Church and Family History Assistance
for Primitive Baptist Churches in Fulton County, Illinois

CHURCHES:

BETHEL (CANTON)

Bethel Regular Baptist Church, three or four miles west of Canton, was one of the first churches of any faith organized in Fulton County. In August 1824, the following members had been given letters of dismission by Providence Church, in Gibson Co., Indiana, as some of them intended very soon to move to Fulton County, to claim War of 1812 bounty lands, viz., Joseph Combs, William Shaw, Sid Shaw, John Miller, Polly Miller, William Putman, Rebecca Taylor, Stephen Strickland Jr. and Ede Strickland. In August 1825, Elders Elihu Holcomb and Larkin Burchfield were given "letters of recommendation" by this same Providence Church to travel in Illinois, and it is believed they were instrumental in organizing Bethel Church, in Fulton county, sometime during the month of September 1825.

Other Primitive Baptists had also already settled in the area. John Eveland, the first white settler in the county, in 1820, lived for a short time near present day Waterford, on the Spoon River; then he moved to Buckheart township, and built a cabin on what became known as the Eveland Branch, a small stream which flows into Big Creek west of Bryant. Redding Putman and Hazeal Putman had received bounty land in 1821, and moved to the area by 1822. Redding Putman settled in the northeast quarter of Sec. 2 of Putman township, and also owned other land.

Several Primitive Baptist Elders moved to the county at a very early period, including Elders Squire Willcoxen, James Tatum, John Goforth, Stephen Strickland Jr., and John Holcomb. Elder James Tatum and his wife Rebecca, were charter members of Bethel Church, and he was ordained there, and probably served as pastor.

Bethel Church was one of the original churches in the Spoon River Association, when it was organized in about 1831.

Sometime in 1833, this church excluded Elder John Clark and wife, and Elder William Spencer and wife, for causing trouble in the church by advocating arminian doctrine and accepting an appointment with the Baptist Home Mission Society in New York. These four members, after being excluded, "went out" and were formed into a "church" called "Duck Creek," (later known as the First Baptist Church of Canton, a missionary Baptist body) by Elder John Logan, who like themselves, had been excluded (for the same reasons) from Crane Creek Church, near Rushville, in Schuyler County, in November 1832.

The Spoon River Association minutes of 1834 show that Bethel Church had 66 members. Messengers from Bethel Church that year were John Holcomb and Jesse Graves. According to one source, Bethel may have been the largest Baptist Church in Illinois for a time.

The church met part of the time in the Tatum Schoolhouse, in the northeast corner of Sec. 7 in Buckheart township. Some believe the church met or had a meeting house at the site of a Putman cemetery near the home of Redding Putman.

SURNAMES OF MEMBERS:

(Names definitely known: Alumbaugh, Clark, Eggers, Ellis, Goforth, Holcomb, Kincaid, Miner, Morphew, Putman, Spencer, Strickland, Tatum, Willcoxen) (Probable names: Miller, Ingram, Pierson, Sherry, Stelle, Keys) (very incomplete due to loss of records).

COPPERAS CREEK (COPPERAS CREEK)

Copperas Creek Church was organized by 1830, or earlier (some of the early members came to the area as early as 1823, so it is likely the church was organized before 1830), near the settlement by the same name, a landing on the Illinois River, in what is now Banner Township. Copperas Creek Church was one of the churches which organized the Spoon River Association in 1831. This church survived the internal trouble caused by the introduction of the mission system. When Elder John Clark was excluded from Bethel Church (see above) for advocating the modern mission system, several of his sons, who were members of Copperas Creek Church, did not follow him but remained with the Regular Baptists.

The minutes of Spoon River Association for 1834 show William O. Spencer, Ware Long, Truman G. Clark, and Samuel Clark as messengers from this church. Names of pastors are not known, except that Elder John A. Davis served the church for many years. In 1834, the church had 26 members; 1835, 28; in 1860, 39. The church was weakened by the dismission of members to organize the Fountain Church, in 1864. Copperas Creek Church dissolved in about 1883.

SURNAMES:

Alsbury, Clark, Cory, Davis, Donaho, Long, McCan, Spencer, Tompkins (very incomplete list due to loss of records).

SALEM (LEWISTOWN/BRYANT)(1830)

Salem Church was the first church of any faith in Liverpool township. The church was organized August 10, 1830, at the home of Jeremiah Farris, on the northwest quarter of Sec. 10. The presbytery was composed of Elders John Logan and Stephen Strickland, and Deacons Landrine Eggers and James McCan. The charter members were Francis P. Smith, Preston Goforth, John Goforth, John Farris, Jeremiah Farris, Samuel Cozad, Nathan Thomas, Benjamin Ford, James Pennington, James Pollitt, and their wives, and possibly others.

Among the first Elders were Elders John Goforth, John Miner, John Holcomb, and Squire Willcoxen. Samuel Cozad was probably one of the first deacons.

On May 24, 1834, the church agreed to build a meeting house, 26 feet by 30 feet, made of logs; "the logs shall be hewed 7 inches thick and face 10 inches in the middle." It was built on the land of John Farris, just over the line into Buckheart township. The congregation continued to meet in this house until about 1857, when Captain Elijah Wilcoxen deeded land to the church, south of the northeast corner of the northwest quarter of Sec. 8, Liverpool township, and a more modern edifice was soon constructed. It was a frame building about 28 by 40 feet, with 12 foot ceiling and seating capacity of about 300. This building was built principally at the expense of Elijah Willcoxen, A. J. Willcoxen, Jesse B. Willcoxen, Major E. C. Willcoxen, J. C. Willcoxen, J. F. Willcoxen, Marshall N. Willcoxen, Solomon B. Snider, Ira Kuykendall, Robert B. Goforth, and others.

Elder John Goforth, a man well known for piety and earnestness of Christianity, and a pioneer of the county, served the church as pastor from its constitution until 1852, when he moved to Iowa. He was followed by Elders Cyrus Humphrey and Stephen Bolender.

Salem Church was one of the original members of the Spoon River Association when it was organized.

SURNAMES:

Alldridge, Clore, Cozad, Farris, Ford, Gilpin, Goforth, Holcomb, Jennings, Johnson, Kuykendall, Minnick, Morphew, Pearson, Pennington, Pollitt, Putman, Ryner, Smith, Snider, Thomas, Turner, Willcoxen (very incomplete list due to loss of records).

NEW PROVIDENCE (ASTORIA)

New Providence Church was organized by 1832 or earlier. Elder John Howard (a veteran of the Revolutionary War) was a member here in 1832. Elder Amaziah Howard and his wife Sarah gave one acre of land for the church in December 1849, in the northeast corner of the NE 1/4 of Sec. 16, Woodland township. However, it appears that a log church building was erected at this site earlier, in the year 1842. A deed was secured for a burying ground, adjacent to the church ground, in June 1853, which is now the site of the "Little Sixteen" cemetery, in the southeast corner of section 9, 3N2E Woodland Township. The church was weakened by the dismission of members to Mt. Zion Church, which is very close by. New Providence Church continued to meet until about the year 1876.

SURNAMES:

Ellis, Freilly, Horton, Howard, Humphrey, Kelly, Lalicker, Miner, Sargent, Shields, Sterling (very incomplete list due to loss of records).

LITTLE FLOCK (ADAIR/TABLE GROVE)(1835)

Little Flock Church, between Adair and Table Grove, was organized June 9, 1835. The church united with the Spoon River Association the same fall, at which time they reported 13 members. The atlas for Farmers Township indicates a log church was first built on land belonging to Thomas Walters, which stood until 1879. We are still seeking more information regarding this site. However, in February 1839, Absalom and Elizabeth Sargent deeded to the trustees of the church a two-acre plot in the east half of the NE 1/4 of Sec 16, T5N R1E 4PM, beginning 24 rods east from the SW corner of said half quarter section, for a meeting house and burying ground. This site is now known in the community as the Temple Cemetery. Little Flock Church remained a member of the Spoon River Association, but did not represent for some years before 1868, when the church was reported dissolved. Early ministers in this church were Elders John Miner and John A. Whiteley.

SURNAMES:

Brown, Miner, Richards, Sargent, Stephens, Whiteley, Whitman, Wilkins, Wright (very incomplete list due to loss of records).

WATERFORD (SEPO)

Waterford Church, which met at Sepo, on the Illinois River, was a member of the Spoon River Association. Unfortunately, no records of the church have been located. The Church met, at least in latter years, in a union church house, or in the Christena school.

SURNAMES:

Arnett, Bean, Bolender, Burnette, Cory, Cosad, Courter, Downs, Hardin, Johnson, Miller, Owens, Payne, Short (very incomplete list due to loss of records).

SUGAR CREEK (VERMONT)

Sugar Creek Church, near (later, in) Vermont, Illinois, was organized before 1858, the exact year is unknown. For many years it met in homes or schools, southwest of Vermont, near (or over) the Schuyler County line. In 1906 the church constructed a new meeting house at the corner of North East Alley and Union Streets, in Vermont, Illinois. This building was sold in 1936. Sugar Creek Church was a member of the Spoon River Association throughout its existence. Its pastors included Elders John B. Moore, S. H. Humphrey, Willie Dobbs, and S. A. D. Sanders.

SURNAMES:

Brown, Bruner, Campbell, Ellis, Hannan, Hills, Lybarger, McFadden, Milner, Montgomery, Moore, Pemberton, Reynolds, Schroder, Snowden, Sterling, Welch (very incomplete list due to loss of records).

BIG SPRING

Big Spring Church was organized on May 20, 1843, with six charter members, viz., Elder Charles N. Martin, Moses C. Johnson, Asa Johnson, Russel Austin, Zerilda Johnson, and Osee Austin. The presbytery was composed of Elders John Goforth, James Tatum, Charles Martin, and Deacons Jesse Graves and Elijah Willcoxen. Big Springs Church united with the Spoon River Association, and remained a member until the church dissolved in 1855. The church was never large, but was weakened by the removal of Elder Martin and several of the members to Floyd County, Iowa. Elder John Roberts was ordained to the ministry by this church in October 1852.

SURNAMES:

Austin, Bishop, Heckard, Hess, Johnson, Jones, Martin, McGrew, Minick, Nebbergale, Roberts.

CENTERVILLE (CUBA)

A church called Centerville (the original name of a town now called Cuba) is mentioned in the minutes of Big Springs Church, dated February 1844, regarding a request from that church for help to ordain a deacon. No further information on this church has been obtained.

MT. ZION (ASTORIA)(1851)

Mt. Zion Church was organized October 11, 1851, in Woodland township, with seven charter members, viz., John Bloomfield, Lewis Price, Robert Beatty, Joseph Kelly, Mary Bloomfield, Fanny Beatty, and Laura Kelly. The presbytery was composed of Elder Charles Vandeveer, moderator, John Vandeveer and Rowland Simmons, of New Hope Church, Warren Co., Ill.; Elder Peter L. Campbell, Charles Kennedy, and Alv Shure of Crane Creek Church, Schuyler Co., Ill.; William Stephens of Little Flock Church, Fulton Co., Ill., Elder Benjamin Bradbury of Henderson Church, Knox Co., Ill.; and Elder Amaziah Howard of New Providence Church, Fulton Co., Ill.

During the early years the church held monthly meetings in the homes of members, in the town hall, or in the Reformed Church building in Astoria. The first church meeting house was built in 1872 on land which had belonged to James Stephens. The present church building was erected in 1896, at the same site, but the boundaries were increased by a deed dated 1896 from William Stephens.

In the fall of 1852, Mt. Zion Church united with the Spoon River Association. In 1948, Mt. Zion Church joined the Salem Association.

Pastors who have served through the years are: Elders John Fanshier, George Shawgo, J. C. Riggin, Aaron Wright, Squire Humphrey, A. J. Witty, Josiah B. Dobbs, John L. Scott, George W. Murray, John W. Skaggs, Charles P. Beadle, Claud E. Webb, Raymond Webb, Vernon Hopkins, Clayton Nowell, Charles Linton, and Randy Webb.

SURNAMES:

Badgerow, Beaty, Bixler, Black, Bloomfield, Bouncer, Brantley, Brown, Burnett, Butler, Carpenter, Cheek, Clark, Collier, Conner, Cooley, Cooper, Curless, Daring, Darling, Elliott, Fanshier, Fisher, France, Freily, Garrett, Geissler, Gobble, Gould, Hamer, Harmon, Hatcher, Horton, Hughes, Husted, Kelly, Kirkham, Lalicker, Lamb, Lane, Lockhart, Losch, Lybarger, McIntire, McKinley, Mead, Miller, Morningstar, Morris, Mott, Nall, Painter, Peak, Price, Purdy, Ray, Reel, Rhodes, Riggen, Robinson, Rossen, Scheuck, Severns, Sharp, Shaw, Shawgo, Shields, Sides, Skaggs, Skiles, Slaight, Smith, Soulz, Stahl, Stephens, Still, Stoops, Stover, Stremmel, Thomas, Thompson, Turner, Waggoner, Walters, Walterscheid, Warner, Watkins, Webb, Welker, Wren, Wright.

FOUNTAIN (FARMINGTON/BREEDS)(1864)

The Fountain Church was constituted on June 18, 1864, at the Red School-house, six and one half miles northeast of Canton, or about one and one-half miles north of Breeds. It had been known as the Orion branch (arm) of the Copperas Creek Church. After a sermon by Elder Jonas Bolender, the council organized by choosing Elder James C. Riggin, moderator, and Bro. Samuel Tompkins, clerk. Elder Jonas Bolender, Deacons Stephen Bolender and John Harden (Waterford Church); and Bro. William Morphew (Salem Church), being present, were invited to a seat in the council. The newly constituted church called Elder J. C. Riggin to act as moderator, and upon entering into business agreed to be known by the name of "Fountain Church." The new church then set forth for ordination Brother Joseph Pierce as deacon.

SURNAMES:

Bell, Davis, Johns, Long, Merritt, Oaks, Pierce, Prior, Roy, Spencer, Tomkins, Turl, Varnes (very incomplete list due to loss of records).

ADDITIONAL REFERENCE SOURCES IN THE PRIMITIVE BAPTIST LIBRARY:

Minutes of the Spoon River Association (incomplete); Salem Association; records of Big Spring and Mt. Zion churches; obituaries of members in church papers.

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