Presbyterian Church rings in Beloit history
The Mitchell County Historical Society was host to their annual "Historical Church Tour" at the Beloit First Presbyterian Church Sunday afternoon, Dec. 2.
The activities began with Museum Director Kyle Peterson providing a review of the church’s history in Mitchell County.
The Church is nine days older than the town of Beloit. It was organized on March of 1872 by Reverend Charles Higgins with thirteen charter members. The Presbyterian Church was the first organized church in Mitchell County. At first, services were held in the building now occupied by the Waconda Trader, 221 S. Mill. They later began holding services in the Methodist Church, 801 N. Bell. As the church grew, the decision was made to have their own house of worship. The land where the current building stands at 321 E. Main, was purchased for $300 on Jan. 1, 1878. Construction began in the spring of 1878 when farmers brought wagons loaded with limestone to town and local volunteers set to work constructing the church building. The total cost of building the new church was $4,500. The first sermon was preached in the new building on Aug. 25, 1878. The first full time pastor, J.A. Pinkerton, was called by the session to serve in Beloit. He served from 1879-1886.
Deb Hadacheck, Commissioned Lay Pastor, then spoke about Presbyterianism is general and the local church specifically. She said that the Presbyterian Church traces its roots to the Protestant Reformation in the 1500's. John Calvin was instrumental in the formation of the Presbyterian religion. Many of the early churches were founded in Scotland where the religion grew rapidly. When Scottish folks migrated to American they brought their religion with them where is was widely accepted. Twelve of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were Presbyterians.
During the 1700's the topic of slavery began to create a split in the church. As time passed the split became more pronounced and problematic. Finally, in 1861 when the Civil War began, the church separated into two parts. Understandably, the churches in the north believed slavery was wrong and those churches in the south supported the institution of slavery. They eventually healed the rift but it took 223 years. The split was resolved in 1983.
Hadacheck said that once the original church building was constructed various additions and enhancements have been undertaken.
The detailed wooded ceiling was completed in 1905. The parlor was added in 1908. In 1913 a parsonage was completed at 310 North Pine. In 1944 this was replaced by the purchase of a house directly across the street to the east. This house was sold about ten years ago. The stained glass windows in the sanctuary were added in the 1950's.
The church bell was the next topic to to be addressed by Hadacheck. It is a part of the facility in which members take great pride. In 1876, to celebrate our nation’s centennial, six bells were cast as exact four-fifths replicas of the liberty bell in Pennsylvania. It was purchased for $500 and arrived in Beloit on March 8, 1879. It weighs 2050 pounds and still rings beautifully. It is the only bell of its type west of Mississippi.
The Church has always taken pride in its emphasis on education. The education wing of the church was built in 1959 which includes classrooms and offices. The church is known for consistently having some of the largest Sunday school classes in the area.
Community service is also an important area of emphasis for the church. They are strong supporters of the CASA program. An outgrowth of that support is their CarePortal program. Often when children are removed from dangerous home situations all they have is the clothes on their backs. The CarePortal solicits donations for clothing and personal care items so that children in need will have at least a change of clothes and items to attend to their cleanliness. Finally the church is a strong supporter of the local Mitchell County Food Pantry program.
Earlene Tice, lifelong member of the Presbyterian Church, spoke about the church organ. Tice said the church’s pipe organ is a 224 pipe Wicks organ with chimes. It was purchased in 1955 from a company in Highland, Illinois for $3,600. She had the original listing of people who donated to the purchase of the organ. Among people on the list was her father.
Tice then gave a presentation of the organ’s sound capabilities assisted by her grandsons. She gave prompts to them to play a certain pipe which they did, going through many of the organ’s pipe tones. Tice then played a short Bach selection.
After the formal presentation the crowd of about 75 people were invited to examine a table of artifacts including photos, newspaper articles, and other printed materials. Many people took the opportunity to go outside and ring the church bell. Generous refreshments were also available.