. D. Kerr and F. J. Moffatt as the Committee of Presbytery taking part in the services. This relation still continues at the date of this sketch, September, 1879, with mutual good-will and confidence between Pastor and people. During this period, many changes have taken place, which have materially affected the progress of the church. Many have been removed by death, and many persons owning small farms have sold to larger land-holders, and removed to other places. By this process, there has been an actual decrease of population. During the present pastorate there have been thirty-five added to the church by profession of faith, and twenty-seven by letter; forty-five have been dismissed to other churches, leaving the present active membership a little less than one hundred.
This sketch would be incomplete without mention of the office bearers who have faithfully served this Church. The first Session, chosen at the organization in 1832, was Johan and John N. Moore and Alexander Walker. The senior Elder was John Moore, a native of Virginia, and born in the year 1767. He was a man of devoted piety. He was twice married, and was the father of eleven children, all of whom became pious. Joseph Moore, of Clinton, De Witt County, William Moore, or Irish Grove, and Mrs. Sarah H. Rogers, wife of Henry C. Rogers, Esq., of Athens, also Mrs. Margaret Waters, of Clinton, were children of John Moore, and are still living. John Moore served as an Elder in this church from its organization in 1832 till his death in 1848. His oldest son and third child was John Newell Moore, who was born in Kentucky in 1794; was married to Phoebe Scott in Adair County, Ky., in 1820, and located in this vicinity in 1822. He was elected Elder at the organization of the Sangamon congregation when it was organized in Springfield in 1828, and when the North Sangamon Church was organized in 1832, he was chosen Elder in it, and filled the position faithfully up to his death in 1842. Mr. Alexander Walker, another of the original Session, came from Kentucky at an early day, and settled in Irish Grove. He was first an Elder in the North Sangamon Church, but, when the Irish Grove congregation was formed, he removed his membership there. Some years ago, he removed to Iowa. Elijah Scott was another of the first members of the Church, and at an early period was chosen Elder. After serving in this office a number of years, he removed to Cass County, where he still lives, being over eighty years of age. Dr. James Smick was another most acceptable Elder in this church. He was born in Mercer County, Ky. His parents were Presbyterians, and he united with that Church in Lexington, Ky. He studied medicine in the same city and practiced there, and also in Indiana, and came to Menard County in 1847. He was an Elder before he came to Menard. He was chosen Elder here in 1850, which office he filled till his death in 1853. Alonzo H. Whitney and Samuel Moore were elected Elders and ordained December 30, 1855. Mr. Moore was born in Kentucky in 1806; was a son of John Moore and brother of Elder John N. Moore. He was one of the original members of the church. His name appears as Elder for the last time March 13, 1862. He moved near Concord, where he died January 26, 1864, aged fifty-eight years and six months. Alonzo H. Whitney was born in Brattleboro, Vt., April 26, 1816; professed religion at Syracuse, N.Y., when near nineteen years of age. He came to Illinois in 1834, and joined the Second Presbyterian Church in the town of Springfield. He married Miss Mary A. Kincaid. In 1841, he joined this church, and, in 1855, was elected and ordained Elder. He continued in this office till October 9, 1871, when he was called to his reward. Milton Rayburn was also one of the original members, and was made an Elder in 1835; he being a citizen of Irish Grove, was dismissed to join there in 1836. The present Session is composed of John Kennedy Kincaid, James Scott Moore and Robert A. Young. The senior Elder, J. K. Kincaid, was born in Bath County, Ky., in 1808, and settled in Illinois in 1832. He joined this church by letter in 1834. The exact date of his election and ordination to the office of Elder is not known, thought his name appears on the records as such as early as 1843. He has been and Elder at least thirty-seven years. He has served much of the time as Clerk of the Session, and has frequently represented his congregation in Presbytery and Synod. James S. Moore is a son of Elder John N. Moore; was born in Kentucky in 1821. His father settled on Indian Creek in 1822. December 3, 1836, he united with the church on profession of faith, under the ministry of Rev. Alexander Ewing. He was ordained Elder May 4, 1857, Rev. William Perkins officiating. Mr. Moore has served the Church faithfully in that capacity from his ordination to the present time, except near three years spent in Jacksonville, where he removed in 1870, to educate his children, returning to his old home in 1878. He has been much of the time Clerk of the Session; has often represented the congregation in Presbytery and Synod. He was representative on the part of the Eldership from Sangamon Presbytery to the General Assembly in 1867, which met in Cincinnati; and, in 1877, he represented the Springfield Presbytery in the General Assembly which met in the city of Chicago. He is an efficient Sabbath-school Superintendent, and serves his church in this capacity much of the time. The junior Elder is Robert A. Young, who was born in Bath County, Ky., November 28, 1829. His parents, William P. and Margaret Young, came to Illinois in 1836. On the 1st of April, 1848, he united with the church. On the 20th of July, 1871, he was ordained Ruling Elder. The present Deacons are William C. Kincaid, A.E. Kincaid, C.O. Culver and H. M. Moore. The officers of the Sunday school are-Superintendent, James S. Moore; Assistant Superintendent, William B. Thompson; Secretary, R. A. Young; Chorister, James S. Moore; Organist, Laura P. Moore; Sexton, Henry Walker.
The following persons who were communicants in this church, have entered the ministry: John H. Moore, Pastor at Birmingham, Iowa; D. J. Strain, Pastor at Virginia, Ill.; John W. Little, Pastor of Cross Roads Church, Allegany Presbytery, Pennsylvania; John J. Graham, Pastor at Mount Vernon, Ill.; W. C. McDougall, now an evangelist in Scotland. John Howe Moore, a young man of rare piety and promise, was called to his reward before he completed his studies preparatory to entering the ministry.
In estimating the influence of this church for good, we must go beyond the actual of the communion roll. In the first place, this church, in a spirit of self-reliance, has sustained its ministry without aid from the Board of Missions even when weak in numbers and material wealth. In its early history, when unable to support a Pastor, it united with some other in the support of a minister. It has built two houses of worship without asking for help from the general funds of the Church as a body. Its present commodious house of worship was finished and furnished at a total cost of over $3,000, it being 40x60 feet in size. Beside this, they rendered substantial aid in building the Presbyterian Churches of Petersburg, Mason City, Sweetwater and Irish Grove. This church may be regarded as the parent of all the Presbyterian congregations in the county. This congregation has furnished the first material for the organization of all the other chruches of this body in the county. The Presbyterians have three flourishing congregations in the county, and four excellent houses of worship. Each of those congregations have regular ministers. The reader will find a detailed account of each of those congregations in the history of the townships, in which they are severally situated. The Presbyterians purchased the house of worship erected by the "Soul-Sleepers," in Sweetwater, some years ago, in which they have occasional services.
*We are indebted for this sketch of the Presbyterian Churches, by Rev. John Cratler, Pastor of North Sangamon Church at Indian Point---R.D.M.