History of Edinburg Baptist Church, Grundy County, Edinburg Missouri
~ Written in Spring of 1961 by Pastor, Harold F. Ott
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”Lynda Peach” link=”” color=”#4169E1″ class=”” size=”14″]This history transcribed from a typed copy I found tucked in a Home Life May 1964 issue my mother had saved.[/pullquote]
To one man, no doubt, the Edinburg Baptist Church owes more thanks than any other for its founding. From the centennial history of Grundy County by Denslow under the subject of “Grand River College”, we read:
“The outlook was black when a young man with a school teacher air, named Vertrees, offered to rent the school in the fall of 1866 for $250 a year. The board knew $250.00 was better than an empty building and gladly accepted the young man’s offer. Probably offering their condolences at the close of the deal. But John F. Vertrees had a lot of determination and will to his character. He came from Illinois, having been graduated from Shurtliff College. He was talented, educated and had managerial ability. With his assistant, Miss A.A. Reger of St. Johnburg, Vermont, they managed to scrape fourteen students together for the first term by promising a large reduction in tuition.”
The above statement “The outlook was black” refers to the state of college following the Civil War. A statement from Della Gamble Hendricks who lived in Edinburg as a girl and is now the oldest living historian of this area, proves our point. She says, “Some of the people at Edinburg had slaves. I remember Rosa who was born in slavery and lived in Edinburg in 1890.” Mrs. Hendricks was attending school at Grand River College at this time. She is now 91 years of age. “There was much bitter feeling about slavery at Edinburg,” she states.
Professor Vertrees led the school as its president for ten successful years. In 1876 the school was purchased by the Baptists of North Grand River, Westfor, Gentry, and Mt. Moriah Baptist Associations. The Livingston and Linn Associations being added a short time later. Vertrees was dismissed in 1879 but recalled in 1881 and served until 1885. Rev. J.T. Williams and Rev. W.H. Owens, also presidents at later periods, had much to do with the organization and growth of our church which is today celebrating its 90th anniversary.
It was within the confines of this Baptist College and under the influence of these Godly professors that the Edinburg Church was born and cradled. Although we are unable to find any recording of her immediate organization, the truth stands out that her first members were Prof. Vertrees and his wife (his first assistant teacher), a few students of Baptist faith and background and probably one or two settlers of the community.
According to the minutes of the West Fork Association in 1871, Elder J. Turner was her first pastor. It is in these minutes we find the first race of information today available. The following paragraph is copied verbatim:
“The letters from various churches composing the association were called for and read. An opportunity was given to other churches to become members of this body. The Edinburg Church of Grundy County and the Olive Church of Daviess County presented letters by their delegates and were unanimously received, the hand of Christian fellowship given by the moderator to the delegates and they invited to seats in the association.”
These messengers were Elder J. Turner (pastor), Joel Turner and Prof. J.E. Vertrees. The names and number of members were not listed in the statistical table.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”#87CEEB” class=”” size=”14″]This church celebrated its 100 year anniversary. I’m sure this history was updated. If you have a copy and would be willing to share with me, please contact me.[/pullquote]
The first few years the struggle was hard as this community was predominated by other faiths. The statistical table of 1872 shows 16 members, quarter time preaching and a gift of $1.50 to the association. It is evident that the infant church could not find sufficient food for growth until the college was purchased by the Baptists surrounding her [area]. In 1873 she reports only 11 members, 5 having been dismissed by letter. Delegates were J.T. Vertrees and P.W. Thompson. However, it was at this meeting that the Grand River College was offered to the Baptists for a sum of $3,000.
In the year of 1874 the same delegates reported only 8 members and no gifts were given. The report on Christian Education stated:
“We deem it expedient to purchase the Grand River College property and
accordingly nothing has been done.”
A committee was appointed “Who shall look after the Religious Education of the Association.” In 1875 no statistics were given on the Edinburg Church but the Education committee reported “the people of Edinburg and vicinity desire the Baptists of the North Missouri to take charge and propose to give Grand River College to them providing they will make provisions for the efficiency and permanency of the school as may be thought best, involving an expenditure of $3,500 or thereabouts.”
The minutes of 1876 indicate the interest of one Elder McCullum, Pastor of First Church, Trenton, who was then acting as financial agent for the college. He and Prof. Vertrees presented the following report on Religious Education to the West Fork Association:
“The matter of accepting the Grand River College property as a gift from the people of Edinburg and adopting the school as denominational work was presented to the North Grand River, Mt. Moriah and Gentry Association and each of these associations by resolutions approved the denominational work and each appointed committees of three with powers to act for the association.”
Two meetings of these appointed committees completed the necessary business to make the permanent organization.
It is not our purpose to vie a history of Grand River College, but only as it serves to prove the existence of the Edinburg Baptist Church within her body. Although the church was weak and sickly for eight long years, it is evident that she did not die. Some of her charter members reported on the advance of the college in each associational year. The minutes of 1877 do not name her but speak of the growing strength of her mother, the college. In 1878 the minutes stated:
“Edinburg has collected her scattered forces and with so many elders and professors will surely increase those 9 members to a score or more. Our missionaries must aid in the cultivation of this college field. Elder Turner feeds this feeble flock.”
In 1879 the strong cry of the “feeble flock” was again heard as we read her report to the association:
“Edinburg Baptist Church is in condition to prosper, which is cheering news and now may the Lord bless her. She is one of the two churches that ask for the association in 1880. She is large-hearted; her growth good.”
The next six years show memberships as follows: 1880-29, 1881-11, 1882-15, 1883-18, 1884-45, 1885-37 respectively. These variations are due no doubt, to the coming and going of the students of Baptist faith. During these years, however, the college was freed from debt and a new three-story building added.
The years following (1885-1893) proved to be 7 years of strength and labor for the young church. The city of Edinburg which boasted two hotels, two grocery and dry-goods stores, a drug store, a wagon manufacturer, two blacksmith shops, two Methodist churches and approximately 200 souls in 1881 grew in every interest with the growth of the Grand River College. The Baptist Church met in Brandon Hall of the old college building and maintained Sunday School every Sunday and preaching services twice a month. She reported a membership of 56 in 1888 and a Sunday School enrollment of 74 in 1891, and was giving to all mission causes as early as 1886.
For a period of approximately 10 years the church was to face numerous difficulties which tried her faith greatly, but “the gates of hell did not prevail”. The coming of the railroad to Trenton presented a transportation problem for students and personnel of the college. The growth of Trenton proved too great a business challenge to the little village of Edinburg. Avalon College in Trenton gave the old Grand River College much competition. It was decided to move the college to Gallatin in 1892 and the fall of 1893 found the church with no place to meet, since the Christian Union organization had purchased the college.
The following paragraph copied from the minutes of the West Fork Association shows the plight of the church:
“This band of brothers and sisters has our sympathy and prayers. It loses 8 members by letter during the year and with adverse circumstances surrounding them, we fear for their future. The missionary board should not forget them.”
From the minutes available in our own church record book covering the period of January 9, 1890 to December 12, 1914, the associational minutes and from personal testimony, we have a number of interesting statements showing how the Edinburg Baptist Church overcame her difficulties. In the church business meeting of August 26, 1896 a committee was appointed to write a letter to the West Fork Association in regard “to our removal to the North Grand River Association, and also a committee to dispose of the church property in the college chapel.” Fortunately a bookcase and the pulpit was retained, and is on display today.
The minutes of the North Grand River Association of 1897 report her acceptance with this statement:
“Edinburg Church is weak, in need of a house of worship; expect to build this year.”
The minutes show that the church met from house to house, also using the South Methodist Church for short periods.
On March 10, 1898 a business meeting was held at the home of W.A. Sealock. Pastor O.E. Newman suggested the church disband, but if there was one dissenting vote he would try to carry on. Mrs. W.A. Sealock, who had always believed that “women should be silent in church” could not hold the cry of her heart and broke the silence by saying, “I object.” This was the voice that brought renewed hope. Mr. W.A. Sealock, who was never a member of the church, offered $500.00 to start a building and Rev. J.D. Willis said he believed his mother would give the ground. A motion was made and seconded that “we build a church”. The deed we hold states that the land was obtained for a sum of $100.00. Old committees were all dismissed and a fund raising committee was appointed consisting of W.A. Sealock, Lucy Sealock, Bro. Alderson and Bro. Madden.
Minutes of March 23, 1989 show five trustees appointed, namely, O.E. Newman, D.A.Sealock, J.J. Long, J.T. Hopper and Ernest Harper. The minutes of April 2, 1989 read “Committee on raising money to build church reported progress.” The minutes of April 30, 1989 read,
“Motion made that moderator Rev. Dan Willis appoint 5 men for building committee. Bro. W.P. Madden, Bro. Alderson, Bro. D. A. Sealock, Bro. Long, and W.A. Sealock, with Bro. Madden as chairman and Bro. W.A. Sealock as treasurer were chosen.”
Minutes of July 1, 1989 read: “Motion prevailed that meetings be discontinued at Methodist Church and held at private homes till new church is completed.”
The date of the first services held in the new church is not known, but at the business meeting of June 3, 1899, Bro. Totten was elected janitor and was to be paid 10 cents per opening. Also fire, lightning, and tornado insurance was taken out. Minutes of June 3, 1900 read:
“The committee on raising funds report progress. Moved and carried that the church be dedicated on the 5th Sunday of July.”
Rev. V.M. Harper Cainsville, Missouri was the pastor at the time the church was dedicated, but no recording of the proceedings are available today. Minutes of several succeeding years indicate a small indebtedness of the church. It is interesting to note that a man who is still living and a member of the Methodist Church in Trenton now, namely, mr. Harry Witten, 91 years old paid off the last few dollars of the indebtedness. His wife was a member and faithful worker of the Edinburg Baptist Church at that time. Minutes of 1899 show no indebtedness.
According to the church books none of the members of the church at the time of the dedication are now living. The oldest living member is Mrs. Letitie Sharon, now living with her daughter in Marshall, Missouri.
Church records from 1916-1934 has been lost and we are forced to go to annual associational minutes for a record of the progress of the church through these years. However, most actions were routine and we shall confine ourselves to a few high points of the church life for the remaining part of our history.
We are not sure of the number of pastors before 1893 when the church met within the college, but besides Bro. Turner, the first pastor, all were professors at the college as far as we can find up to O.E. Newman. From the time he first held the office (for he was pastor several times up until 1904), twenty-eight Gold-called men have led as the undersheperd of the redeemed flock. Pastorates ranged in length from one to six years. Marks of progress, of course, were more definite in the longer pastorates. For example, during the six years of Rev. T.R. Wright, the membership more than doubled rising from 64 in 1914 to 133 in 1920. From this time until 1943 the membership growth was gradual. Under the leadership of B.T. Scrivner the peak was reached of 285. Membership reported in 1960 was 221.
The church was full-time under the leadership of Rev. Lowell Sodeman in January 1936. But back to half-time in February 1937 until November 1942 under Rev. Paul Andrews, the church became full-time and has remained so ever since.
A view of the organizations within the church is interesting. We shall think of their beginnings, growth to greatest strength, and their contributions; both spiritual and material. The first Sunday School was of course held inn the college chapel and was under Baptist leadership, but contributed to the religious education of all denominations in the community. As before stated, enrollment of 74 was reached in 1891. Rev. W.H. Owens was pastor at this time. After entering the new building, the Sunday School has for 70 years provided Christian education for old and young of this community. It, no doubt, reached its period of greatest service in 1944-45 and 1945-46 when it was recognized by the Southern Baptist Convention as a Standard Sunday School. F.S. Johnson was the pastor and Dale Hartley was the S.S. Supt. The highest enrollment of 20? was reached in 1939, with Rev. Kenneth Couth as pastor. The enrollment in 1960 was 119. The first Vacation Bible School was held in May 1938. The highest recorded enrollment was 89 in 1941. The enrollment in 1960 was 86.
The second oldest and no doubt an effective organization was that of the Ladies Aid. Minutes as far back as 1904 give them credit for paying the balance due on the pastor’s salary. Minutes of Jan. 21, 1905 credits them for paying $3.75 to Bro. Hellmandollar for janitor work and $15.20 on Pastor O.E. Newman’s salary. Members now living state that “at times we had as high as $500.00 in our treasury.” They pledged $400.00 to the building fund when the basement was put in and paid it in 10 months. They then took over unpaid pledges amounting to $450.00 and paid off in one year. Through the years they bought the parsonage, paid for the materials to building the garage, bought paint for the Church as late as 1954, and did innumerable jobs about the premises. It was their custom to meet all day every Thursday. They brought their dinners and worked at quilting, weaving, canning, etc. They held bazaars, served meals for sales and other organizations; nothing was too hard for them to try if it brought money into the Church for the Lord’s use. Every meeting was opened with devotions and prayers. Living members vow there was no gossip at these meetings. Mrs. Lucy Sealock, Mrs. Susie Prewitt and Mrs. Letitia Sharon were long and devoted workers in this organization. Only Mrs. Sharon is living today and as stated before, is the oldest living member.
The third organization, the Training Union, has served our Church for 41 years in training for Church membership, A Baptist Young People’s Union was organized under Pastor Write in 1914. The organization developed through the years to almost equal strength with the Sunday School. It reached a peak enrollment of 114 in Training Union in 1939 and 66 study course awards were received. Rev. Kenneth Couch was pastor at that time. The enrollment in 1960 was 49.
The fourth emphasis for our recognition is the missionary organization of our Church. The first report of women’s work to the Association is recorded in the 1935 Minutes. One organization is reported but no gifts. Presidents’ names were not mentioned but local women state that Mrs. Clara Marshall was the first president. The Minutes of 1936 show a membership of 20 and gifts to missions of $3.70. A motion was carried in the Church business meeting on September 7, 1941 that the Church organize auxiliaries. Interest in R.A.’s [Royal Ambassador] and G.A.’s [Girls Auxiliary] has varied through the years, but both boys and girls have been led by faithful counselors in the highest steps of achievement. The Minutes of 1942 show all auxiliaries, including Brotherhood reporting. The first Brotherhood organization was attempted under Brother Wright’s ministry on February 12, 1915, but no statistical reports are available until the Associational Minutes of 1942, which shown an organization but no president is named and no gifts to missions. Two years later in 1944, the Minutes show 12 members but no facts. In 1945 there was renewed interest in all mission organizations but the Brotherhood. There were 19 women, 7 Y.W.A.’s, 10 G.A.’s and 7 R.A.’s. F.S. Johnson was the pastor. Statistics from 1945 through 1960 show the following highs in enrollment: W.M.S. – 40 in 1951; Brotherhood – 10 in 1955; Y.W.A. – 7 in 1956; G.A. – 12 in 1959 and R.A. – 17 in 1960.
Regardless of high enrollments the year of 1948 was no doubt the year of highest interest in missions as Rev. and Mrs. Stockwell Sears were adopted by the Church. The 1948 Scrapbook shows 61 registered contributors to their support in Shantung, China. A sum of $742.49 was sent to them that year. Rev. Bud Spencer was pastor at this time. His family went to Japan in 1953 and the Church since that time has faithfully helped support them. Both R.A.’s and G.A.’s are named for them. [Read more about “Brother Bud” at Homecoming with the Spencers. 
Edinburg Baptist Church has always accepted the Great Commission literally as stated above, was giving to all missionary causes as early as 1886. Seldom has she turned down an opportunity to give to special mission causes. She answered the call of her denomination in 1942 and individuals contributed liberally to the 100,000 Club. She adopted the Cooperative Program of Mission giving in 1938 and still contributes to it each month, also observing all special mission days with liberal giving.
Stewardship responsibility has been preached down through the years, and faithful members have felt the obligation to bring their tithes and offerings into the storehouse of the Lord. records show that an Every Member Canvass was taken and a budget adopted under the leadership of Rev. L.F. Sodeman in 1935. The double envelope system was adopted in 1940 when Rev. Roy Boatwright was pastor. When the Sunday School reached “standard” in 1944 the 6-point Record System and envelope was adopted and is still in use. The highest annual financial report was reached in 1955 when the annual gifts for all purposes was $8,157.00, with the Church reporting 25 tithers. Rev. Wilbur Kirchner was the pastor. The total receipts for all purposes in 1960 was $7,725.00, with 28 tithers reported.
Church property has always been well maintained and repairs made when needed. During the ministry of Rev. Wilbur Wilcox (1953-55) new pews and new glass windows were obtained and a complete redecoration of the sanctuary was accomplished; al the parking lot was enlarged and graveled. In 1955-57, during the ministry of Rev. Wilbur Kirchner, the basement was remodeled and made more usable for Sunday School purposes. In 1957-58 an addition was built on the parsonage, and all necessary equipment added to make it modern except for heat. A gas floor furnace was added in 1959. The Minutes of 1960 show all Church property evaluated at $19,850.
Edinburg Baptist Church was always been evangelistic. The Minutes of 1878 show results of a revival held in the Grand River College Chapel with 15 conversions. Mr. Luther Burnett, still living in Trenton, says he attended a revival in the new Church building in 1889 almost two years before the completion and dedication. The Church Minutes of September 13, 1914, reported the results of a revival held by Rev. E.L. Rogers of Trenton, with 16 additions by baptism and 10 by letter. A fellowship supper was held in the old College Chapel and the hand of Christian fellowship extended. Many such revivals through the years have added to the spiritual and numerical strength of the Church.
To “pray without ceasing” has been the practice of the Church through the years. At the business meeting in [stet] November 3, 1908, a motion carried to observe prayer meeting each Wednesday evening. Before that time, prayer meeting had been held in homes. Special periods of prayer preceding revivals is a custom, and “days of prayer” and “weeks of prayer” are carried out in keeping with Southwide mission programs. We stand today in testimony that God answers prayer.
In community life, the Edinburg Baptist Church has cooperated with other denominations in soul-winning and battling moral evils. She contributes annually to the Christian Civic Foundation and gives benevolently to Nation-wide causes, and during the war, bought bonds. Church, school and fraternal organizations have worked as one in Edinburg community through the years to foster the brotherhood of man.
Many have been the trials along the road as Satan has tried to hold back the forces of righteousness. Associational Minutes of 1893 show many exclusions for misdemeanor by sister churches, but only one from Edinburg. In this case it was no doubt spiritual but never again was it done. Pastors, deacons, laymen and women have fallen under the strain, only to be lifted again by the warm love and spiritual fervor of brothers and sisters in Christ who have taken literally the admonition “to pray for one and another” and the advice of Paul in Galations 6:1:
“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself lest thou also be tempted.”