Montgomery County Churches
Taken from the Hillsboro History by Dorothy Bliss © 1989
Submitted by Debbie Quinn
St. Paulís Evangelical Lutheran Church
St. Paulís Evangelical Lutheran Church was the second church to be formed in Hillsboro. The Rev. Daniel Scherer, a circuit-riding minister who had traveled 1,700 miles on horseback to preach to pioneer Lutherans in Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois, was the founding father. He visited Hillsboro in 1830 and found several families of Lutherans from Carrabus, North Carolina, his home state. They persuaded him to form a church in the county seat and become the first pastor.
The Rev. Scherer returned to his home in North Carolina, sold his property there and returned to Hillsboro early in 1832. On April 12th he established St. Paulís Lutheran Church, the second Lutheran church in Illinois. The first was established in Dongola in Southern Illinois in 1816.
He lost no time in carrying out his charge, for in May he organized the church with some 30 members, including:
By this action the Rev. Scherer earned the honorable distinction of being "the Patriarch of Lutheranism in Illinois."
For two years the Lutherans held services at the courthouse and in 1834 the first frame Lutheran church in Illinois was built on the lot just north of the present house of worship. Joseph Cress sold the lot to the church for $25 and, when it was completed, it became known as the pioneer Lutheran church of the great Northwest. At that time there were only two other Lutheran churches in Illinois, a log church in Union County and a brick church at Dongola in Wabash County.
Five years after St. Paul's was established, the Fifth Annual Convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of the West was held in Hillsboro. The synod at that time was vast, covering Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa and all the territory west and northwest of Illinois. Thirteen Lutheran ministers and eight lay delegates attended the convention.
For 11 years, the Rev. Scherer spent much of his own money trying to maintain the church he had established. When the congregation failed to provide the funds needed to maintain the church and feed and clothe his family, he resigned in October 1843 to become pastor of the brick church in Dongola.
The Rev. A.A. Trimper became the second pastor of the church in June 1844 and he, too, had trouble making ends meet. After two years of being short of funds he wrote: "In the spring of 1846 John S. Hayward, a wealthy man and a Trustee of the Hillsboro Academy, called on me to see if I would take charge of the academy for a time. This I regarded as a real Godsend, as by it our wants would he relieved and I could better support my family."
The Rev. Trimper accepted the academy offer and was succeeded in the pulpit by Dr. Francis Springer. The two ministers, wanting to establish a Lutheran college in Illinois, were instrumental in leasing the Hilllsboro Academy for such a purpose. For five years, from 1847 to 1852, the "Literary and Theological Institute of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Far West," better known as Lutheran College, was located in Hillsboro. Dr. Springer, pastor of St. Paul's, served as head of the college and the Rev. Trimper was the assistant president and manager of the college. A history of the academy under Lutheran guidance appears in the chapter about education in the county seat.
Second Church Constructed
The fourth pastor of St. Paul's was the Rev. Elias Swartz, who served but one year, from 1853 to 1854, when the Rev. Jeremiah Livengood became the driving force of the 50-member church.
The Rev. Livengood urged the congregation to replace the frame church with a brick one, which they did. The then 21-year-old wooden structure was moved across the street to where the jail now stands to make way for a two-story brick church. A wagon factory occupied the former church until Jacob Cress Jr. bought the building and used the lumber to build a barn.
The second church stood on the same site as the frame church and was built in 1856 and 1857 at a cost of $7,000. It was dedicated on September 13, 1857. In reporting the upcoming dedication James Blackman, editor of the Montgomery County Herald, wrote: "The Lutheran church is now finished and will be dedicated to the worship of the Triune God on Sunday the 13th of this month. The sermon on the occasion will be preached by the Rev. F. Springer, at 10 1/2 o'clock, A.M. There will also be services in this church on the day previous at 11 o'clock, A.M. and at candlelighting. The public is invited to attend.
"This church is by far the most elegant building in town, and reflects great credit on the society under whose auspices it has been erected. The inside arrangement is very complete and will seat comfortably from 250 to 300 people. The carpenter work of the inside finish has been done by Messrs. Armstrong & Taylor, the plastering by Hudson Berry, and the painting by F.C. Smith. The ends of the slips, the doors and pulpit, are all grained in imitation of oak and it will be hard to tell it from the original wood."
The Rev. Livengood, who served the church from 1855 to 1861, was also pastor of the church at Litchfield (West Fork), Bost Hill (East Fork), Saint John (Lipe's Settlement) and Ware's Grove. He was pastor of Ware's Grove when the present church was built there.
The second Lutheran church in Hillsboro served the congregation for 40 years, during the pastorships of:
Ezra Keller was ready for his senior year in Hamma Divinity School, connected with Wittenberg College at Springfield, Ohio, when, in the summer of 1894, he went to Litchfield to visit his parents. His father, the Rev. W.H. Keller, was pastor of Zion Lutheran Church there.
At the time, the Hillsboro church was without a spiritual leader and young Keller was invited to serve as supply pastor during the summer months. Before returning for his last year at the seminary, Mr. Keller was extended a call to become the regular pastor of the church as soon as he completed his theological training. Supply pastors filled the pulpit at St. Paul's until October 20, 1895, when the Rev. Keller was officially installed as the Hillsboro pastor by Dr. S.A. Ort, president of Wittenberg College.
The Rev. Keller had been pastor of the church but a short time when the congregation approved erecting the third and present church. The lot south of the second church, on which a Chinese laundry had been operated was purchased for the site.
The Present Church
The present church, built and furnished for about $15,000, was dedicated on April 4, 1897. A pipe organ was installed in 1906 and in 1907 a handsome brick parsonage was built north of the church on the site of the first and second churches. In 1978, the congregation voted to raze the former parsonage, which had served as the office and educational building for several years, and replace it with a new building, an educational annex to the church. This wing, built at a cost of $400,000, includes five classrooms, a fireside room, a three-room office area and a basement fellowship hall and kitchen.
After serving St. Paul's as pastor for 60 years, Dr. Ezra Keller retired in 1955, a year before his death. From 1945 to 1950, Dr. Hugh Paton, a son of the church, served as assistant church pastor. He left to accept a call to the Lutheran church in Anna and later became pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Quincy, which he served until his retirement.
The Rev. Paul T. Hersch became the 14th pastor of St. Paul's in 1955 and served until he retired in 1974.
The Rev. Thomas Hilger was then named to serve both the Hillsboro and Ware's Grove churches, as the pastors before him had done. He resigned the pastorates in July 1979. In May 1980, the Rev. Paul Doering became the 16th pastor of St. Paul's and Ware's Grove churches and served as such until 1984, when the Rev. Stephen Barnes became pastor of the two churches, now collectively known as the Hillsboro Lutheran Parish. Pastor Barnes moved away in 1988 and in 1989 the parish is being served by an interim pastor, the Rev. Everett I. Hageman.
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