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Presbyterian Church of Macomb

The following excellent sketch of the history of this church, was prepared for Clarke's "History of McDonough county," by Rev. Josiah Moore, at that time the pastor of the church. We make no apology for presenting it here, as it contains the whole matter.

The Presbyterian church of Macomb was the first of this body, and was organized June 9, 1832, two years after the county seat was located at Macomb, then a wild prairie.

As evidence that the hardships of the wilderness did not bleach the "true blue" Presbyterians, it is said that Rev. Romulus Barnes, then presiding at Lewistown, proposed to assist in the organization, but some objected because they feared he was not sound in the faith; and so they sent to Morgan county for Rev. William J. Frazer. Here, no doubt, is the first step which resulted afterward in the church becoming Old school.

The organization took place in the old log court house that stood near the northeast corner of the square. The following are the names of the original members, five men and nine women: Thomas and Jane Grant, Alexander Campbell and wife, John and Jane Harris, Patsey Naylor, Elizabeth Anderson, Ruth Wilson, Jane and Mahala Campbell, Sanders Campbell and wife, and Margaret Walker. The first elders were John Harris, Thomas Grant, Alexander Campbell and Sanders Campbell. This church at first included the fields now occupied by the prosperous churches at Camp Creek, Bardolph, Ebenezer and Good Hope, all of which are from six to eight miles distant.

Services were held in the log court house until 1834, when the first brick court house was erected in the center of the square. This was used until a church building was erected, which was in 1835, or 1836, and on the site of the present edifice, on East Carroll street. This was a brick building, which in a few years had become so small that it was removed and a frame building erected, which was first occupied January 10, 1853, at three o'clock P. M. In 1867, this house was enlarged and remodelled at a cost of $700, and in 1870, the entire structure was rebuilt and enlarged to its present dimensions, at a cost of $4,458. The building is a frame, built in Gothic style, with two spires, one on each of the front corners; it is entered by a vestibule, in the center of the front end. A very good bell, weighing 900 pounds, hangs in the main spire, which rises from the southwest corner. The audience room is neat and commodious, well furnished and tastefully frescoed, and is capable of seating about 400 persons. The value of the church structure is $8,000, and the value of the parsonage, which is located on East Jackson street, about $1,600.

For want of documents we can only give statistics from 1865, or for about one-fourth of the church's existence. The membership in 1866, was 200. Since, 175 have united on profession and 120 by certificate. Removals and deaths leave the present membership 300. Adults baptized, 41; infants, 80. Contributions as follows: home missions, $746; foreign missions, $715; educating ministers, $526; publishing and colporter work, $185; building churches, $370; disabled ministers and their families, $180; freedman's mission, $82; sustaining permanent pastorates, $54; commissions to assembly, $163; congregational work--pastor's salary, sexton, repairs, etc., $20,052; miscellaneous--American bible society, Sabbath school union, public charities, etc., $1,629. Total, $24,703, or an average of $2,245.73 per year.

About a year after the organization, Rev. W. J. Frazer became stated supply for this and other points in the county until 1836, when Rev. William K. Stewart, of Vandalia, Illinois, was called as pastor. Mr. Frazer, and some of the people not satisfied with this move, attempted to get up a rival organization, but after a year or so, the effort failed.

Mr. Stewart remained as pastor until his death, which occurred on the 19th day of April, 1852; aged 52 years. He was a man of noble worth; an able minister of the gospel; a devout christian, and a valuable citizen. During the last year or two of Mr. Stewart's ministry, and owing to failing health, he was assisted by Rev. Ralph Harris, a professor in McDonough college, who, after the death of Mr. Stewart, became stated supply, and September 17, 1853, was elected pastor, at a salary of $500 per year. He resigned the pastorate January 20, 1855, and Rev. Ithamar Pillsbury, president of McDonough college, was elected stated supply March 7, 1855, and February 23, 1856, he was elected pastor, at a salary of $700 a year. April 10, 1859, he resigned the pastorate, hut acceded to the request of the session May 2, to remain as stated supply till the election of a successor, which took place January 25, 1860, when Robert F. Taylor was elected as stated supply.

Mr. Pillsbury returned to Andover, Illinois, the first field of his labors in the west, where, after a short illness, and on the 20th day of April, 1862, he died, being in the 68th year of his age.

Mr. Taylor, failing in health, resigned before the close of the year. In 1862 he went out as chaplain of the 78th Illinois infantry. In January, 1861, Rev. Joseph Warren, D. D., was elected stated supply on a salary of $800. Mr. Warren had returned from the foreign mission work in India. Rev. John H. Woods was engaged as stated supply November 5, 1862. October 29, 1863, Mr. Nesbitt was chosen stated supply. He commenced his labors about the first of February, 1864, but was soon elected pastor at a salary of $800, and installed May 28th. April 11th, 1868, his salary was fixed at $1,000 per year and a parsonage.

Rev. Peter Hathaway K. McComb, of Bloomfield, Pennsylvania, was chosen pastor February 28, 1870, at a salary of $1,000. He resigned May 11, 1873, and on the 18th of May, Dr. J. Jamieson, by the direction of the presbytery, preached and declared the pulpit vacant June 1, 1873, Rev. J. Moore, of Canton, Illinois, occupied the pulpit for the first time, and June 16, he was chosen stated supply, and October 2, 1874, was chosen pastor with a salary of $1,000 and the use of the parsonage.

S. T. Davis was the next pastor, who was succeeded by Rev. H. S. Beavis. The following are the present officers of the church: A. Blackburn, William Hunter, J. E. Wyne, J. H. Provine, M. H. Case and J. H. Cummings, elders; 0. F. Piper, A. P. Wetherhold, H. R. Bartleson, J. H. Fuhr and G. W. Bailey, deacons; Geo. Reid, J. B. Venard and John McElrath, trustees.

The Sabbath school attached to the Presbyterian church of Macomb, has an average attendance of 150. A. P. Wetherhold is the superintendent. It was organized at the same time that the church was, and has a continuous existence ever since, a creditable showing that manifests the interest of the congregation in this "nursery" of the church.

Rev. Horatio S. Beavis, the present pastor of the Presbyterian church, at Macomb, is a native of Canada, born at Guelph, in 1848. He came to the United States during the year 1857, and since then has made it his home. He entered the ministry in 1870, the first four years being connected with the Methodist Episcopal communion, but at the expiration of that time he transferred his allegiance to the Presbyterian church. He has been pastor of churches at Vermont, Peoria and El Paso, prior to coming to this place, whither he was called in October, 1883. Mr. Beavis is a highly educated, intelligent gentleman, a most consistent christian, and a zealous worker in his Master's vineyard. The church, under his fostering care, is in a flourishing condition, and largely attended, both by the members of the congregation, and strangers in the city. He was united in marriage at Hamilton, Canada, October 20, 1881, with Emma Young, of that 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 428-430. Transcribed by Karl A. Petersen

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