Hannibal: Our Churches



Hannibal Blessed with Grand Church Privileges. Twelve Houses of Worship, Regularly Attended by About Five Thousand of Our Good People. In this age of civilization the enlightened world has come to regard churches and schools as the ultimate foundations upon which rest all our assurances of peace, good order, morality and prosperity. Without them, our national *tri**ture would crumble, and our republican *******, under the degrading influence of ******* and ignorance would relapse into ******* despotism. It is from our churches that come, those strong influence which ****** ** *** to person and property, as well as from ours schools come guarantees of intelligence, refinement and progress in the common industries of life as well as in the arts and sciences. Hand in hand, religion and intelligence go, breaking the chains of superstition and barbarism, making the wilderness hum with the busy industries of civilization and *** *** with anthems of praise to the Great Divinity that shapes our ends. That Hannibal is a city whose morals are equal to those of any other in the land, is shown by her churches; as the intelligence of her people is shown by her public and private institutions of learning. Her ministry is exceptionally brilliant and widely influential; her churches embrace some of the most capacious and elegant structures of any in the State; her Sabbath Schools are large, and are known throughout the West as models of excellence. It would be impossible within the limited space allowed for this subject, to present in full the many interesting facts connected with the establishment, growth and prosperity of the twelve churches which form the fundamental basis of moral and religious power of this city. Fully written they would fill a volume. Hannibal in its religious influence has truly been a city set upon a hill, whose streams of light have been near and far, even to the uttermost borders of the State, and into adjoining commonwealths. But we must be content with a brief presentation of the most important points concerning each church; and with inviting our distant readers to come and witness and verify the truth of the assertion, that a more thoroughly religious, moral, orderly and law-abiding population does not exist than is to be found in Hannibal. Following is a brief summary of each church given in the order of its organization, as nearly as it has been possible to ascertain them:


This now large and influential organization had a humble origin as far back as the year 1832, when it was organized on the 9th day of August, at the residence of Mr. Lyman Nash. For many years its congregation worshiped in the building which is the present Hannibal Court House on 3rd street. In 1859 its present handsome and capacious house of worship was erected at the corner of 6th and Center streets, where its tall and elegant spire forms a conspicuous object, seen from all parts of the city. Within the last three years its interior has been very handsomely decorated, *** galleries built to accommodate the increasing pressure of its congregation, a beautiful pipe organ of great sweetness and expression,costing twenty-five hundred dollars has been added, and the finishing throughout is extremely tasteful and attractive. Its present pastor, Rev. Geo. H? Spining,has occupied his pulpit with great acceptance for several years; under whose influence the two branches of the Presbyterian Church in the city have been united, the membership largely increased and the usefulness of the church widely extended. The Sabbath School connected with the church numbers three hundred and fifty scholars and forty teachers under the superintendence of Messrs. Fred L. Dubach and Wm. C. Foreman, the latter of whom is also leader of the choir, a double quartet of fine singers. Mr. J. Ellis Fisher, is the accomplished organist. The membership of the church numbers 883 and the average attendance at its various Sabbath church services is estimated at 460. The entire cost of church, building, grounds, organ and furnishings is put at $16, 000. The seating capacity is the audience is 700. This organization also maintains a mission Sabbath School in the northern limits of the city, under the efficient superintendence of Mr. A. Shenker, numbering nearly one hundred pupils, gathered from among the destitute classes of that section of the city. This is but one way in which this church is accomplishing a great and good work.


In the year 1844, a few devoted followers of Christ worshiping him according to the dictates of their consciences, assembled and organized what was then known as the Methodist church North. For many years it struggled among adverse elements, but maintained its existence and with a steady adherence to its conceptions of duty it continued to grow and prosper, until it has become one of the influential and powerful church organizations of the city – exhibiting a membership of 220, an average attendance at church morning service of 250; with a Sabbath School into which are gathered 250 scholars under the instruction of 20 faithful and devoted teachers, the whole under the superintendence of Mr. A.P. Shepherd. Their handsome church edifice which with its ground and furniture cost $20,000, adorns the corner of Broadway and 6th Streets, where it is a conspicuous object of admiration. Its audience room is one of the finest in the city, and is a favorite place for large and popular gatherings, having a seating capacity of 800. It is handsomely carpeted and very elegantly lighted and seated. Rev. J. M. Parker is its faithful pastor, under whose earnest and untiring labors the organization has steadily grown in power, influence and members. Here the annual meetings of the Missouri State Sabbath School Convention held its session last May and within a few weeks past, the Teachers’Institute for Northeast Missouri assembled in this comfortable place for its three days session.


On the 20th of June 1845, was organized the Trinity Episcopal Church, whose unostentatious ivy-clad sanctuary, built of gray stone, and in style peculiar to that denomination, stands upon Third street between Center and Bird. It is not large, but interior is handsomely decorated and furnished. Its stained-glass windows lend to its atmosphere that soft religious tone so appropriate to the consecrated house of God. It has a fine pipe organ which cost two thousand dollars. An excellent chorus choir under the efficient leadership of Mr. Robt.Robinson, with Mrs. Shepherd as organist. The Sabbath School numbers 125 members under the faithful superintendence of Geo. F. Hatch, Esq., assisted by twelve excellent teachers. The total number of communicants is 206; the cost of the church property, including organ and furnishings $12,000; seating capacity of the church 800 and average attendance at morning service about 150. Its present rector is Rev. Abiel Leonard, called to the rectorship within the past few weeks, but coming with high testimonials as to talents and devotion to the cause of his Master which his brief residence here so far fully justify and confirm.As power for good in the community, Trinity Episcopal Church ranks among the first.


This,by far the largest of all our religious organizations, was established in this city in the year 1852. It now embraces within its communion 900 members. It maintains a Sabbath School with 180 scholars and five teachers. Its church property cost $12,000. The seating capacity of its present house of worship, on Church Street, between 5th and 6th, is 400 and the average attendance upon its various Sabbath services is 800 – showing the devotion of its membership and their faithfulness to the “Mother Church”. We are happy to say that their present inadequate church building will soon give way to a new commodious and magnificent Cathedral, the foundation of which has already been laid at the corner of 7th and Bird streets. Rev. Father D. Kennedy is the faithful spiritual adviser and shepherd of this large flock, and his ministry has been both popular and successful.


Overlooking our handsome Public Square is located the beautiful church edifice of the Baptist denomination. It is in a very commanding position, near Broadway, in the very heart of the city. The main structure was erected about eight years since,to which was added, last year, a handsome suite of rooms for Sabbath school and lecture purposes, pastor’s study, etc., the whole combining all that could be desired in such a structure. The main audience room is capable of seating 400 persons without utilizing the vacant spaces, in which, with chairs, two hundred more could be made comfortable. The Sabbath school and lecture rooms will accommodate between three and four hundred adults and children. The cost of this property was $14,400. The present church organization dates back to March 21st,1869, although prior to that time, for many years, there existed societies of that denomination in this city. The present membership 234; scholars in the Sabbath school 200; teachers 18. Mr. A. R. Levering, the popular Cashier of theFarmers’ & Merchants’ Bank, is the efficient, thorough-going and valuable Superintendent, and to him the school owes much of its growth and prosperity. It has an excellent choir, led by Mr. L. F. Ke*baugh, with Mrs. D. P. Flinn as organist. Arrangements are making to procure a pipe organ of Hook’s celebrated make, which alone is needed to make their music all that could be desired. The present pastor of the church, Rev. F. D. Rickerson, has won a high position of popularity, not only in the church itself, but in the community at large. He is foremost in all good enterprises, practical, efficient, and withal a most fascinating writer and speaker. As a pulpit orator he has few equals. The average attendance upon the morning services of this church is estimated at 250.


On the 29th day of November, 1859, when but one Congregational Church (that of Rev.Dr. Post, of St. Louis) existed in Missouri, a small band of New England and New York Congregationalists with a few others who held similar faith, met at a private residence in this city and having adopted the Articles of Faith of that denomination, they joined in a society known as the First Congregational Church of Hannibal. their first house of worship was built in South Hannibal, where it still stands, an unpretending frame structure, capable of seating from three to five hundred persons. but so rapid was the growth of this the second Congregational church in Missouri, that in the year 1870 it was determined to erect a more commodious building, centrally located. A site was selected at the corner of Lyon and Church streets, where the present building, metropolitan in cost and style, was erected and furnished at a cost of about $7000. Without doubt it is the most elegant church edifice in the State outside St. Louis, and but few in that city surpass it in size or interior beauty. The seating capacity of its main audience room, exclusive of gallery, is about 80, while with chairs in the aisles and open spaces, including the galleries, accommodations may be made for an audience of 1,500. The main room, exclusive of galleries is 110 feet in length by 62 in width. The choir gallery is in the rear of the pulpit, will seat fifty persons, and contains the largest pipe organ in the city, costing$8,600. Mrs. C. P. Heywood presides at the organ and has won the reputation of a most brilliant performer. The choir of this church numbers twenty members, and has been maintained with undeviating constancy from the very beginning of the society. The average attendance at Sabbath morning service is estimated at 250.The church membership as 269. The Sabbath school, now under the efficient superintendence of Mr. C. O. Godfrey, contains 800 scholars instructed by thirty most devoted and excellent teachers. This Sabbath school has its date coeval with origin of the church, and has been a remarkable institution; from its commencement to the present time it has maintained one feature which has made it widely noted – its “Monthly Concerts” – which have month after months,and year after year, attracted crowded houses of children and adults to be both instructed and delighted. It would be simply impossible to estimate the extent of the moral and religious influence exercised over the youth of this community by this school alone. The Sabbath school occupies the first or semi-basement room, which will conveniently accommodate five hundred pupils. The church parlor, infant class room and pastor’s study are upon the same floor with the main Sabbath school room, and the whole are models of convenience. Rev. Geo. W.Grover, late of Concord, N. H. has been recently to this charge not simply brilliant talents, but also the most scholarly attainments, and an enthusiastic devotion to the cause of Christ, and bids fair to attain great popularity not only with his own people but also with the general public.


This old and influential organization had its first existence in the city as early as the year 1835. It has been conspicuous for its earnest devotion to the cause of religion and has embraced within its fold many of the best men of the city. Its present membership is 192; its Sabbath School numbers 120 scholars and about 20 teachers. Rev. H. B. Watson is the present pastor – a man of exulted Christianity, enable and earnest preacher, thoroughly consecrated to his work.The Head of Stewards consists of Wm. Eddy, J. P. Rayne, Geo. Shyrock, John *.Johnson, P. A. Hickman and Obey Carstarphen. The following gentlemen compose its Board of Trustees: Jno. L. RoBards, Thos. H. Bacon, John Ure, Robt. F. Lakenan,John Herriman, Jaboc Chinn, John Johnston, Geo. Shryock and Joseph Catron. Superintendent of Sunday School Jno. L. RoBards, Esq. With such a host of able and efficient members, this church will not fall to be both prosperous and powerful. Its church edifice was erected in 1840 and has a seating capacity of about 400. As soon as the times will justify it they design erecting a new and elegant house of worship in keeping with the ability and influence of the organization.


This important organization had its origin in Hannibal in the year 1848. Its first elders were David T. Morton, Wm. Tartershel and A. S. RoBards. Its present pastor is Rev. E. B. Challener who has endeared himself to the church and the community by his faith work. The present elders are J. H. McVeigh, Dr. C. F.Clayton and Robt. Bridgford. They have within the past year, purchased and handsomely fitted up the church building at corner of 5th and Church streets,formerly used by the Second Presbyterian organization. This building with grounds and furnishing is estimated worth $8,000. The present church membership is 250. Scholars in Sundays school 120; teachers 15; Superintendent J. H.McVeigh; Assistant Superintendent W. R. Gannaway. the main audience room will comfortably seat 400 persons.


This was organized in the year 1872, and is located at the “West End” where it erected a very tasteful house of worship at a cost of $3,000 which has a seating capacity of 250. Its membership numbers 87; its Sabbath School has 70 scholars and 14 teachers, under the watchful superintendence of Mr. J. B. Brittingham. The average morning attendance is 60. Rev. Arthur M. Kierga* has been its popular and efficient pastor for several years, and has performed a work of great value in the district in which this church is situated.


Our colored population deserve praise for the zeal manifested by them in the maintaining of religious organizations, not less than any other class of citizens. the African M. E. Church, over which Rev. J. M. Wilkerson, no acceptably presides, has a membership of 823; maintains a Sabbath School with 116 scholars and 10 teachers; worships in a comfortable brick church erected by themselves at a cost of about $8,000, which has a seating capacity for 400 persons. Their morning gatherings average something less than 200. This church was organized in 1863 and has accomplished a great work among the colored people. Mr. W. F. Owens is the Sabbath School superintendent.


The pastor whose term of service in the city has been far longer than that of any other, is Rev. Oliver Webb, of the African Baptist Church. He has served in that capacity in Hannibal for twenty-five years, and now finds himself the shepherd of a flock numbering 3*0 souls; with a hands me brick church edifice, the cost of which, with ground and furnishings about $8,000. His Sabbath congregations number about 800 in the morning, and 75 in the evening. His Sabbath School has 150 scholars and 15 teachers. His church will comfortably accommodate a congregation of 400. It was built in 1872, largely from means furnished by the colored people. As a conservator of morals among colored people, this organization has accomplished a great and good work.


This young organization sprang up several years ago to accommodate the growing needs of the West End of our city. We regret that we have been unable to obtain a report of its membership and other statistics concerning its present condition.Rev. W. P. Bishop is its pastor and is accomplishing much good by his earnest devotion to his charge.


This sketch of the religious institutions of Hannibal would not be complete without mention of South Hannibal Sabbath School, organized several years since, and maintained with great efficiency, first under the superintendency of S. D. Rich, Esqr., editor of the Hannibal Clipper, and for the past two years Mr. C. O. Godfrey, the veteran Sabbath School Superintendent. this school has a membership of 350 scholars and 40 teachers. It has accomplished a vast amount of good in the south part of the city, and is in all respects a model school.


Thus we have presented in as brief a space as possible an outline of the machinery at work in Hannibal to purify the morals and build up the religious power of our city. Combined in this work we find thirty-four hundred church members, in twelve different organizations, all actuated by the same noble purposes to purify, elevate, ennoble and save their fellow men. We find nearly twenty-five hundred children in attendance every Sabbath at the Sabbath Schools, where they are taught by over two hundred teachers. We find over one hundred and eighty thousand dollars invested in church property, whose combined sitting room accommodates six thousand persons. We find an average weekly attendance at the various church services of the Sabbath day approximating to five thousand. With all these powerful influences at work, can it be surprising that Hannibal has now a high reputation for sobriety, morality, intelligence, the conservative qualities of its people and their wide religious influence?

Source: Hannibal Daily Courier, Tuesday, January 15, 1878.

Transcribed & Contributed by Barbara Saxbury Freeman