Jefferson County

Church Histories

Panther Fork Baptist Church
The Thomas Burton mentioned is my second Great- Grandfather, and I noticed he also preached at Pleasant Hill for a time. His youngest son was also a preacher, who died in Marion County in 1955. Submitted By: Clayton Burton Notes for JOEL (*) SIMMONS: After settling near what was later known as Divide, Illinois so named because of a land ridge nearby that separated the watershed of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. Joel helped found the "Simmonstown" church, presently the Panther Fork Baptist Church and was the first teacher and helped found the Simmons school, later known as the Panther Fork School. Both the church and school were located on his property. Joel, a schoolmaster built a log schoolhouse on a protion of his land where he kept school without pay. In 1866 he organized the Panther Fork Baptist Church with 19 members, 11 of which were members of his family. He served as church clerk for 11 years while his son-in-law, Thomas Burton, served as pastor without pay. The church survived for 13 years before they has a "meeting house"; the meetings were held in homes during the winter; in a brush shed with split log seats during the summers. In 1867 he set aside three acres of his land as a gift to the church on which to build a meeting house. The church is one of the strong country churches in Jefferson County today. The name "Panther Fork" orginated some years later when his son-in-law, Joel McDaniel killed an attacking panther with a pitchfork. After the law required the naming of the counties and townships, the officials decided to name townships after the first settler whenever possible. When Joel Simmons learned of the decision to name Simmons Township, he walked the distance of twelve miles to Mt. Vernon to inform the officials that a man named Field had lived there temporarily; hence, the name was changed to Field Township.

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