First Christian Church of LaBelle Celebrating More Than 140 Years of Ministering The Gospel of Christ
By Emilie Rumble
The First Christian Church of LaBelle, Missouri, will observe and celebrate its rich history on Sunday, June 28, at four o’clock, with a Gospel music concert presented by the Christian music Dove Award nominees, MASTER’S VOICE of Bristow, Oklahoma. Master’s Voice is comprised of four young men of integrity dedicated to spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Word and in song.
First Christian Church of LaBelle has been ministering in a variety of areas over the years. Ministries that have included Sunday school classes, Community churches joining together for Vacation Bible School, a community Bible study, an After School program, manning the community food bank, making health and school kits for the Festival of Sharing, providing high school youth of the community with college scholarships, along with a ministry of hospitality. First Christian Church celebrates its history of generation after generation of family membership.
The church was first organized by the Reverend John Shanks, Sr., in 1860, in the Bowles Schoolhouse in LaBelle Township. Charter members of the church included Hudson Brown, William P. Graves, George C. Hinson, Samuel Ewalt, David Wilson, Joseph Bowles, Sr., Jacob Juda, Jacob Morton, Thomas Sulivan, Frankie Bourn, John Wright, and Martha Zimmerman and Ann Pague.
Early families and members of the church included Ed Robbinson, Dr. J.W. Breedlin, Roland Blair, Wilson Overstreet, Mort Zimmerman, David Zimmerman, William Zimmerman, Griff Gregory, Franklin Zimmerman and wife Presby Morteu, J.B. Yancey, and Dudley Bourn. The first ruling elders were Hudson Bourn, William Graves, and Jacob Morton.
The George Hinson farm was the location selected for the first church building, however, the location changed when Edward Robbinson donated a tract of land that was across the road from the John Quail property, which was one block east of the city limits. The frame structure was completed in the summer of 1870, with the total cost of the building amounting to $2,200.00. A style block, the length of the lot was put up to accommodate the people that attended church on horseback. The Reverend J.H. Barnett served as pastor at the newly constructed church building, with Elder Benjamin Smith dedicating the church building. The First Christian Church members worshipped in this building, until November, 1884, when the building was moved to its present site.
The November 21, 1884, issue of the LaBelle Star reported the following, “The Christian Church was safely landed on a new foundation and in very good shape. A portion of the plastering fell off the walls. Cloth was pasted over the holes.” Hitch racks were erected and sidewalks were placed on south side of the lot. The Reverend H.A. Northcutt began a revival meeting.
Ten years later, the members began to raise funds to build on a modern plan. In May of 1897, the old church was razed to the point where no visible trace of the old structure. With all pledges promptly paid, the new church was dedicated in November 1897, and the cost of the building totaled $1,500.00. A furnace was installed in the new building in 1902, and electric lights installed in 1905. January 1909, members determined to build a parsonage, which was completed in December 1909. J.E. Throckmorton led the building campaign during this time period, as the church had no pastor. In 1913, the church building was redecorated. In June 1936, members determined to build a kitchen with the total cost amounting to $669.70.
In October 1946, a ten day revival meeting was held with nineteen soles added, and by years end a total of twenty-five souls had been added to the roll. It was stated that a feeling of unit and success was felt throughout the membership.
The building served as the First Christian Church worship center until tragedy struck on December 16, 1951, when the structure was completely destroyed by fire.
Church members did not despair, as they immediately began to make plans for a new structure. That building stands today. The basement was used for the first time on November 23, 1952. The sanctuary was completed and dedicated on December 12, 1954 with Dr. Edgar Dewitt Jones, Timothy of the church, giving the dedicatory address. In 1969 the membership rolls stood at 418.
Pastors filling the pulpit of the First Christian Church of LaBelle include the following: John Shanks, Clark Doyle, J.H. Barnett, Reverend Knight, Reverend Risk, Ben Northcutt, Ben Smith, J.R. Lucas, H.A. Northcutt, B.F. Smith, E.N. Crow, Reverend Hollowell, W.F. Turner, W.F. Turner, J.B. Corwin, Charles Laycock, J.H. Coil, J.H. Jones, J.R. Furnish, E.L. Prenty, J.E. Reid, C.M. Lewellen, J.B. Montague, R.S. Gandy, A.S. Anderson, C.H. Hurds, C.C. McCare, C.R. Daniels, R.J. Allen, R.M. Hutchinson, Harlie Smith, Byron Ingold, Carl Robinson, V.T. Wood, George Peters, Leland Beck, James Hull, Bill Nichols, Don Dungan, John Buck, Donald Ambrosius, Jim Martin, Dr. Carpenter, Dr. Helsebeck, Dr. Alexander, Don Arthur, Jim McClard, Gary Mayes, John Nickel, Ed Sawyer, Gary Hagan, Mike Wilson, Maynard Blackwood, John Gran, Fred Rohlfs, Bill Nigus, Carolyn Goyer and Ken Goyer, Dennis Goodman, Sandy Browning, and recent lay speakers including members, Paul Harvey and Clark Harvey. The present pastor is Joe Jorgenson.
First Christian Church invites all to join them at this concert by Master’s Voice as they celebrate the anniversary of the forming of this body of Believers. See an ad elsewhere in this issue.