First Baptist Church (1833 - Present)

 (Established as Mount Gilead Baptist Church)

 

Above, the 1879 church and the present church, built in 1922.

 

Charter Members August 16, 1833

Pastors (45 Pastorates - 43 Ministers)

 

From the August 5, 1898 Moniteau County Herald:

A series of meetings were held at the Baptist church last week which marked an important epoch in the church's history. as was announced last Friday, Saturday and Sunday were observed as a Missionary and Anniversary meeting.

 

Rev. John Youngblood, the pastor of the church, was assisted in the meetings by Dr. Breaker, of St. Louis, Rev. Armstrong of St. Louis, Rev. West of Carrollton, Rev. Plannett, of Sedalia, Rev. Mayfield of South Greenfield and Revs. Allee and Kroesch of this city. Friday and Saturday were given to missionary services and these important topics discussed:

"Scriptural Reason for Missions"

"What Missions Have Done for the Western Country"

"The Place of the Holy Spirit in Missions"

"What do Baptists Owe to the World"

"What may a Woman do for Missions"

"Interesting our Children in Missions"

 

Sunday morning, Rev. Alleee was to have delivered an annual sermon but was prevented from attending and his place was filled by Rev. Breaker. At 2:30 the Anniversary program was given. Dr. T. Campbell gave a very interesting history of the church organization, a portion of which we are pleased to give our readers.

 

August 16, 1833, the Mt. Gilead Baptist church was organized in a log building which was used for both a church and school house, about 1 1/2 miles south of California. Some of the families who were members are still familiar names to the people of this vicinity. There were the Medlin's, Foster's, Jobe's, Johnson's, Brown's, Sugg's, and Chambers'. Jarrett Medlin is the only survivor who was a member when the church was organized.

 

Rev. Snelling Johnson was the pastor called, his pastorate beginning in November, 1834. In 1838 Kemp Scott was chosen pastor. Some of the early pastors were D. W. Johnson, M. D. Nowland, Wm. M. Robertson, David Scott, Jacob Copas and G. W. Johnson.

 

In 1835 Moses Chambers and Jarrett Medlin were elected as the first deacons.

 

In 1837 Joseph Russell, father of J. J. Russell, gave the congregation a tract of land on which to build a church.

 

In 1838 it was decided to come to California and a committee was selected to make the proper arrangements, but the next year there was a split in the church on account of the missionary question, and some 48 members withdrew, some of the members formed a Hardshell Baptist church, while others returned and wer reinstated by recantation.

 

The California church commenced with the building of the old church house now soouth of the railroad and occupied by the colored Baptists. The block on which the church now stands was purchased for $25. It was finished in 1858 at a cost of $303.45. Wm. M. Robertson, G. W. Johnson and Kemp Scott were the first pastors.

 

From 1861 to 1865 the building was used more or less for school.

 

In 1865 Robt. H. Harris became pastor and remained four years. During his pastorate the Sunday School and weekly prayer meetings were established.

 

In 1870 the trustees were ordered to sell a portion of the block for building purposes, and a subscription fund was started in 1874 to build the present church. The old building was sold for $55 and some of the lots sold also. Certificates of incorporation were issued under the name of the California Baptist church in 1878.

 

The records regarding the completion of the present house are meager, but the efforts of the congregation have been remarkable. Some three years ago during the pastorate of Rev. J. L. Ford the building was remodeled and almost made new, at a cost of about $1,000, so that the congregation now have an excellent church building, a large earnest membership and the property paid for.

 

Some of the regulations and customs of that time would be looked upon as rather odd now. Members were compelled to work their road tax or be given a course of discipline. One preacher gave his service for 8 years at the end of which time a collection was taken for his benefit. Another member took Communion with the Christians, then called Reformers or Campbellites and was expelled from the church, but was given a letter testifying to his good moral character. Jacob Byler gave $50 to the church to be loaned to the poor people who were to pay it when they could. The fund often dwindled to a few dollars but increased again to normal size.

 

The following is put together from various histories written by church members over the years

A copy of these are in the possession of Alan Sparks

 

Mt. Gilead Baptist Church was organized on August 16th, 1833. The leaders of the organization of the church were J. B. Longan and David Allee, the latter being the first moderator. William Suggs, Hall Medlin, Jarret Medlin, and Archibald Robinson were charter members and the first messengers sent to Concord Baptist Association. At the meeting of the Association, they asked to be received as messengers and this request was granted. They sat as the first messengers to Concord Association on September 20, 1833. The first contribution to the association was $2.00! At this session, the churches agreed to meet on the Friday before the first Saturday of November as a day of fasting and prayer for a revival of religion.

 

The first building for this new church was a log structure located about one mile south of the Moniteau County Courthouse (just south of the present Proctor Park in California).

 

Rev. Snelling Johnson was called to be the first pastor in September, 1833, and continued as such until the dissension, which arose during the early days of the church, over missions. In the church minutes is found a resolution to the effect that giving to missions will not bar anyone from membership in the church. This dissension continued for some time and finally resulted in a permanent division of the church along the line of belief or disbelief in missions.

 

Among the first pastors of the church was Rev. William Robertson, one of the pioneer preachers of this section of the country. During his pastorate it is found the first record of a stated salary for the pastor, $25.00 for one year!! The church commended themselves very highly for being able to do so much.

 

In 1846, A. G. Byler, an attorney, donated one acre of ground lying near the south line of the town of Boonsborough (present day California) to the church. On the southeast corner of this lot was erected a church building, a frame structure facing the north. This building continued as a place of worship for the congregation until the beginning of the Civil War. During the 1860s and part of the 1870s, the congregation consisted mainly of L. L. Wood and six women: Sarah Wood, wife of L. L. Wood, Mrs. Brown, Mrs. Bantrup, Mrs. Sprouce, Mrs. Ross, and Mrs. Eldred.

 

According to a history written for the 1933 centennial of the church, no one now living recalls having worshipped in this building and only two of the present (1933) members, George Dale and W. Joe Allee, recall ever seeing it.

 

For some time during which services were held in this building, the late Rev. Nick Allee, who was just entering the ministry, served as both pastor and janitor. At the beginning of the Civil War services were discontinued and the building became dilapidated, the congregation scattered.

 

About 1877 Bro. L. L. Wood and his wife, Sarah, began to gather the remainder of the Baptist circle and hold services again. Soon the need for a place of worship was seen and it appeared there were not enough male members of the congregation to form a building committee, so John L. Allee, who was a deacon at the time in Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, was persuaded to place his membership in this church in order that a building committee of men might be formed. This committee consisted of Rev. Nick Allee, chairman, L. L. Wood, and John L. Allee.

 

The proposition which was made by Bro. Wood to donate the sum of $500.00 for the purpose of erecting a new building if the church would raise the remainder was accepted. His wife said "You start it and I'll make him finish it." They started it and true to her word she made her husband give the second $500.00 to finish it.

 

 

The acre of ground that was given to the church by A. G. Byler was divided into lots and sold for $100.00 per lot. One lot was given to the carpenter, T. N. Biggs, for the erection of the new building. The old building was torn down and the new one erected for the cost of $1,600.00. This, the third building of the organization that started as Mount Gilead Baptist Church, was dedicated April 13, 1879. The church was then incorporated as "The California Baptist Church." Rev. Ferguson, who was then editor of the "Central Baptist" preached the dedicatory sermon for the new building.

Following the reorganization the following pastors served: B. T. Taylor, John Letts, S. M. Victor, I. R. M. Beason, J. W. Williams, F. T. Shore, and S. A. Beauchamp.

 

Sometimes, the smallest things make the biggest impressions. One example is when the church authorized the bell to be repaired; the cost?? -- 50 cents. In October 1893, the church granted the North Methodist people the privilege of holding meetings in the church building, should it not conflict with the church's regular service. From the history of the church written in 1933, "A four weeks meeting conducted by Rev. Pressgrieves and Rev. Cornett resulted in twenty additions to the church. A vote of thanks was extended these bethren for their services. It's not known if they received anything more than a vote of thanks. At a later date Bro. Cornett preached and a collection for ministerial education was taken and was designated to be used in Bro. Cornett's behalf. --Bro. Joseph Hall, a member of the church, felt called to the ministry and preached his initial sermon here in 1894. --In March 1894 Bro. J. L. Ford was chosen for the pastorate for one-half time, his salary to be $300.00 yearly. --Later as repair work was being done on the church house, a vote was taken releasing Bro. Ford from preaching Sundays as he had worked on the church house all week."


 

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