A look at
Minonk's past

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Big Bend Veteran Reunion - 1896


Minonk is proud of her churches and church buildings, and of the earnest Christian ministers, who look after the spiritual welfare of their respective flocks, and daily and hourly labor for the advancement of the cause of Jesus of Nazareth, too much cannot be said in praise. No more devoted or able band of workers in Christ's cause can be found anywhere. They have done much to Christianize this community, and place society upon a firm and solid foundation. They are always found on the right side of every question that is intended for the welfare of the people and the favored city in which they live, and ever ready to extend a helping hand to strangers who come to our city seeking homes. They receive and deserve the liberal support which is accorded them by the people of this community in carrying on their good work.

Churches and schools walk hand-in-hand in the great work of Christianizing and civilizing the people, and in this connection it may not be inappropriate to say that Minonk's schools and education facilities are about the best. No city in the state has better public schools than ours. Below we give a brief history of our churches and societies connected therewith, which will doubtless prove interesting reading to all classes of people.


The First Baptist Church of Minonk, Ill., was organized June 6, 1858, with the following eleven members: A. H. Danforth, Mrs. Hannah Danforth, Mrs. T. Jury, Richard Denby, Margaret Denby, Frederick Spandan, John Spandan, Mary Spandan, Anthony Spandan, Jerry Terry and Mary Sheplar. Mr. Danforth is the only one now left.

At a council held June 23, 1858 the church was reorganized as an independent church and named the First Baptist Church of Minonk, Illinois. Soon after the organization the church called Rev. C. D. Merit to be pastor.

From the time of the organization of the church until the autumn of 1864, the church met in the schoolhouse, when on October 30, 1864, the present meeting house was dedicated, having been erected at about the cost of $4000. In 1873 the building was enlarged at a cost of about $1,000.

On February 4, 1877, Rev. C. D. Merit resigned as pastor, after serving nearly eighteen years, and under whose ministry the church increased in membership to over two hundred. On March 4, 1877, Rev. George Sutherland was called as pastor and continued as such until April 18, 1879. During his pastorate on March 31, 1878, letters of demission were granted to about forty members to unite and organize the First Baptist Church of Nebraska Township.

December 7, 1879, Rev. A. J. Calwell was called as pastor, who resigned on May 16, 1881, and on the same day Rev. J. C. Shipp was called to the pastorate, resigning on August 3, 1882.

In September 1882, Rev. J. B. Murch was called as pastor and after a pastorate of about a year and a half resigned in January 1884, when in November 1884 Rev. J. W. Coffman became pastor and resigned in August 1887.

Rev. E. C. M. Burnham was then given a call in April 1888, as pastor and continued such until he resigned in February 1889. During Rev. Burnham's pastorate the parsonage was built.

Rev. J. C. Shipp was called on March 14, 1889, as pastor the second time. During Rev. Shipp's second pastorate the church was remodeled at a cost of about $1,500. On account of ill health, Rev. Shipp resigned in July 1892, and in a short time Rev. Fuller Swift was called as pastor, but only remaining about six months when he resigned and Rev. R. Wiley, the present pastor, was called May 4, 1893, and began his pastorate about a month later.

The following are the present officers of the church:

DEACONS-John Powell, N. L. Davison, Sr., James Ridge and H. P. Parks.
TRUSTEES-A. H. Parks, C. F. Morrison, Tom Pickard, Enoch Jones and Wm. Ridge.
FINANCE COMMITTEE-Tom Pickard, Enoch Jones, R. H. Parks, and A. H. Parks.
TREASURER-Enoch Jones.
CHURCH CLERK-Joseph Pickard.


The Christian Church of Minonk was organized in the spring of 1865; but previous to this time, from 1859 to 1865, there was occasionally preaching by Elder A. H. Trowbridge, of Washington, and John Houston. But in 1865 the church was organized by Dr. Roberts, and the present church building was built at a cost of $4,000; and Elder Cragie Sharp was the first preacher located here. He was assisted in the work by Elder J. Carroll Stark, who was a farmer near Minonk, but was a sharp and shrewd preacher, and quite an orator. The church officers, as far as the writer can remember, were Elders C. S. Sharpe, J. C. Stark, and J. F. Burt. J. S. Sharpe has passed to the great beyond, while J. F. Burt lives in Kansas. The Deacons were J. G. Vance (now dead), and J. F. Bourn, who still resides in Minonk. The clerk was J. G. Vance, and the treasurer was J. F. Burt. The church grew in number and increased in wealth, and at the beginning of the seventies it had the largest membership and was the wealthy of any of the churches in town.

Under pastorate of Elder Charles Rowe, who preached here three and one-half years, the membership grew very rapidly; but about this time a re-action set in, and a great many moved away, and in a few years the membership and wealth of the once prosperous church greatly diminished and by 1880 there were left but a handful of members.

The organization has been kept alive by a few energetic members, and at the present time services are conducted every Sunday by Elder David Shields, a young minister from Eureka.


This congregation, which is now the largest in the city, had a humble beginning. A few Catholic families, principally farmers, settled in and around the vicinity of Minonk. They called on their sister town, El Paso, for religious consolation. The kind pastor, Father Keenan, cheerfully administering to their wants in sickness, and in response to the request of the people came to Minonk and held services every two weeks in a private residence in the western part of town.

The few Catholics that were here at the time were poor, but ambitious. They became discouraged and tired of depending on the charity of their neighboring town, and decided to cut loose and be independent, so with the good will of the people and the resident pastor of El Paso, in the fall of 1865 they met and decided to have a church of their own. The city kindly donated a lot; those who were able, paid what they could, and those who had teams, donating their services. Up to 1878, services were held every two weeks by the pastor of the El Paso congregation, Rev. Keenan, who was succeeded by Costa and later by Keating.

In August 1878, this congregation was taken charge of by the Franciscan Fathers of Cincinnati, Ohio. The first priests being sent here by them was Rev. Father Pacific and Rev. Paul, second rector. Those were introduced to the people of Minonk September 1, 1878, by Rev. Keating, at the request of Rt. Rev. Bishop Spaulding. D. D.

Father Pacific thought the location of the church an undesirable one, and in April 1880, purchased 2 acres of land in the northeastern part of town, and had the church removed there. Improvements were made on the grounds purchased, and in the same year a pastoral residence was built, and in October was completed and ready for occupancy. Soon the place, which was in bad condition, was changed by the zealous priests and brothers into a garden of beauty and wealth.

In July 1881, a parochial school was built, and placed under the charge of the Ursalim Sisters of Louisville, KY. They did not remain long, and were succeeded by the Sisters of Mercy. In 1887 the school again changed, and was placed under the supervision of the Franciscan Sisters, who remained ever since.

In all this time the congregation was rapidly growing, so much so that in 1881 Fr. Pacific was obliged to have an addition of 42 feet built, making the church 125 feet long. The interior was improved and a gallery erected for the accommodation of a choir, and the schoolchildren, who numbered then 125.

In 1884 Rev. Pacific was transferred on account of poor health, and was succeeded by Rev. Ignatius, who remained one year. His successor, Rev. Eberhardt arrived September 14, 1885. In the spring of 1887 he purchased 10 acres of land beyond the city limits for cemetery purposes, at the cost of $1,050. Father Eberhardt was transferred in August 1887, and Rev. Fr. Innocent instituted as pastor.

Father Innocent found the school too small, and at the cost of about $700 had the building repaired and an additional room, 24x26, built over. Next the church was too small. He being a man of great ability and perseverance, was not afraid to undertake anything, and in 1890, organized a sinking fund for the foundation, and in 1892 began the erection of this grand edifice, which will stand for ages to come. The structure is of brick, with fine stone finish. It is 125 feet long, 60 feet wide and 45 feet high. The tower from base is 165 feet high. It is of Roman style. The interior is richly frescoed, and over the arches are beautifully decorated with hand-painted pictures of patron saints, this work of art being done over the frescoing. In all we can say, the Catholic Church here compares in grandeur and durability to any in Illinois outside of large cities, and is something the people of Minonk can look upon with pride. Its actual valuation with contents is $35,000. It was dedicated September 15, 1893. In August 1894, Fr. Innocent was removed and was succeeded by Rev. Fr. Isidore Veercamp.

Father Isidore took up the work of his predecessor with good grace. During the time the church was being built and until its completion, the pastor's time was entirely taken up. On this account, the grounds, the priests' and sisters' residences and schools were necessarily neglected. Fr. Isidore began by having the grounds attended to. The school and residences were soon put in shape, being painted and additional porches put on. The old church was soon converted into three bright-airy schoolrooms. The building formerly occupied as classrooms was remodeled and transformed into a sisters' residence of eight rooms. In the winter of 1894 a special donation was given to the church, the donation being a main altar, which cost in Chicago $1,000. It was selected by Fr. Isidore. It is of Roman style to harmonize with the church. Around the tabernacle is a half circle, consisting of 75 electric lights, two-candle power. In the spring of 1896, a beautiful crucifixion groupe was donated of Munich importation. In May 1896, two very nice side altars were donated, in style to match the main altar. Those four gifts nearly completed the necessary inside furnishings. The windows are all stained glass and were all donated by families as memorial windows. One over the altar, donated by the young ladies of the parish, and one by the young men. It is lighted with 200 16-candle power electric lights, and looks very beautiful when lit up.

In March 1895, a Young Men's Catholic club was organized by the pastor, a nice room being neatly fitted-up and furnished, and a library of select books, as well as numerous good weekly and daily papers provided for them. In July, a Vincent De Paul Society was organized, and soon developed into a good strong society of a charitable as well as religious nature. A Young Ladies' Sodality-have a very nice library and reading room-should not be omitted.

The advancement and progress of the church and people for some years has been very marked, as any one may see who wishes to interest himself. The school has on roll something over 200 pupils, who are doing work that can compare with any school, under the disadvantage, which they are laboring.

The little churches of Benson and Roanoke are attended from here by Rev. Samuel Guilling.

The church records, since the church was built in 1865, are Baptism, 1050; deaths since 1887, 245; marriages since 1887, 147.


The Minonk Methodist church in the early days of its history formed a part of Reading circuit. It had then but few members and when visited by the circuit preachers held its services in private houses or in the district schoolhouse. In the year 1864, it was set off by itself and during the following year was supplied by Rev. W. D. H. Young, then a student of Illinois Wesleyan University.

In the fall of 1865, Rev. J. C. Hartzell, then a student, now bishop to Africa, became pastor of the charge. For most of the year he preached on each alternate Sabbath at 3 p.m. in the Baptist church; but in August 1866 the present Methodist church, which together with the lot and furnishings had cost about $4,000, was dedicated. Rev. Hartzell continued as pastor the next year and left the church well organized and with a membership of ninety.

The following have served as pastors since then with dated of their service:

Rev. T. Chipperfield, 1867-68;
Rev. N. W. Ayers, 1868-70;
Rev. T. L. Falkner, 1870-72;
Rev. Louis Springer, 1872-75;
Rev. A. C. Price, 1875-78;
Rev. E. P. Hall, 1878-81;
Rev. C. Springer, 1881-82;
Rdev. T. Doney, 1882-85;
Rev. L. f. Cullom, 1885-87;
Rev. J. I. McLaughlin, 1887-88;
Rev. R. B. Seaman, 1888-93;
Rev. E. G. Cattermole was appointed to succeed Bro. Seaman and remained in charge but five months, when on account of ill health he resigned.

The present pastor was then appointed to fill out the year, and has been twice reappointed to the charge.

The church has had a slow but constant growth from the first and now has a membership of about 160.

During the pastorate of Rev. A. C. Price the present parsonage was erected at a cost of $1,000, and during that of Rev. T. Doney the church was enlarged by an additional 22x24 feet on the north side, which with other repairs cost over $900.

The following societies are maintained in connection with the church:

The Minonk Auxiliary of Woman Foreign Missionary Society of the M. E. church was organized February 15, 1874. Its aim is to encourage the missionary spirit among the ladies and to raise funds and to send lady workers among the women of heathen lands. Its present officers are: Mrs. Mary S. Dunham, President; Mrs. J. E. Connor, Secretary; Mrs. A. Moritz, Treasurer. It has a membership of about 25.

The Epworth League was organized January 6, 1891, during the pastorate of Rev. R. B. Seaman. Its aim is to encourage the young people of the church in seeking a high state of spiritual life and to open doors of usefulness and to train its members so that they will be ready to enter them. It has four departments of work, each superintended by a vice-president. These departments are: I. Spiritual Work. II. Mercy and Help. III. Library. IV. Social. Its present officers are: S. B. Ogle, President; Alice Marland, First Vice-President; Eva Kerrick, Second Vice-President; Eloise Shugart, Third Vice-President; May Moritz, Fourth Vice-President; Lutie Fuller, Secretary; F. H. Shugart, Treasurer. The league holds its devotional meeting every Sunday evening at 6:30 and its business meeting the first Friday evening of each month. It has a membership of sixty.

The Junior League was organized January 26, 1891. It is composed of children of the church. Its aim is to instruct and train the children for Christian service. It has a membership of about 50 and meets every Sunday afternoon. Its present officers are: Superintendent, Mrs. J. E. Connor; President, Henry Hewitt; Secretary, Doris Humphrey; Treasurer, Orpha Kerrick; Organist, Grace Cushing.

Besides these we might speak of the Sabbath school under the leadership of M. A. Cushing, and its corps of 14 teachers. It has an average attendance of over 100 and has all through the years of its history done good work.

The choir also deserves mention; under the able leadership of Mr. G. W. Cushing, it has contributed not a little to the success of church. Mrs. F. W. Wilcox and Miss Grace Cushing are organists.


The Advent church was organized some years ago, with Rev. Burfiend, pastor. A frame church was built at an expense of $600. The membership is small, and they have no regular pastor at the present time.


The Lutheran church was organized in 1868, and a building erected the same year at a cost of $2,800. Rev. J. Newman was the first pastor. The second pastor was Rev. A. Schoenhuth. A new church building was erected in 1884 at the cost of $8,000. The parsonage was erected in 1873. An addition was built to the church in 1894. The church was repaired inside and frescoed by the Women's Society at an expense of $450. Rev. C. Naureth has been connected with the church as pastor since April 28, 1895. E. Remmers' is superintendent of the Sunday School; John Cassens is president of the Young Folks Society. The church Society has 75 active members, and 110 families. Eight trustees have charge of affairs, as follows: C. F. Jauch, Fritz zon Behren, Carl Durre, Frank Denekas, Andrew Gerner, Hajo Koster, Gerd Oncken and Aug. Voss.


The German Baptist Church was organized in the year 1870 by Rev. F. Melchert. The first members were: Rev. F. Melchert and wife, Henry Fulfs and wife, William Hohlen and wife, H. E. Wiechman and wife, John Mammen and wife, Gerd Pielstick and wife and Edward Fulfs. Rev. Melchert was pastor of the church for over thirteen years. Under his pastorate the church did a great work. After his resignation Rev. Fellman had charge for a short time, then Rev. Hoffman was pastor for a period of about three years. Rev. G. A. Guenther was the next pastor. Rev. Pfeiffer was pastor for about three years, then Rev. H. Bens for about the same length of time, and the present leader being Rev. A. Heinz. The church is in good standing, but about two-thirds of the members have moved west. The meetings are well attended and the minister and members are working hand-in-hand.


The First Presbyterian Church of Minonk, Ill., was organized May 3, 1857, by Rev. H. H. Hays, D.D. and consisted of the following persons; viz.: Samuel Work, Francis Lockwood, I. C. Raymond, Thomas Reeder, Mrs. Elizabeth Reeder, William D. McCord, Mrs. Margaret McSparron, Archibald McSparron, Miss Priscilla McSparron, Miss Mary I. McSparron, Geo. Danforth and Mrs. Mary Danforth, by certificate and Linius Clark by examination; twelve in all. Geo. Danforth and Wm. D. McCord were elected electors.

The church was in due time taken under the care of the Presbytery of Peoria, then a part of the New School Branch of the Presbyterian Church. This church, although in a state containing a population of more than a million, was at its organization, emphatically a pioneer enterprise.

The then little village of Minonk was located on the Illinois Central railroad, nearly in the center of the vast unbroken prairie. The railroad at that time ran for forty miles through this prairie, without passing a single tree of natural growth. The prairie had only just begun to become dotted with the humble shanties of the pioneers.

The village contained less than one hundred inhabitants, scarcely two years since Samuel Work, the first agent on the railroad and one of the first settlers made his bachelor home and office in a building made of rough pine boards in a village seven miles from any house.

The original members of the church were mostly strangers to each other, and come from widely separated lands, as Ireland and New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania. But, though strangers to each other, and in a strange land, they so loved a common Savior, and the church of their fathers, that they at once came together and ventured to organize a Presbyterian Church. The spirit that actuated them in this movement is well impressed in the covenant adopted at the organization.

In April 1858, the Rev. John M. Brown was called to take charge of the church as stated supply. In the autumn of the same year he was installed pastor. His ministry to this church lasted until April 1864-six years.

The first religious services of the church were held in private houses. In the summer of 1858, a schoolhouse was completed and occupied on Sabbath mornings for worship. Thither was transferred the Sabbath school, which had been in existence a year. It was conducted upon the union plan. The members of the Presbyterian Church, the only church organization in the community, and comprising three fourths of the religious elements, entered heartily into this Sabbath schoolwork.

Among its first officers and teachers were Samuel Work, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Reeder and William D. McCord. At this time the work of the church was very much embarrassed and made much more difficult, from its members being widely separated. But one resided in the village, the others living on farms from one and a half to six miles distant. Another great embarrassment was the poverty of the people. With one or two exceptions they were largely in debt for their farms, and had little or no means of improving those farms outside of their own labor. Added to this, there was for two years a disheartening crop failure. So reduced did some of the members of the church become, that it was with extreme difficulty they could procure the necessaries of life, or to clothe themselves so that they could decently come to the house of God. Yet, notwithstanding these embarrassments, they came up nobly to the support of their pastor. The first year they paid one-half of the salary, the whole being four hundred dollars; the remainder was furnished by the American Home Missionary Society. And the sum paid by the church was yearly increased, until in 1862, the church and entire community were exhausted by the heavy drafts of men and means made upon them by the great civil war.

Another striking fact in this early history of the church was the maintenance of the weekly prayer meeting. From the autumn of 1858 to the spring of 1864 the prayer meeting was never omitted, except in a few instances when severe storms made attendance impossible. This considering the distance of most of the members from the village, was very remarkable.

During the spring and summer of 1858 the church enjoyed preaching every Sabbath morning, the pastor preaching in afternoons alternately in a school five miles east of Minonk and another seven miles west.

In the latter part of the summer a claim was presented by another denomination for the use of the schoolhouse in the village every fourth Sabbath in the morning. The matter being referred to the school directors, they decided that four denominations should use the schoolhouse for religious worship, each one Sabbath per month.

Being thus without a place of worship three-fourths of the time, the alternative was presented to the church of dismissing their pastor or building a house of worship of their own.

Though few in numbers, straightened by poverty and burdened by debt, they manfully resolved to "arise and build." Amid the ridicule of opponents, and the misgiving of some friends, a subscription was started, and a little over two hundred dollars in money and material was secured. Of this sum one hundred and twenty-five dollars in money was received. A pledge for two hundred and twenty-five dollars more was secured from the church erection committee of the general assembly, with the condition that this should complete the house free from debt. With these means the pastor and people went to work and with their own hands built a plain little house 24x30 feet in size.

One member of the church, Elder Robert Pouge, worked over thirty days, and a part of the time walked one and a half miles to and from his work each day. At this time he was nearly sixty years of age. By such self-sacrificing perseverance the house was completed. The whole cost was about eight hundred dollars. The aid received from other denominations was ten dollars in material from a member of the Methodist church and one day's work from a member of the Baptist church.

Up to the year 1864, while the church enjoyed no great revival there was a steady growth. During this period thirteen were received by examination and thirty-six by certificate, including original members, making sixty-one in all. Of this number four were dismissed, five died and four suspended, leaving forty-eight. When we remember that this early period embraces the struggles of the church for existence, for trying cases of discipline, and more than all the rest, the terrible depression incident to the civil war, we see great cause for praise and thanksgiving to God.

Among the incidents worthy of record during this period of the church's early history are the following: When the first house of worship was erected in the autumn of 1858, on the ground now near the center of the city, we were obliged to plow around it to prevent the prairie fires burning it down.

The pastor and five members of the church; viz.: William D. McCord, Alfred Pouge, H. K. Ferrin, Charles Robinson and Joseph Knowles were in the union army and saw actual and severe service during the civil war. In addition there were six members of the congregation also in the army and did good service.

Of these twelve sent by the church to the field, not one was ever known to dissert his part of flinch from his duty, and they were engaged in some of the most terrific battles of the war. Of this number, one, Joseph Clegg was mortally wounded at Vicksburg on the 18th of May, 1863; one, Alfred Pouge, was many months a prisoner, and two, Alfred Pouge and Joseph Knowles, contacted diseases that materially shortened their lives.

The above article was prepared by Rev. J. M. Brown.

Following is a list of the pastors from 1879 to present time:

Rev. W. S. Marguis, 1879-1884.
Rev. Jos. F. Flint, 1884-1886.

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