1879 History of Menard & Mason Counties
Published by: O.L. Baskin & Co., Historical Publishers
186 Dearborn Street

Mason County

Religious History
Page 544

The professed religious devotees were in a decided minority in those days, but there were enough to establish the foundation of the numerous religious societies which distinguish us as a moral people to-day. Private houses were used for religious services until schoolhouses afforded the accommodations. While these religious services were not conducted with the clock-work precision and machine worship of our later and more systematically refined worship, they had the merit of heart and soul devotion, which defied the adverse criticism of the world. The preachers were not college graduates, nor theological prodigies, but wheat they lacked in mental force they made up in physical power, and they could be heard a mile away in favorable conditions of the atmosphere. Peter Cartwright, whose eccentric and "bull-dozing" (Bull-dozing, as a common term, was not invented then, but it is applicable to the old pioneer preacher all the same.) propensities gave him a continental reputation and notoriety, dispensed the Gospel to our pioneers frequently, and some of the incidents and anecdotes related by him in his autobiography find a location in this vicinity. Contemporaneous with him was Peter Akers, now superannuated and retired, at Jacksonville, who was the very antipode of Cartwright in mental characteristics. He was a man of great ability, learned in theology, science and literature, and a master of elocution and oratory. Thirty-minute sermons were not fashionable in those days, and often this eminent divine would storm the citadel of Satan, and expatiate upon the beatitudes of heaven for four hours at a time. So matchless was his eloquence, and invincible his logic, that his audience never tired or manifested restlessness during his discourses. To make it known that "Old Pete Akers" (for he was even then considered old) would preach at a given place on such a day, was to guarantee nearly the whole county as an audience, if the weather proved favorable. A little later, John L. Turner, a Baptist minister, settled west of Crane Creek. He was a man of good abilities, and held a place in the hearts of the people here that has never been supplied by any other minister. When the angel of death visited a household, John L. Turner was called upon to preach at the funeral, and, although a man of rather frail frame, he exposed himself to inclement weather, and faced storms of rain and sleet and snow in answer to the call of distress by his stricken fellow-pioneers. Of him it may may be truly said, "He went about doing good." Levi Engle, of the Christian (Campbellite) faith, occasionally preached at Swing's Grove, at some private house. These irregular services were held at such time and places as the combination of circumstance would permit, until about 1850, when the settlement had become numerous enough to organize church societies, which will be more definitely and systematically arranged under that special department of this historical sketch of the township.

The population increased steadily, but not very rapidly, until 1856, when the project of the Tonica, Petersburg & Jacksonville Railroad assumed an earnest aspect by the survey of a random line during the month of July. This line barely touched the northwest corner of this township. The same year, in the fall, another line was surveyed, running almost parallel with, and less than a mile east, of the first. People were led to believe that this second line would be the permanent and fixed one for the railroad, and subscriptions were lavishly given, and bartering of lands among individuals was the order of the day. Imaginary towns dotted the line on almost every section, and the owners of the sites reveled in their sudden transition from poverty to affluence. But these fickle dreams of fortune were dispelled a few months later, when the third line was rum, and the road located thereon-where it now is, and is an important branch of the Chicago & Alton Railway. This line was, at this point, about a mile and a half east of the second line surveyed. Grading was commenced the summer of 1857, a number of farmers working out their subscription of stock in that way. The work progressed as well as the limited means and many unfavorable circumstances would admit, until the financial crash of 1859, when the work was suspended, except the completion and putting in operation that part of the road between Petersburg and Jacksonville, and was not resumed again until after the close of the war of the rebellion. But the certainty of its ultimate completion gave an impetus to immigration, that neither the financial crash nor the paralyzing influence of the war could very materially check. The heretofore vast expanse of unoccupied prairie was rapidly converted into corn-producing farms, and became one of the most prolific townships in the county for that king staple product of the west.

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