The settlement of Mercer County, Illinois , is as important in a sense as the settlement of Plymouth. We meet today in an important historical gathering-to celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of organized Presbyterianism in this part of the State of Illinois . If any church anywhere might appreciate such an historical event then this church should. Presbyterian church history in Illinois came in from Kentucky and moved northward. In 1820 a church was organized at Jacksonville, at Rushville a few years later, at Monmouth in September, 1837, and at Popes River, October 14, 1837. Later in the year churches were organized at Edgington and lower Rock Island. But Popes River was organized before any church either to the north or west. October 14, 1837, Popes River Church was the farthest point organized Presbyterianism had reached in the United States. We hardly realize that at that time Michigan, Iowa, and Wisconsin were territories. Michigan became a state in 1838, Iowa in 1846 and Wisconsin in 1848. The Blackhawk War was fought in 1832. Friendly and straggling Indians were still in the country. It was the day of log cabins and rail fences. The improvements were first made along the streams and timber. It was thought then the open prairies never would be settled.
The charter members of Popes River Church were thirteen. There were received by letter:
Thomas Candor and Margaret, his wife, John Black and Nancy, his wife, Ephraim Gilmore, John Long and Martha Long, William I. Nevius and Mary Ann, his wife; by profession of faith, Mrs. Julian Gilmore and Miss Nancy Nevius.
The preaching services of the church were held around the neighborhood, but generally at Mr. Candor's until 1849 when the church building was finished in section 7 of Ohio Grove Township. The last records in the old minute book of Popes River Church were March 12 and 13, 1869, the very days that the Center Church was being organized in the southeast corner of Abington Township. The last members of Popes River Church were then and there transferred to become the charter members of Center Church. And of the thirty-five that constituted the church, sixteen were from Popes River. It was the same stream flowing on under a new name. The period of time from October 14, 1837, to March 12, 1869, is 31 years, 4 months, and 28 days, and from the later date to the present is 43 years, 10 months, making the age of the church to date 75 years, 2 months and 28 days of consecutive history associated with this continuous organized work in three places--two adjacent to and one in Seaton. During the period embraced by the Popes River Church there were received by letter one hundred and fifteen and by profession of faith eighty-eight-two hundred three in all. The first elders were Thomas Candor and Ephriam Gilmore. Mr. E. Gilmore was clerk of the Session for seventeen years, until the Millersburg church was organized.
The names of those dismissed April 16, 1854, to form the Millersburg church were as follows:
E. Gilmore (an elder), Julian Gilmore, Jno. M. Gilmore, Margaret S. Gilmore, Ann Janet Taylor, Henry Lee, Martha Lee, Mary Marsh, Edward Brady, Mary Sherer, John Brady, Eliza Brady, Catherine Gilmore, Tabitha M. Bay, John T. McGinnis, Betsy King, Mary E. Murphy, Sarah E. Lloyd, Sarah Clark, Elizabeth Ann Edgar, Elizabeth Davis, Mary M. Steele, John Kiddoo, Eliza Kiddoo, Graham Lee, Mary H. Lee, David Morrow, Elizabeth Morrow, Julia Riggs, Margaret A. McGinnis, Joseph G. Gilmore, Aletta Ann Gilmore, Samuel Guffy, Mary Guffy, H. W. Thornton, E. F. Thornton, Rachel T. Willits, Hannah J. Reed.
These thirty-eight persons, many of them who had united on profession of faith, going out at one time must have caused the workers remaining to feel the burdens would be much heavier to carry. November 8, 1856, certain members were released to help organize the church at Aledo:
W. W. McCandless (an elder), James Officer, Mary Jane Officer, Jacob Vanbuskirk, Mary Ann Vanbuskirk, Martha Detwiler, David Brown, John McKee, Sarah Ann McCandless. March 8, 1858, some more members were released to Aledo: Thomas Candor (an elder), Mary Candor, Arabelle Thompson, M. P. Marsh, Eliza Marsh, Phoebe Gregory. Here were fifteen, all told, released to Aledo. May 2, 1857, a group of fourteen members were released to help form the church of Keithsburg: I. N. Anderson, Anna Anderson, Mary Frazier, Eliza Neely,.H. L. Senter, Nancy W. Prick, Catharine Cabeen, Anna M. Fleming, Paul Sheriff, Mary Sheriff, Sarah Mount, Margaret Brisbane, Austin Hale, Mary E. Hale.
The whole membership released to help form these three churches was sixty-seven. The last record in the book is March 12, 1869, when fifteen members were released to enter the new organization known as Center Church, viz:
Samuel Crisswell, Sarah Crisswell, Lewis Wright, Rebecca Wright, Samuel Pollock, Marg. A. Pollock, Matthew Taylor, Mary E. Hale, Mary Holmes, Catharine J. Cabeen, Margaret Cameron, Sarah Cameron, Mary A. Cabeen, Jane G. Cabeen, Elizabeth P. Cabeen. This exhausted the Popes River Church and its life and sphere of work then was merged into the Center Church, now the prosperous church of Seaton.
The list of ministers is as follows:
John Montgomery, Ithamer Pillsbury, Thomas S. Vail, L. B. Crittenden, S. B. Smith, William Townsley, E. K. Lynn, I. H. Nevius, L. G. Bell. The list of elders: Thomas Candor, Ephraim Gilmore, John W. Nevius, David R. Harris, James Kiddoo, William W. McCandless, James McPherrin, Austin Hale, Samuel Pollock.
These pioneers, through their wisdom and fidelity, organized the new settlers of Mercer County into this parent church, and then when geographical points began to be centers, set them off to become centers themselves. The one thing that will impress anyone in reading over the minutes of Popes River Church is the remarkable number received on profession of faith and the remarkable history of many of these. Thomas Candor and Robert, his brother, made the trip from Pennsylvania to Mercer County horseback in 1836. Thomas Candor entered two quarters in Ohio Grove Township-northwest quarter of section 6 and southwest quarter of section 7. Then selling their horses they returned to Pennsylvania by river. After selling his tannery, Mr. Candor made ready to move west. With his wife and family of five children he journeyed westward overland in the fall of 1837, reaching Mercer County sometime before the organization of Popes River Church. His wife's maiden name was Margaret Montgomery. She was one of nine brothers and sisters, the children of John Montgomery, Sr., of Daqville, Pa. Her brother, Daniel, settled near Edgington about 1836, and became an elder of that church when it was organized in November, 1837. Her brother, John, was a minister who had been laboring at Paris, Ill., in the Presbytery of Palestine in 1835. He was the first Presbyterian minister to locate in Mercer County and settled at Farlow's Grove in 1837. He preached statedly for the Farlow's Grove Church and Popes River Church until his death, October 6, 1843. Mrs. Hopkins Boone, of Farlow's Grove, was also a sister.
The Boones came to Illinois in 1835 and stopped at Paris where Rev. John Montgomery was preaching, and Mrs. Boone said to her brother, "Why don't you come and preach for us." He replied, "I would as soon preach for you as anybody." And so in 1837 we find the families of brother and sister side by side at Farlow's Grove. Another sister of Mrs. Candor was Mrs. William Sheriff. Both Mr. and Mrs. William Sheriff were charter members of the Popes River Church. So of the Montgomery family two brothers and three sisters settled near together and took active part in founding religious privileges in Mercer County. The death of Mrs. Canidor September 30, 1841, was a great blow to the loving fellowship of these early settlers. Her grave beside the church became the dedication of the old cemetery. In 1843 the family of Rev. John Montgomery was stricken with five deaths. First, Mrs. Montgomery died in the spring of 1843. In the summer the twins died which she had left. A little later the niece, who had come to nurse the sick in this home, died. And in October, Rev. John Montgomery died. In the minutes of the Popes River Church is this record: "Departed this life on the 6th day of October, A.D. 1843, at his residence in Farlow's Grove, Mercer County, Illinois , the Rev. John Montgomery, stated supply for this congregation." The Montgomery family of two brothers and three sisters afforded four ruling elders and one minister. One interesting feature of the Popes River Church is the number which united on profession of faith. Another feature is the number of persons out of the Montgomery family and of the church that entered into organized church work.
Daniel Montgomery became an elder of the Edgington Church and his three sons, Robert, Daniel and John, also became elders. Hopkins Boone became an elder of the Farlow's Grove Church and the daughter's husband, John Geddes, also became an elder. Of Thos. Candor's family, Mr. Candor as an elder for many years, his first son, John, studied for the ministry, graduating from Princeton College, and while taking the course at Princeton Theological Seminary died in his.senior year at the age of twenty-four and was buried at Danville, Pa. The daughter, Mary, became the wife of Graham Lee, prominent in the eldership and prominent in positions of trust in the state at large. The sons, Daniel M. and Robert, both became elders of churches in the county. Of the third generation, Elisha, son of Graham and Mary Candor Lee, is a present elder of the Hamlet Church. Of Robert's family, Robert, himself, was an elder; the son, John, was an elder; Thomas is a preacher and missionary in the United States of Columbia. He is considered one of the gifted and successful South American missionaries. The third son, Ward L., is one of the present elders of Center Church, as his father was of the old Center Church before its removal to Seaton, and as his grandfather was of the antecedent church of Popes River. Surely the mark that this family has made on the church history of Mercer County is not to be passed idly by.
Aside from the Popes River Church being a hive from which went colonies to form the charter members of Millersburg, Keithsburg, Aledo and Center churches, these members dismissed became elders or the parents or elders and ministers still in church work. Aside from elders and ministers already named, Ephraim Gilmore acted as an elder for many years after leaving Popes River Church, and his son,, John, was an elder at Garnet, Kan. John M. Gilmore and wife, received on profession of faith at Popes River Church, were of the charter members of Millersburg Church and Mr. Gilmore for many years was an elder. The two sons, George and Taylor, enlisted in the Civil War. The son, George, was in the midst of his preparation for the gospel ministry but gave his life for his country and his body sleeps 'neath southern sod. The son, J. Taylor, returned home at the close of the war and upon the death of his father became an elder of the Millersburg Church. Henry Lee and wife, dismissed to the Millersburg Church, brought up a large family of church workers. Henry Lee, himself, was an elder for many years and upon his death his son, Scoville Lee, succeeded and is an elder today. The daughter, Ruth, married Mr. Ed Partridge, who for several years before his removal to Whittier, California, was an elder of the Millersburg Church, and is an elder today in California. Edward Brady and John T. McGinnis, dismissed to the Millersburg Church, later became elders of the Peniel Church, and Charles McGinnis, a son, is at present pastor of Whitehall Presbyterian Church, near Albany, N. Y. Of my father's relation to the Popes River Church, I wish to speak. My mother, Elizabeth Prick Norbury, was baptized in the Dutch Reformed Church in Philadelphia. As a girl of sixteen she united on profession of faith with the Danville, Pa., Presbyterian Church, the same church out of which the Montgomerys and Candors came. Upon her marriage in 1839 and removal to Mercer County, she handed in her church letter to the Popes River Church in June. My father, H. W. Thornton, united on profession of faith February 26, 1845. They were dismissed with the group of thirty-eight to form the charter members of the Millersburg Church April 16, 1854. The oldest daughter, Martha, became the wife of Rev. J. S. Lutz, who was pastor of the Center Church when it was organized. They are now living in Rock Island County where for thirty-six years they have worked in the neighborhood Presbyterian church. The son, Norbury W. Thornton, became a minister, and the son, George, is at present an elder of the Millersburg Church.
One of the members dismissed to Millersburg among the charter members was Rachel Thornton, sister of H. W. Thornton. She united with the Popes River Church on profession of faith. She became the wife of Chas. Willits and later removed to Mt. Pleasant, Ia. There a large family grew up in the M. E. church. Mr. Willits' second wife was Miss Ellen Crosier, a devout member of the Methodist church, by whom there were two sons, John and Wilmot. Thornton Willits, a son, is a wealthy land owner and a prominent director of Iowa Wesleyan University, Mt. Pleasant, Ia. Another son, Rev. John Willits, D.D., of Battle Creek, Mich., is pastor of a large M. E. church. Another person I want to name of the charter members of Popes River Church was Martha Long. She became the wife of Erastus Dennison and resided in Millersburg in the '30's. Upon her marriage to Samuel Sheriff she took her letter to the M. E. Church of New Boston. Thence they removed to Geneseo and both lived until a few years ago, widely known, highly esteemed and much beloved-saints they were in the kingdom of God, members through a long life of the Methodist Episcopal church.
One of the members received on profession of faith of Popes River was Dr. J. A. Maury. He and his wife were dismissed to Oquawka in 1848 and later to. the Aledo church. The daughter, Anna, now Mrs. Win. Bunting, of David City, Neb., is one of the noted women of Nebraska in church,'temperance and federated club work. Of the members dismissed from Popes River Church to organize the Aledo church November 8, 1856, the name of Mrs. Martha Detwiler appears. The sons of Mrs. Detwiler are Rev. Geo. Detwiler, pastor of the First M.E. Church of Nashville, Tenn., Chas. W. Detwiler, an elder of the Presbyterian Church, Aledo, today, and Lewis C. Detwiler, the useful Sunday school superintendent of the same church. These last named brothers are prominent in the lay work of the county, and prominent in educational and business interests of Aledo. I have hesitated somewhat in the matter of starting on the individual names, lest not being acquainted with the families of many, I might leave out some as important as others I have named.
Of those dismissed to the Keithsburg Church in 1857, the Sheriffs and Pricks were prominent and their children and grandchildren are now active church workers in Monmouth, Seaton and Keithsburg. Of those dismissed from Popes River Church to Center when it was organized was the elder, Samuel Pollock, who was an elder of Center Church for over twenty-six years, and his son, J. K. Pollock, is at present one of the elders. All the list of prominent church and business men and women who are the descendants of the original organized church of Popes River owe in a great measure their sanctified parentage to the hallowed influences of the Candor Church. Their ancestry were a converted group. As they became members and officers of other Mercer County churches, they carried with them the principles and beliefs of genuine Christianity.
It is not prejudice that causes me to rate so highly the place that the Popes River Church occupies in the history of Christianity in Mercer County-in this part of the world. And the saying goes that no history of anything can be written until after one hundred years. Think for a moment what would have been the consequences had Popes River Church never been. And there are plenty of counties in Illinois where early settlers were not brave and consecrated to do as the Mercer County pioneers did. It may have been partly due to the fact that an influential leader rose up to whom the settlers looked and responded. So the tribute which may be pronounced is that Mr. Thomas Candor and his home were the center of this whole work. To say this is not saying less than the truth. I have said it before and I repeat it today that if there were one individual in Mercer County to whose memory a marble shaft was to be erected as a monument to the chief pioneer in the planting of the Christian church in these parts, the name of the individual is Thomas Candor, and as well the name of Mrs. Margaret Montgomery Candor, his beloved wife. Their spiritual children and grandchildren are scattered all over these Illinois communities, and they are still true to their example. And they are workers today as he was in his day. And these workers today are making their impress on this generation which must bear fruit in another generation. Such characters, following quietly and faithfully after our great Redeemer, are building better than they know. No other life can be more important, and no other work shall be more abiding.
Mr. F. M. Roth, Clerk of the Session, spoke from notes regarding the history of the church from the reorganization as the Center Church to the present time. Center Church was organized Friday, March 12, 1869, and the building was at first located in the southeast corner of Abington Township. The Presbyterial Committee for Organization were:
Rev. H. Hanson, Rev. J. M. Jamieson, D.D., Rev. J. H. Moore, and Elders R. W. Porter and Samuel Pollock-. The following constituted the charter members: From Popes River-Samuel Pollock and Mrs. Mary Pollock, Samuel Crisswell and Mrs. Sarah Crisswell, Matthew Taylor, Lewis Wright, Mrs. Rebecca Wright, Mrs. Mary Hale, Mrs. Mary Holmes, Mrs. Catharine E. Cabeen, Mrs. Margaret Cameron. From Presbyterian Church of North Henderson-H. A. Henry, Mrs. Catharine Henry, Mrs. Eliza Lawrenson, Jas. Kellogg, Mrs. Martha Kellogg, Mrs. Jane Pepper, Mrs. Elizabeth Lafferty. From the Presbyterian Church of Aledo-Robert Candor, Mrs. Rebecca Candor, John Candor, Miss Mattie E. Jamieson. Received on profession of faith-Jno. Bentz, Mrs. Jemima Bentz, John R. J. Howe, twenty-five members in all. On the following Sabbath the following members were received:
From Popes River-Mrs. Elizabeth P. Cabeen, Mrs. Jane Cabeen, Mrs. Sarah Cabeen, Mrs. Sarah Cameron, Austin Hale, an elder. Received on profession of faith-James A. Kellogg, Miss Mary M. Kellogg, Walter H. Howe, Miss Mary Holmes, Wm. Penn Criswell, making thirty-five in all. The whole list of the ministers of the Center Church is as follows: Rev. J. S. Lutz, 7 years, 6 months. Rev. J. P. Roth, 7 years 10 months. Rev. J. H. Aughey, 1 year, 2 months. Rev. H. P. Detherage, 8 years, 4 months. Rev. C. M. Robb, 11 years, 2% months. Rev. Philip Palmer, 4 years, 6 months. Rev. M. G. Hanna, present pastor.
The list of elders is as follows: Robt. Candor, 15 years. Samuel Pollock, 261 years. John Bentz, 5 years. Glasgow Parshall, 23 years. Jas. Logan, 23 years. W. J. McIntyre, 21 years. Jno. M. Candor, 14Y years. Dr. Thomas Elder, 6 years. J. K. Pollock, 16 years. W. L. Candor, 16 years. F. M. Roth, 16 years. J. E. Orth, 7 years. Dr. W. A. Roth, 7 years. The last five are the present elders of the church. A new church building was erected in the village of Seaton in the summer and fall of 1893, and was dedicated January 21, 1894, Rev. W. S. Davis, of Aledo, Ill., officiating. In the summer of 1901 the building was remodeled and enlarged and dedicated November 24, 1901, Rev. W. S. Davis again officiating. Of the charter members two are still members of this church and both reside in Seaton, Ill., Mrs. Elizabeth Lafferty and Mrs. John Henry (Miss Mattie Jamieson). Of the first accession to the church on March 14, 1869, there are four alive, namely: Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Penn Crisswell, Jas. A. Kellogg and Mrs. Mary M. Moore. The session of the church has never been without one or more Candors, and in the case of the Pollocks, lacking only a few months. The congregation always had Candors,.Pollocks, Crisswells, Cabeens, Henrys, Peppers and Laffertys on its rolls. Rev. M. G. Hanna undoubtedly has before him a happy and successful pastorate.
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