The Saxon Baptist Church
The Saxon Union Baptist church was organized in 1866. This church stood on the corner west of the Saxon school house. It was built by the Baptist, Presbyterian and Primitive or Protestant Methodist associations, aided by George F. Dexter and others.
In 1874, Elder Hart of Toulon, was engaged to preach once every two weeks. April 3, 1878, E. E. Tyson became its pastor at a salary of $500 per year. Mr. Tyson continued pastor of the church until June 25, 1882. During his pastorate on October 12, 1878, it was voted to continue Sunday school through the winter months.
On January 12, 1878, an organ costing $101 was purchased for the use of the choir. On March 8, 1879, the deacons of the church were requested to procure unfermented wine for communion services. On January 17, 1880, the church was renamed the Saxon Bapist church.
Rev. E. C. Cady became pastor Sept. 12, 1882. The following report was made by the secretary in September, 1884: Members, 79; Sunday school officers and teachers, 8; Average attendance 48; Value of church property, $2,000; Pastor, E. C. Cady of Toulon; F. B. Robson, Clerk; Sunday school supt., Baxter Fuller; Regular services once in two weeks.
E. W. Hicks became pastor January 10, 1891. On May 8, 1892, letters were written to the senator and representatives of the district asking them not to vote for the World's Fair appropriation unless the gates of that exposition were closed on Sunday and that no liquor was sold on the grounds.
On Sept. 9, 1899, the clerk says, 'We are not dead, but sleeping. If we were only as faithful as our pastor Rev. E. W. Hicks, who rides five miles and back nearly every Sunday through the heat and cold, mud and dust, our outlook would be more promising."
It seems that conditions became worse and on May 21, 1904, a motion was made and carried that the trustees be empowered to dispose of the meeting house when they could do so with good opportunity.
On April 14, 1905, C. Keckler, George F. Dexter and Edgar Miner, trustees of the church, disposed of the church property as follows: $888 in a Kewanee bank given to the church by Simon Bennett was divided as follows: $100 was given to Rev. Hicks; $788 was divided equally between the Baptist churches of Toulon, Galva and Kewanee on condition if there ever be need of this money to establish a Baptist church in Saxon, the money should be refunded.
The church building was sold to M. S. Craig for $250 and now stands on one of his farms. The church organ was given to the school district No. 16. The money received for the building and remainder of the personal property was divided among the churches above mentioned. A quit claim deed of the church lot was given to Jehiel Fuller, who, on Oct. 28, 1863, had given the land upon which the church stood for church purposes as long as used for such purposes.
An amusing incident happened in this church during a Sunday sermon many years ago. A stranger was in the pulpit on that Sunday morning. As the sermon progressed, it became quite warm in the church. The minister motioned to a young man sitting by the window to raise the window.
An old gentlemen sitting near the window, who was a confirmed snuff user, was about to take a pinch of snuff. He thought the minister was motioning to him. He rose from his seat, went to the pulpit and reached out his snuff-box toward the minister.
The rest of the congregation who understood what the minister wanted burst out laughing when the minister said, "No, no, brother, it was not the snuff I wanted, but the window opened."
Meanwhile the young man had opened the window. The old gentleman went to his seat, but was so confused that he shut the window before he sat down.
The Wethersfield Baptist Church
The Baptist church at Wethersfield was organized on May 17, 1851, with eleven members. J. M. Stickney was obtained as pastor in 1852. He was followed by J. S. Mahan, J. M. Winn and lastly by S. P. Ives.
In 1854 plans were made to build a church and it was begun and partly completed in 1855. In 1856 this society sold their unfinished church to the trustees of the Wethersfield school district and removed their place of worship to Kewanee, becoming the First Baptist church of that place.
The Wethersfield Methodist Episcopal Church
The Wethersfield Methodist Episcopal church society was organized in 1841. On July 22, 1850, the trustees of this society bought the north one-half of the east three-fifths of Lot 65_ In 1851 a large building was begun but was not completed until 1853.
The earlier services were held in the residences of the members of the society or in school houses. After the church was completed a minister was secured and services were held in the church until in the 80's.
The formation of a similar church society in Kewanee took many of the members of the Wethersfield church and it was finally abandoned. On July 30, 1890, the church building and lot were sold. The building was removed to South street where it now stands on the farm owned by Charles T. Little.
The Wethersfield Congregational Church
The first services of the people who founded the Congregational church in Wethersfield were held at Col. Sylvester Blish's residence. These people erected a church in 1838. It was made of logs hauled from Barren Grove which then covered a large part of the site of what is now the city of Kewanee. This building stood on Lot 49 of the original village of Wethersfield.
In this humble building, the people of Wethersfield and vicinity worshipped for several years. The men brought their women-folks from a distance in wagons having nothing but boards for seats. Often there was no wagon box. In that case a wide board or plank reached from the back of the wagon to the front axle for a seat and a chain reaching from front to back axle furnished a foot rest.
Sometimes the worshippers from a distance would be late "to meeting." The driver of the ox team would bring his team to a, standstill in front of the old church with a Who-a-a Buck, or a Hi-sh-sh Jerry, much to the quiet amusement of those who could see the unloading through the old church door, or the low windows.
The seats in the old church were hard and rough. The women-folks often spread shawls or blankets over them to make them more comfortable. The sermon was always long and sometimes dry. The hot sun streaming through the windows, the flies buzzing about the room and the voice of the minister all invited drowsiness. It was often considerable of a task for the minister to keep his congregation awake in those days.
Rev. Ithamar Pillsbury from the Andover colony was the first minister. He gave one-fourth of his time to the Wethersfield church through the latter part of 1837 and until October, 1838. In performing his duties, he walked from Andover to Wethersfield, a distance of about twenty-four miles. He made the journey in all kinds of weather, sometimes wading or swimming the streams as there were no bridges. He was a noble type of the pioneer preacher, strict, temperate and honest. He was very enthusiastic in his belief of the future greatness of Henry county.
In 1839 the Home Missionary society of Wethersfield, Conn., sent Rev. W. F. Vaill to the Wethersfield colony. Through his efforts a church organization was formed, styled "The First Ecclesiastical Society of Wethersfield" with the following members: Rev. W. F. Vain, Nancy T. Little, Mrs. Rhoda Blish, John H. Wells, Mrs. Julia Wells, L. C. Sleight, Hosea Buckley and wife, Deacon Zenas Hotchkiss and wife, Norman Butler and wife, Rev. Joseph Goodrich and wife and Francis Loomis.
Rev. Vaill, who served eight years, was followed by Samuel Ordway, Darius Gore, S. R. Thrall who was aided by Rev. Roy, and by W. T. Bartle who was installed June 23, 1856.
On August 24, 1849, Harry Talcott conveyed to Juduthan Hubbard, Sullivan Howard and Joseph Goodrich, trustees of the society, Lot 77 of the original town of Wethersfield for the sum of $20. The west and north sides of the lot were afterwards sold by the trustees, leaving a tract of land twelve rods square in the south-east corner of the lot. In the fall of 1849 a church forty feet long and thirty feet wide was erected on this land. In 1855 ten feet more was added to the north end, at the same time the south end of the floor was raised for the choir.
In 1855 one-third of the members of the church joined the Congregational church in Kewanee. By 1885 no regular services were held though a Sunday school had been kept up. On May 6, 1895, it was voted to sell the church property. In 1896 it was sold to the Town of Wethersfield for a town hall. It was deeded Jan. 7, 1897. The proceeds of the sale, $500, was sent to the Home Missionary society which had aided the church in early days.
After the town got possession of the building, twenty feet was added to the north end, but the original part built in 1849 was never changed. The original part is very substantial. The frame is of hardwood. It was built by Sullivan Howard who hauled the lumber overland from Rock Island and other points on the Mississippi river. The large Yellow stones originally in its foundation was donated and partly hauled by R. A. Little from a slough on his farm north of the city of Kewanee.
This building, now the Township High School gymnasium, was once considered the finest church building in this part of the state. It has been the scene of many events of interest connected with the town. From its pulpit Horace Greeley once spoke to the people of Wethersfield and its vicinity. It is one of the landmarks of those early days upon the prairies of the township and should be carefully preserved.
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