McKendree University is on United Methodist Church Historic Site Registry

UMC Plaque(LEBANON, Ill., April 14, 2016) - The United Methodist Church has designated McKendree University as a national historic site for 188 years of service in higher education. Founded in 1828, McKendree is the oldest college with continuous ties to the United Methodist Church.

“We are grateful for this special designation and know that it is just one more symbol and sign of the Methodist legacy and influence felt through the years on this campus and by the many students who pass through these doors,” said Rev. Tim Harrison, McKendree chaplain.

The University joins several notable congregations, campgrounds, buildings and locations on the United Methodist historic registry, said Dr. Paul Stroble, UMC elder and chair of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference (IGRC) Commission on History and Archives. He spoke at the April 1 commemoration ceremony at Bothwell Chapel, joined by Rev. Dr. Roger Grimmett, UMC Mississippi River District superintendent, an ex officio member of the university Board of Trustees and a 1983 McKendree graduate.

The university’s history is closely tied to early American Methodism in Illinois. Its founders— Edmond Ames, Bishop William McKendree, Peter Akers and Peter Cartwright among them—were circuit riders, the traveling preachers who ministered to pioneer settlers.

“In 1827 at the fourth session of the Illinois Conference, a discussion took place about the inadequate training for men who were called to important positions of leadership as Methodist preachers. Not a single member of that group, not even the bishop, had a college education,” noted Rebecca Schreiner, director of Holman Library at McKendree.

Determined to provide educational opportunities for their successors, they formed a committee to establish a seminary in Lebanon. “They discussed the purpose of the school, the raising of funds, the purchase of a site, and the kind of building it would be. Before they adjourned, Articles of Organization were formulated, which are still preserved in our university archives,” Schreiner said.

In 1828 circuit rider Edmond Ames opened the Lebanon Seminary in two rented sheds for 72 students. In the same year Bishop McKendree—the first American-born bishop of the Methodist church—deeded 480 acres in nearby Shiloh Valley as an endowment. In 1833 Rev. Peter Akers was appointed the first president of the newly named McKendree College.

In 1835 it received one of the first charters granted to independent church colleges by the Illinois legislature, which then met in Vandalia. A second, more liberal charter was granted in 1839, under which it still operates. The college was renamed McKendree University in July 2007.

Immediately following the historic site plaque dedication on April 1, a reception was held to honor retiring volunteer archivist Linda Isbell, of O’Fallon, Ill. The McKendree alumna worked in Holman Library’s Pioneer Room since 1995, cataloging and preserving historic books and curating items from early Methodism and early McKendree history.