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Bushnell Presbyterian Church

The first organization of Presbyterians occurred in 1856, but as the records are not at hand, the exact date of the formal organization of the church can not be stated. The minutes of Schuyler presbytery (O. S.) show that at the meeting at Monmouth, October 14, 1856, "a petition from certain persons residing in Bushnell and vicinity, for the organization of a church, was read, when, on motion, Revs. J. C. King and Thompson, and Elder S. H. McCandless were appointed to organize said church, if the way be clear, and report at the next meeting of the presbytery." At Mt. Sterling, April 3, 1857, "the committee nominated to organize a church at Bushnell, reported that two of the members met on the day appointed, and organized a church at that place with thirteen members and two ruling elders." At North Henderson, October 17, 1859, the minutes of the presbytery show that "the church at Bushnell, having become extinct, was stricken from the rolls. It seems that by the advice of certain members of the presbytery, the struggling church resolved to abandon their organization, and cast in their lot with the Reformed church, which was organized the same year, as both churches would be very weak if separate organizations were kept in the field. This state of things continued till the spring of 1868, when it was deemed expedient by a number of Presbyterians, already connected with the Reformed church, and others, who had not been connected with any Bushnell church, to again attempt the organization of a Presbyterian church, believing that there was an "open door" for the new church to enter in, and do service in the Master's vineyard. Accordingly, a petition was sent to the spring meeting of the presbytery of Warren (O. S.), at Monmouth, asking for such an organization. This petition was signed by about thirty persons, most of whom were at that time members of the Reformed church. The presbytery appointed a committee, consisting of Rev. R. C. Matthews, D. D., of Monmouth; Rev. C. Leavenworth, Rev. George Norcross, of Galesburg, and Elders Wier, of Monmouth, and Jackson, of Galesburg, to visit the field and organize a church, "if the way be clear." The first two members of this committee have since gone to their reward, and the third is now pastor of the church in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The committee was composed of exceptionally strong, prudent, cautious, devoted men, who surveyed well the surroundings, and decided that the Master's cause would undoubtedly be advanced by the organization of the new church.

April 25, 1868, was the day appointed for the formal organization. The meeting was held in the Baptist church, which was rented for one year--to be used Sabbath afternoons, and at such other times as not needed by their own people. Twenty-one persons presented a certificate in a body from the Reformed church, of Bushnell, and seven from other Presbyterian churches, making twenty-eight in all.

The church building was dedicated August 29, 1869, the dedication sermon being preached by Rev. J. T. Magill, then of Lewistown, Illinois. The church property originally cost about $7,000. During the fall of 1882, $1,000 was spent in repainting, replastering, papering, etc., and the next year a neat and convenient lecture room was added at a cost of $725.

The church has had five pastors--Rev. R. T. McMahon, of the Wythe church, in Hancock county, was the first invited to take charge of the church. He continued stated supply for two years, his services ending September 1, 1870. After a vacancy of a few months, Rev. Matthew Bigger, of Hamilton, Illinois, was called to the pastorate, and he remained until called up higher by the Master he served--falling dead in his study, December 21, 1872. Rev. Thomas Stephenson, of Farmington, Illinois, assumed charge of the church April 1, 1873, and remained its pastor until May 1, 1877. The church was without a pastor until January 1, 1878, when Rev. S. H. Parvin, of New Salem, Illinois, became pastor, and remained until April 1, 1884. On the 1st day of September, 1884, the present pastor, Rev. Harold J. Frothingham commenced his labors in this field. The reverend gentleman was a licentiate when he took charge of the church, and at a called meeting of the presbytery of Schuyler, December 10, 1885, was ordained to the full work of the gospel ministry, and installed pastor of the church.

The original board of ruling elders, or church session consisted of Robert A. Adams, Robert Rea, Robert M. Scott and A. H. McGahan. John C. Cadwalader was added to the session May 7, 1871, R. W. Wheeler December 7, 1873, and W. A. Posey December 14, 1873. Mr. Posey was dismissed September 21, 1881, with three others to assist in forming the new Presbyterian church of Walnut grove. The session now consists of Robert A. Adams, John C. Cadwalader, R. W. Wheeler and A. H. McGahan. the following brethren were elected deacons May 18, 1873: D. A. McDonald, Wm. Tiedrick, F. M. Deuel and R. W. Wheeler. In August, 1876, W. R. Fowler was added to the board. November 2, 1879, the following additional deacons were elected: Richard Hire, B. F. Pinkley and Frank Sample. Messrs. Deuel and Fowler have removed from Bushnell, and Mr. Wheeler transferred to the board of elders, leaving the other brethren named as the present board of deacons. June 29, 1868, the first board of trustees was elected as follows: R. M. Scott, Joseph Neff and A. H. McGahan. The present board consists of J. C. Cadwalader, D. A. McDonald and A. H. McGahan.

The Sabbath school was organized in the fall of 1869, as soon as the new church was occupied. A. H. McGahan was the first superintendant and cashier, and has been re-elected each year since. The present membership is about 175. The present membership of the church is 150, death and removals having been almost equal to the present membership. The original membership consisted of the following persons: *John W. Adams, +Mrs. Minerva F. Adams, Robert A. Adams, Mrs. Carolina Adams, +Priscilla Adams, Mrs. Carrie Anderson, +D. H. Bodine, +Mrs. Harriet S. Bodine, +Mrs. Maria C. Hesler, A. H. McGahan, Mrs. Alice W. McGahan, Mrs. Eliza A. McGahan, +Mrs. Lydia A. Moore, *Joseph Neff, Mrs. Mary Neff, +Mrs. Jennie Odell, *Robert Rea, *Mrs. Hannah Rea, Frank Sample, Mrs. Rebecca Sample, +R. M. Scott, Mrs. A. K. Scott, +Mrs. E. A. Sieber, Mrs. Elizabeth J. Sperry, Wm. Tiedrick, *Mrs. C. Tiedrick, +H. S. Wells, +Mrs. Frances Wells. Those marked * are deceased--those marked + have removed, leaving only 12 of the original members still on the roll of the church.

The church property cost in the neighborhood of $7,000, and is generally regarded as the neatest church in Bushnell; it was erected under the superintendency of F. A. Cooley. The plastering was done by Shafer & Kuhn; the painting by Adams, Barrett & Travis; the frescoing by Jevin & Almini, of Chicago, and the stained glass windows by Geo. A. Misch & Bro., of the same city.

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 430-433. Transcribed by Karl A. Petersen

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