Pioneers of Menard & Mason Counties|
Including Personal Reminiscens of
Abraham Lincoln & Peter Cartwright
By T.G. Onstot, 1902
The Baptist church played an important part in the spiritual welfare of the people of Menard County in its early days. The Hardshells were perhaps the most numerous back in 1840. The often had preaching at my father's house in Salem, because it was the largest house in the village. John Antle, who lived at Salisbury, and who was the father of the late Dr. Francis P. Antle, was a fair preacher, though he had an ah-h-h at the end if every sentence. Then there was Crow and Bagby, who could not preach without the holy tone and who like Whangdoodle thought it better to have a hardshell than no shell at all.
The Hardshells were opposed to the more aggressive sentiments of the other sects. An incident will serve to illustrate: At a meeting in the Baptist Church near Felix Green's, where everything was done by the church, Bro. Green was turned out of the church for having joined Dr. Allen's temperance society. At the same meeting Bro. A_____ was charged with being drunk, and was also turned out. Bro. P_____, who was loaded for bear, got up and, steadying himself, pulled out a flask and shook it till it beaded, and said: "Brethering, it seems to me that you are not sistenent, (consistent) because you have turned out one man for taking the pledge and another for getting drunk. Now, brethering, how much of this critter have I got to drink to have good standing among you?"
Another portion of the early Baptist Church was represented by Tilford Clark, who was a fine preacher and conducted revivial meetings in the school houses and private residences.
In 1842 Abraham Bale came from Kentucky and created a commotion. He was considered a great preacher. Tall, well formed, with a powerful constitution and a voice like a horn, he could wake the natives for half mile 'round. He held wonderful revivals all over the country and baptized converts in the River Sangamon, even as John the Baptist did in the River Jordan. I have seen him administer baptism to fifty at t time, just below Salem mill. A couple of men or women would get the converts ready and pass them to Bale, who would soon have them put under the water in good style, while the rowdies above would throw in dogs and logs and otherwise disturb the proceedings, and when going to and from the river would run their horses and whoop and yell like Indians. At one of his baptizings, just as he was about to lead a sister out into the water, her husband, who was watching the ceremonies, cried out: "Hold on, Bale! Hold on, Bale! Don't you 'dround' her! I wouldn't take the best cow and calf in Menard County for her!"
Bale's star outshone every other star for a few years and then he moved away. His brother, Jacob Bale, tried his hand at preaching for a time but did not make much of a success at it.
"Pres" Curry has sounded the gospel trumpet in Menard County for nearly sixty years and has probably baptized more people, preached more funerals and married more couples than any other man. "Pres" does not take to any so-called improvements in theology. He thinks the Bible should be interpreted as it reads; hence his sermons are of the doctrinal sort, and he never considers a sermon complete unless he has the Baptist mode of baptism somewhere in it. He is an earnest preacher, and still thinks the old time theology the best.
The Baptist Church in Menard County has filled its mission well and among the churches in Petersburg the one on Main street, south of the court house, has done as much to better the spiritual condition of the people as any.
Transcribed by:Brenda Hamilton Johnson