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History of Belle Rive and Dahlgren, Illinois And Surrounding Territory
Prepared by Continental Historical Bureau of Mt. Vernon,
Sugar Camp Baptist Church
Two score and four years after the Prairie State had been admitted to the national union, and one decade and nine years prior to the firing on Fort Sumter, which was the initial action of the War Between the States, a group of people who were residing in a rural area located for the most part in the southeast portion of Jefferson County, Illinois, had decided that they were in need of a place in their community to worship their Creator in their own way. These people were pioneers who had descended from families who had largely come to Illinois from southern states. The closest places of worship at that time were probably at some of the villages that were a considerable distance from their homes. Lovilla was situated a number of miles away in the western part of Hamilton County and Spring Garden, an enterprising village several miles to the west, was too inconvenient for the residents of the Sugar Camp area to attend religious services regularly.
was a church of the same faith and order that was situated in the
northeast part of Franklin County.
This church in the adjoining county was called Liberty Church and
was organized the year before Sugar Camp Church came into being.
While the members of the Liberty Church were believers of the
same doctrine that the founders of Sugar Camp Church held to, it was
several miles distant and it would be more convenient to have a place of
worship in their own locality.
the above thoughts in mind, a number of farm people who were residing in
the lower part of Moores Prairie Township assembled together and on
February 26, 1842, organized what they called at the time Sugar Camp
Creek Church. This new
religious organization was located on the “Old Goshen Road” that ran
from St. Louis, Missouri, to Shawneetown, Illinois.
The original location of the church was in the southeast part of
Jefferson County, Illinois, a short distance from the Hamilton County
number of well know families in that area were among the ones that are
credited with taking the responsibility to organize this new church of
the Baptist faith. In this
group there were such names as Wilbanks, Allen, Cates, Foster, Hood,
Pharis, Williams. Vance, and Hosea Vise of the Macedonia area.
many churches of various denominations of the earlier period, the record
indicates that they maintained a rather rigid discipline in the
procedure of worship and conduct of business meetings.
In their church constitution they set forth some very strong
regulations to be followed in their form of worship.
It would indicate from the early history of their new church that
the group as a whole tried to “practice what they preached”.
This philosophy of worship a century and more ago pretty much
prevailed among many church groups.
founders of Sugar Camp Church and their families lived in an area that
contained countless acres of timber.
Much of this had to be cleared before fields could be put into
cultivation and new roads constructed.
Like other communities, transportation was by horse drawn
vehicles. At times when
there was freezing and thawing the local travel had to be done on foot.
There were many times when the members of the new church had to
walk from their homes to their church to attend services.
view of the many obstacles with which they were confronted, they
continued their regular worship, as they felt led to do.
During winter seasons when they were afflicted with the common
ailments as most families were, there being a scarcity of physicians and
medical information, there were times that they found it difficult to
survive. Death took its
toll in the area. As
“miracle” drugs and vaccines were unknown and medical science had
not advanced to the place that it has since the turn of the century, the
early settlers of this community were confronted with the battle of
survival and as a result had to look for a suitable burial ground.
have not found records that show the exact time when construction of the
new church building was begun. It
is believed that the first building was erected the year that the church
was organized. Reports from
various people state that the first building was constructed of logs.
This only stands to reason because timber of the hard wood
varieties was plentiful in that ware when work on the new building began
and sawed and paned lumber was expensive and not available in the
immediate vicinity for the new building.
additional deaths occurred in the community, more grave lots were
acquired from time to time. Years
later, another section of the cemetery was cleared on the south side of
the road, and it too began to be filled with those that sooner or later
became occupants of the silent city of the dead.
The appearance of the cemetery would look to the stranger that
there were two such burial grounds located across the road from each
other. For many years, Memorial Day services were held at this
cemetery, as was the custom in many localities from one coast to the
are also informed that some time prior to the year 1870 another church
was organized at this place of the Primitive Baptist faith.
It is said that their place of worship was located on the south
side of the road. Presumable
both churches erected their buildings in the cemetery.
the year of 1870 when the church membership had grown considerable (due
to the fact that new settlers had moved into the community and the early
families now had grown children), it was found that a larger building
was needed. After some
discussion as to what kind and type of new building they would erect,
Malias McPherson who was living about a mile northwest of the old church
site offered to donate the land for a new building.
This location was at the edge of “Moores Prairie” and was
more suitable to the needs of the congregation than the one where the
first building had been erected.
number of donations from individuals, and from churches of different
faiths, were offered, some of them being as high as five hundred
dollars. Therefore, it was
decided to erect the second building of Sugar Camp Missionary Baptist
Church at the place where it is located at the present time.
One report is that part of the lumber that was used in
construction of the new building was hauled by wagon from Ashley,
Illinois. The second building of this church is a frame structure and
at the time that this history is written is in its ninetieth year and
still in good condition. It has, of course, undergone the process of
remodeling two or possibly three times.
place of worship can truly be called one of the landmarks of Jefferson
County. Unlike some
churches of various faiths that were organized and held worship services
for a number of years and then died out, this church has continued
steadfast through the years since its inception.
The church holds a record of one hundred eighteen years of
older people of the church have stated that the a Primitive Baptist
people of the locality united with the Missionary Baptist people after
the new building was erected, and both groups worshiped together for
quite some time. The year
of 1877 marked the beginning of Lowry Hill Primitive Baptist Church a
few miles northeast of Sugar Camp, and as this was the closes church of
that faith, the people of the latter faith removed their membership and
joined the Lowry Hill Church.
Jefferson County landmark has witnessed many changes during its time.
At the time of its origin it saw a rugged countryside with many
acres of timber, numerous wild animals running to and fro, countless
wagon trains traveling on the “Old Goshen Road’ between St. Louis
and Shawneetown. This place
of worship also witnessed the Great War Between the States and furnished
a number of her young men to serve with the “Boys in Blue”.
Again, it saw men from its community join the armed forces during
the Spanish American War. Following
this conflict, this wonderful old church witnessed the turn of the
century. Later, it gave
some of its sons to serve in the conflict that was to “end all
wars”. However, within
one generation, again this place of worship gave a number of her sons to
serve in the Second World War.
Camp Church as seen the rapid transition of farming with a team of
horses and clearing woodland to plow the virgin soil, to the coming of
the machine age which increased immensely the volume and production of
agricultural pursuits. In
its 118 years of existence, it has also witnessed the change from
kerosene lights to modern electric service.
In general, this place of worship has seen the revolutionary
change from the rugged life of its pioneer founders to the modern life
of the people of the Twentieth Century whose way of life has been
Below we submit the first order of business of the founders of this church:
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