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Champaign County, Illinois

First Ministers

"The first minister to hold religious services in the county, so far as can be determined, was Rev. John Dunham of the United Brethren Church, who, at a very early day, came among the scattered settlements of Big Grove and Salt Fork. He lived in McLean county, and often, as late as 1835, passed through the settlements on his ministerial tours. Another early preacher of the Baptist denomination, named Mahurin, was here prior to the Black Hawk War, and preached to the people. He got a position as chaplain in one of the regiments and never returned. Alexander Holbrook, a Methodist exhorter, lived on Howell's farm and often held meetings in the neighborhood, sometimes riding a steer to his appointments.

"Rev. William Phillips, who settled the Myers farm, north of Champaign, sometimes preached about the Grove. Rev. Mr. Holmes organized the first Methodist class in the county, of which Walter Rhodes was made leader. Another eccentric pioneer preacher was Rev. Samuel Mapes. He rode also on a steer, but his steer was ornamented, usually, with a bell. He rode barefoot and carried a gun.

"Rev. William I. Peters of Salt Fork, used to preach much over the county. He bought whiskey by the barrel on the Wabash at twenty cents per gallon, and retailed so as to clear thirty cents a gallon. The people not only regarded his practice as unobjectionable, but thought it a religious duty to buy their whiskey of "Uncle Billy," as he was called, thereby assisting to spread the gospel and securing a good article of whiskey at the same time."


From History of Champaign County, Illinois with Illustrations, 1878.

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