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Liberty Church
A history of Liberty Church, including the families of charter members. Liberty Church is near Shamrock, Callaway County. It is included here because many Montgomery County families have connections to the Shamrock area.

Contributed by Nancy Hale Lee

I get emotional about Liberty Church. I have a number of childhood memories associated with this building and churchyard. As a small child I would accompany my grandmother, Ruth Lavender Hale, to Liberty to clean the church prior to Sunday services. The key was hidden under a rock in front of the church and no one worried that it would be bothered there. My older sister and I would come in and run up and down the aisles till my grandmother scolded us. We walked throughout the cemetery reading inscriptions. I never felt threatened in the cemetery, just like I was visiting old friends I hadn't seen for awhile. I guess this came from my Grandmother Hale. She spent many an hour walking this cemetery and Augusta Presbyterian Church Cemetery with me sharing the lives of the people and the families who built the community.

I remember standing up in the middle pew when I was five years old and announcing I was staying a few days with my grandparents because my mother had two babies. And I remember my Grandfather Hale's funeral service here and the comfort I received from this church, like a friend with their arm tight around your shoulder to offer support.

Local historian, Grace Dillard, collected for many years bits and pieces of history about the Shamrock community. She wrote the "History of Liberty Church" that you may have seen. Without her accumulation of facts and recollections from those who have now passed, a lot of history might have slipped away.

On the third Lord's day in August 1839, ten Pioneer Christians met for the purpose of organizing a Christian church. They met somewhere in the neighborhood and more than likely at the home of William B. Douglass near Loutre Creek. The church was organized and given the name of Liberty. In November of the same year William B. Douglass was appointed elder and John T. Dillard deacon. Brother William B. Douglass became their first minister and preached here for about 25 years.

The site of the first church building was about a quarter of a mile northwest of the now nonexistent town of Venice, just over the line in Audrain County, on the farm of Pinckney French. The first church was made of hewn logs from trees growing on the site. It faced south with a large brick chimney on the west side. The bricks were probably baked on the premises. A lean-to shed ran the full length of the east side. This was for the Negro slaves. The logs between the lean-to shed and the main building were sawed out so that the slaves could enjoy the services.

The floor of the main room was brick and the floor of the lean-to shed was dirt. The room was heated by a huge fireplace. The church benches were made from split logs.

The hitching post and stile block were near the creek, south of the church. John Wells reminisced in the church history that he often had to go with his mother to hitch her horse. That was something no LADY was supposed to do in those days. The parishioners had to climb the hill on foot.

I would like to tell you a little about some of the charter members.

Barba Collins

Barba Collins was born in Tennessee or Virginia the 27th of July 1793 to William and Martha Isbell Collins. It is most likely that Barba was born after his parents moved from Halifax County, Virginia, to Sumner County, Tennessee. After William's death in 1808, Martha and her brood of nine children moved to Christian County, Kentucky. William's will is recorded in Christian County, Kentucky.

The siblings of Barba Collins were Elizabeth who married a Mr. Howell, Thomas, George, Daniel, Nancy who married Burger Harraldson, William and Samuel who migrated to Pulaski County, Arkansas, Martha who married John Durham, and James who married Nancy Chick.

Barba was a soldier in the War of 1812 fighting at the Battle of New Orleans in 1814 where the British were soundly defeated.

Following the war Barba married Martha Johns 27 August 1818 in Kentucky where they had a number of children.
     1.  W. D., born about 1822 in Kentucky, was part of the group from Callaway County, Missouri, that went to the gold fields of California in 1849.
     2.  Morgan H., born 19 October 1823 in Kentucky, joined his brothers on the wagon train to California in 1849, but didn't stay long as he married Nancy Jane Surber in Audrain County on 1 July 1852.
     3.  Samuel G., born in Kentucky, married Elizabeth Kemp and joined the group from Callaway County to the gold fields of California in 1849. A Confererate soldier, he was killed at the Battle of Pea Ridge.
     4.  Glover was born in Kentucky.
     5.  Joel B., born about 1831, was the first child from this union born in Missouri.
     6.  Robert was born about 1833 in Missouri.
     7.  Ann E. was born about 1835 in Missouri.
     8.  Mary, born 27 August 1837 in Missouri, married Andrew J. Douglass. They lived south of the present town of Benton City and are buried at the cemetery.

The move to Missouri must have occured in the late 1820's to early 1830's, based on the approximate birth dates of the children born in Kentucky and Missouri. Various records give the date as early as 1826 and as late as 1833. Martha died in Missouri and is probably buried in the Collins Cemetery in the Shamrock area. The cemetery is marked with native stones. Ruth Lavender Hale said it lay in the fence row east of the cabin and was still visible in the early 1900's.

Barba and Martha were founding members of the Liberty Christian Church near Shamrock, Callaway County, Missouri, in 1839.

Barba married a second time to Polly (Chick) Read, the widow of William Read. She had at least one child, Alexander, at the time of the marriage. At least one source gives the location of this marriage as Kentucky, but this is doubtful since Martha was still living and in Missouri with Barba as late as 1839. One child was born to Polly and Barba before Polly's death in 1843 or '44. Polly, it might be noted, was a sister to Barba's brother James's wife, Nancy Chick Collins.
     9.  Lucy D, born in 1843 in Missouri, married John Will Duncan, a Confederate veteran. They homesteaded in Texas.

Barba married a third time, to the widow of James McMurtry, Serelda or Terelda Hays McMurtry. She was the daughter of Boone Hays, a grandson of the explorer Daniel Boone. Serelda had at least five McMurtry children at the time of her marriage to Barba on 19 November 1844 in Callaway County, Missouri. Two children were born to this union:
    10.  Amazon, born in 1846, married Izprah Calbreath. Like his brother, he was a Confederate soldier. He was killed in an accident in 1927 and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery, Mexico, Missouri.
    11.  Martha, born in 1848, married Alfred B. Hays.
On the 1850 Census there were 15 people living in the Collins cabin west of Shamrock!

Barba died at his son's home near Shamrock on 3 July 1879 in his 86th year. He is buried in the Collins Cemetery.

I am a descendant of Barba and his first wife, Martha Johns Collins.

John T. Dillard

The parents of John Dillard were natives of England. John settled in Caroline County, Virginia, marrying Lucy Taliaferro, whose parents were natives of Ireland. They had a number of children:
     1.  Thomas, a surgeon, died in Philadelphia.
     2.  John T. married Margaret Steele, of Missouri, and settled in Callaway County in 1832.
     3.  Mary married John Waller, of Kentucky, who settled in Callaway County in 1831.
     4.  Isabella married John French, who settled in Callaway County in 1821.
     5.  William, a physician, married first Martha Hochaday, of Kentucky, settling in Callaway County in 1832. After Martha's death, he married Elizabeth Hughes.
     6.  Margaret married James Hochaday, of Kentucky, settling in Callaway County in 1831.
     7.  Franklin E., also a physician, married Ann Bernard and, after Ann's death, he married her sister, settling in Callaway County in 1833.
     8.  James D. married Sallie A. French, settling here in 1833.

Grace Dillard, a decendant of the Dillard family, is a retired schoolteacher currently residing in the Mexico Manor retirement home. She spent many years collecting photographs and interviewing the old-timers. She has generously shared a number of her works with the Callaway County library and Historical Society.

William B. Douglass

William B. Douglass was born in Bedford County, Virginia, on the 27th day of January 1810. Coming to Callaway County, Missouri, in 1830, he first taught school near Readsville. A number of his students were grown pupils who didn't know their letters. It was the fashion then to study out loud in the schoolroom, and each one would try to get his lessons in a louder tone than the others. At times the noise was so great it could be heard a half-mile away.

It was probably there he met his future wife, Lucy Chick, who had come from Christian County, Kentucky, with her mother and eight of her 14 siblings, to Callaway County in 1830. William and Lucy moved across the line in Audrain County in 1833. Here he farmed and taught school in the winter months for many years.

He settled on Loutre Creek in the early pioneer days of this area, and his home was a stopping place for many newcomers. Appreciating the disadvantages under which newcomers labored, he threw his door open to many families as a temporary home.

Although he was brought up in the Presbyterian faith, after a meeting conducted by Rev. Marcus P. Wills, he switched to the Christian faith and first preached on the third Sunday in June 1832. Mr. Douglass was frequently called on to marry couples. On one occasion he went seven miles to marry a couple, through a drenching rain, swimming several creeks that lay in his route, and returning the same day, for which he received fifty cents. Then he had to go 13 miles on a cold and rainy day and pay that fifty cents to have the marriage recorded. Such were the trials of pioneer preachers.

William Douglass never made any charge for his preaching in his 25 years with Liberty Church. Once the officers of the church felt a sting of conscience about this, however. Believing they might wound his feelings if they made the offer, the officials stewed over this for a couple of months, finally getting up the nerve to send one man to ask the preacher if he would be offended if they took up a collection for him. He replied that he would gladly receive any amount they would contribute. After much scurrying and hurrying, about 20 dollars was collected and presented to him. This grand old Christian then turned to the deacon, handing him the entire amount, and told him to keep it for the benefit of the church. The well at the northeast corner of the present building was the benefit of the contribution taken up for 15 years of loyal service for the Lord.

William and Lucy Douglass were the parents of ten children:
     1.  David W. died early in life;
     2.  Sallie A. died early in life;
     3.  Edward;
     4.  Nancy J. who married Robert Sallee;
     5.  William A.;
     6.  Jacob W.;
     7.  Joseph C.;
     8.  Martha C. who married William S. Bullard;
     9.  John W.;
    10.  Samuel H.

In addition to their own children, they raised the two orphan children of William B.'s brother, Edward H. and Mary J. Ogden Douglass, formerly of Bedford County, Virginia. Edward and Mary, with two small children, had come to Missouri, settling on Loutre Creek, not far from William and Lucy in 1837, but both died the following year from the effects of a dose of poison they took through mistake, believing it to be calomel. They left two small children, James W. and Andrew J. James W. had a blacksmith shop at Guthrie. Andrew married Mary Collins, the daughter of Barba Collins. He held the office of justice of the peace in Loutre Township, Audrain County, and later was presiding justice of the court, as well as president of the court.

Uncle Billie Douglass, as he was fondly called, won the hearts of people by his two most predominant characteristics, modesty and humility. He passed on in 1880, followed by his widow in 1883. They are buried at Unity Cemetery south of Benton City.

Mary Hall

Mary probably was the wife of Banks Hall, a neighbor of the Douglass family.

William, Isabella and Richard Pearson

At this time I have found no record of them beyond their names on the list of charter members.

In 1853 Tyra Bishop and his wife Rebecca donated land for the churchyard and cemetery. It was located in Callaway County in Section 9, Shamrock township 49, Range 7 West. At this time the first of three churches was erected on this site. It was never painted.

Mr. John Wells laid the foundation and Mr. Austin built the structure. It faced south with two doors on the south side. The pulpit, which was three steps high, stood between the doors. Latecomers had to enter facing the congregation which was embarrassing for them. As was the custom of the day, the pews were divided by a plank nailed down the center of the middle row of benches. Men sat on the east half and women on the west half. A young man bringing his girlfriend would take her to the east door then hurry to the west door and, if they maneuvered it just right, they could sit on the same bench.

There were usually three church services, one held on Saturday night and two on Sunday. Membership rose to 170.

In 1873 the old building was deemed unsafe and a new one built. It was a white frame building with two doors on the south. A fence surrounded the building with a stile block on the south and hitching posts on the west and south sides of the church yard.

William Douglass's son often said the records of the church were buried in a tin box under the pulpit of this building. In December 1890 membership had risen to 214.

After 39 years this building, too, was replaced during the summer of 1912. A crowd of 400-500 was assembled to pay their respects to the passing of the old church that meant so much to them and their forebears that Sunday. George Edward Hale was hired to build the new church at a cost of $1600, collected before work was begun. It was their fourth building and is the one currently standing. Lumber was hauled by team and wagon from Auxvasse. A trip took a full day. To make this more interesting, young ladies of the community would accompany young men furnishing a lunch to eat along the way. Many local men assisted Uncle Ed Hale with the building,as this church has always felt a part of the community.

The new building was quite large for a rural church. There are two doors on the south side entering into a vestibule. The back room served as a Sunday School room and later as a dining area. There are five windows in this area for ventilation and light. At first the church was lit with gas lamps,which were later replaced with electric lights. At the dedication service in November 1912 the crowd was too large for the building, spilling over into the churchyard. The new building was free of debt and $745 was raised by the congregation that day.

Besides monetary contributions, gifts were donated:
The stained glass window in the pulpit area was placed there by Forest and J. J. Noel in memory of their mother, Mrs. Linnie Covington Noel.
The pews were given by Elmer Johnson, my great-grandfather, in memory of his parents, who are buried in the Liberty Cemetery.
The H. O. Peery family donated the wooden collection plates in memory of their mother. Before this, the men's hats were used for collections.

Over the years the community has changed and people have moved in and out of the Shamrock area. Services began being held only on the first and third Sundays, with a lunch served on the third Sunday. During this time a few changes have been made. The inside and outside of the church were renovated in 1953-4, the floors sanded and a furnace installed. The east vestibule was made into a kitchenette, and hinged tables were hung on the south and east walls of the Sunday School room.

On 15 October 1939, the church celebrated its 100th anniversary with an all-day meeting accommodating 500 people. Several former pastors attended, including A. F. Larson who served the congregation for 22 years; Hollie Hale, my great-uncle who was raised just south of the present church in the home now occupied by his nephew, Don Hale; J. D. Greer; and William Jolly.

In the early days of the church, protracted meetings held an important part in building the church. A protracted meeting was usually held in the morning and evening for from five to 15 days. The congregation usually became a little more enthusiastic and jubilant than at a revival. The protracted meetings were usually held in July, August or September and not much later than October, since "Old Loutre Creek" was the scene of baptism. The first baptising pool to be mentioned in the records was the one near "Old Todd's Mill" and the second was the "Old Baptising Hole," both on Loutre Creek on the present Don Hale farm.

Reverend A. F. Larson served the congregation longest, pastoring for 38 years from 1918 to 1956. Besides pastoring Liberty Church, he served as the pastor of the Auxvasse Christian Church and joined the faculty of William Woods College in Fulton in 1927. For 25 years he taught the Men's Bible Class at the Christian Church in Fulton. During his active ministry in Callaway County, he also served at Hams Prairie and Richland Christian Churches. He enjoyed the affectionate title of "Parson Larson" because it typified him, a favorite minister in times of happiness and sorrow alike.

A number of families have played vital roles in the life of Liberty Church. I hesitate to start naming these families for I know I will leave out someone. Please know if I don't include a family it is an oversight from ignorance only and I mean no disrespect:
The Lester Peery family -- I remember Ruth Peery playing the piano throughout my childhood.
The Bishop family, Boswells, McCowns, and Hales.
The Noels, Covingtons, and Scholls.
The Simpsons and Erwins -- I remember Effie Simpson Erwin visiting me in the hospital and her gift of an apple. I was too sick to eat it but I've never forgotten it because I associated her with this church and the love and peace I felt here. I remember the Erwin family all of my life. When I moved to Hannibal in 1985, I was drawn to a church there only to discover the Sunday School teacher to be Delores Helbing, a granddaughter of Elbert Erwin, the former superintendent and Sunday School teacher from Liberty. Immediately I had a friend and felt at home.
The Lail family, Coils, and Dillards. Grace Dillard taught grade school at the four-room schoolhouse I attended.
The Romans, Holts, Hortons, Garvers, Johnsons, and Cranes are old families of this community.
All these families feel like home to me and their names represent the Shamrock community.

Most of the area families migrated here from Virginia or Kentucky, coming with other family members or joining former neighbors or relatives who came ahead of them. Like all old communities, you can't talk about anyone because, sure as the world, they are kinfolks. Even those who aren't actually related claim kin because of the close association of the families throughout the years, as our family and the Robinson and Wilburn families have for generations.

Callaway County was a farm community and before the Civil War many families owned a slave or two. Generally, I believe they were treated well. The Noel family had a slave, Em Smith. After her freedom was granted, she chose to remain with the Noel family. Em is buried here in the Noel family plot with the wards she cared for so well. I grew up every spring picking Virginia bluebells started in her flower garden at my grandmother's.

On the wall in the Sunday School room you will notice a framed list of veterans buried here and in surrounding cemetery. Since this was rebel territory, you will note that only veterans of the Confederate States of America are included in the list of veterans from the War Between the States. Each Memorial Day a flag is flown at half-staff in the center of the cemetery to honor our veterans.

The Liberty Church Cemetery Association was organized in October of 1883. They had to send a representative to Jefferson City to enlist the governor's help in granting a franchise. The name was later shortened to Liberty Cemetery Association.

Out in the cemetery, a good many of my ancestors were laid to rest. My great-great-great-grandmother Dye and her daughter, Mary, who married Richard E. Johnson. He was a brother of the New Florence Johnson family. They are my great-great-grandparents. My Hale grandparents and great-grandparents are resting on the eastern side of the cemetery, as well as my parents and a niece. My son's great-great-grandfather on his father's side can be located by a homemade marker in the northwest corner, as well as so many cousins and aunts and uncles that I can't begin to list them all.

One of the most interesting tombstones in the cemetery has a story that goes along with it. In September of 1877 a Union Pacific train car was robbed 162 miles west of the Wyoming Territory by six masked men. They secured $65,000 in coin and $500 in currency. The train passengers were relieved of their cash and valuables. One of the six masked men was James Berry. A detective was put on the trail of the men. He overheard Berry and a man by the name of Collins talking about their plans and where they lived. Berry was subsequently followed to Callaway County. A posse out of Mexico forced a neighbor of Berry's to lead them to his home near Shamrock. Berry was ambushed near his home. Evidence found on him pointed to the robbery. Sheriff Glascock shot James Berry in the leg as he ran from them. His wife and six small children were greatly distressed as their home was searched. He was taken to the Ringo Hotel in Mexico to await trial, but died within a few days of gangrene.

Local sentiment ran high for Berry, as it did for the James boys and Youngers, this being a neighborhood of southern families. James Berry's tombstone was inscribed "killed by Sheriff Glascock." The sheriff's family was put out by this and, as I understand, it was their family that broke his stone in two. For years the bottom of the stone was stored in a caretaker's shed. My Grandmother Hale told me the story many times and showed me the broken stone. It is now at the gravesite, still in two pieces. You can find it in the area of the flag pole.

My grandmother said that the posse passed by my great-great-grandparents' home en route to Mexico. They asked for water for the horses and received quite a tongue-lashing from Margaret Witten Hale. Her sympathies were with anyone who had fought for the south, as James Berry had. The Hale home had been burned out twice while her husband fought for the Confederacy.

Walter Higgenbottom told my sister that while he was growing up his father took him many times to the spot where James Berry was ambushed and told the story, so he wouldn't forget the history of the community.

I hope you have learned a little about the history of our community down here. We have our individual families, but most of all, we are people of the Shamrock community. Descendants of pioneers who sometimes erred but for the most part were solid people building their community through hard work, hardship, and a firm trust in God.

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