In the Beginning
William A. Mallory was an evangelist, physician, and Captain of the Company C 114 th Regiment of the Civil War. He resided in the Riverton area and is known to have given the first “sermon” in 1873 in the Village School. People would gather in Dr. Mallory’s home and in the homes and lawns of others to hear him preach the Word. However, the official date for the beginning of what is now known as the “Riverton Christian Church is 1876, when “Elder” Mallory began a series of “meetings” heard multiple confessions of faith, and with around 50 converts, a small building was rented and the regular work of the church began. As needs/situations changed over the next few years, a former butcher shop, the Good Templar’s Hall (also known as the “Bee Hive”), The Riverton Opera House, and the Masons’ Hall would all be used in order to worship! Elder Mallory passed away April 21st, 1884, but not before bringing many people to the Lord!
Tired and frustrated with renting, it was decided the church needed a permanent home! So on August 8th, 1895, the cornerstone of the church was set at the corner of 6th and Jefferson St in Riverton (site of present day Elementary School), on property donated by Jacob Bunn.
Certainly better than renting various rooms around the town, having their own building to worship still wasn’t always easy. Before the church was built, members who wanted to be baptized would do so down in the Sangamon River (present-day member, Marsha Jones, recalls this is how her mother was baptized!) Past member Ernie Knox recalled that even though they did have a baptistery, he had to pump water out of the cistern to fill the baptistery for his own baptism in 1909, and a fire was lit in a small heater so the water would be warm enough for an evening baptism! Records also show that around 1921, depending on the time of year, members would go to the First Christian Church in Springfield to be immersed since there was no good way to heat the water in the church’s baptistery!
Today, it can sometimes be difficult for churches to have enough volunteers to help with the week-to- week operations such as helping in the nursery, greeting guests on a Sunday morning, teaching a class, or preparing communion. However, back in the early years of the church (besides having to pump their own water to fill the baptistery) church families would also volunteer for ‘janitor’ duty for a month at a time. Besides the typical duties of a janitor, this assignment also included “furnace duty,” meaning if it was your month, you’d need to head to the church at 3:30am, build the fire, and return every hour to stoke the furnace so the building would be warm enough for worship service!! But this is what needed to be done in order for the church to continue doing God’s work–so the members gladly did what was needed! We can all be thankful we can fulfill our service to the Lord by simply preparing coffee once a month or helping with the children in Sunday school! No need to get up at 3:00 a.m. now, praise the Lord!
As you can see, the early years of the Riverton Christian Church were not easy. But thanks to the dedication and determination of those who came before us, we now have a beautiful building in which to worship!