the Baptist Churches of Woodford County,
This was the first Baptist church organized in Woodford county after its organization as a county. From this church many other Baptist churches were organized. It was situated five miles north of Metamora. It was organized at the home of Mrs. Esther Mundell, Sept. 27th, 1844, with 13 members. Four from Pennsylvania, one from Virginia, five from Vermont and three from New York. Those present at the organization were Elders H. G. Weston, Thomas Powell and delegates from several other Baptist churches.
Elder Thomas Brown had preached once a month there for some time, and Elder Thomas Powell and Isaac Merriam occasionally. Elder H. G. Weston, while pastor at Washington, had visited and preached there and was instrumental in gathering the church together. Jesse Hammers was its first deacon and held that office until his death, living to a good old age. Tilton Howard was its first clerk.
During the following winter an effort was made to erect a house of worship, in which they were assisted by Deacon Baclieller, of Lynn, Massachusetts, he being an uncle of the pastor. The house was begun in May, 1845. In 1846 Elder Weston removed to Peoria and until the fall of 1847, the church was without a pastor, only having preaching occasionally. Elder W. Pigsley then became pastor and served the church until 1849.
On the thirteenth of October, 1849, a council was called to ordain one of the members to the gospel ministry, August B. Cramb. This is undoubtedly the first ordination of a Baptist minister in Woodford county. Immediately after the ordination, he baptized his wife, who previously had been a member of the Congregational church. In December, 1849, Elder S. S. Freeman, from Michigan, began to preach for the Richland church. A special religious interest had been manifested under the labors of Elder Pigsley on the river bottom, near the Illinois River, a few miles west of the meeting house. Elder Freeman that winter commenced a revival meeting there and ten were baptized during the meeting, and others afterward. In April 1850 Elder Freeman and several others were dismissed to form a church at Spring Bay. Elder Freeman still continued to preach at Richland part of the time. In June 1850 the Richland church reported 33 baptisms and 61 members. In December 1850 Elder Cramb was dismissed to go into the new church to be formed at Metamora. In June 1851 a council met with the Richland church to ordain John M. Scrogin to the work of the gospel ministry and soon after he became pastor of the Delavan church. During the year 1851 the church reported 8 baptisms and 84 members. During this year the church reported several members dismissed to form another Baptist church. Twenty-nine members residing on Half Moon Prairie, desiring to form a new church asked and received letters of dismissal to form a new organization. In December another colony of nine asked the same privilege to form the Richland Valley church.
During the month of December 1851, Elder Cramb commenced preaching again part of the time. At this time the church was greatly weakened by so many of its members going to other colonies, several of which have become large and flourishing churches, so that in 1852, it only reported three baptisms and 48 members. Part of this time Elder J. W. Stickney preached for Elder Cramb on account of the sickness of the latter. In 1853 the church reported only 23 members.
In February, 1854, Elder C. D. Merrit became pastor of the church, in connection with the Metamora and Half Moon churches. In June following, the church reported six baptisms and 33 members, and in 1855, seven baptisms and 44 members. In March, 1856, the paster commenced a series of meetings, assisted part of the time by G. S. Baily, D. D., which resulted in a precious revival and 22 were baptized, making a total membership of 63, C. D. Merrit being pastor, Jesse Hammers deacon and E. A. Fisher clerk. Elder Merrit still continued his labors until April 2nd, 1859, when the church called S. S. Robinson to labor one half time, dividing the time with Washburn. Abner Mundell was church clerk at the time and Jesse Hammers deacon. On July 23rd, 1859, the church voted to divide the Illinois River Baptist Association.
Elder S. S. Robinson served the church as pastor from March 31st, 1860 to February 28th, 1862. On the 21st of May, 1864, he accepted a call to again become its pastor for one half time. On April 29th a call was made to organize a church on the prairie, the same being the Roanoke Baptist church.
Charles Cross served the church as pastor one half time from April 22nd,
1866 to February 6th, 1869. On the same day as the resignation of Elder C.
Cross was received, a call was extended to Elder W. Parker to become the
pastor and he served the church until April 6th, 1872. Brother F. W.
Smith, a student supplied for a while, the church being without a settled
pastor, until the last of March 1873. Elder James commenced as pastor at
that time. During the summer of 1873, many desiring a new church, it was
decided to erect a new-building in the village of Cazenovia, where a
Sunday school had been organized about the 12th of May, 1873, with A. J.
Hammers, a son of Deacon Hammers, as superintendent. The new church having
been completed, it was dedicated the first Sunday in January 1874. Elder
James continued as pastor until September 29th, 1877. In April 1878 Rev.
J. B. Brown served as pastor one half time, and in April 1879 Rev. Wood, a
student, began to supply the church and continued six months. On September
4th, 1880, Elder Wilson began to serve the church as pastor. Elder Graham
served for a while as pastor and on December 13th, 1883, Elder Coffman
became pastor, dividing his time with the Roanoke church. On November 8th,
1885, m connection with the Roanoke church a call was extended to Elder
Gregory to become pastor of both churches, which call he accepted and
served until September 25th, 1887, when Brother M. M. Lewis became pastor
and on August 4th, 1888, he was called for another year. In October 1889
the church called Brother Booth, a student, who also served the the
Roanoke church, remaining as pastor until some time in 1890, when Brother
Berry became pastor, and on January 18th, 1891, Rev. Young was called for
one year, and at the close of his labor, the church called Rev. C. E.
Cady. He began his labors May 17th, 1892. J. F. Sparks commenced his work
in October 1893. preaching his farewell sermon November 10th, 1895. The
last pastor was H. A. Stonglite in 1900. This closes the history of the
first Baptist church in Woodford county.
The Washburn Baptist church was located in Woodford county near the Marshall county line. It was formerly called the Half Moon Prairie church, for the name of the prairie on which Washburn now stands.
It was formed from members of the Richland church who lived on the prairie in 1852. It was made up of 28 members, principally from New York, some, however, from Ohio, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Kentucky, while some were natives of Illinois. Elders E. S. Freeman and W. G. Gordon were present at the organization of this church. Elder E. S Freeman was the first pastor, commencing his labor at Washburn before the organization. He continued to preach one half time for a year, two being baptized during his labor. Elder C. D Merrit became pastor in March 1853 and the church enjoyed a revival under his labors Their house of worship was built in the fall of 1854. It was 32x45 feet and cost $2200, For one year it received aid from the Home Mission Society and was self sustaining afterward. One of the principal founders of the church was Peleg Sweet, a brother of Elder Joel Sweet. He had a family of twelve children, four sons and eight daughters, all members of the church, the husbands of the daughters having all been baptized, and nine of the grand children all on profession of faith, making over thirty in his family belonging to the church. The membership at that time was 75. Pastor, C. D. Merrit; deacons, E. A. Sweet and Ebenezer Dunham; clerk, Tilton Howard.
About 1859 the church joined the Bloomington Baptist Association. In 1860 Elder G. S. Baily served the church as pastor. Elder W. E. James commenced his labors as pastor in March 1868, and continued until 1873. Rev. A. B. Tolmlinson served as pastor to 1876, and J. B. Brown, following him, closed his labor in April 1878. After him Rev. John Beal served as pastor from October 1878 until March 1879. In April 1881 the church received Rev. J. J. Gorham to act as pastor, he being still in Morgan Park seminary. On July 2nd, 1882, at a meeting held after church, a committee was appointed to arrange for the ordination of Brother J. J. Gorham, it being decided to hold the ordination services on August 29th, 1882. The following churches were invited to sit in council with the Washburn church: Belle Plain, Cazenovia, Chenoa, Clayton, Deer Creek, El Paso, Green Valley, Lacon, Lexington, Metamora, 1st church Peoria, Roanoke, Tonica and Tremont. The council proceded to organize and to elect officers, choosing C. E. Hewitt, D. D., of Peoria, moderator; Rev. L. C. Morehouse, of El Paso, clerk. Having examined the candidate and finding him ready for ordination, the service was as follows: Sermon, C. E. Hewitt, D. D., of Peoria; ordination prayer, Rev. W. H. Carmicle, of Lexington; hand of fellowship, Rev. A. C. Kelly, of Tremont; charge to candidate, Rev. O. B. Reed, of Lacon; charge to church, Rev. J. B. Brown, of Chenoa; benediction by canididate. The church property was sold February 16th, 1897.
History of the Illinois River
Baptist Association and of Its Churches