Episcopal Churches of Northeast Missouri
By H. C. Scheetz, Palmyra

The Protestant Episcopal Church of America was introduced in Northeast Missouri in the latter part of 1838 by Bishop Jackson Kemper, who was the 'first missionary bishop west of the Mississippi river. He was ordained by Bishop William White, the first presiding bishop of the American church.

This strong young bishop had for his field Missouri, part of Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. He also visited Mississippi and Louisiana several times and in 1840 steps were taken to organize Missouri into a diocese. Much was to be done and laborers few. The first state convention was held at Christ church, St. Louis, in November, 1840, being five years after the Bishop's arrival in Missouri. Seven clergymen were present, Hedges, Mead, Minard, Paine, Peake, Smith and S. Crane. This was the mother parish of the state and was set apart to be the bishop's church when he first arrived in St. Louis in 1835 (and it is yet the bishop's church, being now called Christ Church Cathedral). For the following five years the bishop was seldom in St. Louis, for his large field of labor kept him away. At this first convention in 1840 St. Louis was represented by delegates from Christ church and from St. Paul's church of St. Louis; also delegates from Jefferson City, Boonville, St. Charles, Hannibal and Palmyra, which were called the Twin Parishes, and were under the Rev. Thomas E. Paine, who had been appointed to attend to the services in these two places, the Rev. M. Hedges having been called to another church. At Palmyra a small frame church was built, which had eight members. Hannibal had ten members. The delegates from Hannibal and Palmyra were Dr. H. Peake, J. B. Lambert, P. L. Ayres and P. W. Southack.

In 1843 the fourth convention met in Grace church, Jefferson City, September 25, but immediately adjourned to meet at Christ church, St. Louis, on September 27, at which place a full delegation was present. Bishop Kemper advised the election of a Bishop for Missouri. He also submitted a petition to the next general convention, praying the board to appoint a "Chief Shepherd" for Missouri; whereupon at the general convention in 1844 he nominated the Rev. C. S. Hawks, who was rector of Christ church, St. Louis, to be Bishop of Missouri; which was done in November, 1844. In May, 1845, Bishop Hawks took charge as the first Bishop of Missouri and on June 20 of that year Hannibal organized as Trinity church. This was the first organized Episcopal Church in Northeast Missouri. The first vestry elected for Trinity church at Hannibal were H. Peake, T. J. Ayers, C. D. Bourne, R. Lamar, Judge Samuel Harrison, M. McDonald and John McDowell. In the summer of 1845 Bishop Kemper made his last visit to Hannibal and Palmyra, at which time he baptized and confirmed many persons.

On May 13, 1846, the seventh convention met in Christ church, St. Louis, and this was the first convention to meet in the month of May. The Rev. Mr. Hedges preached the sermon and Bishop Hawks made an instructive address, in which he said he visited Hannibal and Palmyra in April, preached two days at each of these places and advised them to build churches and parsonages. These two towns received $300 from the missionary board that year. Hannibal, having filed articles as Trinity parish, was admitted May 16, 1846, with the Rev. George Sill in charge. Mr. Sill reported that about one hundred attended preaching, but there were only twenty church members. He reported that he preached in Palmyra in the morning and in Hannibal in the evening; that it was his second year in charge and that he had baptized only six in Palmyra and had ten communicants.

Those baptized were Maria May Scheetz and a servant, William and Sarah McClintic, John and Eugene Swift, Ellen Cook and Theodore Valiant, all children.

The communicants were: Charles Swift and wile, Dr. McClintic and wife, H. Cook and wife, F. B. Scheetz and wife, John Valiant and wife.

In May, 1847, the eighth convention met at Grace church, Jefferson City. Mr. Sill, in charge of Hannibal and Palmyra, Doctor McDowell, of Hannibal, and Doctor Peake were elected delegates to the next general convention in 1848.

In 1848 the ninth convention met in Christ church, Boonville. The Rev. Mr. Sill received a call to Christ church, Holly Springs, Mississippi, and arrangements were begun to plant Kemper College about half a mile from the town of Palmyra on a fifty acre tract of land. Bishop Hawks met the committee and the Rev. W. B. Corbyn, D. D., who had accepted a call as rector in St. Paul's church, Palmyra, was now appointed by the Bishop and the standing committee to take charge of both church and school at Palmyra. The Rev. Mr. Corbyn was a highly educated man and of a very determined character. He soon had a large school of boys from many parts of Missouri.

No convention was held in 1849, the year of pestilence. In Hannibal and St. Louis and all other river towns the scourge was dreadful, some churches losing nearly all their members.

In May, 1851, the eleventh convention met in Lexington. The Rev. George P. Comings, missionary of Hannibal, reports the following interesting official act: The Rev. Dr. W. B. Corbyn, of Palmyra, had shown much interest in holding services at Hannibal and had married, during the month previous, a Hannibal lady, Miss McDonald, one of his parishioners, the Rev. C. P. Comings officiating.

The twelfth convention was held in May, 1852, at St. Mary's church, Fayette.

In 1853 the thirteenth convention met in May at Christ church, St. Louis. The Bishop in his address tells of there being an increase in confirmations in the church at Hannibal, that church having secured the services of the Rev. J. Adderly, of Illinois, at $250 a year. But $100 more was to be added by the Bishop from the missionary fund.

The fourteenth convention was held in St. John's church, St. Louis, in May, 1854. The Rev. Mr. Adderly resigned at Hannibal, having been called to Grace church, Jefferson City. The delegates to this convention from Hannibal were Doctor McDowell and Mr. Calhoun.

In 1855 the fifteenth convention met in Christ church, Boonville, in May. The Rev. Charles Purviance, a young minister, was elected for Hannibal, but within a month or so resigned. The delegates from Hannibal were F. A. Calhoun, Col. Dick Drain and F. W. Southack. Bishop Hawks told of his visits to Palmyra and Hannibal and stated that there were now about nine hundred communicants in the state, about one-fourth of whom were Negroes; that many families had brought their servants with them to Missouri from Virginia, Maryland and Kentucky, and all were baptized when children; and that he was pleased to see that the colored servants were coming into the churches.

On May 25, 1857, the seventeenth convention was held in St. Paul's College at Palmyra. Doctor Corbyn resigned as rector of St. Paul's at Palmyra, and the Rev. S. Y. McMasters was elected to take his place. The Bishop visited Mr. Scheetz' little church, St. Jude's, on the prairie near where Monroe City now is, and confirmed ten and ordained P. B. Scheetz as deacon and missioner.

The eighteenth convention met in May, 1858, at Grace church, Jefferson City. The Bishop reported the laying of the corner stone of Trinity church, Hannibal, the rector, the Rev. Mr. Dunn, assisting, the new church to cost $6,000.

In May, 1861, Trinity church, Hannibal, entertained the twenty-first convention. The Bishop's address had this theme: "Let each one of us pray night and day that the agony of brotherly strife may be ended, that men may beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, and not learn war anymore." The Rev. Dr. Corbyn was appointed by the Bishop and the standing committee to take charge of St. Paul's church and St. Paul's College again, which he accepted and held for ten years, or until 1871.

The twenty-third convention was held in Grace church, Kirkwood, in May, 1863. The Bishop's address tells of the horrors of the Civil war and states that he is opposed to this convention or the general convention passing any resolutions of censure upon our Southern brethren.

The twenty-fourth convention met in May, 1864, in Christ church, St. Louis. Many of the churches were closed, this being the hardest year of the Civil war. The not unexpected disaster was noted, the sale of St. Paul's college and church property for debt. But the school property was bought by friends for the Rev. W. B. Corbyn to continue his school. The Rev. George Scheetz bought the church property and ten acres of land and deeded it all to the Bishop for the church. The Rev. George Scheetz was the father of Rev. P. B. Scheetz. He was rector of old St. Mark church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from 1825 to 1855, and had removed to Palmyra, Missouri, in 1860, with his two married daughters, Mrs. Mendenhall and Mrs. G. C. Jones, who bought property and who felt a great interest in the church there. In 1867 they all removed to Monroe City, when St. Jude's church had been moved to that town from the Scheetz farm nearby. P. B. Scheetz was ordained a deacon by Bishop Hawks in 1857 and was later ordained as priest by Bishop Vail. He built up a good membership for St. Jude's church at Monroe City, where a stone church was erected. The remains of all these families now rest in one large plot of St. Jude's cemetery in Monroe City, Missouri.

The twenty-eighth convention met in May, 1868, at Kirkwood. Bishop Hawks died this year. The Rev. Mr. Dunn, who so long had served at Hannibal, had resigned only a short time previously. He had served faithfully at Hannibal for the past eleven years. He left one monument that will last forever, a splendid stone church, without one cent of debt, mostly subscribed by his good friends in the east.

The thirty-second convention was held in May, 1872, in St. George's church, St. Louis, Bishop C. P. Robertson presiding. The delegates from Hannibal were Major Hunt and H. E. Towns, J. F. Hamilton, principal of the school, was made deacon. At this meeting the state of Missouri was divided into six districts, the northeast district to be known as the Hannibal district, and each district was to have a dean. The Rev. P. B. Scheetz, of St. Jude's church, Monroe City, was appointed dean by the Bishop and member of the standing committee.

The thirty-fourth convention was held in May, 1874, in Christ church, St. Louis. At the end of this year the Rev. J. G. Armstrong, who had built up the work so much in Hannibal during the past four years, resigned. He was succeeded by the Rev. Samuel Ringgold, of Tennessee. The Rev. F. B. Scheetz, of Monroe City, was appointed temporarily to take charge of St. Paul's church and school at Palmyra, as Doctor Wainwright had resigned at Palmyra and had taken charge of a school for girls, called Wolfe Hall, in Denver, Colorado. With the assistance of his daughter, Miss Katherine, he conducted the school for three years, or until 1877, when Doctor Wainright was recalled to the presidency of St. Paul's College and as rector of St. Paul's church, which positions he held for twenty years thereafter, or until 1898, when he died.

The thirty-fifth convention was held in May, 1875, in Trinity church, St. Louis. Reports from Mexico and Moberly, new parishes organized, and from Louisiana and Clarkesville missions, were heard. The Rev. F. B. Scheetz, who had charge of the school and church at Palmyra, resigned, because his own parish at Monroe City and several missions at Shelbina, Macon, Kirksville and Canton, which he visited one Sunday in each month, were being neglected. The Rev. J. A. Wainwright was then reelected president of the school.

The thirty-eighth convention met in May, 1878. St. Paul's chapel, the old college ground at Palmyra being so far from town, it was deemed advisable to build a new church on the corner of Olive and Lane streets, a lot having been secured for $300, paid for by the ladies' aid society, Palmyra, and deeded to the Bishop of the Diocese of Missouri and his successors in office forever, dated May 11, 1877. The new vestry was composed of Hon. Edward McCabe, Dr. G. T. Giles, John Best and J. C. Doolittle. Colonel McCabe still lives in his old mansion on Main Street, where he and his wife first settled about 1852. They raised a family of seven, now all members of the church and living in many different states. Mrs. McCabe died July 20, 1912, at the age of eighty-seven years.

The thirty-ninth convention met in Christ church, St. Louis, in May, 1879. Trinity church at Hannibal reported the election of the Rev. Abiel Leonard as rector.

From 1840 to 1880, a period of forty years, the total number of confirmations in the state was eight thousand, six hundred and fifty. It was in November, 1880, that the Rev. George K. Dunlop, of Kirkwood, was consecrated Bishop, being the first consecration of an Episcopal Bishop west of the Mississippi River.

The forty-second convention met in the Church of Holy Communion, St. Louis, in May, 1882. The Rev. F. B. Scheetz accepted a call to Kirkwood, as rector, leaving his old church at Monroe City, which he organized as a mission station on his farm in 1855, and which was moved to Monroe City, Missouri, and rebuilt of stone in 1866.

The forty-fifth convention met in May, 1885, in Christ church, St. Louis. The Bishop reported several new churches in the diocese, also St. James Academy and St. Agnes Hall for Girls at Macon City now open. This was the last convention over which Bishop Robertson presided. He died within the year, having had scarcely a day's illness in the fifteen years he had been with us. The committee reported that in the state are fifty-six churches, four schools, one hospital, one orphans' home and eleven parsonages and the estimated value of church property in the state is $1,000,000.

The forty-seventh convention met May 24, 1886, in St. Louis. Daniel S. Tuttle, missionary bishop of Utah and Wyoming, was elected Bishop.

The forty-eighth convention met in St. John's church, St. Louis, in May, 1887, and was presided over by Bishop Tuttle. The Rev. John Davis, D. D., was duly elected rector of Trinity church, Hannibal, the past year and was editing a parish monthly for his church people. The paper was called The Trinity Bell. The Rev. Ethelbert Talbot, of St. James church, Macon, was duly elected Bishop of Wyoming and Idaho. In this year the Rev. W. A. Hatch accepted a call to take charge of St. Jude's church, Monroe City, and for sixteen years served this parish well. In 1902 he was called to Holy Innocents, St. Louis, where he still has charge.

The fifty-second convention met in Christ church cathedral, St. Louis, in May, 1892. The Bishop reported the death of the Rev. C. S. Hedges at New Orleans at the age of eighty-four years. He was the first rector of Palmyra and Hannibal churches, in 1840, and a member of the first convention ever held in Missouri. St. James Academy at Macon was discontinued as a church school, expenses being greater than the resources. Good work had been accomplished by this school for the church in Northeast Missouri. Colonel Blees, with the board of trustees at Macon, however, arranged to continue the school.

The fifty-sixth convention met in Christ church cathedral, May 20, 1896. The Bishop reported every parish and mission station in Northeast Missouri supplied with ministers, except Kirksville. The four missions, at Macon, Monroe, Mexico and Moberly, showed the best reports ever known.

The fifty-seventh convention was held in Christ church, St. Louis, in May, 1897, Bishop Tuttle presiding. The Rev. W. W. Mizner, of St. Louis, who had spent several years as a deacon at Palmyra and had done much to revive interest and to secure membership for the church, was now ordered by the Bishop to be priest and to take charge of St. Stephen's mission, St. Louis. The Rev. S. H. Green was elected rector of Grace church, Kirkwood, and the Rev. F. B. Scheetz, who had been rector for the previous fifteen years, was chosen rector emeritus for Kirkwood. He had in the early days of the church done much missionary work in different parts of Northeast Missouri.

The fifty-eighth convention met in Christ church cathedral, St. Louis, in May, 1898. The Bishop said: "In 1886 you elected me your Bishop and only ten clergymen remain in this state out of the thirty-seven that were here then and only one remains who attended the convention of 1886 and that is the Rev. F. B. Scheetz, of Kirkwood.''

The seventy-third convention was held in St. Peter's church, St. Louis, in May, 1912. The Bishop Coadjutor, F. F. Johnson, D. D., elected during the past year, administered the Holy Communion and Bishop Tuttle read his annual address.


© Missouri American History and Genealogy Project
Created August 16, 2017 by Judy White

Source: History of Northeast Missouri, edited by Walter Williams, Volume I, Lewis Publishing Company, 1913