Church and Family History Research Assistance
for Primitive Baptist Churches in Franklin County, Illinois

CHURCHES:

EAST FORK OF MUDDY RIVER

East Fork Church was organized by 1817, or earlier (possibly as early as 1813 or 1814). It was already listed as a member of the Little River Association in 1818 - the oldest minutes presently known to exist, so it had united with that body by 1817 or earlier. The Little River Association of Kentucky was organized in 1813.) In 1820, the minutes of the Little River Association list East Fork of Muddy River Church as being represented by messengers Elders Isaac Herring and John Wren, who reported 29 members. That year, 1820, East Fork Church, and Big Creek Church in Pope County, Ill., were dismissed by the Little River Association to help constitute the Muddy River Association in Illinois.

In the year 1826, East Fork Church increased from 17 members to 100 members, mainly by new members being baptized. In 1820, the church had 31 members; in 1821, 34; in 1822, 28; in 1823, 23; in 1824, 22; in 1825, 17; in 1826, 100; in 1827, 85; in 1828, 62; in 1829, 53. In 1827-1829, the church dismissed 68 members by letter to join or organize other churches.

In 1829, East Fork Church was dismissed from the Muddy River Association to go into the constitution of the Bethel Association. East Fork Church was represented, or mentioned, in the minutes of Bethel Association as late as 1875. The church is mentioned in the records of Salem Church as late as 1890. Elder Achilles Coffey, in his history, states that the Franklin Association of United (Missionary) Baptists was constituted at Old East Fork. In the history of Pleasant Grove (East Fork) Missionary Baptist Church, we find that Elder William Ferrel and his two sons Wilfred and Hezekiah (see history of Bethlehem Church, Williamson County), organized that church in 1840, with twelve members. This was evidently the result of a division within Old East Fork Church, and both groups may have met at the same location (probably a log meeting house, east of West Frankfort) for a period of time.

The East Fork Regular Baptist Church remained in the Bethel Regular Baptist Association, as the minutes show for that period, stated above. Pleasant Hill Church was organized by some of the members of East Fork Church, in the same community, about the time that East Fork church ceased to hold services.

SURNAMES OF MEMBERS:

Adams, Atcheson, Cantrell, Carpenter, Cheek, Cockrell, Evans, Flanahan, Hardcastle, Harrison, Herring, Hill, Jordan, Madox, Moore, Myers, Owen, Page, Ray, Rogers, Smith, Stilley, Swafford, Teel, Upchurch, Webb, Wren (very incomplete list due to loss of records).

MIDDLE FORK OF MUDDY RIVER (EWING)

Middle Fork of Muddy River Church was first organized as an arm of East Fork Church, with the following members, to wit: Oliver Morris, Eli Webb, Lazarus Webb, Margaret "Peggy" Webb, and Nancy Webb. The arm met in September 1818 and received Isaac and Nancy Hill, Prudence Atcheson, Joseph Jordan, and Joel and Rebecca Page by letter. Elder John Wren was chosen moderator and Lazarus Webb clerk of the arm. They agreed to meet on the fourth Sunday each month. It is probable that Eli and Lazarus Webb and their wives, and others, had met at least once as an arm before this. In September 1819, the arm chose Joel Page as deacon, and agreed to be constituted with "Brother Wren in view for our preacher." In October 1819, the arm met and letters were presented from East Fork Church for the following charter members, viz., Lazarus Webb, Eli Webb, Isaac Hill, John Stilley, Nancy Webb, and Margaret Webb, who were constituted into a church to be known as Middle Fork of Muddy River Baptist Church, by Elders Isaac Herring and Wilson Henderson. The above twelve named members were all considered to be part of the newly constituted church.

The pioneer members of this church were active in helping to constitute sister churches, and in early 1820 laid the groundwork for the formation of the Muddy River Association, which took place in October 1820. In October 1829, Middle Fork and nine other churches were dismissed from the Muddy River Association to form the Bethel Association.

For a few years, the meetings were probably held in the homes of members. In July 1822 it was agreed to build a log cabin meeting house, with dimensions of 20 by 40 feet, at the east end of Webb's Prairie, near the ford of Sugar Camp Creek, the present site of Middle Fork Cemetery. This building was destroyed by fire in November 1828. The church borrowed money at 15% interest to build another house, in 1828 or 1829. A third meeting house was built in 1852. A frame meeting house was erected in 1868, about one mile west of the original site, which was then used for worship services until 1932. This building was about three miles southeast of Ewing, and about nine miles northeast of Benton.

In March 1932 Middle Fork Church sold their building and merged with Salem Church of Benton, and since that time the merged church has met at the meeting house located two blocks south and two blocks east of the Franklin County Courthouse.

In July 1832 Middle Fork Church declared non-fellowship for the spirit and practice of the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions.

Pastors who have served Middle Fork Church include: Elders John Wren, Chester Carpenter, John Manis, Joseph Hartley, Elijah T. Webb, Josiah Harriss, Lemuel Potter, C. M. Weaver, W. C. Arnold, H. J. Gwaltney, C. F. Stuckey, J. Harvey Daily, T. E. Hopper, W. E. Brush, F. M. Pope, T. Leo Dodd, Eugene Ford, and John O'Dell. Elder Pope was the pastor when the merger took place in 1932. During the 30 years Elder Elijah T. Webb served, 92 members were added; during the 13 years Elder Josiah Harris served, 87 members were added; during the six years Elder W. C. Arnold served, 25 members were received.

SURNAMES OF MEMBERS:

Adams, Allen, Atcheson, Bain, Baker, Barker, Bauer, Beaty, Bellows, Bennett, Blood, Boyd, Boyer, Braden, Bristow, Britton, Burt, Cabbage, Carpenter, Causey, Chastain, Clark, Clem, Connor, Cook, Cowley, Cox, Crider, Darnell, Davis, Dawson, Dial, Dillon, Doty, Drew, Dungy, Durham, Edwards, Ely, Eubanks, Foster, Frank, Gifford, Gossett, Gower, Hargett, Harmerson, Harnstys, Harrelson, Harris, Hartley, Hicks, Hill, Hood, Huffine, Hunter, Irvin, Johnson, Jones, Jordan, Kearney, Kerr, Koons, Lee, Little, Lunsford, Manion, Manis, McCann, McKay, McNeal, Moore, Morris, Neal, Newton, Odom, Odum, Osborne, Overturf, Page, Payne, Pearce, Pennington, Phillips, Picket, Pierce, Pilson, Provart, Ramsey, Richardson, Richey, Riggins, Roberson, Robertson, Robison, Russell, Ryan, Sanders, Sargent, Shaw, Sherry, Sink, Smith, Spain, Spencer, Spitler, Stall, Stilley, Stringer, Sullivan, Sweet, Swofford, Tate, Taylor, Teague, Thomasson, Thompson, Vance, Ward, Warren, Webb, Whaley, Whitehead, Whittington, Wilbanks, Wilkens, Wilkey, Willeford, Williams, Willis, Winn, Woodward, Wren, Wyatt, Young.

SALEM (BENTON)

Salem Church was probably organized in 1827, by members dismissed for that purpose from Middle Fork of Muddy River Church. However, one credible source says the church was organized in 1820. The early records up to 1846 are believed to be lost. The minutes of Muddy River and Bethel Associations disclose the names of some of the earliest members. Salem Church united with Muddy River Association in 1827, her messengers being John A. Maddox and John Browning, who reported 27 members. In 1829, Salem Church was dismissed from the Muddy River Association to go into the constitution of the Bethel Association. Available minutes disclose that the church was meeting regularly in 1843. The church's records state that the church ceased to meet regularly in about 1846, due to the lack of pastoral care, and due to members moving away (which may have resulted in the early records being lost).

Salem Church was reorganized July 18, 1848, at a meeting house near the home of James R. Hall, and the Articles of Faith of the Bethel Association were adopted. The names of members who reorganized the church were Moses Neal, Aaron Neal, Weldon Manion, Agnes Dillon, Margaret Dillon, Mahalia Dillon, Hannah Dillon, Rhoda Manion, Daniel Eledge, Elizabeth Eledge, Delila Neal Rea, Susan Wagoner, Thomas Hall, Nancy Wooley, and Jane Swofford. At the first meeting, the church agreed to send help to ordain two Brother Webbs at Middle Fork Church.

Elder Moses Pearce was chosen pastor in September 1848. Elder Moses Neal was ordained in May 1851, and served as pastor until his death in October 1867, except for a short interval in 1862 during which the church called Elder Thomas Spain to serve. After the death of Elder Neal, Elder Thomas Spain was again chosen. Later pastors included Elder E. T. Webb (chosen in 1872); Elder Josiah Harris (chosen in 1875); Elder T. S. Dalton (1888); Elder Lemuel Potter (1891); Elder Josiah Harris (1893); Elder T. S. Dalton (1898). In December 1899 the church divided over a doctrinal issue. One faction was served by Elder W. A. Fish, who was ordained October 27, 1900. In 1932 this part of the church merged with Middle Fork Church, served by Elder F. M. Pope, and still meets in Benton under the name of Middle Fork-Salem Church. The other side was served by Elder C. M. Weaver, followed by Elders John Neal, C. C. Mitchell, and C. M. Weaver again. This part of the church divided again in 1932, with part of the members following Elder A. H. West. The members who followed Elder West later purchased and met in an old school building north of Benton.

The original site of Salem Church has not been determined with certainty. In July 1852 the church appointed trustees for a meeting house in Benton. About the same time, the church selected a site near the northwest corner of Jeremiah Neal's land on the Benton road, on Crawford's Prairie, on which to build a meeting house. In January 1867 the church agreed to build a new meeting house in the corporate limits of Benton. In April 1868 the church borrowed $800 to finish the meeting house. In 1872 the church agreed to allow meetings to be held at her meeting house on Crawford's Prairie if a certain number of members were present.

After the division in 1899, both parties probably met in the meeting house in Benton until a settlement was reached. Several efforts were made to resolve the ownership of the church's property, but apparently it was finally resolved by litigation in the year 1909. The part of the church led by John W. Swofford apparently erected a new meeting house in Benton, but we do not have the date. In 1914, the other part of the church erected a new brick meeting house on Webster Avenue. A Benton newspaper reported, on August 21, 1914, that "The old Salem Primitive Baptist Church, one of the oldest landmarks of Benton, is being torn down." The brick church on Webster Avenue was sold in 1943 and is now used by another denomination.

SURNAMES OF MEMBERS:

Adams, Allen, Anderson, Armstead, Bandy, Barnfield, Bond, Bradley, Cantrell, Chatham, Cheek, Clark, Clayton, Clem, Cleveland, Cockrell, Coker, Coleman, Crawford, Culley, Cunningham, Dalton, Dial, Dillon, Dixon, Doty, Drummonds, Durham, Elledge, Endicott, Estes, Eubanks, Fish, Ford, Foulk, Gholson, Glover, Gooche, Gregory, Gunter, Haggard, Haithcoat, Hall, Hampton, Harrelson, Harris, Hartley, Helm, Hill, Hindman, Hogan, Howard, Huddleston, Hunter, Hutson, Joiner, Jones, Kelley, Lampley, Lanner, Linn, Little, Maddox, Manion, Martin, Marvel, Mason, Matthews, McCarver, McCaslin, McCollum, Miller, Minch, Mock, Montgomery, Moore, Morris, Murphy, Murray, Myers, Neal, Norman, Odum, Otterson, Owens, Page, Pearce, Phipps, Pinson, Pryor, Ragland, Rea, Reagan, Reed, Rogers, Russell, Sanders, Stanley, Stilley, Stoffel, Stricklin, Stroud, Summers, Swofford, Tate, Taylor, Teague, Trout, Vantrease, Waggoner, Washburn, Webb, Weeks, West, Weston, Whittington, Wilburn, Williams, Willis, Wooley, Youngblood (incomplete).

TOWN MOUNT PRAIRIE

Town Mt. Prairie Church was organized by 1828, and was dismissed from the Muddy River Association to go into the constitution of Bethel Association in October 1829. Elder Isaac Herring was one of the charter members, most of whom were dismissed from East Fork Church. The minutes of the Bethel Association for 1832 show that this church had been dissolved during that year.

SURNAMES OF MEMBERS:

Arnett, Farris, Herring, Owen (very incomplete list due to loss of records).

MT. PLEASANT

Mt. Pleasant Church was organized on July 11, 1829, at the home of John Browning. Elders Isaac Herring and Robert Moore formed the presbytery. The fourteen charter members were David Farris, Louisa Farris, James Eubanks, Cynthia Eubanks, John Bradley, John Browning, John Sandusky, Mumford Williams, Nancy Browning, W. R. Browning, Elizabeth Ann Browning, Polly King, Patsy Browning, and Jane Browning.

On the fourth weekend in October 1829, Mt. Pleasant was one of ten churches which organized the Bethel Association. The church met, at first, in a log cabin, in Browning township, at the Spring Settlement.

Elder Achilles Coffey, in his "History of the Regular Baptists," p. 74, refers to Mt. Pleasant Church having declared non-fellowship with the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions and requesting the other churches of Bethel Association to do the same, which was done in 1832. But in 1838, when the question was submitted to the churches again, Mt. Pleasant, Unity, and Ten Mile Creek withdrew and formed an association of their own, called Bethel United Baptist Association. In 1840 or 1841, Mt. Pleasant Church divided, and the part of the church which followed Elder Vance, joined with Ten Mile, and a faction of Bethlehem, and formed the Franklin Association (missionary Baptist). The majority of Mt. Pleasant Church joined with Unity Church and attempted to organize a new association called Bethel United Baptist (the Bethel Association mentioned above having adopted the name Regular Baptist). This part of Mt. Pleasant Church included Elder Robert Moore and wife, John Overturf and wife, James Eubanks, John McCarver and wife, Wille Jones and wife, Levi McDaniel and wife, J. K. Browning and wife, Wilson Rea, Elizabeth Rea, Shadrach Mooneyham and wife, Shadrach Mooneyham Sr., William Mooneyham, David Boyd, Rhoda Long, Sister Billam, Matilda Jones, Isaiah Youngblood, Asa Ward and wife, and James Browning. The records indicate that Elder Robert Moore preached a limited atonement, and that a majority of the church upheld him in doing so. The "Bethel United Baptist Association" which they organized was short-lived, and the church itself went out of existence.

SURNAMES OF MEMBERS:

Billam, Boyd, Bradley, Browning, Eubanks, Farris, Jones, King, Long, McCarver, McDaniel, Mooneyham, Moore, Overturf, Rea, Sandusky, Ward, Williams, Youngblood (very incomplete list due to loss of records).


ADDITIONAL RESOURCE SOURCES FROM THE PRIMITIVE BAPTIST LIBRARY:

Minutes of the Little River, Muddy River and Bethel Associations. Minutes of Middle Fork of Muddy River Church. Manuscript records of Salem Church.


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