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Champaign County, Illinois

The Passing of a Country Church (In Memory of Alice Chapel)

[Newspaper Article, ca 1928]

The Passing Of A Country Church

(In Memory of Alice Chapel)

There's just some scattered rubbish there,

Of broken bricks and wood,
To mark the place where in the past
A country church house stood.

'Twas builded there by toiling hands
Now long since passed away,
And strong and staunchly built it was -
A building built to stay.

When first I passed along that road
The old time church was there,
And used by people round about
For worship and for prayer.

And often to that church I went
When I was yet a boy;
And memories of those old days
Are now a cherished joy.

Then people came from miles around
Each Sabbath afternoon
To find the house of worship there
A blessing and a boon.

And babes in arms were christened there,

And funeral tears were shed,
For to the church, for their last rites,

Folks brought their sacred dead.

But years passed by and changes came
And those who came were few,
For people went to town to church
As folks are wont to do.

And came the time in passing years
When people came no more,
And then a heavy hasp and lock
Were placed upon the door.

And through the years the old church stood

By winds and storms abused;
A thing to touch the hearts of men -
A house of prayer unused.

It stood unused and all alone
'Till came the fateful day
When wreckers came to tear it down
And haul it far away.

'Twas useless standing vacant there
To moulder and decay,
Yet I know who wish it stood
Upon that hill today.

For many who are living still
Remember, as do I,
Those times of song and worship there
In days long since gone by.

And when we pass along that road
We miss, and always will,
The old time church which stood so long
Upon that country hill.

Mrs. Hansen Writes of Alice Chapel

( Many residents, and especially the older ones, took a great deal of interest in the poem, "The Passing Of A Country Church," written by E. C. Erb and published last week, so we are publishing below a history of Alice Chapel which Mrs. William Hanson of 668 West Leafland Ave., Decatur, kindly consented to write. Her early life was spent in that community. - Publisher )

I have been asked to write of Alice Chapel. It is rather a hard thing to do as there are so few left who were directly interested there. Many have moved away while others have passed on to the Great Beyond. I have no data for correct dates and statements so I write from what I have heard and what I actually experienced. Should I give false statements or give wrong dates I should be glad to be corrected.

Alice Chapel was built about 1882 or 1883 as well as I can remember. It was named for Mrs. Alice Babb Helm and I often wondered why. The Chapel was built on a hill directly across from Lynn Grove cemetery, one of the prettiest spots in Champaign County, for from this hill and the ones east of the church you could look to the south clear across the Embarrass valley into Douglas County. One of the prettiest views was in late June and July when the corn was green and the oats and wheat near and ready for harvest.

The acre of ground on which it stood was a part of the land owned by Isaac Cole and given the Illinois Conference for a certain length of time or as long as used for church purposes. It was built by subscriptions and was on the Philo circuit of the Methodist Episcopal church, so our regular ministers were always the Philo resident pastor.

As I remember Rev. J. B. Martin was our first minister and later followed Robert Stephens, Rev. Wm. Gooding, Rev. Reasoner and W. A. Boyd. There may have been others and were after I moved away. All of these but Rev. Boyd have long since gone to their reward.

The membership was small but generous aid was given from all of the surrounding countryside for a radius of many miles. People of different creeds and denominations helped in a financial way towards its support.

The Sunday school was one of the best in the township and was well attended. Mrs. George Stuart, a faithful and saintly woman was superintendent for years and will be kindly remembered by all who attended the Sunday School. After she moved to Kansas, Mrs. Edith Raymond, Lemuel Porterfield and Jay Churchill served in that capacity and we flourished following their precepts and Godly teachings. Like all churches we had our ups and downs but the people were loyal and it's a pleasure to remember the social side of life there as well as the spiritual. We always liked to go early to service and we often lingered after the church service to discuss the weather, crops and neighborhood news.

There were the revivals conducted during the winter months often with difficulty but as a rule the church was strengthened and good was accomplished for other churches, for some converts went to other denominations, but always came back to the Chapel to help out.

The Sunday School conventions were the event of the summer months and when held at the Chapel, I remember how they used to contest with other schools to see who could have the best singing and at this time how the resident people prepared for extra guests in their homes, for it was a gala day.

The Children's Day program and Christmas entertainments were festive occasions, for it was then that we decorated the church and put forth our best efforts for good speaking and song service. People came from miles to have their children practice and prepare for these occasions and they were well repaid as a rule, for the children put on good programs. There was always a bower of blossoms for Children's Day and a wonderful Christmas tree and Santa Claus for Christmas.

There were the oyster suppers, strawberry and ice cream festivals and pie and box socials for raising the necessary funds to keep the church and Sunday School going. It was then that the main floor was cleared, long tables stretched down the center of the building and they would be filled and refilled until everyone was satisfied. There were no better cooks than the country women that got up the meals and I think we would all remember the good oysters and wonderful cream pies that were served there as well as every other good eats.

It is useless to say that the funds raised on these occasions were all that we could ask for. People came for miles around and it was on these occasions that all classes gathered and had a general good time.

All this is a pleasant memory, and after so long a time changes took place. The young folks married and moved away and the older settlers moved to town and interest ceased for the little white church on the hill and later they told me the doors were closed except for an occasional funeral party for those who came to lay their dead in Lynn Grove cemetery. The Chapel stood the wind and weather for years and finally was sold to Dr. Lawson of Sidney, for what lumber he was able to get out of it.

The Chapel served its purpose. Much good was accomplished and we who cherish its memories feel that it was better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

Many thanks to Dick Kearns for submitting this information.

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