of The First Baptist Church of Toulon, Illinois
The first record of the Toulon Baptist Church begins as follows: "May 13, 1848. Several persons, all members of Baptist churches in this vicinity, met in conference at the house of S. W. Eastman in Toulon. On motion, Elder Elisha Gill was called to the chair and W. M. Miner was chosen clerk. After religious services were over, the subject of becoming a regular Baptist church was fully discussed. Whereupon the following resolutions were by us adopted:
1- That we hereby resolve ourselves into a church conference, viz - Elder Elisha Gill, Elder J. M. Stickney, Ozias Winter, Henry T. Ives, Abigail Gill, Cynthia Stickney, Helen Winter, Hannah Parrish, Susan M. Eastman, Mrs. H. T. Ives, and Mrs. Sarah Chamberlain.
2- That we call a counsel to meet at this place on Saturday before the 4th Lord's Day in June at 10 1/2 o'clock A. M. to recognize us as a church, if thought best.
3- That the Clerk be instructed to invite the following churches to meet by their delegates, viz - LaMarsh, Berwick, Monmouth, Galesburg, Oxford, LaMoille, Mt. Palatine, and Washington.''
On June 24 the group meet and "after deliberation, it was unanimously resolved to adopt the Covenant and Confession of Faith as found in the minutes of the Ills. River Association of 1845."'
On the same day, delegates from the following churches gathered as a Council as called by the Toulon Conference; LaMarsh, Oxford, Washington, Wethersfield, and Fahrenheit. (This last named church was situated about midway between Toulon and LaFayette and later moved to the latter place. Some of its members joined the Toulon church.)
The Covenant and Articles of Confession of Faith adopted by the Conference were examined together with their circumstances and prospects and having been found satisfactory, it was voted to recognize the Conference as "The First Baptist Church of Christ in Toulon, Stark Co., Ills.," This was done the following day in a rather elaborate ceremony "performed by the Counsel before a large and attentive congregation."
On July 22, 1848, "Rev. J. M. Stickney was invited to continue his labors with us as heretofore" and a committee was appointed to circulate a subscription for the Rev. Stickney. Monthly Covenant meetings were held regularly and Communion services quarterly.
In September 1852, the church considered the question of securing a lot and erecting a building. On November 4 following, the church voted to purchase the lot on which the present building stands and on February 12, 1853. a deed was executed to the Trustees of the First Baptist Church of Toulon for this property, the consideration being $137.00. Plans were drawn for a brick house to be 36 feet by 58 feet and bids were secured for this building. The cornerstone was laid in 1854 and the building was completed and dedicated in a special service on March 25, 1855.
The church split on March 4, 1868, because of differences and a second Baptist Church was formed. A lot was purchased at the corner of Main and Olive streets for the sum of $600.00 and a deed was executed on April 27, 1868. A building was erected on this lot and used as a church for the next nine years.
On September 21, 1877, a meeting was called "for the purpose of consolidation of the two Baptist Churches of Toulon. To be known as the Baptist Church of Toulon, which was done by a unanimous vote."
The original building was used for services from its completion in 1855 until the record states that on "September 22, 1894, at 1:40 a. m. the church was struck by lightning and destroyed by fire. Walls standing, furniture mostly saved." The church immediately rebuilt and during the time of rebuilding services were held in the Town Hall. The next extensive repairs were made in 1915 when the addition on the east was added and the building arranged as we have it at the present time.
In a deed dated December 4, 1877, the Trustees were given possession of a property on East Jefferson Street for use as a parsonage. The cost of this property was $1,000.00. This was used by the pastors of the church until 1898 when it was decided that it would be more convenient to have a building nearer the church and, after considerable discussion, it was decided to erect a building on the east end of the church lot. Additional ground was bought to make the lot larger and the present parsonage was then erected in 1898.
The records show that in the early days baptisms were held in Indian Creek west of town and in the river east of the Jug Run school house. In the summer of 1886 a baptistry was built in the church but after that date, some coming into the church insisted on being baptized in the creek or river.
The pipe organ which we now enjoy was dedicated in November 1925, and was a gift from Mrs. Nellie Packer and Mr. William E. Cardiff in memory of Hazel Packer Cardiff who had been a member of the church and a member of the church choir.
As we read of the struggles and efforts of the consecrated men and women who have carried on the work during the past hundred fifty years we are inspired to want to continue to work zealously for the coming of the Kingdom in this community. The future looks encouraging and we are expecting that the work will grow and that many lives will be brought under the influence of our Lord and Savior through the work of this church.
As we look back over the past years and also ahead to the future we are reminded of those words of the Apostle Paul when he says, "I count not myself to have reached perfection: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus."
Numerous physical improvements have taken place in our church buildings. January 4, 1959, was a cold day of 18 below zero as we held regular services followed by the annual business meeting. It was during this meeting that the project of digging out the northwest corner of the church basement was discussed. The decision was made to get plans for this project under way as soon as possible. Mr. George Coakley, Mr. Paul Smith, and Mr. Truman Phillips, members of the project committee, met with Mr. Earl King of Galva to get the plans laid out. Several church men donated considerable time on this excavation, with Mr. King finishing the job. The ceiling was then installed under the direction of Mr. Phillip Anderson. Mr. and Mrs. Harold Kidd and Merlyn painted the interior walls of the room. Finally, tables and chairs were purchased and the room was ready to be used for Sunday school classes and as a dining room for many of our activities.
This major project was followed by others just as worthwhile. First, in 1962, the old, open front steps were removed and replaced by an attractive enclosed entrance. Again the project was directed by Mr. Phil Anderson. In 1966, the outside church walls were covered with aluminum siding. What an improvement this move has been to both the church and the community. Our parsonage was remodeled and repainted in 1965, and a new, natural gas furnace was installed there in 1969. It is generally felt that the church members have continued to keep the church buildings in good repair since these improvements have been instituted.
The most recent project is to add a disability accessible entrance to the south side of the building. The work was approved by the church at the annual meeting in January of 1997. A building committee was formed under the leadership of Jene Musselman. Memorial money as well as special donations were made to cover the complete cost of the project. It has added a great deal of value to the building and has shown our desire to serve Christ in ministering to the elderly and to those with a physical disability.
The present pastor is Al Harmon. He is a life long resident of the area. He accepted the pastoral duties in January of 1995. Shortly after that regular Bible Studies for both Wednesday evenings and Sunday nights were begun. Also an after school Bible club was started in June of 1997 and continues even now. Also beginning in the summer of 1996 we began a radio ministry on WKEI in Kewanee. This is a 30 minute radio broadcast in which the message from the previous Sunday is aired to the surrounding communities. Our Sunday School follows the worship service every Sunday morning with classes for all ages of children and two adult classes.