The Methodist Church
Mount Vernon and vicinity was largely a Methodistic community from the start the Caseys, the Maxeys and the Johnsons nearly all being of that faith, and it was perfectly natural that that demonination should have the first societies and the first church houses. In 1819, Rev. Thomas Davis was sent to the Wabash and Mount Carmel work, and Old Union was a preaching point, and the people of the town used to walk out there to preaching. In 1822, Mount Vernon first appears upon the the conference record and Samuel Thompson (for whom Capt. Thomas Maxey was named) was preciding elder and Revs. Josiah Petterson and Josiah Smith were sent to Wabash and Mount Vernon; Smith and Riddle came a year later; William Moore, in 1824; O. Phillips part of the next year and John T. Johnson (Leanders father) the balance of the time. Thomas Files came in 1826, First we were in the Wabash and then in the Kaskaskia district, before there was any Mount Vernon district.
The following preachers then followed in the order named, until 1854, when Mount Vernon was made a station; Thomas Files, John Fox, John H. Benson, Simeon Walker, James Walker, Warren Jenkins, Joshua Barnes, William Mitchell, David Coulson, J. M. Massey, John Sheppard, William T. William (father of J. D. and W. T.), James Dickens, J. I. Richardson, Allen McCord, R. Moffet, Arthur Bradshaw, David Blackwell, John Thatcher, I. G. Kimber, John H. Hill, J. A. Robinson, Thomas W. Jones and Norman Allyn, and James Leaton.
In February, 1888, this church was leveled to the ground by the terrible cyclone that struck and destroyed more than half of the town, on that fatal Sunday, February 19th. Meetings were then held in "McBride's Chapel," a little room on the North Twelfth stree, until the present church edifice (the largest and best in town) was completed.
The Methodist population became too numerous to be cared for by the First church and the town having meantime spread itself in every direction, steps were taken to build other houses of worship and now we have three nicely furnished Methodist churches, one in South Mount Vernon and in East Mount Vernon and a good prospect of one in West Mount Vernon, all supplied with good pastors, and an aggregate membership of perhaps fifteen hundred. Then we also have a Free Methodist and a Colored Methodist church.
The Presbyterian Church
The Presbyterian church was first organized in Mount Vernon with ten members and two elders, in 1841, by B. F. Spillman, and the church was served by Ewing Blackburn, Lefler and others, and finally the members transferred their membership to Gilead, at Rome. But the Alton Presbytery came later and organized a society composed of Warner and Eliza White, John S. and Louisa Bogan, George and Hannah Mills, John C. and Juliana Gray, Sarah A. Tanner and W. D. Johnson. The pastors have been: Revs. Samuel Wylie, W. H. Bird, H. Patrick, Charles Kenmore, R. G. Williams, John Gibson, G. C. Clark, Adam C. Johnson (the Jefferson county historian), M.M. Cooper, G. B. McComb, J. J. Graham, Eban Muse, E. P. Lewis, H. B. Douglass, Yates, Turner, and others.
The basement of the old Odd Fellows hall was used by them until 1857, when the Presbyterian church near Louisville & Nashville depot was finished. At the beginning of the present century the Cumberland and the General Presbyterian churches were merged and the Mount Vernon Presbyterians united in fellowship and church services in their new church on North Tenth street the most centrally located church in town. They now have a good pastor, Rev. E. B. Surface, and a large and growing membership. The Presbyterians have come to stay, and everybody welcomes them. The colored Presbyterians have a church and pastor in South Mount Vernon.
The first Baptist church of Mount Vernon was organized in 1868, although there were Baptists in Mount Vernon all through these years. The early preachers at the First church were: J. W. Brooks, J. S. Mahan, D. W. Morgan, M. Wilson, Sanford Gee, Cal Allen, Charles Davis, W. W. Hay, W. B. Vassor, and Mr. Midkiff, who was the pastor when the cyclone destroyed the church building in 1888. The present commodious church was built in 1889 and W. P. Throgmorton installed as pastor. Following him came: Revs. J. D. Hooker, W. P. Hoster, J. Carroll Harriss, J. P. Langly, Dr. McCall, Theile, J. A. Todd, and W. A. Dorgan, present pastor. The church has been connected with the Salem Association and of late years is doing good work, while its usefulness and membership is constantly on the increase. Its present pastor, Rev. Dorgan, from Kentucky, is one of the most eloquent and instructive ministers we have seen in this section. The Second Baptist church has been erected in South Mount Vernon and has a good membership and a regular pastor. Also, the Baptist have a mission church in North Mount Vernon. There are also two colored Baptist churches in town and the Baptists are at the front in all forward movements in moral and religious improvements.
United Brethren Church
On South Tenth street, near the Second Methodist church, stands the United Brethren church, a denomination not very common in these parts. Their creed and mode of worship is not very different from the Methodists especially in the matter of revivals, class meetings, etc. They have had several good pastors, whose names we have been unable to secure. Like all other churches, they have a flourishing Sunday school and young people's meetings and like most of the others, also are always ready for union efforts in trying to influence the community to "join in with the overtures of offered mercy."
The Christian (or Cambellite) Church
The Christian (or Cambellite) Church was organized away back in the fifties (1850's) when Harvey T. Pace and wife were its pillars. Its present ediface was built about cyclone times (1888), and the organization has had many good pastors and is constantly increasing its membership and usefulness. Among its workers are some of the descendants of the oldest inhabitants, notably Mrs. Dr. Plummer, daughter of Uncle Harvey T. and Aunt Nancy Pace. Rev. Francis is now pastor.
The Universalist Church
The Universalist Church whose platform catches us when all the others fail, has a neat ediface, good congregation and a splendid pastor, Rev. Fosher. Its building stands on the corner of Jordan and Eleventh streets, where over fifty years ago we went "sparking" for one night only she intimated that the "other fellow" would occupy the remainder of the time.
The Catholic Church
The Catholic Church was slow to get a foothold in Mount Vernon and not until Mrs. Thomas S. Casey came from Springfield and joined with Mr. Maloney and others, was there any attempt to build a church. The present building and parsonage sprung into being through their efforts. In 1872, Bishop Baltes, and vice-general Jansen, together with M. Wood, were appointed trustees of "St. Philip Neri's Roman Catholic church at Mount Vernon" But not until 1880 did they hold services in their church, near the Supreme Court house. The house cost about two thousand dollars and many outside citizens contributed to its erection. Several "Fathers" whose names we have not, have had charge of the congregation, and regular services are held there as a rule.
Bishop Seymour, of Springfield, spent his last days hunting the "scattered sheep" in Southern Illinois. Among other places he came to Mount Vernon and organized a church in 1878, with the assistance of W. H. Preston, William Pilcher, H. H. Simmons, T. T. Wilson and others, and services were held in various places until finally the original Methodist church building was secured. After Mr. Moody, came Rev. I. N. Irvine, a man full of zeal and energy, serving at Mount Vernon and McLeansboro. Following Mr. Irvine, came Rev. E. B. Hoyt, whose monument stands in Oakwood cemetery. Since the "old Church" has been absorbed by the lumber yard, the congregation has been worshipping in the old Presbyterian church. But they are building a nice church on Eleventh street (the very spot where the writer, fifty years ago, was wedded to Miss Milly Watson). The Episcopal congregation is not very large, but is composed of some of our very best people and is doing good. The rector, Rev. Purse, has charge of the McLeansboro congregation also.
East Mount Vernon for several years had a church building that was occupied by all comers, especially by the Southern Methodist and the Dunkards. After it disapearred, the Epworth Methodist building sprung up to fill the "long felt want" of East Mount Vernon, The Epworth Methodist Episcopal church.
Camp Ground Church
A log house at first and camp meetings used to be held close by. Then a better house, and also another later. It took nearly all the people in the eastern part of the township for many years. The Old Camp Ground has been a noted preaching place for lo, these many years, and ministers of all creeds have labored there for the upbuilding of the Lord's work saying very little about their creeds.
Salem Baptist Church
Salem Baptist church in the Harlow settlement, six miles northeast of town, was organized by James Keele, Bird Warren, R. A. Grant, Robert Harlow and others, in 1856, and for years services were held in the Seven Mile school-house. A few years ago a fine large church house was erected, which is often filled with devout worshippers, mostly of the Baptist faith and order. One of the best county Sunday school conventions we ever attended was held in this house.
Pleasant Grove Church
Pleasant Grove, the home of "Uncle Tommy" Casey, was another church, popular with our Mount Vernon people and many "big preachers" have held forth there. In the "city of the dead" there sleeps the dust of most of the old Maxeys, Caseys, Johnsons, Bullocks, and others who were prominent in their day.
[Source: The History of Jefferson County, Pgs 144 - 51, 1909 By: John A. Wall - Sub. by Cindy Ford]
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