Just who are we, that gather in the community established in the long ago, and called the Hickory Hill Missionary Church? More than one hundred years ago our forefathers emigrated into the land of the Shawnees, now southern Illinois to build homes, establish places of worship and schools and to make life what it is today. To them we owe an upending dept of gratitude and admiration.
Our forefathers were emigrants from Tennessee, the Carolinas, Kentucky and some from the northeastern states, practically all entering by way of the Ohio river, through Shawneetown, then the largest town in southern Illinois. These families and many others were among those early settlers in our vicinity. Allens, Barkers, Conner, Mc Gills, Logadone, Lemays, Halls, Gholsons, Rhodes, Elliotts, Bramletts, Benson, Cantrell, Davis, Grables, Hardestys, Irvins, Johnsons, Shasteens, Roberts, Russels and Twiggs. All contributed and sacrificed much for our welfare.
Perhaps one of the greatest contributions to our community was Mr. and Mrs. James Twigg. It was he who established a store, horsepower grist mill and provided a log school building on his property, the first in the community known as the Hickory Hill school. Here too, religious services were held during the winter outside of and at the Twigg home. Here the preachers also found a hearty welcome and a place to stay in the community. It was here at the Twigg home that a small group of devout christian men and women met early in 1861 and organized the Hickory Hill Baptist Church.
Organization of the church was on Saturday before the first Sunday in March, A. D. 1861 in the presence of God and these witnesses to wit:
We, Reverend A. H. Benson and John Crider, are present to constitute the following named persons into a church of Jesus Christ called the United Baptist Church of Hickory Hill, mainly: Mrs James Twigg, Asbury Gholson, Wm. N. Conner and Sarah Conner.
Others who United later were Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Hall, Mr. and Mrs. Jasper Hall, J. B. Lemay, Nancy Irvin and J. A. Irvin.
This church is constituted and organized on the word of God and the articles of faith of the United Baptist Franklin Association. Then soon after being organized into a church, they saw the need of a permanent place to worship. It was James Twigg and wife, Eliza, who donated to the church six acres of land on which to build the new building. It was a log structure 24' by 24' and completed in the early 1860's. According to committee who was responsible for early history, the building was located on a wooded area, west of Mr Twigg’s grave in the new cemetery. Great revivals were conducted, souls were saved, the church grew in numbers and soon became better through the churches influence, sending forth men to preach the gospel.
Some of those remembered were Orvil Burnett, W. B. Rhodes, Welcome Russell, J. C. Elliot, Oscar Jones, and Wm. R. Gholson. Many associational meetings held at this church are well remembered, when everyone attended, stayed the three days and nights, all were extended a welcome and christian heart felt fellowship. They never did forget. Also the children’s day programs that were held one day each summer , sometimes a hundred children taking part. A fine program and basket dinner was enjoyed by all. Miss Mary Rhodes, a school teacher and others supervised the program.
Iin 1887 the second church building was completed. The year October, 1889 the church sent as delegates to the Franklin Association, Taylor Davis, John Sanders, J. C. Elliott, and W. T. Sanders.
April , 1889 the church organized its first Sunday school to meet at 10 A.M. , each Sunday with J. M. Flannigan as superintendent, Riley Irvin, Bro Riggs, Obe Irvin, Maud Roberts, as teachers and Tilley Irvin, secretary. April 1903 a committee purchased an organ and new song books for the church. September, 1904 the following named committee was authorized by the church to purchase a bell and have a belfry erected. Carlton Avis, Grace Williams, Tillie Irvin and Eliss Elliott were on committee.
Up until this time everything seemed to be taken care of through a finance committee appointed by the church each time. December, 1904 J. M. Flannigan was elected church treasurer to whom each member should bring their offerings to help with the church expenses. In 1910 Obe Irvin was elected treasurer --- since that time a number of church members have faithfully filled this office.. The first church clerk on our records was Samuel McGill who served as clerk for a number of years. Then here are some that followed namely: S. R. Johnson, Riley Irvin, O. A. Kane, M. A. Smith, H. H. Pennington and many other members have held this office in the church.
The church began its mission work early and voted to take a collection quarterly for home and foreign missions, a number have been ordained as deacons and served the church in this capacity down through the years.
We would not forget our faithful sextons of the church all through the years . “I would rather be a door keeper in the house of the lord, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness”. These were among the first: J. B. Ramsey, Martin Mathis and James Riley Johnson who were faithful for more than thirty years. James Riley Johnson was a member of the church for 50 years living from 08/30/1859 to 05/21/1938. He married Lucinda Emaline Ramsey, his faithful wife, married at the age of 14, attended school after marriage. They were parents of 11 children, including two who died in infancy. Aunt Lucinda, as she was known, assisted James Riley with his janitorial work. She conducted the work accurately and proudly. He was slightly lame. James Riley’s monthly salary for firing the coal and wood burners, keeping the small victorian-type kerosene wall lamps clean and lighted, ringing the bell at the proper time (never late), dusting and clean the church, was $1.00 per month. During his last years of service, he was given $2.00 per month. James Riley and Lucinda were devoted and true to the church. The second dollar was returned to the church as a tithing offering. Saturday afternoon services, revivals and any special activity at the church did not affect James Riley or Lucinda’s quality of work, nor were they given extra for services. Lucinda Emaline Ramsey lived from 04/18/1868 to 10/16/1942. Since that time many have served the church as sextons.
The church has had pastors and substitute pastors numbering 63 in all. They are as follows:
A. H. Benson, Bierd, John Crider, Estus T. Mathis, Mathew Jones, W. B. Rhodes, Welcome Russell, J. C. Elliott, T. B. Norman, H. P. Nelson, J. S. Edmonds , J. Washburn, H. C. Mitchell, J. V. Williams, O. W. Jones, D. F. Marlin, Fulton Hedges, F. F. Hedges, T. B. Hunt. W. A. Abbott, J. A. Finn, G. E. Slavens, W. J. Moore, S. E. Hamilton, E. R. Steagall, Cloyd Wesley, P. D. Tittle, M. C. Holder, F. L. Karn, Eugene Daily,Ralph Smith, A. O. Hancock, Wesley Tucker, J. F. Jones, W. P. Webb, Wm. Fox, Robert Ross, Paul Cravens, Harry Hancock, B. Stevens, W. A. Ward, Elvis Tolley, Clifton Ing, Wm. Auxier, Bob Jones, Clinton Img, George Davis, Joe Patton, Steve Hamson***, Gene Rister, Alfred Hale, Vernon Talkington, Richard West, David Flota, Jim Morphis, Art Mays, Chuck Ellis Bobby Appel, John Gilmore, Lucas Rice, Theryle Lake.
Hickory Hill Baptist Church
After feeling for better church facilities for several years, the present building was started in July 1971 and used for services first on Easter of 1972. Not only the church members, but many members of the community donated labor and finances toward completion of the building. Bro Joe Patton was pastor during the building program. The congregation responded to the new
facilities: where there were once only occasional babies and youngsters in attendance , there were lots of young families in the seventies and eighties. In 1986 when David Flota was our pastor, he preached from the roof because we had reached our goal of 120 in Sunday school. As the years have gone by, people have moved away and the attendance has decreased, but we still enjoy studying the scriptures together and worshiping together. Because of our size, all the adults study our Sunday school lesson together much like the original one room school. This has an advantage because the senior members can add so much to the younger members.