Perspectives of Yale Band at Illinois College

Barton, Rev. C. B. (1902) The Founders and Founding of Illinois College. Long: Jacksonville, IL.

p. 9 – Jan 1, 1830, Rev. Julian M. Sturtevant opened school w/9 scholars, which increased to 17 the first term…. In the beginning, it was presented to Presbytery, not to be adopted as its enterprise, but for its favorable regard; but Presbytery would not so much as give it this, and Mr. Ellis was advised to prosecute his enterprise independently, which he did….

p. 16 — This portion of the state was settled largely by emigrants from slave states, who came here to get away from slavery, but, strange as it may appear, they retained their deep hatred of emancipation.

p. 17 – The Lovejoy tragedy greatly intensified this hostility to the College men, as President Beecher had stood by this man in his peril.  He and all the College men were threatened with violence, and there was much reason to fear that a mob would be raised not only to attack these men, but to do violence to the college Buildings. But though no violence was attempted…..these hostile feelings were not confined to such persons as generally compose a mob, but affected many individuals of wealth and social standing, and even of religious reputation….as Mr. Sturtevant says, “….The history of those days is a sad story….”

Kofoid, C. P. (1906). Puritan influences in the formative years of Illinois history. Springfield, Illinois. p. 53 states that after Lovejoy’s murder, the newspapers of St Louis which had wide circulation in southern Illinois, were intensely hostile in their opposition to Illinois College.

p. 18 – Very early in the College enterprise, Mr. Sturtevant, Pres. Beecher, and Rev. Wm. Kirby were arraigned before Presbytery for alleged heresy.  This transaction resulted in the disgrace of their accuser (who was Rev. William J. Fraser), but, as in all such cases, he had his sympathizers, who, with him, still retained their hostility to the College.  This was afterward seen in a singular event which should be recorded, as I presume nothing of the kind has ever occurred before or since anywhere.  Such became the disposition of many of the respectable citizens toward what they conceived to be the management of the College that a public meeting was called to take into consideration, and if possible, put it into other hands.  Though it proved a fruitless effort, it increased and intensified the hostile feeling for a season. Unreasonable hostility is the slowest of all things to die.


Sturtevant, J. M., & Sturtevant, J. M. (1896). Julian M. Sturtevant: An autobiography. New York: F.H. Revell Co. pp. 183-189

Rev. Wm. J. Frazer, who was sent from Philadelphia to a pastorate near us, assumed the duty of watching us and counteracting our errors.  He proved to be a very unscrupulous man, as was shown by his being, a few years later, deposed from the ministry. Is it not wonderful how great an influence for evil a coarse, bad man can exert, when he plays upon ecclesiastical passions and prejudices? We immediately felt a disturbing element in our community.  He influenced a few students, and induced them to bring evil reports against us and to misrepresent our actions and teachings.  All this was immediately reported at Philadelphia.  There were in the state Presbyterian ministers, some of whom were men of influence and popular power, who encouraged him in his efforts to suppress “heresy.”  Party lines were drawn, and Jacksonville became the bone of contention.  Our ecclesiastical position became exceeding galling and uncomfortable, and our good work was sadly hindered.


During all these months, in spite of bitter and groundless attacks, the school made steady progress in the number and quality of its pupils.  In our immediate vicinity the number who sympathized with Mr. Frazer constantly diminished.  Our unaggressive efforts to found a college and to preach the simple gospel of repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, gave little advantage to our enemies where we were known.  Of course, we could not prevent injury being done to the good cause by one who was capable of sowing the seeds of suspicion and distrust among those who were in a large measure ignorant of us and of our work.  No doubt these misrepresentations did considerable harm, and aided in driving the wedge that finally produced a division in the Presbyterian Church.

It seems my duty to record another incident that strikingly illustrates the condition of ecclesiastical affairs around us, although I am not certain of the year of its occurrence.  The anniversaries of certain religious societies in which Presbyterians co-operated were held in Vandalia in December, and during the sessions of the Supreme Court and the Legislature.  Many leading ministers of this denomination participated.  On the occasion in question the delegates had been invited to a dinner party just outside the city limits.  While walking thither an able and respected defender of strict ecclesiasticism surprised me by saying in the hearing of others; “brother Sturtevant, I have a proposition to make by which it seems to me we can all work together in harmony.  It is that you and your friends should co-operate with us through the Assembly’s Board of Missions in drawing the pastors of our churches and our home missionaries as far as may be from the west and south, and in return, we will co-operate with your college.”  The proposition shocked me exceedingly.  I felt it to be a personal insult to suppose me capable of entertaining it for a moment.  I replied in substance that if our college were good and worthy he could not afford to oppose it; if it were bad and unworthy its character and influence would not be improved by the agreement which he proposed. Of course, the chasm between us was widened.  Was it my fault?  I knew not how to conciliate men who asked and expected me to act on such principles.

Such experiences convinced me that the Presbyterian Church was then composed of incongruous and incompatible elements which could not co-exist under such a constitution without unceasing strife.  I found it impossible in the midst of such conflicting elements to live a life of tranquil consecration to my work.  Our efforts to build up an institution of learning were greatly obstructed and embarrassed.

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