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It seems fitting on this the sixtieth anniversary of the organization of the Millburn Church to take note of the passing years, and to call to mind some of the things the Lord has wrought through His people. For six decades, two generations, the Millburn Church has stood as a beacon light, calling to every one and leading every one to a truer and better life.
Millburn has always been like a little portion of Scotland transplanted to America, so largely were our early settlers from that country. Men that had the enterprise and courage to attempt founding homes in a new country, and in a strange land, could never fail.
It needed industry and courage such as theirs to set in motion the forces necessary to develop a new country, and taking nature at first hand wrest from it the beautiful farms we see lying all around us. They were wise men and laid foundations deep and broad, so we who come after and reap the benefits of their labors, feel to exclaim with Paul, "We are citizens of no mean country."
In many respects they were ideal men, strong in their individual characters, proving themselves equal to emergencies, enduring bravely and cheerfully the strain and hardships incident to pioneer life. Yes, more than that, they were quick to see and improve their opportunities. Having strong religions convictions and the courage of them, a church was formed at an early date, thus centering "public opinion," that mighty force, and utilizing it for the uplifting and upbuilding of that which is good, and against the powers of evil. By so doing no saloon with its attendant train of evils has ever cursed our village; the Sabbath was remembered and kept holy, and the influence for miles around was felt as setting a high moral standard. It was the warp and woof of the community, cementing together and making the friendships of those early days strong and enduring. It has been a beacon light for sixty years, being organized in the Fall of 1840, by the Rev. Flavel Bascom of Chicago, acting as agent for the Home Missionary Society. It was not, however, till the Spring of 1842 that the organizationwas completed by the Rev. E. G. Howe, of Waukegan. It necessarily had the Congregational form of government, as many different denominations were represented, but all could unite on that basis. There were sixteen charter members, all of whom "Do rest from their labors and their works do follow them." Rev. Mr. Howe accepted the invitation to hold preaching services once in four weeks, which he did for two years. A log building answered the two-fold purpose of church and school house, and stood very near Mr. Robert Strang's home. Religious services of some kind were held every Sabbath. About this time we became connected with the "Fox River Union," but when in 1852 it divided we changed to the Elgin Association, continuing in that connection till in 1868, when we again changed to the Chicago Association, and continue to remain a member of that body.
Our pastor for the next year was a Mr. Parker, from Oberlin, supplying till the latter part of 1844, when the Rev. W. B. Dodge, of Salem, Mass., coming to make his home here commenced immediately his "Father's work," but his formal installation as pastor was deferred till the new "meeting house," which was being erected across the street on land donated by Mr. George Strang, and where our present church now stands, was completed. It is probable the society was formed about this time to supplement the church in sustaining religious services, as it appears recorded "It being mutually agreed by church and society that our meeting house shall be dedicated and our pastor installed on the first day of June, 1847." That relationship existed for years. It is said "Father Dodge," as he is familiarly called, planted his stake, and from that out in every direction his parish extended. He was interested in every man, woman and child. It is not too much to say Millburn owes more to him than to any other one man. Many years of faithful service in the formative period left its impress which nothing can efface. The dead line of today seemed not to have been in force then, as he was sixty-one years of age when he commenced this, the crowning work of his active and useful life, for which he had been eminently fitted both by birth and training, being a direct descendant of a long and honored line of English ancestry, the seventh generation from their removal from Cheshire, England.
He was converted at the early age of eleven years, and continued to live an earnest, active Christian life. His occupation for nearly forty years was that of teaching. He entered heartily into all reforms as they claimed his attention and support. In his hospitable home many temperance advocates and anti-slavery agents found a welcome. From here started many an oppressed slave on the underground railway for the land of freedom. Therefore it is not surprising to find the church under his leadership giving no uncertain sounds as to its testimony against slavery, that "system of iniquity," as it appears on the records, also pledging themselves to abstain from intoxicating liquors as a beverage, and for many years standing opposed to secret societies. The children of the church were taught the catechism, he devoting his Saturday afternoons to hearing them recite, and when committed to memory presenting them with a Bible. Many of these Bibles with our names written in them by him, are still to be found in our homes. While it is distinctively as a leader in building up the religious sentiment of the community he is remembered among us, he also used his influence and "sanctified common sense" when questions arose, as they necessarily must in a new settlement, demanding wise and judicious handling. Many cases of dispute were brought before him and amicably settled without recourse to law. When the necessity for protection against fire came to the front, he was very influential in organizing the Millburn Mutual Insurance Company, which has the distinction of being the oldest mutual company in the state, and working under a special charter granted by the state legislature.
But the years pass, and as we draw near the close of this pastorate, let us take a backward glance, for right at this period seems the dividing line between the old and the new.
'Tis a goodly company we see gathering from all directions on Sabbath morning. The old church is crowded. They are all there. Mr. Pollock, our first deacon, a man of most excellent spirit and judgment, a tower of strength; Deacon Bonner, who never tired in his efforts to find room and make welcome all who came, no one will ever know the sacrifices he made for this church and what it represented. Deacon Yule, consecrated and scholarly-oh! what reminiscences and possibilities are in that little church.
It was customary to stand during prayer and sit while singing. With hand uplifted the "grand old man" would say, "Let us invoke divine blessing;" thus would the services be opened. And then announcing a hymn from "Watts and Select," he would say, "Let us praise God by singing." Mr. G. E. Smith would start the tune (for instruments of music had not then been introduced in the worship of God), the congregation joining, and thus together they sang the songs of Zion though in a strange land. There were two sessions - forenoon and afternoon, but no evening service. The Sabbath school was held after the morning service. For years Father Dodge was our superintendent. And how he worked to build it up. He would stand at the old church door and invite, urge and plead for people to come in, and he was so successful that he was accustomed to say the Sabbath school equaled his congregation in numbers.
What an army of faithful teachers that school has had. The "infant class" being highly favored in having the same teacher, Mrs. John Strang, or "Aunt Helen," as she is always called, for nearly fifty years.
But even now the eagle is stirring up her nest. There has been a time of gathering together, and now comes the time of scattering abroad. From New York to California, Honolulu and the Philippines, that Sabbath school is represented. Many that have gone out from it are filling honored positions. Ministers of the same old Gospel, re-telling the story of "Jesus and His love." Rev. A. R. Thaine, D. D., W. B. D. Gray, T. L. Smith and George White. Teachers, among whom are Margaret Lawrence of Tabor College, Iowa, Frank White of the Phillippines, and Dr. Mary Barry of Honolulu. "The Lord shall count when He writeth up the people, that this man was born there."
To again make reference to our records, we find in the latter part of 1862, owing to the increasing infirmities of age, "Father Dodge" asked to be released from his labors as pastor, which request was granted. For a few years longer he dwelt among us, but for a generation he has slept with his fathers. The shaft that marks his resting place is still exhorting us to "Remember the words I spake while I was yet with you."
In the closing years of Father Dodge's ministry the Civil War broke out in our land. We were a patriotic people, loyal to our country, hating wrong and oppression. At the sound of the "battle cry" and the call "to arms," our hearts all throbbed as one for our country's cause. The church building was thrown open, there the people gathered and after fervent prayers for divine guidance, the serious questions in regard to the state of our Nation were discussed. In it were held "War meetings" where recruiting officers plead our country's needs to crowds of assembled people (both of men and women) and within those sacred walls some of our "brave boys" enlisted to join the great army to help put down the Rebellion.
In January, 1863, Rev. Calvin Selden came to be our Pastor, and supplied the pulpit till May, 1864. He was a good man and a true, and now remembered by many, as faithful in his Master's work. September first, 1864, in answer to the prayers of His people here, God sent to us Rev. Mr. Bross, a man in whom the Spirit of the Lord was. Under his ministry, during the winter of 1864 and '65 there came a great revival into the hearts of the people, special interest manifesting itself first at a cottage prayer meeting at Deacon Bonner's, about the last of Dec., 1864.
The meetings were soon transferred to the Dodge school house and from there to the church. The whole region became interested. Old and young came up to the house of the Lord, crying, "What shall we do to be saved?" The Spirit came and dwelt among us and was glorified. Thirty-three united with the church at the communion March fourth, 1865.
In 1864 the old house which had served as a place of worship since the beginning of Father Dodge's ministry, now proved inadequate for the growing congregation. A much larger house was built during the pastorate of Rev. Mr. Bross.
One of the striking scenes when the new church was dedicated was a procession going from the old to the new building, led by Father Dodge with the old Bible, and the young man, Mr. Bross, with the new Bible, both marching up the aisle and up to the new pulpit, where the new Bible was given its honored place, and the old on the shelf beneath. Great was the joy of this new house, and its service has been constant and uplifting ever since.
Great changes were wrought in the passing years of Mr. Bross' stay with us. Our hearts had become warmed and knit by the common interest we all felt for our country in her great conflict. Many of our dear ones had gone out to defend her stars and stripes, even our beloved pastor had just come from the battle-field, so there was a bond of sympathy between us from the very first, that grew stronger as we united in the Christian warfare and knelt together at the feet of the "Captain of our Salvation." The war closed the following June, and some of our brave, victorious men who wore the blue returned and joyously were they welcomed here in Millburn by those (none of the less heroic perhaps) who of necessity remained at home and watched and waited and prayed all through that dreadful siege. "And yet-and yet we cannot forget" those heroes who came to us no more, who yielded up their lives on the field of carnage for "God and home and native land." On March fourth, 1866, just one year after the great revival harvest five of those returned soldiers, with some others, espoused the Lord's cause and united with the church. Still the work of the Lord grew and His name was magnified.
Mr. Bross was indefatigable in his labors. Kindly, social and earnest, he was a great friend with us all. Cottage prayer meetings were established in every neighborhood, carried on principally by the young people who had so recently come to know the Lord. These meetings were kept up for several years, and were of great interest and profit to all who attended them.
Mr. Bross came to us a widower with two little children. On September fourth, 1865, he was united in marriage with Miss Lydia Johnson, of Fremont, one of our local teachers, who had taken up her work among us for a time. After their marriage, the house which is now G. C. Dodge's home, was secured for a parsonage. There they built up a new home and he carried on his blessed work with us. Through his efforts under the divine Master numbers were added to the church from time to time of "such as should be saved." In the Summer of 1866 the present house of worship was built, and great was our rejoicing when we first gathered within its walls to praise the Lord. Mr. Bross continued his labors of love with us till May, 1867, when he was called to a new field. He went from here to Ottumwa, Iowa, from there to Crete, Neb., and then to other fields. For some years he has been Missionary Supt. of the state of Neb., doing faithful, efficient work for the Master. He now resides at Lincoln, Neb. Many, oh, so many of our dear ones who used to gather Sabbath after Sabbath in our house of worship have gone to the church triumphant to sing praises with the redeemed ones at the Saviour's feet; others are scattered here and there over the land, many earnestly striving to lead others to the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Now seeing we remain to testify of these things, "what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness?" It was difficult for us to find a satisfactory successor to Mr. Bross, so attached had the people become to him. But in the following September, they united in giving a call to the Rev. Thomas Lightbody, who accepted it and was installed as pastor. That relationship continued for nearly three years. It is to him that we are indebted for the establishing of the Lake Co. conference of Congregational churches, which we have found so pleasant and helpful. It still has its place on our church calendar, similar to "Jewish Feast of Tabernacles" in the olden times. In the month of June, in rotation, the Lake County Congregational churches, Waukegan, Rockefeller, Ivanhoe, Grayslake and Millburn entertain or are entertained, thereby cultivating a social and religious interest in each other. Removing from Millburn to Lamoile, Ill., Mr. Lightbody soon afterward "entered into rest," the second one of our pastors, beside Father Dodge, to be called home.
For somewhat more than a year after Mr. Lightbody's removal we had only supplies. Mr. Noyes, a student from the Seminary during the Summer, and Mr. E. B. Payne, son of Rev. Joseph H. Payne, one of Lake County's pioneer ministers, took up the work till the following Spring, when Rev. J. H. Parker came and supplied for two years, but his health failed and he was obliged to resign. Rev. W. B. Millard filled the pulpit for the next year, or until the early part of 1874; but we needed a pastor to dwell among us. Accordingly a call was extended to and accepted by the Rev. C. M. Bingham, who for nearly six years faithfully served us in that capacity, making many friends, and who still has a warm place in the hearts of his former parishioners. His family were the first to occupy the new parsonage. Our church work had another avenue opened during this pastorate, by the organizing of a missionary society, which has proved wonderfully successful. Hundreds of dollars have been gathered and sent on their way to publish the "Glad tidings" in the dark places of the earth through this channel. He was called from here to Daytona, Fla., where he is still preaching the "Old, old story of Jesus and His love." Rev. James M. Campbell was his successor. He had literary ability, not only preaching the Gospel from the pulpit, but reaching a larger audience with his pen, "Unto the Uttermost" being one of his best known works. It was through his influence and efforts we were able to secure lecturers of ability, and for a number of years we had a course of high grade entertainments, the proceeds being used for the establishing of a Public Library. Scotland being his native country, he naturally found many friends here, who sincerely regretted that he felt called to a new field after being with us for little more than two years, leaving us in March of 1883 for Watertown, Wis. We were favored, however, in securing thc Rev. Victor F. Clark that same Spring, a young man just graduated from the Seminary. He was ordained among us, and his enthusiasm and comradeship with the young people gave him large success in winning them for Christ. More were added to our church during his pastorate than during any other, with the exception of Mr. Bross.
Much sympathy was felt for him as the "Angel of Death" hovered over his home, finally bearing away his young wife. Her life still bears fruit among us as we recall her efforts in the cause of Foreign Missions even after sickness had laid a heavy hand upon her. Mr. Clark having cherished the desire for further study, after he had laid her to rest in her native state (Iowa), felt the time had come for the fulfillment of that hope, and went to Princeton, New Jersey, for that purpose. In the Summer of 1887 Rev. N. A. Millard was called, and for the three following years was our pastor. The organization of the "Christian Endeavor Society" here marked his stay among us.
His home being in Chicago, where the evening of his life is being spent, he often comes to visit his old field, always manifesting a kindly interest in our welfare, and ministering to us from time to time as we have need, thus strengthening the ties formed in other days when he dwelt among us. In the Fall of 1890 he was succeeded by Dr. S. G. Arnett, who was with us for nearly three years, removing at the end of that time to Aurora, Mo. After that for about seven years our pulpit was filled by Rev. Sheldon A. Harris, now of Dwight, Ill.
In the Fall of that year Mr. A. C. Bowdish from the Seminary came as supply till the commencing of the New Year, when he was followed by Rev. G. A. Mitchell, who is still with us.
In summing up our record we find since the installation of "Father Dodge" we have had twelve pastors, three of whom have "entered into rest." Two were installed, and two were ordained among us.
Our records hear the same familiar names that appeared on their pages in the beginning, even to the fourth generation, proving the "Promise is to you and your children." And behold I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to give to every man according as his work shall be. Blessed are they that do His commandments that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
Mr. D. J. Minto,
Mrs. D. J. Minto,
Mrs. Robert Strang, Sr.,
Mrs. R. Pantall,
Mr. George C. Dodge,
Mrs. George Dodge Jamieson,