Mt. Pisgah United Methodist Church
This letter was found in the papers of my Aunt Edith (Stevenson) Murray.
Edith was the daughter of Lela Ann (Hildebrand)
and William Sherman Stevenson. Lela Ann and her family were long time residents of Mumford. The family attended Mt.Pisgah Church and the children attended the school until the family moved to Springfield around 1926. Although they no longer lived in Mumford the family still had close ties to the community and attended many reunions held at Mumford.
If anyone knows who these children are please let me know. The
You will find the following account of Mt. Pisgah very incomplete--sort of an extended outline. It has been prepared as a sort of working paper which hopefully will finally be completed into a history of Mt. Pisgah for publication. It is issued to you now with tow hopes in mind: one, that is will give you information about this Church's history: and, two, that it will lead to the discovery of more information which some of you may have.
If the story in the following pages is correct, and I believe it is, Mt. Pisgah Camp Ground and Church has played a significant role in the development of Greene County, and more importantly, in the history of the Methodist Protestant Church in Missouri and, of course, then of the United Methodist Church. This bit of history should not be allowed to become lost.
Any information related to Mt. Pisgah's history and her people is important to the telling of the story. I hope any of you with any bits of information, or leads to where information can be found, will share them with us.
Nelson Morgan, Pastor
No written records are known to exist concerning the early years of Mt. Pisgah Methodist Protestant Church. Only slight reference exists as to Mt. Pisgah Camp Ground, which preceded the Church. In fact, almost nothing is on record regarding the beginnings of the Methodist Protestant Church in Missouri. So the story of Mt. Pisgah Church may never be fully known. But based on what data is available and conclusions drawn therefrom, the following account can be given.
The Methodist Protestant Camp Ground at Pisga, or Mt. Pisgah, (the spelling varies) must have had its beginning by 1840, if not a bit earlier. Methodist Protestant preachers were known to be active in southwest Missouri by 1836. The Missouri Conference of the Methodist Protestant Church is reported to have been organized in 1844. And according to the Rev. Oscar Underwood, that Conference organization took place at or near Mt. Pisgah Camp Ground in a log blacksmith shop near where Whits's Store later stood in Mumford, Missouri, Mt. Pisgah Station southeast of Springfield. In 1847 the Missouri Conference of the Methodist Protestant Church voted to hold its next Annual Conference at Mt. Pisgah Camp Ground six miles east of Springfield in late September, 1848. Underwood reports that conference being held with John Curiton, Conference President, and J. M. Tuton, Secretary. So it con be safely said that Mt. Pisgah Camp Ground was an early center for gatherings of Methodist Protestant people and preachers in southwest Missouri, from at least 1840, and that this site played an important and perhaps key role in the development and growth of the Methodist Protestant Church in Missouri.
Mt. Pisgah Methodist Protestant Church grew out of activities and life of the Camp Ground. No doubt classes were organized early as was the Methodist custom everywhere. These classes met in home, and whatever buildings were available. Then came a time when an organized Church was organized. The year of organization seems to have been 1854, though the specific date is not known. The Annual Conference meeting at Mt. Pisgah is 1914 reported the Church to have been organized 60 years earlier (1854). Deeds and legal papers support this date as well. In 1853 these documents list trustees of Pisga Camp Ground, then in 1855 these papers list trustees of Mt. Pisgah Methodist Protestant Church as legal Holders of the Mt. Pisgah property. So there seems to be little room to doubt that Mt. Pisgah Church is indeed 130 years old sometime in 1984.
PROPERTY, BUILDINGS, AND PEOPLE
Property records as preserved through deeds and legal papers tell a fairly complete story of Mt. Pisgah's physical setting from 1848. On March 26 of that year, Addison Pursley bought 40 acres of government land containing the Camp Ground site for $50.00. Four years later in September, 1852, this forty acres was deeded to Wm. Ward, R. M. Langston and John Pursley, Trustees of Pisga Camp Ground, by the estate a Addison Pursley, John L McCraw, administrator, for $50.oo. In December, 1855, and agreement was made between R. M. Langston and John Pursley, trustees of the Methodist Protestant Church at Pisgah, and Thomas G. Hodges, John Pursley, and Mangram E. Langston, Trustees of School District No. 2, Town No. r, granting to the school trustees one-hale interest in a pre-selected plot (5 acres) for construction of a building to be used as both a church and school. Then in May of 1856 a tract of 10 acres was sold to James Eastham and a 25 acre tract was sold to Thomas G. Hodges for a total of $210.00. These sales disposed of the original tract except for the 5 acres reserved for Camp Ground and church--school house.
The first building is said to have been built of logs and to have been constructed in 1856. It stood west to the present Church on the hill near the present home of Grace Webb and the late Tom Webb. Little more is known of this building except that it burned in 1865. Another building, this a frame structure, is said to have been built on the same site in 1871. This, too, served as school and church until it also burned in 1887. Following the Civil War until 1871 Mt. Pisgah Church and School are reported to have met at Turners Station in a rented property.
After the second building burned, and for reasons unknown to us today, the original 5 acre Camp Ground tract was abandoned by both church and school in favor of adjoining tracts just to the east. In July of 1887, trustees of Mt. Pisgah Methodist Protestant Church Thomas P. McCraw, Jesse Beshears, and Wm. T. Webb bought one and one-half acres from Ira and Martha Hodges for $12.00. This is the present Church site and is part of the original 40 acre tract. The new church house is said to have been built by "Tennessee Tom" Turner and was completed in 1888. This building, with some remodeling and two additions, serves the present Mt. Pisgah congregation, The first addition to this church was built in 1919 with Hershel Kennemer the carpenter. The basement was dug by Lyman Bennett, Walter McKinney and Claud Webb with horse drawn scrapers. The second addition came in 1959.
Who started the Mt. Pisgah story? Who were the early members of the Church? Their names, with few exceptions, are lost to us today. Edith Wester Turner, a great-grandmother of Rev. Ralph Turner, is reported to have been a charter member. The late Wm. J. Roberts did much study of the Church's history and reported early member families to be Beshears, Langstons, McCraws, Pursleys, Turners, and Webbs. He also reports the first pastor was believed to be a Mr. Langston.
MT. PISGAH THROUGH THE YEARS
Though little is known of people, pastors and activities at Mt. Pisgah from its founding until about 1900, thanks to Rev. Oscar Underwood, we do have records of the Church's part in the Methodist Protestant Missouri Conference. As earlier recorded, that Conference met at Mt. Pisgah Camp Ground in 1848 and apparently had its beginning there in 1844. Rev. Underwood reports seven other Annual Conferences held at Mt. Pisgah as follows:
1853 with Wm. H. Rupee, President, and Thos. Jameson, Secretary. There were seven pastors who received salaries totaling $205.07. The Conference President was paid $75.75. Sam I. Hughes, Pastor, and J. Carpenter, layman, were elected delegates to the 1854 General Conference.
1872 John Hones, President and Wm. B. Phillips, Secretary.
1887 W. A. Fogle, President and J. W. Miller, Secretary
1895 W. M. Jones, President and J. F. Howe, Secretary.
1903 L. A. Smith, President, and J. F. Howe, Secretary. A Rev. Qualls is thought to have been pastor at Mt. Pisgah.
1914 W. J. Johnson, President, and J. F. Howe, Secretary. The pastor at Mt. Pisgah was Rev. J. W. Fogle. He reported a church membership of 100 with Sunday School attendance of 75 and 80 young people in the Endeavor Society.
1834 C. E. Henderson, President, and J. F. Howe, Secretary. W. P. Savage was listed as the pastor.
In the beginning Mt. Pisgah seems to have been a preaching place on a large circuit know as the White River Circuit or the James and White River Circuit. An until 1938 at least, this Church seems to have been part of on circuit or another. Rev. Ralph Turner remembers that in the 1930's Cassidy, Guy St. (Springfield) and Pleasant Springs were on the circuit with Mt. Pisgah. In 1939 Mt. Pisgah became part of the Methodist Church as a Protestant Church with the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church South to form that denomination. Then when the Evangelical United Bretheren Church and The Methodist Church joined together as the United Methodist Church, Mt. Pisgah became a part of this new united church. During the last forty years Mt. Pisgah has been paired with Oakland on a charge or has been alone as at present.
Conference Journals provide us with the names of pastors beginning in 1908. Before that time, only a few names appear. In addition to Mr. Langston and Rev. Qualls mentioned earlier these names also appear:
L. A. Smith
Just when these men preached at Mt. Pisgah is not known, And, of course, there were others whose names are lost to us at this time.
Pastors since 1908 as the Journals record them are:
|W. B. Singer||1908-1909|
|F. E. Hammer||1910|
|F. M. Cooper||1911|
|J. W. Fogle||1912-1922|
|H. H. Hays||1923|
|O. M. Ennis||1924-1927|
|B. E. Dillion||1928-1931|
|O. M. Ennis||1932|
|W. F. Savage||1933-1934|
|C. T. Waisner||1935|
|B. E. Dillon||1938|
|Marvin T. How||1939-1940|
|C. P. Folking||1941|
|J. L. Branstetter||1950-1951|
Beginning in 1926, lay members of Annual Conferences are listed. These include:
N. G. Rensch
Mrs. H. F. White
Mrs. C. E. Webb
Ruth Ellen Deckard
THIS AND THAT IN CONCLUSION
The foregoing is at best a very incomplete account of Mt. Pisgah's story. Without doubt there is more to be told which we hope to be able one day to publish in a History of Mt. Pisgah Church and Camp Ground. But for now, we conclude with a few recollections and observations.
There seems to have been a close and friendly relationship between Church and School at Mt. Pisgah until the School was closed due to consolidation into the Springfield School system. The church yard and school yard served as school playground and for church parking and camping space for conferences. Stories of Anti-Horse-Thief association meetings and church conferences early in this century still abound.
Interesting stories are told of stirring revivals when shouting was heard and souls cried for salvation. And unfortunately there are stories of hardships, suffering, and disagreements within the congregations. Then there are the more humorous stories of the time when a swarm of bees took up residence in the walls of the Church, when a family of raccoons pre-empted the Church loft as their own, and when a chimney fire broke up a revival meeting.
The story of Mt. Pisgah reveals not only a significant past history, but dreams and plans for the future. Among these is an earnest effort to adapt to the change form a county church in a rural area to a small church in a suburban setting reaching out to minister to its new community. Also plans are underway to make improvements to the buildings and , in time, to build an addition in order to meet the needs of new people as the congregation grows.