In 1850 a large number of Amish families migrated from the east and located in the wooded areas along the Mackinaw river. They held to their Amish customs and traditions and had church in their homes.
The first definite step in the formation of the North Danvers church was the settling of Rev. Jonathan Yoder of Mifflin County, Pa. who come to McLean County in the spring of 1851 and with his two sons settled in Dry Grove Township. Since he was the leader of the Amish people for the next twenty years and also became the organizer of the congregation from which the North Danvers church came, his leadership becomes very significant.
After worshipping in homes for about two years with Rev. Yoder as the bishop and leader the group decided to build a church house. This frame building was located at the northeast corner of what later on was the Rock Creek Fair Grounds. This second step in the formation of the North Danvers Church is a very significant and decisive one. This was the first Amish church house in the state of Illinois and one of the very first in the United States. The land for this farm church was given by Joseph Gerber.
A few of the outstanding men interested in the building of this church were Rev. Jonathan Yoder; the deacons Rev. Michael and Rev. Jacob Miller; Joseph Gerber; Joseph Stuckey (later Father Stuckey) and John Strubhar.
This community in which the church was located a territory with a radius of ten miles. To those who are familiar with territory it should be of interest to say that some members came from near Hudson, others from Zook's Crossing, some from close to Eureka and others from south of Danvers. This is the reason for the location of this new church building at Rock Creek. If there were space it would be interesting to discuss the twenty years history of this Yoder church at Rock Creek. The church activities were very few. The important one was the Sunday morning church service. This was a very long service and practically all in the German language. There was occasionally another church activity called a singing class. There was no evening services, no Sunday School, no women's or young people's work. No support of institutions. The membership of this church was about 400 in the period from 1853 to 1872. During this time Joseph Stuckey and John Strubhar were elected for the ministry. They were ordained by Bishop Jonathan Yoder on April 8, 1860. On April 26, 1864, Re. Joseph Stuckey was ordained Bishop by Rev. Yoder.
This frame building at Rock Creek served the church until 1872. This date is a very significant one for the history of the North Danvers church. In the first place Rev. Jonathan Yoder with the other ministers, were getting old and Rev. Joseph Stuckey now began to assume leadership. In the second place Rev. Stuckey was dismissed from the Amish church and the church became independent. In the third place a great change came about economically. The prairie land was drained and railroads were built which meant that families were moving into the territory where the North Danvers church is now located. The church received it's name Mennonite instead of Amish and a new church house was built in the summer of 1872 because this church was located three and one half miles northeast of Danvers and it received the name, North Danvers Mennonite church.
In the fourth place Rev. Joseph Stuckey because of the separation of the North Danvers church from the Amish churches, became the leader of his church but under his influence and leadership, a family of related churches grew up over which he exercised a bishop's care; and these churches looked to him as their spiritual leader. By 1905 twelve churches were considered in a group while by 1915, nine other churches became a part of the family. These churches looked to Rev. Stuckey in a paternal way and they began to call him (Father Stuckey.) These churches became what we called the Central Conference of Mennonites.
Father Stuckey was a man of strong personality and therefore a born leader. He came at a time when, after the death of Rev. Jonathan Yoder the church needed leadership. He was endowed with natural talent in the pulpit which enabled Father Stuckey to mold the religious thinking of the churches of Illinois.
In conclusion, it may be said that Father Stuckey's outstanding qualities were his natural ability for leadership, his pulpit powers, his positive convictions, his great organizing ability and his sympathetic attitude towards people and towards the problems which the church was facing. He was to the Amish of Central Illinois what Menno Simon was to the peaceful group of Anabaptists. He did not establish a new church but organized the forces which were existing and assumed the leadership of a group of people who were with a shepherd.
The church which was erected in 1872 was modeled in 1917 and was made a brick-veneer modern church edifice. The membership of the church in its beginning was about 100. The churches of Congerville, East White Oak, and Carlock found their beginnings in the North Danvers church. The writer wishes to express his appreciation for the opportunity for reviewing this past of the North Danvers Mennonite Church.
In closing the writer should like to give the list of the following brethren as pastors of the North Danvers Mennonite church:
|Rev. Jonathan Yoder||1853 - 1869||Rev. Joseph Stuckey||1860 - 1902|
|Rev. Joash Stutzman||1882 - 1891||Rev. Peter Schantz||1882 - 1892|
|Rev. J.H. King||1892 - 1914||Rev. John Kohler||1899 - 1920|
|Rev. L.B. Haigh||Jan. 1922 - July 1922||Rev. Wm. B. Weaver||July 1,1922 - June 30,1952|
|Rev. Hugo Mireau||1953 - 1955||Rev. Arnold Funk||Sept. 1956-March 1, 1962|
The writer wished to express for the pastor and the church his best wishes and God's richest blessings. May the year 1957 bring to the church larger opportunities for service and deeper spiritual life. O Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.