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Wesley Church Article
For the history of Wesley Chapel it is interesting to first call to mind some of the history of our locality.
In 1819, one year after Illinois became a state, the land was ceded by the Kickapoo Indians to the United States at ˝ cents per acre with the promise of a reservation west of the Mississippi.
William McKee was the first individual owner of the land. He sold it to J. G. Swinnerton at about $1.80 per acre. In 1832, Swinnerton deeded a portion of the property to six men known as proprietors for $1.00.
It was on this piece of land that the log structure had been built which was used for a school and also for preaching. It had the traditional wooden benches around the sides of the building with a slanting board in front for a writing desk. Over the teachers desk hung the hickory switch which was used with vigor in those days. This was known as the school at Swinnerton’s Point and later as Point School.
In the Swinnerton deed it states, “The said schoolhouse shall not be occupied no other way only to keep school and preaching in. And if we shall conclude not to keep a school in said house at some other time the proprietors shall have the privilege of disposing of said house. And the windows in said house and the lock in said door and the boards overhead, belong to Stephen Gorham, and he shall have the privilege of taking them unless he be paid for them.”
John and Elizabeth Coates Richardson and their family, except Vincent, who preceded them by one year, came here in 1832. Vincent, Peter, and William married three Rawlings sisters. There were four daughters, Sarah (Mrs. James Ranson), Mar (Mrs. Ralph Megginson), Jane (Mrs. William Coultas), and Hannah (Mrs. John Vasey). Hannah had married in England and came over in 1849 with her family. It is believed that it was Mrs. John Richardson and her family who was responsible for the founding of our church.
The farm surrounding the church became the property of Peter D. Richardson, Sr., in 1840. In 1849, he deeded a plot of ground for the sum of $5.00 to the Wesley Society Methodist Episcopal Church at Swinnerton’s Point. It is in this deed that we have our first information to prove that there was an organized society or church, and that a building in which to meet for church services was constructed.
To quote for the deed written September 10, 1849, “Running from thence to the west side of the house being erected for a church and schoolhouse, etc. For the uses of the society aforesaid. And also for the use of the inhabitants of the school district in which it is situated, as a lot on which to erect and maintain a house of worship to be used also as a schoolhouse.”
According to records found, the building is believed to have cost about $720. There was also an item mentioning $1.00 for candlesticks. This building was dedicated Wesley Chapel Church in 1850. It is this building that is commonly spoken of as the old brick schoolhouse.
Additional land was transferred in 1866 at a cost of $150.00. On this a new $3,000 brick church 46x30x16 ˝ feet was built, At this time oil lamps were bought at a cost of $11.80. This church was dedicated in 1868. Peter Akers was the first Presiding Elder.
Wesley Chapel has not always been on the same circuit. At one time it was one of nine other appointments on a circuit. Parsonages have been at Exeter and Lynnville before the one in Jacksonville. The West Jacksonville Circuit, consisting of Ebenezer and Wesley Chapel, in 1892 erected the present parsonage on Webster Avenue in Jacksonville at a cost of $2,800.
In February, 1895, the Point schoolhouse burned and the church was used for the remainder of that winter. After a vote on the propostion “To buy the church for a school building”, was defeated, a new schoolhouse was built. Then the trustees of the church decided to either remodel the brick church or build a new one. The decision was for a new church so the brick church was torn down and the brick used for the foundation of the new one. One thousand dollars was donated by Mary Jane Richardson Eveland and this formed the nucleus of a building fund which was increased by donations from members and friends until the desired amount was secured. The new church was built by J. H. Hopper, contractor, costing $3,000 and was dedicated on November 28, 1897, free of all debt. When the Point School was taken into a consolidated district and the schoolhouse sold April 23, 1949, the trustees of the church purchased the building and grounds and also the acreage across the road for the consideration of $1,470, of this amount $1,000 had been given to the church by William E. Rawlings. This former school building is now being used as a social room for the congregation of Wesley Chapel.
As copied from the March 2006 Jacksonville Area Genealogical and Historical Society Quarterly, p 3-5.
Updated May 15, 2006
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