Bethany Mo. Churches



The Christian Church was a brick structure built in 1872 at a cost of $7,000.00.  It was located on Alder street on the lot where the parsonage now stands.  The membership was 400.  The pastor in the early day was Elder W.M. Browder.  He was followed by W.F. Parker, who lived in a house located where A.C. Flint's residence is located.  A small frame parsonage was built on the lot west of the church.  This was sometimes used as a parsonage and sometimes not, depending on the size of the ministers family.

The acoustics of the church were faulty and this was remedied by stretching wire from opposite windows.  Perhaps to remedy the defect the pulpit was placed on the east side of the church for a while, an the pews were turned to face the east.  R.F. Good was the principal tune raiser.  This gentleman could soar high and was soon out of reach of the other brethren, but a few of the sisters carried on regardless of what dizzy heights the tune ascended.  In the early 80's a reed organ was purchased.  The organ was usually used except on occasions when David Buck attended.  In deference to his feelings, the organ was not used then.  this building was deemed inadequate to the needs of the membership and in 1900 one of the best churches in the county was erected on the site of the small parsonage at a cost of $10,000.00  It was dedicated by Dr. Breeden of Des Moines.  Besides the main auditorium, which has a large gallery, there were lecture rooms, class rooms and study.  It has a seating capacity of 700.  The full size basement is divided into class rooms, dining room, kitchen and furnace room.  The pipe organ was installed in 1916 and Mrs. J.G. Hinkle has been organist and pianist for 14 years and has conducted the sunday school orchestra for about the same length of time.

In 1909 a very substantial and commodious parsonage was built at a cost of $5,500.00.  It is modern two story building containing nine rooms.

The ministers who have been employed since 1880 are W.W. Browder, W.F. Parker, Alexander Elliott, W.P. Summers, W.H. Hook, W.H. Williams, Elder Dew, A.P. Johnson, W.H. Johnson, T.G. Golightly, F.J. Stinson, O.Orahood, L.H. Otto, C.V.Pearce, C.S. Sherman, and B.S.M. Edwards.

Besides the regular pastors, several eminent ministers of the gospel have visited the church from time to time.  Elder M.M. Goode of St. Joseph preached a series of discourses many years ago, and by his able presentation of the truth did much toward building up and strenthening the congregation.  Of late years E.E. Violette, D.D., evangelist, lecturer, traveler, and writer, has preached and lectured in three series of meetings and was instrumental in arousing great interest and increasing the church membership.


The Methodist Episcopal Church was a frame structure located two blocks west of the square.  It was built in 1871 at a cost of $4,000.00.  One of the smallest organs ever used in church service was used for several years.  It was not used on occasions when Rev. A.N. Cave Sr. preached because of his aversion to an organ in church.  In the early 80's the congregation from the Cumberland Presbyterian church worshipped with the Methodists.  M. McCollum was superintendent and A.M. Morgan was teacher in the sunday school.  C. Crossan was trustee of the church.  In 1894 there was an aggressive move made by the church.  The Rev. George W. Wilson conducted revival services.  Seldom, if ever, has the community been stirred as much as during the weeks that followed.  The church, whose seating capacity was 400, proved inadequate to hold the crowds and the meetings were adjourned to the auditorium.  There was a great ingathering.  This meeting made necessary a new and commodious church building.  The present church was built at a cost of $10,000.00.  It was dedicated in 1895 by Dr. Lewis Curts.  Besides the auditorium it has lecture room, class rooms and study.  It will seat 700 people.  In 1902 the pipe organ was installed at a cost of $1,500.00.  Mrs. C.A. Shearer was organist for about 20 years.  The annual conference was entertained by the Bethany church in 1896, Bishop Cranston presiding.  Two camp meetings were important.  One was in 1894, with G.W. Wilson, Leader, and the other was in 1910, with F.J. Smith, leader.

The parsonage in 1880, was the residence now belonging to G.M.Sigenthaler.  About 1888 this property was sold and the McGeorge residence, east of the church was bought and occupied as a parsonage.  In 1895, the new parsonage, a two-story frame building was erected at a cost of $4,000.00.  It is modern and contains seven rooms.

The pastors of the church during the fifty years were J.G. Thompson, Isaac Chevington, W.C.Renter, F.J. Stephenson, J.B. Grover, F.W. Pierce, R.L. Thompson, T.J. Enyeart, M.F. Sapp, J.J. Lace, R.K. Calloway, W.F. Clayton, S. Carothers, E.P. Reed, F.C. Fay, J.O. Taylor, W.S. Welsh, E.P.Reed, J.W. Thompson, W.C. Harper and J.M. Mason.


In 1868 the Cumberland Presbyterian congregation had built a brick house of worship in the south part of town.  It was 40x50 feet in size, with a seating capacity of 350, and represented a capital of $2,000.00.  For several years Sunday School was regularly held and preaching service was held once or twice a month. The Rev. J.M. Reagan and the Rev. Harry Tharp supplied the church.  There was no resident minister until about 1890.  During intervals when no regular minister was employed, or later, when the church was being rebuilt, the members worshiped with the Methodist congregation.  In 1892 the old brick building was torn down and a handsome frame edifice was built at a cost of $6,500.00.  In 1904 it was enlarged, the seating capacity being 500.  It was dedicated by Dr. Black of Missouri Valley College.  Later improvement created a full sized basement, containg kitchen, dining room and furnace room.

The manse, a one-story frame, erected in 1896 on a lot south of the church, was occupied by the pastors families until a few years ago, when it was sold.  The following were resident pastors:  J.W. Magee, E.J.Adams, W.J.Willis, the Rev. Mr. Ivall, J.T.Hood, E.D.Barnes, L.A.Layman, and J.W.Keicher.  Because of deaths and removal from town of influential members, this faithful and zealous congregation has found it necessary to disband and place their membership in other churches.


The Baptist Church was organized in 1908.  A handsome brick building was erected on the northwest corner of the former Pitt Lot.  This edifice was dedicated by Dr. West of Carrolton, Mo.  It has a seating capacity of 300 and represents a capital of $5,000.00.  A basement has a well equipped kitchen, dining room and furnace room.  This small congregation was materially benefited when the Bethel Baptist church in Sherman Township disbanded, sold their building and became members of the Bethany church.  Mt. Zion and other nearby Baptist churches have added to the strength of this organization.  The pastors have been J.W. Kelley, the Rev. Mr. Goodsell, the Rev. Mr. Allen, W.O.Dotson, B. Atterberry, C.V.Bittiker and J.W. Miner.


The churches of Bethany united in a revival under the leadership of the Rev. Charles Scovill in 1914.  These meetings were held in a tabernacle which was erected in a vacant lot north of the school house.  Large crowds, liberal donations and many additions and coversions would indicate the success of the meeting.  But the effort was never repeated.

From the earliest days of protracted meetings there  always followed an aftermath of baptizings.  Big Creek was the usual place for this ceremony, and a beautiful scene it was.  The place selected was near the canning factory bridge or near the mill.  The banks crowded with people, with a background of overhanging elms and willows and nearby mill made a lovely picture.  On one occasion when the crowd was unusually large, the Papineau Bros. photographed the scene.  Besides the large crowd of people, on the outskirts were shown several phaetons, canopy topped surreys and dozens of buggies.  The great elms have long been sacrificed to progress and the beauty of Bethany Falls lives only in memory.  On one of those baptismal occasions the minister surprised both candidate and spectators by baptizing the candidates face foremost.  Another time when there was a little lull after the hymn, a prominent citizen filled with zeal and enthuiasm, espied his little dog.  "Here, Fido, you ought to be baptized,"  he said, and grabbing Fido threw the little dog out into the stream, much to the consternation or amusement of the spectators.  The older inhabitants tell of the thickness of ice which was cut for memorable baptizings in the early days.  Both the Christian and Baptist Churches were equipped with baptisteries, and these were used by the other churches when necessary.

Excerpts from articles "Fifty Years of Bethany" written by Mrs. Lillian Prentiss. 
These articles appeared in the Bethany Republican Clipper from April  22, through July 8, 1931.
transcribed by: Melody Beery


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