Jefferson County

Church Histories

Mt. Vernon IL Register (Weekly) - December 26, 1888

The first religious denomination represented in this county was the Methodist. In the 
spring of 1819, or about that time, the first religious organization was effected. It 
was at a meeting held in Edward MAXEY's cabin. The society thus formed comprised Edward MAXEY 
and wife, Wm. MAXEY and wife, Burc(h)ett MAXEY and wife, Fleming GREENWOOD and wife and 
Zadok CASEY. Several of the very earliest settlers were Methodist preachers. Among these 
were Zadok CASEY, Edward MAXEY and Lewis JOHNSON, Sr. John JOHNSON, another pioneer preacher, 
came in later, He moved to this county in 1824, though he preached here as early as 1820, at 
which time he baptized two persons present in the congregation on Sunday.

The first sermon preached in this county is said to have been delivered by Zadok CASEY. 
It was preached in the fall of 1817. Every man, woman and child within the present limits of 
Jefferson County is said to have been present.

In the fall of 1820 a meeting house was built at Union, subsequently noted as a campground and 
sacredly remembered for its great and glorious revivals.

At the Missouri conference which met in the fall of 1820, David SHARP was sent as Presiding Elder, 
with five circuits in Illinois. On the Wabash circuit was Thos. DAVIS, and he included the church 
at Old Union in his work. He was succeeded in 1822 by Hachabah VREEDERBURGH and Thos. RICE. In the 
general minutes of 1823 Mt. Vernon first appeared upon the record, Illinois District, 
Samuel H. Thompson, P.E.. In 1827 and again in 1828, Thos. FILES was sent to Mt. Vernon circuit, 
Chas. HOLIDAY, P.E. of the Wabash district. Files was succeeded by John FOX in 1829, Geo. LOCKE 
(father of John W. LOCKE) P.E.. In 1830 John H. BENSON and Miles HUFFATEER were sent to this circuit; 
in '31 J. H. BENSON; in '32 Jas. WALKER; in '33 Simeon WALKER, (John S. BARGER, P.E.). In 1834 we had 
T. C. COLLINS, and in 1835 Warren L. JENKINS, who left before the expiration of the year dissatisfied 
with the people and the people with him. He was followed by Joshua BARNES, and in 1835 William MITCHELL, 
an excellent young man and a good preacher, was appointed to Mt. Vernon circuit. David COULSON succeeded 
him in 1837 and John SHEPHERD in 1838, with Asael E. PHILLIPS, P.E.. In 1834 John JOHNSON's and 
Downing BAUGH's were the only Methodist families in town; still there were faithful ones besides these: 
Jas. ROSS, Candace ANDERSON, wife of Stinson H. ANDERSON, and his mother Ann ANDERSON, were devoted 
Christians and Methodists. 

For many years the Methodists had no house of worship in Mt. Vernon. Sometimes services were held
in the court house, sometimes in private houses. Generally the ministers preached at Old Union and 
the people walked out of town. In September, 1835, what is now the Episcopal Church lot 
was conveyed to John JOHNSON, Thos. M. CASEY, Joel PACE, David HOBBS, Downing BAUGH. Joseph PACE and 
Jas. ROSS as trustees of the church. Here in 1836 of '37, they built a small, plain house, quite 
unpretentious, without a steeple or bell, with a small pulpit and seats of a primitive style. Preaching 
was had here monthly. Owing to the unfinshed or uncomfortable condition of the church, it is well 
remembered that in 1837 or '38 Jas. MASSEY, J. S. BARGER, and Benjamin F. CAVANAUGH preached in the 
court house and at Downing BAUGH's house. CAVANAUGH was a powerful preacher even at that early date 
in his ministerial career. 

In 1840 steps were taken to finish the church in better style by adding eight or ten feet to the east 
end and putting a new roof on it, seating it neatly, and putting in an old-fashioned, 
wide, tall box pulpit that almost concealed a small preacher from view. Before it was finished Circuit 
Court came on and as the court house had fallen down, court was held in the unfinished church, as it 
was the only house in town large enough. During this term of court at the church and elsewhere 
Abraham LINCOLN and John A. McCLERNAND, Presidential electors discussed the issues of that campaign. So 
it seems this was not one of the churches in which neither politics or religion was allowed. It was about 
this date that Wm. EDWARDS, a local preacher, settled in this place. He was a pillar in the church and a 
power for good, a faithful worker in the Sabbath school, where he will long be remembered. In 1840, 
Wm. T. WILLIAMS was appointed to Mt. Vernon circuit, Jas. M. MASSEY in '41, Jas. H. DICKENS in '42, 
Jas. I. RICHARDSON in '43, Allison McCord in '44, Arthur BRADSHAW in '45. In the year 1846, at Old Union, 
we had one of the greatest revivals ever witnessed in this county, attended by the most marvelous 
displays of divine power. John THATCHER was sent to the circuit in 1847, I. F. KIMBER in '48, Jas. A. ROBINSON 
in '49, John H. HILL in '52. (J. I. RICHARDSON, P.E.), T. W. JONES in '53, (J. H. HILL, P.E.). 

In 1853 the place where we were being "too straight for us," four lots in block 11, lying east of this 
church, were purchased and deeded to the trustees, Downing BAUGH, D. C. WARREN, Wm. J. STEPHENSON, 
Lucelius C. MOSS, John N. JOHNSON, Joel F. WATSON and Chas. T. PACE. Here a neat brick church was 
erected in 1854, costing about $4,000. At the layng of the corner stone Zadok CASEY gave a thrilling 
narrative of the rise and progress of Methodism in this community. The dedication sermon was preached 
by John VANCLEVE the Sabbath before conference here in 1854. The following Sabbath Bishop AMES preached 
a sermon that few who heard it will ever forget. At this conference Mt. Vernon was made a station and 
James LEATON put in charge of it. There were 84 members and 11 probationers. The official members were: 
John JOHNSON, L.E.; Z. CASEY, L.D.; John H. WATSON, H. DAVISSON and Samuel SCHANCK, The Stewards were 
Z. CASEY, J. F. WATSON, John N. JOHNSON Chas. T. PACE and Downing BAUGH. 

At the first quarterly conference the Sunday school report showed 75 scholars and 10 teachers. The pastor's 
salary, including table expenses, was fixed at $423. In 1880 this brick building was enlarged in order to 
accommodate a rapidly increasing membership, a fine tall steeple erected at a cost of several, thousand 
dollars, and which left the church some in debt. This debt, however, had all be liquidated several years 
ago. The building was then destroyed by the cyclone of last February. 

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