As far as known, Reverend Seacrist was the first Lutheran minister who
preached the gospel to the scattered Lutherans in Richland county, Illinois.
He was succeeded by Rev. Daniel Scherer, who labored faithfully among the
people, preaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments. His field,
however, being so large he called his son, Jacob, from Gettysburg to his
assistance, who preached at Olney and various other places in the county.
Services in this neighborhood were first held in David Phillip's barn. In 1842 St. James congregation was organized, and in 1844 a hewn log church was erected in the northeast corner of Olney township, about one and one-fourth miles from the present house of worship. This log church is still in a fair state of preservation.
Rev. Gottlieb Lauener became minister in 1852, and Rev. Conrad Kuhl in 1856, Rev. William Hunderdose and Rev. G. Berwick supplied the congregation. In 1858 Reverend Abele became pastor and labored a few years for them, until 1859,
In 1860 Rev. D. D. Schwartz and in 1861 Rev. Killiam Earth preacher for them. In 1862 Reverend Schnur took charge and continued as pastor until 1867, when a serious difficulty having arisen in the congregation in regard to the propriety of holding protracted meetings and some other things he, with thirty-five members, withdrew from the congregation and formed another church more in accord to their views. They built a church only a mile from the St. James. They continued to hold services for several years. But from some cause or other the congregation has become extinct and the church edifice has been sold and is in Claremont used as a warehouse by a grain dealer.
It was during the time that Reverend Schnur was pastor that the St. James church and the one near Olney united by general agreement and consent, determined to build a new house of worship, as the log church was too small. After some delay on account of a disagreement about the site, a new frame structure was erected on the present site in 1863. This was made possible through the zeal of the members who donated timber and labor. The timbers were hewn poles and the plastering laths were split out by hand. The finishing lumber was brought from Mt. Carmel, Illinois, a distance of thirty miles. It was also during Reverend Schnur's pastorate that the congregation secured an acre of ground near the church and erected a two-story house for a parsonage. After Reverend Schnur resigned. Reverend Harkey was called as pastor in 1867. and continued to serve them until his death in 1875. It was while he was pastor that the congregation made application to the Indiana Synod, now Chicago Synod, and were received as members-of that body in 1874. Reverend Harkey was also received. He with the congregation had formerly belonged to the Lutheran Synod of Illinois. While Reverend Harkey was pastor, Trinity church, near Lancaster, and St. James, formed one pastorate. But after his death, the Lancaster church withdrew and joined the central synod of Illinois. The congregation was vacant now until March, 1876, when Reverend Laner became pastor and served until December 29, 1878, when he resigned and they were without pastoral care until Reverend Hursh, Versailles. Ohio, was called and became pastor in 1880. He continued to serve them until 1894, when he became disabled on account of old age and disease. During his service the congregation continued to prosper spiritually. The preaching was held in both German and English language, but the German was discontinued at the end of his pastorate. In 1882, on account of crop failure, the congregation was excused from the payment of their apportionment, and were also granted one hundred dollars this year as a supplement to their pastor's salary. This was petitioned for by the congregation. Reverend Hursh continued to live in the parsonage until his death in 1897. In 1896, Rev. J. M. G. Sappenfield began to supply the St. James church in connection with Union, Gila, Illinois. He continued as supply until he was called and became regular pastor in 1901, being installed that same year by the president of the synod Rev. M. L. Wagner.
The congregation at its annual meeting on New Year's day, 1904, decided to erect a new church. A building committee was chosen, consisting of G. Hanes, W. Hanes, J. P. Xanders, Frederick Scherer and Caleb Buss. The pastor was made chairman of the committee. A soliciting committee, consisting of the trustees, J. Mosser, Levi Phillips and Charles Stangel, were chosen to secure the necessary funds and H. Burgener and Edward Buss, a committee to get donations. The plan was drawn up by the pastor for a building, the audienceroom thirty by fifty and Sunday school room sixteen by thirty feet, the windows to be Gothic, and ceiling to be arched in the audience room: a pulpit recess in the north end, the main entrance to be in the tower. But before the building was begun the pastor was taken away by death and also G. Hanes, one of the building committee. The congregation now set about to secure another pastor. A call was extended to Rev. J. V. Sappenfield, residing at Corydon, Indiana, a son of their late lamented pastor, in March, 1904. He accepted the call and entered upon the work in May, 1904.
The congregation now determined to begin the erection of the church. Specifications were made according to the plans of the former pastor, and the contract for the erection of the building was let to John Beck, a member of the church. On September 12. 1904, the old church was torn down and the erection of the new church began on the same site. The corner stone was laid by the president of synod, Rev. H. Peters, of Decatur, Illinois, assisted by Rev. J. Knauer and the pastor, on October 23, 1904. On Christmas morning, 1904, the first services were held and it has been used ever since. The church was finished in May, 1905, and dedicated October 22, 1905. The furniture consists of lecturn, pulpit, pews, organ and chairs for Sunday school.
The pastor, Rev. J. V. Sappenfield, resigned and left the field in December, 1906, leaving the congregation vacant until March, 1908, when Rev. John Knauer was called, who is now in charge of the field, and also serves Gila and Wheeler, Illinois.
Extracted 21 May 2019 by Norma Hass from 1909 Biographical and Reminiscent History of Richland, Clay and Marion Counties, Illinois, pages 465-467.