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

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The Peoria Church (LaSalle Precinct) was organized sometime between 1830 and 1836, but not later than 1836, as it united with the Sangamon Association in September 1836. Elder Jeriel Root was born in Connecticut, in 1780, where he married Sarah Coleman. They later moved to Dutchess Co., N. Y., where he served as pastor of a Baptist Church. Still later, they moved to Delaware Co., N. Y., where he was a charter member of the Second Roxbury Church, and then to Ross Co., Ohio (in 1817), where he was active in the Big Bottom and Beaver Churches in the Scioto Association. They came to Hallock twp., Peoria Co., Ill., in 1830, and settled on the north end of LaSalle Prairie, near Chillicothe or Northampton, in the northeast corner of the county, near the Marshall County line. Sister Root died in 1839, and he in 1857, and they were buried in the Root cemetery near their home, in Hallock township, which Elder Root had given to the township in 1848. A study of the Root cemetery makes us believe it was the burial ground of members of the Peoria Church, and we think it is probable that the Peoria Church met in a log building at the site.

While living in Ohio, Elder Root served as clerk of the Scioto Association, for several years, and wrote a Circular letter which was published in their 1823 minutes, of which we have a copy.

In the fall of 1836, Elder Root was present as a member of the presbytery which constituted the Princeton Church (see the history of Bureau County), but this church was taken over by Henry Headley (a novice who had been ordained at Peoria city shortly after a church was organized there in August 1836). Headley led the Princeton church into the mission system. Elder Root then assisted Elder James B. Chenowith, who had been forced out of the Princeton Church, and in September 1836, Elder Root was in the presbytery which constituted the Sandy Creek Church at Ox-Bow (see the history of Putnam County), where Elder Chenowith served as pastor until his death in 1866.

The Peoria Church was called "Peoria, Lasalle Precinct" - a name which referred to this section of the county for voting purposes; it was located near the travel route between Peoria and other towns further north.

Elder Jeriel Root was the messenger from the Peoria Church to the Sangamon Association each year that it represented; in 1837, he wrote an excellent Circular Letter which was published in the minutes of that year. The Peoria Church reported 13 members in 1836; the number of members reported in 1839 and 1840 was 21. In 1840, the church requested the Association to consider the tenth article of faith, and compare it with the second, and see if there is not an inconsistency. The Association decided that they were satisfied with those articles as they are. The church was dropped from the Sangamon Association in 1841 for failing to represent. We have no later information.

Elder Root's brother-in-law, Elder Gershom Silliman, was also a minister in Jefferson Church in the Scioto Association, during the same period of time, which was prior to the division of the Baptists in that part of Ohio. After coming to Illinois, he may have been affiliated with the Peoria LaSalle District church, at first, but by 1836 he had manifested his support of the mission system and had assisted in the formation of missionary churches and of the Illinois River Association (a missionary body).

Elder Jeriel Root was politically-minded; he was defeated a number of times as a candidate for the state legislature, from Peoria County, as early as 1832. In 1855 he published a work entitled, Analysis of Theology, Law, Religion, and the Rights of Man, a copy of which is in our collection.


Harmony Church, at or near Elmwood, was organized in about 1856, with ten charter members, some of whom were Peter Riner and his wife, Margaret Riner, and other members of their family. Harmony Church united with the Sandy Creek Association, and hosted that meeting several times.

Pastors who served this church included Elders James B. Chenowith, R. M. Simmons, Smith Ketchum, and probably a few more. Elders Smith Ketchum, Robert F. Haynes, and William A. Thompson all held membership in this church at least for a time.

It appears that the church did not own a meeting house of their own, but met in homes, or a school, or some other building.

Harmony Church continued to represent in the Sandy Creek Association as late as 1897, when the association ceased to exist. In 1897, Harmony Church reported 15 members. We have not been able to determine when the church dissolved, or stopped holding worship services, but Elder Ketchum, the pastor, moved to Nebraska in 1902, and was called back to conduct funerals of some of the members after that date. Meetings had probably become irregular or ceased by 1904.


Haynes, Hutchison, Ketchum, Kimler, Lynch, Riner, Shepler, Smith, Thompson, Thurston, Varnes (very incomplete list due to loss of records).


Pleasant Grove Church was located about six miles south of Peoria City, but was in Tazewell County. See Tazewell County.


Obituaries in the Signs of the Times; minutes of the Sandy Creek and Sangamon Associations.

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