The following were named as first members of the Baptist church family in Gallatin: J.C. Kuykendall, Mary A. Muykendall, Francis Kuykendall, Sue C. Kuykendall, Sallie Kuykendall, Strother S. Mitchell, Eliza Mitchell, Amanda Darnell, Lucy Estes and William Waterland. Mr. and Mrs. Charles McIntosh were the first persons to join after the church organized. The first leader to pastor this church family was Elder R.C. Hill and the first church clerk was J.C. Kuykendall.
In August, 1857, Elder T.R. Robertson was called to take care of the church until a pastor could be called. Almost four years later in February, 1861, Elder T.R. Ferguson was called to take charge. A building committee was formed to see how much could be raised by donations. However, the committee never made any report due to the war.
CIVIL WAR YEARS
During the Civil War, no regular church meetings were held. Those meetings which did occur were often held in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Martial law conducted by Union authorities allowed Southern Baptist services to be held inside the county courthouse but it is not known whether worship was ever conducted in these circumstances.
No church leadership was allowed without those involved taking a rigid oath of loyalty to the Union upon risk of arrest and imprisonment. Among those who kept preaching without taking the loyalty oath was one of the old pastors, Elder B.F. Kenney. He was arrested by the Daviess County Sheriff William F. Flint and spent at least one night in the county jail. (The “Ironclad Oath” originated in a stringent loyalty oath passed by the Federal Congress on July 2, 1862. Largely because of President Lincoln’s conciliatory approach toward reconstruction in the Confederate states and for its citizens, the oath had little effect during the war despite the heated debate it prompted in Congress. The oath was written into the Reconstruction Act of March 23, 1867, and called for allegiance to the U.S. government.)
At some time a lot was purchased east of the Gallatin business square (which later became the site of the First Christian Church of Gallatin).
A foundation was laid but due to the war and hard times, the church building went unfinished. Later, the lot was sold for taxes.
Kenney Chapel, located northwest of the town square (1908 photo)
KENNEY CHAPEL BAPTIST CHURCH
On Nov. 18, 1870, Elders B.F. Kenney and P. McCollum met with scattered members of the congregation and, after a sermon by Elder McCollum, proceeded to reorganize. This meeting was held in an upstairs office at 125 North Main. After the war years and through the kindness of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church (S. Daviess and W. Johnson streets), Baptists had meet meeting with Presbyterians with Sunday School sessions for each alternating in the morning and afternoon.
In May of 1872 another building committee was formed. Those serving and working to secure subscriptions to erect a church
were Hadley Brown, J.H. herndon, B.F. Cox, J.M. Haycraft and W.W. Stout. Plans were drawn for a brick church building to be
located one block north of the northwest corner of the Gallatin business square. After a year of outdoor meetings and meetings
in log cabins, construction of the church began in the fall of 1873.
In August, 1875, the name of the church was changed from the First Baptist Church of Gallatin to the Kenney Chapel Baptist Church in honor of a former pastor. The church was connected with the West Fork Association and, at that time, had 80 members.
Progress on church building construction was slow. One year later the walls were up and covered and floors were laid, but the building wasn’t entirely completed until 1877. The cost was $2,500 with only $600 of debt when construction was finished. The new brick church was officially dedicated on May 16, 1881. This church was in use until after the turn of the century. The name of the church changed back to First Baptist Church of Gallatin on Sept. 9, 1908. Fire gutted the building in 1924. The remains were later used as a garage until the building was demolished in 1926, torn down and demolished to make space for a car lot by the adjacent Gallatin Motor Company.
First Baptist Church located south of the town square (1921 photo)
THE 2nd CHURCH BUILDING
When interest in building a new church was voiced by Bro.
Hammon in 1905, there were 161 members on the active roll.
In 1910 church committees formed as plans were began for a
new church building. At first there was some effort to locate
the church on the lot east of the business square (where later
the Christian Church was built). A foundation for a church
house was built, when the Rev. Kenny objected to this location
the lot was sold. On May 19, 1910, excavation for the foundation
of a new church begun on Lot 4, Block 4, west and south 1 which
was purchased for $1,200. Contractor for the brick church was
Ira Baker; brick mason was Henry Holmes. The cornerstone was
laid in July, 1910, and the following items were place inside it:
copies of the Gallatin Democrat, the Missouri Baptist Word &
Way, and the rolls and lists of the church Sunday School and church members as well as histories of church and Sunday School. The ceremony was led by P.T. Harman, church pastor at that time, and included comments from Gov. A.M. Dockery speaking on behalf of the Gallatin community.
Lime for the building came from the J.H. Herndon farm and the large church bell calling Gallatin to worship for over 40 years was purchased by Mrs. Herndon using money she saved over many years specifically for that purpose. The church’s old bell was also placed in the new church, which had a seating capacity of 350. The cost of this church building was about $12,669.44; the organ cost $1,525.
The first service held in this church was on Jan. 8, 1911, but the official dedication came later on June 4, 1911. Members and friends first met at the Kenny Baptist Church for a short service. Then the deacons, church officers and members formed a line in single file to march to the new church site. The dedication attracted a capacity crowd with all seats in both the church auditorium and nearby classrooms filled. A 27-voice choir followed the speaker’s sermon. A collection taken that day was enough to cover the remainder of all indebtedness.
During the 15 years when interest first aroused for a new church and its construction was actually completed, more than 150 members of the former 161 members had departed. Among those who remained to witness the building’s dedication were A.T. Ray, Dr. G.T. Netherton, A.L. Harding, A.R. Maffit and E. F. Cornelius. This church building was home for Gallatin Baptists for 61 years.
A home for the pastor was purchased in 1914.
WORLD WAR II CELEBRATION
A few minutes after 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14, 1945, the long and eagerly awaited official announcement was received that the war with Japan had ended. Businesses closed early. Many people gathered on the courthouse square shouting with joy. Car sirens sounded, bells rang, and the town’s alarm screamed for several minutes. Others gathered around radios to hear dramatic announcements. Merry makers celebrated throughout the night, many attending the circus which happened to be in town; others quietly rejoiced. Many attended a prayer service at First Baptist Gallatin where short talks, prayers of thanksgiving and songs of joy were rendered.
THE 3rd CHURCH BUILDING
After four decades of use, the church built in 1910 needed extensive repair and was essentially condemned. In 1962 plans were made, and efforts renewed in 1967, to build a new church building on Richardson Street just east of Lyle Cemetery in Gallatin. A tract of land, 511 Benton Avenue, was purchased for $6,500 in 1970. The new church building, faced with Indiana Bedford limestone and wood trim, was dedicated on Aug. 12, 1973, while the Rev. Charles Sexton was serving as pastor. The following items were placed in the cornerstone: two local newspapers, Central Baptist, Word & Way, minutes of the Baptist Association, roll of members for Sunday School and church, and histories of Sunday School and church.
Groundbreaking Ceremony -- Building Finance Committee chairman Doyle Biner and Building Committee Chairman G.B. Whitsitt Jr., take the first shovel as others watch, standing from left, Lavern Gutshall, Robert Paul, Carroll Parks, Bro. Charles Sexton, N.C. Bennett, and Joe Froman
Arched ceiling rises to a height of 32 feet, enclosed with a heavy glass bubble to provide for natural lighting. The sanctuary is designed with a tall, narrow stained glass window featuring symbols depicting the 100th Psalm. Seating capacity was 256 with space for a choir of 24 and a fellowship hall to accommodate another 224. Two stain windows were removed from the old church building and relocated, one in the new church vestibule and the other in the fellowship hall. Total cost for the entire structure, including furnishings, was approximately $185,000. On Aug. 10, 1980, a special Service of Blessings was held marking the time to completely pay off the church debt.
A new parsonage was built at 802 West Ogden Street in 1978.
BUILDING ADDITION & RENOVATIONS; SESQUI-CENTENNIAL
In December, 1995, First Baptists dedicated a major expansion project to the church building. More than 250 attended the service, followed by a carry-in meal. The $200,000 addition expanded worship seating by 65 with new heating and air-conditioning, additional storage space, a new sound system, and a new parking lot. The church interior was redecorated, and pews were replaced with removable chairs. This project was completed in 2002 while Bro. Allen Bartlett was pastor. Guest speakers at the dedication included former pastors Owen Moody and Charles Sexton.
First Baptist Gallatin was a member of the Daviess County Baptist Association in 1901 and then the Daviess-Harrison Association until 1970 when the congregation voted to unite with the North Grand River Association.
A major remodeling of the church kitchen was completed in 2011. The $45,000 improvement project brought facilities to near commercial grade. The stained glass window from the 2nd church building was relocated across the fellowship hall to a new wall enclosing a staircase, allowing for new service windows to give the kitchen direct access to the fellowship hall.
A Sesqui-Centennial service celebrating 150 years of Baptist work in Gallatin featured Dr. Danny Decker in worship services held May 22, 2005. Other guest speakers included former pastors Bro. Jim Layman and Bro. Allen Bartlett. Historic displays, a gathering of memories, a balloon release and walk from the original church site to the current church, and special music along with an evening ice cream social and a Sunday carry-in noon meal were shared May 20-22, 2005, at the church.
SOURCES: The History of Daviess County (1882); The History of Daviess & Gentry Counties (1922); the Gallatin Democrat; the Gallatin North Missourian; various church histories and bulletins and meeting minutes; a Dedication Service program (1973); a Sesqui-Centennial program (2005)