J. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) Currey.

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With all of our wailing, with all of our impotent wringing of hands, with all our
imbecile and inane appeals to a sentiment that will not re-echo in our minds and
our hearts, we will accomplish nothing. We will simply be wildly beating against
the portals of our future, but we will not enter the promised land of prophetic
Judaism, which means humanity."


It was in July, 1880, that a new star appeared on the firmament of Sinai Con-
gregation. At this time Dr. Emil G. Hirsch, son of Dr. Samuel Hirsch, also an
eminent Jewish Rabbi, was elected minister of the Congregation, and soon after
entered upon the discharge of his duties in which he has continued down to the
present time. The Congregation began almost immediately to increase its mem-
bership, the new members all occupying representative positions in the Chicago
Jewish community.

Owing to the large increase in numbers the Congregation, in 1892, determined
upon having the temple entirely remodeled. Mr. Eliassoff, in his account of the
services conducted by Dr. Hirsch, after the temple had been reopened, writes: '"Dr.
Hirsch seemed inspired. The fiery eloquence of his words when he delivered
his sermon entitled, 'The Two Books,' perfectly enthralled the souls of his
listeners." A brief passage from the sermon referred to is quoted:

Dr. Hirsch said: "To the sacred inspiration of this hour, to the solemn ap-
peal of this house, let me bid you welcome. We return after prolonged absence
to our home. At the threshold meets us the New Year to usher us to the new
Temple. The presence of this herald is a warning to remember the caution: Re-
joice in fear, not that the conceit possesses us that excessive joy must be ran-
somed by corresponding depth of grief. To such dread we are not slaves. The
fetters of this heritage of remote days do not weigh down the wings of our soul,
though in such bondage the brightest even among the sun-kissed minds of Greece
were paying homage to tyrant fear. We know that the exultations as well as the
lamentations of mortal tongues are neither challenge nor charm to storm or light-
ning, to tide or wave, to fire or plague ; not by such modes may either their fury
be aroused, or their ravages stayed."


In April, 1911, the old temple at Indiana avenue and Twenty-first street was
abandoned in view of the approaching completion of the new and beautiful edifice
on the corner of Grand boulevard and Forty-sixth street. The new temple was
erected at an outlay of $400,000, the ground upon which it is built having cost
$80,000. The membership of the Congregation is placed in a recent report at five
hundred and eighty-one, and the affairs of the society are in all respects in a
flourishing condition. After thirty-one years of continuous service Dr. Hirsch is
still the presiding genius of this splendid religious enterprise, secure in the af-
fections of his people and in the enjoyment of an exalted reputation in the com-



The following account of early times in Chicago is compiled from A. D. Field's
recollections left in manuscript form some years since with the Evanston Historical
Society. We have given elsewhere portions of Field's recollections, but as this
portion refers to the early churches, it may be regarded as an interesting supple-
ment to the sketches previously given.

"Among the early settlers," he says, "were the Beaubien . family John B.,
Mark and Medore. I knew all of them. Mark kept the Sauganash hotel in 1836.
Charles Taylor and his two brothers, Anson and Augustine Deodat (usually
called Deodat Taylor), w.ere Catholics, as were also the Beaubiens. These peo-
ple and others built the first Catholic church in Chicago, in 1833.

"Reverend Jesse Walker had built a log house at Wolf Point as early as July,
1831, in which the Methodists, as well as the Presbyterians, held services. This
structure was a dwelling and schoolhouse combined. It was in the house that Jere-
miah Porter, of the Presbyterian church, held services, in 1833, before the com-
pletion of the first edifice of the Presbyterian church. The latter building was
situated on the west side of Clark street, between Randolph and Lake streets. It
was seated with benches and was used for both church and school purposes. I at-
tended school in this building in the fall of 1835 and winter of 1836. This church
was dedicated in January, 1834.

"When I joined the Clark street Methodist church in Chicago, in the fall of
1842, there was one lone Methodist Society in the city. The pastor, N. P. Cun-
ningham, and the Presiding Elder, Hooper Crews, lived in the city; besides them
there were no other Methodist preachers nearer than Waukegan, Elgin, Aurora,
Naperville and Joliet.

"Now, in 1900, there are more than a hundred Methodist churches and preach-
ers on this ground. It is a curious fact that there is probably not a vestige left
of any building or bell that I ever saw or knew in 1845 and previously thereto.

"The Chicago fire of Oct. 9, 1871, swept out everything I had ever seen, even
the ground on which I trod has been buried eight feet deep by the raising of the
city in 1858. The lake, the beautiful lake, is all that is left.

"There were two or three things in which all the Chicago churches were a
unit. They were all orthodox on the following: The pews were all straight pews,
as high as the backs of the people and had doors. You went into your rented pew
and closed the door and buttoned it. The pulpit was a 'preach-pen.' If a
preacher knelt down in the pulpit he could not .be seen. He went up three or
four steps, went into the pulpit and shut the door and buttoned it.

"The churches were lighted with lard oil lamps. In cold weather the oil
would harden white. The sexton (we did not have janitors then) would go about
before church time with a bottle of spirits of turpentine in which was a stick or
swab. He would smirch the wick with turpentine, light his match and coax the
lamp-wick into the flame. The lights were dimmer than a tallow candle and the
churches of evenings would look as dismal as a torch lighted cave."


The fervency and directness of religious appeals made by the "circuit riders,"
and the Evangelists of various denominations are picturesque features in the life


of the early settlers throughout the West. The preaching of these men had a
deep influence on the people, softening the rough manners of the settlers and
bringing into their lives a higher standard of living and thinking. Peter Cart-
wright, a well-known figure in the pioneer days of Illinois, was a preacher of wide
renown, spending more than forty years of his life traveling over the state on
horseback or in a conveyance, holding services in cabins, schoolhouses, and at
camp-meetings. He also found time in his busy life to serve a term in the Illinois
State Legislature of 1828-9. Many stories of Cartwright are told of his powers
as an exhorter and preacher, and also of his prowess in quelling disorders at
camp-meetings, not hesitating to use force to eject disturbers, or meet them in

Cartwright made effective use of the "fire and brimstone" argument in his
sermons, as well as of the more benign truths of the gospel story. In Grierson's
"The Valley of Shadows," a book depicting life in the mid-century period in Illi-
nois, one of the pioneers says of his preaching: "Brother Cartwright tuck right
holt, ez ye might say, en swung 'em till their feet tetched perdition." Like sturdy
old John Knox of Scotland, he made no distinction in rank or sex when he be- 1
lieved he had a message to deliver. Once Andrew Jackson came into a meeting
where Cartwright was preaching, and the Presiding Elder whispered to the
preacher, "That's Andrew Jackson." But the preacher, in the full fervor of
his discourse, shouted, "Who's Andrew Jackson? If he's a sinner God will damn
him the same as he would a Guinea nigger." It is a satisfaction to mention that
"Old Hickory" took no offence at this language, but on the contrary invited him!
to dine with him at the close of his services and congratulated him on his sincerity
and high moral courage.

In Grierson's book, above referred to, the author relates that in the course oil
a camp-meeting address Cartwright pointed straight at one of the women, who
was showing signs of emotional interest, and said : " Ye're at the crossroads, sis-*
ter ; ye'll have to choose one or t' other ; en the years en the months are gone f eq
most of ye, en thar's only this here hour left fer to choose. Which will it be?l
Will it be the road that leads up yander, or the one that leads down by the darkl
river whar the willers air weepin' night en day?" Driving' home the effects of th
rude eloquence, he takes an illustration from a 'coon hunt, familiar enough to his]
hearers. "Sinners," he says, "is jes' like the coon asleep in that tree, never drenminl
of danger. But the varmint war waked all on a sudden by a thunderin' smell ol
smoke, en had to take to the branches. Someone climbs up the tree en shakes thj
branch whar the coon is holdin' on." The preacher then slung his handkerchief.
over his left arm, and continued ; "A leetle more, a leetle more, a l-e-e-t-l-e morem
en the varmint's bound to drap squar" on the dogs." He shook his arm three
times, letting the handkerchief drop, and with dramatic solemnity and in meas-1
ured accents continued, " - down to whar the wailin' en gnashiii' air a million
times more terrible 'n the sufferin's of that coon."


"Iii early times, it was customary," said John Wentworth in one of his his-l
torical lectures, in 1876, "to excommunicate members of the church as publicly as]


they had been admitted. ... I remember in the early times here of a clergy-
man's dealing, at the close of his service, with a member, one of our well-known
citizens, somewhat after this fashion: 'You will remember, my hearers, that
some time ago Mr. Blank was proposed for admission to this church, and, after
Ihe had passed a favorable examination, I called upon every one present to know
f there was any objection, and no one rose and objected. It becomes my pain-
ul duty now to pronounce the sentence of excommunication upon him, and to
emand him back to the world again with all his sins upon his head.'

"Whereupon a gentleman rose in his pew and said: 'And now the world
ibjects to receiving him.' On which bursts of laughter filled the house, and the
jrecise status of that man was never determined."


A story is told of Dr. Charles V. Dyer, a member of the Swedenborgian So-
:iety, which held its meetings in the old Saloon building in 1850. Some goats were
cept by residents in the vicinity, and, according to the eccentricities of that animal,
were frequently met with in most unexpected places. They were even encountered
n the stairway to the upper rooms of the Saloon building, then the most elegant
structure in the city. On one occasion Dr. Dyer was seen driving the goats away
'rom the entrance to the place of worship, when some person remarked to him,
'You have goats in your 'congregation ?" "No, sir," replied the doctor, "ours is the
>nly congregation in town which turns them out."


An adequate and complete history of all the churches in Chicago would re-
quire a volume or more to do it justice. The general reader is presumably in-
;erested in the beginnings and progress of the religious life of the city rather
;han the history of particular churches, each of which has a history of local in-
;erest only. We have chosen to give a history of the pioneer churches only, such,.
ior example, as have had their beginnings before the year 1850, and following the
evolution of one single church as representing all the churches of its denomination.
Dn this plan we have attempted to outline the history of those denominations which
lad established themselves in Chicago before the period named above.











ALTHOUGH by the Ordinance of 1787 slavery was prohibited in the North-
west Territory, there had been found a way by slave owners, under a so-
called "Indenture Law," enacted while Illinois was under a territorial
form of government, to hold negroes and mulattoes to service, which
was in effect the same as slavery. 1 When the state constitution was
adopted, in 1818, it prohibited slavery, but the old indentures of negroes were rec-
ognized, though future ones of a similar kind were forbidden. Thus it came about
that in the census reports for the four periods, 1810, '20, '30, and '40, Illinois was
shown to have a slave population, one hundred and sixty-eight in the first of the
years named, nine hundred and seventeen in the second, seven hundred and forty-
seven in the third, and three hundred and thirty-one in the fourth. In the next
census after 1840, there were no slaves enumerated. 2


"The Constitution," says Von Hoist, "had undeniably intended not only to give
the slaveholders generally the right of claiming their fugitive slaves, but also to
make their recovery as easy as was possible without infringing or endangering the
rights of third parties." 3 The language of the Constitution referred to by Von
Hoist, was as follows :

"No person held to service or labor in one state, under the laws thereof, escap-
ing into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be dis-

1 Boggess: Settlement of Illinois, p. 117.
2 Appleton's Cyclopedia, art. "Illinois."
8 Von Hoist: Constitutional History of United States, III, 551.



charged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party
to whom such service or labor may be due." (Art. IV, sec. 2.)

A writer in the "American Cyclopaedia," commenting on this passage, says: "Al-
though the word slave was not here employed, the purpose was to provide for the
reclamation of slaves fleeing from their masters; and, in 1793, an act was passed by
Congress to give effect to the provision by means of the arrest of any person claimed
as a fugitive from slavery, and his return to the state from which he was found to
have fled, after a summary judicial hearing. The repugnance to the institution of
slavery on the part of large numbers of people in the northern states rendered this
act of little practical value." 4

The slaveholders of the South, chafing under their losses from runaway slaves,
demanded a new law which would be more efficient than the old one, and after a
long and bitter contention succeeded in procuring the passage of the notorious Fugi-
tive Slave Law, in 1850. "The bill began," says Von Hoist, who makes a summary
of its provisions, "by charging with the execution of the law, commissions [i. e.,
'United States Commissioners'] appointed by the circuit courts of the United
States. . . . Equally with the judges of the circuit and district courts they
were to take cognizance of plaints for the delivery of fugitive slaves, a provision
the constitutionality of which was much attacked, because the Constitution did not
give Congress a right to transfer judicial powers to officials who were not judges."
All good citizens were commanded, if required, "to aid and assist in the prompt and
efficient execution of this law;" and whoever knowingly harbored or concealed a
fugitive slave, in order to prevent his arrest, should be fined "not more than one
thousand dollars and imprisoned not more than six months, and shall, in addition,
if the slave escapes, pay the owner one thousand dollars. If the owner fears a
forcible rescue of the slave awarded him, the official in whose hands the slave is,
may, at the expense of the United States, employ as many men as he deems neces-
sary and retain them according to his discretion, in order to prevent the rescue." 5


"From the standpoint of humanity, fairness and morals," continues Von Hoist,
"it needs no closer examination; it is enough to read its provisions through once
attentively, in order to turn from it with horror and indignation. That the Demo-
cratic republic could bring itself to take part in such fashion for the slave-hunter
and against his victim, and that it was made so fearfully easy for unscrupulousness,
revenge, and greed, to convert free men and women into slaves, will always remain
a deep stain in the history of the United States. 'Whom the Gods will destroy
they first make mad.' The old saying had here received a striking confirmation in
the case of the slavocracy. The Fugitive Slave Law was a deadly blow to it in-
flicted by its own hands, and this political side of the question was of infinitely
greater significance than the constitutional quibblings." 6

The Fugitive Slave Law had the effect of destroying every pacifying effect which
it had been confidently predicted it would accomplish. It went beyond the re-

4 Appleton's Cyclopedia, art. "Fugitive."

5 Von Hoist: III, 548.
8 Ibid., 551.


quirements of the Constitution needlessly, and violated the principles of justice by
providing no safeguard for the claimed fugitive against perjury and fraud. The
procedure against the accused was "summary," and his own testimony was not to
be admitted. 7 "Every case that occurred under it," says Rhodes, "every surrender
of a claimed fugitive, did more than the Abolitionists had ever done to convert
northern people to some part, at least, of abolitionist beliefs. Senator Seward, in
a senate debate . . . had made a casual allusion to 'a higher law than the Con-
stitution,' and the phrase was caught up. To obstruct, resist, frustrate, the execu-
tion of the statute, came to be looked upon by many people as a duty dictated by
the 'higher law' of moral right. Legislatures were moved to enact obstructive 'per-
sonal liberty laws ;' and quiet citizens were moved to riotous acts. Active undertak-
ings to encourage and assist the escape of slaves from southern states were set on
foot, and a remarkable organization of helping hands was formed, in what took
the name of the 'Underground Railroad,' to secrete them and pass them on to the
safe shelter of Canadian law. The slaveholders lost thousands of their servants
for every one that the law restored to their hands.


"The story of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin', by Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe, may fairly
be counted among the products of the Fugitive Slave Law, and no other book ever
produced an extraordinary effect so quickly on the public mind. In book form it
was published in March, 1852, and it was read everywhere in civilized countries
within the next two or three years. Its picture of slavery was stamped ineffaceably
on the thought of the whole world and the institution was arraigned upon it, for
a more impressive judgment than Christendom had ever pronounced before. That
the picture was not a true one of the general and common circumstances of southern
slavery, but that the incidents put together in the story were all possible, has
been proved beyond doubt."

The story of Uncle Tom "created the overwhelming impression that it did,"
says Von Hoist, "because its fiction was an entire truth. . . . The abomin-
ations of which an account is given in 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' might all have been
committed against the slaves, under the protection of the law. . . . That the
laws sanctioned such abominations, and that it was sufficient to turn over the ad-
vertisement leaves of one of the great Southern newspapers for any year, in order
to collect the original material from which such a story could be spun, was enough
to brand the system, and to make the 'peculiar institution' as an institution, appear
as a curse and as a frightful blot upon the civilization of the nineteenth century." 8

It was not pretended, even by the most extreme abolitionists, that the story was
a picture of the life to which the great mass of the slaves was condemned. But that
it was an actual picture of what was possible, and even of what often happened,
convinced the northern people to an increased degree of the evil and vicious tend-
encies of human slavery. "In this sense, the fiction was full of truth, and this is
what its readers found in it. And this it was that, in a short time, gave the book

'Rhodes: History United States, I, 185 Fugitive Slave Act, Sec. 6.
8 Von Hoist: IV, p. 238; Ibid., p. 239.


a circulation, on both sides of the ocean, almost without a parallel in the history
of the literature of any people."


There was a series of acts which, taken together, are often referred to as the
"Black Laws of Illinois," or the "Black Code of Illinois." The earliest was a set
of laws passed by the Indiana Territorial Assemblies of 1805 and 1807, the gov-
ernmental form under which the Illinois country was at that time administered,
legalizing the holding of negroes and mulattoes in a form of service which was in
effect nearly the same as slavery. These were called "Indenture Laws," and pro-
viding, as they did, for "voluntary" servitude, which was in practice never volun-
tary, it was argued that the Ordinance of 1787 permitted it. 9 As the French in-
habitants of Kaskaskia and neighboring villages had enjoyed the right to hold
slaves under the Virginia government, previous to its cession of the Northwest ter-
ritory to the general government in 1784, it was generally held that they could re-
tain their slaves. But other settlers claimed the same right. As one illiterate mem-
ber said a few years later in the Legislature, whose name, strange to say, was John
Grammer, "Having rights on my side, I don't fear, sir. I will show that ar propo-
sition is unconstitutionable, inlegal, and forninst the compact. Don't every one
know, or leastwise had ought to know, that the Congress that sot at Vincennes gar-
nisheed to the old French inhabitants the right to their niggers, and haint I got as
much rights as any Frenchman in this state? Answer me that, sir." 10

Though the state constitution had prohibited slavery, the slave holding party,
in 1822, says a writer in the "Historical Encyclopaedia of Illinois," "began to agi-
tate the question of so amending the organic law as to make Illinois a slave state.
To effect such a change the calling of a convention was necessary, and, for eighteen
months, the struggle between 'conventionists' and their opponents was bitter and
fierce. The question was submitted to a popular vote on August 2d, 1824, the re-
sult of the count showing 4972 votes for such convention, and 6640 against. This
decisive result settled the question of slaveholding in Illinois for all future time,
though the existence of slavery in the state continued to be recognized by the
national census until 1840." The defeat of the convention which would have
amended the state constitution, so that slavery would have been legalized, "marked
an era in the life of the state and the nation," says Miss Lottie E. Jones, in her
work, "Decisive Dates in Illinois History."

"Through all the various laws passed by the state legislature," says Andreas,
"had run a peculiar code which precluded the residence of free negroes in the state,
except under conditions little better than those of actual slavery. They were in-
competent witnesses in any case where a white man was the plaintiff or defendant,
and except that they could show free papers were subject to arrest, and imprison-
ment, and, after due advertisement, no master appearing, the negro so arrested
was sold by auction for the costs of his arrest. The sale thus made placed him
under as absolute control of his new master as though he had been a born slave
in the South. The same penalties were provided for insubordination or other of-

Online LibraryJ. Seymour (Josiah Seymour) CurreyChicago: its history and its builders, a century of marvelous growth (Volume v.1) → online text (page 56 of 59)