Primitive Baptist Church and Family History
Research Assistance for Coles County, Illinois

CHURCHES:

EMBARRASS, CHARLESTON

Embarrass Church was organized in 1827, or earlier, and was the first church of any faith organized in Charleston. Its meeting house in Charleston was the first church building in the town. The town of Charleston was named for Charles S. Morton, a member of this church, who helped lay out the town and donated land for it. Benjamin Parker (who later moved to Texas and was killed in a Comanche Indian massacre), another member of this church, was the first white settler in the county, and built the first log cabin in the county, on the east bank of Embarrass River. Nathaniel Parker, who later served in the state legislature, was also a member here, and gave the land for the church in Charleston. A county history also states that Elder John Parker preached the first sermon ever delivered in the county to the entire white population of the county at that time (eleven souls).

SURNAMES OF MEMBERS:

Bates, Craig, Fowler, Frost, Fuell, Hoffman, Hollis, Lewis, Morton, Parker, Piper, Riley (very incomplete list due to lack of records).

LITTLE BETHEL, LAFAYETTE TOWNSHIP

Little Bethel Church was the first church organized in the Lafayette township, Coles County. It was located on the south line of Section 23, adjacent to which was the oldest cemetery in the township. It was organized in 1829, by Elders Daniel Barham and William Martin. Elder Daniel Barham, formerly of Logan County, Kentucky, was the first preacher. The church had a meeting house (probably a log structure), by May 1831, as the Okaw Association was organized there that year. In 1865 a frame building was erected, which was later remodeled. Elder Threlkeld served as pastor for several years prior to the division which occurred in 1841. Elder B. B. Piper also served as pastor here. Elder George W. Dalby was pastor here for over fifty years.

In October 1841, dissension arose in Little Bethel Church (see above) on a question of order, and several prominent members withdrew, claiming the constitution of the church, and using the same name. This faction of the church held its meetings in the same building until 1856, when they built a house of worship at what is now 1421 Wabash Avenue, in Mattoon. It was the first church in the new town, and a graveyard was established at its rear. The building, erected under the pastorate of Elder Thomas Threlkeld, cost $2,500, and its first trustees were James Jeffries, F. G. True, and E. M. True. It was sold in 1869 to the United Brethren, and the Primitive Baptists returned to Lafayette township and built near the Big Four Railroad, at the Monroe crossing. In 1890 the building was moved to Section 21. It was sometimes called the "Stick-tight" church, because of the congregation once "sticking tight" to the freshly painted seats. Elder John G. Sawin was the pastor here for many years.

SURNAMES OF MEMBERS (BOTH FACTIONS):

Alexander, Anderson, Ashbrook, Beals, Blystone, Brown, Buckler, Cassaday, Chaney, Cross, Dalby, Doty, Drake, Dunham, Edwards, Ellis, Ferguson, Forsythe, Frakes, Frost, Gibbs, Goin, Gray, Guthrie, Hancock, Handley, Highland, Hock, Hodges, Janes, Jeffris, Jeffries, Jones, Kester, Larue, Lawson, Magee, Marshall, Martin, Mason, McCall, Michael, Miles, Miller, Morgan, Mount, Munson, Newport, Owens, Owings, Ozee, Parker, Payne, Perrin, Phipps, Piper, Reynolds, Runnols, Riley, Sawin, Scott, Stalcup, Stuart, Thomas, Threlkeld, Tolley, True, Turney, Vanderen, Vanetta, Vanmetter, Wade, Wells, White, Wigington, Williams, Wilson, Woods (incomplete list due to loss of part of the records).

PLEASANT GROVE, GAYS/SUMMIT

Pleasant Grove Church was organized in 1830 or earlier, as it became a member of the Wabash District Association in October 1830, at which time the messengers were Elder Daniel Barham and Bro. Daniel Gordon, who reported eleven members. Pleasant Grove Church was dismissed, during the same session, along with several other churches, to become a charter member of the Okaw Association, in May 1831. Elder Daniel Barham was founder, and a member of this church, and its first messenger to the Okaw Association, at which time the church reported nine members. Elder Barham is credited with building the first log cabin home in Pleasant Grove township.

In the division of the Okaw Association, this church stood with the Threlkeld faction. The Pleasant Grove Church was described in early minutes as being located between about six miles southwest of Mattoon, or about four miles from Gays. In April 1865, Elder John G. Sawin was ordained by this church. Pleasant Grove Church became a charter member of the Big Spring Association in 1877, and hosted that association several times during its existence.

SURNAMES OF MEMBERS:

Barham, Bryson, Curry, Gordon, Moore, Patterson, Richardson, Rudacille, Sawin, Sexson, Staton, Tipton (very incomplete list due to lack of records).

BIG SPRING (CAMPBELL)(SEE CUMBERLAND COUNTY)

Big Spring Church is described in early records as being located near Campbell. For further history of this church, see our Cumberland County page.

NEW HOPE

A church called New Hope was listed in the minutes of the Okaw Association of Regular Baptists. Among the members were: Shelton Allphin, Samuel Elder, Jesse Ellis, Samuel D. Hefton, James Neely, Garland Simms, Harmon Smith, William Smith, Richard Stevens, John Taylor, John Turner.

PROVIDENCE (SEE EDGAR COUNTY)

Providence Church was organized in Coles County, near the border with Edgar County, and later built a meeting house in Edgar County.

ZOAR, MATTOON

Zoar Church was organized at "Fuller's Point" on Saturday before the third Sunday in April, 1860. The names of the charter members are not available to us. The presbytery included Elders John Shields and C. B. Dawson, and brethren G. Clapp, D. B. Powers, Bro. Comstock, G. Waggoner, D. Harrison, C. Davis, R. A. Miller, W. Jeffries, W. Frost, J. V. Janes, and J. Martin. In September 1860, Zoar Church united with the Okaw Association, Elders George W. Dalby and J. F. Martin, and Bro. J. Keller, being her messengers, who reported 14 members. Early members of Zoar Church included Jesse Ellis and wife, Mr. Simms and family, Gideon Edwards, James Elder and family, and others.

Zoar Church met in homes of the members until the meeting house was completed, in 1865. It was built on the land of Elder George W. Dalby, the first pastor, at a cost of about $1,000. It was near the center of Section 17 of North Okaw township. It was torn down, and a new meeting house was built, in 1971, at the same location. A separate dining hall was built adjacent to the church building, in 1974. The Zoar Cemetery is adjacent to the site.

SURNAMES OF MEMBERS:

Anderson, Bricker, Brown, Elder, Florey, Gambill, Harris, Janes, Martin, Moore, Ray, Reeves, Waggle, Weakley (very incomplete list due to lack of records).

ADDITIONAL REFERENCE SOURCES IN THE PRIMITIVE BAPTIST LIBRARY:

Minutes of the Okaw Association; obituaries of members in the Signs of the Times.

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