We have been
disappointed greatly in our efforts to gather sufficient materials to
enable us to give a full history of the rise and progress, in this
county of organization.
For many years before Illinois was admitted into the sisterhood of
States, Methodist ministers were here, holding meetings in the pioneer
cabins, forming societies, defending the frontier, and actively engaged
in giving moral and religious tone to society. The history of
Methodism in Illinois begins in Monroe and Randolph counties. The
first minister of this faith, who came to Illinois was the Rev. Joseph
Lillard; he established the first church in Illinois, at New Design, in
Monroe County, in 1793. He had been a circuit rider in Kentucky,
in 1790. In this society Rev. Lillard appointed Captain Joseph
Ogle, class leader. Rev. Lillard was a pious, energetic man, whose
labors sowed the first seeds of Methodism in this State.
The next prominent preacher was Hosea Rigg, who arrived in Illinois in
1796, and remained preaching in this county until his death, in 1841, at
his residence a few miles east of Belleville, in St. Clair county.
Rev. Benjamin Young, who was sent here by the "Western annual
Conference," in the year 1804, was the first circuit-rider in
Illinois. His father resided in Randolph county. Rev. Thomas
Harrison, came in 1804; Dr. Joseph Oglesby, in 1805; Rev. Charles R.
Matheny, in 1806. Rev. Jesse Walker and Bishop McKendree were
among the earliest preachers in Illinois, all of who held services
within the limits of Monroe county.
The earliest meetings were held in the rude cabins of the pioneers, and
it was not until several years after the first preachers arrived, that
the societies were large enough to build churches. The old
block-houses or forts, were also used for divine worship, and in them
many of the earliest societies date their organization. The first
services of this denomination in Waterloo, were held in the old
Court-house, early in the present century. The society grew, and
in 1828, a house of worship was erected. For several years the
church had a membership of over one hundred, and grew, and was
prosperous. Many of the American families have moved from this
section of the State, and their places have been filled by foreigners,
who are mostly members of other denominations, and the Methodist church,
at this writing, is not very strong in Monroe county. At Waterloo they
have a church valued at two thousand dollars, and a parsonage worth
eight hundred dollars, and church property in Columbia valued at fifteen
Several societies have been organized at various times and flourished
for a short period, but finally ceased to be operative. The county
is now included into a circuit, all churches being supplied alternately
by the pastor in charge. It is known as the Waterloo circuit.