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St. Clair County Missouri



Submitted by Mary Zeiler

St. Clair County Courier, 19 August 2005



Bear Creek United Methodist celebrates homecoming and building dedication Aug. 21

Six miles east of Highway 13 and three miles north on old 82 Highway, stands the Bear Creek
United Methodist Church. On Aug. 21, the annual homecoming worship and building
dedication will get underway at 10 a.m. with a picnic dinner at noon under the massive oak trees.
The early settlers in Bear Creek Valley had no trouble selecting a place to develop into a home
and with the homes that flourished came the need for a church. This need was fulfilled by
establishing a brush arbor on the east side of Bear Creek. Services were held on this spot in the
year 1874.The old Bear Creek School served as a church building from 1879 until the present
site was selected and a building erected in 1890.

In the year 1889, Richard, lovingly known to family and friends as Grand Pap, and his wife,
Susan Greenwall Garrison, deeded one and one-half acre of land to be used as a church site.
The church was built in 1890. Many people gave freely of their time and material possessions
to build Godís house.
Richard attended the Baptist Church in his younger years at Harper but the folks attending
church in the school house near Bear Creek were Southern Methodists. So, when the new
church was built it was the Southern Methodist Church. With subsequent name changes
over the years, Bear Creek assumed its rightful place as Bear Creek United Methodist Church.

While the Garrisons made no provisions for a cemetery, as time passed the families of the
members expressed interest and the church permitted the cemetery to be located on the
northern portion of the land.

The building has had few changes in over 100 years. Modern conveniences, such as electricity,
indoor plumbing, heating and cooling were certainly very much appreciated.

Tom Owens became pastor in 1985. After which, good growth in membership and the desire
to bring on the afore mentioned improvements were realized. After pastor Tom left, the church languished for lack of leadership until retired pastor Carl Whitacre arrived in 1996. From that
point until now, the church has grown in service, the membership has doubled, a 25 foot addition
has been made to the sanctuary, a 35 foot addition has been made to the fellowship hall, new
carpet has been installed, new interior and a new pulpit and pews.

Aug. 21 is a day that has been observed since the early history of Bear Creek United Methodist
Church as a day of celebration. People come from miles around for preaching, program, basket
dinner and hours of visiting under the huge oak trees. The Bear Creek Bluegrass group will
play the afternoon away from the amphitheater.

This year will be very special with the building improvements dedication taking place
along with homecoming.

Thanks go out to Waneita Nickel for some of the history mentioned. It is important that I remind
you this is not a history, but rather a story. A story about people and their church, people who
were born and raised here, people who died here, people who still live here, people who
love and respect it.

Bear Creek has opened its arms to all who would come and hear the word proclaimed and
together enlarge the Bear Creek story of love and God for all people. To many, it is a precious
memory, sacred, history laden, beautiful and cherished.

While to those of us presently active, the experience of seeing pastor Carl leading the large
number of baptismal candidates into the water of Bear Creek this past summer was most moving.

Each Sunday morning, members of Bear Creek church meet and they invite everyone to be
a part of the ongoing story.

Submitted by Mary Zeiler