Tale reminds us how two churches became one

How did a good Baptist girl and her friends feel about receiving a potcardof the Presbyterian Church of Richmond? We’ll probably never known why Blanche Brown mailed one to her friend at the Lexington College for Young Women in 1909. (Submitted photo)

Mailed from Richmond, Mo. on Apr. 14, 1909 to Miss Florence Laukford, Lexington College, Lexington, Mo.: “Dear Florence, Have you forgotten ‘Little Tiny’? I haven’t heard from you for an age, what are you doing studying yourself half to death I’ll just bet. But stop just long enough to drop a line to your old friend. Blanche Brown”

On the front of the postcard it says, “Give all the girls my love”.

Miss Florence was going to the Lexington College for Young Women in Lexington. It was a Baptist school that was established in 1855. Since this is a postcard of the Presbyterian Church of Richmond, I wonder if any of the Baptist girls in Lexington noticed it was a Presbyterian postcard. I am sure there were other postcards of Richmond in 1909, so why did Blanche pick this one to send to her friend?

I tried to find more about Blanche and Florence but did not have any luck. Maybe one of these days I will run across them in an old newspaper article or someone will tell me a story about them. This is a good example of why I love collecting postcards. You have a pretty picture on the front of the postcard and sometimes a story on the back.
The Richmond First Presbyterian Church is no longer around because it merged with the Richmond Christian Church in 2003. Services were held in the Presbyterian Church building until their new building was completed on Spartan Drive in 2005. The stained glass windows from the Christian Church were removed and restored before they were placed in the new building. Their new name is the United Christian Presbyterian Church.

The 1881 Ray County History Book gives some details about the “PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (OLD SCHOOL) at RICHMOND.“ It was organized by the Presbytery of Missouri on the first Saturday in February in 1843 by J. L. Yantis and Lewis Green, ruling elder. They did not have a building to call their own untilNovember 1869 when a large, substantial brick church was built at a cost of $10,000.

On June 1, 1878, the church was entirely destroyed by a cyclone that hit Richmond, leaving a pathway of devastation and killing 20 people. The large Bible used for the pulpit was found unharmed after the cyclone hit the church. It was kept safe by Mrs. Eva Ball until the next church was built. It was finally removed from this church in 1929.

Due to the cyclone, no regular services were held until the fall of 1880. When services resumed, they were held in one of the local opera houses. Five of the original 26 members were still part of the church in 1881.The 2nd church was built in 1888. It was used until 1962, when the third building was built. This final building is still standing on Thornton Street. Some of the rocks used for the retaining wall in front of this building were the foundation stones used for the 1869 church.

There is always a story behind the story and this one is connected to the Richmond College. In 1851, the Presbyterian Church of Missouri wanted to establish a college and four towns were chosen: Booneville, Richmond, Fulton and St. Charles. A group of Ray County citizens presented an offer of $15,000 and 10 acres. Gov. Austin King and other prominent citizens supported Richmond, but Fulton won and Westminster College was formed.

Richmond made a separate deal with the Presbytery of Upper Missouri to establish a college on the endowment plan from scholarships. Richmond College opened in September 1856. After two years, the endowment plan was not working and debt was accumulating so a local man stepped in and used his own money to pay off the debt.

A lawsuit started and eventually the building became part of the Richmond Public School system and that is how the Richmond High School that many of us attended ended up in the location that many of us remember.

The Richmond College was used during the Civil War. The 1881 Ray County History Book says, “The Richmond College building from the commencement of the great civil war until its close, instead of being the temple of learning, the home of star-eyed science, became, from necessity, a fortress bristling with bayonets, and arrayed in all the fierce panoply of war. From 1862 till 1865 large bodies of troops were quartered in it at different times.” College Hill had troops camped in tents around the school grounds and the building was used as a headquarters, prison and hospital.

The Richmond College building served as Richmond College from 1856 to 1861, Civil War headquarters from 1861 to 1864, a college again from 1864 to 1867, public school from 1867 to 1905, grade school from 1905 to 1916 ,a junior high, science building and gym from 1916 to 1942. It was finally torn down in 1943.

The Presbyterian Church owned all the lots on College Hill and sold them along each side for houses. Two lots on the east side were set aside as the church location and that is why the Presbyterian Church was located on College Hill.
In the 1970s, I attended a few programs in the Presbyterian Church with a dear lady that just happened to be an Emley. Katherine Emley Foster was my aunt by marriage and I had the privilege of attending a Christmas service with her and we enjoyed the bell dhoir playing carols with the hand bells. These bells are one of the items that are still used in the new church. These bells were much loved by Aunt Kay Foster because they were donated by her brother, Col. Paul Casper Emley.

I attended Daddy James Davis’s funeral at the United Christian Presbyterian Church a few months ago. I was happy to see the merger of two old Richmond churches has worked out. It has been six years since they joined together, but when you walk in the new church you feel the same small-town feeling that you felt when you walked in either of the original churches. The stained glass windows are still as beautiful as they always were and I am sure the sound of the choir is just as heavenly as it was back in 1843 when it all started.



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