HOME » online historical archives » news clipping month index » July, 1940 »

[month index] [previous] [next]

Newspaper Clippings for
July, 1940

loose clipping, source unknown July 1940
Century Old Millburn
Looks to homecoming.
Millburn, settled more than 100 years ago by a band of doughty Scots, will have a homecoming on July 30. Special services will be held at the Congregational church which has been the nerve center of the community's life since its founding in the autumn of 1840 by men and women pledged to honest devotion and sincere piety.
Yellowed records that tell the story of the community which took its name from gristmills and the sawmill on the "burn" or creek, will be displayed at the homecoming being arranged by the Rev. L. H. Messersmith, pastor.
There will be pictures of the first meeting house with its small window and stick-and-dirt chimney, of the second and larger meeting house built in 1867 and remodeled in 1887 and again in 1905 with its spire which was admired from afar by the members whose farms dotted the countryside.
Church Transposed
The building, so proudly erected and so lovingly cared for, was destroyed by fire in 1935 and was replaced the following year by the Third Congregational church of Oak Park, moved piece by piece to Millburn after it had been given to the members by the Chicago Congregational union--not a coffee pot nor a dish was left behind as members loaded windows, pews, pianos and chairs on trucks to set up church-keeping again in the little community near Waukegan.
The Rev. Norman Rice, pastor from 1923 to 1925, will come from his home in Grand Forks, N.D. for the celebration. He was pastor at the church. Following his ordination, he went to South Africa where he served two seven-year periods as a missionary.
Through the years, the country church played its part in the nation as the story of the middle western United States unfolded around it. From the time the glowing "America" letters and handbills brought immigrants to the new world and to Illinois and Wisconsin, through wars, through years of plenty and years of depression, the little church at Millburn played its part.
There were whispers that Millburn was a station on the underground railroad and that the trustees or deacons may have opened the church to runaway slaves traveling "underground" toward Canada and emancipation. Some have linked Millburn with the Galesburg Congregational church, now respectably well known, as a depot on the underground. That the church had very definite convictions of the slavery issue is shown in the resolution passed on Feb. 7, 1853:
"Whereas, there exists a great system of slavery in the republic, a great system of oppression which deprives millions of our fellow beings of the civil, social and moral rights and privileges which God granted to all the human family--therefore, be it firmly resolved that as the church of Jesus Christ we feel by a sense of duty to our Divine Master and the love of both masters and slaves, to withhold all acts of human fellowship from those who live in the practice of this sin till they manifest repentance by undoing the heavy burdens, breaking every yoke and letting the oppressed go free."
Repentance was stern business in Millburn in those days. The church chastised members who strayed from the straight and narrow path. Woe be unto him who used spirits or bad language!
A record of June, 1860, sets forth the fact that a committee of deacons had called on a member whose conduct had attracted the attention of the church. The first report stated that he received them kingly and "acknowledged that he drank and gave away spirits and used profane language." After an admonition, he was visited again in an effort to bring him to repentance. This failed, and on July 2, 1860, "it was moved and carried that he should be cut from communion till he repent and acknowledged his fault to the church."
Singing was purely a congregational function in the early days of the church, although records show that a few citizens had been asked to superintend the singing and choosing of hymns. "Ungodly" and sacrilegious" were some of the terms used by the stern pioneers at the suggestion of using a flute or other instrument to lead the singing.
However, there were some stout souls who leaned toward an organ and their triumph was recorded tersely in 1867 when the minutes stated "It was moved and carried that the choir be allowed to use an organ at the dedication service." In 1888, a ponderous Steinway was acquired by the Ladies' Aid society, with the help of all organizations of the church. This was replaced in 1901 with one which survived the fire of 1934 and is still in the church.
The coming of the railroad--with milk trains of the Milwaukee-Chicago market--the telephone, automobiles and highways brought their changes to the rural community.
The office of Dr. Homer Jamison became the "central" of the village telephone system and "Mrs. Doctor," who guided the musical life of the community for several decades, relayed the messages.
That the church has been active in the social and economic as well as the spiritual life of the community is shown by the fact that in 1936 and 37 the Federal Security Administration of the department of agriculture located the Lake county subsistence homestead project largely within the parish of the Millburn church. Over 20 families with young children, seeking the advantages of rural life began to become a part of the community.
Many residents who have moved away will return for the home-coming which will begin with a special service at the church, followed by a potluck dinner provided by members of the congregation. The rest of the day will be spent in visiting old friends, viewing the exhibits of pictures and records and living again some of the experiences of a wealthy past.
[month index] [previous] [next]