This history of Methodism in Neosho was compliled by Larry A. James in 2016
The Early Years
When Methodism first reached the Neosho area, the area was one of few residents, plenty of wild game and many sparkling streams. The first settler, in this part of southwest Missouri was Lunsford Oliver who settled in the Shoal Creek bottom about three miles northeast of the present town of Newtonia in 1829. At that time, Indians still roamed the woods and the appearance of bear and other wild game was common. It was in that setting that the first Methodist minister set out into the wilderness west of Springfield in 1836. In 1878, Constantine F. Dryden wrote the following words concerning his venture into the wilderness:
“In February, 1836, I left my father’s in Davies county for Seneca Mission, which lay mostly in Barry county. Barry then included what are now Barton, Jasper, Newton, McDonald and Barry Counties ... The distance around my mission was 300 miles, which I traveled every three weeks. I was the first preacher, if I could be called one, that traveled Seneca Mission. There was no plan, so I had to establish my own appointments. On my way to the mission I met Brother W. W. Redman, the presiding elder of the district, who had employed me to travel the mission, at Pleasant Hill; also Brother Henry Clemmins, who was my guide and traveling companion through the wilderness.
We went via Harmony mission on the Maries des Cygnes. After leaving the Osage, we had one and half days’ travel, without a solitary house on the way. We camped during the night in a skirt of timber near Dry Wood. Through divine mercy we reached my field of labor, and I at once entered on my work. It is needless for me to attempt to recount my discouragements. I was some three hundred miles from my home and kindred, with responsibilities resting upon me that I felt unable to bear. There was no local preacher or exhorter to counsel and assist me. I went with a heavy heart, and often wept by the way. But, bless God, I was often victorious, and then rejoiced. I reported twenty-five members to Conference.”
Constantine Dryden was born on May 20, 1809 in Washington County, Virginia. He joined the church on July 17, 1833, and in the spring and summer of 1836 he organized the Barry Mission. The first class in the Shoal Creek area was organized in the house of a local preacher named Weems on Indian Creek where Wanda (Harmony) is located. The name was changed to Newton Mission in 1837 and later to Neosho Mission. Among the early Methodists were
such names as Bryan, Patton, Smyth, Price, Cumming, Burns, Weems, Ellis, Kelly, Howerton, Overton, Davenport, Kinny, Ross, Jones and Sparling.
The following was copied from the Conference Journal:
“The first Conference for Shoal Creek Mission met at Brother Weems’, in Barry County, Dec. 29, 1838, J. Lannius, P. E. The following members composed the Conference: E. B. Headlee, P. C., J. McCary, L. P., Ira Ellis, A. Lock and George Starns, class-leaders, John Williams, Stewart.”
After leaving Shoal Creek Mission, C. F. Dryden served various churches in southwest Missouri until 1845. He died at Whitesboro, Texas, on November 21, 1882, in his forty-eighth year of ministry.
John N. Mitchell traveled the Barry Circuit in 1837. He was licensed to preachonAugust5,1836,atCaveSpringCampgroundnearSpringfield. Mitchell left the ministry in 1838 and settled in New Madrid County, Missouri.
Samuel S. Colburn traveled the Barry Circuit in 1838. He was born on May 1, 1807, in Greene County, Tennessee, but later came to Missouri where he was licensed to preach in 1835. Colburn traveled the St. Genevieve, Warsaw, Springfield, Warrenton, and Booneville Circuits as well as others. At the time of his death on August 26, 1875, he had preached forty-two years.
Elisha B. Headlee was licensed to preach on May 5, 1838, and was sent to the Shoal Creek Mission in 1839 succeeding Rev. Colburn. The old Barry Circuit was divided into two circuits in 1838. Elisha Headlee preached in Missouri until 1856 when he moved to Arkansas where he later served as a member of the Arkansas State Legislature.
J. P. P. Wood traveled the Neosho Circuit in 1840 and 1841. In later 1841, Calvin Bewley was appointed to travel the Neosho Circuit. He traveled the Neosho and Greenfield Circuits until 1844 when he went back to Tennessee. In September of 1843, Anthony Bewley was appointed to serve the Neosho Circuit. He joined the Holston conference in 1820. Holston moved to Missouri in 1837 and in 1843 he entered the Missouri Conference. Warren Wharton followed Bewley in 1844. He was born in Guilford County, North Carolina, on March 5, 1820, and moved to Missouri as a youth. Wharton was admitted to preach at Ebenezer Campground near Springfield on August 4, 1843. He was described as a man of medium size, dark auburn hair, laughing blue eyes, Roman nose with a mouth, cheek and chin to suit. Wharton died on December 12, 1875.
The Methodist Episcopal Church, South 1845-1939
The Circuit Riders
The division of the Methodist Church, in Missouri, in 1844, foreshadowed the tragedy of the Civil War. The church was divided into the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (MECS) and the Methodist Episcopal Church. At that time, the Methodist Episcopal Church disappeared from the Neosho area. The first minister of the MECS in the Neosho area was Harris G. Joplin. Rev. Joplin is best remembered as the namesake for the town of Joplin, Missouri. Joplin entered the Tennessee Conference in 1829 but transferred to the Missouri Conference in 1831. He traveled the Hot Springs Circuit as well as the Greene Circuit until 1837 when he married a Miss Sims and settled in the area that now bears his name. Joplin traveled the Neosho Circuit in 1845 and 1846. He died in 1852. Although not regarded as a first class preacher, Joplin was known as the best exhorter in the area. It was the custom in the early days to have one person deliver the sermon and another to be the exhorter.
Joseph Bond served the next two years in Neosho. Bond entered at the St. Louis conference in 1847 and preached in Missouri for sixteen years. He died in 1867. The district had no minister in 1849 and was served by J. T. Davenport in 1850. Joseph O. Woods served Neosho in 1851 and 1852. Woods was born and raised near Caledonia, Missouri, and was received into the ministry in 1844. During the War, a cloud came over his moral character and he withdrew from the church and moved to northwest Arkansas.
James A. Cumming served the district in 1853. He was born in Buncombe County, North Carolina, on November 23, 1826, and later moved to Missouri. Cumming was licensed to preach on July 4, 1849, and died in 1859 in Henry County, Missouri.
T. J. Smith was appointed to serve in 1855. Smith was received into the church in 1854. When he died in 1885, he had preached for twenty-seven years. Joseph Woods was again appointed to Neosho in 1856. J. M. Proctor served the church in 1857. He was received into the ministry in 1846.
John Fletcher Pearson was appointed to serve the Neosho Circuit in 1858. Pearson was born in 1829 and received into the North Carolina conference in 1854. He was a graduate of Trinity College. He came to the St. Louis Conference in 1858 and died in Arkansas in 1862. 3
J. S. Phelps was minister in 1859 and was followed in 1860 by Andj. Williams. Williams was admitted to the Holstan Conference in 1843 and transferred to Missouri in 1858 where he served until 1861. He died in 1876. The Civil War brought to a standstill the work of the MECS until 1866. The bitterness of the war fueled the division of the Methodist Church during this time. Proslavery groups needlessly killed many Methodist ministers. Little is known about what happened to the MECS congregation during the Civil War. They probably moved north or south to escape the cruelties of the bushwhackers who operated on the Missouri borders.
C. C. Wright was appointed to serve the Neosho Circuit in 1867. Wright was admitted into the ministry in 1859 and served until 1881. Jeff Tillery served the Neosho Circuit in 1868 and 1869. He was admitted to the Missouri Conference in 1854.
The Neosho Station
J. M. Hogan served the Neosho Circuit in 1870 and 1871. Hogan was received into the ministry in 1866. Records show that up to April 14, 1870, Rev. Hogan was holding services at the Baptist church on the second Sunday of each month. The first Sunday School in Neosho was organized in January of 1870 with Dr. Lewis Wills as superintendent.
In May, of 1870, work was started on a permanent church building located at the corner of Washington and Hickory Streets. This is the current location of Jons Pharmacy parking lot.
To the Hon. Circuit Court of Newton Co., Missouri
Your petitioners would respectfully represent, that they are members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South of Neosho, Missouri, organized under the articles of association and discipline herein before mentioned and set forth and that the foregoing is a list of the members.
That they desire that a Certificate of Incorporation be granted unto them in accordance with the provisions of an act concerning corporations, approved March 19th, 1866, under the name and style of the “Methodist Episcopal Church, South of Neosho, Missouri,” and that they be thereby declared a body politic and incorporate by the name and style aforesaid with all the powers, privileges and
immunities granted in the act above named, wherefore they respectfully pray that the said certificate be granted them –
Mary C. Wills Littleton Thompson Emory Henning
L. H. Moss
John A. Hening Mary L. Hening James Carnes Caroline Carnes John Renfro
I, B. L. Kendrick, Judge of the Circuit Court within and for the County of Newton in the State of Missouri doth hereby order the clerk of the said Court to issue a certificate of Incorporation upon the within petition. Given under my hand this 16th February A. D. 1871.
B. L. Kendrick Circuit Judge
ARTICLES OF ASSOCIATION
METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH, SOUTH IN THE TOWN OF NEOSHO, MISSOURI
1st The association shall be known as the “Methodist Episcopal Church, South in the Town of Neosho, MO.
2nd The doctrines and discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South” shall be the Rules of Faith and Practice of this Church.
3rd The Secular Officers of this church shall consist of five (5) Trustees or more who shall hold their office for life or good behavior, and who shall be the legal representatives of the Church and perform all the duties incident to that office.
4th Lewis Wills, Eli Powers, Isaac B. Jones, James Carnes, and Felix G. Ray shall be Trustees for this Church responsible to the Conference of this circuit.
The following is a list of members of said church:
Rev. John A. Hening Emery Hening Mary B. Hening Isabel Gant
Mary S. Hening Charles H. Hening Luta Moss
Mary Ramsour Emma Gibson Margaret Clark Eli Powers
Lucinda Richardson Harriet Pool Angeline Powers Lewis Wills
J. B. Jones
Mary D. Jones Martha Thomas Amanda Crowdus Littleton Thompson John Renfrow
Mary J. Wills
Mary A. Barnes Rachel Jones
Joseph Wilson Baldwin Underwood
Charlotta Lyle Thomas Lyle
Sopha Lyle Julia Ann Crumbliss John Thompson Leannah Thompson
The following appeared in the August 10, 1871, edition of The Neosho Times:
The dedication of the M. E. Church, South at this place on Sunday last was largely attended. Many ministers and laymen from adjoining counties were in attendance ...
The dedication sermon by Rev. Mr. Prottsman, was one of those rare specimens of pulpit oratory with which we are seldom favored ...
After the sermon a call was made upon the congregation to “come down” with contributions to pay the new church edifice out of debt.
The lot and building cost $2,758 of which sum there had been subscribed and paid $1,758, leaving a balance due of $1,000, which amount, be it said to the honor of Neosho, was made up in less than one hour. ...
At 3 o’clock, P. M., the dedicatory services were commenced and performed in a very impressive manner by Rev. W. M. Prottsman, assisted by Rev. J. Tillery and Rev. J. F. Hogan, the house having been formally presented by Dr. Lewis Wills, on behalf of the church, to be dedicated to the worship of Almighty
God. In 1872, Neosho was made a station with Rev. Berridge Margeson being appointed the first minister of the Neosho Station. Margeson was born on February 27, 1842, in Lincolnshire, England. He Weatherhawk in 1862 and they came to America in 1870. He preached in Neosho in 1872 and 1873. After leaving Neosho, he served churches at Marshall, Jefferson City, and Springfield and later married Jennie in several different states. Margeson died on August 3, 1926, at Neosho and was buried in Hale cemetery south of Neosho near Premier Turbines. The Neosho United Methodist Church marked his grave in 1976 as a Bicentennial project.
Records indicate that in 1872 the Neosho Station had 93 members along with 100 Sunday School scholars and seventeen teachers and officers. At that time, the church seated 250 and was valued at $3,000. By 1882, the membership had grown to 203 with 135 in Sunday School. The trustees and stewards for 1886 were George Hubbert, O. A. Moss, L. M. Lloyd, A. M. Sevier, B. Pritchard, I. D. Galbraith, Dr. Lewis Wills, Thomas Anderson and John Propst.
The New Building
It was decided to build a new church in 1893 when Dr. C. C. Woods was pastor; however, the financial panic of that year postponed the project. At the May 9th, 1896, conference, the following motion was made: “On motion of the preacher in charge, the conference authorizes the church in Neosho to build a church on the lot on which their church house is situated, or on the northwest corner of Hickory and Wood streets.” It was decided not to build until a subscription of $6,000 was reached. This amount was not reached until December 31, 1896. Charles S. Davis was contracted to construct the building. The new church was designed to seat 240 at a cost of near $8,000.
The following articles appeared in The Neosho Times:
March 25, 1897
“The South Methodists decided by vote last Sunday to build their new church on the corner of Wood and Hickory streets. The old church will be overhauled and remodeled by the architect and converted into a parsonage. The money necessary to prosecute the work of building both the church and parsonage is now in the hands of the trustees and there will be no delay except the time necessary to obtain plans and specifications. The new church will be either stone or pressed brick.”
June 17, 1897
“Plans and specifications for the new M. E. Church, South, have been accepted and the building committee of the church are now ready to let the contract. Joe A. Prather of Carthage is the architect and the general plan of the building is the same as the Cumberland Presbyterian Church of Carthage. The site is the northeast corner of Wood and Hickory Streets. The auditorium will be 49 by 51 feet and the main entrance will be at the corner beneath a tower 60 feet high which will contain the vestibule. The pulpit is situated on the north side of the auditorium and back of it is an elevated recess for the choir and pipe organ. To the west of the auditorium and separated from it by a glass drop partition is the lecture room, 20 by 32 feet, a library room 14 by 25 1/2 feet, and a ladies’ parlor, 12 by 14 feet. Above the lecture room is a gallery 20 by 32 feet overlooking the auditorium, and a classroom 12 by 14 feet over the library. There is a side entrance from Hickory street to a vestibule which leads either to the auditorium or lecture room. The east and south fronts are to be pressed brick with native lime stone trimming. The roof is to be slate and the inside woodwork red pine in hard oil finish. The plans indicate that for both convenience and beauty of design, the new M. E. Church, South, of Neosho will not be excelled in southwest Missouri.”
August 19, 1897
“The contract for the building of the new M. E. Church, South, was let Monday to Chas. Davis. The church will be according to plans and specifications submitted some time ago and described in this paper except that the dimensions will be smaller, the floor space being reduced about 16 feet. The change was necessary because the bids on the original plans far exceeded the amount of money the church had raised for the building. As the plans now are, the church will cost over $6,000 and including the lot and necessary furnishings will probably reach $7,000. It is to be completed by Jan. 1, 1898.”
September 9, 1897
“An old landmark was removed last week by the workmen who are excavating for the foundation of the new M. E. Church, South. D. A. Price remembers, though he was quite a boy at the time, that the elm tree which had to be taken out was planted in 1856. It had grown to be three feet in diameter at the butt and a wide-spreading shade tree.”
April 21, 1898
“The new M. E. Church, South, was opened for services last Sunday morning
and although it was not very generally known, a very large congregation was present to hear the first sermon of the pastor, Rev. W. C. Hill, in the new building. At the evening services also there was a large congregation. The members of this church are very proud of their new house of worship and with good reason, too, for it is a beautiful structure and an ornament as well as a lasting benefit to our city. The only part that yet remains to be added to make the structure complete as projected is the pipe organ for which the greater part of the funds have already been raised. The time for the dedication has not been fixed.”
June 30, 1898
“Some mischievous or malicious boys or men entered the new M. E. Church, South, one night last week and poured water on the seats and carpet and defaced some of the furniture. The water was carried up from the cellar where it had accumulated in a hole. It appears like an act of wanton malice and yet we are loth to believe that there is anyone in Neosho mean enough to do such damage to a public house of worship. The same night window lights were broken out of the central school building, the damage being several dollars worth.”
The date stone above the door was cut by Mr. D. Markey and set on October 23, 1897. Dr. C. C. Woods dedicated the new building on April 20, 1901. Final records show that the total cost of the building was $7,442.97.
It was decided that the old building would not make a satisfactory parsonage as indicated by this story from The Neosho Times dated April 11,
1901. “Workmen are busy tearing down the old brick South Methodist church, to make room for the new parsonage to be erected on the site at a cost of $1,500. The brick has been sold to the Briggs-Centers Hardware Company, who will use it in the erection of a warehouse. This church was built in 1870, and at that time was considered quite a fine structure, being one of a very few brick buildings in this town.”
As early as the April 2, 1917, board meeting there was a discussion about moving the parsonage to a more suitable location. It was not until the August 2, 1920, board meeting that it was decided to move the parsonage from its current location to a lot on Washington Street owned by M. E. Benton. At the September
The Methodist Episcopal Church, South about 1915
7th meeting, it was reported that the house was on its new lot on Washington Street. Cost for the lot was $1,100 and the moving cost was $500. In this early time, various members loaned money to the church in order to complete the project. The January 3, 1921, board minutes noted that the following amounts had been loaned for this project: W. G. Wills, $300; Jas. McGinty, $200; Mrs. W. G. Wills, $100; Mrs. M. L. Ritchey, $100; J. W. Linney, $100; L. D. Rice, $100; Dr. E. G. Williams, $200; Dr. D. L. Weems, $200; L. E. Mitchell, $100; R. E. Linney, $100; John Edson, $100; C. E. Davis, $100; S. M. Farley, $100; Geo. Dahnke, $100; Dr. R. D. England, $100; Dr. D. B. Morgan, $100; John Robison, $50; Guy Houchin, $25; J. W. Harris, $50; and C. E. Hall, $100.
In a move to recoup the costs of the move, the trustees of the church purchased the entire Benton property on September 21, 1921. The Benton Hill Sub-division, as it was called, was divided into eleven lots with L. D. Rice purchasing the first lot on January 21, 1923. It was not until early 1924 that the church was able to sell the lot on the corner of Hickory and Washington Streets.
Many old records of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South are still available and make for some very interesting reading. In 1914 the total budget of the church was $2,145 with $1,200 going for the pastor’s salary. At that time, the following were members of the Board of Stewards: A. P. Anderson, J. F. Armstrong, M. E. Benton who was the father of Thomas Hart Benton the artist, D. C. Brown, W. J. Catron, C. E. Davis, R. B. Jones, R. E. Linney, J. W. Linney, O. A.
Moss, E. H. Newcomb, M. T. Rice, L. D. Rice, John Robison, D. R. Stout, W. G. Wills, E. G. Williams with R. E. Linney as president.
The following statistical report was made for 1918. There are four local preachers, nineteen additions on profession of faith, fifty-four additions by certificate, twenty-one were removed with a total membership of 450. The total budget for that year had risen to $3,186 with $1,400 going to B. B. Pennington for the pastor’s salary.
The trustees listed the value of the church in 1920 at $15,000. By 1920 the church membership had grown to 504. In 1922, it was noted that $336 was raised for the support of “worn out preachers.” The following were trustees in 1923: George Dahnke, J. W. Linney, L. E. Mitchell, D. F. Stout, John Robison, Samuel Reynolds, and O. A. Moss. The practice of providing weekly bulletins for the church service was started in 1923.
This Methodist Sunday School photo was taken between 1915 and 1918. The only person idetified in the photo is Martha Linney on the upper right.
What a wonderful interior photo of the MECS showing the pipe organ. This photo was taken about 1932. Look at all the babies in the church at the time.
By 1929 the value of the church had risen to $20,000. In 1933 the membership was back up to 484 with a budget for that year of $4,297. The following report of the General State of the Church was made on June 24, 1936:
(1) We have one Sunday School and one Epworth League. Both have their regular services with an occasional business meeting. During the last part the attendance of their services has been less than usual.
(2) Five children have been instructed in church membership by the pastor.
(3) We have received the following named persons on profession of faith: Betty Jean Connely, Phyllis Weber, Betty Jean Peck, Betty Lou Palmer and Dorothia Herring. William Pendergrass by letter, W. A. Reinets has died.
(4) We have one active Woman’s Missionary Society. In addition to their regular work they have completed one course, a missionary study taught by Mrs. C. E. Davis.
(5) During the session our laymen conducted two of our Sunday morning services. We have one Wesley Brotherhood, which holds
regular monthly meetings.
The church continued to grow through the Depression years. During these years, the church was called Central Methodist Church. The last official membership report, before unification, shows that the church had 477 members with the valuation of the church being $22,000. Trustees of the church at that time were M. T. Rice, L. D. Rice, John Robison, A. W. Culkin and G. W. Dahnke. The church was thus well prepared for the unification that was to take place in September of 1939.
1921-1922 L. E. Mitchell
Pictured is the Missionary Society of the MECS about 1930. Shown are Millie Turrentine & little daughter, Della Lamson, Bess Gesner, unknown, Mildred Truax, Junita Worm- ington, Libby Caldwell, Mary Louise Davis, Artie Owsley, Alice Rice, Daisy Moss, Mary Linney, Pocha Gibson, unknown, Mildred Graves, June Gibson Viles, unknown, Leach Scantlin, Lucy Culkin, Montez Harris Dahnke, and Jewell Rennick.
The Methodist Episcopal Church
The immediate effect of the decision of the Missouri Conference to adhere to the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, was a disappearance of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Little remained of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the Neosho area during this time. The only minister in this area was Anthony Bewley who lived at Sarcoxie. Bewley had joined the Holston Conference in Tennessee but came to Missouri in 1837 with his wife, Jane Winton Bewley. On Christmas Day, 1845, Bewley called together a few preachers in southwest Missouri and Arkansas but was unable to accomplish much.
The first annual conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church was held on August 29, 1849, at Ebenezer Church and was presided over by Bishop Edmund Janes. At this time, Anthony Bewley was appointed to Sarcoxie. One year later, Bewley was appointed to Springfield; however, great tragedy was in store for the Bewley family. In 1859 Bewley was in the Arkansas Conference and was sent to the Fort Worth area. Bewley made little effort to conceal his abolitionist opinions. In 1860 he was accused of being in a conspiracy to incite an insurrection of slaves, to poison wells and to set fire to certain towns. Because of the threats, Bewley and his wife fled from Texas to the home of a friend near
Only one or two views of the original Methodist Episcopal Church are still available.
These ladies of the Methodist Episcopal Church are shown making apple butter for a missionary project.
Cassville, Missouri; but two bounty hunters who were in pursuit of a $1,000 reward, pursued them from Texas. The two secured a mob in Arkansas to help them and on September 3rd they seized Bewley and headed for Texas. On arrival in Fort Worth he was placed in a hotel but near midnight he was taken from his room by a small mob and hung. The date was September 9, 1860. Bewley was considered to be the first Methodist minister to die in the Civil War. From 1849 to 1861 the following were ministers in the Neosho Circuit: S. H. Carlisle, Jacob Burger, Luther Riley, Hall and Robinson. The Neosho Circuit at that time included Neosho, Granby, Newtonia, Pierce City, Shoal Creek and Carpenter’s schoolhouse.
Rev. J. C. Hobbs came to Neosho to reorganize the Neosho and Granby Circuit in 1866. In 1867 A. H. Powell was appointed circuit rider and formed a class at Newtonia. Rev. O. M. Stewart came in 1869. In 1871 Rev. J. Wesley Johnson took charge of the Neosho Circuit.
In 1870, Rev. Stewart held services at the Masonic Hall on the first and third Sundays of the month. On December 22, 1872, work was completed on a church on Spring Street. The following account of the church in the 1870’s was found in Goodspeed’s 1888 History of Newton and McDonald Counties:
“In March of 1873, Rev. J. J. Bentley was presiding elder of Springfield District with Rev. R. R. Pierce preacher of Neosho charge. He resigned in the fall of 1874, and Rev. H. H. Ashbaugh, of the Pineville Circuit was placed in charge
September 1, 1874. In 1875 Rev. J. B. Daniel preached here, and Rev. H. Dalton, who preached at Newtonia, Erie and Neosho, succeeded him in March 1877. In the fall Mr. Dalton ceased to preach at Granby and Newtonia. The Warrensburg Conference reappointed H. H. Ashbaugh preacher, and in March, 1878, Bishop Bowman assigned R. W. McMaster to take the Neosho charge, then including Newtonia, Erie, the south one-half of the old Seneca Circuit, viz: Swar’s Prairie, Bannock and Pool’s Prairie. The conference of March 1879, attached the classes at Swar’s Prairie, Pool’s Prairie and Bannock to the Seneca Circuit. Rev. A. E. Day was appointed preacher for Neosho and Newtonia but the trouble within the church at Neosho forced him to resign and, in October, Rev. Oscar Lunbeck was appointed preacher, J. L. Walker being then presiding elder. Rev. George Murray was appointed to the Neosho and Peirce City charge in March 1880. He was succeeded by Rev. G. W. Rich, and he by Rev. J. T. Moore.”
The following were listed as probationary members of the Methodist Episcopal Church from 1869 to 1872: Isaac Abbott, Joshua J. Musser, S. A. Smith, J. H. Herms, Rebecca Hopkins, Milton R. Steward, May E. Williams, F. Kitchenham, R. M. Davis, W. H. H. Allison, Mary Johnson, William, Rhoda, Phoebe and Albertie Tallman, W. T. S. Pilant, William Atchison, Betsy Thornton, Thomas Lisle, Smith, Hannah, Irene and Emma Mott, John, Simon and Benjamin Baldwin, John Doss, Elizabeth Stephens, Maggie Carpenter, Ann E. Hill and Cyntilda Sutton.
No other known local records of the Methodist Episcopal Church exist until 1892. It was noted in the April 18, 1892, report that John M. Sherwood was a Trustee of the church and also the Sunday School Superintendent of Neosho. At this time, the Stewards of the Neosho church were Mrs. Z. P. Cogswell, Jennie Walbridge, and John M. Sherwood. During these years, it seemed difficult for the church to keep a minister as shown by the following note in the records:
Note: The Pastor Rev. J. W. Drake left the church Sept. 3rd, 1895, and returned to his former church at Lexington, Tenn. On October 12th Rev. M. H. Ellis of Gress, Iowa, was appointed to the church and on November 2nd, 1895, after a conference with the Presiding Elder Brother Ellis resigned the work and went back to his Iowa home.
The Stewards for the year 1896 were John M. Sherwood, Thomas J. Moore, Thomas M. Williams, Asa Fawcett, Mrs. E. S. Cogswell and Mrs. Jennie Walbridge.
In 1910, the old building was remodeled to look much as it did until it was torn down in 1980. The original building was a wooden frame structure with two front entrances and a belfry in the center. The following article appeared in The Neosho Times on July 14, 1910:
New M. E. Church Dedicated
“The new Methodist Episcopal Church of Neosho located on west Spring Street was formally dedicated last Sunday by services held in the morning at 11 o’clock and also in the afternoon and at night. The dedicatory sermon in the morning was delivered by Dr. J. W. Stewart on Springfield and after the sermon Rev. E. J. Hunt of Carthage, the district superintendent gave the financial statement, showing that the total cost of the new church was about $7,000 and that the amount needed to clear it of all debt was less than $2,500. Subscriptions were called for and in a short time $3023.25 had been pledge, about $600 more than was needed. John M. Sherwood as chairman of the board of trustees then presented the church for dedication and the ceremony was performed by Dr. Stewart and Rev. E. J. Hunt.
In the afternoon a devotional service was held and at night Rev. E. J. Hunt preached to a large audience.
The new church is one of the handsomest in Neosho. It was begun as remodeling of the old church but no sign of the old edifice is visible. It is a beautiful red-gray brick on the outside and the inside is finished in modern style, with furnace, hardwood floors, decorated walls and nice Sunday school rooms and fine auditorium. The congregation have reason to be proud of their new church.”
Methodist Episcopal Church Sunday School in 1930s
lst row - Alice Millender, Wilma Lee Bales Walker, unknown, Dale Lundstrum, un- known, unknown, unknown, unknown
2nd row - John Paul Kelly, Dorsey, Tuggle, George Tretbar, H. F. Evans, unknown, Woods, Cushman, Thomas, unknown
3rd row - Carol Lee Cushman, unknown, unknown, Marie Millender, Marion Dowler, Joyce Weldon, Ben Beeler
4th row - unknown, unknown, unknown, unknown, unknown,unknown, Mrs. John Moore, unknown, unknown, Mary Lee Phillips, Rev. John Moore
Three women - unknown, Etta Eldson, Miss Clara Sherwood
The Neosho Methodist Church
The unification of the two churches came about in 1939. The following resolution was passed by the Central Methodist Church on August 4, 1939:
“Motion made and carried by the church board of Central Methodist Church that the board does hereby extend to the Board of the First Methodist Church an invitation to meet at the Central Methodist Church in a joint meeting to be arranged by the pastors of the two churches and the District Superintendents of the churches at the earliest convenient date, trusting that at this meeting plans may be perfected for the union of the two churches at a date early enough to complete the organization before the annual conference.”
The following was found in The Neosho Times of September 15, 1939: METHODIST CHURCHES IN NEOSHO TO CONSOLIDATE
Merger of First and Central Groups to Become Effective October 1
“Beginning October 1st the First Methodist and Central Methodist churches in Neosho will be one large body of followers of the John Wesley faith, worshipping together in one building and under the name of The Methodist Church. This is the outcome of the consolidation a few months ago of the three great national branches of Methodism into one great body, and of the efforts of the members of both local churches. ...”
The building occupied by the Methodist Episcopal Church, South was chosen for the combined congregation. The bell of the Methodist Episcopal Church was moved to the new location since the bell belonging to the Methodist Episcopal Church, South had been donated to Benton school some time before. The former Methodist Episcopal Church building was sold in 1941 to the Calvary Baptist Church. Combined membership totaled 724 in 1940.
The first minister of the new church was Rev. Ernest Delbert Baker. Rev. Baker was born in Kansas on November 20, 1889, but came to Bates County, Missouri, at an early age. At the age of 18, he started teaching in rural schools, and after attending Central Business College in Kansas City, he purchased a hardware and furniture business in Rich Hill. At twenty-two he was granted a Local Preacher’s License. In 1924, Baker was admitted on trial into the annual conference. He served in many capacities both at the local as well as the conference level. Baker served at Kansas City, Sedalia, Clinton, Neosho and at Springfield. He later served six years as Superintendent of the Springfield District. Rev. Baker died at his home in Springfield on August 24, 1965.
Pictured is a church group from the 1940s
Rev. Baker was successful in merging the two churches into one unified church; however, a new and unforeseen event was to change the shape of the community. The advent of World War II brought thousands to a new and unfamiliar community. Throughout these years, the church held two identical services at 9:00 a.m. and at 11:00 a.m. to accommodate the large crowds.
In 1941 Rev. L. M. Starkey was sent to Neosho and was followed in 1942 by Rev. Robert Milton Lehew. Rev. Lehew was born in Elk Falls, Kansas on August 2, 1889. He attended Baker University, received his A. B. degree from the University of Nebraska and his B. D. degree from Garrett Biblical Institute. In 1935 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree. Lehew was ordained in 1918 and served pastorates in Guthrie, Tulsa, Neosho, and Independence. He was Superintendent of the Sedalia District from 1954 until 1960. Rev. Starkey died on February 13, 1969 in Independence, Missouri.
This is the only known photo that shows the old bell tower as well as Wesley Fellowship Hall.
Wesley Hall as it appeared shortly after construction.
In 1942 a one-story annex was added to the church at a cost of $11,500. In order to build this, the old frame building which had been known as the Southern Hotel had to be razed. To accommodate the many soldiers stationed at Camp Crowder an afternoon open house was held in Wesley Hall. A second story was added to Wesley Hall at a cost of $15,000 in 1946.
J. Charles Gilbreath became the pastor in October of 1946. During his long tenure as a minister, Dr. Gilbreath served three times as district superintendent as well as many other area churches. He died in Springfield on January 31, 1966. It was during this time period in which the church formed it first Methodist Men’s group and began sponsorship of Boy Scout Troop 34 which still plays an important part in the life of the church. W. R. McPherson became the new minister in 1949. His ministry was cut short by his death in 1950.
Rev. Perry Rowland was appointed the new minister in 1950. He had served at Cassville, Knob Knoster, Warsaw and Windsor before coming to Neosho. He later served at North Kansas City First, Lebanon, Dale Street, in Springfield, and as Joplin District Superintendent.
In June of 1951 plans were approved for remodeling of the church with a budget of $65,000. It was during this time that the Group Plan method was introduced by John Robison. Through the use of the Group Plan, 70% of the proposed $65,000 was raised in four diligent nights of work. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held on Sunday, August 5, with Rev. J. D. Prater delivering the sermon.
Official Board 1951-1952
First Row - Fred Tarvin, C. Guy Call, Mrs. Corley Thompson, Sr., Mrs. W. A. Gesner, C. E. Davis, Wilford Fowler, E. B. Weldon, George Dahnke, Rev. Perry Rowland, Paul Hays, John W. Robison
Second Row - H. M. Cushman, Corley Thompson, Sr., Mrs. John Speak, Dr. J. A. Guthrie, Byron Anderson, Jr., Charles M. Anderson, Jr., V. Y. Christian, Tom Ken- nedy, Earl Butler.
Third Row - C. M. Robinson, George Henry, William H. Fryback, Lawrence Mills, John Rice, Hugh H. Dabbs, Don E. Sechrist.
Back Row - Guy Houchen, Tom McClintock, M. P. Weems, James E. Conell, Jr., James Haddock, Kenneth Edson, Jack Hadley, L. D. Rice.
Not shown in pictures: Ernest Owsley, Marvin Cummins, Harry Hadley, Clara Sherwood, J. C. Hagensicker, Loren Jarvis, Jerry Hux, Elmer Spitze.
This photo of the Methodist Men was taken in the new basement in the early 1950’s. Includ- ed in the photo on the left are Harold Riggs, Ed Showalter, Fred Tarvin, Charles Conell, James Conell, Fred Scholes, Jack Parson, and Homer Hatfield. Seated in the middle is Paul Hays. On the right are George Henry, C. M. Robinson, Guy Houchen, Bill Wilkerson, John Christopher, and Rev. Perry Rowland.
Work was completed on February 1, 1952. During the remodeling the chancel in the sanctuary, was made to face east rather than south. Rev. Rowland contributed greatly in time and effort to make the building program a real success.
In 1955 Rev. Rowland was sent to North Kansas City. Kenneth Johnston who brought with him a great amount of energy to carry out his new appointment followed him.
The present parsonage was purchased in 1959 at a cost of $28,500. The previous parsonage still stands at 323 S. Washington. In 1945 a basement and
In the late 1950s the Methodist youth held a Fashion Show each year in the church basement. Shown modeling are Eric Had- dock and Deanna Haddock. Joan Edson is seated to the left.
For over fifty years, the Method- ist Men as well as the Boy Scouts have sponsored Pancake Feeds in the basement of the church. Pictured are Larry James, Wes Whitener and Wayne Justice col- lecting money at a Pancake Feed.
This interior view of the church was taken in 1960. Both of the youth choirs are seated in the front of the sanctuary.
furnace were added to the Washington Street parsonage. In 1950 hardwood floors were installed over the first floor. Rev. Johnston was transferred to the First Methodist Church in Joplin in 1960. George Kingore, who served for one year, followed him. Rev. Thomas Raper served the last two years of his ministry in Neosho retiring in 1963.
Rev. Paul White was appointed to serve Neosho in May of 1963. He had previously served at Schweitzer in Springfield, Manchester, Montgomery City, Mt. Washington and in Kansas City before coming to Neosho. While in Neosho, Rev. White was instrumental in starting the Wesley Foundation at Crowder College. He left Neosho in 1969 to become District Superintendent of the Chillicothe District and in 1973 he became pastor at Maryville.
1960-1961 Official Board
Front row: Wilford Fowler, Max Lampo, Dr. T. V. Thorne, Mr. Robinson, Mrs. C. M. Robinson, Doris Burch, Unknown, Ruth Dowler, Diane Vaughn, Guy Houchen, Anna Margaret Strecker, Corley Thompson, Roy Cochran, J. R. Chaney, Jerry Hux, C. M. Robinson, Homer Hatfield.
Second row: Unknown, Don Penner, Hank Vaughn, E. A. Wright, Wes Whitener, H. A. Eathorne, Unknown, John Strecker, Perry Whipple, Paul Carnahan, Wayne Justice, Lawrence Dabbs, James Payne, Unknown.
Third row: Charles Spilman, John Robison, Marvin Headley, Dr. A. J. Kessinger, Unknown, Unknown, Unknown, Unknown, Don Sechrist.
Back section: Curtis Green, Mary Louise Davis and George Henry are the only
ones which can be identified.
The Friendship Class was first organized in 1945. This photo was taken in Au- gust of 1977 at their second reunion.
First row - Bill Wilkerson, Buz Queener, Elmer Spitze, Lelan Church, Paul Car- nahan, John Strecker, John Wallace, Charles Anderson, Wilford Fowler, James Conell and Bud Hudson.
Second row - Bessie Wilkerson, Juanita Queener, Fredene Haddock, Betty Spitze, Rosabelle Church, Marjorie Carnahan, Anna Margaret Strecker, Virginia Wal- lace, Mary Kay Anderson, Earlene Mills, Rosalee Conell, Willa Rickman, Grace Graham and Judy Deskin.
Third row - Charles Savage, Grace Savage, Elizabeth Riggs, Violet Hudson, Doro- thy Pinnell, Helen James, Hattie Staib, Faustine Seba, Nadene Janss, Charlotte Edson, Eula Mae Fowler, Wilma Kessinger and Marie Newdigger.
Back row - Cotton Smith, Harriet Smith, Harold Riggs, George Pinnell, Albert James, James Haddock, John Janss, Kenneth Edson, Ned Deskin, Lawrence New- digger, Lawrence Mills, Lloyd Rickman and Jack Kessinger.
Roy Stribling became the new minister in 1969. Rev. Ronald E. Wood followed him in 1971. Rev. Wood had previously served at Hemanite Ct., Russel Chapel, Mineral Pt., York Chapel, Elvina, Immanuel, Lafayette Park and Jackson. While in Neosho, Rev. Wood was involved in several improvements to church. Among the improvements were new carpeting for the sanctuary and new doors for the church. Also during this time the old house to the west of the church was torn down to make room for the current parking lot.
Frank Stever followed Ron Wood in 1974. After several years of planning the first phase of a remodeling project was started. This stage consisted of remodeling the basement and kitchen areas. The area was constructed in the 1952 remodeling project. Carpeting was added to the basement along with a modern kitchen. Rev. Stever left Neosho in 1978 for Harrisonville where he retired in May of 1981.
Paul Rundel, who had previously served at Harrisonville, followed Frank Stever. During his tenure at Neosho both the second and third phases of the remodeling projects were completed. This included remodeling the first and second floors of the education building.
Rev. J. C. Harp delivering the sermon Easter Sunday
Charles Pence came to Neosho as pastor in June of 1983. It was during his
tenure in Neosho that the church celebrated the sesquicentennial of Methodism in Neosho. Roger Metscher followed Rev. Pence in June of 1988.
John C. Harp succeeded Roger Metscher in June of 1992. The Vision 2000 Committee was formed in 1993 to study the future needs of the church. In 1998, the church celebrated 100 years in the same building.
Gene Cole became the minister in July of 1999. Twenty acres of property was purchased in December of 2002 for the construction of a Christian Life Center. After much careful thought and consideration the Administrative Council approved a capital fundraising campaign in early 2005. In September of 2005 the congregation gathered at the property for a special groundbreaking service. Work began soon afterwards with completion of the new Christian Life Center in May of 2006. A half mortgage celebration was held in 2011.
Renovation work on the pipe organ began in the early 2000s. Two more ranks to the organ were added in 2009 to complete the earlier rennovation.
A number of improvements have been made since Rev. Sara Chaney has come to Neosho. These include a new roof on the downtown facility and the acquisition of a new van in 2011. A major mission project was started in 2010 with addition of the Pumpkin Patch. In May 2011 a part time youth director was hired at the church.
The May 22, 2011, tornado in Joplin has dramatically changed the lives of many in Joplin as well as those in Neosho. The next day after the tornado our doors at the Christian Life Center were open to Methodist First Responders. Since that date numerous churches have sent teams to help in the recovery and rebuilding of Joplin. Our church has been very happy to be able to offer assistance by housing several hundred since that first day. Rev. Dr. Sara Chaney left the ministry in Neosho in June 2016. She has been followed by Rev. Mitch Jarvis.The ministry of the church continues to grow in many directions. In the past several years, the church has taken on a number of new challenges. These include participating in the Bright Futures program for Central School and Hope Kitchen as well as a number of other programs including Meals-on-Wheels. In the summer of 2016 a number of our members took a Mission Trip to the Bahamas. The number of opportunities are endless as our church enters a new era.