The Methodists.--The first ministers of the gospel who penetrated the territory west of the Mississippi belonged to the Methodist and Baptist Churches. A Methodist circuit rider, John Travis, was here preaching as early as 1807. He was the first itinerant Methodist minister sent west of the Mississippi, and his circuit included all the Missouri settlements then made. Thomas Donahue of Perry County, walked to this county and preached to the people in very early times. He organized the first Baptist Church here, on Sandy. Richard Hendrickson was a Baptist preacher here prior to 1820. Thomas DonneIl was a Presbyterian preacher who visited Dry Creek and Big River about 1820. About that time the Baptists had control of the lower Big River and Sandy Creek settlements--the Methodists of Joachim and Plattin, and the Presbyterians of Dry Creek and upper Big River. The first Methodist Church, and probably the first church in the county, was organized on Plattin in a very early day, but as the settlement of the country was gradual, the organization of churches was also gradual. In 1844-45, when the division of the Methodist Church took place, the members thereof in Jefferson County naturally fell in with the Methodist Church South, and consequently the original Methodist Episcopal Church soon ceased to exist in the county. It seems that the division retarded the prosperity of the church, for, in 1850, according to the United States census, there were but three Methodist Churches in the county, and these had seating capacity for only 450 people. Since that time the church has progressed gradually in the eastern part of the county, while it has given up the western part almost wholly to the Baptists. The Methodist Episcopal Church, at Hillsboro, was organized after the town was established, and was probably the second one organized within the county.
There are now two circuits of the Methodist Episcopal Church South in Jefferson County, viz.: Plattin and De Solo, and Hematite. The former circuit contains four separate churches--one each at Plattin, Rush Tower, De Soto and Charter Church. This circuit has 220 white members, and four church edifices. The latter are valued at $4,300. The Hematite Circuit has six church organizations, located, respectively, at Hillsboro, Victoria, Hematite, Pevely, Festus and Sunny Side, and four and a half church edifices, the latter being valued at $5,000. This circuit has 165 members. The minister in charge of Plattin and De Soto Circuit is the Rev. Harry Whitehead, and Rev. G. W. Nollner has charge of the Hematite Circuit. After the institution of slavery, which caused the division of the Methodist Church in 1844-45, had become extinct, and the clouds of the Civil War had passed away, the Methodist Episcopal Church regained a foothold in Jefferson County, and has now one circuit composed of a church at De Soto, one at Festus, and Zion Church on the Hillsboro and St. Louis gravel road, about four miles west of Pevely. Rev. D. W. Crow has charge of the circuit, and lives at Festus. There is also a Methodist Episcopal Church at Oakland, near Rush Tower.
Baptist Churches. --The Sandy Creek Baptist Church was organized by Rev. Thomas Donahue, about the year 1835, with James Frazier and wife, John Herrington, Mrs. William Aeyde, Fleming Hensley and wife and James Hensley and wife as constituent members. About the same time a log building, costing about $200, was erected for a church edifice, and used as such until about 1843, when it was replaced with a frame church, costing some $600. The present church, consisting of a brick building, was erected in 1878, at a cost of $100. This is the old pioneer Baptist Church of Jefferson County, and stands about one and a half miles east of Sandy Mines. At present the membership is 116. The pastors of this church have been Revs. James Williams, W. Stephens, William McMurtrey, James P. Cape and Sullivan Frazier. The latter is a son of one of the constituent members, James Frazier. The Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church was organized about the year 1840. Reuben Pounds and H. Lea were the deacons; they and their wives, and James Williams and others were constituent members. About the same time a log church was erected, and about the year 1860 a frame church was erected in place of the old one at a cost of $800. This church is located near Big River, in the western part of the county. Its pastors have been James Williams, Washington Stephens, William McKay, N. M Pierce, W. H. Hensley and Price McKay. It has a membership of 131. Pilgrim's Rest Baptist Church was organized in the forties with James Williams, Silas Belew and wife, and other constituent members. Its church edifice, being a frame building, was erected in 1848; it is situated on Dry Creek. With one or two exceptions its pastors have been the same as those of Bethlehem. Its membership is 105.
Lebanon Baptist Church, in the east part of the county, was organized about the year 1850, and five years later a frame church edifice was erected at a cost of $600. Its pastors have been James P. Cape, J. M. Hensley and S. Frazier. Its membership numbers 77. Cedar Hill Baptist Church, located near Byrne's Mill, was organized about 1854 by Rev. W. Stephens. Its present church edifice, a frame building, was erected in 1884 at a cost of about $800. It has a membership of 64. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church, in the west part of the county, was organized about the year 1855. It has a log church building, which cost nearly $400, and fifty members. New Harmony Baptist Church, on Section 22, Township 41, Range 4, was organized in 1862 by Revs. S. Frazier and W. H. Hensley. Its first edifice was a log house, and its present edifice was erected in 1885, at a cost of about $600. Its pastors have been W. Stephens, E. Eaves, S. Frazier and J. W. Hensley, and its membership is 35. Big Springs Missionary Baptist Church, in the north part of the county, was organized by Elders Stephens and Williams. Its church edifice, a concrete building, was built about 1864. Its pastors have been W. Stephens, James Williams, William Bailey, William McKay, J. W. Hensley and Rev. Cox. It has 23 members. Pisgah Baptist Church was organized about the year 1875 by Rev. N. M. Price. It has 47 members. First Baptist Church at De Soto was organized by Rev. Mr. Powell. Its present edifice was erected about the year 1870, at a cost of $1,000. Its pastors have been Revs. Powell, W. Stephens and George Stull. It has a membership of 27. Plattin Baptist Church was organized in 1878 by Rev. James P. Cape. Its frame edifice cost about $600. Its reported membership is 21. Other Baptist Churches in the county are Swashing, Oakland, Temperance Mission, Victoria, Oak Grove and Providence.
The Presbyterian Church. --Of the early Protestant settlers County a considerable part were Presbyterians, but they and their descendants being so scattered could only be into very small churches, about a dozen of which, from time to time, have been organized, and of which only three or four now survive. Those at De Soto, Windsor.Harbor (Kimmswick) and Festus are fairly prosperous. The First Presbyterian Church, at De Soto, was organized December 16, 1866, by Rev. A. T. Norton, of Alton, Ill. Eliphalet Ferguson, Mrs. Mary E. Ferguson, Miss Fannie S. Ferguson, B. S. Reppey, Mrs. R. N. Reppey, Charles Wilson, M. D., Mrs. H. M. Rogers, Mrs. Harriet Jenkins and Miss Amanda Bainbridge were constituent members. The church edifice, which is a frame building, was purchased in 1866 from the Southern Methodists. The church has not had an installed pastor. Revs. J. C. Downer, J. R. Armstrong, Charles Bransby, L. W. Allen, George Case and J. F. Watkins have served the church as stated supplies. The present membership is sixty. Among the first organizations were churches at Herculaneum, Dry Creek and Hillsboro.
Episcopal Church.--Trinity Church, of this denomination, was organized in De Soto in 1865, by Rev. R. Burrough, with himself and wife, C. Winsor, Mr. and Mrs. Hotchkiss, Mr. and Mrs. Cherry, Boyn and family, Mrs. Cornelia Brand and others as constituent members. They have a neat stone church, which was erected in 1871, and dedicated as soon as the debt thereon was paid, which was about three years later, by Rt. Rev. Charles T. Robertson. The pastors have been O. H. Staples, --- Gilbert, George Moore, --- Penrucker, E. M. Pecke. J. J. Foy and Charles G. Davis. The latter and present pastor lives in Ironton. The membership of this church is about forty. There are no other churches of this denomination in the county.
German Methodist Churches. --The first church of this denomination in Jefferson Comity was organized in 1851, by Rev. John G. Kost. It is located about seven miles east of De Soto. Its first members were John C., George and Jacob Schmidt, three brothers and their wives, and Philip Zollman and wife. The same year the frame church, which is still standing, was erected. The society owns forty acres of land in connection with the church. There is also a cemetery by the church. The building was dedicated in 1852 by Philip Kuhl, presiding elder, and the pioneer German Methodist minister in this part of the State. The first circuit rider was Rev. John G. Kost, and his successors have been as follows: John C. Hoech, 1852-54; John H. Grannemann, 1854-56; William Kleinschmidt, 1856-58; C. H. Schmidt, 1858-59; H. Hankemeyer, 1859-61; G. Zollman, 1861-63; F.W. Meyer, 1863-64; John C. Glantz, 1864-65; John D. Kruse,1865-67; William Kleinschmidt, local, filled vacancy, 1867-68; C F. Quellmalz, 1868-70; J. M. Dewein, 1870-73; F. H. Miller, 1873-75; J. M. Dewein, 1875-78; William Kleinschmidt, 1878-80; H. Flottman, 1880-83; H. Schlueter, 1883 86; Charles J. Stueckemann, the present pastor, since 1886. The De Soto German Methodist Church was organized about 1868, with V. Metz and wife, William Blank and wife, P. C. Zollmann, H. Moehlman and others as constituent members. The present brick church was erected in 1879, and dedicated in 1880, by Rev. J. M. Dewein presiding elder. The old circuit was called the Iron Mountain Mission, and extended from Hillsboro on the north to Iron Mountain on the south. The De Soto Circuit, which contains only the two churches herein named, was composed about the year 1866, and it has seventy-six members at the present writing. There is a very comfortable brick parsonage in connection with the church in De Soto.
German Evangelical Churches. --Churches of this denomination exist in several places in the county--one at De Soto, one near Pevely, one on Glaize Creek, another on Rock Creek. The one at De Soto was organized in 1883, and the same year its church edifice, a frame building, was erected. It has a membership about forty.
The Christian Church. --A church of this denomination was organized at Victoria in the year 1868, by Rev. Samuel Lee, of Kentucky, while on a visit to his relatives. For want of a house in which to worship it was moved to Hematite, where the schoolhouse was used as a place of worship until 1871, when the present frame edifice was erected (at Hematite) at a cost of $1,500. The first elders of this church were D. F. McKee and D. Paxton, and the first deacons, W. H. Dodson and George Butler. The first members were the McKees, Paxtons, Nulls, Dodsons, Stroups, Hoskins, Taylors, Hazerds, Madisons and Swinks. The following have been pastors of this church, J. H. Hickman, L. Jennings, H. T. Buff, J. H. Garrison, J H. Smart, S. H. Harris, T. E. Shepard, J. D. Dillard, T. B. Going, Lewis, Goss and I. B. Dodson. It has fifty members at this writing. Since the above church was organized two others of the same denomination have been organized within the county--one at De Soto and one at Festus.
Roman Catholic Church. --According to the census of the United States there was one church of this denomination in Jefferson County in 1850. Undoubtedly it was the one known as the Church of the Immaculate Conception, which is located about one-half mile east of Maxville. A Roman Catholic Church, called "St. Rose of Lima," was organized some years ago at De Soto, and a frame edifice, still standing, was erected. Since then a large stone church of modern architectural design has been built. The latter was dedicated June 21, 1885, by Very Rev. P. P. Brady, V. G. of St. Louis. The Fathers of this church, beginning with 1871, are as follows: Rev. H. Jaegering, 1871-73; P. J. McNamee, 1873-81; C. F. O'Leary, 1881-86; Rev. J. A. Connolly, since 1886. The membership embraces about 120 families. There is a Roman Catholic Church near Kimmswick and another at Festus--the former has been organized many years, and the latter only a few years. There is also one in Rock Township, three miles east of High Ridge. The membership of this church is composed of Bohemians. A brick edifice was built one mile west of Byrnesville, about the year 1869. Becoming unsafe it was taken down in 1887, and a frame building erected in its stead.
The "St. Joseph Convent," a large two-story stone building of very fine architectural appearance, was built by the Roman Catholics in the bosom of the La Barque Hills, three and a half miles northwest of Byrnesville. There is also a chapel connected with it, and a priest resides there. This institution is located in a very secluded place, surrounded with the most magnificent natural scenery.
In addition to the foregoing there are also one or two Congregational Churches in the county, and two or three colored churches.
In the preparation of the history of Jefferson County kindly treatment has been extended by all citizens, and for valuable information and assistance acknowledgments are due to the county officers and many others, and especially to Judge Thomas, whose centennial address has been consulted and largely embodied in this work.