FROM READERS: Peninsula Baptist Church in Cooper County restored

FROM READERS: Founders of Peninsula Baptist Church

Florence Chesnutt is a painter and a volunteer for the Cooper County Historical Society.

The old white frame Peninsula Baptist Church and Cemetery crown the hilltop at the Blackwater exit off I-70. It dominates the hills and bottom land that are surrounded on three sides by a turn in the Lamine River where it joins the Blackwater River giving the name Peninsula to the area and community.

The newly restored church building was the site of the Oct. 14 Cooper County Historical Society meeting.

President Jeanette Heaton announced her retirement after over eleven years of service to the organization and a new slate of officers were elected: President, Phillip Bechtold; Vice president, Annick Streck; Secretary, Mary Goode; Treasurer, Betty Stegner. New board members Wanda Phillips and Lewis Odneal will join Vicki McCarrell, Charles Goode, Barbara Dahl on the board with Jeanette Heaton filling the unexpired term of Phillip Bechtold.

The program celebrated the restoration of the historic building. Be Weston, Louise Kramel, and Dorothy Alley, provided the history and happenings of the community. Peninsula Church is an example of the many attractive country churches that dot the Cooper County landscape.

The land grants of these early church founders date from 1832 for the Dix, Clark, Marshall, Bridgewater, and Allison families who were the first settlers. Fleming Marshall donated the 2 acre hilltop site for the congregation. Prayer meetings began in 1841 at Dr. Allison's office. More settlers arrived and the cooperation of many talents were required to build and dedicate the church in 1877. In fact so much labor and materials were donated that of the planned budget of $500, two dollars and five cents were left over.

Early churches were typically the steward of behavior on the frontier. Reading the old records it was noticed that a few members had been publicly chastised or dismissed for offenses such as: "revelry," or "walking disorderly","associating with Campbellites," "unchristianlike conduct," or dancing.

When the railroad arrived it crossed the river to the north making Blackwater into an urban center. Then the roads and bridges were improved to accept automobiles; and finally I-70. Peninsula with its orderly cemetery became only a landmark until 2011 when the volunteer spirit again inspired the complete restoration and modernization of the building and grounds. Foundation work, electricity, plumbing, gravestone rehabilitation by Alley and Kramel, interior decoration, fresh varnish for the old pews, were all donated.

Everyone is invited to come to a fundraising chili supper October 26 from 5:30 till 8 PM and "Revelry" is on the menu. The fall view from the hilltop alone is worth the trip.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how.

Supervising Editor is Joy Mayer.

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