Bear Creek Baptist Church
|Location||N of Kirksville off US 63, near Kirksville, Missouri|
|Area||1.4 acres (0.57 ha)|
|NRHP reference #||84002132|
|Added to NRHP||March 29, 1984|
Bear Creek Baptist Church is a historic Baptist church in Adair County, Missouri. It is located approximately four miles northwest of Kirksville on Missouri Route B. Built in 1860, the church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. The church is currently in a state of considerable disrepair and no services are held there. The church, adjoining cemetery, and surrounding acreage are owned and maintained by the non-profit organization, Bear Creek Cemetery Association of Adair County.
The Bear Creek Baptist congregation was the earliest organized Christian group in Adair County, dating to the late 1830s. Previously only small groups of neighbors would gather in private homes at various points in the county. Reverend Talbot Hight is recognized as the chief organizer of the congregation, in the period of late 1838 - early 1839. No funds or land were available to build a proper building and sanctuary, so for the first years of the congregation's existence private homes were used for services, with the Reverend Lewis Connor as pastor. Following Connor's 1856 death he was interred on a portion of his land informally deeded to the Bear Creek congregation for purposes of a church and cemetery. The exact date of construction for the current building isn't known, but commonly accepted as sometime in 1860. The disruption caused by the American Civil War meant that the building wasn't finished until sometime in 1865.
The church continued to grow through the remainder of the 19th century. However membership began to decline in the early 1900s until finally the last regularly scheduled services were held there on February 7, 1914. In October, 1946 a group from the First Baptist Church of Kirksville dedicated a large boulder with plaque on the site in honor of its status as the first church in the county. The cemetery continued in use long after the church had ceased regular services, the last known burials being in 1979. Among the local notables buried in the Bear Creek cemetery is Samuel Withrow, the first postmaster in Adair County, buried there in 1852. In May, 1982 a non-profit corporation, the aforementioned Bear Creek Cemetery Association of Adair County, was established to care for the property and building. Among their first projects was to secure the site's placement on the National Register of Historic Places. The Bear Creek Church survived a close call with Mother Nature in 2009. On May 13 of that year a tornado estimated as an EF2 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale passed near the church as it left a path of death and destruction from Novinger to Kirksville. Two Adair County residents were killed by the tornado about one mile from the church.
- National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
- Linda Donavan Harper (September 1983). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form: Bear Creek Baptist Church" (PDF). Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Retrieved 2016-09-01.
- Montgomery, Maxine. Pioneer Days in Adair County. Published in the Kirksville Daily Express. 12 September 1979.
- Selby, Paul O. (1976). A Book of Adair County History. Kirksville, Missouri: Kirksville-Adair County Bicentennial Committee. p. 220.
- "Bear Creek Cemetery" (PDF). Adair County Historical Society. 9 August 2003. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
- "Three killed in Northeast Missouri storms - WGEM.com: Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio". WGEM.com. Archived from the original on 2012-02-17. Retrieved 2010-05-04.