Peoria County, Illinois Genealogy Trails
 

Christ Church Limestone celebrates its 170th anniversary in 2015.

The following pictures were contributed by Fr. Harold Camacho
 

Consecration Note

Christ Church, 1900

Record Book

 


Transcribed by: Candi Horton, Copyright© 2008. All Rights Reserved!

Christ Church, Jones Prairie, Lower Kickapoo, (now Limestone), lies 3/4 mile off Farmington Road, presenting an atmosphere of reverence and serenity. It is indeed an historic shrine for Episcopalians and others interested in historic beauty.

The small stone edifice resembles old English parish churches which were dear to the hearts of the English settlers who arrived in Limestone Township in 1833. The light colored limestone blocks which make the building stand out above the green of the land about are fitted together to house its old style pews with hinged doors, altar, pulpit and lectern, all of solid black walnut. Also, its baptismal font of dark red cherry wood, carved by a devout parishioners of long ago, and oil lamps suspended from iron hooks in the beamed ceiling.

Three of the beautiful five stained glass windows are in memoriam of early parishioners. The east window, in back of the altar with its brilliant reds, blues, greens, magentas and yellows, depicts the ascension of Christ and is considered a masterpiece. It was dedicated to John and Euphemia Benson, prime movers in the founding of the church and one of whose sons became its first Rector. (Rev. John Benson 1852 - 1899) This window was given by the members of the parish about the year 1880, and created by artisans in England especially for this window.

The southeast window, depicting Joseph and Mary, made up of reds, blues and yellows, was given by Mrs. George Norwood in memoriam of her daughter and husband in 1891. The northeast window was given by Mrs Mary Schofield in memory of Jacob and Nary. Its colors are various shades of yellows and greens. The church's two back windows were installed at the restoration of the church (1937). These follow very closely the theme of the northeast window.

The bell tower was added in the year 1889 of the stone from the home of John Flatman, built about 1850. This was made possible through the efforts of Rebecca J. Walker (later NcCartney). The stone mason was Frank Burlet, ably assisted by Dr. N. A. Johnston, both of Peoria.

The beams of cyprus and ceiling of oak were a gift of Mrs.. George Norwood in the year 1892. The wood was imported from the State of Georgia. In the churchyard cemetery lie buried early settlers whose labors raised this beautiful little church and the ancient gravestones are also a source of interest to those historically minded. In one corner lie the headstones of the Benson and Clark families, both largely instrumental in founding the church, who later inter-married.

In the summer of l834 the settlers, who had migrated from England the previous year, many from around Alconsbury, England, met for the first time for the purpose of forming a parish. They were led by the Rev. Palmer Dyer, then a resident of Peoria who held occasional services at the homes of those who had carried the faith from England.

Page 3

Early in the fall of 1836 the Right Rev. Philander Chase, D.D., Bishop of the newly formed Diocese of Illinois, visited at the home of Mr. John Benson at which time the parish of Christ Church was further discussed.

From this time Bishop Chase took a lively interest in their welfare and whenever possible he or the Rev. Samuel Chase (his nephew) led prayers and administered the Sacraments at private homes, continually admonishing them to erect a "House of Worship". Lay services were led by Mr. Richard Radley of Jubilee on other Sundays. Still, this was all too frequent so the various families attended church at "Robin's Nest", the residence of Bishop Chase, or at Jubilee Chapel after it was opened to public worship.

At this time this was indeed a long hard journey for either the clergy or the parishioners so after the ordination of Mr. Dudley Chase to Deacon he was made itinerary missionary.

At the home of Mr. John Benson the parish was organized by the Right Reverend Philander Chase on Easter Sunday, 1837, following the administration of Holy Sacraments and Confirmation. Those persons signing the Articles of Parochial Association were Henry Wilson, John Pennington, William H. Handagsyde and John Benson. John Pennington and John Benson being elected vestrymen and Henry Wilson, Warden.

In 1838 the parish was received into union with the Diocesan Convention at the annual meeting of that body.

Mr. John Pennington donated 2 acres of ground in the NW l/4 of Section 4 for Church and cemetery and steps were taken to build a church. Bishop Chase estimated the cost of a little church at 200 pounds sterling (English monetary terms still being used by these newly emigrated people) and the labor of the loyal parishioners. The people were unable to raise this amount of money so, in the words of the old Parish Register, "the members few in number and restricted as to their means, being of themselves unable to meet the expense determined to appeal to their friends in England for aid". The Bishop wrote a letter of recommendation,. copies of which were sent to the friends of the families forming the parish in England.

The first letters to England were written in l842 from which ensued through 1843-44 an interesting correspondence, principally between the Lady Alicia Lambert (sister of the Earl of Caran) and Mrs. Euphemia Clark, detailing the progress of the work on both sides of the Atlantic. In the old Parish Register there are copies of some of the correspondence of these two "great ladies" of their times. In fact, it seems the ladies took over raising the money for their church. Following are the donations received as recorded in the Parish Register:

Mrs. Isabella Clark collected through Mrs. Galloway 25 pounds sterling, Mrs. Isabella Clark through Mrs. M. Holland 50 lbs., including 20 lbs. from Lord Kenyon (a friend of Bishop Chase for whom he later named a. college founded by him in Ohio). Mrs. Pennington 13 lbs., Mrs. Handagsyde 20 lbs. and 114 lbs by Mrs. Euphemia Clark through Lady Lambert, assisted by Mrs. A. P. Hamilton. 20 lbs of this was a gift of the Dowager Queen Adelaide who was much esteemed by her charitable nature.

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The erection of the new church was started in the spring of l844 and was finished in the fall of 1845 at the approximate cost of $1,500. The corner stone of the church was laid May 17, l844 during a service in charge of Bishop Chase. The clergy in attendance were the Rev. S. and D. Chase, and Rev. P. E. Mitteldare of the Diocese of New York. Deposited in the corner stone were: a Bible, a Book of Common Prayer, two pieces of American and English coin, and an instrument of writing, duly signed, declaring the uses and purpose of the house to be erected thereon. The consecration of the building was held the following year and the letter of consecration follows:

I hereby certify, that on the 10th day of Dec. A.D., l845, this building, called Christ Church, Lower Kickapoo, was duly consecrated to the worship and service of Almighty God, according to the liturgy and canon of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America by me. ...
Philander Chase, Bishop of Illinois

 

The names of more than 100 parishoners appear on the register dating from 1837. The first marriage written into the book was that of Frederick Gustorf and Harriett Benson, Sept. 13, 1837 at the home of John Benson.

The first at the church was that of John Hindle and Susannah Howarth on Oct. 25, 1845. First Baptism in the parish was that of John William, son of William H. and Ellen Handagsyde on March 28, 1838. In church was Isabella Euphemia, daughter of Rev. William amd Isabella Douglas on Dec. 3, 1845. The first record of burial was that of John Benson who was buried on Dec.8,1834. The grave can be seen in the churchyard at the present time.

Until the early 1900's Christ Church Parish remained active, but then gradually declined as the old families died out or moved to the cities. In 1924 regular services were stopped, the church only seeing its old friends at some marriages, baptisms or more likely, burials.

It had long been the dream of all the Episcopal clergy in Peoria to reopen this historic old church. However, it took the interest shown at the summer church school held at Christ Church in the summer of 1960 to give this endeavor the needed incentive. October 1960 Christ Church was reopened in charge of the Rev. Canon Gordon Gillett, Rector of St. Paul's Peoria assisted by the Rev. Benjamin Hunter, Vicar of St. Stevens', Peoria.

At the present time services are held every Sunday at l1:l5. Although reduced to the status of "Mission", Christ Church is again offering loyal (p.5) Episcopalians and historic minded persons an opportunity to visit this early Christian shrine.

Today the church interior looks much as it used to. Doors are all in place on the walnut pews, hymnals and prayer books on the book rests.

The immediate countryside looks much the same too, still rolling, well tended fields with the main highway too far away to spoil the scene. Only the sod house where lived Father Benson, the first Rector, is gone. And there are many more markers in the church yard now.

The bell was cast by Clinton H. Meneely Company, Troy, New York, Al) 1887. Appearing on the South side of the Bell:

"Laus Deo Allelus"
Christ Church, Limestone
Peoria, Illinois
Advent 1887

 

 

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