After 200 years, one of the oldest churches in Perry County is still standing, and its members plan to celebrate.
Founded on Sept. 12, 1819 — only a year after St. Mary’s of the Barrens Catholic Church in Perryville and a year before Missouri became a state — the Brazeau Presbyterian Church will mark its bicentennial on Sunday, Sept. 8, with a church service at 11 a.m., followed by a potluck meal. Slide shows will be available and the Brazeau Museum will also be open during the event.
The history of the church begins with English and Scots-Irish Presbyterian settlers from Rowan, Iredell, Cabarrus, and Mecklenburg counties in North Carolina who settled Brazeau in 1817.
The church was established in 1819 by Rev. David Tenney and had 20 members, holding services held in a small log cabin. Tenney had been dispatched by the New York Evangelical Missionary Society to “the destitute parts of our own country” — specifically, Illinois and Missouri. A native of Massachusetts and a graduate of Harvard College, Tenney began his work in 1819 when he was 34 years old. He died later that year on Oct. 21.
At its founding, the Brazeau Church included 29 members. They soon built a small log church on property donated by Thomas Milligan Blair, and his wife, Mary Bull, a mile and a half west of the present site.
Information about these early years is sparse. A fire in the house of the Rev. John Cowan destroyed church records prior to February 1833, but the 1836 church roll included 73 members.
The first church building also was destroyed by fire, and for a time services were held in an old residence two miles east of the present Church on the farm of Daniel Cline.
In 1833, after a fire destroyed the log cabin church, a new frame church was built to replace the previous church. A frame structure, it was built of split and hewed timber, covered with shaved and split shingles. Church records indicate that it was uncomfortably cold in winter and plagued by wasps in the summer.
In 1851, a new brick church was planned, presented a tremendous challenge to the church membership. Work began in 1852, but there were many problems in securing the proper materials and workmanship, and in gathering enough funds.
J.L. Wray of Cape Girardeau was contracted to do the brickwork. Adolph Schuppan was employed to do the carpentry, according to the following specifications: “To lay the floor on the gallery, to be tongued and grooved, but not dressed, to cell under the gallery run two pair of stairs to go to the gallery, the stairs to be four feet wide, to be curled up the side, to make panel work around the gallery to box the columns and the ties and purloins, to finish off the windows, and put on wash board around the house.”
On Nov. 16, 1853, the new edifice was dedicated and by May 1854, the congregation was meeting in it regularly. That building is still in use 165 years later.
Those wishing more information about the Brazeau Presbyterian Church or its bicentennial may contact Barb Seibel at 573-824-5431 or Linda Barber at 573-824-5504.