advertisement

History of dedication

Members of the 173-year-old White Cloud Presbyterian Church hold onto traditions with hopes that younger members will join — and keep the congregation going
Sunday, November 7, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:07 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

MILLERSBURG — Mabel Fischer’s dark-wood dining-room table is used not for meals but for research.

It is stacked with old photos, worn books, yellowing newspaper clippings and papers of various sizes with notes she has written to herself. The 86-year-old is a historian. She records the history of her family, the cakes she makes and the life of her church.

“My husband is an elder,” Fischer said. “So is my sister. Because two members of the same family cannot hold a church office, I’m the general flunky they made historian.”

White Cloud Presbyterian Church has a lot of history to record. The church provides a glimpse into what the area looked like more than 150 years ago, a time when congregations were made up of families that lived within 10 miles of the church.

The congregation began meeting in 1831 in a log cabin. Then it moved into a white clapboard building constructed in 1844 with wood from Missouri’s first circular sawmill. The church still meets in this building.

There is no plumbing in the church; the outhouse is out back.

“I truly enjoy preaching in the church,” Bill Jessop said. “I get a strong sense of history of the church, of my denomination and of the expansion of the country.”

Jessop preaches at White Cloud on the third Sunday of the month. He is a member and elder at First Presbyterian Church in Fulton. He works as a superintendent at AmerenUE’s Callaway plant.

“When I am in the church, I think about what the area was like when the church was established. It is humbling to think when it was established, the country was pretty new,” Jessop said.

White Cloud is heated by two pot-bellied stoves on either side of the sanctuary. The addition of the stoves is the only change Fischer remembers since she joined the church in 1929.

“We used to have long box wood stoves, and now we have 1918 King B Stoves,” Fischer said. “Up until 15 years ago, we used coal. Now we cannot get coal, so we use wood.”

White Cloud is the fourth-oldest Presbyterian church west of the Mississippi River, according to documents at the Kingdom of Callaway Historical Society. It is part of the Presbyterian Church USA.

It is only one of the historic churches in Callaway County.

“There are every bit of 30 churches more than 100 years old meeting today in Callaway County,” said Barb Huddlestone, curator of the historical society.

But not all of them are kept open by the sheer will of a small group of senior citizens, all in their 80s.

“This church is set apart by its faithful dedicated people that keep the church and the traditions alive,” Jessop said.

And that faithful group is a family affair.

“The church is made up of basically two couples — Mabel and Helen and their husbands,” James Cruickshank said.

Cruickshank is a supervisor at AmerenUE’s Callaway Plant. He also is a member of First Presbyterian Church in Fulton and a commissioned lay pastor.

Mabel Fischer and Helen Kimball are sisters. Both hold church offices, though Fischer does most of the organizing of church services. Kimball plays the piano. Her mother, the church pianist, taught her to play years ago. Now Kimball sits on the same piano bench that her mother once did.

“We usually only have five or six regularly, but if we have something to eat, then the church is full,” Fischer said.

After each service, Fischer enters a short summary into a green hard-bound record book to help future generations know what happened at the church. The book shows that nine people joined the church in 1952. Fischer’s children joined in 1960. In 1997, one family joined.

The book also tells in her slanted script the life stories of those who have entered the doors of White Cloud. It records when they were born, when they were baptized, when they were married, when they died.

There hasn’t been an entry of a birth in quite some time. But there have been several death entries.

“The church has gotten a lot smaller,” said Millie Wilson, 86, a member for 50 years. “I don’t know why. The younger people don’t go to church like the older ones did, and most of the older people have died.”

Several of those members are now buried in the cemetery behind the church. Fischer has painstakingly plotted the graves on cut-open brown grocery bags.

“My nephew who is a surveyor was astonished that I used grocery bags,” Fischer said. “I was just trying to figure out who belongs to whom.”

With each year, the congregation gets older and smaller. But the members are not losing their spirit.

“They are a small but rowdy bunch,” Cruickshank said. “They’ll be missed when they are gone. It is a shame the membership hasn’t grown.”

But Fischer doesn’t plan to call it quits.

“We are all seniors, trying to keep the church opened. We will only close down if the church building becomes a hazard,” Fischer said. “The four of us will keep it going. Maybe if we hang in there long enough, young people will get some sense and come join us.”

But they have not been able to meet at the church building in about a year. Bad weather and health have stopped them.

“Last July, my brother-in-law had his knee replaced,” Fischer said. “I had my hip replaced in August. We’ve had bad luck from illness that has kept us apart.”

[photo]

Helen Kimball helps visiting presbyter Leigh McCaslin finish the communion juice after the service Oct. 24. “It can only be disposed of in certain ways, and drinking it is the easiest,” McCaslin said.

But as from the church’s earliest days, they will again continue to meet on the first and third Sundays of the month.

They had their first meeting of the year Oct. 24. Fourteen people were present — most of them related to Fischer.

Four generations of her family were present: Fischer’s husband, her children, her granddaughter and her great-granddaughter. Six generations of Fischer’s family have attended White Cloud.

Services were held in the evening. Though it was cool, it wasn’t cool enough to fire up the stoves. As the sun set, the pink-streaked sky looked like an impressionistic painting through the blurry glass of the 157-year-old windows. Lamps cast a yellow glow on the faces of the congregants. The lamps were added in the 1940s, when the church was wired for electricity.

Cruickshank asked if anyone had any announcements.

He stood in a carved, dark-wood pulpit that is the home to a church mouse. Small pieces of chewed papers and foodless traps give the tiny creature away. An ornate table and chairs used to accompany the pulpit, but Fischer said hippies stole those in the 1960s.

Fischer spoke up.

“Both my cataracts have been taken off,” she said. “So far, I haven’t gotten my glasses.”

More members chimed in with announcements. The congregation sounded like it was a family talking over the dinner table.

Bonnie Cruickshank said she enjoys the family-like atmosphere of White Cloud.

“Worshipping here is like being in someone’s front parlor, not a church service,” she said.

Though the church is friendly, it is also traditional. Each week, there is only one bulletin; the hand-written order of service goes to the preacher. The format is the same every week: prelude, call to worship, invocation, Lord’s Prayer, responsive reading, offering, doxology, hymn, announcements, scripture reading, sermon, two hymns and benediction.

“They said I could change it, but I am afraid to,” James Cruickshank said. “It is a dyed-in-the-wool Presbyterian church and is maintaining traditions as long as it can.”

On this Sunday night, communion was celebrated for the first time in a year. Fischer brought the communion bread — broken-up Ritz crackers — in a jelly jar. Though simple, the crackers did the job.

Jessop said White Cloud has all a church needs.

“White Cloud’s centerpiece is its faith,” he said. “What is important is very apparent in the rustic setting. White Cloud proves that you don’t need the extras and frills to do what you should be doing.”

They closed the service with the hymn “Blessed Be the Tie.” Some voices carried above others. Some were a little off-key. But all were heartfelt as they sang the last verse: “When we asunder part, it gives us inward pain. But we shall still be joined in heart and hope to meet again.”

Fischer said she desperately wants to keep meeting.

“I love it here,” she said. “I can’t bear when it is not used. My heart aches that only a few come.”

Historical Society. It is part of the Presbyterian Church USA.

It is only one of the historic churches in Callaway County.

“There are every bit of 30 churches more than 100 years old meeting today in Callaway County,” said Barb Huddlestone, curator of the historical society.

But not all of them are kept open by the sheer will of a small group of senior citizens, all in their 80s.

“This church is set apart by its faithful dedicated people that keep the church and the traditions alive,” Jessop said.

And that faithful group is a family affair.

“The church is made up of basically two couples — Mabel and Helen and their husbands,” James Cruickshank said.

Cruickshank is a supervisor at AmerenUE’s Callaway Plant. He also is a member of First Presbyterian Church in Fulton and a commissioned lay pastor.

Mabel Fischer and Helen Kimball are sisters. Both are instrumental in the church, though Fischer does most of the organizing of services. Kimball plays the piano. Her mother, who was the church pianist, taught her to play years ago. Now Kimball sits on the same piano bench that her mother once did.

“We usually only have five or six regularly, but if we have something to eat, then the church is full,” Fischer said.

After each service, Fischer enters a short summary into a green hard-bound record book to help future generations know what happened at the church. The book shows that nine people joined the church in 1952. Fischer’s children joined in 1960. In 1997, one family joined.

The book also tells in Fischer’s slanted script the life stories of those who have entered the doors of White Cloud. It records when they were born, when they were baptized, when they were married and when they died.

There hasn’t been an entry of a birth in quite some time. But there have been several death entries.

“The church has gotten a lot smaller,” said Millie Wilson, 86, a member for 50 years. “I don’t know why the younger people don’t go to church like the older ones did, and most of the older people have died.”

Several of those members are now buried in the cemetery behind the church. Fischer has painstakingly plotted the graves on cut-open brown grocery bags.

“My nephew, who is a surveyor, was astonished that I used grocery bags,” Fischer said. “I was just trying to figure out who belongs to whom.”

With each year, the congregation gets older and smaller. But the members are not losing their spirit.

“They are a small but rowdy bunch,” James Cruickshank said.

“They’ll be missed when they are gone. It is a shame the membership hasn’t grown.”

But Fischer doesn’t plan to call it quits.

“We are all seniors, trying to keep the church opened. We will only close down if the church building becomes a hazard,” Fischer said. “The four of us will keep it going. Maybe if we hang in there long enough, young people will get some sense and come join us.”

But the church members had not been able to meet at the church building in about a year. Bad weather and health had stopped them.

“Last July, my brother-in-law had his knee replaced,” Fischer said. “I had my hip replaced in August. We’ve had bad luck from illness that has kept us apart.”

But as from the church’s earliest days, they will again continue to meet on the first and third Sundays of the month.

They had their first meeting of the year Oct. 24. Fourteen people were present — most of them related to Fischer.

Four generations of her family were present: Fischer’s husband, her children, her granddaughter and her great-granddaughter. Six generations of Fischer’s family have attended White Cloud.

[photo]

The Oct. 24 service at White Cloud had a larger-than-usual attendance. In addition to the Fischers and Kimballs, the most regular members, the church was also visited by three generations of the Fischer family, a visiting presbyter and both of the pastors who conduct services there on a rotating basis.

Services were held in the evening. Though it was cool, it wasn’t cool enough to fire up the stoves. As the sun set, the pink-streaked sky looked like an impressionistic painting through the blurry glass of the 157-year-old windows. Lamps cast a yellow glow on the faces of the congregants. The lamps were added in the 1940s, when the church was wired for electricity.

James Cruickshank stood in a carved, dark-wood pulpit that is the home to a church mouse. Small pieces of chewed papers and foodless traps give the tiny creature away.

An ornate table and chairs used to accompany the pulpit, but Fischer said hippies stole those in the 1960s.

Cruickshank asked if anyone had any announcements.

Fischer spoke up.

“Both my cataracts have been taken off,” she said. “So far, I haven’t gotten my glasses.”

More members chimed in with announcements. The congregation sounded like it was a family talking over the dinner table.

Bonnie Cruickshank, James’ wife, said she enjoys the family-like atmosphere of White Cloud.

“Worshipping here is like being in someone’s front parlor, not a church service,” she said.

Though the church is friendly, it is also traditional. Each week, there is only one bulletin; the hand-written order of service goes to the preacher. The format is the same every week: prelude, call to worship, invocation, Lord’s Prayer, responsive reading, offering, doxology, hymn, announcements, scripture reading, sermon, two hymns and benediction.

“They said I could change it, but I am afraid to,” James Cruickshank said. “It is a dyed-in-the-wool Presbyterian church and is maintaining traditions as long as it can.”

On this Sunday night, communion was celebrated for the first time in a year. Fischer brought the communion bread — broken-up Ritz crackers — in a jelly jar. Though simple, the crackers did the job.

Jessop said White Cloud has all a church needs.

“White Cloud’s centerpiece is its faith,” he said. “What is important is very apparent in the rustic setting. White Cloud proves that you don’t need the extras and frills to do what you should be doing.”

They closed the service with the hymn “Blessed Be the Tie.” Some voices carried above others. Some were a little off-key. But all were heartfelt as they sang the last verse: “When we asunder part, it gives us inward pain. But we shall still be joined in heart and hope to meet again.”

Fischer said she desperately wants to keep meeting.

“I love it here,” she said.

“I can’t bear when it is not used. My heart aches that only a few come.”


Like what you see here? Become a member.


Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Comments

Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.

advertisements