The United Presbyterian Church

The United Presbyterian Church of Rock Island, Illinois, was organized as an Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, July 1, 1854, by direction of the second A. R. P. Presbytery of Illinois. The Reverend Matthew Bigger, together with Ruling Elders John Colins and William Haverfield, met in the seminary building, in the rear of the Memorial Christian Church. The organization was effected by admitting into membership fourteen members from the A. R. P. Church, five members from the A. P. Church and one on profession of faith, making a total of twenty members. The first elders were Erskin McClellan, James Todd and Hugh Warnock. The congregation received new members every year except 1857 and 1861. The total number received from July 1, 1854, to July 1, 1904, is five hundred and fifty-four. The decrease kept pace with the increase for a number of years. The services were held in the seminary building and in the Court House for the first six months. In the meantime, by the hard work and self-denial of the acting pastor, Reverend J. R. McCallister and the membership, a plain frame building was built on the site of the present church. This building was removed in 1873 to the corner of Fifth Avenue and Eleventh Street, where it yet stands, doing service for the German Presbyterians first, and now for the Swedish Free Evangelical Church. The building was entered the first Sabbath of January, 1855. The pulpit furniture was not upholstered, for the Reverend J. R. McCallister’s pulpit sofa was a nail keg with a board across it, while the pulpit itself was a dry goods box. The pews were planks laid across nail kegs or boxes. The lights were plain tallow candles. Most of the work on the building was done by the members, under the direction of Mr. James Todd, who is with us today, though his membership has not been with us all these years. By degrees the pews were made, and grained by other members. They are still in use. Their backs were not very high, and were anything but comfortable. Reverend J. R. McCallister continued as stated supply until July 1, 1860. In the mean time the congregation of Davenport was organized and he supplied both congregations. Fifty-four persons were received into the membership during this pastorate. Among them was A. Conner, who afterward became a minister, but was unable to continue in the ministry long on account of ill health. Following Mr. McCallister was Reverend W. H. Jefferes, who continued for fifteen months. Then the congregation was without a regular pastor until April, 1863, when Reverend Henry Wallace was called and continued until April, 1871. During the pastorate of Doctor Wallace there were seventy-five persons received into membership, yet the decrease seemed to be as great as the increase, on account of removals. After another season without a pastor, .Reverend J. A. Reynolds was called for full time in July of 1872. There were but thirty-five members to again take up the work. There had been one hundred and fifty-eight persons received in the eighteen years. As the church building was not very inviting, there was an effort made to build a new church, so in the Spring of 1873 the present building was planned and begun, but was net entirely finished until 1876, by which time the membership had increased to seventy members. The cost of the new church was $10,-000, of which amount the people paid nearly $7,000. The balance was from the hoard of church extension and outside help. At the close of Doctor Reynold’s pastorate the membership was ninety. Immediately following Doctor Reynolds, Reverend J. H. Bown, Doctor of Divinity, took up the work, continuing for three years, after which there was a season without a pastor. In the Summer of 1889 Reverend T. H. McMichael, Doctor of Divinity, then a student, filled the pulpit, and in the Fall of 1889 Reverend H. C. Marshall became stated supply and continued eight years. Many of the members living in Moline desired either their letter to connect with some church there or that we give them preaching, so a mission was started in 1895, which was afterward formed into a church. May 14, 1898, with twenty-seven members from the Rock Island congregation, and be-came independent in 1901. At the close of the Reverend H. C. Marshall’s pastorate the membership was about one hundred and thirty, counting the two fields, Moline and Rock Island. Again we were without a pastor for a year, when in September of 1898 the Reverend D. L. McNary became stated supply, devoting his time to the two congregations for a time, until Moline became independent. Of the original members, as far as is known, there are but two living. Mr. James Todd and Mrs. Margaret Caughey, of Coal Valley, Illinois, while J. M. Logan and wife of Mon-mouth, and Mr. J. R. Johnston, of Los Angeles, California, were received in 1855. There may be others we have lost track of. The following are those who have served as elders, the elders elect, and clerks of the session. Erskine McClellan, installed July 1, 1854, withdrew December 7, 1865; died January, 1904; James Todd, installed July 1, 1854, withdrew early in sixties; Hugh Warnock, installed July 1, 1854, died May 12, 1898; Thomas McCall, installed August 17, 1864, died early in seventies; Samuel F. Cooke, installed March 20, 1867, withdrew January, 1898, died December 13, 1898; Joseph Mc-Kee, Doctor of Medicine, March 18, 1877, withdrew July 9, 1888; James McConnell, installed March 18, 1877, died February 9, 1881; Alex White, installed March, 1877, withdrew April, 1878; Edwin B. McKown, installed November 19, 1890, Samuel H. Montgomery, installed November 19, 1890, withdrew May 14, 1898; James D. Warnock, installed November 19, 1890. Elders Elect-Charles E. Bryan, James A. Weed, F. P. Lysinger, M. Bollman. Clerks of Session-Hugh Warnock, no date given, to July 1, 1870; Samuel F. Cooke, July 1, 1870 to November 22, 1890; Samuel H. Montgomery, November 22, 1890 to May 14, 1898; James D. Warnock, May 14. 1898 to the present time. Upon our roll was the name of one who has been appointed to a position that will bring to him national, yea, world wide fame, if he shall be permitted to carry out the work our government has placed in his hands. The work he has done for various railroads the past twenty-five years bespeaks for him success. I refer to Honorable John F. Wallace, Doctor _ of Laws, who was with us when the present church was being built. He has been appointed engineer in charge of the Panama canal. An interesting item we wish to speak of is that the three succeeding generations of the first superintendent, Mr. Hugh Warnock, are represented in our school today in J. D. Warnock, our treasurer; Miss Mildred Warnock, one of our teachers; and Dorothy and Margaret Soule, who are enrolled in our primary department., Our superintendents since organization have been Hugh Warnock, Reverend J. R. McCallister, Alexander White and E. B. McKown. Excepting about four or five years Mr. Hugh Warnock served as superintendent for nearly thirty-five years.

Source: Historic Rock Island County, pub. Kramer & Company, Rock Island, Illinois, 1908

1 thought on “The United Presbyterian Church”

  1. Rev. Henry Wallace (1836-1916) was appointed a “stated supply ” to the union church of Rock Island and Davenport for the months of May-June, 1862, and subsequently remained there until 1871 when, due to ill-health, he left the “active ministry” and became a farmer and farm journalist. In 1895, in cooperation with his two sons, he became founding editor of Wallaces’ Farmer, a very influential farm paper in Iowa and the corn-belt. In his later years, he wrote under the name “Uncle Henry” and wrote “Letters to my Great Grand Children”, which were published in Wallaces’ Farmer in December 1916-1919 and subsequently, as a book. Uncle Henry’s Own Story. Several of these letters tell of his time tending the congregation at Rock Island and Davenport.

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