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History of Silver Creek Church of the Brethren

Taken with permission from "The First 100 Years" a book about Leaf River, Illinois, 1982

Click here to see surname index for Silver Creek Cemetery



Photo's by Laverne M. Stauffer

The beginnings of the Silver Creek Church dates back to the era following the Blackhawk War of 1832. Many of the numerous families that began to settle in the area between Leaf River and Mt. Morris found no Brethren Church in the community. They had to drive by horse and buggy to West Branch, six miles west of Mt. Morris or to Salem, two miles south of Mt. Morris as roads and weather permitted. As their numbers increased they met in local schoolhouses.

In 1847 Daniel Long wrote a letter to relatives in Maryland stating that services were being held in the Rice School, about three-fourths mile north of the intersection of Mt. Morris Road with West Grove Road located on the west side of the road just south of the small creek that meanders across the road at this point. This building later burned and by June 25, 1860 records show that the Brethren were worshiping at the Albright School, later known as the Fairview School. This is now a private residence, located on Town Line Road about a mile west of Mt. Morris Road.

Later the place of meeting was transferred to the Center School on West Grove Road near Silver Creek. It was here in 1867 that a separate Church of the Brethren congregation was organized, and the members decided to build a house of worship. Those on the Building Committee were Daniel Zellers, Samuel Price, William Young, Benjamin Swingley, and Joseph Rowe. With hard work and dedicated laborers, the building was ready for use the following summer. A site east of the school adjacent to the Silver Creek Cemetery, which had been laid out by the brethren in the 1840's was selected. The church, too, would take it's name from the stream that flowed through the grounds and would serve as the baptismal pool for the denomination that believed in trine immersions.

A 40 ft. by 70 ft. structure was erected from limestone from a nearby quarry. The building was designed after a typical Eastern style of Brethren churches--a long rectangular edifice with three doors facing the road. The west door was for the men, the center was for the women and children, and the one on the left gave entrance to the kitchen and a mothers' room partitioned off at the east end. The spacious attic provided sleeping facilities for those who drove miles from other areas for special meetings and needed to stay overnight.

Along the east and south sides of the church yard long sheds were built with stalls to shelter horses in severe weather. In the front yard the stepping stone (buggy stoop) that enabled the ladies to step into the carriages and buggies can still be seen.

On May 22, 1868 the Brethren in this area , as well as those from adjoining counties, gathered at the Silver Creek Church for a two day celebration of Christian fellowship, preaching, and the observance of their first Love Feast. The large kitchen provided cooking facilities where ladies could prepare food free of charge for the huge crowd who would be in attendance for the entire two days.

It is regrettable that Daniel Long did not live to see the fruits of his labor. Just one year after he and his family migrated here from Maryland, Daniel's wife Elizabeth Fridley died and was one of the first burials in the Silver Creek Cemetery. Daniel was laid to rest beside her in 1864.

The acquisition of Mt. Morris College in 1879 by the Church of the Brethren brought an influx of members to Mt. Morris worship services were soon alternated between the college chapel and Silver Creek. By 1900 worship was discontinued in the country church and all services were held in town.

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