November 6, 2008

Historic Harmony Grove Church Rebuilt Following Fire

More than 100 years of history was lost, but not forgotten on June 13th when a lightning strike burned the Harmony Grove Baptist Church completely to the ground.

Reconstruction of the facility was delayed by the illness of life-long member Janet Shaw, who lost her fight with cancer while the church was being rebuilt.

On October 19, 2008 the new facility was officially dedicated in memory of Janet Shaw, with more than 100 guests and members present for a special dedication service. Pastor Mike Wilson led the dedication service.

The late-night fire leveled the church, which was built in 1872 and made famous as the worship site of Ella Ewing.

In early July the rubble from the fire was buried and the site was leveled in preparation for a new church to be built at the existing location.

ďThis country church could not have been rebuilt without all the prayers and the financial contributions from everyone, along with their support,Ē said church member Ann Shaw.

In conjunction with the reopening of the church, a picture drive is being held to gather images of Ella Ewing to be displayed at the church. For more information contact Betty Wiley at 660-341-0558 or bring the photos to the Print Shop or the Memphis Democrat to be copied for the collection.

The church dates back to 1837, when the Sandhill Baptist Church was officially organized by elders Jeremiah Taylor and P.N. Maycraft. The members met at private residences for several years before finally settling on a school house for meetings.

In 1845 the affiliation began being called the United Baptist Church and the group ultimately purchased the property that included the meeting house.

In August 1868 the name was changed from Sandhill to Harmony Grove Church and a building committee was selected to oversee the construction of a new worship site. A number of sites were considered before the group finally settled on the current location, just across the county line in Knox County, and built the facility in 1872.

By 1887, the church was boasting 160 members. In the year 1900, ďMissouri GiantessĒ Ella Ewing joined the church, and she was a member until her death in 1913, at which time she was buried in the Harmony Grove Church cemetery.

Over the next century, the membership numbers fluctuated, dropping below 100 in the late 1800ís before rebounding to 132 members in 1934. The church saw its greatest amount of activity in the following years after B.B. Lett was called to pastor in 1938 when the recorded membership ballooned to 235.

But after World War II, the church began a transition. Reverend Harry Kearns served the church from 1950 until 1966. After 1967, the church did not maintain a pastor, but continued to host Sunday school classes. Today the Sunday School classes begin at 10:00 a.m. and are open to the public.

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