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Let us now for a moment set ourselves back to the year 1826, and take our stand at the old capital, Kaskaskia, looking northward and eastward. Up the Mississippi, on the left is the French village of St. Louis, with Solomon Giddings working there, and not another minister beyond him to the North Pole. On the right, settlements are thickening in, Jacksonville and Quincy are just coming into existence as villages, and all beyond, toward the north, is wild, wild wilderness of boundless prairie, charming groves and river-courses, with the relief only of the old French post at Peoria, Fort Armstrong on the Rock Island, the opening lead mines in the north-west corner of the State, and Fort Dearborn at the mouth of the Chicago River. Surely the question now is not whether the new society, along with the other organs of American evangelism, can furnish this empire of a State, already full of people, with the Gospel and its institutional adjuncts; but whether, themselves growing with the State, they can supply the present sparse population, and follow
that which is to come. The great New York and Erie Canal has just the year before been opened. Along this channel, and around the great lakes, the tide of emigration is soon to flow, setting back into the praries of northern and central Illinois. There is, too, to be a change in the style of the emigrants. Heretofore, the intelligent and wealthy, but lordly Southerners, emigrating with their slaves and other chattels, and taunting our people that they cannot hold slaves in Illinois, have passed on through to Missouri, where, by compromise, “the land-mark of freedom” has been removed, leaving this State to the "poor whites” of the South. But now, eastern folk, along their own parallels, are to seek their homes in this free Commonwealth. They will bring along with them their characteristic ideas, and, many of them, leaving the old seats of society during an era of revival, will come as fresh recruits in the service of the Lord, seeking to incorporate a spiritual religion into churches and institutions. Can this leaven be equal to the leavening of the masses, to the raising up of a Christian civilization ?
The new society, undertaking its share of the task, starts off with two missionaries in Ilinois,-Rev. J. M. Ellis, at Kaskaskia, taken from the United Domestic Missionary Society, and VOL. XXXV.
Rev. E. G. Howe, taken from the Connecticut Society, who preached at Diamond Grove, (afterward Jacksonville,) at Springfield, and at Paris, and who, still surviving at the age
of seventyseven, has written me upon these matters from Paxton, Massachusetts. Thus far the great home mission field has been central or Western New York, where the new organization finds one bundred of the one hundred and thirty missionaries, whom it takes from the hand of the former societies, which had fol. lowed the emigrants from New England into those parts. Now that zone is stretching out rapidly towards the West. In the second year the society sends out from Andover, Solomon Hardy, who, before he takes his place at Shoal Creek, supplies Mr. Ellis' pulpit at Kaskaskia, wbile he goes out to explore the extreme northern frontier, in Morgan, Longamon, Green, and Adams counties.
In the third year, 1828, Rev. Dr. J. G. Bergen is sent from New Jersey to Springfield, where he finds a village of twenty-six log cabins, and the Presbyterian Church, which Mr. Ellis had organized—the same which became Abraham Lincoln's place of worship. Rev. John Matthews is sent to take Kaskaskia, as Mr. Ellis goes to Jacksonville. The two young licentiates, Thomas Lippincott and Cyrus L. Watson are commissioned for Edmondsville and Rush ville. From Connecticut, is sent to Galena the young pastor, Rev. Aratus Kent, who had applied to the society for a place which was so hard that no one else would take it. In the Fall of that year Mr. Kent travels nineteen days on horse-back, following down the Mississippi to find the Indiana Synod, which was to meet with one of its churches in Bond County, Illinois. On his way he preaches to seventy: five of the one hundred and fifty soldiers at Fort Armstrong. Arriving at St. Louis, which also belonged to the Indiana Synod, be finds himself too late for the meeting.
But a new era of evangelism is about to dawn upon Illinois. It comes from a divine coupling of agencies widely separated. Ellis, at his ordination in the Old South Church, Boston, had received of Elias Cornelius the charge: “Build up an institution of learning, which shall bless the West for all time." He secures the location of a Seminary at Jacksonville. He reports to the society; and that report, in the Home Jissionary, quickens the divine ferment then going on in the Divinity School of Yale College, the result of which is the forming of the “Illinois Association," with the names of seven young men signed in solemn pledge to go out to that State. Those names were Theron Baldwin, Julien M. Sturtevant, Mason Grosvenor, John F. Brooks, Elisha Jenney, William Kirby, Asa Turner. To this list were added those of William Carter, Albert Hale, Flavel Bascom, Romulus Barnes, and Lucien Farnham.
This was the fifth Home Missionary Band. Four had already been sent west from Andover. In the fourth there were eight men, who, at the instance of the American Home Missionary Society, had been ordained in the Park Street Church, Boston, by the Presbytery of Newburyport,—and this as a prudential measure, to make the young men, as was supposed, more acceptable at the West. Among these I count the pastor of my boyhood in Ohio, Rev. Henry Shedd, who raised up a son to be a foreign missionary; and Rev. Dr. M. M. Post, of Indiana, who, as himself a sort of Theological Seminary, has put four sons into the ministry, one of whom is in the foreign service. Another Band had numbered four, among them John M. Ellis. They had been ordained, under home missiou auspices, by a Council in the Old South Church of Boston-Drs. S. H. Cox, Matthias Bussen, Elias Cornelius, Justin Edwards, and B. B. Wisner, participating. It was in connection with this Council, held September 24th, 1825, that the idea of a National Home Mission Society got its first public recognition, and the impulse which carried it on to realization. In October, 1831, ten young men from Andover were ordained in New York by its Third Presbytery, ready to start on the next day as home missionaries; while eight more from Andover and Bangor and Princeton, among then Jeremiah Porter and Edmund 0. Hovey, were then on their way to the West-eighteen in all, the largest company ever sent out by the Society. But of these six bands, the Illinois Association was the first one to go out to a given locality, as did the Iowa Band fourteen years later. Every one of those twelve New Haven Apostles, except Grosvenor, who was detained by ill-health, upon the completion of their Seminary course, came on to Illinois, under commission of the Society, with outfit furnished and a pledge of the current missionary salary of four hundred dollars.
In 1829, Messrs. Baldwin and Sturtevant, assigned in their commission “ to the State of Illinois,” came on and set up
the Illinois College—Mr. Sturtevant becoming an instructor, and Mr Baldwin locating at Vandalia, the capital, where his first convert is William H. Brown, whose estate at Chicago, in the reciprocity of missions, has made over to the American Board property to the value of $35,000 In 1830, Asa Turner, Jr., locates in Quincy. He organizes the first church of the place. In the county he sets agoing the Tract, Bible and Temperance causes. The next Summer he holds a four-days meeting, in which there are twenty-four conversions. He developes three out-stations, which he soon organizes into churches that are now strong and useful. In 1833, he breaks over into Missouri to hold a series of protracted meetings. After the first, in which there are sixty conversions, the campaign is arrested by the cholera. In a strain of heroic sadness the missionary reports to the Society: “When these calamities are overpast, those of us who may survive, will try again to gather the lost sheep." He goes East a year, for Illinois College. In three and a half years he brings his church to self-support; and in the first year of that self-reliance, he reports $360 for benevolent causes. A member of the church, in gratitude, wrote thus: “To your Society, as a means under God, do we owe the blessing and high privilege we now enjoy. Where had we now been had not your
Society sent us a helper? We would not for the universe go back where we were one short year since; and there we should have been had not your heaven-born charity reached us."
After such a pastorate of eight years, Mr. Turner heard the Macedonian cry from over the river in Iowa Territory; and, in 1839, at Denmark, he gathered the first Congregational Church of Iowa. And the General Association of the State, when it kept this jubilee, reported to that patriarch, who did “survive" the cholera of 1833, and who was present, two hundred and twenty churches, one hundred and sixty-five ministers, with two Christian Colleges, the model Academy, at Denmark, and a Professorship in the Chicago Theological Seminary. And all of this is largely the showing of the American Home Missionary Society for its thirty-seven years of operation in Iowa.
Following up our Illinois Band, we find all of them but one, by the year 1833, settled in Illinois, under commission of the society,—Brooks, at Collinsville ; Jenny, at Alton; Kirby, at Mendon; Carter, at Pittsfield ; Hale, at Bethel, and then at Springfield for a life-work; Barnes, at Canton; Farnham, at Lewiston, and then at Princeton ; and Bascom, in Tazwell County, where, in six years, he organizes Presbyterian churches at Pleasant Grove, Tremont, Peoria, and Washington, leaving, after six years, in the three counties of Peoria, Bureau, and Putnam, eleven Presbyterian churches, and ten Presbyterian ministers, organized into Peoria Presbytery, where he had found but one minister of that order,—and then we find him in a home missionary agency, and in pastorates at Chicago, Galesburg, Dover, Princeton, and Hinsdale, and still doing invaluable occasional service among the churches. Mason Grosvenor, in whose brain was born the idea of the “Illinois Association," true to his life-plans, has been these many years a professor in the Illinois College.
Within that period—up to 1833—came also Dr. Edward Beecher, as President of the College ; Lemuel Foster, to found the First Presbyterian Church of Bloomington, and to fill up a long life with extended usefulness; Warren Nichols to Atlas; Elisha H. Hazard, with a commission for “Ottawa, La Salle," and Putnam Counties; N. C. Clark, to organize twenty-eight churches in the Fox River Valley; and Jeremiah Porter, to organize the First Presbyterian Church, of Chicago, and then to fill up these forty-six years of western ministry, which seems yet to be as fruitful as ever. These men plant their own churches, travel, hold protracted meetings, organize other churches, set up Tract and Bible Societies, and Sunday schools, and pioneer the cause of temperance and of education, after the sample given in that first Quincy pastorate.
At this point in our history, the society, now seven years of age, has sent forward to the Illinois frontier, thirty-seven missionaries. Now, the Black Hawk war is over; and, as a result, the Rock and Fox River countries are opened to settlement; and a new impulse is given to emigration. And the missionary corps is correspondingly reinforced. Rev. R. W. Gridley comes on from an eighteen years' pastorate at Williamstown,