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United Presbyterian Church of La Prairie Township

The United Presbyterian Church of this Township was organized in about 1845, but for the first thirteen years of its existence the records it seems are lost, the oldest sessional records known being dated April 1, 1840. Up to this year there were no church organizations of any kind in La Prairie, nor nearer to the south than Peoria. The Scotch Presbyterians, among whom were the SCOTTs, SMITHs and DAVIDSONs, soon began to come in, but they were without pastors and their flocks were tended by wandering shepherds. Among those were Father WEED, John WALLACE, J. C. PORTER and John McMASTERS, D. D.

In March, 1844, Rev. John L. FREETLY was appointed by the Presbytery to preach here, and on the first Sabbath of June, 1844, the Society was duly constituted. He was accompanied by Thomas SMITH, from Peoria. The services were held in a barn belonging to Samuel McCOY, one-half mile west of Samuel McLAUGHLIN's. James ROSS and George DAVIDSON were the first Ruling elders. These, together with George SCOTT and wife, John DAVIDSON and wife, Mrs. George DAVIDSON and Mrs. Wilhelmina SMITH, eight in all, constituted the organization.

The second communion was had at the barn of George SCOTT, where services were conducted by Rev. John PINKERTON.

They had no house of worship in those days, meeting at the houses of the brothers, and their spiritual wants attended to by different ministers. A prominent place of meeting was at Archie RIDDLE's barn. On one occasion the people had gathered there, when a snow storm prevented the expected arrival of a minister, and Mr. William BRYDEN read a discourse from a volume of sermons.

About the 1st of April, 1849, Rev. N. C. WEED moved into the bounds of the congregation from Indiana County, Pa.

The Society was first designated as the Chillicothe congregation, then as the Senachwine Congregation, and lastly it assumed the name it now bears, the "Fairfield Congregation of the United Presbyterian Church." This was adopted in the expectancy that Fairfield would become the name of the town.

Father WEED was the first stated or located minister, continuing his ministrations twelve years.

The roll of his congregation in 1849, was as follows: Thomas SCOTT, Jenet SCOTT, Henry SCOTT, Wilhelmina SMITH, William SMITH, John WYLIE, Jennie WYLIE, John DAVIDSON, Jennie DAVIDSON, George HASTINGS, Helen HASTINGS and Jenet RIDDLE.

The Ruling Elders were: James ROSS and George DAVIDSON.

Father WEED was the regular supply here until the spring of 1850, when he divided his time between his flock here and a church on Spoon River until August 8, 1853.

Previous to the date when Father WEED became the pastor, the congregation had worshiped in an old school house near the north-eastern limits of the town, and sometimes at Northampton or at Yankee Street school house, but their most usual place of meeting was at the school house first named. Here they suffered from cold in winter, the wind howling through the crevices of the house, and in summer wicked boys would disturb the people within by pitching quoits, throwing stones down the wide mouthed chimney &c.

Once after Mr. SMITH's family had taken their places in the wagon to go home, the keen eyes of "Grandmother" SMITH detected something wrong. It was discovered that one of the linch pins had been removed. The good old pastor was sometimes moved to remonstrate with the scamps, and once when interrupted by a ball of mud thrown through an open window at his venerable head, threatened the penalties of the law upon the offenders.

The place of worship followed the progress of the settlers out upon the prairies and for a time they met at the Hull school house.

Father WEED after twelve years labor surrendered his charge of Fairfield Church, April 4, 1864, and on that day preached his farewell sermon from Cor. xiii, 2, "Finally brethren farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace, and the God of love and peace shall be with you."

During his ministry here eighty-eight persons were received into the fellowship of the church thirty- three on profession of faith and fifty-five on certificates.

During the closing year of his pastorate, arrangements had been made to build a house of worship, and a sight selected and accepted, for which the Society was placed under obligations to Mr. John CURRIE who donated the ground. Two acres were devoted to the purposes of the church, and the contract of putting up the building awarded to Robert TURNBULL.

During the next two years and two months the Society had no stated minister, Rev. D. C. COCHRAN once in that period visiting the congregation and administering the rights of communion, at which time five persons were added to the church on certificates.

Rev. John F. GRAHAM became the second pastor. The church building was completed in September, and cost $1,600. The first services were held within its walls on the first Sabbath of October, 1863, when it was delivered to the Society free from debt.

Brother GRAHAM labored two years adding twenty-four to their numbers. His health having failed he was compelled to resign.

For the next six months the Society had no minister. In January, 1866, Rev. Martin MORRISON was called as their regular pastor and had charge of the church five years during which time forty-three people were added to the rolls of membership. Seventeen children were also baptised and thirteen marriages were consumated.

During the succeeding four years the Society had no stated minister, though many preachers came at irregular times and conducted services.

The Board of Home Mission appointed Rev. H. H. HOUSTON as pastor who began his services in this congregation in January, and was ordained and installed March 2, 1875, and has been in charge of the church since that date.

A good Sabbath School has been conducted in connection with the church ever since the Society was able to muster a sufficient attendance of pupils, and is now in a flourishing condition.

Extracted from Records of the Olden Time


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