Back to Church Page

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.

Grantsville 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.

The 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.

The 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 lives.

The 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.

In 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 told:

Elizabeth 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.

The 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.

Some 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.

Many, many persons attended Bear Branch Church for a short period of time. It is hard for us to imagine driving several miles with a team of horses to attend Sunday school and church. These were all day affairs with basket dinners under a shade tree. Much physical labor was involved in “the good old days”, as trees were cut by hand, plowing done with teams, and harvesting done by hand. Still, they seemed to have more leisure time for fox hunting, picnics, barn raising, and family get-togethers. Perhaps we today should spend more time “listening to the hounds” and take life at a slower pace.

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 members.

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.

Our Church History

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 from Brookfield.

Those subscribing 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:

NAME AMOUNT

John H. Guyer

$200.00

J. F. Kelley

100.00

W. H. Kennedy

50.00

Anderson Morris

50.00

Jacob M. Guyer

50.00

Harrison Fosher

20.00

H. B. Cline

15.00

A. P. Dobson

25.00

Joseph Monroe

25.00

Marion Fosher

15.00

Geo. Montgomery

50.00

Albert Lambert

60.00

Matthew Buswell

40.00

G. H. Wilcox

50.00

A. H. Wilson

30.00

N. Yagel

20.00

H. G. Williams

25.00

C. Monroe

2.00

W. Buckler

2.00

J. Buckler

2.00

F. Kelley

2.00

Henry A. Ball

2.00

Wm. Miller

15.00

H.J. Bisby

5.00

J. Buchanan

10.00

B. Monroe

5.00

J. Guyer

10.00

A.H. Pettyjohn

5.00

Brown Bros.

2.00

H. Emanuel

5.00

Cash

2.00

John Doughy

1.00

Eli Torrance

5.00

E. Lyons

2.00

C. Trumbo

2.50

H. Fosher

3.00

W.W. Keliey

25.00

J. H. Montgomery

15.00

William Monroe

10.00

S. Brandenberger

2.00

Ed Perkins

2.50

C. L. Dobson

5.00

P. H. Perkins

2.50

Craig & McClanahan

2.00

O. T. Lewis

20.00

A. L. Monroe

20.00

M. Gier

25.00

L. Young

10.00

C. Blankenship

25.00

J. Pace

2.50

I. M. Randolph

10.00

Chas. W. Hannan

20.00

J. Leary

20.00

T. M. Rucker

10.00

Dr. J. W. Charles

1.00

Dillion & Boyles

5.00

Cash

2.00

W. T. Snow

2.00

N. J. Pettyjohn

5.00

T. Brown

10.00

J. Cline

5.00

Carricos

25.00

The 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.

The 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. 

John H. Brown

JOHN 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.