Old McKendree Chapel joins the Country Church Tour this year and will feature a Cotton Tree decorated here by Amy Hodges, Lyle Johnston, Mary Spell, Karron Kidd and Betty Henry. Submitted photo
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Country Church Tour adds Old McKendree Chapel

by Elane Moonier ~ Features Editor

Thirty-three historic country churches throughout our region are inviting the public to come and experience the beauty of Christmas with them during the Country Church Tour on Thursday, Dec. 13 and Friday, Dec. 14. All of the 33 church and two other venues will be open for tours from 2-9 p.m. both dates.

This is the 14th year for the Country Church Tour, which started with the grass roots movement of a Perry Country Church. The event is free, and a free-will donation may be given at any church for its charity.

The historic new addition to the tour this year is Old McKendree Chapel.

“We are really excited to have them be a part of this Christmas adventure,” said Trish Erzfeld, director of Tourism for Perry County. “We now have the birthplace of the Missouri Synod Lutheran religion represented at Altenburg, the oldest Protestant church west of the Mississippi and the first seminary west of the Mississippi with St. Mary’s of the Barren, dating back to 1819.”

Old McKendree Chapel will be celebrating the 200th anniversary next year. She noted that maps with the locations of the churches are available at the Perry Country Chamber of Commerce and can be printed off online at www.perrycounty.com. Maps will also be available at each of the stops and can be found on the Facebook page, Christmas County Church Tour.

“Everyone can design their own tour the way they want to create it,” she noted. “There is no set order to visit the churches. Your tour can begin anywhere you wish.”

Among the churches open for the tour is the First Baptist Church of Oak Ridge. The first Baptist sermon preached in Oak Ridge was in 1862, by Elder J. G. Rutter.

The organization of the Baptist Church was due largely to the labors of Bro. William Clippard., who donated two acres of land and with the help of friends of Christianity in the community. He was the leading force of the first church house, which was completed in 1862. The pews inside this country church, installed in 1908, are still in use today.

St. John’s United Church of Christ at Fruitland sits on a hill off Hwy. FF. This historic church has beautiful stained glass windows designed by different families of the congregation.

There are two Christmas trees inside the chapel, one adorned with traditional Chrismons and a smaller tree which has been designated as the "People’s Tree." This tree contains unique ornaments brought by members which represent their family.

Visitors to St. John’s will receive a hand painted rock as a remembrance of this Christmas season.

Crossroads United Methodist Church at Crossroads was organized in 1852, when the Rev. R.R. Witton held a revival meeting at Alliance. The meeting was such a success that two Bible study classes, one Presbyterian and the other Methodist Episcopalian, decided to join forces and organize a church.

To accommodate the travel needs of both, a decision was made to locate the church at a place nearest the center of both. That place was Crossroads. In 1871, oxen began dragging in logs to begin construction on what is now Crossroads United Methodist Church.

The Brazeau Presbyterian Church was built in 1851 and was constructed by some of the earliest Perry County settlers. There are engravings in the choir loft which were made by slaves who attended church services there. This year the church has adopted a red, white and blue theme to mark the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the church which will occur next year.

Trinity Lutheran Church in Friedheim has a long history. The first German Lutheran immigrants to the area around Friedheim gathered in each others homes for Sunday worship. As early as 1843, the sacraments were provided once a month by Pastor Theodore Gruber of Paitzdorf when weather permitted.

The first church, a log cabin was built in 1848, on the present church property. In 1849, a log cabin was built to serve as a Lutheran school.

In 1856, a new permanent church building was constructed at a cost of $500. The building was made using local sandstone rock. The large stones were hauled a quarter of a mile by oxen to the church site. The cornerstone for the present church was laid on May 6, 1857. The church was remodeled in 1948, for its 100th anniversary.

Grace Lutheran Church at Uniontown was organized in 1874, when plans were made to build a new church at an estimated cost of $5,000, but that cost was exceeded by another $1,000. Plans called for a building 55 feet long, 34 feet wide and 20 feet tall, with a tower and steeple of 75 feet. Clay for the bricks was dug and fired nearby.

The Young Mens Club contributed to the purchase of the bell for the steeple. The church was dedicated on Jan. 9, 1876. From the beginning, services were conducted in German, then in 1927, English services were conducted once a month.

Bethlehem Baptist Church at Crosstown was settled in the 1840s as a farming community, but it never had a name until a post office was established, which was reportedly named for its crossroads location. The church is full of holiday cheer and down home hospitality.

Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church in Sereno will be serving a cup of soup in the parish hall for visitors this year.

The Lutheran Heritage Center & Museum in Altenburg will have more than 50 decorated themed Christmas trees on display this year, and many of them detail the history of East Perry County. The Center will be open beginning at 10 a.m., both days.

The Saxon Lutheran Memorial at Frohna will host a free live drive thru nativity scene again this year, with refreshments available. The gift shop will also be open during the tour.

Churches participating in the Country Church Tour:
St. Mary’s of the Barrens Catholic Church, Association of the Miraculous Medal, 1811 W. St. Joseph St., Perryville.
Hill of Peace Friedenberg Lutheran Church, 510 PCR 304, Friedenberg.
Zion Lutheran Church, 6483 St. Hwy. 61, Longtown.
Grace Lutheran Church, 53 Grace Lane, Uniontown.
St. Joseph Catholic Church, St. Joseph Lane, Apple Creek.
St. Maurus Catholic Church, 10198 Hwy. B, Biehle.
Trinity Lutheran Church, 3700 CR 415, Friedheim.
New Salem Methodist Church, Highway AA, Daisy, .5 miles west of Hwy. B.
First Baptist Church of Oak Ridge, 4154 St. Hwy. E, Oak Ridge.
Sargent’s Chapel Lutheran Church, near Sedgewickville, Hwy. B to Hwy. AA to CR 266 to CR 234.
Caney Fork Baptist Church, 3580 CR 472, Oak Ridge off Hwy. B.
St. John’s United Church of Christ, 781 State Hwy. FF, Fruitland.
Pleasant Hill Presbyterian, CR 541, Fruitland.
Apple Creek Presbyterian, junction of CR 530 and CR 543, Pocahontas, .8 miles east of Pocahontas.
St. John’s Lutheran Church, 158 Little Street, Pocahontas.
Zion Lutheran Church, 264 Main Street, Pocahontas.
Saxon Lutheran Memorial, live nativity drive-thru, 296 Saxon Memorial Drive, Frohna.
Immanuel Lutheran Church, 320 CR 516, New Wells.
Lutheran Heritage Center & Log Cabin College, 75 Church St., Altenburg.
Trinity Lutheran Church, 57 Church St., Altenburg.
Immanuel Lutheran Church, 8234 Main St., Altenburg.
Concordia Lutheran Church, 10172 Hwy. C., Frohna.
Brazeau Presbyterian Church, Church Lane, Brazeau.
Salem Lutheran Church, 287 PCR 328, Farrar
Bethlehem Baptist Church, 160 PCR 350, Crosstown.
Zion United Methodist, 151 Zion Church Road, KK near Old Appleton.
Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, 2888 PCR 314, near Crosstown.
Crossroads United Methodist Church, off Hwy. KK, CR 200.
Whitewater Presbyterian Church, 1 mile off Hwy. KK, CR 256.
Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church, 172 PCR 920, Sereno.
Zion Lutheran Church, 21202 Hwy. C, Crosstown.
St. James Catholic Church, 21694 Hwy. C, Crosstown.
Old McKendree Chapel, Bainbridge Road, Jackson.

Anyone seeking more information about the Country Church Tour can contact the Perryville Chamber of Commerce at (573) 517-2069.

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