Bear Branch Church
When does “History” begin? Let us go back to the late 1700’s when Linn County was settled. Linn County is an industrious rural area in north central Missouri with mostly agricultural interests. Brookfield and Linneus were the main towns in early years with Linneus being the County seat.
Township was organized in 1871 with portions from four townships, namely,
Enterprise, Benton, Baker, and Locust Creek. There were two settlements;
Grantsville on the western side, and Bear Branch on the eastern side of
the township. Grantsville’s primary source of income was from farming
and stock raising as it remains today. There was an abundance of timber,
mainly hickory, oak, and hackberry.
Bear Branch Post Office was opened in 1873 with Abner Monroe as
Postmaster. The Post Office was located on the farm where Bill Gall lived
(now owned by George Lambert). Abner Monroe lived on the farm where George
Lambert now lives and owned the land where the Church and Cemetery were
located in 1876.
Bear Branch school was located on the William Kennedy Place across the
road west from the church (as it now stands). It was the first school in
Grantsville Township. In 1847, John Hill Guyer, William Kennedy, and
William Guyer built a school house. When the building was complete, H.D.
Shifflet was secured as teacher, with some 35 pupils. Roy Guyer, Linneus,
recalls that the school house was built around a large stump. This
building stood for 50 years, then a new school house was voted and a short
time later moved to a different location. The new site was on the west
side of Bear Branch Creek, about 1/2
mile south of the John H. Guyer House where Mann Dean Buswell now
township business was carried on much as it is today. Ed Lyons was tax
collector in 1882 when some robbers took him with them, with the intent to
steal the money. When they stopped for supper that evening Mr. Lyons
slipped the money to the waitress. When the robbers searched him and found
no money they thought they had the wrong man, so turned him loose after
dark. As the story goes, this caused Mr. Lyons hair to turn white.
the search for historical information, we found some conflicting data. The
origin of Bear Branch Cemetery is debatable. According to Linn County
History published in 1882, it was established in 1877. Church records
indicate the building committee (1876) would build the new church on
cemetery grounds. This story, confirmed by Roy Guyer and John Latta, is
Guyer, wife of Henry D. Guyer, made known her wish not to be buried on the
bluff near Bear Branch Creek, but did desire to be buried on a hill. On
the morning following her death, Mr. Guyer looked for a suitable location
and chose what is now Bear Branch Cemetery. Mrs. Guyers tombstone gives
Dec. 18, 1874, as the date of death. Other records indicate Dec. 18, 1873,
as the correct date. In later years there were a number of graves moved
from “the bluff on the creek” to the southwest side of Bear Branch
Cemetery. Some say Jack Kennedy was owner of the land where the cemetery
is located. An Atlas of 1876 shows Abner Monroe owning 80 acres where the
church is located.
We are fortunate indeed to have had forefathers who studied the lay of the land and choose one of the most picturesque sites in Grantsville Township for the location of the Church and Cemetery.
Church had its beginning in homes and in the school house. Sunday school
was being held in the 1850’s and 1860’s. The Baptist church was built
in 1860, and according to Linn Co. History 1882, Bear Branch was the first
church to organize in the Township. Early in 1873, Rev. Armstrong and Rev.
Fields held a revival meeting in the Bear Branch School. With the converts
of this meeting a class was then organized. From this, the charter members
of the Bear Branch Methodist Episcopal Church South grew. It is hard to
find why we became a M.E.C. South. Most of the early members were veterans
of the Civil War, where they fought on the Union side. Many of these early
members were reared ‘as Baptist.
of the names that stand out in the history of the Bear Branch Church are:
John H. Guyer, James F. Kelly, and George Montgomery, who married Fosher
sisters. William H. Kennedy (first cousin of John H. Guyer) married Lou
Cline (cousin of the Fosher girls). Many interesting tales are told of the
Guyer and Kennedy boys running up and down Bear Branch. June 17, 1886,
John H. Guyer and Elisabeth (Lib) Fosher were married “horseback”.
James F. Kelley and Mary Jane Fosher were married. They were parents of
twins, then triplets, then another set of twins. The triplets were a girl
weighing 7 pounds, and two boys, one weighing 7 pounds, the other 7¾. The
sons and daughters of Henry D. Guyer, who were Baptists, were at one time
members of the Bear Branch Church.
The Bear Branch
Church has had a pronounced effect for the past 100 years on the
community. If we as a church can go forward and meet the challenges of the
future through a strong belief in God and our willingness to help each
other, we will accomplish our mission as set forth by our lo al past
This history was compiled by Allen Henry from information received from History of Linn County, 1882, and former residents of this community. We are truly grateful to every one who assisted in any way.
Bear Branch Church
was formed from a class or society of converts from a revival held in he
Bear Branch School. Rev. Field and Rev. Armstrong conducted this Revival.
The Conference sent Rev. J.Y. Blakey, then of the Linneus Circuit, to
serve as pastor with service held in the school house. At the Conference
held in Carrollton, Mo. in 1873, with Bishop Wrightman presiding, we were
connected to the Linneus Circuit and Rev. C. Grimes was appointed
minister. Under his ministry several attempts were made to build a church
but not until 1876 were they successful in raising the amount of money
needed, when, by every one doubling the amount they had agree to give they
raised over $1500.00 and contracted with John H. Brown to build the
church. The members furnished the sills of native lumber, quarried and
hauled rock for the foundation and hauled the lumber and building material
to the new church fund were:
We the undersigned,
promise to pay the amount set opposite our respective names to John H.
Guyer, William H. Kennedy, James F. Kelley, William W. Kelley and Anderson
Morris (Trustees) for the purpose of building a Church edifice, at the
graveyard near Bear Branch School House. Said Church edifice to be the
property of Methodist Episcopal Church, South, but free to other religious
denominations when not occupied. We further agree to pay one half the
amount subscribed on or before the 15th day of May 1876 and the remainder
when the house is completed:
building committee consisted of John H. Guyer, President, and James F.
Kelley and George Montgomery, Treasurers.
Plans and specifications - 30 x 46 one story, 14 foot ceilings with self supporting roof, Gothic windows, 3 to each side. Two doors with the building set on stone pillars and native sills furnished by the church. Wainscoted to the window sill remainder of interior three coats of plaster hard finish. Lumber first class painted white, three coats, wainscoting grain oak. The dedicatory sermon was preached in Dec. 1876 by Rev. Nolan then presiding Elder of the District.
Charter Members included: John H. and Elizabeth Guyer, Jacob M. Guyer,
Margaret Guyer (Wilcox), James F. and Jane Kelley, Will Kelley, Ella
Kelley, Frank Kelley, Mary Kelley, Matthew and Anna Buswell, Joseph and
Martha Buswell, Isiah Randolph, Ruth Randolph, Henry A. Ball, James H.
Montgomery, Caroline Deirdoff, Anderson Morris, Charley Monroe, W. H. and
Lou J. Kennedy, and George and Catherine Montgomery.
H. BROWN was the carpenter who built the Bear Branch Church in the summer
of 1876. He was born in Philadelphia, Pa. on Oct. 3, 1836 and was reared
in that city, receiving his education in the city schools. At the age of
seventeen he was apprenticed to learn the carpenters trade under J. &
W. Wilson of the “Quaker City,” with whom he served 4 years. After the
expiration of his term he worked as a journeyman in Circleville, Ohio. He
was there when the Rebellion broke out and he enlisted and served through
the fall of 1865. In the spring of 1866 he came to Missouri and settled in
Brookfield. Mr. Brown did much to help build up the town, besides building
over 125 dwelling houses and barns in this and Chariton Counties by 1882.
Mr. Brown was married Aug. 7, 1867 to Miss Minnie Bullard of Brookfield, by whom two children, Lorin and Leonara was born. He was a member of the school board and served on the town board. He also belonged to several lodges.