Lucy Miller Dodd’s
The churches of Loami Township
Loami was organized in 1861, a part of Government Township 14, North Range 7. The first settlers in this town were Henry Brown and his stepson, William Huffmaster. They came in 1819 and built a cabin on the North side of Lick Creek. In 1821 came Paul and William Colburn and about the same time, William Cooley and others. Loami was platted in 1854. The population of the township in 1904-5 was 481.
Sulphur Springs Church
According to the “History of Sangamon County,” the Baptists built the first church house in Sangamon County – a log cabin. It says of the second: “The Methodists built the next, a frame building in the suburbs of Loami. It was located close to the Sulphur Springs Cemetery, up on a hill above the Old Sulphur Springs, north of the Jim Stanton home.” I can find no record of when it was built. Some say it was built May, 1835.
The Reverend Mr. Peck, a Baptist minister, organized the first Sunday school. Then the Methodists organized one. Mrs. Melissa Withrow (born 1841) came to Loami Township with her father and mother from the East in 1843. She attended this church and remembered distinctly of going to Sunday school when only 6 years old. She remembered only one minister of that church, whose name was Rev. McMurry.
It seems as if everybody attended the old church on the hill, then separated into groups and formed other churches of their own denomination. A number of our present church members recall going there to Sunday school and church services. (I remember the church, but not the services.) Melvin Dodd is about the youngest and it was there he received his first testament, presented by his Sunday school teacher, Mrs. Amelia Mehard. My own mother, Mrs. Sarah Hall Miller, used to tell us how they used to make their own shoes and were so proud of them they carried them to church, washed their feet at the Sulphur Spring at the foot of the hill, put on their shoes, went to service and afterward walked down the road a ways, took them off and went barefoot home. I have to smile when I think of the difference in the youngsters today. Shoes come easy and go easy. Here today, gone tomorrow – ready for a new pair.
The Sulphur Springs Church was abandoned in 1880, when the church was built in Loami Village, and the old church was torn down in 1881. It was sold to Jonathon Jarrett and afterward to John Lowry; and was torn down by Lee Graham, and a fellow workman, and today is part of Mr. Preston’s store – formerly the store of T. N. Van Deren.
South Fork M. E. Church
South Fork M. E. Church was built about 1866. It was a wooden building with 4 large windows on each side; wooden porch in the front and a wide board walk that ran to a stile. High ceilings, cool in the summer and very cold in the winter – always heated by long, low wood stoves. It had a wood house for fuel – cobs and wood. Some folks remember being taken there for punishment, when they needed correction. There were 4 sets of seats and all fastened together in the center. A board went to the floor in back of each seat, which prevented the air from circulating on the floor. There were two amen corners, with seats running opposite the ones in the auditorium. The pulpit was large and contained a pulpit stand, a black mohair sofa, or settee, with 2 high-back chairs to match; and for years, it was carpeted with red in-grain carpet, which was later replaced with a carpet in shades of green.
(I called W. W. Henry on January 8, 1951 and he told me: “I heard Joseph Jones say, ‘About the first thing I did after I came out of the Civil War was to build the South Fork Church.’” Reverend Henry thinks it was about 1866 because Mr. Jones was in the Army until it closed. He belonged to the 11th Missouri Infantry, Company C. Rev. Henry bought the sofa from the church. Madison Hurley bought the church as it stood and stored the timber in Auburn; afterward two houses were built out of it.
When the partition between the seats was removed, they found the following on the underside of one of the boards: “If I ever build another church as cheap as this one, I reserve the right to kiss every girl in Sangamon County.” It was in Joe Jones’ handwriting and signed ‘Joseph Jones.’
Rev. Henry said he went to another state for a few years and when he came back I was about 7 years old and the South Fork Church was going strong and had a good-sized congregation.)
A Rev. Powell preached at the South Fork Church, and Scott Matthew in 1878. Scott Matthew got a good start at Loami and went on to one of the largest churches in Los Angeles.
I have a book recording the Sunday schools from 1893-1895. The following I copied from the record and then laughed:
“No. scholars in Class 1 taught by W. T. Hall, 13 collections, $.12
No. scholars in Class 2 taught by Henry Brown, 4 collections, $.05
No. scholars in Class 3 taught by Oscar Miller, 7 collections, $.11
No. scholars in Class 4 taught by Eva Hall, 9 collections, $.08
No. scholars in Class 5 taught by Ollie Campbell, 6 collections, $.07
Officers and teachers present – 7; Visitors – 5; total – 50; total collection - $.43
Evidently, this Sunday school was run on pennies. Where would we get today with such a collection, but there are people living that remember when we were given 1 or 2 pennies for the collection.
Aunt Mag and Uncle Charlie Turpin, Nettie Okeefe’s mother and father, were married in October of 1880. One month after the above wedding, John Turpin’s funeral was held in the Sulphur Springs Church. (John was the father of Maggie, Will, Lou and Melvin Turpin.) Charlie attended the dedication of the new church in the town of Loami and left to visit his bride-to-be in Kansas.
South Fork Church was discontinued during E. L. Carson’s work here, in 1913.
Loami M. E. Church
The Loami Methodist Church was built in 1880. The head carpenter was Harry Martin of Auburn. He asked Lee Graham, then a very young man just starting out, if he could help work on it. Mr. Graham answered, “I’m only a jack leg of a carpenter.” Mr. Martin answered, “Well, you must at least be honest.” Most people would have answered ‘yes’ if they only knew how to saw a board in two. The ground was bought from Dr. Addison Browning for a cost of $80.00. (Lot 4, and 18 feet off the north side of Lot 2, in April, 1880. In August of 1886, the rest of Lot 2 and all of Lot 3 was purchased from John Lowry and wife, costing $100.00.)
The deed reads: “Starting from the southeast corner of the Methodist Church and running south 120 feet,” etc. So that southeast corner had better never be moved, as it is a landmark. This property was known as the A. M. Browning lots, also. These deeds were written out by, and written out by, Mr. Joseph Jones; also the deed which transferred the three-quarter acre belonging to the old Sulphur Spring Church to Loami Methodist Church, which was dated July 31, 1890. This land was afterward sold.
How well I remember this church in Loami. It faced the east, with the pulpit between the two west windows – Amen Corner. And Mrs. Ora Brash had her sunday school class; the choir loft in the northwest corner, with Mrs. Lizzie Desper at the organ; our Sunday school class right in front of the north stove, which stood about where the registers were. And our teacher was Lydia Joy. The long middle aisle, where the bridal party had a straight shot for the pulpit - the same one we use today with the bright red cover and big Bible. A black sofa behind and a chair on either side. The men used to build up a platform for children’s day so everyone could see us in our new clothes. We were so high up we could scarcely remember it was children’s day – we were so scared.
The first minister I have been able to get information or data on was Rev. Archibald Sloan who performed the first wedding in the new church - G. T. (George Thomas) Hall and Matilda Davis on May 1, 1881. Rev. Sloan wore a shawl instead of an overcoat – information given by Beatrice and George Dodd.
Now I’m getting to the place where I might begin. I remember Uncle Tommy brought his new bride home. However, Loami wasn’t a station for years afterward. Auburn, South Fork and Loami were on a circuit. I attended church in the afternoon at South Fork and often during the wintertime, Father and we kids hopped over there on foot through the fields; back home, milked, and then walked on to Loami for evening services and walked back and were ready to sleep. Our home was the C. T. Keplinger place and fortunately was about halfway between the churches. Today, we do well to ride to services once a week.
Albert Simmons – 1884. Was married while on this circuit.
Collins here 1886. Married Nellie Nevius And Henry Brown.
Rev. Ives – 1887-1888. He had been a civil engineer before enlisting as a minister, and was used to saying ‘go and come’ to a bunch of men, and thought the first year he was here that such rules would work at church. He told us we were in a rut and he was going to pull us out. We were in a rut ok, but to let a little upstart of a minister drag us out was another thing. He undertook to make us pay the organist $25.00 per year. I remember one Sunday as we were coming home in a 2-seated sleigh, we came to a turn in the road and the sleigh ahead of us turned off, came to a halt, and Grandmother Dodd (known as Aunt Polly) got up on the back seat of their sleigh and waved Father to stop. She slapped her hands together and said, “Brother Ives, salvation is free.” She sat down and we all drove off. After a little, Rev. Ives said, “What does she mean?” My dad said, “She means this: we won’t pay the organist. I intended to tell you ‘fore; you couldn’t start paying one fellow or all the rest would want pay. We work together for the love of it and the good it might do us and the community.” And there I got one big lesson in church co-operation that has lasted me through life.
Ives stayed 2 years – wasn’t liked at all the first year. But he said when leaving the second year, “All’s well that ends well. I was in a deep rut when I landed here, as I now see it, but I thought it was the other fellow in the rut. But thanks be to God for co-operation and fellows like you folks pulled me out. I don’t aim to ever get so dark again.” Once, Ives couldn’t get to his appointment on account of sleet, so he and one of the boys skated to church.
Abner Clark – fall of 1889 to September of 1890. Bachelor, so folks say. I don’t remember much about him.
1890 – South Fork was detached from the Auburn circuit. South Fork, Loami and Oak Grove were on a circuit.
Monte L. Browning – 1890-1892. Beginning with M. L. Browning in 1890, my memory is clear. He was raised in Loami and didn’t care to remember all that went on in his childhood days. He took for his subject the first Sunday of his ministry: “I determine to know nothing among you save Jesus Christ.” And that just wasn’t what we expected, I guess. However, it was a very appropriate text.
W. A. Dawson – 1892-1893. Englishman. He brought Hughy here with a set of lectures to settle forever the subject of baptism. But it seems as if folks still disagree about the mode.
George W. Dungan – 1893-1895. The greatest revival ever conducted in Loami by a local minister was conducted under his leadership. We were in college in Jacksonville and came home in a carriage on Saturday and drove back again on Sunday pm, just to attend.
Thomas S. Mitchell – 1895-1897. A lot might be said, but just one comes to me now. When he married folks, they were married. I know. [He married Melvin Dodd and Lucy Miller, the author.] Lois Mitchell – their first daughter was born in Loami in the old parsonage, where Mr. Joe Hall built his new home.
E. S. Borton – 1897-1898. Had an invalid wife, or at least one that didn’t go out much. Only stayed one year. I never knew much about him.
Rev. John Priest – November, 1898-September, 1890. Soon after his stay in Loami, he gave up ministerial work and published a paper in Jacksonville. His mother lived in his home and was praying that the Lord might take her on because of ill health.
J. H. Hartrick – September, 1900-September, 1901. He said, “I’ll shut this church up and turn it over to the bats.” But he didn’t do it. Co-operation has always been the watchword for the Loami church. I see the records say he was here from 1900-1901. However, he didn’t stay till September, 1901 – conference time. We moved him out by September and showed that man our church doors would not be closed – even though he told my father he was righteously indignant, not mad. But I believe there is such a thing as righteous indignation and have ever since we got rid of that man. We decided the whole church was righteously indignant. God works mischievously.
Benjamin E. Williams - 1901-1905. He was our first start on keeping ministers long enough to get acquainted with them. He spent hours, I might say, lying on the cellar door where the parsonage now is. He couldn’t sleep, and not wanting to disturb the rest of the family, lay out there and counted stars to quiet his nerves. I used to wonder what it was about Loami to make folks nervous. They had lost a baby just before coming here and one died while here. That may have been the reason.
(The parsonage just southeast of the church, across the street was built by David Hall in 1896 or 1897. It was sold to the church for a parsonage during the pastorate of B. E. Williams, he having lived in the old parsonage and the new, or present, one – so Mrs. Emma Robinson tells me.)
George W. McConkey – 1905-1907. He always helped folks do chores when he visited them; helped shuck corn and various things as he visited with the men folk.
J. R. Warlick – 1907-1909. Rev. Warlick and I sat in the back seat one Sunday, waiting for the crowd to gather, and he said this to me: “Some folks think they are preaching a sermon and it’s nothing of the kind, not even akin to a sermon.” Many times through life I have quoted Brother Warlick and added, “I guess that man called that a sermon, but to me it was no ‘kin.’” So many times he would say for emphasis, “anyhow, anywhere and anytime.” So I’ve used it, in the right place (or possibly the wrong place, so he would say), and think of Brother Warlick and his well-meant work for the Master.
George W. Neff – 1909-1911. Nobody could laugh longer or eat more; work harder or have more fun in life. He got all the boys from up town to help and they dug up a lot of the basement under the 2 north rooms of the church, which had been built on during his stay here; and the church was remodeled at this time; and parsonage repaired. Everybody worked those times and were we ever proud of our church when finished.
W. G. Johnson – 1911-1912. He was the most radical man we had ever encountered on finances, especially his salary. I often think about it and wonder if he got all of it. I feel like he did, for that was our reputation – to pay a pledge or quit.
E. L. Carson – 1912-1914. Was a quiet unassuming man, with 2 laughing happy boys that I really remember more than the father.
South Fork Church was discontinued during his work here, in 1913, and we came to Loami to join the workers here. The more, the better work accomplished, 3 families moved to Canada in 1914. And when 2 came back in November, we found a new minister and 2 new members in the choir.
Charles Wehrman – 1914-1915. He came with his family and James Gardner. Retired soon after 50 years of faithful work.
“People liked him not because he was rich or known to fame.
He had never worn applause as a star in any game.
His was not a brilliant style; his was not a forceful way.
But he had a gentle smile and a kindly word to say.”
T. P. Bonnefon – 1916-1917. Had a large family of girls – 5, I believe. And if 5 girls wouldn’t make one sit up and take notice, I don’t know what would.
L. T. Henninger – 1917-1921. Stayed 4 years and we should have kept him longer. Strange but true, he could keep everybody awake through a whole sermon. Some always slept through all sermons before he came and are now and have been since he left.
J. M. Eldridge – 1921-1924. Someone from Loami said of him: “If there ever was a man-angel on earth, he was the one.” He died before Conference, a few weeks after staying 3 years. We were left without a leader and, if ever a congregation appreciated getting another minister, it was then.
A. E. C. Pentland – 1924-1928. They imported Rev. Pentland from Canada. It took us all about a year to get acquainted with each other and then we just kept him on until he finished his 4 years with us. He was married the 2nd year to his old Canadian sweetheart. He had the blues a lot of times during the first year and always tore up his car and put it back together when he was blue; and then was happy for several weeks after he got it to running nicely again. The boys in the garage said, “No one could make him mad enough to talk back.” Had friends everywhere he went.
C. F. Nagel – 1928-1932. He earned a reputation for being the most patient; to wait for his salary during the depression days and left a reputation for caring for the sick that would make any man hustle to live up to that fellow’s life.
Donald Lemkau – 1932-1936. Men are of 2 kinds and he is the kind I’d like to be.
No door at which he ever knocked
Against his manly form was ever locked.
No broken pledge lost him respect;
He meets all men with head erect.
And when he passes to new fields some day
I think there will go a man of whom we all could say:
There goes one so kind, so splendid, so fine;
He comes almost to God’s design.
Rev. Buckholtz – 1936-1938. He left as a legacy to Loami the one idea of “sharing” and practiced what he preached.
Homecoming again (after re-decorating our church) on November 13, 1938.
J. W. Williams – 1938-1940. He was born in England and crossed the Atlantic 7 times. He served a local preacher in Durham County, England for 12 years and his people are in Pennsylvania. Rev. Williams was here for the re-decoration and part of the day for the Homecoming. John Workman’s funeral was in the afternoon of November 13, 1938 and he preached it. September 1940 finds Rev. Williams leaving and the one nice thing on everybody’s mind is this: No man ever preached finer or better sermons, although it was hard for him to quit on time. Funny thing – he could preach better ones in 20 minutes time than in 40 minutes.
William Humphrey – 1940-1943. Rev. Humphrey was a businessman and kept the records of the church in A-1 shape. There was plenty of money in the country because prices were high and lots of folks were working on defense jobs. He was a good mixer, especially in town amongst outsiders and a lot of the folks in the church were very loyal. No better folks ever lived than Rev. and Mrs. Humphrey.
Walter B. Foley – 1943-June, 1949. The first year he was here he redecorated 5 rooms of the parsonage, installed a water system, tore out the pantry, made a bathroom and put in new concrete walks. A new furnace was installed but the Company Montgomery Ward did all the work of installation. However, Rev. had laid a new concrete floor in the basement and built over the fruit shelves. He also built a cabinet in the kitchen. He is one of the best ‘sermonizers” we have ever had. To hear him preach is to come back next Sunday.
June 1944 finds Rev. Foley and wife back in the parsonage to enjoy some of the hard-earned repairs they have fixed and made in the past year. Ready to go again! Mrs. Foley has a world of friends and is such a loyal helpmate – sure helps the church work to go on in unison.
Dwight Ganzel – June, 1949-1953. Rev. Ganzel, wife and new baby come to us from Nebraska. The baby (Billy) was one day older or younger than Jay Melvin (Dodd). He was born June 16, 1949. Rev. Ganzel was just out of college but had 3 years of actual ministerial work. The one thing we all appreciate most is his open countenance, his friendly ways and his good voice in leading the singing and his hearty co-operation with young people, especially, but never shunning the older folks.
His first wedding was June 25, 1950 at the Loami church. The bride and groom were Etta May Dodd and Cecil (Cub) Edwards. It was a beautiful wedding and the ceremony was rendered without criticism.
Dwight was back in 1950, 1951, 1952 and in 1953, but before long he announced he had a call from Nebraska to come back – had finished at Garrett and accepted the call.
Harold Dodson – 1953-1954. He came from Nebraska soon after Ganzel left and stayed until June 8 and was sent to Bluffs and Naples, but he didn’t get out for another week or more. He must have been an educated man, but was looking for folks that had their heads up higher than Loami folks; he never got down to earth until after the rededication of the newly redecorated church. Ganzel was asked to come back and give the sermon of the day. The Ganzel’s and Lemkau’s were so sociable and showed him the pattern we had been used to. He took a tip from them and acted very friendly after that; but asked to leave. His wife was very dissatisfied. They didn’t like the school, the parsonage and she didn’t like the people.
Charles DeLay – June, 1954. He says he is here for service. We’ll see. He knows Bill Bromley and Edd Samples and Mayme knows his brother very well. Said if he is half as nice as he was, he is ok. We’ll see.
(Lucy Eveline Miller Dodd’s last journal entry, dated Feb. 5, 1956, read “married 61 years.” On April 16 of that year, at the age of 81, she had a stroke at the breakfast table. She never spoke again and died peacefully one week later. Her husband James Melvin Dodd died in 1962.)