Our Roots

In October 1816 Stephen Bliss and George May, both teachers and New Englanders, settled at Decker's Prairie (now Orio), buying land with a cabin. On April 11, 1819 twenty pioneers met at the log cabin of Stephen Bliss to begin the first Sabbath School in the state of Illinois. In a few weeks the cabin was overflowing and classes were held on the lawn under the sheltering oaks. They also started prayer meetings, reading sermons and other religious articles. (The original building is no longer standing but a young family representing the sixth and seventh generation of descendants of Rev. Stephen Bliss have built a new home on the same ground and are active members and participants of our Church.)

Rev. David Choate Proctor stopped at Mt. Carmel (then know as Palmyra) in 1822 enroute to Missouri from New Hampshire. He learned of the two Presbyterian families on the Prairie. He preached to a gathering and on Tuesday, March 5, 1822 helped organize a church with five members (Stephen and Betsy Bliss, George May, Cyrus and Polly Danforth) called First Presbyterian Church of Edwards County (later Wabash County). Bliss and May were elders.

Writing east for a minister, the Wabash congregation was informed that the ideal man to be their pastor was one of their own members, Mr. Bliss, who had trained for the ministry in his native New England. Bliss was subsequently ordained by the Salem Presbytery and had a vigorous and fruitful ministry lasting twenty-five years. (One indication of his strong will and hardiness was his fifty-day 1200-mile walk back to New Hampshire in 1820 to find a bride.)

In 1829 the church consisted of 29 members.

In 1833 Adam Shepard of New Hampshire settled on land joining the Bliss farm. A few years later Shepard and his wife gave two acres of land to be used as a church site and cemetery. However there was difficulty in deciding the right spot for a church building. In May, 1837, Mrs. Bliss died and was buried on the land Shepard had donated. This determined the church site.

Adam Corrie from Scotland offered $125.00 toward construction and a neat plain building was constructed among the trees in the fall of 1838 using native sandstones for door steps. Rev. Isaac Bennet, of the Pisgah Church, an accomplished builder, helped plan and build the church. This building was used until 1884 when a brick building was erected using native-made bricks.

In 1979 a new manse was built on the same site as the original manse. In 1982 a new sanctuary, vestibule, two classrooms and two bathrooms were constructed on the east side of the old sanctuary and the entire outside covered with Bedford stone. The old sanctuary was remodeled into a fellowship hall.

The large oak cross on the wall behind the pulpit was installed during the 150 year celebration of the founding of the Wabash Presbyterian Church. It was made from a beam from the old Bliss house as a visual reminder of our history.