The M. E. Church, a fine structure, 36×50, with belfry, was built in 1873. under the pastorate of Rev. Job Ingram. The Church numbers about one hundred and fifty members.
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R. E. Moreland came here to live on Section 6 in 1858. At that time, there were only about a dozen voters in the township, and most of them are now gone. He commenced farming in Section 6, but, some years after, located on Section 9, where he now resides. He has a farm of 160 acres, with comfortable buildings. He commenced to buy grain at Belleflower Station as soon as it was established, and has continued in the same business ever since.
At that time, Jesse Richards had a farm. Thomas Green, just deceased, had eighty acres on Section 9. He was a worthy old man, but for some time had been in declining health. His son Thaddeus, who lived near him, was then here.
T. O. Bailey had a farm on Section 6. He was a brother of Washington Bailey, of Downs, and remained here only two or three years.
Moses T. Hall was on Section 5. He was one of the first elected Justices of the Peace. He is now gone.
William Riley came from Ohio to Section 21, in 1855. The only neighbors lie bad in that part of the town were rattlesnakes, who made themselves so familiar on closer acquaintance, that Mr. Riley, who had never seen the like of that in the old country, got fairly disgusted with their frequent visits into his castle, traded off his farm, and left.
George Wheeler was also away out by himself alone for several years, on Section 23, but did not let the snakes or the shakes drive him from his legal rights. He remained there until his death, in 1877.
Daniel Abel was among the first. He settled on a farm in Section 8, and still lives there.
George Youle purchased the R. J. Cheney farm about 1869. He has 1,000 acres in Sections 3, 4, 9 and 10, which are given to raising, grazing and feeding of stock. He buys and ships. He generally has a herd of about three hundred horned cattle, and stall-feeds about one hundred and thirty in a winter. He is a man of large business capacity, and a good manager. His farm is probably one of the best in the township, being diversified and well adapted to every line of husbandry carried on in these parts.
W. A. Latham came here from Ohio about 1866, and has a large farm near the center of the town. He is engaged largely in keeping sheep and bees. He is a practical and enterprising man, and has an excellent farm. Gov. John McNulta has a good section of land in the northern part of the town. ship, which is mostly in pasture.
No resident of the township has more largely filled the requirements which are due from the citizen to his day and generation than Robert E. Guthrie, who now, though still by no means beyond his usefulness, cultivates his quiet farm on Sections 10 and 11. Though not strictly belonging to the history of Belleflower, a short and imperfect sketch of his life and labors must find place here, as a tribute to the pioneer, the faithful son, the Christian preacher, the father, and the citizen, and not more a tribute to a well-spent life, than an example to those who shall read these pages.
Mr. Guthrie came to McLean County with his father in 1826, to move Mrs. Cox to Blooming Grove, whose husband had died after purchasing the Dawson claim, being then seven years old. His father was so straitened in circumstances, that during nearly all his boyhood, he required his work on the farms that he severally worked in different parts of the county. He received only about ten months school in his life – in the schoolhouse-though his life has been largely devoted to study, and he is a man of large information.
He worked for and with his father at the north side of Funk’s Grove, where the C. & A. R. R. enters it, then at the Henry Moots’ place, one mile west of Towanda, then to the Benjamin Ogden place, afterward near Bloomington, where he opened a farm for James Allin, near the present engine house, between Maine and Mason streets, which they farmed for two years, after which, with his father, he engaged in the carpenter and mason trades in Bloomington.
At the age of twenty-two, he believed he should give his life to the preaching of the Gospel. And those who talk nowadays about taking up the Cross, and leaving everything for the service of God, might possibly change their notions in regard to the sacrifices they make, by comparison with the early itinerants. His duties were such that no man, raised under the system of the present day, could stand it. Going from house to house, and from timber point to timber point, preaching daily and nightly, through storm and darkness, through rain and snow, with no time to study except when on horseback, supported by the strong love for souls, by a constant intercourse with God through prayer and meditation, with so little worldly support that, at the end of six years, he was actually obliged to discontinue preaching and go to work on a farm to raise money to pay his debts, resuming service again as soon as he could see his way out. At the beginning, his “salary ” was about $SO. Beecher has been severely criticised for saying that a laboring man ought to get along well and live on $1 per day-if he could not get more. The same men who growled at Beecher, would probably acquiesce if he had said that a clergyman ought to dress well, wax fat until his eyes fairly stick out, and preach eloquently on “two bits” per day. When he was admitted to travel for two years on trial, in 1841, he was examined by the quarterly conference, and recommended to the annual conference, which admitted without the present examination, for in those days conference did not question the spiritual grace of those who sought service in the vineyard at $80 per year and pay their own expenses. Bishop Morris assigned him the first year to the Wauponsett Mission, a three weeks circuit, embracing Indian Grove, Weeds (four miles up the Vermilion River from Pontiac, near the present station of McDowell), Rutterfords (Pontiac), Welman’s (Cornell), Long Point, John Argolright, Barrackman’s (Reading), Phillips (Newtown), Dice’s (below Streator), Vermilionville, Wheatland’s farm, Widon Armstrong’s, South Ottawa, Lewis (twelve miles above Ottawa), Wauponsett (at John Kellogg’s), and on the Mazon, three miles above Sulphur Springs, and other places in Livingston and La Salle Counties as Providence seemed to direct.
After this first year, his field of labor was in the southern part of the State. He served such churches as those at Jacksonville, Springfield, as Presiding Elder of the Quincy District, the church at Decatur, and, in 1858, got back to his old home, among the people with whom he had grown up. He was Presiding Elder of the Bloomington District. In 1862, in response to an almost unanimous call from the men of the Ninetyfourth Regiment, many of whom were members of the churches over which he presided, be accepted the commission and consequent responsibility of Chaplain of that regiment. He carried with him into the service the same earnest and intense desire for the salvation of the impenitent, with a firm faith in the „ Sword of the Lord and of Gideon.”
In 1867, he found himself so broken down in health that he was obliged to ask Conference for relief from ministerial labors, and with his children went to work on his farm in Belleflower. A year later, he was elected Clerk of the Circuit Court, a position which was given him by the citizens of McLean as a slight tribute to a life spent in the service of religion without other reward than an approving conscience, and with a rugged constitution, undimmed by the exacting demands of the cause and the care and anxiety of the responsibility of a large family growing up with no other inheritance than that of love and peace.
Since the spring of 1873, he has lived on his farm, surrounded by and with the aid of his children, making home pleasant with the blessings which flow from well-requited toil and the happiness which springs from religious attention to every duty.
C. W. Atkinson, the present County Clerk, is a son-in-law of Elder Guthrie, and was living in Cheney’s Grove when elected to that office.