Montgomery County Churches
Taken from the Hillsboro History by Dorothy Bliss © 1989
Submitted by Debbie Quinn
United Methodist Church
The Methodists, who held camp meetings on what is now Beckemeyer School campus as early as 1824, were unable to establish their own house of worship in Hillsboro until 1840. They attempted to erect a frame church at 145 North Main Street in 1834, but the building was never completed. The lot on which the church was to stand later became the site of the church parsonage.
While attempting to raise funds needed to build the church, the Methodists held services in the community log meeting place at the courthouse whenever a circuit rider or other Methodist minister could lead them in worship.
Hiram Rountree, prominent pioneer settler, played an important part in establishing the church here. Mr. Rountree had instigated building a log cabin public meeting place in 1825 on the top of the Water Street hill on what is now the southwest corner of King and Water streets. He had furnished the site for the cabin which served as an early school and was used by the Presbyterians and Lutherans, as well as the Methodists, to hold religious services. Among the early Methodist ministers who preached there was:
While attempting to erect a church on North Main Street, Mr. Rountree and other leaders of the Methodist Church were offered the site on which the present church stands, on the corner of School and Rountree streets, by John Tillson. Mr. Tillson, who gave the Presbyterians the lot on which to build a church and helped finance its construction, offered to do the same for the Methodists. He promised to deed the lot to the Methodists when the church was completed and also offered to help finance its construction.
The Methodists accepted the offer and began building a frame church on the site. That church was never finished. A financial panic in 1837 wiped out most of Mr. Tillson's fortune and put an end to his promise of financial support. The Tillson site was abandoned and in 1840 the congregation voted to build a brick church on the south end of the east side of Courthouse Square. The church stood back from the sidewalk, facing west, and was completed under the guidance of the Rev. N.L. Bastian. It served the Methodists until 1862, when a new brick structure was built a short distance south near the corner of what is now Church and Berry streets.
Harkey Donated lot
Solomon Harkey, who lived on the southeast corner of Broad and Church streets, gave the lot across the street from his home for the new church. Facing north on Church Street, the building was started in 1860 and completed in 1863 while the Rev. S.S. McGuinnis was the pastor. According to an item in the December 18, 1863, issue of the Union Monitor, of which Thomas J. Russell was publisher and John W. Kitchell editor, a dinner would be held in the new church on Decamber 22nd as a means of helping raise funds to pay for the new house of worship.
The item in the Monitor, headed "Supper Will Be Ready -- Come One, Come All," read: "The M.E. Church in Hillsboro, aided by their friends, have erected and nearly completed the finest church edifice in Southern Illinois. They have also raised a large new bell and bought a fine church organ. The building is an ornament to the town and an honor to the county. They have yet fencing, sidewalks and other improvements to make, and they propose on Tuesday evening, December 22nd, to have a grand festival in their church to raise money to meet their heavy expenses. Let everybody come and feast and encourage such a noble enterprise. Tickets to be had at the stores of S.M. Grubbs and Rountree and Seymour."
After the building on Courthouse Square ceased to be a church, the front of it was extended to the sidewalk line and it became a retail store. The first merchant to occupy the building was J.0. Burnet, who announced on November 6, 1863, that he had opened a "Meat Market and Provision Store" in the "Old Brick Church on Court Square." Many other businesses would occupy the building until it was torn down more than 100 years later and replaced with the Rosche professional building.
For 42 years, Methodist services were held in the Church Street church. After the turn of the century the congregation voted to replace their church with one on the same lot but have it face Broad street. The church, which still stands but is no longer a house of worship, was erected in 1902 and 1903 and was dedicated by the Rev. Presley P. Carson on May 31, 1903.
After 60 years of services in the building, the Methodists voted to erect their present church on the lot Mr. Tillson wanted them to use back in 1837. They bought the lot on which the home of Miss Nelle Miller and members of her family had stood for many years. The Rev. William Laughlin was the pastoral leader who helped bring the fourth Methodist Church into being. In 1964, the present building was constructed and the congregation moved there in November of that year.
The Rev. Robert 0. Edwards succeeded the Rev. Laughlin as the Methodist Church pastor and was one of 80 ministers who had been assigned to preach the gospel here since the day the first camp meeting was held in 1824 in Wesley Seymour's woods.
The church records show that Ebenezer T. Webster and Jesse Walker, missionary ministers, were the first to hold camp meeting services in 1824. They were followed by more than 50 pastors who served the church, usually a year at a time, until after the turn of the century.
The ministers who served the church between 1900 and 1980 were:
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