The original Liberty Methodist Church was built of logs in the 1830’s and was replaced in 1850 by a building which served as Liberty School during the week and as Liberty Church on Sunday. After the church burned in 1900, a new building was built. When the Liberty Cemetery Board decided they could not afford the upkeep of the Liberty Church, they offered to donate it to the Praire Land Heritage Museum. The church was located three miles west of EMI-Capitol Records up until February when it was moved to its new current location at the Prairie Land Heritage Museum grounds.
On a very cold February 14, 1994, the church was moved 6.2 miles across farm land and Route 104 with the aid of a Caterpillar and a Mueller tractor. Bob Freesen and his construction company crew helped put roads through various fields over which the church was moved by the Ron Peters House Movers from Farmer City. The cost of this move was $8000.
Since the entire project of moving and renovation was estimated to run from $20,000-$30,000, funds were needed to help get this project completed. An advertising campaign was started through newspaper articles and posters were placed around the community asking for funds to be donated. Other fundraising efforts included a ham and bean supper, a huge garage sale, and a full day of singing by various local gospel groups. All proceeds form these events went toward the church renovation project.
The church was placed on new footings and a concrete foundation. The next step in the process was to replace the roof which cost $4,500. During the first year, once the church was placed on its foundation with a new roof, the biggest job was to clean up the mess that had been left by the various raccoons and other creatures that had used the church for their shelter. A new bell tower was built by Ted Donovan as a memorial to Harry Hall, Sr. by his wife Dixie Hall and their son, Harry Lee Hall, Jr. at a cost of $4,500. Frank Dixon and his crew built a new porch, steps and handicap-accessible ramp and John Hall primed and painted the outside of the church. All of this was finishe in time for the 1944 Steam Show. In 1995, plastering was done to repair cracks and other damage caused by the weather an the move at a cost of $1,500. The walls, woodwork and floors were all cleaned and painted prior to the 1995 Steam Show.
The embossed tin ceiling had rusted holes in it from the old roof which had allowed water damage. In 1996, Harry Thomas, Frank Dixon and Jack Wankel measured the ceiling and ordered material to replace it from the Nevada Manufacturing Company in Nevada, Missouri, at a cost of $17,000. Harry Thomas and his crew removed teh old ceiling, insulated it and replaced it with the new one. The ceiling was painted annd then new lights and ceiling fans were installed to ensure that the church could be used comfortably year round, costing $550. The final step in this remodeling project inncluded carpet being laid in the two anterooms on each side of the back of the church.
The original church project was completed with the total cost being over $30,000 estimate. Since that time the bell was replaced, new windows were installed, church was painted, New Christian Flag placed on pulpit, Garden Club planted flowers and bushes, Patty Twyford refurbished the front doors, Randy Twyford put sealer on the porch and steps, carpet was put on the podium, window above the front doors was replaced by Twyford family, furnace installed, organ and piano donated to church and furnace and air conditioning installe.
The Liberty Church has come a long way from its beginning in the country in the middle of a cemetery. People have worshipped in this church since the 1800’s. The original site of the church was on the Harry Lee Hall family property. They were very interested in seeing it preserved and moved to the Prairie Land grounds.
Liberty Church is now a permanent structure at Prairie Land Hertiage Museum in South Jacksonville, Illinois. Church services are held at 5 p.m. the first Sunday of the month. Weddings, funerals and special programs are also held in the church.
The Prairie Land Heritage Museum Institute Board of Directors and members are proud of our little church. It has taken a lot of hard work to keep it repaired. Our next project will be to make a decision whether to paint again or put on siding.