The pioneers of Morgan County were a moral and a God-fearing people -- not noted for wild fanaticism nor their witch-burning proclivities. They were patient, plodding and conservative, and were always more or less inclined to keep their religion and politics separate. But the old patriarchs looked after the religious Welfare of their households, and therefore, as soon as enough had gathered in a settlement, they would have "meetings" whenever a local or chance passing preacher could be called into requisition. For many years they would meet at some one of the neighbors' houses, organize and do what they could to keep brightly burning the fires of the faith within them. Indeed, in several places in the county, yet, there are not enough to form separate denominational societies, and so meet in "union" gatherings, and often have built "Union" churches. That is, the different congregations joined and worked together, but held their separate meetings, and had, when they could get them, their own preachers.
Morgan County has about thirty-five churches and one saloon. This statement bears its own comment.
Methodist Episcopal Churches
For many years it was simply the Methodist Episcopal Church, but here, as elsewhere in the Southern States, when the split in the Church occurred the Church in the division became the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.
The first church in Versailles was Methodist, and organized in 1836. Services were held for some years in the court-room, the first pastor conducting the same being Rev. Abram Millice. He was Morgan County's first circuit rider. In the course of time the congregation was served -- holding at first not more than monthly regular meetings -- by Revs. Armitage, Dunlevy, Thomas Wallace and Daniel Leeper.
In 1842 the congregation built their church on the ground now occupied by their present building. It was a large frame structure. In 1877 it was remodeled and rebuilt into its present size and form. The old building was torn down and narrowed in the new and otherwise improved edifice.
Rev. J. B. Woolridge was for years pastor, perhaps longer in charge than any one man.
In 1858 Rev. W. R. Litsinger was in charge, and for some years he was the factotum of the church. During the war it was in a suspended condition, and when the trouble was over, the old members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, again took possession of their property.
There are two Methodist Episcopal Churches (North) in the county -- the German Methodist Episcopal Church in Haw Creek Township and the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in Versailles. The latter building is near the colored school, and was erected in 1880. A large congregation hold regular services. Lewis Shepherd is pastor in charge.
Places of worship of the Methodist Church in the early pioneer times in Morgan County were established in about the following order and places. There was an organization and services at Hopewell Church, Abney's, eight miles west of Versailles; a church was built on the Gravois, near Thomas Allen's, eight miles south of Versailles; another at Self's, eight miles northwest of Versailles, and one at Wesley Church, six miles east of Versailles.
Glensted Methodist Episcopal Church building was erected in 1886 -- a substantial frame. Regular services are held, joined in by a large congregation.
Rock Springs Methodist Episcopal Church building was erected in 1874-75. It is situated on the Moreau, eight miles northwest of Versailles. It has stated meetings.
Proctor Methodist Episcopal Church is a frame house in the hamlet of Proctor, two miles north of the south county line. The building is quite ancient, and services are held but seldom and irregularly.
Hinken Methodist Episcopal Church was organized as early as 1850. It is situated in Haw Creek Township, ten miles northwest of Versailles. A good frame building is here, and a strong society, the pastor in 1888 being Rev. Dryer.
Mount Nebo Methodist Episcopal Church (South) was built as the property of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. A good building, on a beautiful site, is six miles northwest of Versailles. The title to the property is just now in doubt. Rev. Bond of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, holds regular services. Good sized congregations are in attendance. The building was erected in 1882.
Self's Chapel (Methodist Episcopal Church, South) in Haw Creek Township, is near the north line of Haw Township. The society has been organized since 1855. Joshua A. Self is the founder and principal.
Wesley Church (Methodist Episcopal, South), is northeast Of Versailles seven miles. The building was put up in 1859. A small congregation attend the services, which are held irregularly.
The Baptist Churches are of the particular denomination called "Regular."
Freedom (Baptist) Church was built in 1857, and is a large and flourishing congregation, worshiping in a commodious church building. The ministers in charge have been Revs. Estes Woods and Thomas Greer, Josiah M. Chaney, J. D. Box, J. L. Baughman and John Robinson. The present pastor is Rev. J. T. Letts. The church organization is ten years older than their building.
The Versailles Baptist Church is also called the First Baptist Church of Versailles. The congregation was organized in 1868, with thirteen members. The first pastor was Rev. J. B. Box, fol- lowed by Revs. R. H. Harris, James Price, S. M. Victor, J. T. Letts and the present minister in charge, L. M. Berry. The erection of the present church edifice was commenced in 1876. The congregation now numbers twenty.
The Colored Baptist Church of Versailles have a comfortable building and fair sized congregation. They hold regular services. Lewis Anthony is pastor in charge. Their building was put up in 1881.
Florence Baptist Church has a comfortable building in the village.
Salem Baptist Church is in Haw Creek Township, the building having been erected in 1880. J. L. Baughman is pastor.
Mount Carmel Baptist Church is about seven miles south of Syracuse. The good building is occupied by a fair congregation, with stated services. Aaron Hodge is one of the prominent and early men in the organization; also Robert Moore and A. C. Lampton.
Mount Olive Baptist Church, in the northwest of Mill Creek Township, occupies a building which was erected in 1879.
Bethlehem Baptist Church, in Richland Township, has as pastor Rev. Dinwiddie.
Big Rock organization is twenty years old. Their present building was put up in 1886, the first edifice having been erected about 1870. Their present pastor, Howard Jackson, and John West have been the principal ministers in charge.
Big Gravois Baptist Church is at Hume's Mill, a new and good building. Previous to that meetings were held in the district school-house. Rev. A. Bowers was first pastor, and then J. E. Sims. The present pastor is J. L. Baughman.
Upper Gravois Baptist Church, sometimes called Richey Church, is situated seven miles south of Versailles. The building house was erected in 1884, previous to which a school-house was occupied. Rev. Baughman is pastor. The first preachers were Revs. A. Bowers, J. M. McCourtney and Daniel Bowers.
New Prospect Christian Church is situated seventeen miles south of Versailles. The organization was effected in 1885, and meetings are held in the school-house near the old place once called Mining Post, at the mouth of Gravois.
The Christian Church at Versailles was organized in February, 1886, by State Evangelist G. A. Hoffman, with ten members: John Witten and wife, S. K. Woods, Mary L. Woods, Tabitha French, Susan Anthony, Betty Robinson, Isaac Dodson and Mary Dodson. The elders were Witten and Dodson; first pastor, O. A. Feltner. Meetings are held in the Baptist Church. The membership at present is ninety. The present minister is William P. Dorsey. Preaching is held once a month. The Sunday-school numbers 140. For some years S. R. Wood was superintendent. He was succeeded by W. D. Ross, assisted by P. G. Wood.
Barnett Christian Church is the second church of this denomination. Its name indicates its place in the county. They have a comfortable church house and stated services. The congregation is in a prosperous condition. The church was built for a union church and school-house in 1884. Among the early organizers was Levi Dutcher, who served them. The present pastor is E. F. Hoffman. Rev. J. D. Thompson was pastor the second year.
Hopewell Christian Church, in Moreau Township, east of Versailles, was organized in 1866, under J. W. Sappington. He returned in 1878, and preached two years, being succeeded by James M. Tennyson for three years; then O. P. Davis and Rev. J. W. Frost. A union Sunday-school is held. In this house the congregations of Christians, Missionary Baptists and Cumberland Presbyterians hold services. Of the Christian preachers there have been J. H. D. Thompson and D. W. Connor; then J. D. Thompson and then the present pastor.
Their present building is the third that has been built at this place, succeeding, first, the Presbyterians and Methodists; then Baptists and Christians, after which the third building was erected, and is their present church. It is a large, commodious edifice, 60 x 40 in dimensions.
This denomination was organized in Versailles in 1888. Meetings are held in the Baptist Church. The first services were conducted by Rev. Wilkins. Their present pastor is Rev. Fulton.
New Hope Union Church was built by Cumberland Presbyterians early in the 70's, under Rev. Tipton. The Baptists, Cumberland Presbyterians and Christians hold regular services in this building. It is southeast of Versailles, on the Gravois.
Syracuse Union Church was put up in 1860. There are three church societies that meet at stated times in this building.
Pleasant Union Church is in the northern part and near the west line of the county. The Congregationalists now hold regular meetings in this church.
Chaney Chapel is a union church. The Methodists and Baptists have regular preaching in this building. It is about twelve miles southwest of Versailles.
This denomination has three churches in Haw Township. This part of the county was settled at an early day by Germans, and they built their churches soon after coming to the county. They have comfortable buildings and strong societies. North of Florence are two Lutheran Churches.
The Catholic Church of Morgan County is in Osage Township. It has stated visits from pastors. One of the leading men of this church is Mr. Fitzpatrick, and he was largely instrumental in having it located in that place. It is served at stated times from distant points.
Mount Zion Church (Mennonite)
Mount Zion Church (Mennonite), situated seven miles northeast of Versailles, Daniel Driver, pastor, is a comfortable frame building, erected in 1874. The people of this faith began their settlement in this part of the county in 1869-70, and soon after effected their church organization, holding meetings at members' houses until their church was built.
Prairie View Church (Dunkard)
Prairie View Church (Dunkard) is about half a mile from St. Martin's postoffice. It was built in 1881; David Bowman is pastor. It was organized in 1875 with twenty members, which number has increased to seventy-four.
History of Cole, Moniteau, Morgan, Benton, Miller, Maries and Osage Counties, Missouri, Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1889.