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A Glimpse of Pioneer Days PDF Print E-mail
Written by J.F. Gross   

Messenger of Peace--March 1916
Dear Brother Cash:

I have never written anything for the MESSENGER, but I thought I would write something about the Old Baptist church in the pioneer days. Just one hundred years ago this 6th day of February 1916, my fath­er, Noah Gross, was born in Cumberland Co., Ky. My grandfather and grandmoth­er, Abraham and Sally Gross, came to Ken­tucky from North Carolina. In 1818, when my father was two years old, they came to Missouri. After living in Howard county one year, they moved to Randolph county, settling on a farm four miles north of Roan­oke, close to a stream called Silver creek, where they lived their remaining days.

My mother was Mary Sears, daughter of Hardy Sears, who came from Kentucky about the same time that my father’s peo­ple came.

In 1819 or 20, the first Primitive Baptist church of that part of the country was organized, and a log church was built on my grandfather’s place. This church was called Silver Creek. Abraham Gross and Hardy Sears and wife were in the constitution of Silver Creek church. Wiley Sears, Sr., and wife, and Wiley Sears, Jr., and wife, belonged to this church. Wiley Sears, Jr., was the father of Elder Silas W. Sears, who preached for many years all over north Missouri. Hardy Sears, my grandfather, had three brothers, Ivason, who lived near him, William, who was a Baptist preacher and preached for them many years, and Henry, who was also a preacher; he came from Kentucky to the neighborhood of Vandalia, Ill., where he lived and died.

My father and mother were reared in Randolph Co., Mo., and my father taught school three or four years; he was probably the oldest pioneer teacher in north Missouri. In 1839 my father and mother were married, and afterwards became members of Silver Creek church. I remember some of the pioneer preachers who belonged to that church Elders James Ratliff, Wm. Sears, Squire Holman and John Buster; the latter was the first preacher I ever heard preach. This church prospered, and at one time had a large membership. The Primitive Baptists held their meetings there for over sixty years, but they are scattered and nearly all gone now. It is sad to me when I pass through that country, it seems almost like a desert land.

In 1849 my father and family moved to Macon Co., Mo., and settled ten miles north of Callao. Chariton church had just been constituted; father and mother joined there. Other pioneer members were James Ratliff and wife, William Sears and wife, James Sears and wife, John Bunch and wife; later came M. K. Wilson and wife, James Elliott, Abraham Riley, Squire Holman and Alfred Bealmer. My father died several years ago at the age of eighty-six years.

The first church built at Chariton was a log house with split log seats; later they built a frame church. About thirty-five years ago they built a larger church one­-half mile north of the old stand, which still stands. Chariton church has steadily gained in numbers, and at present has more than one hundred members. Little Zion church is situated ten miles north of Chariton, and is one of the pioneer churches of Macon county; it has a large membership. The pioneer members of Little Zion church were Wm. Shain and wife, Isaac Gross and wife, James Riley and wife, John Smoot and wife, David Steel and wife and others whose names I do not remember.

Elders James Ratliff and Wm. Sears preached for this church in the pioneer days. Chariton and Little Zion, with six other churches, formed the Yellow Creek association, which was organized about the year 1849. It has continued in the faith, never having had division among members or preachers on points of doctrine.

I have heard much preaching in sixty years. I will name some of the pioneer preachers who visited the Yellow Creek association. Elders Wortman, Wilson Thompson, Isaac Blakely, Isaac Sidwell, P. L. Branstetter, Joseph Warder, Henry Louthan, Riley Mitchell, G. M. Thompson, Wm. Priest, Masten Doty, E.S. Dudley, (Ky.), J. E. Goodson, Sr., Alfred Bealmer and Wm. Sears. These preachers had small farms, and all made a comfortable living; they did not depend on their preaching for a livelihood. They wore mostly homemade clothing, but they all looked good to me.

I have not written all I would like to write, but will close for want of space.
Your unworthy brother,

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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.