First Presbyterian Church of Sterling
The First Presbyterian Church of Sterling was organized November 4, 1844, by a committee of the Presbytery of Schuyler, consisting of Rev. Samuel Cleland, Rev. George Stebbins, and Elder Charles A. Spring. The following persons were enrolled as members: Mr. John Galt, Mrs. Maria Ga1t, Mrs. Mary Wallace, Mrs. Eliza J. Wilson, Mr. James C. Woodburn, Mrs. Mary Woodburn, Mrs. Jane Woodburn, Mr. William H. Cole, Mr. Carlisle Mason and Mrs. Jane Mason. Of these, Mr. John Galt was chosen Ruling Elder, the duties of which office he performed with fidelity until his death, August 25, 1866. The church edifice was erected in 1848, but not fully completed until 1852. Since that time it has been greatly enlarged and improved, and is now one of the finest church edifices in this section of the country. The first pastor of the church was Rev. George Stebbins, who remained from 1844 until 1856. Mr. Stebbins was succeeded by Rev. Ebenezer Erskine, who held the pastorate until 1865, when Rev. Mead C. Williams was called. Mr. Williams continued as pastor until 1873, when Rev. N.H.G. Fife was chosen pastor, who is still in charge. The church has now a membership of two hundred and forty. five. The present Board of Ruling Elders is as follows: Decius O. Coe, elected October 8, 1854; Thomas A. Galt, and John Buyers, elected March 25, 1860; Abram Hempstead, and J. Morris Golder, elected December 30, 1866; and Martin H. Kreider, and John G. Manahan, elected September 1, 1872. The following compose the Board of Trustees: Smith Barrett, President; D. M. Crawford, Secretary; B. C. Church, William L. Patterson, Moses Dillon, Robert Laurie. The Sunday School has a scholarship of one hundred and fifty, with Thomas A. Slaymaker, Superintendent, assisted by eighteen teachers. [Source: Bent & Wilson History of Whiteside County 1877]
First Presbyterian Church
The church was organized March 30, 1868, by a union of the Old and New School Presbyterians. The Old School Church was organized in May, 1856. Its pastors were Revs. W. C. Mason, J. B. McCiure and A. N. Keigwin. The New School Church (growing out of the Congregational Church, which was organized in 1845) was organized in 1862. Rev. Josiah Leonard was its only minister from its organization until the union in 1868. Rev. Henry Keigwin became the pastor after the reorganization, and remained with the Church until June, 1872. Rev. Delos E. Wells succeeded him, serving the society until March, 1882, when Rev. Benj. Mills was called, who remained until May, 1883. Rev. W. D. Smith succeeded Mr. Mills, and served the Church until Nov. 1884. Rev. R. L. Adams, the present minister, assumed the pastoral duties January, 1885. They have a fine, large brick edifice. The society has at present about 100 members and is growing. It also has a large and interesting Sunday-school. [Portrait and Biographical Whiteside Co IL 1885]
First Presbyterian Church
Fifty-two years ago, or, more exactly, on Novembpr 4, 1844, the ecclesiastical history of Sterling had its beginning in the establishment of the First Presbyterian church, by a committee from Schuyler Presbytery. Previous to this, it is true, that faithful old Methodist pioneer, Burton H. Cartwright, had included Sterling in his long circuit, but his visits were necessarily few and far between. Previous to this there had also been a sort of temporary Union church, but this Presbyterian organization was the first to start out as an individual church along the lines of definite, permanent work. The charter membership of the new organization included but ten persons, but these were a "Gideon band" that resolutely determined to conquer all difficulties and establish the Lord's work in this community. Two of this number - Mrs. Maria Galt and Mrs. 1 Jane Wilson - still live among us, honored and revered by all The rest, with the exception of William H. Cole, of Baltimore, and Carlis1e Mason; of Chicago, have ail passed to their reward. The roll of honor of these faithful few being, in addition to the names given above, Mr. John Galt, Mrs. Mary Wallace, Mr. James Woodburn, Mrs. Mary Woodburn, Mrs. Jane Woodburn, Mrs. Jane Mason.
For four years the congregation held their services in the school house and court house, on Broadway, but in 1848 the little band determined to "arise and build." Lots were secured on the corner of Fourth street and Fifth avenue, and upon this site the building was commenced that same year. There vere "financial stringencies" then, as now, however, and because of lack of funds the church remained unfinished until 1856, the congregation meanwhile worshiping in the basement. At last, however, the building was completed and the congregation literally "went up higher" from the basement to the upper audience room, which had been incomplete so long. Here they worshipped for more than a third of a century, frequent changes and additions being made, Until 1884 their quarters being all together too cramped and small, a new build1ng was decided on and plans drawn up, of which the present church is the substantial representation.
During all this time, of course, they had not been without true and efficient leaders - men who were ever ready to stimulate and encourage them in all their self sacrificing efforts. But a few months elapsed after the permanent organization before they called the Rev. George Stebbins to minister unto them in spiritual things. For eleven years he led them and was then succeeded by the Rev. Ebenezer Erskine, in 1856. He was followed by the Rev. Meade Williams, in 1865-a man well known to most of our citizens for sterling worth and christian piety. Released at his own request, in 1873, his place was ably filled by the Rev. N. H. G. Fife, now of Pasadena, Cal. For sixteen years this well beloved pastor labored here and won his way into every heart and home. Succeeded by the the Rev. S. S. Palmer, in 1890, the work was ably carried on by him for three, years and then given into the hands of the Rev. Wm. Carter the present pastor, who was called here in 1894.
Much as these men have accomplished, the credit lies mostly with the people whom they led, for they had at all times their unswerving loyalty and support in all good works. It has not been a weak handful that has rallied around the pastor during the latter part of the church's history, either, but a constantly increasing company of resolute, loyal-hearted christians. Before they left the old church the little band of ten had grown to a membership of 274, and since that time, notwithstanding frequent deaths and removals the membership has steadily increased untiL it now numbers 370. This active force is distributed in many lines of useful church work, prominent among them being the Women's Home Missionary and the Women's Foreign Missionary societies, three circles of King's Daughters, a flourishing Sunday School, Men's League, and a senior and junior C.E. Society. With these forces all at work, and with a past so fruitful, and a present so needy, surely the future ought to be glorious, indeed. [From the Sterling Standard December 11, 1896]
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