Richland County

1909 M. E. Church of Olney

The Sunday School

By Eudora Ratcliffe

THE first organized Sunday School in Olney, Illinois, was the Methodist in the winter of 1842-1843, the time when the little log church was built. In the earliest days Jonas Notestine was superintendent. James Urie, Thomas and Catherine Ratcliffe were prominent workers, the last named having been primary teacher before her marriage. No records of how long that school continued are available, nor any until a much later date.

In 1860 G. D. Morrison was superintendent. Before and after that date J. H. Gunn filled that office. Robert Marney was secretary in early years, but the exact date is unknown. In 1863 we find from Secretary J. M. Price's minutes, there was a well-organized Sunday School with a corps of four officers and sixteen teachers, and an average attendance of one hundred and sixty nine for that year.

March 1st, 1863, the School was resolved into an auxiliary to the Missionary Society and called the Sunday School Missionary Society, with J. H. Gunn, president; Rev. G. D. Morrison, vice-president; J. M. Price, secretary; Rev. C. Babbitt, treasurer. The names of Wm. Bower and Aden Knoph are mentioned several times as secretaries pro tem. An account of books loaned and returned shows the School owned a library. Memorizing Scripture was a specialty, more than two thousand verses having been recited some Sabbaths.

The number of women who attended then was far in excess of the men. We might attribute that to the unsettled state of the country, because of the Civil War, if conditions had not remained much the same until now that the adult bible class movement has become popular. There are no records from September 24th, 1876 (but the School was never disorganized), when officers, teacher and scholars names are given to the number of three hundred and fifty. May 22nd, 1882, the name was changed to Olney Methodist Episcopal Sunday School, and a constitution was adopted. From that time more complete records have been kept.

If we were to undertake to pay tribute to all faithful officers and teachers of our School during all the years of its existence it would make a volume too bulky for our purpose. Their names are in the histories deposited in the corner stone of our new Methodist Episcopal Church, and their deeds no human can record. Let it suffice to give names of superintendents: Jonas Notestine, 1842 ___; G. D. Morrison, 1860 ___; J. H. Gunn, 1863 ___, 1876-1884; H. J. B. Wright, 1885-1886; D. F. Houser, 1887-1888; G. D. Slanker, 1888-1893; John Howe, 1894-1895; C. N. Edmiston, 1895-1896; N. L. Crout, 1896-1909.

Previous to February 17th, 1895, records show the School convened in the afternoon. At that time it was changed to 9:30 A. M. Since its organization there has never been a time when we need feel anything but pride in our Sunday School. It has been good, now we are enjoying one of the better times and hoping and striving for the best. There was never a better showing than now, with a men's class numbering eighty-five; a women's class numbering seventy-six; a primary department of seventy; officers and teachers, forty; and total membership of about five hundred.

The use of the Loyal Army system of keeping records, introduced under Mr. Crout's superintendency, has inspired prompt and faithful attendance. Every year numbers have earned diplomas, to which a seal has been affixed each successive year, if earned. In addition, for five consecutive years of faithfulness, bibles were given, many receiving them. Nineteen scholars continued to receive seals regularly up to ten years, which we consider a wonderful record, for it means they have been regular in attendance; have studied the lessons, and given an offering, thus receiving the required number of credits. The tenth year each of those nineteen persons were given a beautiful gold pin made for such a purpose, similar to college class pins. That system is still in use and records indicate a number will be entitled to bibles and some to pins at the close of this year.

A feeling of sadness prevailed last summer when our superintendent, N. L. Crout, moved to the northwest after fifteen years of faithful and successful Sunday School work. To him belongs the honor, largely, of the best School up to the present time. The earnest zeal shown by our assistant superintendent, Dr. J. S. Wright, in coming to our rescue, indicates who will be the natural choice of the Sunday School board for superintendent at the time of the annual election.

The following yell adopted by our School reveals our hopeful outlook for the future:

Illinois, Illinois,
My! My! My!
Illinois, Illinois,
Dry! Dry! Dry!
Illinois, Illinois, When? When? When?
Illinois, Illinois,
Nine-teen Ten!!

Beside the other departments, there is the one for the shut-ins, those who for any reason cannot attend the main School. This was organized in connection with our School, January, 1897, with twenty-seven members, and C. N. Edmiston, superintendent. From that it grew under different officers to a membership of one hundred and seventeen. Many of the members have entered the main School and new ones gained, leaving a membership of eighty-four. One of the best workers in the Home Department for a number of years was Mrs. Henry Alley, as secretary. The officers at this time are: President, Mrs. O. M. Conklin; Secretary, Mrs. E. F. Shipp.

Primary Department of the Sunday School

By Mrs. Hattie Kitchell

WE have not been able to find accurate record and date of the first organization of the Primary Department, but think it was some months after the dedication of the church. As memory serves Miss Lizzie Carrothers, now Mrs. Humes Baker; then Miss Mary Spring, now Mrs. Thomas Scott, taught the little ones. As the class grew larger Mrs. Hattie Kitchell and Mrs. Calvin Scott were appointed. Afterwards by changes in classes and teachers the record states that in 1874 Mrs. Littel and Miss Mary Jones taught the class. After a time, date not found, Mrs. Hattie Kitchell with Miss Ella Nall as assistant, were placed in charge of the class. We find no record of the changes or appointments until we come to the year 1885, when, at the annual meeting of the Sunday School board, Mrs. Hattie Kitchell was elected Primary Superintendent with Miss Lula Cliffe, now Mrs. M. D. Foster, as assistant, and at this date are still together in this blessed work.

In the summer of 1900 we organized our "Cradle-Roll" class in which we keep our babies until they are three years old, when we promote them to the Primary proper; this baby class is a great pleasure to us. They have their regular certificates of membership endorsed by teacher, superintendent and pastor. From ten to twelve years of age the children are promoted to the intermediate department of the school. We use the blackboard and picture roll illustrations observe the birthday offering and the children feel it quite an honor to sit in the birthday chair. They are delighted with their "Loyal S. S. Army" certificates of merit, by which a number have earned Bibles. The special days in our course are observed by the children, and each Sabbath, lesion papers are distributed. All through the years, pastors, superintendents and officers of the school kindly and generously furnished the needed supplies, and have been helpful in every possible way. As the years have passed our dear Heavenly Father has taken some of our little ones to be at home with Him, but the greater number have passed into the Sunday School proper, and very many into Church membership, and have gone out in different avenues of life to fill useful and honorable positions, and we as teachers feel it a great privilege and blessing to be connected with this department of our Church. Jesus said, "Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven."

Number of scholars in Primary class . . . . 70
Number of scholars in Cradle roll . . . . . . 23

The Choir

By Mrs. James F. Phillips

THE first historical reference to Methodist singing is, that in 1850, at a meeting held at the home of Brother Richard Phillips, "The woods fairly rang with Hymns of Praise."

In 1853 some of the Church people desired to improve the singing and introduce the use of notes. This caused great dissatisfaction, and was the beginning of a "Musical War," which lasted several years. Those favoring the introduction of note books were Jonas Notestine, E. W. Ridgway, G. D. Morrison, G. W. Carrothers, J. T. Shaw and John H. Gunn. In 1856 the ill-feeling had subsided and a Choir was organized with Wm. Robinson as leader. He was followed by Mr. Bonticue, then J. H. Gunn.

In 1875, D. L. Edmiston became leader. The death of this dearly beloved leader in 1887 was a severe blow, and sad loss to the Choir. Mr. J. H. Gunn took up the work laid down by "Brother Dan" and acted as leader until we had recovered enough to select a new one.

After much persuasion Mr. Ed B. Shaw consented to assume the responsibility. He was unanimously elected and for fourteen years was a most efficient choir leader. Unselfish, a personal friend of each member of his choir, and untiring in his devotion to all choir interests, he won the sincere love of all. At his death, in 1901, we felt we could hardly sustain such a loss and still exist as a choir, but his oft repeated remark. "Don't disband. Fourteen of the best years of my life are in that choir, and it is the best monument I shall ever have," held us together. During his illness, Mr. Shaw conferred with Mr. August Busefink in regard to choir matters, and Mr. Busefink acted as leader for him.

When the time came to select a new leader, after Mr. Shaw's death, Mr. Busefink was the natural choice of the choir. He was selected without a dissenting voice, and served well and faithfully for three years. At the expiration of that time he felt his business cares were too great for him to give the necessary time to choir work and he resigned the leadership. After a few months our choice fell upon our present leader, Mrs. E. B. Shaw. What more fitting and more beautiful than for her to carry on the work so dearly loved by her husband.

Her objections were overcome, and she was finally prevailed upon to accept the office. In January, 1905, she was unanimously elected leader, and since that time has filled the position so exceptionally well, that she has proved herself inspired by a desire to please more than mere mortals. Perfect harmony exists among pastor, leader and choir.

It is impossible to give a full list of persons belonging to the Choir, during all these years, for the membership was constantly changing, always some one dropping out and others joining us. Old Choir members are scattered far and wide, and some have attained distinction as evangelistic and concert singers. In the course of the years the Choir has been truly blessed by the assistance of good organists. Those filling this position have been Miss Lizzie Hofman. Miss Mary Spring, Mrs. Wm. Cobbs, Mrs. W. A. Thompson, the Misses Ida Cliffe, Alice Nall, Adah Knoph, Ethel Spring, Elizabeth Logan, Effie Hum, Christmas Gould, Martha Gould, Bess Wharf, Lula White and Francis Phillips.

In the last year of his leadership, or about 1900, Mr. Shaw organized a chorus of young voices. This organization has held together, and under the direction of various leaders, has developed into our efficient night chorus. In the fifty-two years of its existence, the Olney Methodist Episcopal Choir has never been disorganized. The church has always had a Choir ready to meet all requirements, and to fulfill all demands. Neither have they ever called on the Official Board for pecuniary help, furnishing their own music; and their work being purely voluntary their service has been truly a service of love.

Extracted 21 Apr 2017 by Norma Hass from Historical Sketch of the First Methodist Episcopal Church of Olney, Illinois, 1841-1909.


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