One of the oldest churches in the region will be holding its final service tomorrow. New Salem United Methodist church on the western edge of Sangamon County will hold its last regular service tomorrow after remaining members voted to close, according to the State Journal Register. The church will hold a reception at 10 a.m. before the regularly-scheduled 10:45 a.m. service.
The congregation dates back to 1823 when members met at a home located in what is now the Old Salem Cemetery. The church was built on the present site, about six miles west of Springfield near Riddle Hill, in 1868 and dedicated by Reverend Peter Cartwright, a popular preacher and Methodist missionary. Cartwright played a prominent role in the area at the time, helping to found the Illinois Conference Female Academy in Jacksonville, which is now MacMurray College. Cartwright is buried in Pleasant Plains.
A plaque on the church grounds also marks that then-Colonel Ulysses S. Grant and troops from the 21st Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment encamped there the night of July 3, 1861, on a march to Naples, Illinois before departure on his famous Western Campaign in the Civil War.
Church members cast a secret ballot on November 12th in a meeting with the Illinois Great Rivers Conference and voted unanimously to close. The grounds are owned by the United Methodist Church and there are no plans on what will be done with the building.