Presbys of Bond Co., IL

1819 – March 19 – Shoal Creek Presbyterian, organized in Bond County, Illinois, by Rev. Salmon Giddings, of St. Louis by Presbytery of Missouri.

1825 – Fall – Rev. John M. Ellis, commissioned by the American Home Missionary society…. began his work in Illinois ….. His zeal for education seems to have been stimulated by the fact that at one of the meetings at Shoal Creek, several young men, who were anxious to obtain an education, having the ministry in view, could find no institution within reach, and sought his advice and assistance….

(However, Sturtevant in 1855, placed Ellis’ visit to the Bond County churches of Bethel, Shoal Creek, & Greenville, along with Rev. Salmon Giddings, in the summer of 1827; Sturtevant also suggests that Shoal Creek’s young men may have been among the first graduates of Illinois College: James P. Stewart, Robert W. Patterson, and Alvin M. Dixon.)

1827 – Jan 3 – Kaskaskia Reporter published a “Plan of a Seminary of Learning in Illinois”, along with an outline of the course of studies, probably submitted by Joseph Duncan, a Kaskaskia resident, friend of Ellis, and supporter of education.

1827 – Summer and Fall. The people of  Shoal Creek took the outline of the plan for the seminary, had it printed, circulated for subscriptions. An encouraging amount was secured, a board of trustees formed, and the enterprise named the “Fairfield Literary and Theological Seminary. (Kirby)

1827 – Fall meeting of Missouri Presbytery at Edwardsville, Illinois. Ellis presented the plan for the proposed seminary.  Most suggest they were seeking the financial assistance and support for the theological college from the Presbytery; Lippincott claims it was because they were “good and true Presbyterians” (Rawls, 1963).

The Presbytery appointed a committee of Rev. John M. Ellis, Rev. Salmon Giddings, Rev. Hiram Chamberlain, and Elder Thomas Lippincott (of Edwardsville, later Rev.) to confer with Fairfield’s Trustees to arrange for both learning and religion; to report at spring session of Presbytery. (Kirby, E. P.)

Salmon Giddings died within a few months; Chamberlain is said to have “never acted” (Sturtevant, 1855) or was ill when committee met (Rawls, 1963).

Shoal Creek is said to have been committed and enthusiastic to proceed with a building and start school. (Sturtevant, 1855) Up to this time, it was assumed the school would be located near Shoal Creek (Rawls, 1963).

1828 – Jan – Hon. Samuel D. Lockwood (justice of state supreme court, from Jacksonville) and Dr. John Todd (of Springfield) suggested that stronger support might be available if located in one of the counties north of Shoal Creek, explored Greene, Morgan and Sangamon counties. Expenses were paid by John Tilson, Jr. of Hillsboro, later of Quincy.  Carrollton & Whitehall expressed interest, but Jacksonville caught Ellis’ eye (Kirby, E. P.).

1828 – Jan – “In Jan 1828 he (Ellis) came to Jacksonville. Within a few days he purchased 80 acres of land and set stakes for a building….” Ellis claimed “It is certainly the most delightful spot I have ever seen….” (____)

1828 – Jan – from: The Christian spectator. (1828). New Haven: Howe & Spalding.Vol. 2, Jan 1828, p. 47. (Online)

The Fairfield Literary and Theological Seminary

The Fairfield Literary and Theological Seminary. — An Institution with this name has been projected in Bond County, Illinois.  It is intended to embrace the three following departments:

An English School, in which shall be taught the higher branches of the English language, writing, arithmetic, & c., for the accommodation of such as wish to become complete English scholars.

A Seminary, in which shall be taught all the various branches of literature which are taught usually in the Academies and Colleges in the western States; the conductor of which department shall be the Principal of the Institution.

As soon as circumstances will admit, a Theological Department shall be appended, the conductor of which shall be an approved divine, chosen by the Synod or Presbytery (as may be thought best) of the Presbyterian Church in which it may be situated.

1828 – April. Subscribers secured for college at Jacksonville. Trustees: 9 from Morgan county; 1 each from Greene, Montgomery, Sangamon & Madison; and James McClung of Bond county. (Kirby)

1828 – Spring meeting of Missouri Presbytery at St. Louis. Asked Presbytery to appoint commissioners to receive subscriptions and draft constitution, and accept direction of theological department; Report was rejected; Presbytery refused to approve of sanction the plan. Later recollections state that the objection was the location was on the “wrong” side of the Mississippi River and the Missouri Presbytery was refusing to sanction an institution in Illinois. (Kirby; Sturtevant, 1855) Rawls claims that the Shoal Creek supporters approved the change in location. Lippincott claimed the cause for the refusal was the magnitude of the enterprise, presbytery declining to take charge of the theological dept. “on the grounds that the plan, if carried out to its ultimate intention, would comprise a University.” (Rawls, 1963)

Although shocked & disappointed, Ellis and Lippincott later concluded the refusal had been a blessing, for if the under church sponsorship it “would have been shakled [sic] with ecclesiastical domination and gasping for existence,”  (Lippincott, quoted by Rawls, 1963)

1828 – Oct – Synod of Indiana set off Illinois churches from Presbytery of Missouri to Center Presbytery (the state of Illinois).

1829 – Jan – Ellis and Jacksonville proceeded without support from the Presbytery. Tilson gathered funding from the East; Ellis published in the AHMS “Home Missionary” and attracted the Yale band.

1829 – Jan 29 – Organization of Center Presbytery set off from Presbytery of Missouri

1829  – June – By June, called for 15 total trustees with 3 trustees from J’ville, 7 of the Yale Band

1829 – Oct 16. Synod of Indiana convened at Shoal Creek, Illinois. Discussion of a Theological Seminary resulted in Hanover Academy at Hanover, Indiana being named such, and Rev. John Matthews of Shepherdstown, Virginia being recruited  as Professor of Theology. (Records of Hanover Academy)

1829 – Dec – Illinois College adopted as the name. Yale Band became predominant (and brought funding from East?); Application for state charter was denied on Dec 30 (concerns about separation of church & state and land acquisition – when was Marion college land grab??)

1830 – Jan 30 – school opens with 5 students from Morgan county, 2 from county 35 miles distant, and 2 from Bond County about 70 miles distant. Sturtevant (1855) names the Bond Countians as Alvin M. Dixon and James P. Stewart.

1835 – state charter; no theological dept and limited to 640 acres of land

1835. May 5. “At, or near Greenville, I found the only society of old School Gen. As. [General Assembly] Presbyterians which I have discovered yet in the far West. They are under the pastoral care of the Rev.  Mr. Stewart [Rev. W. K. Stewart]who labors between there and Vandalia 18 miles distant. In this vicinity I could discover none who were friendly to the A. R. [Associate Reformed] Church. (Blaikie, 1835)


Kirby , E. P. (1902). “The Organization and History of Illinois College” in Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society for the Year 1902. Springfield: Phillips Bros. Kirby based his talk on a manuscript by Thomas Lippincott. pp. 40-47. Online

Rawls, S. N. (1963). The influence of John Ellis on education in Illinois. M.A. Thesis, Eastern Illinois University.  Online

Short, W. F., D. D. (1902).  “Early Religious Methods and Leaders in Illinois” in Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society for the Year 1902. pp. 56-62. Online

Sturtevant, J. M. (1855). “Quarter century celebration at Illinois College. Historical discourse by the president, Rev. J.M. Sturtevant, D.D., with the social re-union of the founders, patrons, alumni and friends of the College, at Jacksonville, Illinois. July 11, 1855”

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