MORE ABOUT THE CHURCHES
Returning to the subject of churches in Waverly, the Presbyterian church was organized September 15, 1856, with such sturdy members as the families of John Findley, B. W. Johnson, Robert Cunningham, Naaman Moore and some others whose names do not occur to me at this time. Rev. John Smalley was installed as pastor, in which capacity he labored for many years. He was a man of ability, educated, imposing in physique, and a typical old-fashioned Presbyterian preacher, he was sound in doctrine as well as a fine pastor and an able expositor of the Scriptures. They purchased and built the cozy little brick church in the grove on South State street (where the A. T. Leslie home now stands) where they worshipped for many years. Rev. Smalley owned and operated a fine farm northeast of town in Warren township, and maintained his pastorate as long as the organization remained. In later years, the membership dwindled away by removals and deaths, until finally the church was discontinued, and I believe has never been revived.
The Catholic church was organized in October, 1856, with the Rev. John Shields as pastor. He gathered together all the members of that faith and held them in fellowship, and out of his efforts and those of his early parishioners has grown the large, and prosperous church of today. Father Shields was a forceful man, a keen and safe business man, as well as a leader in his church work. He had his share to bear in the hard times of those days, but he was preeminently the man for such an ordeal. He had all the courage and grit of his rime, and the harder the pinch the more active he was. No Irishman ever possessed more courage than he did. If things didn't come his way willingly, he would find a way to make them come. One morning I met Tom Murphy on the street in a boiling rage and on inquiry as to the cause he told me Father Shields had called on him for a dollar for some purpose relating to the church, and Tom said that when he told the Father he had not a dollar in the world, the Father replied, "See that you get one by tomorrow." Then Tom added, "I know what that means, I must get a dollar, him." Father' Shields remained as rector for several years, when he was transferred to another field.
After the close of the war a new rector was sent to the church, whose name was Father Murphy. Soon after he arrived I met him on the street one day and instantly recognized him as the chaplain of the 58th Illinois Infantry during the war. He did not recognize me, but I soon convinced him I knew him by relating to him the incident of his capture in Louisiana, on a foraging expedition of which I had charge. The detail consisted of a bunch of men from his regiment, whom he volunteered to accompany, as a sort of lark. We got into a hot skirmish with the enemy, and could only escape them by a hasty retreat. Chaplain Murphy was not used to such quick work, and therefore was a bit slow, and he was bagged and carried into captivity. Later he was sent to a prison, where he remained for a time, but being a non-combatant, he was returned to his regiment after a few months. There was great rejoicing on his return, and I well knew all these circumstances. As long as he stayed in Waverly he was a frequent and welcome visitor at my office. He was a typical Irishman, well educated, witty and combative, and, he used to tell me, a "sound preacher." He was very popular in his regiment, whose colonel was Col. Lynch, who led the Fenian forces in the Canada raid, was captured, and only escaped death by the influence which General Grant brought to bear in his behalf. Col. Lynch loved a fight, and Father Murphy loved Lynch.
I spoke of Tom Murphy, who was a pioneer in Waverly. He and I were particularly good friends. He did not have very many friends he cared for, but those he did have he was very fond of. He was a waspish and quick-tempered man and full of superstitious ideas. He owned a plop east of town on the south side of the main road leading east. On it near the road grew a large basswood tree with drooping limbs, on one of which the Barber boys had been hanged some years ago. While on a visit to Waverly some time after the mob tragedy I was told that Tom had cut down the tree and even dug out all the roots and burned the whole lot. I went out to visit Tom one afternoon and in the course of an hour or so, I ventured to mention the fact of the hanging and inquired what had become of the tree. In answer to my question he told me that he had removed the tree, and in reply to my request to see the stump (which I knew he had dug up), he told me the story, and closed by saying, "The curse of God rested on the tree, and I belayed that meant the roots, and I dug them all out to the last branch, and burned them, so I did. Was I right?" I said, "Sure you were, Tom." He seized my hand and said, "I knew you would say so."
Tom was fond of fishing, and there were few that could equal him in the number of fine fish he could catch, was the fishing good or poor. He liked the taste of that which cheers and usually took something along to pass away the time while, waiting for a bite. On account of his prowess he was in great demand when the boys arranged a fishing trip. On one occasion when he was asked to go along he shook his head and refused to go. Upon being asked to give a reason for his refusal, he said, "The wind is in the wrong quarter." When told that they expected to take a keg along, he replied, "Then I'll go, the wind may change."
Last updated 4/14/15
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