from A Brief History of the Smyrna Baptist Church
As the Civil War came to a close and families planned again for future living, the young adults in the South began to move westward into this beautiful state of Missouri. It is likely that Revelation 2:10 (Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life) was the inspiration for the choice of the name Smyrna. The Smyrna Baptist Church met in homes and in the Parch Corn School building.
The church building was constructed in 1890 on a hilltop of the Waggoner Place — across from the Gilbert Gaither home. However, spring flooding and winter snow and ice presented problems and the building was moved in 1908.
The church was moved down the hill, near the Parch Corn School at the crossroads of the Ozark-to-Pembina and Ozark-to-Linden (Kenton) roads. The church grew and became a vital part of the community. Hitching posts were provided on the property and the spring branch at the back of the church assured for the provision of horses.
Smyrna was a part of the Southwest Bethel Baptist Association and sent messengers to the 28th annual session of 1887. The church would host the annual associations of 1884, 1890, 1897, 1913 and 1924. These were busy days for the ladies who cooked at the church beneath a tent. Protracted meetings were held and the church grew to a membership of 206 by 1920.
For 75 years, a huge, pot-bellied stove provided “central heating.” Gas lamps, that had to be pumped up now and then, provided light for evening services. There would be candlight services when the gass supply ran out.
In the rainy season, only those in the Linden area could attend. The creek road branches were closely watched when a rise might come.
County events at Smyrna (and revivals) were scheduled for the drier months of the year. The name Smyrna Baptist Church was painted on a broad plank and spanned the distance above the double doors. Classes met in sections of seats and sound was a low rumble.
During the ’30s, roads were improved and Model Ts and Chevrolets were common on the roads to Ozark, Rogersville and Springfield. The Jolleys came from St. Louis to live in Linden, providing both encouragement and transportation to young children living in the area.
The first Bible School was led by a visiting evangelist from Mountain Home, Arkansas. The equipment consisted of American and Christian flags and 13 available children. County missionary Bruce Maples held the Bible School the next summer.
The Smyrna Women's Missionary Society was organized in November, 1930, by the pastor's wife, May Ritzinger. There were 14 members. Their goal was to promote missions throughout the world. Smyrna achieved the goal of full-time ministry when Claude Barclay, a young salesman of Springfield, felt the call to preach and was recommended by a retiring minister. A building fund was started and plans were made to remodel the church. Electricity was installed, along with other improvements, in 1964.
Today, Smyrna Baptist Church, on the crossroads of Parch Corn Holler, still draws folks from across the hills — folks hungry for the Word of God, good music and honest fellowship.
plate 1. Smyrna Baptist Church near Rogersville, Missouri. April 7, 2009.
“...And the hand of the Lord was with them and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.” — ACTS 11:21
plate 2. Smyrna Baptist Church, circa 1974.
plate 3. Mr. and Mrs. Calvin Coffey Green join Smyrna Baptist by letter in 1886. Photos courtesy of Smryna Baptist.
plate 3. Parch Corn Holler Crossroads. December 14, 2008.