Presbyterians in the United States
Presbyterians were among the earliest Reformed immigrants to America. They settled up and down the East Coast, and began to push westward into the American wilderness, founding congregations as early as the 1630s. In 1706, seven Presbyterian ministers formed the first Presbyterian presbytery in the New World. The clergy assumed the freedom to organize and the right to worship, preach, teach, and administer the sacraments. Growing population and immigration prompted the presbytery to organize a synod in 1717, with four constituent presbyteries.
Here is a brief timeline of American Presbyterian history
|1630s||First Presbyterian churches organize in the colonies.|
|1683||Francis Makemie, the "Father of American Presbyterianism," arrives from Ireland.|
|1706||First presbytery in the American colonies organizes in Philadelphia.|
|1717||First synod organized with four presbyteries.|
|1789||First Presbyterian General Assembly meets in Philadelphia.|
|1807||First African-American Presbyterian church organizes in Philadelphia.|
|1837||Elijah Lovejoy, minister and abolitionist publisher, dies while defending his printing press against a pro-slavery mob in Alton, Illinois.|
|1861||The General Assembly pledges loyalty to the Federal government. Southern commissioners withdraw and form the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America.|
|1930||The PCUSA's constitution is amended to allow women to be ordained elders.|
|1956||First woman minister ordained, Margaret Towner.|
|1964||First African-American moderator of a General Assembly, Edler Hawkins.|
|1972||First female moderator of a General Assembly, Lois Stair.|
|1983||Two largest American Presbyterian denominations, reunite after 122 years.|
|1986||First Native-American woman ordained, Holly Haile Smith.|
Here's a diagram (from the Presbyterian Historical Society) of the history of presbyterian denominations in the United States.
The Presbyterian Historical Society has recently produced this large poster of our denominational family tree with brief explanations of the history behind the divisions and reunions.
Presbyterians in Illinois
Rev. John E. Finley, a Presbyterian minister from Chester County, Penn., to Mason County, Ky., coveted the privilege of being the first to plant the Church of Christ upon the territory of the future great State of Illinois; and also in the Louisiana Territory, in what is now the state of Missouri. In 1797, Mr. Finley descended the Ohio River in a keel-boat, with several of his neighbors, members of the Presbyterian Church, and ascended the Mississippi, and landed at Kaskaskia, with the bold design of planting the standard of the Cross in the Spanish Colonies west of the Mississippi River. Mr. Finley probably had ultimate reference to a mission among the Indians. He preached the Gospel, catechised and baptised several of the "red men." But, in short time, he was led to abandon the enterprise. . . . During the years 1810, 1811, and also in 1814 and 1816, Rev. James McGrady spent a considerable time in the southern counties of Indian[a] and in Illinois, and in 1816, or some accounts say, in 1814, Mr. McGrady organized Sharon Church in White County. This was the first Presbyterian Church in Illinois, and its honored name still stands on the rolls of the Presbytery of Cairo.
The Donnellson Presbyterian Church in Donnellson, Illinois and the First Presbyterian Church of Golconda, Illinois, both established in 1819, are the oldest, still existing congregations in the Presbytery of Southeastern Illinois.
Formation of Presbyteries in Illinois
Wikipedia lists the presbyteries of the Synod of Illinois in 1968:
- Alton Presbytery, 42 churches
- Bloomington Presbytery, 35 churches
- Chicago Presbytery, 141 churches
- Freeport Presbytery, 42 churches
- Mattoon Presbytery, 38 churches
- Monmouth Presbytery, 58 churches
- Ottawa Presbytery, 42 churches
- Peoria Presbytery, 35 churches
- Southern Illinois Presbytery, 64 churches
- Springfield Presbytery, 41 churches
In 1971-72, The General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. (UPCUSA) approved a major denominational re-organization which created large regional Synods and necessitated the creation of large, sustainable, presbyteries. The Synod of Illinois and the Synod of Indiana were merged into the Synod of Lincoln Trails.
The presbyteries of the Synod of Lincoln Trails are:
- Blackhawk Presbytery
- Chicago Presbytery
- Great Rivers Presbytery
- Midwest Hanmi Presbytery (non-geographic)
- Ohio Valley Presbytery
- Southeastern Illinois Presbytery
- Wabash Valley Presbytery
- Whitewater Valley Presbytery
Records from all PCUSA churches in Illinois may be available from the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia. Many churches retain their own historical data as well. The Presbytery of Southeastern Illinois does not archive vital records (birth, death, etc.) for congregations.