BUNKER HILL CHURCHES
Most of the this material has been gathered from a 1993 Edition of "Reflections," published by "Bunker Hill Publications," compiled and edited by Carol Redfern and Betty Triplett. A committee, called; "The History Book Committee," made up of six members namely; Carol Redfern, Betty Ash, Bonnie Hopkins, Vivian Jordan, Francis Stadelman and Betty Triplett. Others who contributed to the Historical Vignette are members of the churches mentioned.
Bunker Hill churches. The pioneering religious leaders in Bunker Hill were Baptist and Congregational. The land on which Bunker Hill stands was first entered in the Land Office at Edwardsville, Ill. in 1833. The building site for the Congregational church was donated in 1839. The first sermon preached in Bunker Hill was by Roswell Kimbal, a Baptist Minister, in June 1836. The services was held in a building known as "The Old Tavern," which was built by Moses True. It was also the first house completed and also used as a residence in Bunker Hill. The location of this structure was thought to be on the corner of Washington and Fayette Streets.
In December, 1840 eighteen members of Woodburn Baptist Church asked for letters of dismissal for the purpose of organizing a Baptist Church in Bunker Hill. In January of 1841, they along with two others, organized the first Baptist Church in Bunker Hill. John Mason Peck, founder of Shurtleff College and pioneer Baptist preacher and organizer, preached the recognition service message.
The Baptist held meetings in the Congregational Church building for several years. In 1855, a building of their own was completed and used. A new auditorium was built in 1969. The previous organization was dissolved March 25, 1858, and organized as Berean Baptist Church. In 1872, several Black members from the church asked for, and received, letters of dismissal for the purpose of organizing their own Church, therefore a second Baptist church became existent as a result of this. After the Bunker Hill Military Academy closed in 1916 the bell was purchased and placed in Berean Baptist Church belfry. When the new auditorium was built in 1969, the bell was transferred to the new bell tower.
In 1925 Berean Baptist received a gift of a large sum of money from Mrs. Ida McKinney, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Meissner. They were faithful members of Berean Baptist Church for many years, and this was the first of many gifts that formed a trust fund by the Meissner family. Berean Baptist withdrew from the Northern Baptist Convention in 1937 to fellowship with the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches. They remain with this fellowship to this date, 2001. The G.A.R.B.C. is a fundamental Bible-honoring Association of churches with a strong emphasis on Missions and evangelism. In the early 1950's, Berean helped to establish a new Baptist testimony in Woodburn, Il., the former one having ceased to exist. For many years, the Berean Baptist Church has had a strong missionary emphasis both financially and in sending out full time missionaries at home and abroad. (Written by William Snedeker.)
Since 1858, when the church re-organized as Berean Baptist Church, it has had 33 pastors in all, serving for periods ranging from 5 months to 13 years. During August 16-18, 2001 Berean celebrated their one hundred and fifty year anniversary. Six former pastors spoke at the celebration, and former pastors and youth leaders led the music. Present pastor (2001) Ron Burnet, Associate Pastor Darwin Miller.
Through the effort of twelve families who wanted a Southern Baptist Church in their Community, this congregation was started as a mission church of the Whitelaw Baptist Church, Wood River, Il. It is their desire to reach the Southern Baptist in the area and those not going to church anywhere in the community. The Church building was purchased from the "John Wesley Free Methodist Church," in Sept. of 1990. It is a member of the Alton Industrial Baptist Association, a group of 22 churches in the Alton Area.
Richard Farrow, minister to the congregation and his wife have been in the mission field in Africa and were back in the United States on leave when they were asked to help build this congregation. At the present time there are approximately 50 church members, with a Sunday school enrollment of 84. On Sept. 13, 1992, this church was formally organized as a church and known as, Bunker Hill Baptist Church. Present pastor is (2001) Thomas P. Asbury.
Our church started on July 4, 1954, in the old post office building. We later moved to the building at 110 East Warren St. The following people were members as we started our church; Our first pastor, Frank and Jean Twente, Nannie Barnes, James and Ida Davis, Ethel Eastman, John and Eva Martin, George and Elizabeth McNeil, Anna Throne, Juanita Warren and Marian Woolridge.
In March 1955, we purchased a lot on the corner of N. Clinton and W. Fayette St. from Donald Lee. We built a basement and had services in the basement until Nov. 1955, when we moved upstairs to our new church. In 1981 we purchased property adjourning our church from the DeWerff's. In 1986, the church was remodeled into our present facilities. Our parsonage on Washington street was purchased in 1966. Present pastor (2001) Gary Cook.
The first sermon preached in Bunker Hill was by Roswell Kimbal, a Baptist minister, in June of 1835. The services were held in the building known as: "The Old Tavern." Moses True had this building built, and was the first house completed and also used as a residence in this town. Occasional preaching services were held in the house by Mr. Olcott, a Baptist Minister, and by Robert Blake, agent of Home Missionary Association during the years of 1837-38. In December of 1837, a meeting was held in Woodburn to organize a Congregational Church for the people of Bunker Hill and Woodburn, with Rev. Blake chosen as the moderator. They were known as the Woodburn and Bunker Hill Church. Rev. Blake preached the first sermon ever preached in the Bunker Hill Church.
By 1842, it was desired to have a full time minister for each town. The Bunker Hill Church was founded on June 23, 1842, and an "Evangelical Congregational Society," was formed which included non-members of the church. This Societyís purpose was to acquire and hold property and conduct the secular and financial affairs of the church.
In 1847, a union society consisting of the Congregational and Baptist Societies was formed for the purpose of building a house of worship. A brick building, forty feet by fifty feet, capable of seating 350 persons, was built at the present location and was dedicated in 1849. This building was used for both congregations for eight years. The Baptists and the Congregationals dissolved the "Society" in 1857, and the Congregationalists acquired the building (1893). We celebrated our 150th Anniversary June 14, 1992. Present Pastor, (2001) Interim Pastor, Dennis Hill.
Unfortunately, the earliest records of the Bunker Hill Methodist Church have not been preserved. Enough information is given to show that it began with the other churches, in the early period of settlement of the community. It was probably organized in 1838, with first church built on the present grounds in 1850. Rev. J. A. Scarrett was its first pastor. Records of that year show there were 230 members on the roll and the Pastor's salary was $330.50. The church was recognized as one of the leading churches of the Methodist Congregation in Southern Illinois. It entertained the annual conference of the Church in Oct., 1860. The Conference was presided over by Bishop Matthew Simpson, who was one of the leading preachers of the U. S. in the Civil War period.
The church gained strength by uniting with the German Methodist Church in 1931. In 1938, the first church was destroyed by a tornado. Another church was built and this too was destroyed in 1948 by another tornado. The present educational building was completed in 1963. Present Pastor, (2001) Delbert Pancake.
The formal organization of Zion Lutheran Congregation began in 1892. It appears that the first Lutheran service, was conducted by the Rev. E. T. Richter, pastor of Emmaus Lutheran Church of Dorsey. The congregation numbered 13 families. Worship services were conducted in various places. Most of the services were conducted in the old public school and in Huberís Hall, above what now is the Bunker Hill Pharmacy. (At this time, 2001, it has an antique shop in the building).
In the spring of 1892 the advisability of building a house of worship was discussed. On June 4,1892. Five members signed the Church Constitution. The congregation was given the name, "The Evangelical Zion Congregation in and about Bunker Hill." A lot, 231 feet by 99 feet, was purchased for $200 dollars and a contract was signed to build a frame church 26 feet by 40 feet. The cornerstone was laid Nov. 9, 1893, and the building was dedicated April 9, 1893. April 1894, the congregation, with only fourteen voting members, resolved to call a resident pastor. The Rev. John Holthusen became the first pastor and served from 1894 to 1896. In addition to serving as pastor, he was also to conduct a Christian day school. In 1903, a lot 231 feet by 99 feet just east of the church was purchased to build a parsonage. In 1922, the congregation had grown to such an extent that the seating capacity had become inadequate. It was resolved to build a new church, a frame building 40 by 70 feet, with a full basement. The old church was dismantled, and materials from it were incorporated into the new building. This second house of worship was dedicated on January 28, 1923, Rev. Edward J. Birner, pastor, officiating. On January 25, 1948, the 25th anniversary of the dedication was celebrated. The church had just been renovated and beautified at considerable costs.
On March 19, 1948, a tornado demolished an estimated 80% of the town. The recently renovated church was completely destroyed, as well as the parsonage. For two months after the storm, the congregation worshipped in St Peterís Lutheran Church in Prairietown. For three months after that, the services were held in the local Lincoln Theatre. From September l948 to December 1951, the congregation met in the basement of the old church, over which a roof had been placed. A new parsonage was constructed in 1948 and in the same year a lot was purchased to the west of the demolished church to serve as the site for the new church. Groundbreaking ceremonies for the new church were conducted on August 6, 1950. This new church was completed and dedicated on January 27, 1952. January 1962, the congregation approved the construction of an educational building. The ground breaking ceremonies were held on August 3, 1963, and the cornerstone laying ceremonies on December 8, and the completed building was dedicated on May 2, 1964.
In 1895, the Zion Lutheran Congregation opened a Christian Day School, which was conducted in the church. The various pastors took on the additional duties of teaching school. Beginning in 1924 regular teachers served in the school. In 1932, due chiefly to financial depression, the Christian Day School was closed. In the fall of 1932, Pastor E.T.J. Birner organized the first Bible Class. In the spring of 1933, Sunday school for children of pre-confirmation age was organized. After the School was closed in 1932,the Pastor began to give religious instruction on Saturday mornings to children not yet confirmed. For several years confirmation classes have been held for the students in the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades. Zion Lutheran had thirteen pastors to serve from 1894 to 1993 when this material was gathered. Present Pastor (2001), Terry Grebing.
On September 19, 1948, Calvary Community Sunday school began meeting. Over the course of a few years they met in several places in Woodburn. Then on October, of 1953 after much prayer, the Calvary Baptist Mission began. This group was a mission of Berean Baptist Church of Bunker Hill, Illinois. As a result of this work, the Calvary Baptist Church of Woodburn began on July 11, 1956. The Reverend Bill Snedeker was the first pastor. Recognition services for the newly organized, self-supporting church was on August 11, 1956. The Reverend Earl Brown was the guest speaker on that day. Those people serving as the first officers of the church were; Deacons and Trustees-Carl Raymond, Sr. and Henry Golike; Treasurer- Edith Raymond; Church clerk-Daisy Orban; Sunday School Superintendent, Kenny Raymond; Sunday School Secretary-Cleda Bouillon; Sunday School Treasurer-Daisy Orban. These offices were to be held by these members until the first annual meeting in January of 1957.
The present building in which the church meets was the old Woodburn elementary School. The church purchased the building in 1962. A dedication service was held December 16th, 1962 at 2:30 in the afternoon. Much work went into the building, including a new front section and the addition of a new classroom, foyer and restrooms. In 1990, a new bell tower was built in memory of Miss Cleda Bouillon.
The church was given 135 acres of land by Henry Miller and Nellie Miller. Some of the acreage was sold, and in 1968, this money was used to build a parsonage in their memory. A Baptistery was installed in the church in 1974, ending the need to go somewhere else for baptisms. A prophetís chamber was built in the parsonage basement to house visiting preachers, missionaries, evangelists, and guests of the church. It was dedicated July 7, 1991. Ten pastors have served the church: Bill Snedeker, Carl Moore, Alan Beal, Thomas Robinson, George Elledge, Bob Watson, Marion DeJong, Jerry Elledge, Timothy Coley and the present pastor Michael Clapham, (1993).
The church is a self-supporting, self -governing, independent, fundamental, Baptist Church. It is affiliated with the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches. They presently support 11 missionary families and have an active program endeavoring to meet the needs of the folks who attend. Besides a Sunday school program for all ages, also regular Sunday morning worship services, Sunday night services, and mid-week Bible study and prayer meeting. The church also offers a variety of programs; joy club during the school year is for kids four years through 6th Grade. A Junior church meets during the morning service and a kids for Christ Club meets during the mid-week service, Wednesday night. A visitation program is also in effect to make calls on folks in the area. The church has an active program for teens and college age also. Calvary Baptist is a place where the whole family can fit in.
Calvary Baptist Church stands today, as it always has, unashamed of the Gospel of Christ, preaching and teaching the saving grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is a beacon light to a community who must be told the message that God does not want any to die outside of Christ but that all should come unto repentance. Present Pastor (2001) Kenneth Jaworski.
In the year 1837, Woodburn, Illinois was a cluster of a dozen dwellings on the stage route between Chicago and St. Louis. Several residents were Congregationalists from New England who wished to band together for worship and fellowship in common faith. On March 25, 1838, The Woodburn Congregational church was organized. The founder Rev. Robert Blake was installed as pastor with a salary of $150 annually. The records list approximately forty persons who worshipped for the first two years in various homes.
In 1838 or 1839 a wooden structure 20 feet by 24 feet was erected on the present site which served as a church school and town hall. A raised platform, old wooden benches, and tin holders for tallow candles made up the furnishings. March of 1854, the new brick church was dedicated and served the congregation until 1960. At that time the building suffered extensive storm damage and it was decided to build a new church. Dedication services for the new building were held under the direction of Rev. C. M. Miller on October 13, 1963. A special meeting was held in May of 1988, and it was voted to call the present minister, Rev. LeRoy Fahnestock, to a full time position as pastor. This is the first time since 1925 that we had a full time pastor. It is our prayer that this will continue to be a spiritual house of worship until the Lord comes for His Church. Present Pastor (2001) LeRoy Fahnestock.
A simple, charming church building sets on the top of a hill some two miles from Woodburn. The bell tower can be seen for miles. This building, dedicated in 1880, is the Woodburn Presbyterian Church. The church was organized in 1880 because of the great distance to travel to Fosterburg by horse and buggy. The George Benner family donated the land. The original membership was; John George Benner, Mrs. Mina Benner, Miss Mary Benner, Christian Brenker, Fred Brenker, John Henry Camper, Mrs. Maria Camper, Mrs. A. G. Froehlich, William Froehlich, Mrs. D. Frolke, William Froelke, Miss Anna Gabriel, Charles Gabriel, Sr., Fred Gabriel, Henry Gabriel, Mrs. Mary Gabriel, Christopher Huette, Miss Emlia Huette, Mrs. Minnie Huette, Catharina Scheldt, Mrs. Cristine Scheldt, Jacob Scheldt and Philip Scheldt. Many of the present church members are descendents of the above original membership.
The original building is in use weekly. There have been many improvements in the building but no major structural changes. Aluminum siding, a basement and a lowered ceiling have added to the comfort of the building. The pews and much of the church are as old as the building. Our Present Pastor (2001) is Rev. Ron McKinney and we are a small, but devoted congregation. The church no longer goes by Woodburn Presbyterian Church, it is now called Bible Church.
The early Catholics held service at the Carroll settlement about seven miles south of Bunker Hill on Sundays even though there was no Priest available. The first Catholic Church to serve the present territory of the Bunker Hill parish was built in 1854 on the Prairietown road. The church was made of brick and had an adjoining cemetery. The only traces remaining now are fragments of tombstones in the pasture along the road to Prairietown. The building of the railroad through Bunker Hill brought a number of Catholic settlers to town. For a while, services were held at Bunker Hill and the parish on the Prairietown Road by several priests stationed in Alton. Finally Bunker Hill became the more important congregation, and Bishop Juncker of Alton decided to station a resident pastor here who would see to the building of a new church. The Rev. A. B. Rinkes was appointed the first pastor of Bunker Hill in 1865. The work progressed in the new Bunker Hill Church, named in honor of the annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. During the next fifteen years, the church was improved in several ways; a remodeled sanctuary, a new addition to the front and a steeple was added. In the same period, a rectory and a parish school was built. The school functioned successfully for many years, but later, so many families moved from the town it was impossible to continue.
The Bunker Hill priests often had charge of missions at nearby places. Parishes flourished at Shipman and at Gillespie. Both were founded as missions by pastors of Bunker Hill. A Mission Church at Bethalto was also tended by the Bunker Hill clergy for a long time. In 1925 the Bunker Hill parish again gave birth to a mission, when Bishop Griffin assigned Father Stolze the task of founding Holy Cross Church of Wilsonville. Father Stolze and his successors had the help of many good Bunker Hill parishioners who freely contributed their services when needed at the newer parish.
In 1938 a tornado struck Bunker Hill and destroyed the church steeple. The task began of repairing the tornado damage and getting the church rectory back to normal.
In 1947 Reverend Davenport commenced a program of improvements to the church. The people worked very hard. Within a year it was possible to accomplish many tasks, including installing a new roof on the church, installing a new organ and completely redecorating the church. The tasks were all completed by early spring of 1948.
Then in a few minutes at 6:45 a. m. on March 19, 1948, the church, which had stood for 83 years and the rectory beside it, was turned into a pile of broken lumber. Many of the Parishioners were seriously injured; and several died the following year. The first four Sundays after this tragedy, Mass was said in the schoolhouse; then for six months mass was in the First National Bank building. In the fall of 1948, the old Moses True residence was bought for the use as a temporary church as well as a hall and rectory. Bishop William A. OíConner after his installation as Bishop, gave approval to proceed with the construction of the church. The bishop promised substantial help from diocesan sources. This would be in addition to collections taken up for Bunker Hill by many churches in the diocese. Work began in May 1949. The cornerstone was laid on October 9, 1949. In December the church was near enough to completion that the first mass was celebrated at 5:00 A.M. on Christmas morning in 1948, just eighty-five years after the first Mass was said in the old church.
Pastors at St. Maryís were; A. B. Rinkes, F. H. Zabel, D. J. Higgins, C. T. Stolze, G. H. Powell, K. P. Diggins, Maruce Gavin, J. A. Colavecchio, T. J.Davenport, Casimir Gierut and Robert Porter. (2001)
AREA CHURCHES NO LONGER IN EXISTENCE
BUNKER HILL CHRIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Christ Church, at Bunker Hill, was organized in 1865. Prior to that services were held by Rev. Mr. Dresser, of Carlinville, Il. in some church or school-house as opportunity might present. It is believed that the first service for the Episcopal Church was held by Rev. Dresser in the Congregational house of worship in the summer of 1862. Rev. Mr. Mitchell came to take charge here and at Gillespie in 1864, and from that time forward the ministers in both places were the same. Rev. Mr. Mitchell resigned in September 1865.
Rev. Mr. Portmess succeeded him for about one year. Rev. Mr. Zimmerman then followed him for about six months, and he was succeeded by Rev. Mr. Johnson, who resigned July 1, 1879, after having served four years of faithful and a successful ministry.
The church edifice was erected in 1875-76, at a cost of $3500, including the lot. In November of 1875, the cornerstone was laid by Rev. D. W. Dresser, Rural Dean, and assisted by Rev. Mr. Chase of Alton and Rev. Mr. Johnston of Bunker Hill. The officers of the parish were William N. Budd, and R. J. Hornsby, wardens; William M. Dorsey, A. N. Yancy and T. H. Richards, vestrymen. The communicants were 44 families and 26 individuals who attended or claimed an interest in the church, about 150.
The 1936 Centennial Edition of the Bunker Hill Gazette News, related the Episcopal Church which has been torn down, stood just North of the John Suedel property and was a beautiful structure This location would be on the East side of Union street between Warren and John Street.
BUNKER HILL GERMAN METHODIST CHURCH
For about 75 years this church served as one of the religious centers of the community, having as its organization pastor Rev. G. Zollman, who served in the year 1859. He was followed by Rev. E. H. Kriege; then Rev. Jacob Miller, who was credited with building the church. In May, 1870, the German Methodists completed and dedicated their church building on the Northeast corner of Clinton and Brookline Streets. During the years, a number of people maintained their connections to this church, while others joined the Methodist church even before the consolidation of the two churches.
The German M. E. church conference, of which this church was a member, merged with the Southern Il. Conference in 1926, and from that period until 1931, both churches were of the same conference. This church consolidated with the Methodist Church in 1931, during the Pastoring of Rev. C. M. Miller. The Church had twenty pastors during this time period. In 1939, the old brick building, along with the lot where it stood was purchased by Wilford Rensing and was razed by Charles Sneeringer in that same year.
JOHN WESLEY FREE METHODIST CHURCH
The John Wesley Free Methodist Church was formed about 1970. Those first members of the congregation purchased a church building at 503 South Clinton St., formerly the Full Gospel Tabernacle. When it first started, the congregation was served by professors and student pastors from Greenville College. The first regular pastor was Rev. Eric Smith. Rev. Carter Carney served as a full time pastor for several years before retiring. During its 18 years existence there were seven regular pastors when it ceased to exist in 1988. By 1981, the lot with the mobile home, adjoining the Church property had been purchased to serve as a parsonage. Additional classrooms were added, a kitchen added and the building brick veneered. However, by 1988 the church was discontinued and sold to Bunker Hill Baptist Chapel.
ROUND PRAIRIE CHRISTIAN CHURCH
July 1, 1845 the Round Prairie Christian Church, organized by appointing John P. Bayless and Samuel Wood to the office of eldership. Hiram Daughtery and John Nesbit were appointed Deacons at the same time. About 1849, John W. Keller was added to the list of elders and Johnson McGilvary and W.S. Spruill were ordained elders. Levi Miller and William Nesbit were ordained deacons at the same time. Johnson McGilvary went off to the Army in 1862 and died. In 1874, Peter C. Randle and Albert S. Fairchild were added to the eldership and Benjamin Mize and William Soapes to be deacons. Elder Fairchild moved his membership and died March 12, 1881. Scott Mize was added to the list of deacons by the church and Sanford Mize, at the same time, was appointed as an assistant clerk for the church at Round Prairie. The church continued to add persons to the roll until the membership reached 376. The church was discontinued about 1918.
Article submitted by Helen Myers and Robert F. Johnessee. (2001)