Gathering at Old McKendree Chapel near Jackson, Sept. 14, 1958. Twenty-fifth annual service of commemoration of the first Methodist house of worship west of the Mississippi. (G.D. Fronabarger photo)
Sept. 13, 1958 Southeast Missourian
Worship Again Where District Methodism Came Into Being
With fair and mild weather in prospect, the 25th annual service at Old McKendree Chapel Sunday afternoon at 3:30 is expected to draw many worshipers.
All-weather roads lead to the Chapel and special parking arrangements will be in effect to take care of the automobiles.
While seats have been provided, the suggestion that those attending bring folding chairs so they may select their own place met with favor last year, and likely will be followed by many more this year.
The principal address at the services will be made by a distinguished St. Louis layman, J. Clinton Hawkins, a speaker of note. The choir of McKendree Church at Jackson will furnish special music; a privilege rotated among the churches of the area.
On the program will be a report by the Board of Trustees on the progress of plans to erect a canopy over the old building, and of other phases of the restoration project.
These annual services at the old Chapel are becoming more and more a meeting place for friends as well as an occasion when tribute can be paid to the memory of those who established Methodism in the district nearly 150 years ago.
The Jan. 31, 1959 Achievement Edition of the Southeast Missourian has a picture of the new canopy that was built over Old McKendree Chapel. Here is an excerpt:
Canopy Placed Over Building Shields Old McKendree Chapel
This picture shows old McKendree Chapel in its new dress, or perhaps it would be better to say it shows the ancient frame house under its new overcoat. The steel canopy rests on heavy concrete piling firmly imbedded in the earth so a windstorm can do it no damage. The canopy is considerably larger than the house, thus protecting the walls from the elements and as the steel covering is something new for such purposes it not only has a pleasant look but is guaranteed to last without end. The cost of the canopy was in excess of $6000, the trustees reported.
Around the building is a heavy concrete strip, which has the appearance of a sidewalk, and this is intended to protect the frame building from possible grass fires. As the chapel sets in a beautiful grove of large native trees that are perhaps several hundred years old, and as some show the effects of having been damaged by lightning, the building was lightning rodded several years ago. The canopy now covers the rods but as soon as the weather permits they will be taken down and placed on top of the new cover. Several of the adjacent trees were also rodded and this equipment will also be extended and improved.
The congregation was organized in 1806 and became known as McKendree Chapel because the roving missionary who first came was Bishop McKendree. Meetings of possibly a dozen families were held at intervals so the congregation was small. White people were scarce then and there is no mention of Indians having been present.
Eventually the building was put up. Probably it required a year or more to get it ready for services because even the rough benches had to be made by hand. There are about a dozen of them left that are in good condition. They are good for another century, some of the ministers say.
Great Poplar Logs
It will be noted that Mr. Houck in his History of Missouri stressed the fact that the house was built of "great hewn poplar logs" trimmed so precisely that evidently they needed no mud to caulk the seams. At one place these logs must be restored by men who are skilled in primitive construction work and there are men still available for such work.
Houck's History of Missouri, the best authority on Missouri history, has this to say of old McKendree Chapel:
"The first Methodist Church west of the Mississippi river was organized in about 1806, at McKendree, about three miles from the present town of Jackson, in Cape Girardeau county.... Soon afterward a house of worship, McKendree Chapel, was built of great hewn poplar logs."
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