Jonathan Fairbanks and Clyde Edwin Tuck

Past and Present of Greene County, Missouri

Early and Recent History and Genealogical Records
of Many of the Representative Citizens

Chapter 19
Church Denominational History
by Rev. Fayette Hurd

Part 3


The prayer of our Lord for the unity in himself of all believers is to human view almost as far from full realization as that old prophecy of a time when the nations shall learn war no more. Yet there are signs not a few that sectarian bitterness and hate are to some degree giving place to a spirit of cooperation and mutual helpfulness as the mighty problems created by human sins and sorrows are in some degree realized. This better spirit takes many different forms—reintegration of separated branches of the same name; coalescence of denominations, as in Canada; union of congregations in worship and pastoral support; federation for practical efficiency, etc.

With the latter end in view some fifteen churches in Springfield United about two years ago in an organized federation, the immediate occasion being the desire to provide adequate support for Mrs. Mary M. Smith, travelers' aide, which the more limited federation of brotherhoods had found to be too great a burden. But this organization had far more comprehensive plans, the aim being to bring the churches into cooperation in the promotion of other worthy ends, secular and religious. Under its auspices a very inspiring and successful Sunday School Institute has been conducted on successive Monday evenings of the fall and early winter for two years past by well equipped teachers from Drury College and the State Normal School. Efforts have been made to promote better hygienic and social conditions in the city. A social survey on broad lines was conducted about a year ago, resulting in the organization of a Public Welfare Board. Vicious and demoralizing agencies have been opposed; in short, the federation aims to act in the spirit of a master who loved men and "went about doing good."


Something like a generation ago, as near as can be learned, a number of the pastors of different denominations in Springfield organized a body designed to render mutual aid in the discussion of problems in Christian belief and action. The constant feature was to be a paper from one of the members, or an address by an invited speaker, followed by free discussion and preceded by business of any sort that might or might not be thought legitimate matter for consideration or action. Membership in this body was open to pastors and ex-pastors without distinction of race or color. For many years the meetings were held each Monday morning from September till June, for a considerable time with good attendance and interest. More recently declining interest has led to a change to the first Monday of each month, with called meetings for special business, For the season 1914-1915 Rev. R. B. Blyth is president and Rev. H. A. Mitchell, secretary-treasurer. [615]


In most of the churches of Springfield the women are organized in societies for the promotion of knowledge and interest in the work of missions at home and abroad, meetings of many of these societies being of much interest and profit to those who attend. For the still further extension of this knowledge and interest with respect to the wide and varied fields of missionary activity a Woman'sMissionary Union was organized in 1887 and has continued until the present.

The annual meetings are held early in November of each year, the general plan being to alternate between churches on the north and south side of the city. The chief themes considered at this session relate, though by no means exclusively, to missions abroad. The offerings made at this meeting were applied for many years to the support of the undenominational McAll mission in Paris; since this was abandoned, they have been applied to other Christian agencies.

Besides the all day session in November another meeting in February is devoted to various phases of missions at home. The programs for these, as well as for the fall meetings, are prepared with much care. But as the Far Off has to many minds a charm greater than the Near, this winter meeting has received less attention than that in the fall.

The president of the union is now Mrs. C. W. Mitchell; the secretary, Mrs. W. T. Morrow.


The Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor organized in February, 1881, by Rev. Francis E. Clark, then pastor of Williston Congregational church in Portland, Maine, assisted by his wife, meeting a widely felt want, was almost immediately copied elsewhere, at first, quite naturally in Congregational churches. The Springfield Christian Endeavor Union was organized in 1886, with Prof. Charles D. Adams, of Drury, now of Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, as president, and Miss Georgia, W. Hardy, now deceased, as secretary, which office she held for several years.

Professor Adams was succeeded by Rev. J. W. Laughlin, W. L. Porterfield, Joseph W. Hall, R. S. Marsh, T. L. Dunlap and J. M. Conkling. Adrian Nichols succeeded Miss Hardy as secretary. The present officers are Parmelee F. Drury, president, and Melvin Sellers, secretary. Societies were early organized in Grace Methodist Episcopal and Calvary Presbyterian churches.

In 1890 an international convention was held at St. Louis, to which Springfield sent a large delegation, through whose efforts on their return many new societies were organized. It is said that as a result of these efforts there were sixteen Christian Endeavor societies in Springfield.

The fifth annual state convention was entertained in Springfield in 1891. It has been entertained thrice since that time in 1899, 1907 and 1914. In 1895 and since the seventh district convention has been entertained here.

There are now Endeavor societies in the union connected with the following churches: First Congregational, Calvary Presbyterian, Second Presbyterian, First Cumberland Presbyterian (on Olive and Jefferson), First Cumberland Presbyterian (old order.), Springfield Avenue and Woodland Heights Presbyterian, First South Street and Central Christian and Methodist Protestant. There are also four Intermediate and six junior societies. [616]


The Baptist Young People's Union is organized in each of the eight regular Baptist churches in Springfield, as also in several churches in the county. A central organization was first effected some ten years ago, but did not continue effective until the present time. Some two years since it was reorganized and has rendered efficient service in various ways until the present; among other services each fall institute work is led by specialists from outside the city, wherein for several days is given instruction in various departments of Christian work. Meetings of the united body are held each month. Leonard Campbell is now president, and Anna Hendrix, secretary.


The Epworth League, organized at Cleveland, Ohio, May 15, 1889, seems to have commended itself to both of the two great branches of Methodist Episcopacy. Each of the congregations in the two branches in Springfield has a league connected with it. But the Southern churches have no central organization, while the five Methodist Episcopal churches have a united body. The total membership in the five churches is about two hundred and seventy-five. The president is Christopher Abegglen, Jr., the secretary, Miss Ora Boley. Meetings of the united societies are held once every three months, at which some theme previously assigned is considered.


A few vears ago some six or seven of the churches of Springfield had in them more or less completely organized Brotherhoods, some fairly active, others rather passive, as their officials willed and acted, the chief desideratum being some worthy aim outside the cultivation of the social spirit in their members. This aim was suggested by one of the organizations, viz., the financial support of Mrs. Mary M. Smith as a travelers' aide, her chief business being to meet and aid incoming passengers on the Frisco and Missouri Pacific railroads, whether merely passing through the city or intending to remain. Especially was it needful to guard young and unsuspecting girls coming to the city for employment from harpies of either sex, watching and waiting to pounce upon them and work their ruin. This genuinely Christian work was supported for some time by gifts collected in the Federated Brotherhoods, of which W. W. Thomas, superintendent of the schools of the city, was president. But failure of regular contributions from some of the brotherhoods and the small number in the federation made the support increasingly difficult, constituting one reason for the larger Federation of churches by which the support of the Travelers' Aide has lately been financed. It is believed that not more than two of the brotherhoods are in active operation now. [617]


While this organization cannot be reckoned among the churches of the City and is not auxiliary to the churches of any denomination, it surely deserves a place among auxiliaries to the work of the churches of every name, in lines both spiritual and secular. In recognition of this relation the Ministerial Alliance have enrolled in their number the chief officer of the army. Its work in Springfield began some thirty years ago, and has been continued ever since, the members holding services on the Public Square and in the rooms occupied as headquarters, providing food and clothing for the needy, and in other ways seeking to minister to the sorrows and sins and needs, physical and spiritual, of their fellow men, especially of the poor and those "down and out" to whom the churches, even when desiring to do so, find it practically almost impossible to render helpful personal ministry.

After serving for some time at the head of the Salvation Army in Springfield, William Oliver was appointed relief officer of the city, where he has rendered efficient service, proving, in spite of much complaint from some quarters, an honest and wise official, if the testimony of those who know his work best can be trusted.

The rooms of the Salvation Army in Springfield are on the second story of a building on the west side of South street, C. W. Jerome being in charge of the work. [618]

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