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100 Years Ago - The Baptist Church and Minonk

Submitted by Jari Lynn Oncken - May 02, 2008

One hundred years ago the present First Baptist Church building was erected.

Can you imagine what life was like back in 1907-08? Some have no idea while others have a good inkling.

Here are some articles to help answer that question. C. R. Denson editor of the Minonk Dispatch in 1907-08 published the Minonk Directory which included street addresses and a short history of Minonk.

At that time Minonk had eight churches, two schools and many clubs and societies. Minonk was the biggest city and the best market and financial center of Woodford County. The newspapers were the Minonk Dispatch, C. R. Denson editor, and the Minonk News, George Werkheiser editor.

Minonk's coal mine was operated by Sutton and Webber and employed 200 men. The brick yards did a great business with many employees. Priebe-Simater Produce shipped out via the railroads more live and dressed poultry than any place in the state.

Minonk was also known for its large mercantile stores. The town was located on two lines of the Illinois Central Railroad and on the Pekin branch of the Santa Fe Railroad. Every building on the three blocks of Chestnut, two blocks of 5th and two blocks of Oak were filled with businesses.

The best place to find out the happenings of people in Minonk in 1907-08 is to look in the old Minonk Dispatch newspapers. Let us delve into the everday lives of our former church members.

In the March 28,1907 newspaper it was reported that the Baptist ladies were going to have an exchange on Saturday, March 30 at Pickard's store. Then on April 5 they would hold their annual sale of aprons and other household items at the home of Mrs. Millard. Refreshments woul be served and a silver offering taken. Everyone was invited.

As stated in the June 27 paper the contract for the construction of the new Baptist church was let. Contractor George Smith of Streator was hired to erect the buioding for $12,000 which would not include the heating plant, plumbing or electric lights, etc.

It would be made of dark brick and be completed in January of 1908. The congregation planned to meet one more time in the old building.

As reported in the July 6 paper Minonk was planning a street fair to run from August 5-12. The committee hired the great Cosmopolitan Shows. It was the best traveling amusement with many attractions including Outlaw Shows, Wild Animal Show, Arkansas Minstrels, Venetian Glass Blowers, Crazy Horse, the Smallest Horse alive and a Ferris Wheel. Railroad rates were to be reduced.

According to the Minonk Dispatch of July 25 the Union Sunday School picnic at Long Point grove on the 19th was less than a success. It was a rainy morning with clearing in the afternoon. Only 75 members from the Baptist, Presbyterian and Methodist churches attended. A few drove over while the the majority went by rail.

During the day three 5-inning baseball games were played. In the first game the Baptists won 4 to 2 over the Presbyterians. Then the Baptists beat the Methodists 4 to 2. Second place was secured by the Presbyterians over the Methodists 10 to 2.

Other sporting events which separated the men from the boys included the 100 yard dash, shot put, ball throwing, standing jump and running broad jump. The high jump and hammer throw were just for the men.

The train arrived before all events could be played. Scores were tallied showing that the Baptists had won with 51 points over the Presbyterians 46 and Methodists 19.

Later in the year in the December 19, 1907 paper it told of the Baptist Sunday School Christmas Eve entertainment at the Eagles hall. There would be a Christmas tree and decorations. After the opening services the young people would present their Christmas Contata entitled "Santa Claus the Second".

In the July 9, 1908 Minonk Dispatch was the article telling of Minonk's 4th of July celebration which was the most successful from a financial standpoint. Several thousand visitors came from neighboring villages, cities and rural areas. The events of the day included an automobile parade, free street performances and music by the Rutland and Benson bands.

As reported in the July 16 paper Rev. McCormick started a new custom at the Baptist church by removing his coat. He asked all other men to do so if they wished. The idea was a good one considering how fast coats came off.

The 1908 Union Sunday School picnic at Long Point grove on Friday, August 21 was a huge success. The August 27 paper stated that 200 tickets were sold at the Santa Fe depot in Minonk while an estimated 75 drove over in buggies, etc. The weather was beautiful.

The ballgame played in the morning was between the Presbyterians and the Methodists with the Presbyterians winning 12 to 9. In the afternoon game the Baptists won over the Christians 12 to 3. Following were the foot races, high jumps, pole vaulting, ladies races, ball throwing contests, etc.

The Presbyterians won the meet with 38 points to the Baptists 35, Christians 29 and Methodists 24. The Baptist Ladies Aid Society's moneymaker was reported in the September 3 paper. On the first of September the ladies shipped their collection of old newspapers and magazines which weighed between 4 and 5 tons. They were expecting to get from 35 to 60 cents per 100 lbs. The freight
rate to Chicage was 33 cents per 100 lbs. So their profit was small.

The last articles found were in the December 24, 1908 newspaper. The first one told of the upcoming dedication of the new church building. It would be held on Sunday, January 3, 1909 with an address by Judson Thomas of Chicago. Construction lasted for over a year and many thought it was one of the finest to be found anywhere.
In the same paper it stated that the Baptist Sunday School would have its Christmas Contata entitled "Christmas with the Pixies".

Can you relate to these events? Would it have been fun to live back in those days? Some say life was simpler then, some say harder. Learning about the lives of former church members may put more meaning into the First Baptist's 150th celebration (April 20, 2008).