|A Rural Survey of Morgan County, Missouri (1916)||<Previous|
Owing to the sparse settlement in parts of Morgan county, the number of rural churches is smaller than in some counties of the state. Nor are these churches all as prosperous as they might be. In common with practically every other county, Morgan is facing the problem of the rural church, how to keep it alive, and how to make it best serve the community as a whole. Forty-six churches, representing the various denominations, are represented, but not all of these are active congregations with regular preaching. It is true, though, that in many of the churches of the county are to be found examples of thoroughly efficient, progressive working church memberships. Northeast of Versailles, where is to be found one of the most progressive and agricultural sections, is the large Mennonite settlement, the membership of which believe in good live stock, advanced agriculture and right living.
Of the newer church buildings, especially in the towns and villages, a goodly per cent are of modern styles of architecture. Efforts have also been made to beautify and make attractive the surroundings. Wherever in the county there is an active church of any denomination, its influence is evident in the social life and often in the business life of the community. In one instance, at least, an effort has been made at church con- [p.18]
Of the rural churches in the county eight report preaching every Sunday, eight twice a month, and twenty-five once a month. Five districts having churches report no preaching. In thirteen districts a Sunday school is held a part or all of the year, but there is no regular preaching. Twenty-nine districts report a preacher living in or near the district.
In forty-five districts the schoolhouses are used for debating societies, literary societies, or other neighborhood gatherings. Thus are the people brought together from time to time in a social way. Such gatherings encourage the spirit of community co-operation, result in better acquaintance and closer friendships and go far toward establishing the best of community life.
But little of a permanent nature has been done in the way of agricultural co-operation in the county. However, the farmers are in many instances working together in a small way. There are a number of beef clubs in the county. Farmers of various communities also club together in such work as filling silos, threshing and harvesting. Nor have the "barn-raisings" and the "wood-choppings," customs inherited from a pioneer period but worthy of emulation, been forgotten. There are also mutual insurance and mutual telephone organizations.
It is in road work, perhaps, that we find the finest spirit of co-operation in the county. As a result of this co-operation in an effort to secure better roads, Morgan county has built some [p.19] of the best roads in the state. The road south from Versailles to the Ozark regions is a splendid monument to the enterprise of the people, both in town and in country. Three years ago sixty citizens of Versailles and community formed a stock company and at a cost of $6,000 purchased a power road grader and scarifier for use on Morgan county roads. This modern road machine has been of great value in improving the county highways.
In view of the fact that much is written as to the movement from town to country and from country to town, figures touching this question in a county which has gained in rural population while many others have lost should be interesting. (In 1910 the population of Morgan county was 12,863; in 1900, 12,175.) Of the seventy-five districts in the county, fifty-six report one or more families as having moved to town within the last two years. The total number of families having so moved is 157. Sixty-one districts report one or more families as having moved to some other place in the country, such families numbering 186. Forty-eight districts report one or more families as having moved into the district during the last two years, there being a total of ninety-four such families. Sixty districts report a total of 225 country families as having moved into the districts during the last two years. From these figures it will be seen that for the last two years the movement from the country to the town has been considerably greater than the movement from the town to the country.
In only six rural school districts are there resident physicians. The average farm home is 3.8 miles from a doctor and 2 ¾ miles to the postoffice. However, as has been stated, a large per cent of the homes are on rural routes.
In practically every rural home some newspaper is taken, and in most of these homes an agricultural paper is read. The average rural family subscribes to three papers, and in each instance one or more of these are county papers.
Before passing from this subject it should be said that the people of Morgan county are peaceful and law-abiding. Many are descended from that sturdy pioneer stock that came west from Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. Others from northern and eastern states have brought to the county a decided spirit of progress. There are also many progressive and industrious citizens of German blood. There are in Morgan county no large cities, the influence of which is too often hurtful rather than helpful. Nor is the typical "tough community," with its bullies and its law-defying element, today to be found within the confines of the county.
Missouri State Board of Agriculture Monthly Bulletin Vol. XIV, No. 2 (February, 1916): A Rural Survey of Morgan County Missouri. Digital version © 2001 Peter Binkley; permission to reproduce for non-commercial purposes is granted.