A Brief History of Bethel Baptist Church, Caseyville, Illinois
Bethel Baptist Church has been an independent Bible-teaching church in the same location since 1809. The founding founders were Revolutionary War veterans and abolitionist from Virginia: James Lemen Sr, Joseph Ogle, William Whiteside. Their purpose was to establish Baptist churches in southwestern Illinois, and to ensure that Illinois would enter the Union as a free state in 1812.
The founders became prominent farmers involved in local and state politics. They remained dedicated to abolition of slavery, so church members were not allowed to own slaves. In the 1840’s several members were dismissed because they had hidden their ownership of slaves.
In the 1850’s John Mason Peck pastored at Bethel. He was a prolific author, teacher and traveling preacher. He worked hard to develop well-educated pastors who could teach the Bible clearly and accurately. He was against slavery but did not support militant abolitionists. He founded many churches and schools for African Americans, including the Second Baptist Church of St. Louis, which is still active.
In 1909, the Church celebrated its centennial with William Jennings Bryan as the keynote speaker. The
celebration included a train trip to Waterloo to dedicate a monument to James Lemen, which still stands.
After World War I the church was in decline and was closed from 1926 to 1938 until former members repaired and reopened the church under the guidance of Rev. Percy Ray from First Baptist Church of Collinsville. Services were conducted on Sunday morning and evening and on Wednesday evening.
The church celebrated its two hundredth anniversay in 2009 led by Pastor Mike Evans.
The church remains committed to sound Bible teaching, spiritual growth of members and service to the community. The church supports 18 missionary families in the North America and in Europe, Africa, South America and Asia.
Pastors since World War II are: James Hicks (1943-1958), Robert Pulcher (1959-1970), Harold Beckner (1970-1980), John Heater (1980-1896), Charles Brown (1996-1989), Harry Lassley (1989-2001), Michael Evans (2001-2020), and Andrew Anderson beginning in July 2020.