County's Oldest Church Never Looked Better

Clinton, Missouri Democrat, Monday, April 26, 1954

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ITS AGE IS ONE-HUNDRED AND FOURTEEN YEARS and it never looked better. This is the Tebo Baptist Church, Henry County's oldest house of worship and members of the congregation have been doing a lot of hard work giving the building "a new look." The church was founded in the Leesville Community back in 1840 by a group of Henry County's earliest settlers. --Democrat Photo.

Extensive Job Of Decorating Now Complete

Henry County's oldest church--the Tebo Baptist Church--is 114 years young this year.

And right now, thanks to the generosity of a former member and the hard work of the congregation, the old church building never looked better.

Its wall and ceiling are bright with new paint. So is its woodwork and its pews. And the floor--though very old--shines under its coat of varnish.

Members of the congregation have been hard at work on the church for several weeks, but now the work is complete.

All of it was made possible by a substantial donation by a loyal former member.

The Tebo Baptist Church, situated on a little shaded hill overlooking the creek from which its names stems and near the Leesville community, was founded in 1840 by a group of Henry County settlers.

The pioneers who organized the church were Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Briggs, Caroline Butler, William Butler, John Anderson, Mary Putnam, Robert Briggs, and Zachariah Fewell.

Among the church founders, probably the most instrumental in the actual organization were Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Briggs who came to Henry County in 1837 from Tennessee.

And from the founding Briggs, the Briggs family has been continuously represented in the church through its history--several of the family serving as pastors. At present, the Briggs family is represented by Mrs. R. I. Sheeks, daughter of the beloved Rev. Wm. Briggs or "Uncle Billy" Briggs, a Tebo pastor for many years.

Other names prominent in the church's history include Johnson, Wears, Chastain, Austin, Denny, Reavis, Belton, Delozier, and others.

The first Tebo Baptist Church was a crude log building which doubled as a schoolhouse. Its pews were made of split logs and it was heated by a large fireplace. Later, the log church was replaced by a 26 X 40 feet frame structure, erected at a cost near $600.00.

In the early days of the Tebo Church the congregation adhered to the Primitive Baptist faith, or the "hardshell" or anti-missionary faith under the leadership of its first pastor, the Rev. Daniel Briggs. However, at the death of the first pastor in 1863, the church sought the leadership of the Rev. William A. Gray, a missionary Baptist and as Rev. Gray assumed the pastorate, the Tebo church became a missionary church and affiliated with the Tebo Baptist Association.

The history of the church largely is tranquil. But it has had its stormy times.

In 1867, the congregation split wide open on an issue of Masonry. The pastor at that time, the Rev. Thomas Briggs, incurred the wrath of his brother and several members of the congregation by joining the Leesville Masonic Order. Rev. Briggs' brother, James led a part of the congregation out of the old church and set up a new one. Both groups shared the same building for two years, but then the anti-masons constructed their own building a short distance from the original structure. This building, plus a later extension, is what composes the present structure.

The anti-Masons went so far as to break with the Tebo association and join the Osage Baptist Association.

The issue boiled on through the years and was resolved only upon the death of James Briggs in 1887 when the rival congregation rejoined under the leadership of the Rev. Thomas Briggs. The stormy incident now is long put from mind.

A high point in the history of the church was a Centennial anniversary in 1940. It was a happy event and former members flocked from a distance to celebrate the occasion with the congregation.

Among the more noted ministers of the church is the Rev. T. F. Simmons who assumed the pastorate in 1908. It is he who brought the Sunday School into prominence, building it from 52 members when he became pastor to 147 when he left the Tebo pulpit in 1912. Rev. Simmons also contributed to the youth of the church when he sparked the Baptist Young People's Union there. [This group today is known as the Training Union]. Working from a total of 21 members when he became pastor, the Tebo Union numbered 100 when he left.

Following is a complete list of Tebo Pastors and the years they served: [To 1954]

Daniel Briggs, 1840-1863; William A. Gray, 1863-1868; J. L. Briggs, 1869-1870; Thomas Briggs, 1871-1892; W. M. Briggs, 1894; Edward Russell, 1895-1897; William Briggs, 1898; R. Jenkins, 1899-1906; J. K. Tinsley, 1907; T. F. Simmons, 1908-1912; L. T. Barter, 1913-1915; T. H. Phillips, 1917-1918; J. A. Leonard, 1910-1920; E. F. Hood, 1921; William Briggs, 1922; A. M. Wynkoop, 1923-1925; L. A. Brown, 1926-1928; J. E. Turnage, 1930; Emmett Farrier, 1931-1933; R. I. Clemmings, 1933; J. T. Tate, 1934-1936; Lee Penny, 1938; Nelson Englebrecht, 1939-1940; William Bray, 1941-1943; Albert Gaston, 1943-1944; Walter White, 1945-1946; Roy Conyers, 1947-1948; Russell Doyle, 1949; V. H. Bonner, 1950-1951; and Byron Atkinson, 1952 ----.

Among the deacons have been Daniel Briggs, J. E. Delozier, Hustin Burris, J. B. Higdon, G. W. Denison, W. J. and R. E. Huston, T. G. Ashley, A. W. Orton, R. D. Belton, C. E. Briggs, Claud Inloes, and R. I. Sheeks. Of the foregoing number, only R. D. Belton, Claud Inloes, and R. I Sheeks are living.

Present officers of the church include Byron Atkinson, moderator; R. D. Belton, assistant moderator; Claud Inloes, treasurer; and Mrs. R. D. Belton, Clerk.

Smallest membership in the church's history, outside of the founding membership was in 1877 when 79 persons composed the congregation. Largest membership was in 1912 when a total of 326 persons were carried on the rolls.

The church has entertained the Tebo Baptist Association five times--in 1867, 1877, 1905, 1920 and 1938.

Among the proudest memories in the church's history are those of the pastors it has ordained. These men include William H. Briggs, James Briggs, Thomas Briggs, Lafe Renfro, Charles Thomas, and Hugh Sperry.

At present, worship services are held two Sundays each month, the second and fourth. They are at 11 a. m. and 8 p. m. Sunday School is held each week at 10 a. m. and a Wednesday evening prayer meeting is scheduled each week.

[Note:] All the above is for the year 1954.