Grand River Baptist Church

The Grand River Baptist Church, once located on a two acre plot one and one-half miles northeast of Jameson, has a meaningful history. In the early 1970’s, the once heard songs, sermons, and times of fellowship had ceased to exist. At that time the building was weather beaten and the once luscious green grass had been in part changed to underbrush and a growth of small trees. Like many small country churches, they were forced to close their doors because of larger farms, newer methods of technology and transportation, and a declining membership. To many, it was only an eyesore and a relic of the past, but not to a few remaining members, namely Voris O. and Imo C. Brown and Delbert I. Pearson. Their hearts and dreams still focused on it as a past part of their lives and they started an endeavor that many local people thought was worthless and time consuming.

The Grand River Baptist Church, once located on a two acre plot one and one-half miles northeast of Jameson, has a meaningful history. In the early 1970’s, the once heard songs, sermons, and times of fellowship had ceased to exist. At that time the building was weather beaten and the once luscious green grass had been in part changed to underbrush and a growth of small trees. Like many small country churches, they were forced to close their doors because of larger farms, newer methods of technology and transportation, and a declining membership. To many, it was only an eyesore and a relic of the past, but not to a few remaining members, namely Voris O. and Imo C. Brown and Delbert I. Pearson. Their hearts and dreams still focused on it as a past part of their lives and they started an endeavor that many local people thought was worthless and time consuming.

The Grand River Baptist Church had been housed in three separate buildings in its history. The first place of worship was a log cabin built on an acre of land in 1842 and given to the Church by Benjamin and Susannah Smith in exchange of one dollar. It was a frame structure and was finished at a cost of $1,000.

The second was a traditional country church and had two separate doors, one for the men and one for the women. It was erected in 1866 toward the end of the Civil wAr. The lot was given to the Church in exchange for $20 by James Nicholas and Nancy Netherton.
The third and last building served as their place of worship until church was discontinued and the doors locked. It was constructed during the upheaval of World War I and dedicated on Sept. 18, 1918. Unlike most country churches, it had a large frosted Gothic window and seven smaller ones. Double doors in the corner of the building opened into a small foyer with two entrances into the sanctuary.

The church body was mission minded because out of its membership, thirteen men had been called to become Baptist ministers. It’d also helped constitute seven Baptist churches and three Baptist associations. The churches constituted were as follows: in Gentry County on August 19, 1843, Union Baptist Church, constituted on Dec. 28, 1846; South Big Creek Baptist Church in Grundy County; and five Baptist churches in Daviess County being the New Salem Baptist Church in Victoria, organized on June 28, 1846; South Big Creek Baptist Church, later named Crab Orchard Church, on December, on Dec. 5, 1846; Lick Fork Baptist Church in 1851; Hickory Creek Baptist Church, in 1869 and the Jameson Baptist Church, in 1892.

The Church body was constituted by eight pioneer Baptists on Dec. 14, 1833 in a Grand River Valley log cabin located in the northern section of Ray County which later became Daviess County. The church was first named as the United Grand River Baptist Church, but the name was later changed to the Grand River Baptist Church. For several years the small congregation attended monthly Saturday afternoon worship services followed by business meetings and the Sunday morning worship services.

Often an interim minister, who traveled on horseback or on foot throughout the state, assisted with the services. As time passed, more Baptists traveling in covered wagons or on horseback settled in Grand River valley and some of these became active in the church.

The Grand River Church sent messengers to the Fishing River Association, but when the association endorsed the anti-mission policy the Church ceased its affiliations with association from 1834 -1838; however, members continued to develop a strong and progressive church organization Christopher Nation was chosen as the standing moderator of the church and later became the first pastor and served from 1837 to 1844.

In 1871, Dr. J. Cordon Kingsley, president of William Jewell College, requested the Grand River Church building be moved to the William Jewell College campus in Liberty. When restored and redecorated, the building was to serve as a chapel for the students at the college. Records and other items relating to its history were also moved as well as the churches four minute books which are some of the oldest continuous Baptist records in Missouri. It also contains one of the church’s first communion sets, the only hand-made pew used in the second church building, Copies of song books and two pulpit Bibles are preserved, one purchased in 1866 and one presented to the church in Jan. 1888. In addition, all the glass in the east, south and west walls of the building came from the First Baptist Church in Trenton, Mo.

A request to the Grand River Church also came from members composing the Baptist church organized in Gallatin to send their pastor and some members to meet with the church in 1871 to reorganize the church as belonging to them The two associations established being West Fork Baptist Association and the Daviess County Baptist Association. In 1845, in the log cabin meeting house of the Grand River Church, the West Fork Association was organized by three churches — Grand River Church, Union Baptist Church in Grundy County and Friendship Baptist Church in Gentry County.

In 1978, assisted, by the youth of Harrison Baptist Association, their directors, and friends in the Jameson community, and the few remaining members restored the building and grounds. Soon after its restoration they sponsored special Christian services; and on Aug. 14, 1983, they celebrated the Church’s sesquicentennial Anniversary with approximately 100 in attendance.

In April, 1991, the church building was disassembled and moved to the William Jewell College campus in Liberty, Mo. Beverly Ward of Jameson remembers the building being torn down board by board, the boards numbered, loaded and hauled on trucks, and then reassembled. They took all the pews and the pulpit. The chapel was intended to serve as a training center for ministerial students; it is still a popular choice for weddings.

— Information from Imo Brown of St. Joseph, whose father, Hadley, and grandfather, Thomas Brown, were principal carpenters of the building; old newspaper clippings; historical books from the Daviess County Library; a small booklet from William Jewell College, and a personal interview several years ago with Beverly Ward of Jameson, Missouri. As historian and church clerk Imo C. Brown wrote in a booklet concerning the last or third Grand River Baptist church by writing: “This present church building has stood in the Jameson community for over seventy years …. it will soon stand on the William Jewell College campus, both as a place of worship and as a monument to the era of the Missouri Baptist country church, the first Baptist institution in the State of Missouri”