St. Isidore Church Bethany, Illinois
By 1857 several Irish families had arrived in Dora Township of Moultrie County Illinois. Most had emigrated from the Irish Counties of Limerick and Tipperary. The settlers established farms in the fertile prairie of central Illinois.
The first Catholic mass was held in the home of Edward Bresnan on August 14, 1863. Father Anthony Vogt traveled from St. Patricks in Decatur to hold the services. Within a few months, the families had collected $400 to build a church in Bethany. Father Vogt purchased 40 acres of land from the railroad at $5 per acre. A frame church was constructed at a cost of $200. The building was a 20 x 40 foot structure dedicated in 1864. The church was named after the patron saint of farmers, St. Isidore.
The present brick church was completed in 1891 and remodeled in 1945. The rectory, now closed, was built in 1952 to replace the existing structure. The cemetery was originally located one mile west of the current location and was moved when the land was purchased in 1864.
Tradition still remains strong with these rural communities. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren are still married in St. Isidores, and burial plots are purchased by fifth and sixth generations of the original Irish settlers.
Early history of St. Isidore's by Father McGowan.
Sacred Heart ChurchClick for more information.
During the late 1880s, the St. Isidore had grown to over 500 members. Families in nearby Dalton City desired their own facility. A controversy arose about whether to build a new structure in Bethany or establish a new church in Dalton City. A decision was made to do both. The cornerstone for Sacred Heart was laid in 1891, and the church bell was donated by James Heneberry and Michael Dwyer. The original families who donated stained glass windows to the church were:
The last service at Sacred Heart was held in June, 1996 and the church was demolished later in the year. St. Marys church in Lovington was closed in the 1980s. The need to have churches, schools and other facilities close together have long since passed. The school in Dalton City is closed, and the once thriving business district in Bethany is almost abandoned. Many families now drive about 15 miles to the larger city of Decatur to shop. School districts have been combined, and farm families are much smaller.
Farming remains an essential part of the communities. The parish priest stated recently, "The only things we need right now are an organist and some rain."
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