United Brethren in Christ
United Brethren in Christ is the title of the church which, in the latter part of the last century, grew out of the religious awakening of Philip William Otterbein and a number of his friends. Philip William Otterbein, the leader of this movement, was a distinguished divine and missionary of the German Reformed church, who was sent by the synod of Holland, in 1752, from Dillenburg, Germany, to America. As a young man he preached with great power and learning. It was not, however, till after his settlement at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, his first charge in America, that Otterbein, after much prayer, realized that God had poured upon him the spirit of grace and power. He began to urge the necessity of a new birth and of experimental godliness.
Rev. Martin Boehm, a zealous Mennonite, having himself experienced a similar change of heart, was engaged in a different field in the same work. At a "great meeting" held about 1766, in Isaac Long's barn, in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, both these ministers, with many others, were present. At the close of a very earnest sermon by Mr. Boehm, Mr. Otterbein arose and embraced the preacher, crying, "We are brethren!" These words suggested, a number of years later, the name for the new denomination which finally sprung from this meeting. For the purpose of uniting and establishing the believers in the new life a conference of the ministers was held in 1789, at Baltimore. In 1800, the societies interested in the movement united and formed the "United Brethren in Christ," with Mr. Otterbein and Mr. Boehm as bishops.
The first general conference met June 6, 1815, near Mt. Pleasant, Pennsylvania. Fourteen minister were present, from four states. The confession of faith was adopted and a book of discipline. In 1845 there were about 500 ministers and 36,000 members. The church has an extensive publishing house at Dayton, Ohio, and is actively engaged in the educational and mission work. In 1884 there were 13,036 itinerants, with 166,000 members, contributing about a million of dollars for church work.
The church is not an off-shoot from any denomination, its founders having held in view the accomplishment of a special mission. It did not arise from differences in doctrine, for it presents no new doctrines of any kind. Its beliefs are those of other evangelical churches, and its theology is Arminian. It enjoins the ordinances presented by the scriptures and followed by the christian churches in general. Its founders united to emphasize the need of consecration of soul to God, and this has been its spirit. In its administration it is distinguished as a body in which the power is almost equally divided between the ministry and the people. All officers hold their place by consent of the members, expressed by vote, either directly or by representatives. The people choose the local church officers, who form the official board, in many conferences, a lay delegate to the annual conference, and the delegates to each general conference. The annual conference chooses its presiding elders and its other officers. The general conference elects all the officers and boards of the church. But one order of ministers is recognized--that of elder. Bishops and presiding elders are chosen from among the elders simply as superintendants. In supplying the congregations with ministers, the "itinerant system" is the adopted method. All pastors are subject to settlement and change as determined by the committee chosen by each annual conference. A minister may not remain upon a charge more than three years without consent of two-thirds of the annual conference.
In form of worship, the church seeks directness and simplicity. She has no liturgy and does not enforce uniformity in service, each congregation deciding the method for itself. The meetings of the church include the regular Sabbath preaching of God's word, the weekly prayer and class meetings and the Sunday school, with such others as each congregation may determine. Four times during the year the quarterly meeting of each charge is held by the presiding elder, at which time the general business of the charge is transacted, the communion service usually being held upon the Sabbath.
A natural result of the principles which led to the formation of the church, has been to require of its members devotion to Christ, simplicity of faith, purity of life, and uprightness of conduct. Upon all questions of morality, the position of the church has always been decided. No compromise with evil has been suggested. The law of the church forbids the sale or use of intoxicating liquors by its members; and the renting of property to liquor dealers, or signing a petition favoring them, is considered immoral. The members are always found active in every movement for the growth of temperance. Against the use of tobacco the sentiment is strong. Many conferences refust to admit to the ministry those who use it in any way. Slavery was always thought to be a sin, and in 1821, was, entirely forbidden, the holding of slaves being made a misdemeanor. This position has never been changed. Many members in former days suffered severely in defense of this principle. The church has always held that secret societies ar evil in their nature and tendency; that union with them is inconsistent with christian life. Its laws, therefore, forbid its members to hold connection with such societies, and provide stringent rules for the violation of these provisions.
The authority of the civil government is recognized, and the members are enjoined to obey its laws; and while disapproving warfare, the church acknowledges the obligation of every citizen to protect and preserve the government in time of treason and invasion.
On the questions of the observance of the Sabbath, of divorce, of the true rights of man, the position of the church is undoubted. Its principles and its practice can not fail to lead to high christian life.
Good Hope Circuit
This charge consists of four churches, all in the northern part of McDonough county, viz: Center, Jerusalem, Willow Grove and Pleasant Gale.
Center U. B. Church
In 1863, the Illinois conference established Deer Park mission, in the northeast part of this county, afterwards called Good Hope circuit, and appointed Rev. J. Slutts in charge. Mr. Slutts established an appointment at Center school house, and held a meeting of some interest, and organized Center class. Some of the first members were Henry Radenbaugh, Mrs. Margaret Radenbaugh, L. Laney, Moses and Mrs. Hait.
In 1867 the place of meeting was changed to Linn Grove school house, two miles east. After a varied experience of some years, in 1875 they returned to Center school house, Wm. P. Pease being pastor. A meeting held by Mr. Pease resulted in awakening considerable religious interest, and in the conversion and accession of a number of persons, when the church was reorganized with the following members: John Snook, Thomas Brooks, Henry Radenbaugh, Andrew J. Hyde, George B. Hastings, Edith Snook, Sarah Brooks, Elias R. Smith, Cynthia Arbogast, Mary M. Hastings, Richard H. Paugh, Edwin M. Smith, Belle Smith, Eva Smith, John Snapp, Barbara C. Snapp, David Hyde, Eliza Hyde, James C. Booth, Sarah Booth, George W. Hudson, Rebecca Hudson, Simon Rutledge, Mercy Rutledge, R. G. Carter, Mattie Carter, Matthew M. Boden, Francis Boden, Jacob Can Doren, Margaret Van Doren, Catharine Van Doren, Henry Radenbaugh, Joseph Arthur, Elizabeth Arthur, Henry Hudson and J. W. Buckley.
Feeling the need of a suitable and permanent place of worship, measures were taken to build a house. In 1876, H. Radenbaugh, George B. Hastings, Quintus Walker, Simeon Rutledge and T. J. Brooks were elected a board of trustees. A subscription was circulated. The more liberal donors were T. J. Brooks, Peter Rutledge, M. Boden and George Hastings. The trustees procured a lot from George Hastings, on the southeast corner of section 14, in the geographical center of Walnut Grove township, and proceeded to erect a house 36x44 feet, at a cost of about $2,000, which was dedicated in December of the same year, Rev. W. J. Hott, of Dayton, Ohio, officiating. The present officers are as follows: J. P. Paul, leader; T. J. Brooks, steward; T. J. Brooks, superintendent of Sunday school; George B. Hastings, Ahaz Bryan, J. P. Paul, George Wetsel, T. J. Brooks, trustees.
Pleasant Gale U. B. Church
In 1868, Rev. J. Dunham, of Blandinsville, at the request of some friends, held a series of meetings at Pleasant Gale school house, which resulted in the organization of Pleasant Gale church. Some of the first members were: Samuel Rush, Mrs. E. Rush, M. Elwell, Mrs. Elwell, Eunice Purkey. Mr. Elwell was elected leader, and Samuel Rush steward.
In 1872, A. Worman, pastor, conducted a series of meetings which resulted in a number of conversions, and acceptions and in awakening a desire for a more suitable place of worship. C. Aten, Samuel Rush, and William Aten, were appointed a board of trustees, and in the following year a subscription was circulated. The more liberal donors were Wm. Aten, S. Rush, B. K. Purkey, C. Aten, Thomas Killough. A lot was procured from Thomas Killough, on the northeast corner of section 8, Sciota township, upon which a house 30x40, with a neat belfry was built, at a cost of about $2,100. This was dedicated in December of the same year, Rev. J. Wagner being pastor. Mr. Wagner's pastorate resulted in strengthening the church. Within the past few years quite a number have removed to the west. The society though somewhat reduced in numbers, is active, healthy and hopeful. Pleasant Gale is four miles north of the village of Sciota. The present officers are the following: Ahaz Bryan, leader, John Rush, steward, Joseph Briner, superintendent of the Sunday school. The trustees are: William Aten, Ahaz Bryan, Joseph Briner.
Willow Grove U. B. Church
The first religious services, under the auspices of the United Brethren church, were held by Rev. J. H. Snyder, of Blandinsville circuit, in 1867, at the Good Templars' hall. In 1870, this appointment was added to Good Hope circuit, Rev. N. A. Walker, preacher in charge. During this year a society was formed. Some of the first members were: Alfred Brown, Sarah Brown, Wm. Watts and family, A. M. Hainline, T. A. Hainline. Alfred Brown was elected leader, and Wm. Watts, steward.
A union Sunday school was conducted at this place for a number of years prior to this.
In 1872, A. Worman, preacher in charge, conducted a meeting which resulted in some conversions and accessions. Feeling the need of a house of worship, Alfred Brown, William Watts, John Isom, A. Hainline, and Quincy Hainline, was elected a board of trustees. A lot was procured from Alfred Brown, in the center of section 1, Hire township, upon which a house 30x40 was erected at an expense of about $1,800, and was dedicated October 8, 1873, Bishop D. Edwards officiating. The present officers are the following: Alfred Brown, leader, Q. Hainline, steward.
Jerusalem U. B. Church
In 1865, Rev. J. L. Condon, of Pilot Grove circuit, held the first religious services under the United Brethren auspices, in this community, at the Collins school house. In 1866, this appointment was added to Deer Park mission, and Rev. N. A. Walker placed in charge. In the early part of the year Mr. Walker conducted a series of meetings of considerable religious interest and organized a society, consisting of the following eight members: Abraham Switzer, John Dobbins and wife, Wm. Earley and wife, Polly Spangler, Alice Wilson and Angelie Markham. Abraham Switzer was elected leader, and John Dobbins, steward. The following year, Rev. D. J. B. Ross, pastor, was one of religious interest, a number being added to the church. As the place of meeting seemed straightened, A. Switzer, J. B. Conley, E. Spangler, J. C. Dobbins and Wm. Early were elected a board of trustees to build a house. A lot was procured from Nicholas Combs, on section 11, Macomb township, and through the liberality of A. Switzer, E. Spangler, J. B. Conley, A. L. Bryan, Levi Shriner and others, a house 28x36 was erected upon it, and dedicated December 22, 1867, Rev. D. J. B. Ross officiating.
The house was refitted in 1876, principally through the liberality of A. L. Bryan. This church is located in the midst of an intelligent and enterprising people. A number of interesting meetings have been held here, notably one conducted by Rev. J. Wagner, in 1874. The present officers are: George Wetsel, leader; John Swisher, steward; Geo. Wetsel, superintendent of the Sunday school, and A. L. Bryan, E. Wetsel, Geo. Wetsel, trustees. Under the itinerant system, pastors are frequently changed. Since the organization of the work, the following ministers have been in charge: Revs. J. Slutts, S. Austin, J. Deardorf, J. L. Condon, J. Dunham, N. A. Walker, J. Wagner, W. P. Pease, I. Valentine, D. C. Martin, J. B. King, M. Douglass and A. Worman, the present incumbent of the pastoral charge.
United Brethren Church, of Blandinsville
By Rev. J. Dunham
This article being written entirely from a memory extending back over a space of 30 years, and relying mainly on general information for facts previous to that, are necessarily brief and imperfect, and the writer craves pardon for any omissions or errors that may creep in. The traditions of this church state that in or about the year 1846, Revs. Daniel Porter, Josiah Terrell and others commenced preaching in Blandinsville, and formed a small society, consisting of Francis, John and Wesley Freeland, and their wives. William Blandin and others united with the congregation shortly afterwards. This little band continued to hold services and thrive, having a considerable religious influence. In 1852, the Illinois annual conference determined to build an institution of learning at this place, and, in furtherance of the scheme, appointed five trustees for the purpose. In that and the ensuing year, they erected a house in the village and gave it the name of the Blandinsville seminary. In 1855 a school was opened with a faculty composed of Professor Keller, of Indianam president, and J. C. Ross, professor of mathematics. This helped to strengthen the infant society, and when in 1854 the annual conference convened at this place it had a good influence on the status of the church of Blandinsville. At this conference it was determined to place at this station or mission, the Rev. J. Dunham, and under his ministry the congregation throve and grew until it numbered 100 members. The congregation worshipped in he chapel of the seminary until 1868, when the seminary building passed into the hands of the township officers, and has been used for public educational purposes ever since. The congregation, thus deprived of a house of worship, immediately set about the erection of a proper church building, and soon it was completed and dedicated to the service of the Almighty God. The number of members increased under the different pastors that from time to time supplied its pulpit, until death, the spirit of emigration, and other causes, commenced to weaken the ranks of this company of the christian army. The church, owing to its discipline prohibiting the reception of individuals who are members of any secret society, has become quite small, but still keeps up its organization. Rev. J. Dunham is the present pastor, and Rev. O. F. Smith, the presiding elder.
Rev. Joshua Dunham, pastor of the United Brethren church in Blandinsville, is a native of Ohio, having been born in Harrison county, September 16, 1820. His parents were William and Mary (Chanly) Dunham, both of whom are deceased. Joshua is the youngest of a family of 11 children, only three of whom are now living. His father was a farmer and Joshua remained at home and attended school until he was 14 years of age, when he went to learn the tailor's trade, and continued in this occupation until he was 23 years of age, when he emigrated to Illinois and settled in Pike county, near Pittsfield, and worked at his trade in connection with farming. In April, 1845, he was licensed to preach, and in 1847 he joined the annual conference; in 1852 was ordained. In 1854 he sold his possessions in Pike county and moved to Blandinsville, and bought some town property and entered the field as an itinerant minister of the gospel, which profession he has continued to follow to the present time. He has always enjoyed a large share of the confidence and esteem of his church, and has been honored with many trusts. He has been presiding elder at different times, agent of the Blandinsville seminary, and has been elected three times to general conference, appointed to circuits and districts which have necessitated much travel in his ministerial labor all over the Military Tract as well as central and eastern portion of the state of Illinois. In the fall of 1858, he again bought a farm in Pike county, and moved back, where he remained until the spring of 1863, when he was traveling as presiding elder east of the Illinois river. Sold his farm in Pike county, Illinois, and moved to Blandinsville. In the fall of 1864, his health failing, he discontinued preaching and engaged in merchandising in the village of Blandinsville, which he continued for two years. During this time he was elected police magistrate and served four years. Before his term as magistrate expired, he resumed preaching on Blandinsville circuit, and was again elected presiding elder. In 1872 he went to southwest Kansas and entered the cattle trade, thinking to improve his health. Upon his return he was again elected presiding elder, but was in poor health. In 1884, he was again called to the Blandinsville circuit, and, although in failing health continues his good and noble work.
United Brethren Church, of Hire Township
This society erected a fine church edifice, 26x36 feet in ground area, on the northwest corner of the southeast quarter of section 15, during the summer of 1867. The building, when completed, cost about $1,400. Israel Null, with his characteristic generosity, donated 10 acres for a church lot. Isaac Null, and family, were among the first members of the organization. The church was quite thriving and prosperous, and at one time had a membership of about 70, although at present the membership numbers only about 20,--some sleeping the sleep that knows no wakening, while others have gone to the land of the setting sun. The first pastor of the church was John Wyatt, who presided over the little flock for a year. The church has had a number of pastors since, but is without an expounder of biblical doctrine at present. A Sabbath school has been conducted during the summer months, since the erection of the church building, in which considerable interest has been manifested, and generally has a good attendance. Israel Null was the pioneer superintendent of the school.
United Brethren Church, Scotland Township
This society was organized in 1860, in a school house, which formerly stood near the present site of the church, on section 13, Scotland township. Rev. John Wyatt was the organizer. The first members were: Solomon Walker and wife, James M. Rexroat and wife, Mrs. M. Rexroat, Martha Isaacs, Jane Bear, and Steven Tolen. Meetings were held in the school house mentioned for some time, Rev. John Wyatt serving as pastor for two years. The church edifice was erected in the spring of 1881, at a cost of $1,800. It is 36x44 feet in ground area. The present pastor is Rev. E. O. Norvel, who resides at Adair, Illinois.
Pilot Grove United Brethren Church, of New Salem Township
The building used by this society was erected in 1868, on the northwest corner of section 11. It is 34x46 feet in dimensions, and cost $1,000. The dedication sermon was preached by Rev. Davis. The first trustees were C. P. McDonald, William Nebergall, and William Ritter. William G. Wilkins and James Wilson were added to this list in 1883. The present pastor is Rev. E. O. Norvel.
Source: The History of McDonough County, together with sketches of the towns, villages and townships, educational, civil, military and political history; portraits of prominent individuals, and biographies of the representative citizens, 1885, pages 483-489. Transcribed by Karl A. Petersen