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Biography of Rev. J. W. Riley

Rev. J. W. Riley, Pastor Missionary Baptist Church, Mattoon; was born in Clermont Co., Ohio, Nov. 9, 1823; his ancestral line, traced through five preceding generations have been ministers in the Baptist Church; his father’s family furnished six ministers to the society, himself and five sons. From an historical record gathered from time to time, it was ascertained that the family of near relatives have furnished thirteen ministers of the Gospel; ten of these are Baptists, two Methodists and one Christian. His father, Rev. J. W. Riley, Sr., founded the first Missionary Baptist Church in all this section; this was at Bloomfield, Edgar Co., as early as 1835. Out of that grew the Bloomfield Baptist Association, which is today one of the largest in the State. His early life was spent upon the farm and in attendance upon school; at the age of 15 years, he became a member of the church, and soon after began to take part in its public exercises; he was ordained to the ministry April 26, 1845. He was married in 1843, to Olive J. Crouch, a native of Clermont Co., Ohio; she died April 4, 1855. His second marriage occurred Sept. 7, 1856, to Sarah A. Vance, of Licking Co., Ohio; she was educated at Granville College, Ohio. From first wedlock he reared five children – three sons and two daughters; from second, two sons. He came to Mattoon in November, 1864, and most of the time since has been Pastor of the Church. About the year 1866 or 1867, his health having become impaired, be went South and spent some time recruiting; on his return, he was engaged most of the time for three years writing and compiling a work called U. S. A., the World’s Empire Passing from Prophecy to History; this is a work of 413 pages, and is highly spoken of by eminent scholars and critics. His theological studies were prosecuted under Elders Jones and Cox, graduates of Granville College.

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