History of Greene County, Missouri

R. I. Holcombe, Editing Historian

History of Missouri

Chapter 12: Religious Denominations

Baptist Church — Its History — Congregational — When Founded — Its History — Christian Church — Its History — Cumberland Presbyterian Church — Its History — Methodist Episcopal Church — Its History — Presbyterian Church — Its History — Protestant Episcopal Church — Its History — United Presbyterian Church — Its History — Unitarian Church — Its History — Roman Catholic Church — Its History.

The first representatives of religious thought and training, who pedetrated the Missouri and Mississippi Valleys, were Pere Marquette, La Salle, and others of Catholic persuasion, who performed missionary labor among the Indians. A century afterward came the Protestants. At that early period

"A church in every grove that spread
Its living roof above their heads,"

constituted for a time their only house of worship, and yet to them

"No Temple built with hands could vie
In glory with its majesty."

In the course of time, the seeds of Protestantism were scattered along the shores of the two great rivers which form the eastern and western boundaries of the State, and still a little later they were sown upon her hill-side and broad prairies, where they have since bloomed and blossomed as the rose.


The earliest anti-Catholic religious denomination, of which there is any record, was organized in Cape Girardeau county in 1806, through the efforts of Rev. David Green, a Baptist, and a native of Virginia. In 1816, the first association of Missouri Baptists was formed, which was composed of seven churches, all of which were located in the southeastern part of the State. In 1817 a second association of churches was formed, called the Missouri Association, the name being afterwards changed to St. Louis Association. In 1834 a general convention of all the churches of this denomination, was held in Howard county, for the purpose of effecting a central organization, at which time was commenced what is now known as the "General Association of Missouri Baptists."

To this body is committed the State mission work, denominational education, foreign missions and the circulation of religious literature. The Baptist Church has under its control a number of schools and colleges, the most important of which is William Jewell College, located at Liberty, Clay county. As shown by the annual report for 1875, there were in Missouri, at that date, sixty-one associations, one thousand four hundred churches, eight hundred and twenty-four ministers and eighty-nine thousand six hundred and fifty church members. [73-74]


The Congregationalists inaugurated their missionary labors in the State in 1814. Rev. Samuel J. Mills of Torringford, Connecticut, and Rev. Daniel Smith, of Bennington, Vermont, were sent west by the Massachusetts Congregational Home Missionary Society during that year, and in November, 1814, they preached the first regular Protestant sermons in St. Louis. Rev. Samuel Giddings, sent out under the auspices of the Connecticut Congregational Missionary Society, organized the first Protestant church in the city, consisting of ten members, constituted Presbyterian. The churches organized by Mr. Giddings were all Presbyterian in their order.

No exclusively Congregational Church was founded until 1852, when the "First Trinitarian Congregational Church of St. Louis" was organized. The next church of this denomination was organized at Hannibal in 1859. Then followed a Welsh church in New Cambria in 1864, and after the close of the war, fifteen churches of the same order were formed in different parts of the State. In 1866, Pilgrim Church, St. Louis, was organized. The General Conference of Churches of Missouri was formed in 1865, which was changed in 1868, to General Association. In 1866, Hannibal, Kidder, and St. Louis District Associations were formed, and following these were the Kansas City and Springfield District Associations. This denomination in 1875, had 70 churches, 41 ministers, 3,363 church members, and had also several schools and colleges and one monthly newspaper.


The earliest churches of this denomination were organized in Callaway, Boone and Howard Counties, some time previously to 1829. The first church was formed in St. Louis in 1836 by Elder R. B. Fife. The first State Sunday School Convention of the Christian Church, was held in Mexico in 1876. Besides a number of private institutions, this denomination has three State Institutions, all of which have an able corps of professors and have a good attendance of pupils. It has one religious paper published in St. Louis, "The Christian," which is a weekly publication and well patronized. The membership of this church now numbers nearly one hundred thousand in the State and is increasing rapidly. It has more than five hundred organized churches, the greater portion of which are north of the Missouri River. [75]


In the spring of 1820, the first Presbytery of this denomination west of the Mississippi, was organized in Pike County. This Presbytery included all the territory of Missouri, western Illinois and Arkansas and numbered only four ministers, two of whom resided at that time in Missouri. There are now in the State, twelve Presbyteries, three Synods, nearly three hundred ministers and over twenty thousand members. The Board of Missions is located at St. Louis. They have a number of High Schools and two monthly papers published at St. Louis.


In 1806, Rev. John Travis, a young Methodist minister, was sent out to the "Western Conference," which then embraced the Mississippi Valley, from Green County, Tennessee. During that year. Mr. Travis organized a number of small churches. At the close of his conference year, he reported the result of his labors to the Western Conference, which was hold at Chillicothe, Ohio, in 1870, and showed an aggregate of one hundred and six members and two circuits, one called Missouri and the other Meramec. In 1808, two circuits had been formed, and at each succeeding year the number of circuits and members constantly increased, until 1812, when what was called the Western Conference was divided into the Ohio and Tennessee Conferences, Missouri falling into the Tennessee Conference. In 1816, there was another division when the Missouri Annual Conference was formed. In 1810, there were four traveling preachers and in 1820, fifteen travelling preachers, with over 2,000 members. In 1836, the territory of the Missouri Conference was again divided when the Missouri Conference included only the State. In 1840 there were 72 traveling preachers, 177 local ministers and 13,992 church members. Between 1840 and 1850, the church was divided by the organization of the Methodist Episcopal Church South. In 1850, the membership of the M. E. Church was over 25,000, and during the succeeding ten years the church prospered rapidly. In 1875, the M. E. Church reported 274 church edifices and 34,156 members; the M. E. Church South, reported 443 church edifices and 49,588 members. This denomination has under its control several schools and colleges and two weekly newspapers. [76]


The Presbyterian Church dates the beginning of its missionary efforts in the State as far back as 1814, but the first Presbyterian Church was not organized until 1816 at Bellevue settlement, eight miles from St. Louis. The next churches were formed in 1816 and 1817 at Bonhomme, Pike County. The First Presbyterian Church was organized in St. Louis in 1817, by Rev. Salmon Gidding. The first Presbytery was organized in 1817 by the Synod of Tennessee with four ministers and four churches. The first Presbyterian house of worship (which was the first Protestant) was commenced in 1819 and completed in 1826. In 1820 a mission was formed among the Osage Indians. In 1831, the Presbytery was divided into three Missouri, St. Louis, and St. Charles. These were erected with a Synod comprising eighteen ministers and twenty-three churches.

The church was divided in 1838, throughout the United States. In 1860 the rolls of the Old and New School Synod together showed 109 ministers and 146 churches. In 1866 the Old School Synod was divided on political questions springing out of the war—a part forming the Old School, or Independent Synod of Missouri, who are connected with the General Assembly South. In 1870, the Old and Now School Presbyterians united, since which time this Synod has steadily increased until it now numbers more than 12,000 members with more than 220 churches and 150 ministers.

This Synod is composed of six Presbyteries and has under its control one or two institutions of learning and one or two newspapers. That part of the original Synod which withdrew from the General Assembly remained an independent body until 1874 when it united with the Southern Presbyterian Church. The Synod in 1875 numbered 80 ministers, 140 churches and 9,000 members. It has under its control several male and female institutions of a high order. The St. Louis Presbyterian, a weekly paper, is the recognized organ of the Synod. [77]


The missionary enterprises of this church began in the State in 1819, when a parish was organized in the City of St. Louis. In 1828, an agent of the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, visited the city, who reported the condition of things so favorably that Rev. Thomas Horrell was sent out as a missionary and in 1825, he began his labors in St. Louis. A church edifice was completed in 1830. In 1836, there were five clergymen of this denomination in Missouri, who had organized congregations in Boonville, Fayette, St. Charles, Hannibal, and other places. In 1840, the clergy and laity met in convention, a diocese was formed, a constitution, and canons adopted, and in 1844 a Bishop was chosen, he being the Rev. Cicero S. Hawks. Through the efforts of Bishop Kemper, Kemper College was founded near St. Louis, but was afterward given up on account of pecuniary troubles. In 1847, the Clark Mission began and in 1849 the Orphans' Home, a charitable institution, was founded. In 1865, St. Luke's Hospital was established. In 1875, there were in the city of St. Louis, twelve parishes and missions and twelve clergymen. This denomination has several schools and colleges, and one newspaper.


This denomination is made up of the members of the Associate and Associate Reformed churches of the Northern States, which two bodies united in 1858, taking the name of the United Presbyterian Church of North America. Its members were generally bitterly opposed to the institution of slavery. The first congregation was organized at Warrensburg, Johnson County, in 1867. It rapidly increased in numbers, and had, in 1875, ten ministers and five hundred, members.


This church was formed in 1834, by the Rev. W. G. Eliot, in St. Louis. The churches are few in number throughout the State, the membership being probably less than 300, all told. It has a mission house and free school, for poor children, supported by donations.


The earliest written record of the Catholic Church in Missouri shows that Father Watrin performed ministerial services in Ste. Genevieve, in 1760, and in St. Louis in 1766. In 1770, Father Menrin erected a small log church in St. Louis. In 1818, there were in the State four chapels, and for Upper Louisiana seven priests. A college and seminary were opened in Perry County about this period, for the education of the young, being the first college west of the Mississippi River. In 1824, a college was opened in St. Louis, which is now known as the St. Louis University. In 1826, Father Rosatti was appointed Bishop of St. Louis, and through his instrumentality the Sisters of Charity, Sisters of St. Joseph and of the Visitation were founded, besides other benevolent and charitable institutions. In 1834 he completed the present Cathedral Church. Churches were built in different portions of the State. In 1847 St. Louis was created, an arch-diocese, with Bishop Kenrick, Archbishop. [78]

In Kansas City there were five parish churches, a hospital, a convent and several parish schools. In 1868 the northwestern portion of the State was erected into a separate diocese, with its seat at St. Joseph, and Right-Reverend John J. Hogan appointed Bishop. There were, in 1875, in the city of St. Louis, 34 churches, 27 schools, 5 hospitals, 3 colleges, 7 orphan asylums and 3 female protectorates. There were also 105 priests, 7 male and 13 female orders, and 20 conferences of St. Vincent de Paul, numbering 1,100 members. In the diocese, outside of St. Louis, there is a college, a male protectorate, 9 convents, about 120 priests, 150 churches and 30 stations. In the diocese of St. Joseph there were, in 1875, 21 priests, 29 churches, 24 stations, 1 college, 1 monastery, 5 convents and 14 parish schools.

Number of Sunday Schools in 1878 ——— 2,067
Number of Teachers in 1878 ——— 18,010
Number of Pupils in 1878 ——— 139,578


Instruction preparatory to ministerial work is given in connection with collegiate study, or in special theological courses, at:

Central College (M. E. South) ——— Fayette
Central Wesleyan College (M. E. Church) ——— Warrenton
Christian University (Christian) Canton
Concordia College Seminary (Evangelical Lutheran) —— St. Louis
Lewis College (M. E. Church) ——— Glasgow
St. Vincent College (Roman Catholic) ——— Cape Girardeau
Vardeman School of Theology (Baptist) ——— Liberty.

The last is connected with William Jewell College. [79]

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