Island Grove United Methodist Church is celebrating its 200th birthday Aug. 28. The church is one of the oldest in the area, established only four years after Illinois became a state. Surrounded by Woodwreath Cemetery, founded in 1872, the church is in a picturesque setting on Old Jacksonville Road about 13 miles west of Springfield. The public is invited to a 10:30 a.m. worship service with guest speaker James Cornelius, former curator of the Lincoln collection at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. At noon there will be food and entertainment.
The church has a rich history. Island Grove Society was founded in 1822, a time when services and religious classes were held in homes or public buildings and preachers were circuit riders. Peter Cartwright (1785-1872), the famed Methodist minister, had a circuit that included Island Grove. By 1849, church services were held in a log cabin, and Island Grove had a full-time minister. Construction of the current building began in the 1860s.
General Ulysses Grant is connected to the area. Some believe Grant had a temporary camp near the church in July 1861 during the 21st Illinois Voluntary Infantry Regiment's march from Springfield to Quincy. Grant did stop at the nearby home of James Brown, a wealthy farmer and Illinois legislator who donated land for the Woodwreath Cemetery.
Taylor Pensoneau is chair of the church council and a lay speaker. "Island Grove is enjoying a big spurt in attendance, unlike so many small rural churches that are declining," said Pensoneau. Visitors are welcome every Sunday for the 10:30 a.m. service and for the Aug. 28 special 200th anniversary celebration.