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Illinois Genealogy Trails

 Jefferson County Illinois
Mt. Zion Church History


Blissville Township

Submitted By: Abby Newell

We wish to dedicate this book to the memory of Miss Viola Wilson and other saints of God who have gone on before and to Kenneth E. Price, whose idea this was.

The Lord willing, we are going to record a short history of Mt. Zion Church. Our written records only go back to the year of 1906 and before that some of this will be hearsay and related to us by some of the older folks still living.During the months that we have been gathering information, three of these older folks have passed on. This means we are fast losing information and we wish someone would have started this history fifty years ago and our prayers are that in the future someone will add to this attempt. Material gathered and written for publication, April 1966, by Mrs. Vivian Wilson and Mrs. Arvena Braswell.

State of Illinois, Jefferson County
This deed made and entered into this the 6th day of February, 1854, between Samuel K. Allen and Juliann T. Allen, his wife, as parties of the first part and Jacob Freeman, Rueben Wheeles, Samuel K. Allen,Abram Severs, Uriah Wheeles, Richard G. Eubanks and Amlinas N. Smith, Trustees of the Mt. Zion Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church of the first part for and in consideration of the sum of fifty dollars to them in hand the receipt is hereby acknowledged do hereby grant, bargain, sell and convey and confirm unto the said parties of the second part and to their securities in office forever a certain lot or parcel of land situate in the county of Jefferson, and State of Illinois bounded as follows to unit commencing eleven rods North of the Southwest corner of the northwest fourth of northwest fourth of section No. five, Township 3, South Range one east and running thence east twenty rods thence North thirty four rods thence west 24 rods thence south thirty four rods to the place of beginning, containing five acres more or less to have and to hold together with all and singular the appurtenances thereof for the use and purposes hereinafter stated unto the said parties of the second part and their successors in office forever and the said parties of the first part do hereby covenant to and with the said parties of the second part, that they will forever warrant and defend the title to said lot or parcel of land against all lawful claims whatsoever, the said lot or parcel of land is to be held for the use of the members of the Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church incorporated by the man aforesaid with all the buildings or appurtenances which may be placed thereon, to be used and occupied as is nor agreed on and declared by the members of said Society to constitute a part of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States and be subject to the use and government of said Church in accordance with the discipline thereof and the government and declaration above specified in witness whereof the aforesaid Grantors as parties of the first part have hereunto set their hands and seals this day and year first above written.
Presence of Napoleon Bolling
Samuel K. Allen (seal)
Juliann T. Allen (seal)
State of Illinois, Jefferson County
I, Napoleon Bolling, a Justice of the Peace in said county do certify that Samuel K. Allen and Juliann T. Allen,his wife, whose signature appears to the foregoing deed as grantors thereof are personally known to me to be the same persons who subscribed and executed the Same did acknowledge the same to be their free act and deed for the uses and purposes therein named and the said Juliann T. Allen being by me made acquainted with the contents of said deed and examined separate and apart from her said husband did acknowledge that she had executed the same and relinquished her right of Dower to thesaid premises therein conveyed freely and voluntarily ad without compulsion of her said husband.Given under my hand and seal this the 6th day of February A.D. 1854.
Filed for record March 2nd, 1854
Napoleon Bolling (JP)
T. B. Tanner, Clerk

We began this history with the first deed recorded at the Mt. Vernon Courthouse and is copied word for word from the deed record book “F” page 572. Little is known now about Samuel (King) K. Allen and his family except that he was a wealthy landowner and the fifty dollar consideration to make the deed legal was not actually paid but was donated to the first church.This first church was Methodist, incorporated and covenanted to forever warrant and defend the title to the parcel of land against all lawful claims. It is believed that prior to 1854 on this same spot, brush arbor meetings were held and the road in front of the church was the main road from Ashley to Mt. Vernon called old “state” road and this followed the old Indian Trail. Indians passing through on this same trail made their campsitesby the creek and tethered their horses on the hills nearthe church site. Old Folks have handed this story down through the years.
Sometime after the establishment of the first church, Baptist families moved into the community and the Methodists graciously allowed them to worship here on the Sundays that they didn’t have services. It came to pass that Baptist members increased and Methodist membership decreased until prior to 1906 the Methodists decided to deed half interest to the Baptists.Following is that grant in full as is found also recorded in courthouse at Mt. Vernon, record book 68,page 537.

1906 GRANT
The Grantors, Edward Brady, James A. Wilson, Dean Durham, William A. Walker, trustees of the Mt. Zion Society of the Methodist Episcopal church in the County of Jefferson in the State of Illinois for in the consideration of one dollar in hand paid convey and warrants the undivided half interest to James A. Riddle, Nicholas Martel, James A. Wilson, trustees of the Mt. Zion Free Baptists and their successors in office in County of Jefferson, State of Illinois the following real estate to wit: The part of the N.W. part, Section 5, town 3 South, range1 East of the 3rd principal meridian, commencing 11 rods north of the S.W. corner of the N.W. corner NW1/4 of the NW1/4 Section 3, range 1 east of the 3rd principal meridian thence east 7 rods, north 19 rods to the place of beginning containing 133 square rods, the above parcel of land is conveyed in trust for the purpose of rebuilding the churchon said grounds situated in the county of Jefferson in the State of Illinois hereby releasing and waiving all rights under and by virtue of the homestead laws of this state. It is hereby distinctly agreed and understood that the church now standing on said premises shall be rebuilt of the date one year from the date hereof, otherwise the conveyance to be void; dated the 5th day of November AD 1906.
The church was finished in April 1907).
Signers: Edward Brady, Dean Durham,
James A. Wilson and William A. Walker

The trustees of the Methodist and the Free Baptist Union Church at Mt. Zion met recently and organized as follows: William Walker, president, Jas A. Wilson, treasurer, and Nicholas Martel, secretary. The trustees assumed the debt on the church and discharged the building committee and setting the hour for the dedication. The Secretary read the presentation of the church to the public, which was as follows: “We present unto you this building to be dedicated as a union church between the Methodist and Free Baptists for the service and worship of the Almighty God.”
The church was dedicated at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 7, 1907, in the presence of a large congregation. Reverend Herrin, Methodist, and the Reverends Fox and Carter, Free Baptist, performed the dedicatory ceremonies. A collection was taken which amounted to more than enough to pay the debt on the church. The surplus will be used for church expenses.

It is not known how soon after 1854, that the first building was erected, but older folks told us from memory that it was a log building and was only in use a few years when it was destroyed by fire. The nest building which stood until 1906 was nearly as large as our present building and had two doors in the front(south end), one on either side and one lady, Mrs. Alta Riddle, can remember how it was the custom for all ladies to enter the church through the right or east door and all gentlemen enter through the left or west door and be seated in pews in the same manner. Young people usually sat in the center row of pews. Mr. Rutherford Shurtz can remember how in the last few years the roof had to be further supported by two stay rods because it was definitely sagging, also there were two chimneys, one on either side.
Sometime before 1906, it became evident that a new church was needed and Methodists and Baptists worked together on the project starting with the deed of November 1906 of this article. You’ll notice in the deed that a new church was to be built or rebuilt within the year. Here we can begin to give you actual notations from the first and oldest record book the church has today. If there were older record books, they have been lost somehow. This particular record book is a brown back notebook yellow with age and on the front is printed these words:
“Property of Mt. Zion Society of Christian Endeavor”.
Officers; Pres. J.A. Wilson, Vice Pres. Arthur Smith, Rec. Sec. Wm. Green, Cor. F.A. Smith, Jr., Treas. Enoch Riddle. Inside on the first page are listed these committees; Lookout -Grace Smith, Enoch Riddle, Omar Riddle, Prayer Meeting - F. A. Smith, Jr, F. E. Tucker; Social - N. Martel, at Mt. Zion Church Sunday, April the 1st, 1906. Church in very bad order, No Sunday School, Preaching or Prayer meeting being held. Too Bad! Too Bad! Bad results will follow. Wake up! Wake up! To the sense of your duty one and all! Then another page has this building committee; G. W. Lewis, W. B. Elliston, Manford Green, James Wilson, Edward Brady, dated October 6, 1906, and thus started the plans for the new building. Following pages record donations turned in by several workers and they list well known names from Ashley, Woodlawn, Waltonville and Mt. Vernon as donors. The first bill paid and recorded was for lumber December 6, 1906. The first carpenter bill was paid on December 19, 1906 to John Rutkowske who seemed to be head carpenter; but there were others who were paid for carpenter work too. The last bill paid was sixty dollars to Frank Roach for painting the church. Now the new church was finished on time. It is our present building and has not changed in outward appearance except that the two side chimneys have disappeared for one large one at the north end and a full basement was made underneath. Also an outside basement entrance and an east door and concrete porch have been added in the last few years. We are told that while the church was being constructed a large bell was order and delivered in the churchyard. It was great fun for the young folks to go for a Sunday afternoon walk that inevitably led by the church to see and tap the large bell. This bell has tolled the age of several saints of Mt. Zion as they were carried from their homes to their final resting place in the adjoining cemetery. When the basement was constructed in 1955, workmen noticed that there is a large hand-hewn timber full length of the church and it was a shame to hide it with the new basement ceiling.

We wish we could furnish a good map here of the churchyard and cemetery. In the original grant it is described as five acres, more or less. The north boundary is several yards north of the creek but after a few years, it was decided that since the creek bottom was not suitable for grave sites, that the church would allow the adjoining landowner to build his pasture fence south of the creek and thereby keep down brush and weeds. Some of the oldest graves are situated in the north end of the cemetery. We are told that the first person buried there was a Mrs. Patterson, grandmother of Elisabeth Hunter and great-grandmother of Logan Carter. The grave is in the center of the north side and is marked by a cedar tree at the head. This method of marking graves was common and those more fortunate used granite slabs two or three inches thick, eighteen inches wide, and three or four feet high stuck down into the soil a foot or more like a fence post. Years of freezing and thawing, wind and rain loosened them and when stray cattle grazed and men volunteered with hand scythes and horse drawn mowers to clean, stones toppled and broke. Now, we are sorry to say you will find some of these stones with the chiseled dates and names neatly piled around a large cedar tree because no one know where they belong. A story handed down tells how when the cemetery was new, a group of people traveling westward to establish a Catholic mission camped nearby because some of their members became ill with something like smallpox. When two nuns died, the priest asked permission to bury them here (supposedly in the northeast corner) and the rest then went of their way.
By 1952 the cemetery was so filled, that an adjoining landowner on the east side, Fred Schlueter, deeded additional land to the cemetery. This already has several graves in it. Our cemetery is taken care of by a board of three directors and a secretary-treasurer. A power mower is maintained and someone hired to mow it four or more times a year. Each spring notices are sent to all relatives to remind them that donations are needed for the upkeep and care. Even the fence around it comes to quite a bit. Each years it gets harder and costlier to take care of the cemetery but so far the Lord has provided enough.
We would like to take you on a tour through the cemetery and list the names as we walk; Lacey, Creel, McCulli, Land, Carter, Lawhorn, Nadolski, Vincenz, Hunter, Riddle, Elliston, Lee, Jones, McNail, Bullock, Martel, Wilson, Panzier, Holcomb, Quinn, Smith, Curtis, Offill, Stephenson, Severs, Morrow, Childers, Stearns, Green, Shurtz, Clark, Woodworth, Lewis, Hogshead, Gilbert, Howe, Knox, Shaffer, Fairchild, Oliver, Braswell, Berry, Gray, Reed, Baldridge, Herrin, Milam, Ferguson, and Diedrich, the newest one. Many graves were never permanently marked and one of those lots belong to a well respected Negro family by the name of Brock. They lived in the neighborhood and attended church here. Most of the people buried here were members of the Mt. Zion community. Many are related to one another and have lived most of their lives in this community and have attended the Mt. Zion church.
The present cemetery Association directors are George McNail, president, Earl Riddle and Edward Braswell.Arvena Braswell is secretary-treasurer. We want to give recognition to Mr. Fred Schlueter and thank him and is wife for the faithful service to this cause. Mr. & Mrs. Schlueter, twice donated land and Mr. Schlueter served as president until 1964. Mrs. Schlueter also served as secretary-treasurer. Our thanks to past secretaries and directors, also.

We are looking forward to writing about ourancestors and the part they took in the early churchof Mt. Zion but soon learned that we had more information than we could put into writing. We will mention why some of these families came here to settle, praying that no one will feel slighted if their family name is not mentioned. The Jones and the Schurtzed came over from Ohio to homestead better land and to bring their children up good Methodists. These children married into families Lewis, Brady, and Carter. The Riddles and the Wilsons came up from Tennessee in Civil War time because they did not believe in slavery and wanted to fight along with the north. Their children married into families by the names; Martel, Braswell, McNail and Green. Other family names that have been in the Mt. Zion neighborhood a long, long time are Creel, Johnson, and Baldridge.
This short history was written to commemorate the establishment of Mt. Zion church one hundred and twelve years ago. We didn’t write these words to give any man or men glory but to give God the Glory. Read Cor. 10, 31.
The church doors are open every Sunday at 9:30 AM. Come worship with us. Our pastor is Kenneth E. Price. Church officers are as follows: Deacons, Fred Schultz and George McNail. Deaconess, Mae Schlueter. Trustees, George McNail, Fred Schultz and Edward Braswell. Church Clerk, Arvena Braswell. Treasurer, Vivian Wilson. Sunday School Superintendent, Edward Braswell. Teachers, Dollie Wilson, Mae McNail and Arvena Braswell.

In our search for material we visited homes of older members of Mt. Zion and one home was that of Mr. & Mrs. Fred Schlueter and her sister, Edna Riddle, of Nashville, Illinois. In this home we found scrapbooks filled with clippings carefully kept by these two ladies and started by their mother, Mrs. Lily (Brady) Riddle. We would like to pass a few on to you here and you can see how they are related to events previously mentioned: Item 1: Taken from the Ashley Gazette; The trustees of the Methodist and Free Baptist Union church at Mt. Zion met recently and organized as follows: William Walker, president, James A. Wilson, treas, N. Martel, secretary. The trustees assumed the debt on the church and discharged the building committee, setting the hour for dedication. The secretary read the presentation of the church to the public, which was as follows: “We present unto you this building, to be dedicated as a union church between the Methodist and Free Baptists for the service and worship of Almighty God.” The church was dedicated at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 2, 1907, in the presence of a large congregation. Rev. Herrin, Methodist and Revs. Fox & Carter, Free Baptists, performed the dedicatory ceremonies. A collection was taken up, which amounted to more than enough to pay the debt on the church. The surplus used for church expenses.
Item 2: Taken from the Ashley Gazette: Mrs. Lily M. Johnson and children, Rev. & Mrs. E. B. Schupp and Mrs. Maggie Hunter, all of St. Louis, attended the dedication of Mt. Zion Church Sunday. The rafters on the new church were all cut from timber taken from the same forty acres of land from which the timber for the old building were taken forty-two years ago. (Footnote: This item bears out the fact that there could have been an early church of logs, because forty-two subtracted from 1907 would leave 1865 which is eleven years later than first land grant of 1854.)
Item 3: Taken from Ashley Gazette: The marriage of Edward Schupp and Miss Martha Hunter occurred in Mt. Zion church Sunday, June 12, 1898. Miss Beulah Smith was bridesmaid and Frank A. Smith was groomsman. Rev. E. E. Evans performed the ceremony. The correspondent said that this was the first wedding that had taken place in the Mt. Zion church for over thirty years. Only three weddings had been performed there. The others were the marriages of Caleb Gray to Miss Tempa Atkins and Joseph Wheeles to Miss Sarah Lane.
Item 4: Taken from personal records of Mrs. Edna Riddle; Methodist minister Rev. J. C. Kinison and Baptist minister Rev. Riley Fox held a revival the last week of 1900 and the first week of 1901. A number of persons were converted at this revival, four of whom were, Alta Martel (Riddle), Edna Johnson (Riddle), Myrtle Neiderhofer (Johnson), and Inez Gilbert (Martin). Those that joined the Methodist were sprinkled at that time but the Baptists waited later in the spring when the weather was warmer to be baptized.

Mt. Zion has a long list of Pastors since 1906. Here are the names of most of them.
Rev. Matthew Fox … 1906 - 1909
Rev. Robert Smith… 1909 - 1914
Rev. George Brannum 1914 -
Rev. L. C. Chase… 1914 -
Rev. Frank Chapman… 1915 - 1924
Rev. Guy Chapman… 1924 - 1928
Rev. Philip Wheatly… 1928 - 1930
Rev. Frank Chapman… 1930 -
Rev. A. E. Buntin… 1931 - 1932
Rev. M. L. Baker… 1932 - 1933
Rev. Guy Chapman… 1933 - 1934
Rev. M. L. Baker… 1934 - 1937
Rev. Philip Wheatly… 1937 - 1938
NONE… 1938 - 1945
Rev. L. D. Gibson… 1945 - 1948
Rev. Philip Wheatly… 1948 - 1952
Rev. Louis Hanna… 1952 - 1954
Rev. Loren Ramsey… 1954 - 1956
Rev. Glendall Davis… 1956 - 1959
Rev. Elmer Harris… 1959 - 1962
Rev. Charles Cralley… 1962 - 1963
Rev. Elmer Harris… 1963 -
Rev. Kenneth E. Price… 1964 - Present
The following was hand written in:
Rev. Loren Ramsey… Aug. 1966 - Aug. 1969
Rev. James Hicks… Aug. 1969 - Feb. 1970
Rev. Raymond Capps… Feb. 1970 - Sept. 1970
Rev. Arthur Kern… Sept. 1970 - June 1982
Rev. Louie Hanna… June 1982 -

This distinguished list of captains of the Lord’s army marched through sixty years and there might have been more had it not been for the seven dark years from 1938 to 1945, when the church had no pastor at all. During this period there was Sunday school part time and visiting ministers. We can recall that this was after the great depression and money was still scarce, although Rev. Philip Wheatly still came one Sunday a month until 1938. When he left, he promised to remember the church in prayer always and then years later he returned to pastor the church, which was struggling to its feet and to, grow again. Through the years Mt. Zion had many ice-cream suppers to help pay the pastors and for the upkeep of the church. But after the objections of several members they discontinued the suppers and depended upon tithes and offerings alone to support the church. Even though everything was donated, the ice-cream suppers were more social events than profitable ones. In the above list you will notice some blank spaces showing that the pastor did not finish the year out or died while serving, as was the case with Rev. Frank Chapman.
It is here we wish to give tribute to Miss Viola Wilson, for her untiring efforts in restoring the church to good running order. She served nearly every office in the church besides holding three or more at one time in order to help build a congregation again. It was she who contacted all the members and asked them to return to the church. You might say she gave all of herself to the Lord and to the rebuilding of Mt. Zion church. When the congregation had been built up again, we lost her to Leukemia. Not only her family, but the whole neighborhood mourned her passing. We had truly lost someone, much loved by our church. She was a wonderful Christian woman and an inspiration to many. She wouldn’t like this, she would say “Give God the Glory,” and we do, for someone as dedicated to the service of the Master as she was.
Mt. Zion was a charter member of the Lebanon Quarterly meeting and he first meeting was held at the Elkhorn church February 11, 1897. At the time Rev. R. Fox was pastor of the church. For several years they were a part of the Judson Association but during the time the church had no pastor they let their dues lapse and hence-forth have never rejoined any association, but are still members of the Lebanon quarterly meeting. Some churches have come and gone but Mt. Zion, White Swan, and Tamaroa are still functioning Churches in the Lebanon Quarterly meeting today. It convenes the last Friday and all day Saturday in any month that has five Sundays, which occurs about every three months.
Mt. Zion and other church agreed as Free Baptist to unite with the Northern Baptist, now known as the American Baptists May 8, 1914.


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