By Rev. H. E. Truex.
The Baptist World, 1909
Kentucky Baptists will likely never do any country a better turn than they have done Missouri. It was over one hundred years ago; they have forgotten, but we have not. It is true they did not know what mighty things were shaping when they did it; so neither do any of us.
In the year 1796 a Baptist, Thos. Bull by name, moved from Kentucky to Missouri settling in the region now known as Cape Girardeau county. The next year came Enos Randel, another Baptist, with a family of ten children. Soon came other families - English, Hitt, Sheppard, Matthew, Rogers, Spears and others. Rev. Thos. Johnson, a Baptist preacher from Georgia, was the first to preach the Gospel in this part of the world. He did not stay long. In 1805 Rev. David Green came from Kentucky and organized the first permanent Baptist church west of the Mississippi river, ministering to it till his death, in 1809.
The church organized was called Bethel, and for forty years it was a great light in the wilderness. Bethel had preaching stations all around her then called "arms", which constituted the old Bethel Association in 1816. Until that time these churches sent messengers to the Red River Association in Kentucky annually.
Bethel built the first non-Catholic house for worship west of the river. The size was 20x30 feet, the material was large poplar logs well hewn. It was located one and one-half miles south of the town of Jackson. The logs are long since destroyed but the site of the building preserved by a granite monument suitably inscribed, a deed to the including the old cemetery, having been secured to the denomination forever. In 1906 the Centennial of Missouri Baptists was solemnly observed on this spot by formal dedication of the monument and public addresses.
This church was orthodox in doctrine and severe in discipline. They believed in (1) man's total depravity; (2) justification by the imputation of Christ's righteousness; (3) regeneration by the Spirit; (4) final perseverance of the saints; (5) church independence; and (6) that church membership belongs only to those who have been baptized by immersion. Thos. Wright was excluded in 1808 for denying Calvinistc [sic] doctrines. Lyda Wright was excluded for holding the erroneous doctrine of falling from grace. The church was continually "citing" some one to appear before her tribunal, and excluding some one for failing to "hear" the church. A brother failing to pay his debts was "cited". On Nov. 9, 1816, this record was made:"Resolved, That Sister Hannah Edwards be allowed to wear gold ear-rings for the benefit of her eyes."
Flora Buckner, a Negro member, was "cited" to give satisfaction to the church for shouting in time of public worship. In 1822 Ezekiel Hill brought a charge against himself for killing a deer on Sunday.
The history of this church and its immediate descendents [sic] is exceedingly interesting. For many years Bethel was the great church of Southeast Missouri.
To Saint Louis
the Baptists came from Kentucky almost as early, some say earlier, as they did to Southern Missouri. We claim "Father" Clark as a Baptist, but he was a Methodist for several years after he came west. He and Mr. Talbot, both independent Methodists, baptized each other by immersion. Mr. Clark regularly joined the Baptists not earlier than 1812. Rev. Thos. L. Musick came from Kentucky to Saint Louis in 1801 out of the great revival of 1800-05, when in Kentucky and Tennessee there were ten thousand additions to the churches by baptism. He came out of a meeting in which there had been one hundred converts, and began preaching night and day. His voice soon failed and his health broke but not until he had kindled the fire in every adjacent community. He was cited before the Spanish authorities many times, but went on preaching and teaching. Later came Jas. E. Welch. To him, with Rev. J. M. Peck, is due more praise for wise organization than to any other pioneer preacher on the list. Missouri Baptists must also
Take off Their Hats
to Kentucky Baptists for the early churches in Middle Missouri. William Thorp and David McLain were both from Kentucky, both Baptist end first to go very far west of Saint Louis. The first Baptist settlement away from the river was in what is now Howard county. Here toiled Thorn and McLain amid the many dangers of Indian wars. They were sturdy characters, unflinching in faith, loving souls adventure.
So you see that practically our whole cause is due largely to Kentucky influence. Your fathers did not intend to build such a Baptist empire as stands just across the Father of Waters from you; but they builded well. May your shadows never grow less, may your zeal increase according to your strength, may righteousness flourish in your fat valleys, may your sons and daughters emulate the example of your noble sires that "they that sow and they that reap may rejoice together".
[From The Baptist World, July 1, 1909, p. 14; via Baylor U. digitized documents. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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