(Taken from the Centennial History of Illiopolis 1956)
THE CHURCH OF THE
After the close
of the Civil War and for the next ten or twelve years, many Catholic families,
mostly of Irish descent, settled on farms north of the town, along the Sangamon
and Logan county lines. Mass was
celebrated for the first time in the village in the home of Dr. Bernard Stuve
in the spring of 1866. Later the
home of Patrick Murphy (great grandfather of Francis and Kathleen Murphy) was
In the autumn of
1867, under the direction of Rev. A.
Vogt, rector of St. Patrick’s' Church, Decatur, the first church building was
completed, a small frame structure, forty-two feet by twenty-four feet, on
lots east of the present parsonage. The
congregation was attended once a month by priests coming in their turn, from
Decatur, Macon, Taylorville and Springfield.
Their names are not forgotten- Rev. A. Vogt, Rev. B. Claus, Rev. R.
Grant, and Rev. M. Kane. In the
year 1876, Father Kane enlarged the little brown church by putting an addition
to it so as to accommodate the seventy-five families forming the congregation.
1877, Father Charles Manuel was assigned to Illiopolis and remained here until
his death in 1901. While he was
pastor, the congregation was divided, a new parish was formed, and in 1890, a
new church was erected at Niantic. Father
Manuel also organized congregations and built churches at Buffalo and Riverton.
He also built a two story structure, adjoining the church in Illiopolis,
and secured additional lots to the west; here, in 1895, the present church was
begun and completed, and was dedicated on Whit Sunday 1896.
Reverend W. A. Pachlhoffer, newly ordained, assisted Father Manuel in
the last months of his illness, and then remained as pastor for another year.
In 1902, Reverend J.
C. Daw took charge of the Illiopolis and Niantic congregations and remained
until 1919 when he was transferred to Vandalia. During his pastorate, the present rectory was built, and the
old church and parsonage were torn down.
On the first day of May 1919, the
Reverend Thomas P. McGrath succeeded Father Daw. Many
church improvements were made during his term as pastor.
While serving the parishes here and at Niantic, Father McGrath celebrated
his silver, golden, and sixtieth anniversaries of his ordination to the Catholic
priesthood, and also his elevation to the rank of Monsignor.
He died February 3, 1956, and his body lay in state in the church, which
he had served for thirty-seven years.
Two of the former
assistant pastors of the Church are now serving in the armed forces of this
country, Father James Sullivan and Father John Campbell.
An, other former assistant, Father John McGrath, who is Diocesan director
of the council of Catholic Women and also of the Catholic Youth Organization, is
the present pastor.
Illiopolis township had its beginning as a Methodist Episcopal Society which met
in the home of William Bridges in the year 1832, with Rev. Pitner as its first
The first Methodist
Church edifice was not erected until 1865.
The cost was $4,000. The
trustees at that time were: Miles H. Wilmot, Henry H. Lee, James Lee, James
Shartzer, Amos C. Derry, John W. Constant, John C. Morgan, James A. Morgan and
Illiopolis charge was
formed at the Illinois Conference in Springfield, September 1875.
This charge consisted of two appointments, Illiopolis and Niantic.
Rev. J. Montgomery was pastor and W. T. Prentise, Presiding Elder. Those present from Illiopolis at the first Quarterly
Conference in 1875 were: John W. Constant, James Lee and George W. Constant as
stewards, D. M. Hurt, C. W. Morgan, Hugh Sutherland and James A. Morgan as
leaders. September 1, 1878, the
union services with Niantic discontinued.
In 1900 the building
of a new church edifice was started and on April 21, 1901, it was dedicated.
The cost was $8,000. Rev. T.
D. Weems, a former pastor, super, intended the building and took charge of the
Dedicatory Service. Rev. S. W.
Beggs became the first pastor. The
first wedding in the new church was that of Miss Altha Constant and Mr. Lee
Cline, and the first funeral service was for Mrs. D. M. Hurt.
September 23, 1951,
its Fiftieth Anniversary was celebrated while Rev. H. F. Higgins was the pastor.
Down through the
years, many have been the pastors and laymen who have given good evidence of
their stewardship. The present pastor is Rev. William Thornton.
Father, we thank Thee for those things that money cannot buy, the wealth that
made the saints of our childhood in their cotton clothes and little cabins, so
rich and so beautiful, that we cannot forget them and would not if we could.
We pray that we may be like them. In
Jesus name. Amen."
This church was
organized on April 22, 1866, by Rev. C. F. Short of Mechanicsburg with the
following charter members: A. C. Ford, Rebecca Ford, Mary C. Ruby, Martha Skeen,
John McGuffin, Martha McGuffin, Sarah L. Dake, Archibald Boyd, W. F. Garvey,
Elizabeth Garvey, Thomas F. Bourland, Martha Bourland, W. N. Streeter, F. M.
Green, W. P. Roberts, and Nancy Roberts. These
sixteen members agreed to the following pledge:
"We whose names
are herein written do hereby mutually agree to live together as members of the
Christian Church of Christ, desiring to be known as such, acknowledging no other
name or names than such as are authorized by the Holy Spirit.
This we do that we may observe the ordinances of the Lord's House, assist each other in His service, extend the saving power of the gospel to others and further the interests of the Redeemer's Kingdom, praying that God may own and bless this work, done in His name to whom be honor, praise, and glory both now and forever more. Amen."
22, 1866 W. N.
During the following
year fifty-four names were added to the role and services were held first in the
Methodist Church, then for a time in the Grade School Building.
In the spring of 1868
a building was begun and by August was completed when a formal dedication was
held with Rev. L. G. Roberts presiding. The
church had no regular full time pastor until 1874 when G. M. Goode was engaged
to preach. But the membership grew steadily; the record for the years
between 1866 and 1884 shows there had been 790 members.
Many of these additions had been made during protracted meetings.
In 1909 work of
remodeling the old church building was begun.
The improvements included a new wing on the east and one on the south, a
new vestibule, a belfry, and a new floor, elevated, with a basement under all.
Beautiful stained windows were set in as family memorials.
On the building committee were, the Pastor, Robert Sickles, E. M.
Williams, chairman, J. S. Ford, H. C. Roberts, J. R. Shepherd, Lafayette
Cantrall and George E. Ford, Secretary and Treasurer.
Much of the expense
of making repairs, adding new furniture and paying the pastor's salary was met
by the Ways and Means Society which was organized by the ladies of the church in
1878. Their first money was made by
making rag carpets.
In 1951 an electric
organ was purchased with donations, part given as memorials and the remainder
paid from proceeds of a community sale.
Through the years the
church services have been enriched by the music of a talented choir and their
accompanists. By their loyal
perseverance, working under good leadership, they have presented inspiring
programs not only at regular services, but also for the special religious
observances of the church as Easter and Christmas.
On April 22,
1956 the church celebrated their ninetieth Anniversary with an all day program
commemorating the event. Former
ministers and their wives were special guests.
pastor is Rev. Ray Kistler.
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