Manual of the First Congregational Church
Transcribed by Deborah Lacy
One result of the religious awakening, which swept over large sections of the Eastern States during the years
1830-35 was the organization of numerous Christian colonies to go westward and help save the vast, fertile
Mississippi valley from Romanism and Infidelity.
This town of Geneseo, and this First Congregational Church therein, originated from such desire among a few
active Christians in Geneesee County, N.Y., who decided to go west in a body that they might plant the institutions
of religion and education.
An exploring party, sent out in the Spring of 1836, to secure land, chose the present site of Geneseo and
purchased the land of the Government. Returning and making their report, the colonists decided to move
directly forward. On September 13th, 1836, an ecclesiastical council assembled in the Stone Church, Genesee County,
and organized a little band of thirteen Christians into a Congregational Church, to go out into the wilderness
fully equipped for Christian service.
Messrs. Elisha Cone, Reuben Cone, C. K. Bartlett, J. C. Ward and Harry Manville, and their wives, and three
children--Harriet Cone, Mary E. and Amanda E. Bartlett--comprised the thirteen original members. Elisha Cone and J.
C. Bartlett were chosen and ordained deacons. A sermon was preached from the appropriate test: "He that goeth forth
and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheves with him."
Three days later--on the 17th September--five families, numbering forty persons, with their own wagons, entered
upon the journey, which lay through Canada and Southern Michigan. After nine weeks' travel, much of the time
suffering from bad weather, and always strictly observing the Sabbath, both by rest and worship, they finally, on
the 129th of November, reached their destination. For a year and a half the Church was without a stated ministry,
but still public worship was maintained--the services being held in the cabins of the members.
In May, 1838, Rev. J. Wilcox, one of the originators of the colony, came on from New York State and was chosen
pastor upon a salary of four hundred dollars. he proved an efficient laborer and remained with the Church till the
year 1845. Then followed a succession of Pastorates. Rev. Wm. T. Allan supplied the pulpit six or eight months.
Rev. Addison Lyman served the Church somewhat more than two years, beginning in October, 1845. Rev. C.S. Cady
preached one year from October 1st, 1848. From December, 1849, to February, 1852, Rev. A. J. Copeland occupied the
pulpit. he was followed by Rev. J.W. North, who remained from November, 1852, to November, 1854.
Rev. S. H. Waldo, labored as pastor for three years from January, 1855, to January, 1858, during which time the
present house of worship was built--the Church having previously worshipped in the academy building--since that had
been completed. During 1858 and 1859, Rev. B. C. Ward came for a year and a half, and resigned to enter the army.
He was followed by Rev. J. T. Cook, who remained two years--1862 and 1863. Rev. M. N. Miles supplied again during
1864. In May, 1865, Rev. Harry Brickett was called and remained longer than any of his predecessors, or til 1871.
Rev. H. S. McArthur accepted a call and entered upon his work in January, 1872, but after two years resigned
because of ill health, and was followed by Rev. T. C. Jerome, who after serving the Church a year, resigned to go
to California. In October, 1875, Rev. O. W. Fay was called and remained til March 1879, when he entered upon work
in connection with the A. M. A. in Alabama. In May, 1879, the Church gave a call to Rev. Albert Bushnell, who
continues as pastor at this time.
Because of there being no Congregational Association in Illinois, with which it could be connected, the Church
from 1838 to April, 1850, was connected conditionally with the Presbytery, yet never gave up the idea of
self-government. In 1850 it voted to re-adopt the Congregational form of government, and has since been connected
respectively with the Central, the Geneseo, and the Rock River Association of Congragational Churches.
The Church has continued Sabbath School instruction since the first summer after the colonists arrived.
In 1879, the Constitution was so altered as to provide for a Prudential Committee, to look after the general
interests of the Church.
Throughout all its history the Church has enjoyed frequent awakenings and large ingatherings of such as
believed. The revival spirit has been prominent from the first, and nearly every pastor has been blessed in his
labors by precious seasons of grace."
|C. S. Cady
|A. J. Copeland
|J. W. North
|S. H. Waldo
|M. N. Miles
|B. C. Ward
|J. T. Cook
|H. S. McArthur
|O. W. Fay
(this is the end of page 5 in the manual)