In the Beginning
According to Mr. and Mrs. John Pence in the 1930 souvenir booklet, Golden Jubilee, the first Sunday School was organized about the year of 1860, at the Buffalo Prairie school house, district No. 99. Most of the time Sunday School was held there until the year, or about the year of 1868. Then the Buffalo Prairie Union Church was built and the Sunday School was reorganized at that time, with Philip Besser acting as superintendent. Mrs. Caroline Kimball wrote, in A History of North Buffalo Sunday School, that “they were too far from church to attend as they didn't have automobiles and very few buggies. They talked over forming a Sunday School "and Mrs. Potter asked each family in the district to come and help organize one. When we met, we waited for Mrs. Potter to come. Soon we saw her coming across the field. We could see her sunbonnet and white apron blowing in the wind."
The Golden Jubilee (a souvenir of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Drury and Buffalo Prairie Township Sunday School Picnic Association - held in Mrs. William Powell's Grove near Illinois City on September 6th, 1930) continued "The following superintendents in order carried on the work: E.M. Castle, Rev. John Lutz, E. P. Pike, Thompson Boney, Samuel Burrows, Fred Swanson, Edward Potter, John Pence, Henry Mundrich, Ruth Lutz, Mrs. George Lutz, Mrs. Bert Denning, Mrs. W. Claude Harris, William Kistler, and Mrs. B. V. Marquis. The total enrollment for the year beginning 1930 - 105."
"On April 8, 1949, the congregation voted to move the building to the present location - land willed to the church through the Pence family. Serving on the building committee were Lytle Nelson, Luman Elliott, Boyd Kimball, Floy Marston, and Bessie Whitney. The moved church was remodeled at a cost of $31,000. The remodeling consisted of an extension off the side which about doubled its capacity. The interior, with exception of the balcony, very closely resembled the present church structure. Many of the exterior features on the east side were similar. The church was jubilant as it rang in the new year January 1, 1950 with a Dedication Service.
All of this hard work of moving and remodeling appeared in vain, however, on the morning of May 4, 1950. About 8 to 9 o'clock, lightning ran into the church on the electric and telephone wires, setting fire to the building. Very few items were saved from the burning structure, but those that were saved included the pulpit Bible, the pulpit, and the front doors. The surrounding community and churches of many different faiths felt the loss of their Buffalo Prairie brethren. Contributions of money and materials came from these churches, some even out of state. It was noted that even some transients stopped by and made contributions. Only five days later, the congregation voted to rebuild on the same location, with the original building committee serving again. The one exception was Luman Elliott, who could not serve due to his wife's illness. Glen Boruff was named in his place."
Reverend Donald L. Cooper, minister from 1957-1962, noted in his 1962 brief history of the Church that "The Buffalo Prairie Presbyterian Church was organized by Rock River Presbytery on October 25,1876.
Its charter members transferred from three other Presbyterian churches as follows: Hamlet Mr. George Platt, Mrs. Adeline Platt, Mr. James McGirmis, and Mrs. Nancy McGinnis; Edgington Mr. John Pence, Miss Maggie Pence, Miss Rebecca Pence, Mr. Samuel Sloan, Mrs. Mary Sloan, Mr. Edward Castle, and Mrs. Nancy Tuppert, Center (Seaton) Mrs. M. N. Lutz." (Further record of people associated with the church can be found on the two quilts we have, where you paid to have your name embroidered on the quilt. We also printed a birthday and anniversary calendar, everyone paying to have his special date listed and then, of course, the calendars were sold.)
He continued, "The newly organized church was located on a site about 250 feet west of the Standard Oil (now Blick's) storage tanks and about 60 feet back off the road. This would be in reference to the cross-road of Buffalo Prairie about 1/2 mile west."
"During the early life of the church, the building was shared with a Methodist Congregation; the Presbyterians and the Methodists holding different hours of worship. It was referred to during this period as the 'Union Church.' Some time later, the Methodist Conference turned their share of interest in the building over to the Presbyterians, with their congregation meeting in the Hazel Dell Church. The structure of the Union Church was wood frame; a one floor plan, with a small alcove added to the front. It seated approximately 150 persons."
Some churches held showers of money and equipment for our women's organization. The community dug their heels in and came up with many fund-raising activities. Several chicken dressing sessions were held, with the chicken served the next night at a chicken supper held at Lake Nelson. The Rock Island Argus reported that we had dressed 170 chickens and served 550 people. We also ran a cafeteria at the Mercer County Fair in both 1950 and 1951, where we served three meals a day. Several of our members slept above the cafeteria and the others went in shifts, bringing pies, etc. from those at home. As completion of our second building approached, we knew we needed carpet runners for the hardwood floors. This was beyond our budget, so approximately 600 pounds of wool clothing were collected and sent to Olson Rug Company, who wove these into our runners for about $575.
We did have some money from property willed to the Church by the Pence family for the maintenance of the Church and support of the pastor. We secured permission from Presbytery to loan this money to ourselves for rebuilding, with a schedule of repayment of both principal and interest.
Heinz Jescke (who had married Alta Potter from this community and had worked for the original contracting company, Crowes ofMuscatine) took the challenge of striking out on his own and agreed to build our present brick structure. We joyfully dedicated this new structure on Easter Sunday, March 25, 1952. We feel safe in saying very few churches have the distinction of being a church that has moved, remodeled, and completely rebuilt within a little less than two years.
The Traditions Continue
Various fund-raising activities helped us meet our budget each year. For a few years in the early 1950's, we held a Lord's Acre project where the land we owned surrounding the Church was planted in corn. In late fall, we held a corn picking day, where the men gathered to harvest the corn. It was then auctioned off, as were various other donated items. The women, of course, served lunch for the group. We have manned many lunch stands at farm sales, sometimes almost freezing and other times under very warm conditions. Many suppers have been served for various commercial businesses. After the success of our chicken supper at Lake Nelson, as soon as we were in our own church basement, we started our annual Labor Day chicken supper. It continued until 1999 when health restrictions caused us to discontinue this 49 year old tradition. We have also published two pictorial directories of our members and three cookbooks; the cookbooks being a money making activity.
In 2000, we began holding bake sales at the annual Rhubarb Fest in Aledo. During the last eleven years, this has become quite an event in the community.
For many years, Memorial Day Services were held at the Church on Sunday afternoon with various speakers, often politicians up for election. In the last few years, we have made this a part of our church service, concluding our service at the Buffalo Prairie Cemetery.
The Church has had "various traditions celebrated through the years. For example, whenever a member's son or daughter is getting married, we give the bride a bridal shower. The Women's Association also sent many Christmas packages to our boys in the Service through the years. We still send Christmas baskets to local friends in nursing homes. Our Church members also try to visit these nursing homes once a month and put on a Sunday worship service. We also go Christmas caroling to both them and other shut-ins at Christmas.
One of our oldest traditions is our Maundy Thursday supper, after which we hold a candlelight Communion Service. In 1974 we held our first Christmas Eve Candlelight Service which continues to this day.
Original Church building used until it was moved in 1949.
The Buffalo Prairie Presbyterian Church after it was moved 1/2 mile to the east and remodeled. Picture taken January 1, 1950, the day of the Dedication Service.
Hundreds of people looked on as flames consumed the Buffalo Prairie Presbyterian Church. Firemen from New Boston, Sherrard, Aledo, Joy, and Reynolds fought the blaze.
Members of the building committee check notes on the progress of their new building that is replacing a newly renovated building that was destroyed by a fire earlier that year. Pictured Left to Right: Glen W. Boruff, Mrs. Perry Whitney, Boyd Kimball, Mrs. Elmo Marston, and Lyle Nelson.
Picture of the Church shortly after it was erected
Music for Sunday worship has changed as well. Many years ago there was instrumental music, with Jesse and Ira Boney playing clarinets, Benjamin Burrows playing coronet, Nellie Denning on violin, and Mary Marquis accompanying them on the piano. Now we depend on our faithful choir to lead us in our singing.
Children's programs have always been a part of the church activities. Originally, these were just Children's Day programs held in June. Later these programs were the culmination of the Bible School activities. Of course, there is the usual Christmas program with Santa Claus attending and bringing treats.
In 1950, five couples who had been married 50 years started holding a Golden Anniversary dinner. The first was a potluck dinner held at the Antioch Baptist Church at Marston. Then the tradition of alternating with our church was started. Every other year we host this group of Golden Anniversary couples. This is quite a select group to belong to.