Eight Mile Prairie Presbyterian Church History

Eight Mile Prairie Presbyterian Church was the first of its denomination in the west of the county. Rev. Benjamin F. Spillman came from Shawneetown and a church was formed June 19, 1841. At first they called it Crab Orchard Church, from the stream that ran near their homes in western Williamson and eastern Jackson counties. Then some of the members moved, the homes on Eight Mile prairie were the meeting places, and the name was changed. When the Alton Presbytery met at old DuQuoin September 11, 1845 this church was received as the Eight Mile Prairie Church at the same time the Marion church was received.

The original members were Joseph and Rebecca Maginnis, Oliver M. and Maria Dickinson, Margaret B. White, the brothers William Richart (1790-1842) and James Richart (1792-1844), and the former’s motherless children, Jane, Ann Eliza, and William Houston. This was the family of Hugh M. Richart, post- master at Fredonia, who was a Presbyterian elder nearly a quarter of a century.

William Richart and Joseph Maginnis were the first elders, and the congregation met in the homes of members until death and moving scattered them. Joseph Maginnis moved to Marion, where he began spelling his name McGinnis, and was a charter member of that Presbyterian Church. The church at Carterville brought some of these first Presbyterians together when it was organized.

Miss Ann Eliza Richart attended Monticello seminary and became the first teacher at Carbondale when the town was founded in 1852. As the wife of Cunningham Kennedy she was the mistress of the first brick house built in Eight Mile prairie.

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(Extracted from Pioneer Folks and Places, Barbara Barr Hubbs, 1939, on sale at the Williamson County Museum)