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Manual of the First Congregational Church
May 1881

Geneseo IL

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."


  Called Dismissed
Jarius Wilcox 1838 1845
C. S. Cady Oct 1848 1849
A. J. Copeland Dec 1849 April 1852
J. W. North Nov 1852 Nov 1853
S. H. Waldo Jan 1855 Jan 1858
M. N. Miles Jan 1859 1860
B. C. Ward March 1860 1861
J. T. Cook Nov 1861 1863
Harry Brickett April 1865 1871
H. S. McArthur Jan 1872 April 1874
T.C. Jerome June 1874 June 1875
O. W. Fay Oct 1875 March 1879
Albert Bushnell May 1879  

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