A look at
Minonk's past
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by Barth Weistart


There was an Advent Church in Minonk in the 1880's about which not much is known. I haven't been able to locate any pictures of the Church. The land around the Church was a swamp area and in later years required much fill to make the land liveable. Houses in the area and the Church were built on stilts.

Almost A Goner

The Advent or "Swan" church had a narrow escape from being burnt up on Tuesday evening last about 7 o'clock. A passer-by discovered smoke issuing from the rear of the building and gave the alarm. The church is built in a swampy neighborhood and rests on upright posts. It was one of these posts at the west end that was found to be on fire, near the ground, and is a few minutes more the flames would have reached the church, with the certainty of its being consumed. Fred Wendland's house on the south and a small frame on the north might have shared the same fate. The church was not insured.
The grounds around the church are resorted to by a lot of very young boys, who put in their time in playing and smoking; and it is supposed after lighting one of their stubs (picked up at the back of saloons), the match was thrown in the grass alongside the post, setting it on fire. At any rate, the city had a narrow escape from a big fire by the criminal carelessness of some young hoodlum, and a watch should be kept on them.

The Minonk News
August 12, 1887

Advent churches active during this period were the "Advents" Seventh Day Adventist, the Episcopal Advents, and the Advent Lutheran. The Seventh Day Adventist were mainly an eastern church and not this far west in the 1800's. Of the other two, my guess would be that this was an Advent Lutheran Church.

Flooding was a problem for a long time at the north end of Walnut where the church was located. I recall problems of basement flooding along Chestnut into the 1940's. A Minonk resident told me that substantial amounts of dirt were brought in to fill the swampy area.

Page 2

Today homes have been built on the swamp and this is a thriving part of the City. We think it is full time for the City Council to take energetic steps towards draining the district around the Advent church. As we write, the ground on each side of the church for a block or two is covered with from one to two feet of water, even flooding the basements of the houses fronting on Chestnut street. Two or three times lately this neighborhood has had to suffer for want of a sufficient outlet for the water which comes from the mill pond and the district adjoining. The tile drain running east from the Advent church is altogether too small for the purpose. It should be at least double the present size. The damage inflicted by the overflow on Mr. Maurer and other parties owning buildings abutting on the alley back of Chestnut street, is considerable, and the taxpayer should have all the relief possible. It is a shame, in a city where so much money is raised by taxation, that such a state of affairs should exist.

The Minonk News
June 1, 1888


There was a black church in Minonk. It was the Shiloh Baptist Church. The Church was for blacks who would have been working at the mine and brick yards. Some undoubtedly had other jobs around town, but there were enough people to support a church. Homes for blacks working at the brickyards were located on the west side of Maple near the cemetery. Mine workers lived in homes near the mine on the land now called Sutton's Park. The church appears to have been active. As was the custom in earlier days a camp meeting was held. A tent was set up and chairs used for pews. The speakers were usually outstanding and souls were saved. The meetings were a full day service. Camp meetings usually revived a people and gave them hope-something we could use today. A colored camp meeting opens in the grove at the north end of Walnut street, on Saturday morning next, and be continued on Sunday. Praise meeting in the morning; preaching at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.; song service at 5 p.m.; preaching at 7:45 p.m. Rev, J. L. Dent and J. M. Williams are the managers. They go to Mendota on Monday.

The Minonk News
September 7, 1888

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The concert and dramatic entertainment by the colored camp meeting folks which was billed to come off on Monday night at the grove, owing to the coldness of the weather was held in Shiloh Baptist church. There were very few in attendance to enthuse the performers, and the receipts would hardly furnish the rosin for the fiddler's bow.

The Minonk News
September 21, 1888

During the Civil War slaves began crossing over to the Union lines. There were so many the line officers had to find a solution. Secretary Of War Stanton had camps set up to house the former slaves. One such camp was just outside of Cairo, Illinois. The camp grew and shortly its population also became a problem. Food and other supplies needed for the war effort were being sent to the camps to maintain the former slaves. In September, 1862, Secretary Stanton issued orders that groups of the former slaves should be disbursed to towns in Illinois.
There were State statutes at the time that said free blacks could not settle in Illinois. Four days after Stantons order, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. The citizens of Illinois felt that there was a conspiracy to introduce blacks into Illinois. It became such an issue that it affected the republican party in the following election.

The former slaves were relegated to whatever jobs they could find. These jobs included the coal mines, brick yards, railroads, janitorial, and odd jobs people might have. Releasing the former slaves was most likely how Minonk attained its early black population. Within the twenty years following the Civil War, some would have come to the area looking for a decent salary with which to raise their families. As the demand for coal decreased the need for workers likewise declined. The black population moved on to more industrialized areas and work.