J. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) Currey.

Chicago: its history and its builders, a century of marvelous growth (Volume v.1) online

. (page 54 of 59)
Online LibraryJ. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) CurreyChicago: its history and its builders, a century of marvelous growth (Volume v.1) → online text (page 54 of 59)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

mirth and senseless revelry.' " 9

The reverend speaker then continued his discourse seasoned with appropriate
quotations from the Scriptures, and towards its close he uttered this solemn warn-
ing: "How glorious is the prospect of this town, if the people will hear and
obey the commandments of the Lord. It shall stand beautiful for situation a joy
and rejoicing, while the sun and moon shall endure. But if they refuse and rebel,
and covet the luxuries and crimes of the cities whose names only stand on the
page of history, it shall fall like Babylon." 10


Until this house of worship was completed the Methodists, Baptists and
Presbyterians held their regular services in a small frame building erected by the
Baptists at the corner of Franklin and South Water streets. Though the house
built by the Baptists was also used as a schoolhouse, its main purpose was the
holding of religious services, and therefore it antedated the church built by the

8 Hurlbut: "Chicago Antiquities," p. 609.
8 Ibid., p. 613.
10 Ibid., p. 614.


Presbyterians. "Those were the days of brotherly love/' said a letter writer in
recalling old times. 11 When a church had to be built nearly all the inhabitants
lent willing aid. A difference of creeds in those days was no barrier to giving
assistance either in money or labor.

When attending services the church-going people encountered difficulties which
the letter writer above referred to, in speaking of the Presbyterian church on
Clark street, describes as follows: "The approaches to the building, for some
months after its completion, were rather miry, nor was there any bridge over
the river in those early days." (A bridge was built however about that time at
Dearborn street.) "Those pious worshippers, who came over from the 'North-
ern Liberties' braved the angry flood in a canoe. That famous ferry which was
ordered by the united wisdom of the County Commissioners' Court, to be kept
running 'from daylight to dark without stopping,' was located too far up the
stream to be available.

"After escaping the 'perils of the deep,' and clambering up the muddy bank,
they renewed their courage for the passage of 'Dole's Corner' on a round stick
of timber, over a pool of very ambiguous depth, to the fence of a certain yellow
house, then known as Dr. Goodhue's office, after which, by skilfully meandering
fences, a certain bridge, made by spare seats, was reached, and thence to the door
of the sanctuary." The singing was led by one Sergeant Burtiss, from the garri-
son. Indeed a large part of the membership of the church was recruited from
the military people. "Since those days," continues our humorous letter writer
(who sent his communication to the Democratic Press in the "fifties," but whose
name has not been preserved), "this building has traveled, and lost its identity
in accummulations to its bulk. The carpenter's saw and hammer, have, of late
years, been the only music therein, where Burtiss used to lead." 12

The church grew rapidly from the first, so that at the time Mr. Porter left
it, in 1835, it had one hundred members. There was considerable difficulty in
finding a successor to Mr. Porter, who had accepted a call to Peoria in the fall
of 1835, and several clergymen, then resident in the East, were invited to take
charge of the church. Dr. Joel Hawes, of Hartford, Connecticut, was one of
these. He took the letter he received to a member of his congregation, with the
remark, "I've got a letter from some place out west, called Chicago, asking me
to come there and preach. Can you tell me where it is?" Upon being informed
that it was in a great swamp west of Lake Michigan, he decided to remain in
Connecticut. 1 3

The pastor of the Baptist church, Reverend Isaac T. Hinton, acted as pastor
of the Presbyterian church for some time afterwards. In 1837, however, Reverend
John Blatchford was installed as pastor, and remained two years. He was suc-
ceeded by Reverend Flavtl Bascom, who disapproved of the location of the church
on Clark street, saying that "it was too far out on the prairie." A new site was

"Hurlbut: "Chicago Antiquities," p. 615.

12 Ibid., p. 615.

13 Andreas: "History of Chicago," I, 301.


found at the southwest corner of Clark and Washington streets, to which th
church building was removed in 1843, and at the same time enlarged. In 1849
a new structure, a substantial brick building, was completed. This building was
occupied up to the time of the Great Fire of 1871.

Mr. Bascom remained as pastor of the First Presbyterian church for ten years,
removing to Galesburg, Illinois, in 1850. He was succeeded by Reverend Harvey
Curtiss, who continued in charge for eight years. In 1859, Reverend Zephaniah
M. Humphrey succeeded to the pastorate, and remained until 1868. In that year
he was succeeded by Reverend Arthur Mitchell.


The first Baptist church was organized October 19, 1833, with nineteen mem-
bers, by Reverend Allen B. Freeman. A building had already been erected by
the Baptists before the organization of the society, through the efforts of Dr
John T. Temple, who had raised the necessary funds by subscription. This!
building was situated near the corner of Franklin and South Water streets; it was
a two-story frame structure, the upper story for school, the lower for religious
purposes, and cost about nine hundred dollars. It was known as the "Temple
Building," and was used by the Methodists, Presbyterians and Baptists alike un-
til the Presbyterian church was ready for occupancy.

The Reverend Mr. Freeman was an earnest and efficient laborer, and, besides]
the church in Chicago, organized four others in neighboring districts. He died j
December 15, 1834, and was buried on the West Side near the North Branch at]
Indiana street, in a little burial ground surrounded by a picket fence. "The lit-
tle enclosure was a prominent object," said one writing to the newspaper in later
years, "on the otherwise unoccupied and open prairie, up to 1 840 or later." J 4

During the year 1885 Reverend Isaac T. Hinton became the pastor of the
Baptist church. He was an able and highly-esteemed preacher, a warm-hearted
and genial man. John Wentworth, who came to Chicago in 1836, describes him]
as "an original." "Unlike clergymen now called sensational," says Wentworth,
"he never quoted poetry nor told anecdotes nor used slang phrases for the pur-
pose of creating a laugh. . . . He was a man who never seemed so happy as
when he was immersing converted sinners in our frozen river or lake. It is saidj
of his converts that no one of them was ever known to be a back-slider. If youj
could see the cakes of ice that were raked out to make room for baptismal serv-j
ices, you would make up your mind that no man would join a church under such I
circumstances unless he joined to stay.

"Immersions were no uncommon thing in those days. One cold day about
the first part of February, 1839, there were seventeen immersed in the river atl
the foot of State street. A hole about twenty feet square was cut through the]
ice, and a platform was sunk, with one end resting upon the shore. . . . But]
recently our Baptist friends have made up their minds that our lake has enough
to do to carry away all the sewerage of the city, without washing off the sins of I
the people." 1B

"Andreas: I, 316.

16 Fergus: No. 7, p. 43.


It was situated at the northwest corner of Wabash Avenue and
Washington Street


In the year 1844,, a brick edifice was constructed at the southeast corner of
Washington and La Salle streets, on the site now occupied by the Chamber of
Commerce building, for the use of the Baptists, at a cost of forty-five hundred
dollars. This building was destroyed by fire in 1852, but no time was lost in pro-
viding a new structure on the same site which was dedicated November 12, 1853.
The . new building cost thirty thousand dollars - and was a handsome and com-
modious church edifice ornamented with a tall spire, a familiar object in the
pictures of Chicago as seen from the courthouse tower in Hosier's famous photo-
graphs. In 1864, this building was taken down and removed piecemeal, and re-
erected at the southwest corner of Monroe and Morgan streets on the West Side,
where it became known as the Second Baptist church, the First church finding
a new location at the corner of Wabash avenue and Hubbard court. The Second
Baptist edifice still stands at this time fulfilling the purposes for which it was
erected. The First Baptist escaped the great fire of 1871, but was destroyed by
fire in July, 1874. Another building was erected in 1876, at the corner of Thirty-
First street and South Park avenue, which remains in use at the present time.

The pastors of the Baptist church were:
1833 to 1834 Rev. Allen B. Freeman.
1835 to 1841 Rev. Isaac T. Hinton.

1842 to 1843 Rev. Charles B. Smith.

1843 to 1845 Rev. E. H. Hamlin.
1845 to 1847 Rev. Miles Sanford.

1847 to 1848 Rev. Luther Stone.

1848 to 1851 Rev. Elisha Tucker, D.D.
1852 to 1856 Rev. John C. Burroughs, D.D.
1856 to 1859 Rev. W. G. Howard, D.D.
1859 to 1879 Rev. William W. Everts, D.D.
1879 to 1881 Rev. George C. Lorimer, D.D.
1882 to 1901 Rev. Poindexter S. Henson, D.D.
1903 Rev. Austen K. de Blois, D.D.


The first Methodist church building was erected in 1834. It was located on
the North Side, at the corner of North Clark and North Water streets, mistaken
prophets having foretold that the town was to be there. The contract for its con-
struction was signed on June 30, 1834, 10 which provided for a frame building
twenty-six by thirty-eight feet in size, posts twelve feet high, a sheeted and
shingle roof, seats with broad backs, a neat pulpit, a platform for a table and
chairs, with "a rail of separation down the middle." The cost was to be five
hundred and eighty dollars.

Before the construction of this church, mission services had been held in the
Reverend Jesse Walker's double log house, at Wolf Point, and at John Watkins'
schoolhouse, on the North Side. Walker had been appointed by the Illinois Meth-
odist Conference as superintendent of "the mission work from Peoria to Chi-
cago," and the Reverend Stephen R. Beggs, of Plainfield, was associated with
him in this work.

"Blanchard: "Northwest and Chicago" (Ed. 1881), p. 646.


After the completion of the church on the North Side the Reverend Peter
R. Borein carried on a successful work and brought the membership up to the
number of ninety. 17 Borein is thus described by Grant Goodrich: "As an ef-
fective preacher, I have never heard his equal. I have heard men of more varied
learning, of more brilliancy and depth of thought, and more polished diction, but
none of that moving, winning power that seized the heart, wrought conviction
and made his hearers willing captives." 18 In the year 1835, the Society was in-
corporated as the "Methodist Episcopal Church of Chicago." 19

The North Side was then struggling for supremacy. Many of the finest
buildings in the new town were erected here, and it seemed as though the main
business portion would here be established. The ground was higher and drier,
and the naturally wooded surface presented a more attractive appearance than the
low and level stretch of prairie on the South Side. However, the business in-
terests continued to favor the south bank of the river in an increasing degree and
the abandoned stores and hotels were evidence of the change which has since taken


In the year 1836 the society secured land at the southeast corner of Clark
and Washington streets, at first under an agreement to purchase; later this land
was given to the society by the Canal Commissioners. 20 The building that had
been in use on the North Side was removed, in 1838, to the new location, the
removal across the river being effected by the use of scows. Although consider-
ably enlarged after its arrival, it was found necessary in 1843 to erect a new
building. This was done at a cost of twelve thousand dollars. The new build-
ing was sixty-eight by ninety-five feet, with a stone basement eight feet in height
and walls thirty feet high. The spire was one hundred and forty-eight feet in
height and the auditorium seated one thousand persons. 21 The Reverend Hooper
Crews was pastor of the congregation in 1840, Nathaniel P. Cunningham in 1842,
and William M. D. Ryan in 1844.

The system known as the itinerancy, as practiced in the Methodist church,
accounts for the greater frequency of pastors in that denomination than in that
of others. John Wesley said ."We have found by long and consistent experience
that a frequent exchange of teachers is best. This preacher has one talent, that
another; no one whom I ever yet knew has all the talents which are needful for
beginning, continuing and perfecting the work of grace in a whole congregation."

"While this itinerancy has its disadvantages," said Bishop Matthew Simpson,
in his "Cyclopaedia of Methodism," "in the frequent removal of preachers, and
in the breaking up of associations with the church, it has the advantage of remov-
ing pastors without the friction which frequently occurs in other churches." Up
to the year 1840, Chicago had been within the jurisdiction of the Illinois Con-
ference, but after that date it became one of the circuits of the Rock River Con-

17 Robinson: "History of Rock River Conference," p. 47.
is Ibid., p. 47-

19 Andreas: "History of Chicago," I, 326.

20 Gale: "Reminiscences," p. 359.

21 Andreas: "History of Chicago," I, 326.


ference which had been formed in that year. In the year 1857, an act of the
Legislature was approved changing the name of the society to the "First Meth-
odist Episcopal Church of Chicago," though it came to be popularly known as
the "Clark Street Methodist Episcopal Church."


The building erected in 1843, was found to be inadequate to the growing
needs of the society, and in 1858 it was determined to build a block in which
there should be stores and offices to rent, as well as an auditorium for the use
of the congregation. This form of church structure has become a distinct pecul-
iarity of this society, and its policy in this respect has resulted in making it into
one of the best income producers of any institution of the church. The Meth-
odist church block was erected, in 1858, on this plan, and an auditorium to pro-
vide a seating capacity for two thousand persons. The block cost seventy thou-
sand dollars, and at once an income was provided which not only supported the
society itself, but enabled it to extend aid to its sister churches in the denomina-

The progress made by the early churches in the first few years of their ex-
istence is very impressive, and indicates in a forcible manner the moral and relig-
ous growth of the city. Here we see a church, within ten years of its chrysalis
state as a station in the "mission work from Peoria to Chicago," in a community
just emerging from a village to a city, expending twelve thousand dollars for a
building in which to seat one thousand persons; and in fifteen years thereafter
its growth was so great that a structure costing seventy thousand dollars, with a
seating capacity of two thousand, took its place; and all this besides assisting new
societies in their work as the city expanded.

The Methodist church block was entirely destroyed in the Great Fire of 1871,
but the next year another took its place on still larger lines, at a cost of one hun-
dred and twenty thousand dollars. Up to 1910 the First Methodist church had
contributed seven hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars from its income in
aid of other churches.


The pastors of the First Methodist Episcopal Church, since its beginning in
1834, have been as follows:

1834 Jesse Walker.

1835 John T. Mitchell.

1836 Otis F. Curtis.

1837 Peter R. Borein.

1839 Sempbronius H. Stocking.

1840 Hooper Crews.

1842 Nathaniel P. Cunningham.

1843 Luke Hitchcock.

1844 Win. M. D. Ryan.

1 846 Chauncey Hobart.

1847 Philo Judson.


1848 Richard Haney.
1850 Stephen P. Keyes.
1852 John Clark.
1854 Hooper Crews.
1856 James Baume.
1858 William F. Stewart.
1860 Otis H. Tiffany.
1863 Chas. H. Fowler.
1866 William C. Dandy.
1867 John A. Gray.
1869 William H. Daniels.
1872 Hiram W. Thomas.
1875 Samuel A. W. Jewett.
1876 Matthew M. Parkhurst.
1876 William A. Spencer.
1879 John Williamson.
1882 Robert M. Hatfield.
1885 William A. Spencer.
1886 Henry W. Bolton.
1890 William Fawcett.
1893 H. D. Kimball.
1897 John P. Brushingham.
1906 Ernest W. Oneal.


The First Methodist church held its "Diamond Jubilee" in November, 1910,
celebrating the seventy-fifth anniversary of its organization. In the "Souvenir
Program" is printed a historical sketch of the church which is an interesting sum-
mary of the facts previously related here, and with some additional particulars. It
is as follows:

"The day of first things is always of supreme interest. So it is written down
here that the first Methodist sermon was preached in Chicago in 1828. The first
Methodist class was formed early in 1831 at the log house of Wm. See, the village
blacksmith. The first Methodist church was organized June 16, 1831, by Rev.
Stephen R. Beggs, .and was composed of ten members. The first Methodist Watch
Night service was held December 31, 1831. The first Quarterly Meeting and the
first Sacramental Service were conducted in January, 1832. The first Methodist
Sunday School was formed in 1834. The first Methodist church building was of
logs, and was put up in 1834 at North Water and Clark streets, at a cost of $580.
In 1839 this structure was moved across the river on scows to the lot at South
Clark and Washington streets, which is still owned and occupied by the Society.
In 1845 the original structure was replaced by a brick one at a cost of $12,000. In
the year 1857, by act of the Legislature, the charter was enlarged to enable the
Society to erect a building partially for commercial purposes, and in 1858 a com-
posite building, containing, beside auditorium, stores and. offices, was erected at a
cost of $70,000. In 1865 the charter was again amended so that all the income,


except $1,000 and parsonage rent, could be devoted to the building of Methodist
churches in the city of Chicago. The structure erected in 1858 stood until swept
away by fire in 1871, whereupon the present one was erected at an expense of

"This famous old church has been one of the great influences in the moral
progress and development of Chicago and the source of the wonderful progress
and strength of Methodism in the city. Many converted at her altars have come
to great usefulness and influence down the decades, such as Abner R. Scranton, the
founder of Grace church, and Mrs. Eliza Garrett, the benefactress of the Institute
which bears her name, beside a number who have gone into the work of the ministry.
Her laymen were the moving spirits in the establishment of the Northwestern Uni-
versity and Garrett Biblical Institute, while most of the institutions of Methodism
in Cook county bear the mark of their great hearted wisdom. Such men as George
C. Cook, Grant Goodrich, Orrington Lunt and Dr. John Evans, can never die.
'Embalmed in their works their spirits walk abroad.' The names and deeds of
ministers who have preached from this historic pulpit and prompted to and as-
sisted in her great enterprises, are known and revered throughout the land.

"This church is justly called 'the Mother of Chicago Methodism,' for 158 out
of 214 churches now largely owe their existence to her generosity, which up to date
figures close to $725,000. She enjoys the preeminence of being the only down-
town church within the 'loop' that maintains open house and regular church serv-
ices all the year round. Standing where she was placed in 1839 at that corner
'where cross the crowded ways of life,' she is peculiarly the exponent and guardian
of evangelical Christianity at the center of this great city.

"Her Board of Trustees is especially constituted by provision of her charter,
which provides for nine members, and requires that there be three from her own
membership, three from Trinity church, and three from Methodism at large in
Chicago. These men have always been prominent and active leaders, whose names
were well known throughout the church. Today this Board is composed of the
following, in order of their election and years of service: Charles Busby, J. S.
Harvey, Arthur Dixon, H. A. Goodrich, J. B. Hobbs, John Johnston, D. C. Alton,
O. H. Horton, M. A. Allen.

"Because of the gradual extension of the business district and the consequent
pushing back and out of the homes until now there are none within one mile in
any direction, the membership has necessarily greatly dwindled. However enough
devoted men and women remain to officer and work a Sunday School that enrolls
325, gathered from the river sections, and an Epworth League and a Junior League,
which live and serve with great enthusiasm and blessing. Conversions and baptisms
are not unknown nowadays at her altar, while thousands of transients every year
find sanctuary within her walls. It is our delight to give special mention of two
men whose names have been 'plowed' into the history of this church during the last
forty-five years. And absolutely without their knowledge we honor here the names
of Arthur Dixon and Horace A. Goodrich. Day and night, year in and year out,
they have given their lives to this church. And whatever of sacrifice, and business
sagacity, and integrity, and large heartedness, and open handedness were neces-
sary to make First Church the radiating focus of untold blessings, these men have
put into it."



The Northwestern Christian Advocate issued its first number in 1853, Reverend
James V.- Watson, D; D., being the first editor. He died in 1856, and was suc-
ceeded by Reverend Thomas M. Eddy, D. D. In 1864, Reverend Arthur Ed-
wards, D. D., succeeded Dr. Edd_y, and continued in charge until his death in 1901.
In choosing a successor to Dr. Edwards the usual precedents were departed from
and David D. Thompson, a layman, was chosen editor of the Northwestern. Mr.
Thompson filled the editorial chair with great ability until 1908, when he met an
untimely death by accident on November 10th of that year. Mr. Thompson's career
is an unusually interesting one and a sketch of his life is appended to this chapter.
The Reverend Charles M. Stuart, D. D., became his successor as editor in charge
of the Northwestern.


As we have seen from the previous account, Mr. Thompson was editor of the
Northwestern Christian Advocate from 1901 to 1908. Mr. Thompson was born
April 29, 1852, in Cincinnati, Ohio, and from his boyhood had been identified with
the publishing business. In the early '90s he came to Chicago and was made as-
sistant editor of the Northwestern under Dr. Arthur Edwards, the editor-in-chief.
In 1901, on the death of Dr. Edwards, he was chosen to the editorship, although
a layman. Previously only regularly ordained ministers of the Methodist church
had held that position. He was a member of the First Methodist Episcopal church
in Evanston, where he resided up to the time of his death.

In November, 1908, he went to St. Louis to attend the sessions of the Mis-
sionary Society of the church. As he was crossing a street near his hotel with
an umbrella raised, for it was raining at the time, he heard the signal from an
approaching automobile, and unfortunately stepped backwards. The driver of the
machine had turned towards the curb to avoid a collision, but this movement brought
him directly in front of the automobile which struck him with so much force that
he was carried in an unconscious state to the hospital, where he died on the 10th
of November, 1908.

Mr. Thompson was a frequent and acceptable visitor at the White House in
Washington, where he was invited to luncheon on several occasions with Presi-
dent Roosevelt and Secretary Cortelyou, and conferred on subjects in which they

Online LibraryJ. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) CurreyChicago: its history and its builders, a century of marvelous growth (Volume v.1) → online text (page 54 of 59)