Baptist History Homepage


Historical Sketch of the Baptist Denomination in Missouri
By J. M. Peck

As early as 1796-7, a number Baptist families emigrated from North and South Carolina, and Kentucky, to Upper Louisiana, now Missouri, and lived for several years under the Spanish government. Amongst these were several of the children and family connections of the pioneer of Kentucky, Daniel Boon. Though Boon himself never united with any church, yet he was religiously disposed, sustained an amiable and moral character, and was a Baptist in sentiment. We speak advisedly, for we have preached repeatedly in his presence, and conversed freely with the venerable old gentleman, with his silvered locks and smiling benevolent countenance, at the age of more than four-score. At the period of the arrival of these emigrants, the Romish religion only was tolerated by law, but the commandants, disposed to encourage emigrants from the United States, did not molest them. Amongst these pioneers across the Mississippi, were Abraham and Sarah Musick, Abraham Musick, Jr., and Terrel Musick, Jane Sullens Sarah Williams, Mrs. Whitley, R. Richardson and wife, all of whom settled within the present boundaries of St. Louis County. The Boon family, David Darst, Wm. Hancock, Flanders Calloway, and others, settled on the north side of the Missouri river, from twenty to forty miles above St. Charles. These families lived without church privileges for several years. The late pious John Clark was the first preacher to penetrate these remote frontiers, and seek out and feed these scattered sheep in the wilderness. John Clark was from New England, where he received a respectable education. He came into South Carolina, where he taught school for a period, and where he was converted and entered the ministry in the Methodist connection, and for a period officiated as a circuit preacher. He soon found his way to Illinois, from whence he made repeated excursions to carry the gospel into the settlements of Upper Louisiana. Clark soon became a Baptist, attached himself to the class denominated Friends to Humanity, lived a most exemplary and pious life, and died in 1833. He was a man of ardent piety, uncommon in faith and prayer, peculiarly benevolent, and employed his time wholly in doing good to others. He travelled on foot, on his circuits, and preached the gospel with much success from the extreme frontiers of Missouri to Florida.

Thomas R. Musick, now living in Missouri, and a man by the name of Brown, and perhaps other ministers, visited and preached in Missouri, in early times. They were frequently threatened with the Calaboza, (the Spanish prison,) but through the lenity of the commandants were permitted to escape. Their little meetings were quite refreshing to the pilgrim settlers, surrounded as they were by the rites and laws of Romanism. In these times, of restriction, Abraham Musick applied to Zeno Trudeau, the commandant at St. Louis, an officer quite friendly to the Protestant emigrants, for leave to have preaching at his house. The commandant was inclined to favor the Americans secretly, but compelled to reject all such petitions openly, replied promptly that such a petition could not be granted. "I mean," said he, "that you must not put a bell on your house, and call it a church, nor suffer any person to christen your children but the parish priest. But if any of your friends choose to meet at your house, sing, pray, and talk about religion, you will not be molested, provided you continue, as I believe you are, good Christians." He knew that as Baptists, they would dispense with the rite of infant baptism, and that plain "backwoods" people, as they were, could find their way to their meetings without the sound of the "church-going bells." Thomas R. Musick removed his family and settled in St. Louis County, in 1803, immediately after the news had arrived that the country was ceded to the United States. Various circumstances retarded the regular organization of a church in this part of the territory until 1807. This church, known by the name of Feefe's Creek, still exists, and has a commodious brick meeting house, sixteen miles north-west from St. Louis. A number of Baptists emigrated from Kentucky to Cape Girardeau County, soon after the treaty of cession to the United States. A small church, called Tywappity, was organized at the head of a tract of alluvion, or bottom land, of that name, in 1804. This was the first organized church of any Protestant denomination in the territory. In 1805, another church, called Bethel, was formed in a settlement a few miles west of Cape Girardeau, and near where the town of Jackson now is. This church, in 1812, had two ministers, and eighty members. A Baptist minister by the name of Green preached for a period in these early churches in Missouri. In 1816, the Bethel Baptist Association was formed at a meeting held with the Bethel church, Cape Girardeau County. The constituent churches were Bethel, Tywappity, Providence, Barren, Bellevue, St. Francois, and Dry Creek. The ministers were H. Cockerham, John Farrar, Thomas Donohue, and William Street. The number of members, 230. The churches near St. Louis at this time were connected with the Association in Illinois. In November, 1817, a meeting was held with Feefe's Creek church, and the Missouri Baptist Association was organized. It was formed of the churches of Feefe's Creek, Baeuf, Negro Fork, Coldwater, Upper Cuivre, and Femme Osage, with an aggregate of 142 members. The ministers were T. R. Muick, L. Williams, and J. Macdonald.

The same year, (1817,) by appointment of the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions, J. M. Peck and J. E. Welsh were sent out as missionaries to St. Louis, where they arrived in December, and in February following constituted a Baptist church in the town. The formation of the "United Society for the Spread of the Gospel," has already been noticed in our notes on Illinois. It was organized at the session of the Missouri Baptist Association, held in Femme Osage settlement, St. Charles County, October, 1818. Several missionaries were employed to travel amongst the destitute in the territory of Missouri and the borders of Arkansas, with good effects. It continued these operations for three years. In 1820, by the arrangements of the Baptist Triennial Convention the future operations of its Board were restricted to foreign missions, and the mission in Missouri was suspended. The circumstances of Mr. Welsh's family caused his return to New Jersey, and the following year Mr. Peck re-crossed the Mississippi to his present residence in Illinois. His labors as a missionary for several years after were chiefly directed to Missouri. The missionaries at St. Louis in March, 1818, opened a Sabbath school for the African race, principally for slaves. By the precaution of requiring certificates of their masters or overseers for the privilege of attendance, the confidence and approbation of the principle families in the town and surrounding country were secured, the school soon averaged from 90 to 100 scholars, of all ages, on each Lord's day, and more than 300 were taught to read the Scriptures. From this effort originated the "African Baptist church" of St. Louis , one of the most orderly and efficient churches of colored people we have ever known. It has long been under the pastoral charge of the Rev. J. B. Meachum, an intelligent man of color, and numbers more than three hundred members. The church owns a brick meeting house, and has two ordained and five or six licensed preachers. This Sabbath school, which is still continued in connection with the church, was the first Sabbath school ever formed west of the Mississippi river.

In 1810, and subsequently, several Baptist families emigrated from Kentucky to the "Boon's Lick" Country, in what is now Howard County. During the war of 1812-15, they were much harrassed [sic] by the Indians; but in 1818, the Mount Pleasant Association, of five churches and as many preachers, was organized. Amongst the faithful and successful laborers in the interior of Missouri, was the Rev. Ebenezer Rogers, now at Upper Alton. Mr. Rogers is of Welch extract, though born on the borders of England. He was educated at Bristol Academy, under the late Dr. Ryland, came to Kentucky in 1818, and to Chariton, Mo., in 1819. He traveled extensively in the country bordering on the Missouri river, was a principle laborer in several revivals of religion, and baptized more than 500 converts, and aided in forming a number of churches while a resident of Missouri. The Cuivre Association from the Missouri Association in 1822, and Salt River was formed in 1823. The Franklin Association was formed from the Missouri in 1832, and revivals of religion and missionary efforts, prospered exceedingly for several years. From it, in 1840, was formed the Union Association. Bethel Association, in the northern part of Missouri, was organized by churches and ministers set off from Salt River Association in 1834. Three small churches from this Association united with some other churches in 1839, and formed the "Two River Old School Baptist Association," in the same region. Its features are Antinomian and anti-mission. In 1823, settlements having spread through Upper Missouri, hundreds of Baptists floated on the tide of emigration from Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and the Carolinas, revivals of religion had multiplied converts, and the result was a division of the Mount Pleasant Association, and the organization of the Concord and Fishing River Associations. The churches forming the Concord, were located in the tract of country south of the Missouri River, and the Fishing River towards the western borders of the State. Blue River Association was formed some three or four years since in the country south of the Missouri river, and near the western border. Its churches are somewhat prosperous, and there are several active ministers within its bounds. The churches of the Fishing River Association are in the counties north of the Missouri river. Subsequent increase to twenty-nine churches, in 1827, made another division desirable, and the Salem Association was organized, embracing the counties of Boon and Calloway. The old Bethel Association, in the southern part of the State, having spread over a wide district of country, the Cape Girardeau Association, of 10 churches, 6 ministers, and 259 members, was formed in 1824. In 1835, the Black River Association was formed from the Cape Girardeau.

In August, 1834, a convention of ministers and brethren was held in Calloway County, Mo., to confer relative to some organized system of home mission operations. A constitution was adopted, and the "Baptist Central Convention of Missouri" provisionally organized. At a subsequent period, it was changed in name it the "General Association of United Baptists of Missouri." The amount of funds in the treasury, as reported, at the annual meeting of 1840, is $342. Four missionaries and a general agent were appointed.

The report for the preceding year shows that four missionaries had jointly been employed one hundred and thirty-two days, and had travelled about two thousand miles, preached one hundred and twenty-five sermons, formed several new churches, and baptized twenty-eight converts. At the last meeting of the General Association, the "United Baptist Education Society" was formed, the exclusive object of which is to aid in educating young brethren of gifts and graces preparatory for the gospel ministry. The hope is entertained of the eventual establishment of a theological school. The Cape Girardeau Missionary Society was formed in 1834, and made some progress. It is now merged in the New Cape Girardeau Association. The Franklin Missionary Society originated in the bounds of the Franklin Association in 1833. It is auxiliary to the American Baptist Home Missions Society, and co-operates in sustaining missionaries in that portion of Missouri. The Missionary Society of St. Louis County is also an auxiliary. Divisions have resulted in the Mount Pleasant, Salem, and Cape Girardeau Associations on the question of the organization of missionary and other benevolent societies.

The first Baptist church of St. Louis, which was formed in 1818, preserved an existence for about fifteen years, without pastoral labor, and with only occasional ministerial visits, when it was dissolved, and the second Baptist church organized. That church has a valuable brick house of worship; erected by the Episcopal church, and transferred by sale in 1836 to the Baptist church, and about eighty members. During the year 1840, Rev. R. E. Pattison, D. D., now Financial Secretary of the American Baptist Board of Foreign Missions officiated as pastor. For the succeeding eight months, the pulpit was supplied by neighboring ministers, when in October, 1841, the Rev. I. T. Hinton, of Chicago, Illinois, took the pastoral charge. In a few months, more than sixty persons were added by letter and baptism, and galleries were placed in the house to provide room for the congregation. At the close of 1840, the Baptists in Missouri numbered about 276 churches, 150 ministers, and 10,775 members. The baptisms for 1840 exceeded 1,000.

[This document appears as one long essay with historical sketches on Baptists in Indiana, Illinois and Missouri on pages 197-210 of the journal listed below. These articles are broken into histories of the separate states as it is easier to use in this format. The index for Peck's other articles may be accessed below. - jrd]

[From Baptist Memorial and Monthly Chronicle, NY, July 15, 1842, pp. 207-210. The document is from Southern Baptist Seminary Library. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

More on John M. Peck
Baptist History Homepage