Smyrna Baptist Church 1874-1974

As the Civil War came to a close and families planned again for future living, the young adults in the South began to move westward into this beautiful state of Missouri. From West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina they came.  Some of the family names were Scott, Bostic, Campbell, Anderson, Stone, Warren, Wells, Fulton, Keller, Potter, Cave, Waggoner, Horn and Green. Some of their descendants are among the present-day membership of Smyrna — the little church they build in the wildwood.

We do not know, but we feel in seeking a name for this church the Bible was the reference. Perhaps the promise, “Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life…” (Rev. 2:10) was the inspiration for their choosing the name Smyrna. We have been told the early church met in homes and in the Parch Corn School building. The church building was erected in 1890 on a hilltop of the Waggoner Place — across the road from the Gilbert Gaither home. But the site presented problems with spring flooding and winter snow and ice so the present site was selected and the building was moved in 1908. Located near the Parch Corn School at the forks of the Ozark-to-Pembina and Ozark-to-Linden (Kenton) roads, the church grew and became a vital part of the community. Hitching posts were provided on property and the spring branch at the back of the church assured the church people the provision for their horses.

Smyrna  was a part of the Southwest Bethel Baptist Association and sent messengers W. J. McCarty, Q. A. Smallin, J. N. Holland and C. C. Green to the 28th annual session in 1887. The associational hame was changed to Christian County Baptist Association and in the 1891 minutes we find the date of Smyrna Church being organized in 1874. Smyrna was host to the annual association in 1884, 1890, 1897, 1913 and 1924. These were busy days for the ladies who cooked at the church under a tent. Protracted meetings were held and the church grew to a membership of 206 by 1920.

For 75 years, a huge pot-bellied stove provided “central heating” by being placed in a more or less central position. A faithful member would walk down or crank up the old Model T and “set” the fire. Gas lamps — that had to be pumped up now and then — provided light for evening services. There would be candlelight services when the gas supply ran out. In the rainy seasons, only those in the Linden area could attend. The creek road branches were carefully watched when a rise might come. County events at Smyrna and revivals were scheduled for the drier months of the year. The name SMYRNA BAPTIST CHURCH was painted on a broad plank and spanned the distance above the double doors. Classes met in sections of seats and the sound was a low rumble. It was hard to hold the attention of the younger boys and girls. Then came the first curtains to divide the classes. These were hand-made by the women of the church.

During the ‘30s, roads were improved and Model Ts and Chevrolets were common on the roads to Ozark, Rogersville and Springfield. The Jolleys came from Springfield to live in Linden and provided encouragement and transportation to young children living in the area. The first Bible school was led by a visiting evangelist from Mountain Home, Arkansas. The equipment consisted of Mr. Cooper’s American and Christian flags and 13 available children. County Missionary Bruce Maples held the Bible School the next summer and every summer since Smyrna has provided Vacation Bible School for the children of the community. There were 45 in attendance in 1974.

The Smyrna Women’s Missionary Society was organized in November 1930 by the pastor’s wife, Mrs. May Ritzinger. There were 14 members. It has never been disbanded and continues to promote missions throughout the world.

The early days of the B. Y. P. U. appealed to the young people and the members felt the keen competition at county meetings. There was much rejoicing when the brought home the coveted banner to keep for the coming quarter. Pressures of school work and sport programs began to take toll and the Baptist Young People’s Union became the Baptist Training Union which was themed to train all church members for church leadership.

The first formal wedding to be held in the church was that of Miss Lucille Scott of Linden to John E. Whitican of Port Huron, Michigan, in 1945. Uncles of the bride, the Rev. Floyd Hanks and the Rev. Albert Hanks officiating. Since then, other young ladies of the church and community have chosen this quiet country church for the setting of their wedding.

Several young people of the church and community served their country during World War II. A placard was placed on the front of the pulpit with the names Don Woods, Waldo Green, Lucille Scott, R. N., Leonard Adams, Gilbert Gaither, Richard Green and Gene Scott. The church was in constant prayer for these young people and gave thanks to God for bringing them home safely.

Smryna achieved a lifelong dream of full time ministry when Claude Barclay, a young salesman of Springfield, felt the call to preach and was recommended by the retiring minister. A building fund was started and plans were made to remodel the church. During the pastorate of Rev. Plank, a large class room was added behind the sanctuary, which also served for meetings and social affairs. A foyer was built and the big hand-leetered sign above the double doors was replaced by a road sign marker by the driveway. In the interior, electricity was installed and the ceiling lowered from its tremendous curved height. An electric organ was purchased, hardwood floors and aisle carpeting and new furniture gave the congregation a desire to celebrate 90 years of service in 1964.

Only God knows the true ministry of His church as many lives have been touched whose names were never added to the church roll. Young people have gone out from this ministry to Oregon, California, Texas, new Mexico, Arizona, Michigan, Illinois and Arkansas. As we start the second hundred years, under the pastorship of Rev. Bill Evans, our prayer is that we will be “faithful unto death” as was the first Smyrna mentioned in Revelation.

— from A Brief History of the Smyrna Baptist Church of Route 1, Rogersville, MO. “Parch Corn Hollow”