McDonough County Illinois Presby Beginnings

1832 – June 9. First Presbyterian church organized in McDonough County at Macomb.
1833 – April. Rev. Romulus Barnes at Canton reported congregation had approx. 30 members but was without a pastor. (Van Renssalaer, 1856).
1833 – Fall. Rev. Theron Baldwin & Rev. Albert Hale hold “protracted meeting” and accept 16 members on certificate. (Van Renssalaer, 1856).
1835 – June 3. Rev. Alexander Blaikie of Assoc. Reformed Church, encountered Rev. Fraser a witness at the trial of the McFadins in Rushville.  “Fraser’s elder” told Blaikie, Fraser was one of just four “Old School” Presbyterians north of Vandalia, IL.
1835 – Schuyler Presbytery: “Whereas one of our churches, to wit, Macomb, has placed itself under the ministry of William J. Fraser, who has declared himself no longer a member of or amenable to any presbytery of the Presbyterian Church, Presbytery asks advice of Synod in this matter.” (Van Renssalaer, 1856).
1837 – April 11. Mr. Fraser was denied admission into the Presbytery (meeting?) at Macomb (Van Renssalaer, 1856).
1838 – Apr 7, Rev. J. M. Chase was ordained and installed as pastor of Shiloh Church with members from Macomb First Presbyterian (Van Renssalaer, 1856).
1838 – Aug 10. “Mr. Fraziers Building which you traded to Atkinson is being fitted up I believe for a store below and a meeting house above.” Grantham letter to Rumford.
1839 – Jan 12. “The Frazierites and the Stewarts party (all Presbyterians) are almost at open war. And between the Methodists and the Presbyterians also there is much bitterness of feeling and some of the most fiery ones have nearly come to blows. These feuds among the religious part of the community will not do much for the prosperity of the town.” Grantham letter to Rumford.
1839 – Oct, Camp Creek Church enrolled with members from Macomb First Presbyterian (Van Renssalaer, 1856).
1840 – Dec 18. “Mr. Frazer has received a call from the Presbyterian Church of Knoxville, which he has accepted. He has traded off his farm, sold his stock off and has removed to that place. He has left his portion of the flock to be taken into the Old “Fold” again, or shift for themselves. Some of his wandering sheep, I think will prefer the latter. His enemies here, alias “Brethren in the Lord”, will now have the whole ground to themselves.” Grantham letter to Rumford.
1842 – McDonough Church was dissolved in April (this was Fraser’s competing congregation) (Van Renssalaer, 1856).
1844 – Jul 8. There has been a few sold at the church store, the frame you sold to Atkinson (which has been fitted up for a store on the lower story and as a place of worship on the 2nd.) Grantham letter to Rumford.
1848 – Oct. Rev. W. F. Furguson received (Van Renssalaer, 1856).
1849 – July. Rev. Ralph Harris received as Professor at McDonough College (Van Renssalaer, 1856).
1852 – Apr 27 – Death of Rev. William K. Stewart at age 61 years, currently pastor of Macomb church
1853 – Apr. Rev. W. F. Furguson died as president of McDonough College (Van Renssalaer, 1856).
1853 – Nov. Rev. Ralph Harris installed pastor of Macomb Church (Van Renssalaer, 1856).
1854 – Nov. Schuyler Presbytery in Session in Macomb; Vote about continuation of Rev Ralph Harris – 73 for, 29 against (unwilling to acquiesce)
1854 – Rev. Ithamar Pillsbury having been detached to Rock River Presbytery, received back in Oct to become president of McDonough college (Van Renssalaer, 1856).
1855 – May 2. Schuyler Presbytery mtg. Rev Prof Harris resigned last Feb is moving to Elmwood, MO. Congregation asked for Pres. Pillsbury as stated supply for 1 year
1868 – June 20. The new Presbyterian Church at Bardolph will be dedicated on the 28th.


Van Rensselaer, C. (1856). “A History of Schuyler Presbytery”, The Presbyterian magazine, Vol. 6, pp. 464 – 468.

American Home Missionary Society. (1833-1834). Home missionary and American pastor’s journal. New York: American Home Missionary Society. (Volumes 5-6)

November 1833, pp. 119-124

Describes the tour of Rev. Theron Baldwin, and Rev. Albert Hale as written by Baldwin. (Baldwin & Hale were both educated at Yale and were members of the “Yale Band”). 1 Sep 1833, seven week tour covered over 700 miles, preached 50 sermons. Began at Jacksonville, heading for Quincy, where there was an outbreak of cholera so they didn’t stay. They traveled through the counties of McDonough, Fulton, Peoria, Tazewel, Putnam, LaSalle & Cook to Chicago. While in McDonough, they made arrangements for a protracted meeting on their return trip.

“As we passed on [from Canton] to Macomb, we called on one family, members of the Presbyterian Church, who had not heard a sermon from a minister of their own order, for three years.  The meeting at Macomb was one of deep interest, and well attended, notwithstanding some were kept away by fear of the cholera.  One man offered to bet $500 that the pestilence would be introduced by the meeting.  There were 16 additions to the Church by letters.

At the close of the second sermon on Sabbath, the deepest feeling seemed to pervade the assembly, and a number requested the prayers of Christians.”

p. 190, April 1833  “From Rev. R. Barnes, Fulton co, Illinois”…

In late Nov., Farnam left Lewistown and is in Jacksonville; so that north and west of the Illinois river, within 100 miles of me, there is but one Presbyterian minister, 55 miles distant at Rushville…. In McDonough County, a church has been formed, of about thirty members, with no one to break to them the bread of life.

From History of McDonough County, Illinois, 1885, regarding the founding of the First Presbyterian Church of Macomb, Illinois:

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 … 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.

…. 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.

Blaikie, A. (1835) Diary.

The diary of Rev. Alexander Blaikie of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church describes Blaikie leaving Jacksonville on June 3, 1835 and arriving at Rushville, Schuyler County by evening.

“There I met with the Rev. W. Frazer of the Gen.  As.  Pres. [General Assembly Presbyterians] who with some of his people [members of Macomb First Presbyterian] was called there as a witness in a case of murder which was now in trial in that village, tho’ the crime was perpetrated in the adjoining Co. (McDonough) in which Mr. Frazer resides. [Rev. Fraser was in Rushville for the trial of the McFadins].
By one of his Elders, an intelligent man [perhaps Cyrus Walker?  Or George Miller? Or?], I was informed that there are only four old Sch. Pres. [Old School Presbyterians] in this State north of Vandalia – Messrs. Stewart [Rev. W. K. Stewart], Ewing [Rev. Alexander Ewing], Brich [Rev. John Brich], & Frazer [Rev. W. J. Fraser].

On my journey today I discovered a troop of land speculators proceeding towards Quincy to attend the sales on the 15th.  A. Mr. W. [Rev. Cyrus Watson], a N.S.P. [New School Presbyterian] officiates in Rushville.

Although these statements are about the church at Carrollton, not the church at Macomb, Macomb had similar experiences.  Written by the Rev. Thomas Lippincott, Carrollton, Ill. in Nov 1834 report in the Home Missionary and American Pastor’s Journal, Vols 7 – 8. p. 118.

Surprising Changes.  The history of our church would appear strange to those accustomed to the regular movements of older communities.  When I came to the place there were three elders.  To these, two were added, subjects of the revival of 1832. Now, two elders have removed to other places; one is dead; and one is on the point of removing; leaving us one elder, an aged and infirm man, residing in the country.  The changes in the membership are scarcely less remarkable.  Of those who united as members of the church in inviting me to the place, not half remain among us. The others have removed to other places.  So that, although the number now is more than three times what it then was, I may well ask – varying the expression of Dr. Johnson to Hannah More – Where is the church to which I came? – two years ago.  Those who have left by dismission and death since that time exceed the then whole number by more than fifty per cent.

Although the member rolls prior to the 1850s are missing, several references list names of original members and elders from June 1832.  Before 1840, and possibly as early as 1836, a dozen of the 16-18 original members were no longer with the church. One elder died in 1833 (John Harris) and four others moved between 1836-1840, transferring their membership to other congregations. Robert Grant moved to Monmouth by 1840; Alex Harris & Alex Campbell north to Walnut Grove Twp in 1836 and Shiloh church by 1839; Saunders Campbell to Camp Creek church by 1839. Among the founding members were the 4 wives and 2 daughters of these elders: Jane Grant, Margaret Harris, Mary, Jane & Mahala Campbell, and Cynthia Campbell.

WIU Archives digitized letters from Isaac Grantham (lived in Macomb, was county clerk) to Lewis Rumford of Philadelphia, PA & Wilmington, DE. Grantham was Rumford’s land agent. Scans at:

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