Elder William Crow

Birth and Family Life of Elder William Crow

Elder William Crow was born March 5, 1793, in Botetourt County, Virginia. Three brothers, John, Thomas, and Andrew Crow, came from Ireland to America during the Revolutionary War. John was the father of William, the subject of this sketch. John Crow moved to Barren County, Kentucky (one must wonder whether this county from whence so many Primitive Baptists came to Illinois, was providentially named "Barren," as it brought forth so many children for the church), when William was a child.

William Crow and Miriam Enyart were married in Cumberland County, Kentucky, and had one child (Jerome E., born in 1817). In 1819 they moved to Madison County, Illinois.

In the Fall of 1820, Elder Crow moved his little family to what is now Salisbury, or Cartwright township, in Sangamon County, north of Richland Creek, where they had one child (Rebecca, born in 1821), and Mrs. Miriam Crow died, August 7, 1823. William Crow married again in the Fall of 1824, in Cumberland Co., Ky., to Susan Hall. On his return to Sangamon County, he sold out and settled in what is now the southeast corner of Cass county, near Ashland, where two children were born (John H., in 1826, and Mary A., in 1828). William Crow's second wife, Susan, died April 11, 1845. She was laid to rest in the Crow Cemetery near the Morgan/Cass county line.

William Crow Joins Canteen Church, then Sangamo Church

While in Madison County, in the Spring of 1820, William Crow united with the Canteen Creek United Baptist Church, in the bounds of the Illinois Association (the first Baptist association in Illinois territory). He was baptized by the faithful pastor, Elder Thomas Ray. William Crow obtained a letter of dismission from Canteen Creek Church in September 1820, and united with the Sangamo (later called Richland) Church, which was organized about that time, partly through his own efforts, northwest of present-day Springfield (at this time, this region was still part of Madison County). Other remarkable men, such as Strother Ball, Claibourn Jones and Simon Lindley, were also early members of this first Baptist church in the region.

Early Churches in Central Illinois

Other Primitive Baptist churches (besides Sangamo, or Richland) which were organized in the central Illinois area about this time included Providence, 1820/1 (Greene Co.), Lick Creek, 1821/2 (Sangamon Co.), Indian Creek, 1822 (Morgan Co.), and Apple Creek, 1822 (Greene Co.).

Constituting Pioneer Baptist Churches

William Crow was apparently ordained to the ministry at Richland Church, although the date of this event is not known. Union Church, near Prentice, in Morgan County was organized in August 1825. On January 7, 1826, Elder William Crow moved his membership to Union Church, in Morgan County, by letter. His ministerial services were immediately in great demand. In the same month, January 1826, he took part in the presbytery which constituted the Spring Creek Church, near Springfield. As pioneer settlement continued, requests for help came pouring in to Union Church (in Morgan County) from brethren in various settlements wishing to organize themselves into churches.

They included: Liberty, Sangamon Co., June 1826; Mauvaisterre, Morgan Co., November 1826; Crane Creek, Schuyler Co., December 1826; South Fork of Mauvaisterre, Morgan Co., January 1827; Head of Apple Creek, Morgan Co., May 1828; Mt. Pleasant, near Mt. Sterling, Brown Co., June 1829; Salem, near Petersburg, Sangamon (later Menard) Co., August 1829; North Fork of Sangamon, March 1830; Little Flock, Cass Co., July 1831; Union, on the head of Lick Creek, June 1832; Middle Creek, Hancock Co., August 1832; Zion, on Big Sandy, in Morgan Co., June 1835; a church in the McKinney settlement near Springfield, May 1837; and Fancy Point, Sangamon Co., June 1844. Elder Crow took part in the constitution of many of these churches, and probably several others also. Crane Creek, in Schuyler County, Mt. Pleasant, in Brown County, and Middle Creek, in Hancock County, were the first churches of any faith organized in their respective counties.

Elder William Crow Helps Constitute the Baptist Church at Lincoln's New Salem

The records of Union Church, Morgan County, Illinois, dated August 1, 1829, show that a request was received for help to constitute a church. The description given of the location identifies it as being the Baptist Church near what is now called "Lincoln's New Salem." Elder William Crow, Elder Micajah B. Rowland, and Brethren Austin Sims, Strother Ball, and David Gimblin, were appointed by Union Church to attend to the request of "Brethren and Sisters near Sangamon River, North East of Claries Grove," and constitute them into a church. The date appointed for this event was also clearly stated: "on the first Wednesday after the third Saturday in the present month, August." This would be August 19, 1829 (the calendar for 1829 was the same as for 1998). Thus ends the mystery of the date of constitution of the New Salem Baptist Church, which has for so long eluded historians.

We here quote the relevant minutes as they appear in the records of Union Church of Morgan County, Illinois:

AUGUST THE 1, 1829.

The Church Met according to appointment and after Divine service proceded to Business. Bro. Crow our Moderator.

1. Brethern and sisters from sister Churches Invited to a seat with us.

2. A door opened for the Reception of Members.

3. Refference of Br. Richard Jones taken up and Laid over untill Next Meeting.

4. The Church say that the Clerk prepare a Blank Letter and present it at next Meeting for Inspection.

5. A request from Clearcreek Church for helps to ordain a deacon and the Church appoints Br. Ball, Br. Peter Robeson and Br. Thomas Thompson to attend to the Request.

6. A Request from Brethren and sisters near Sangamon River North East of Claries grove for helps to constitute a Church if found in order and the Church grants the same and appoints five Brethren (to wit) Br. Micajah Roland, Br. Wm. Crow, Br. Austin Sims, Br. Strother Ball, and Br. David Gimblin to attend to that on the first Wednesday after the third Saturday in the present Month, August.

On Sunday the 2nd day of August 1829 the Church sat and opened a door for the Reception of members and received Sister Lucinda Reatherford by experience."

A Fearless Defender of the Faith

Elder Crow's ministerial life was a very active one. He was requested to participate in numerous presbyteries, and to sit in council in matters of difficulty, on many occasions. He participated in ordinations at the New Salem Church (at Lincoln's New Salem) on three separate occasions between 1831 and 1836. In March 1835, he was appointed a trustee of Union Church, and was responsible for superintending the construction of a meeting house for the church.

A letter in the Western Evangelist & Baptist Messenger, (Elder Peter Long, Greenville, Ill., editor) illustrates Elder Crow's arduous labors:


I write you and the brethren in general a few lines; my health is good for which I desire to be thankful. I arrived home the last day in June; I was absent eight weeks lacking one day; I visited the Okaw Association, (that is, both parts thereof,) where I met with many precious brethren, and was kindly received by both bodies. I experienced some pleasant scenes among them, and I tried to preach among both bodies as time and opportunity served; and I still feel to think if the brethren will use the necessary industry, peace will yet be restored. I feel disposed to go to them again in October if the Lord will; (to wit) on Monday night the 6th of October, I will try to preach at Spring Creek, Sangamon Co.; Tuesday 12 o'clock, at Salem Sugar Creek; at night, at brother Fry's; Wednesday, at 9'clock, at William Elkin's, Christian Co.; Wednesday night at Hanan's; Thursday, 11 o'clock, at Mr. Baker's, little south of Taylorville; at night, at Mr. Adam's on Flat Branch; Friday and Saturday before the second Sunday, at Union Church, on the head of Flat Branch; on Saturday night, at Brother Hull's, in Moultrie county; second Sunday 11 o'clock, in Sullivan; Monday, 11 o'clock, at New Hope; Tuesday, 11 o'clock, at Lynn Creek; Wednesday, 11 o'clock, Concord, at brother Threlkeld's Meeting-house; at half past three o'clock, at the Meeting-house of the opposite party; Thursday, 11 o'clock, at Little Bethel. I hold in reserve from the meeting at Bethel, on Thursday, until the fourth Saturday and Sunday; I shall be at Okaw Church, near Shelbyville, on Sunday night; in Shelbyville, Tuesday following; at Mr. Westbrook's, on south fork of the Sangamon at 11 o'clock; at night, at Mr. Welch's; Wednesday, 11 o'clock, at Brother James Pearce's; at night, in Taylorville; Thursday, 11 o'clock, at Horse Creek; at night, at Mr. Night's, in the bounds of Lick Creek Church; Friday, 11 o'clock, at Liberty; at night, at Fancy Point; the first Saturday in November, will reach our own meeting, by permission.

I will just remark that in the latter part of my last tour, I had some refreshing seasons; at New Salem, on the third Sunday in June I baptized two, and one was restored; on the fourth Sunday, three were baptized at Friendship; I baptized brother Record's second daughter, and Brother Record baptized the other two; on Wednesday following, two joined at Plum Creek; brother Record baptized them also; we then made our way to the Zion Church, to a union meeting, where there was a general effect. May the Lord keep us and guide us in all truth.

July 2, 1851. [End of quote.]

From available records, it appears that he served as Moderator of the Morgan Association almost the whole period from 1833 until 1860. This was not an easy task, given the conflict over the modern mission system. The Journal of Elder Jacob Bower, an advocate of these innovations, describes from his viewpoint what took place at the Morgan Association in 1832, as follows: "The Association met at Plum Creek Church, when a Resolution was passed something like this, 'We recommend to the churches composing this association to have no fellowship either directly or indirectly with the Missionaries, the Bible society, Sabbath Schools, and Temperance measures so-called, believing them to be inventions of men in their present operations.' The Resolution passed. None voted against it except the delegates from Pleasant Grove Church. Immediately I drew up a Resolution, cautioning the churches of the Morgan Association to beware of Daniel Parker and his two-seed doctrine. Brother Haycraft seconded the motion, it was put to the house, and was lost - received no votes but the delegates from Pleasant Grove Church. On the Lord's Day, Elders Crow, Davidson, and Henson filled the stand in the woods. Elder Crow preached first; his sermon was a continual abuse of missionaries, Bible societies, Sabbath Schools, and the cause of temperance. I was seated on the ground, leaning against a tree. I felt as though I could bear such abuse no longer. I spoke loud enough for the whole assembly to hear me, 'Brother Crow, we had rather have you preach Jesus to the people.' He looked at me as if he was angry, and said, 'Brother Moderator, I call for order,' who replied, 'Or-der.' The next speaker was no less sparing of his abuse." [End quote.]

It appears that Elder Crow served the following churches as pastor: Richland, Sangamon County; Union Church, Morgan County; and South Fork, Christian County. There may have been several others of which we are not aware.

Last Years of a Useful Life

Elder Crow faithfully preached the gospel from the time he came to Sangamon County until his death, or over forty years. He died August 22, 1865, aged 73 years and five months, at Brownville, Nebraska, at the home of his son, Jerome Elmore Crow.

After his death, a Committee of the Morgan Association published a Resolution in his honor, part of which we quote:

"Brother Crow was truly a faithful and industrious minister of Christ, possessed of many valuable traits of character; ever ready to reconcile differences, to heal up wounds, and to labor for the peace, harmony and order of the churches. He traveled much, baptized many, and was beloved dearly by the church and respected by the world. In his death the churches in the West have lost a faithful and beloved father in the ministry who has fought a good fight, and has gone to wear a crown of glory that fadeth not away." - By the Committee of Morgan Association, I. R. Bennett, E. Hall.

Since part of Elder Crow's experience was written by himself, and published in Signs of the Times, we give it now in full:


Morgan Co., Ill., Dec. 5, 1835.

Dear Brother: After a close perusal of the Signs, and much admiring the doctrine they contain, I feel disposed to drop a few lines that you may know how things stand in this western wild, as I have not as yet discovered that any communication of extent has been given. My opportunity for literary knowledge you will at once discover. I have been raised on what is in a degree, called the frontiers; but it pleased God, who is rich in mercy, in the year 1818, to give me to see that I was a sinner - which discovery led me to seek for a hiding place; and, as I hope, in the month of March, in the year 1820, according to his sovereign pleasure, he revealed himself in his son to my understanding - the way, the truth, and the life - which gave consolation that my tongue has never been able to express. I concluded that trouble was at an end, but in a short time I became a member of an old fashioned Baptist church in the southern part of this State, and with a mind impressed with a desire to try to say something in defence of my Master's cause. Shortly afterwards I emigrated to this uncultivated part of the world, where there were but few inhabitants, no Baptist preacher within sixty miles, and a few lay members promiscuously scattered over the extent of a then newly settled country.

It was at that time that I seemed to be more concerned about preaching the everlasting Gospel - a work which I commenced, and one that helped to form in number, the first Baptist Church in the northern part of the State. And since that time I have been trying to preach Jesus and him crucified - endeavoring to take the word of the Lord as a rule, supposing that whatsoever I found contained therein, would not be gainsaid; but alas! I soon found the spirit of anti-christ making its efforts against the Spirit of Christ and the advancement of his kingdom. I found it necessary to take the sword in hand to defend the rights of that house, whose house ye are. This opposition came from the pedo-baptists, who were not difficult to confute. The Lord seemed to strengthen Zion, and added to her borders such as should be saved; and as such, we, as a denomination separate from the world, seemed to enjoy peace and harmony.

When the country became populated to a considerable extent, and when we were expecting better times - praying the Lord of the vineyard to send more laborers - behold a fleece hunter passed this way; and with his bewitching smiles, deceived the hearts of the simple, and sowed the seeds of discord; which effect has been felt by the churches and associations ever since. We have had years of War concerning the doctrine of Works and Grace; while our land has been roamed by the eastern manufactured men-pleasers and money-hunters, who have cried peace! peace! when sudden destruction awaited us. The struggle is between the son of the free woman and that of the bond woman; but the Lord by Paul, has said, One shall not be heir with the other.

We have been told by the new order of the day, or rather it is the cry from the east and middle States, "That all the Baptists in your country are of this stamp; and before we knew how things stood among you, we were forced to the conclusion, that, if the information was correct, you had left the old path, which is straight and narrow, and preached another gospel which was not another." And we, though few in number, could only say, as the Lord said by the apostle, If an angel preach any other gospel, let him be accursed. As such, we have been forced to declare non-fellowship for every thing called religion, unauthorized by the word of God. In this, I have been pleased to see the same course taken in so many parts of the Union, and to hear through the Signs, the sentiments of so many brethren, who fearlessly declare the truth of the Everlasting Gospel, regardless of men's persons. But rest assured, dear brother, that such a course does, and will bring down upon us all the abusive epithets that the children of darkness can pour forth upon us; therefore, it behooves us to be sober, watchful and prayerful, that God, who is rich in mercy, would keep us from the pollutions of the day; for it seems to me to be a time of trial - that is, to try the faith of God's Elect, out of whom the house is building, and finally will be finished; for I discover from the face of the Scriptures, that all the materials were secured in wisdom from before the foundation of the world. Although they have become marred in our first head, God is able to raise them to a higher degree of honor than they were in their primeval rectitude, and in the second Adam make a more honorable vessel or house, whose house ye are, in which he is to be worshipped in spirit and in truth - in which all the laws and ordinances, rules and regulations established according to his own mind - while Jesus himself is the door of entrance into this house, and none but those who have been made acquainted with themselves and the power of his resurrection by the teachings of the Holy Ghost, have any right to any of the privileges of the kingdom of our blessed Savior. We know that the world by wisdom know not God, For he has hid these things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them unto babes. As such, all the theological teaching of the day, is only man's wisdom, and the works of darkness, with all other inventions to convert and christianize the world, which is so strictly attended to by them, are propelled by money; while the affairs of the Kingdom of Christ is managed and effected by Grace; For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, and we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.

Very Respectfully, yours,


Information taken from "Early Pioneer Settlers of Sangamon County," p. 235; Records of Canteen Creek Church, 1817-1901; Records of Union Church, 1825-1940; Records of the Sangamon Baptist Association, 1823-1914 (incomplete); Records of the Illinois Baptist Association, 1807-1868; Records of the Morgan Baptist Association, 1831-1908 (incomplete); Signs of the Times, 1836 and 1866 (Article by and Obituary of Elder William Crow); Journal of Elder Jacob Bower; Correspondence with several private individuals.

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