Methodist Episcopal Church

Monroe County, Illinois

This history was extracted from the following book on:


Combined History of Randolph, Monroe and Perry Counties, Illinois

Published by J. L. McDonough & Co.

Philadelphia 1883



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 hundred dollars.

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.