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The Lighted Good Shepherd Window At the Minonk Baptist Church

Submitted by Jari Lynn Oncken - December 18, 2017

"They" say that two heads are better than one, especially when trying to think of a certain event or time of its happening. It took Jack Jochums and I a while to figure that our old historical church, the Minonk Baptist, will be 160 years old in 2018. That means it came upon the scene in 1858, four years after the founding of Minonk in 1854! It doesn't seem like ten years have gone by since our exciting 150th celebration in 2008!

We Baptists are as proud of our stained glass windows as other congregations are of theirs. One of our favorite windows is the Good Shepherd window on the south side of the church, the side that faces East 5th Street. This holiday season we can view it in all its glory. We invite you to come by at night and see this beautiful lighted window. The light that illuminates it was given in memory of Noble Cunningham.

The story behind this window is an interesting one. It was given in memory of two of our earliest church families-the Parks and Danforths. Many older Minonk citizens remember some of the Parks family, while there are other residents who are related to these two families, although they do not share the Parks or Danforth surname. > The Good Shepherd window was given as a memorial to the people whose names are listed on it. This large window is really a grouping of three windows in one, with one to the east, one to the middle and one to the west. The Good Shepherd is displayed in the middle. To the east we see the name of E. Horace Coolidge (August 5, 1898-July 6, 1903), the five-year-old son of Edward and Sitka Parks Coolidge. Sitka was the daughter of William and Louisa Davison Parks. Nine-year-old Daniel Parks (May 15, 1865-December 15, 1874), the son of William and Louisa, is also listed in this window.

The picture of the Good Shepherd in the middle was given in memory of Wiliam Alvah Parks (July 6, 1825-January 27, 1875) and Louisa Malinda Davison Parks (December 22, 1828-December 30, 1902) by their five children: Sitka Parks Coolidge, Sarah Parks Mammen, Alvah H., Homer P., and Rufus H. Parks. These three brothers were lifelong members of our church.

William and Louisa were born and married in Renssalaer County, New York, of English descent. Both of their ancestors served in the Revolutionary War. They moved to Belle Plain, Illinois in 1854 and shortly after settled on the home farm 4 ½ miles west of Minonk.
During that time on the prairie there were numerous wild deer, wolves, cranes, wild geese, ducks, prairie chickens, rattlesnakes, frogs, flies, and mosquitoes. There were great ponds of water grown up with flags and bulrushes four to six feet tall.

In the west window are the names of Almon H. (June 24, 1824-March 1, 1909) and Hannah R. Danforth (June 19, 1825-January 15, 1896), with the words: Charter Members 1858. The Danforth family came from England and settled in Dana, Worcester County, Massachusetts.

When Almon was 17 he apprenticed as a tanner. He pursued this career until the spring of 1856 when he and Hannah bought a 160-acre farm in Minonk Township. At that time there was no Baptist church in or near Minonk and since Almon and Hannah thought there was a need for religious training, they formed a Sunday school. It continued until 1858 when they and nine others organized the Baptist church. Then in 1867, Almon and Hannah moved into Minonk where he entered the drug business. Twelve years later in 1879 he became a partner with his nephew C. R. Danforth in the banking business, under the firm name of C. R. Danforth and Co.

When we drive by the Good Shepherd window we may think of the history behind it, of the early settlers of Minonk, and of the different times in which they lived. When we see the picture of Jesus holding the lamb, we see the deeper meaning of Him as our shepherd.

During this season of the year we enjoy the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping followed by the giving and receiving of beautiful Christmas gifts. These events make for wonderful memories, but what makes this time of year so amazing and special is celebrating Jesus' birth, the real meaning of Christmas!


Jeri Oltman: Thank you for this -- very interesting! I have friends among the descendants of both Parks and Danforth families.
Amanda Greenland: Thank you, Jari Lynn for this!