From Pittsfield travel East on Highway 106 approximately 7 miles to the town of Detroit. Make a left on Milton St and travel approximately 4-5 miles. The church and cemetery will be on your left.
Bethel Church & Cemetery
Bethel Church History
The religious history of the Bethel neighborhood dates back to the beginnings of Pike County. Lewis Allen and Jesse Elledge, grandsons of the Boones, were preaching in the cabins of the early settlers as early as 1822. This area was part of the Atlas Methodist Circuit which was the first circuit formed between the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. Peter Cartwright and other circuit riders often preached in area homes. Rebecca Burlend writes of the “shouting Methodists” in her book, A True Picture of Emigration. By 1841, a dozen or so Methodists in Newburg township were meeting together to worship in the homes of William Scholl, George Lytle, and Richard Wade. A camp meeting was held on Blue River in 1842 where about 50 Methodists were converted.
In May of 1843, a number of men who saw the need for a permanent house of worship, met at Richard Wade’s home. They decided to provide the raw materials and labor, while Mr. Wade provided the land. John Dimmitt and Richard Wade made the shingles, Manley Thomas sawed the lumber, and Martin Anthony, Nathan Jester, Calvin Hanley, and others hewed the timbers. By December 1843, the church was completed and dedicated. The church measured 30 by 36 feet with 12 foot ceilings, 3 windows on each side, and 2 windows on each end with double doors opening from the east.
Two names were suggested for the church. John Dimmitt suggested “Olive Branch” and “Bethel” was suggested by George Lytle. Bethel was selected by the congregation. Bethel Chapel was the name of the Methodist Church in Ross County, Ohio where the Lytles had lived before coming to Illinois.
This simple church served their needs until 1883 when the present church was built. In 1881, Rev. Thomas D. Weems was appointed to the Bethel Charge. He soon convinced the members that a new church was needed. By February 1883, there were enough pledges for the new church to be built by Arch Campbell and son of Griggsville. The new church was 32 by 55 feet with audience room, two classrooms, gallery, and vestibule entrance. The total cost of the church and furnishings was $3,544.80.
Bethel Church thrived and became the community center of the neighborhood for many years. But by 1933, Bethel Church membership had dwindled to 53. The first Homecoming was held August 27, 1933 to celebrate the 90th year of Bethel Church history and the 50th anniversary of the present church. By 1937, services were no longer held except for the Homecoming. In 1944, the Methodist Conference proposed to sell the building. The community objected and the Conference deeded the church to the Cemetery Association.
The traditional Homecoming for the descendants of the pioneers and the Bethel community continues every year. It is held the third Sunday in August with a basket dinner at noon and a church service following in the historic church. Once again the sweet sounds of old hymns echo through the Bethel neighborhood.
Bethel Cemetery History
The first Bethel Methodist Church was built in 1843 by families who had been meeting in homes in the area. The members saw a need for a permanent house of worship. They decided to provide the raw materials, labor, and Richard Wade donated the land. John Dimmit and Richard Wade made the shingles, Manley Thomas sawed the lumber, and Martin Anthony, Nathan Jester, Calvin Hanley, and others hewed the timbers. The completed church measured 30 by 36 feet with 12 foot ceilings, 3 windows on each side and 2 windows on each end with double doors opening from the west. This church served their needs for forty years until 1883 when the present church was built. The present church is much the same as it was in 1883. It has never had modern conveniences such as electricity or plumbing.
Bethel Church is surrounded by Bethel Cemetery. There were burials here before the church was built. On an early cemetery map, there is an area designated as unmarked graves. In about 1841, a child from a Lytle family was killed by a panther and is buried in one of these unmarked graves. Manley Thomas died on March 30, 1844. His was the first marked grave. War of 1812 soldier, Josias Wade died on April 15, 1844 and his grave was the second. Another 1812 soldier, John Pearcy, who died May 1, 1835, was buried elsewhere and was moved to Bethel.
John (1783-1871) and Rebecca Burlend (1793-1872)
John and Rebecca Burlend were early settlers in the Bethel community. They arrived from England in the fall of 1831. They had read letters sent to a neighbor, John Bickerdike, from his brother George in America and decided to better the prospects for their family by immigrating to Pike County. In 1848 Rebecca wrote “A True Picture of Emigration” which was published in England by their oldest son Edward who had stayed in England This book is still in print.
Their children were Mary (1815-1889) who married Luke Yelliott (1804-1885), Hannah (1823-1913) who married Thomas Dalby (1821-1904), Charlotte (1826-1878) who married Daniel Burns (1828-1912), Sarah (1828-1893) who married Francis Allen (1829-1874), and William (1831-1900) who married Elizabeth Bickerdike (1828-1910). John and Rebecca Burlend, all their children, and their spouses are buried in Bethel cemetery.
Manley Thomas (1804-1844)
Manley Thomas was born in Ohio on July 11, 1804. He is listed in the 1830 Census of Morgan County, Illinois. During the Black Hawk War, he served as a private in Captain McDow’s Company of the 1st Regiment of Illinois Mounted Volunteers from June-July, 1831. He also served in Captain Gordon’s Company of the Illinois Mounted Volunteer Militia from April-July, 1832. On December 12, 1833 he married Nancy Findley in Greene County, Illinois. She had been born in Tennessee.
Manley Thomas purchased land in Section 16 of Newburg Township, Pike County, Illinois in October, 1835. This land is about 3 miles from Bethel. He was a founding member of the Bethel Church in 1842. He and Nancy were converted at a camp meeting on Blue River as Big Blue Creek was called in those days. He was on the first board of trustees and sawed the lumber for the first Bethel Church.
Manley Thomas employed the services of a young lawyer by the name of Abraham Lincoln to represent him to appeal a judgment by the JP Court to the Pike County Circuit Court. He lost the appeal.
Manley Thomas died March 3, 1844 and his was the first marked burial in Bethel Cemetery.
The Civil War Monument honoring four Civil War Soldiers
Samuel Anthony (1843-1863)
Samuel Anthony was born near Bethel Church on June 26, 1843, the son of Martin and Mary (Polly) Pearcy Anthony. He enlisted in Company H, 73rd Illinois Infantry on August 21, 1862. He was 19 years old, 5 feet 9 1/2 inches tall with brown hair, hazel eyes, and dark complexion. Samuel was single and listed his occupation as farmer. He was killed at the Battle of Chickamauga on September 20, 1863.
Samuel’s father Martin Anthony purchased the lot where the Civil War Soldiers’ Monument is standing.
David Pearcy (1842-1862)
David Pearcy was born August 23, 1842 in the Bethel Church neighborhood. He was the son of Algernon and Rebecca Burns Pearcy and grandson of John Pearcy who died in 1835. Algernon Pearcy died June 8, 1845 and Rebecca Burns Pearcy died soon after. David and his sister, Rebecca, went to live with their mother’s parents Daniel and Elanor Burns. By 1860, David was working for Uriah Elledge as a farm hand.
On August 12, 1861, David mustered into Company K, 2nd Illinois Cavalry. He was listed as 19 years of age, 6 feet tall with fair hair, dark eyes, and fair complexion. He died in Paducah, Kentucky on March 17, 1862.
David Pearcy and Samuel Anthony were first cousins.
George Bickerdike (1832-1862)
George Bickerdike was born on February 4, 1832 in Thorner, Yorkshire, England, the son of .John and Hannah Briggs Bickerdike. He was one of nine children. The family came from England to Pike County on June 12, 1843.
On August 12, 1862, he mustered into Company K, 2nd Illinois Cavalry. He was listed as 28 years of age, 5 feet 10 inches tall with dark hair, hazel eyes, and fair complexion. He was killed on December 20, 1862 at the Battle of Holly Springs, Mississippi.
On August 21, 1862 three of George’s brothers mustered in Company H, 73rd Illinois Infantry. James, Richard, and Charles survived the war.
Edward Nettleton (1841-1863)
Edward Nettleton was born on February 10, 1841 in Thorner, Yorkshire, England, the son of Charles and Francis Briggs Nettleton. He was on of six children. The family immigrated from England on October 30, 1849. Edward and George Bickerdike were first cousins. Their mothers were sisters.
On August 21, 1862, he mustered in Company H, 73rd Illinois Infantry. He was 21 years old, 5 feet 6 inches tall with light hair, gray eyes and fair complextion. Edward was killed at Mission Ridge, Tennessee on November 24, 1863. He is buried at the National Cemetery in Chattanooga, Tennessee and honored on the Bethel Civil War Monument.