God’s Unfolding Story Through First UMC
In February 1823, Calvin Hobart, his wife, four children, his parents, a granddaughter, and a cousin crossed the Illinois River on the ice and settled on section 16, two miles northeast of Rushville, Schuyler County. He was the first Methodist to settle in Schuyler County and he missed his church very much. In the fall, a Methodist Episcopal preacher by the name of Levin Green, who had left Missouri because it was a slave state, came to Hobart’s door and was greeted with open arms. He held services in Hobart’s cabin every Sunday for the next five years. Mr. Hobart also started a Sunday School the next spring.
The Peoria Circuit sent Rev. See to Rushville in 1826 to organize a church of twenty members. The next year Rev. Peter Cartwright held the first quarterly meeting in Schuyler County in the home of Levin Green. The Rev. W. Wedford was appointed as the regular minister in charge of the Rushville Circuit. So many people were moving to Schuyler County and the Methodist moved to Rushville and held their services in a log cabin on the Leach property on East Lafayette Street with 32 members and Asa D. West as pastor.
Rev. Henry Summers came to the Schuyler Circuit in 1832 and in a series of revival meetings, increased the membership to 450 people. He was replaced in 1833 by Peter Borein, and in 1934, T. N. Ralston, who reported 150 members in the Rushville station. The place where they held services was too small so they were permitted to use the courthouse, but when the other churches demanded equal time, they moved into an upper room over John Scripps’ store. They were building a new church and they moved into it on April 29, 1835. It was the first deed made to a church in Schuyler County. It is located east of the Post Office and has been known as the Lashmett Store for years. The Moose Lodge is using it now. Another story has been added and the front changed, but the brick walls are the old church walls.
Again the old church was too small and on May 2, 1869, another new church was dedicated. The entire cost was $18,000, and the women of the Mite Society paid $3,300. For 49 years it served not only the Methodist but the whole Rushville community as well. It wasSaturday afternoon and the weather was cold, so the janitor built a hot fire in the furnace to warm up the church for services the next morning. Pigeons used the belfry as a nesting place and on February 2, 1918, a spark from the flue blew into the belfry and the church burned down. Before the fire was out, the minister, Rev. D. V. Gowdy, had made arrangements to hold services in the courthouse the next day.
Immediately they started planning a new church. On July 9, 1918, the contract was let to build a new church for $38,750. When the utilities, furniture, and art glass was added, the cost was almost $50,000. On the north and northeast side of the sanctuary was a balcony for added seating and on the south and southeast another balcony, divided into Sunday School classrooms. Under the classrooms on the south were even more classrooms and the front could be raised to make more seating if needed. It had a seating capacity of 400 people.
When Rev. Joe Mason came to the church in 1948, he asked to have the membership roll updated. A committee was appointed and there were over 300 names of people who had died, moved away, or transferred to other churches. When they had brought the rolls up to date, there was a membership of about 900.
The Sunday School classrooms were so crowded that they began to talk about adding an educational building to the west end of the church. The dream became a reality when a new educational building was dedicated on Sunday afternoon, August 1, 1954.
In 1957, Rev. Marshall H. Ervin came to the church. Before he came, they discovered that termites were trying to eat up the old parsonage, and after a lot of planning, a new parsonage was built and the Ervin’s moved into it the summer of 1960.
The old pipe organ was about played out and Bill Bartlow, with everybody’s cooperation, had a new organ built in 1966. Rev. Ronald C. Colton was the pastor.
To Be Continued…