History of Riverton Christian Church
Written on the 100th Anniversary by an Unknown Author:
In the summer of 1873, using Acts 5: 38-39 has his text, Dr. William A. Mallory, physician and evangelist, delivered the first discourse in the Village School House. That autumn, Louisa Runkles was the first to make conversion and be baptized.
Meetings for public worship had been held in schoolhouses in the neighborhood of Riverton for years. Dr. Mallory’s home was Howlett. Hereafter Dr. Mallory will be referred to as Elder Mallory.
January 1876, Elder Mallory began a series of meetings and called to his assistance James Logan, Elder of Edinburg, Illinois. Twenty confessions were heard and baptized in Clear Lake. 16 others transferred. With about 50 converts to Christ a small building was rented and regular church work began.
The 2nd Lord’s Day, March 1876, the congregation met for the first time for communion. Breaking the bread and partaking of the cup. Our greatest need is a house of worship.
April 1877, a room was hired (formerly a butcher shop), two confessions were heard with baptisms in the creek near the coal shaft.
May 1877, congregation rented Good Templars’ Hall (building also known as the Bee Hive) paying $2.00 per month. In 1877, 25 members were added. A good Sunday School was organized.
Jan., 1878, congregation met and commemorated the death of our Saviour by breaking bread and partaking of the cup. Congregation resolved to have a festival towards raising money to procure another meeting place. Profit of Festival was $98.27. The Riverton Opera House was rented for 26 Sundays for $75.00, with the privilege of having it every night of the week, when not otherwise occupied at $2.88 a night.
Jan. 3rd Lord’s Day, congregation met for first time in Opera Hall hearing one confession.
December 1879, Temperance Hall was again rented at $4.00 per month.
February 5, 1880, 2 town lots, 14 and 15, were presented by Jacob Bunn to the Christian Church of Riverton. A building committee was appointed: Uriah Mann, Thomas A. King, Sr., E.H. Agee, Elder Mallory, and W.G. Greening, to ascertain price of lumber and the probably cost of building, OUR GREAT NEED BEING A BUILDING. (However, it was impossible to build at that time)
During 1881 services were held 4 times by Elder Mallory.
June 1882, Sunday School was reorganized with James A. Large (who had been set apart as an Evangelist and Deacon in Sept.) lead the congregation in a series of meetings gaining converts and having good results.
Feb. 20, 1884, a business meeting was called and the sisters organized a sewing society as a means of helping the erection of a church.
April 20, 1884, no morning services in order to give members the opportunity to attend the funeral of their beloved and lamented pastor and leader, Elder William A. Mallory, physician and evangelist, who preached for years. The death of Elder Mallory proved a severe loss to the congregation. Over 1000 people attended his funeral. Elder Mallory was laid to rest in Oak Hill Cemetery, Decatur, Road.
1891, Mr. Briney of Springfield held a series of meetings in a room in the home of Henry Kizer, 5 converts were added.
Spring of 1893, Bro. Robinson of Mt. Pulaski held a series of meetings on Sunday afternoons on the lawns and groves of the members. People flocked to hear him.
November 8, 1894, members of the Christian Church met at the Town Hall to discuss ways and means towards raising money to defray the expense of a protracted meeting. $42.00 was raised. The meeting began the following Sunday evening led by Bro. Sutherland of Niantic. Meeting lasted 6 weeks during which 83 members were added. At the close of the meeting a board of officers was elected: B.V. Cone,
Charles E. Hunt, and William Ellison, as Elders. John Ward, B.F. Flagg, Horace Haugh, and Will Todd, as Deacons. S.J. Runkles, Henry Cooper, and William Dunaway, as Trustees. Mrs. Henry Cooper as Treasurer. Mrs. Etta White as Clerk. The Masons Hall was rented for every alternate Sunday and Bro. Sutherland was secured as Pastor.
March 8, 1895, another building committee was appointed for the erection of a Church building: Henry Cooper, William Dunaway, and S.J. Runkles. The week following the congregation met at the Town Hall to select a plan for the Church building. The plans drawn by William Runkles were adopted. The Christian Church, Sixth and Jefferson Street, Riverton, Ill., was built in 1895. Fifteen years after the property was donated by Jacob Bunn.
About the turn of the century one member of the congregation recalls having attended Sunday School at the Catholic Church because of the fire in the Christian Church. This fire destroyed all previous Church records.
In 1909, Bro. Larrimore served as full time minister. He resided in Riverton. The attendance was about 100. This was the year that Hazel Hewitt, our oldest active member, accepted her Lord and was baptized.
In 1911 Lawrence Powell was immersed into Christ.
Special Programs were an interesting part of the Church. The Children’s Day Program stands out in the memories of the people. The children would practice for it weeks ahead of time. It was held the first Sunday in June.
1921 was a red letter year as far as the Church was concerned. Evangelist O.C. Bohman held a three week revival during January, with 35 additions. Five of these ladies are still active in the Church. They are:
Ruby Gant, Grace McAvin, Elsie Powell, Mary Trotter, and Helen Wilson. Because of the time of year and the lack of a way to heat the water in the baptistry, they went to the First Christian Church in Springfield to be immersed.
In 1926 the bell tower was added to the Church and the bell installed.
The Christian Co-Workers, a quilting group was started Feb. 20, 1884, as a means of helping the erection of a Church Building. Sometimes 25 or 30 women were present. They met on Thursdays to quilt and tie comforts. During the depression when a nickel was hard to get, these ladies served meals to the teachers from the grade school next door to make money. The annual “chicken fry” was the big money raising event. This is how the insurance and upkeep on the building was paid. Before the “chicken fry” they would either buy or have donated money for chicken. Everything else was solicited. This was done from people of all churches, not just ours. The whole town co-operated. Likewise, the Catholic and Methodist Churches solicited for their dinners. Two days ahead of time the men and women would meet at the church or the slaughter house. They would kill and clean the chickens. The next day of working together was getting ready for serving. The girls helped serve. People would come from all around. The reputation of these ladies, as good cooks, was known throughout the area. Sometimes Bressmers’ Dept. Store would charter a car on the Interurban just to bring their employees to dinner. People would bring their baskets and take the food home. Meals were sent to the Power House and the Coal Mine. The price of the meals is believed to have been $.50 each. These ladies were instrumental in keeping our Church going. They bottled grape juice to be used for the communion and even as late as 1955 some of these ladies were helping to serve communion. The ladies outnumbered the men in faithful attendance.
The janitor work was done by the congregation. One family this month – another family the next. The furnace was used only when necessary. On Thursday, when the ladies met, the pipes to the upstairs were turned off, so as not to waste heat. On a typical Sunday, if you had janitor duty, you could expect to get up at 3:30 a.m., build the fire and stoke it. Then return every hour to check the furnace. That way the Church was warm for Worship Service.
The church was served by various ministers during the years before 1945, most from Springfield or the University of Illinois. The students from the U of I would commute on the Interurban, preach, have dinner with one of the families of the congregation and return in the evening to Champaign. Their pay was the collection. Sometimes it was only enough for car fare.
Mr. Lavern Taylor, minister of the Westside Church in Springfield, held several revivals at Riverton. He was available to help whenever the congregation really needed him.
Eddie Knox recalls the day of his baptism, in 1929. He made his confession in the morning service. He had to pump the baptistry full with water out of the cistern. The fire was built in the little heater, so the water was warm enough by evening for the baptism.
1940’s Our first two “Timothys” were ordained, Harold and Robert Powell, twin sons of Mr. & Mrs. Ralph Powell.
“The Church That Cares”
In the Middle 1950’s “THE CHURCH THAT CARES” became the theme of the Riverton Christian Church. These years were busy. Many improvements were made on the building. New lights and windows installed, the inside stairway finished, song books and racks, baptismal robes, baptistry drapes, and a new baptistry tank. Many people remember the beautiful picture painted behind the tank by Miss Margaret Kelly of the Lincoln Bible Institute. The outside of the building was painted and repaired by the men of the church. Robert Knox was minister at this time.
In 1954, the Friendship Class began a monthly church paper. First editors were Helen Anning and Mary Kay White. Some will recall the fun and fellowship that was enjoyed along with the many hours of work.
The paper is still printed each month.
In 1955, a parsonage was purchased at 9th and Washington Street, Riverton, Illinois, for the amount of
$3,500.00 and was renewed for about $1,000.00 by the Church.
1956 the Lord blessed our congregation with the addition of many souls. Four new classrooms were built.
Sunday School attendance reached 170. Evening worship 90. Youth meetings numbered 60 in attendance.
Leroy McGeath, another “Timothy” was ordained.
1957 Elders voted to pay half the tuition for all children going to camp. Church attendance surpassed 200. A nursery was built over the south steps.
1958 35 people left to start the Elm Street Church.
1961 The dream of a Christian nursing home was born in the mind of Leroy McGeath.
1962 Another “Timothy”, James Orme, was ordained.
February 21, 1965, congregation approved the purchase of the Powell property for new building sight located at 7th and Allen Drive, Riverton, Illinois. This 4.3 acres cost $8,000.00. Construction on the 12,000 sq. ft. building began July, 1966. Ron Collins was minister.
August 1965, 240 was the highest attendance count that year. As the number of souls were increased, this congregation accepted the offer of $12,000.00 from the Riverton School District #42 for the Church Building and property. This old building was torn down and an extension was made to the grade school.
Their new rooms were the Band room and Kindergarten room.
Someone recalls hearing Janet Richardson (now deceased) tell of being held on someone’s shoulder at the dedication of the first building in 1895.
Goodman Church Builders of Joplin, Mo., was the general contractor for this new worship auditorium and classroom complex costing $138,000.00, mortgaged for 20 years. Sanctuary and choir will seat 342. With folding doors open to the fellowship hall, the seating capacity is 600. There are 19 areas for Sunday School class locations, pastor’s study, secretaries office, 5 restrooms, and kitchen.
August 1967, helpers and students for Vacation Bible School enjoyed the spacious, air-conditioned classrooms for the first time.
About 1971 the ladies began their volunteer work at the Christian nursing home in Lincoln.
Bob Szoke, Richard Hurt, Charles Bennett, Rick Van Meter, and Paula Roscetti, all “Timothys” graduated from Lincoln.
Throughout the years the missionary giving has increased. We have sent several of our “Timothys” to the mission field. Max Johnson is now minister.
April 8, 1973, the old parsonage, 129 North 9th Street, Riverton, was sold for $10,000.00. Part of the land was retained for construction of the new parsonage, 820 East Washington Street, Riverton, Illinois. Armstrong Builders designed and built the home for $25,000.00. $10,000.00 was mortgaged for 20 years.
1974 a choir was formed under the direction of Mrs. Wendell Turley. It has continued to grow and has presented two cantatas and many specials.
1975 The Lay Witness Mission was held. Dinners were prepared for the Senior citizens of the area.
1976 A record church attendance of 326 was set.