Central Presbyterian Church History
Interior of Dr. John Allen Home at Lincoln's New Salem
Central Presbyterian Church is located in Petersburg, a picturesque river community with about 2,400 residents. The land where the town sits was surveyed and plotted by Abraham Lincoln who lived nearby at New Salem, which is now a restored village and state historic site. The U.S. Department of Interior nominated Petersburg to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, and Central Presbyterian Church is a part of that district.
Founded in 1839, Central Presbyterian Church of Petersburg has a rich history with origins in New Salem, the village near Petersburg where Abraham Lincoln lived and worked for seven years before he moved to Springfield to work as a lawyer and begin his political career. New Salem settlers moved to the newly founded town of Petersburg in the mid-1830's.
Dr. John Allen, the father of our church, served as physician at New Salem. Dr. Allen, a devout Presbyterian who graduated from Dartmouth Medical School, came to New Salem in 1830 where he befriended Abe Lincoln. In 1837, Dr. Allen moved to Petersburg, the new county seat. Two years later he gathered a number of people, including former New Salem residents, at the Menard County Courthouse to form the Presbyterian Church, the very first church in Petersburg.
Until May of 1842, the newly organized church members worshiped in several locations, including the Courthouse, upstairs over the Bennett store on the west side of the square, and a schoolhouse. A small wooden white frame building was constructed at the corner of Sixth and Sheridan Streets and dedicated by its original 15 members. This building was used as a house of God for 32 years. The first permanent minister, Rev. George McKinley, increased the membership to 70. This was quite remarkable since among the 1000 residents of the town, only about 200 were regular church-goers.
After the Civil War the membership grew to 170 and plans were made for the present brick church building to be built at the corner of Douglas and Eighth Streets. It was completed in November 1874.
In 1916 the church facilities were enlarged by the additions of the present education wing and improvements to the sanctuary.
In the early 1970's, the sanctuary was remodeled including new lighting enhancements, carpeting and paint.
In April 1996, the church building was rededicated after completion of a major renovation of the education wing and entrance to the building. Improvements included an elevator that accesses all floors of the building, large handicap-accessible restrooms, a wheelchair ramp at the entrance, and remodeling of the second floor to allow an enhanced view of the Tiffany window.
Glass of Many Colors
Among its many stained glass windows, the church features hand-painted glass windows installed in 1874. The sanctuary windows each honor the memory of a person active in the Church or loved ones lost during World War I.
The large Tiffany stained glass window installed in 1917 depicts Christ surrounded by children in a garden setting. It was donated in memory of Louise Frackelton who served as Sunday School Superintendent for many years.
The Sweet Sounds of Music
Music has always been an important part of interpreting God's Word at Central. The original Moeller organ, installed in 1917, was replaced by a Wicks pipe organ in the 1980s. It features a solid state console with 1,234 pipes. Worship at Central continues to include an adult choir, as well as other vocal and instrumental offerings.
The Church Today
Today Central's congregation continues to be an active and vital church which effectively ministers with its members and reaches out to its community.