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This website is dedicated to preserving the history of Franklin County, Missouri and to providing helpful information and resources to people researching Franklin County history and genealogy. It is not connected to any historical society or governmental body; however information about such organizations is included herein. The content is copyrighted and is not to be used without permission.

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Bethelehem Presbyterian Church

Article by Roland Goessling Bauer

Account taken from Goodspeed's History



Bethlehem Presbyterian Church

by Roland Goessling Bauer

edited by Sue Cooley Blesi


 The Bethlehem Presbyterian Church, located several miles northeast of Union, Missouri in Franklin County, was torched by vandals in 2001.

The stone church was built circa 1848 on ten acres at the intersection of present-day Bethlehem Church Road and Bieker Road off of Highway V or Clearview Road. The land was donated by George H. Hollmann and the small industrious congregation built the stone church with arched windows and a bell tower.

Over the years, the adjacent cemetery grew to include quite a few graves, many with impressive headstones. A manse (parsonage) was once part of the premises, but had been removed long before the incendiary blaze destroyed the church.

This Cumberland Presbyterian Church sect, German in origin, was active in many rural areas of Central Missouri.  In later years, as the availability of modern transportation made travel to Union easier, the congregation joined with the First Presbyterian Church in Union.

When the new  church at Union was built several decades ago, the old Bethlehem church bell was presented to the church and hangs proudly in the tower of the new structure, beckoning members to services.

At the time of the fire, the old church was being used for hay storage by a neighboring farmer, who had maintained the roof and exterior of the historic building. 

An out-of-state great grandson of the Reverend William Goessling (pastor from 1883 to 1900) has offered to provide funding to save the cornerstone and adjoining stones to build a memorial to those old German immigrants who gave thanks to God for their life in a new land.

Whatever thrill the vandals received in the destruction of our heritage will never be known, except to them.

Mr. Bauer added that he would still like to see the engraved name plate saved and perhaps be given to First Presbyterian Church in Union, the library, or another interested party.

update: I spoke with Mrs. Dale Eilers, who told me the land was owned by the Eilers family at the time of the fire, but has since been sold to Jeannie Hoelscher. Although the roof of the church caved in, the walls are still standing. - Sue Cooley Blesi


Account of the History of the Bethlehem church as reported in History of Missouri, Franklin, Jefferson, Washington, Crawford, & Gasconade Counties by Goodspeed Publishing, 1888, page 359, listed under Presbyterian Churches, not under Cumberland Presbyterian Churches (could have been an error, but there was a separate listing for Cumberland Presbyterian churches)

Bethlehem Congregation of the Presbyterian Church, located in the town of Union, was organized December 1, 1845, Revs. Joseph Fenton and John Gilbreath, and David Bishop, elder, officiating. The following persons comprised the original congregation: John H. Toerner and wife, John H. Hollman and wife, George H. Hollmann, John H. Wiemann and wife, Mathias Gronefeld and wife, Mrs. A. Heiyer. The following officers were elected and ordained: John H. Toerner and George H. Hollman as ruling elders, John H. Wiemann and Mathias Gronefeld as deacons. George H. Hollmann gave ten acres of land on which to build a house of worship. The first building was but a common log house (now an old stable), and was used for dwelling and meeting house. Rev. Philip Heier was the first minister who lived and preached in it. In 1846 the congregation built a two-story frame house, the upper story for the congregation to worship in, the lower for the minister's dwelling; its cost was $534. The present church building, erected in 1866, was built of rock. It is 28 x 40 feet; with steeple and bell, its cost is $2,300, and including furniture, $3,000. The following ministers have served the Bethlehem congregation from its beginning: Revs. Philip Heier, Wm. Grote, John Shible, Henry Blanke, R. Scheide, A. Elfeld, Jacob Schwartz, Mathias Wittenberger, H. Stauss, John Bardil. The present minister, Rev. Wm. F. Goessling, has served since August 15, 1883, as stated supply. The present membership is forty-seven in number, with the following officers: Wm. Hollmann and George Hollmann, elders; Henry Niebruegge and Chr. Hollmann, deacons. Services are held every Lord's Day, and also Sabbath-school and a young folks' meeting.


This page was last updated Tuesday February 21, 2012 .

  Sue Blesi, Franklin County Coordinator, Missouri USGenWeb Project


ęCopyright 1996-2012, Sue Blesi. All rights reserved.