I remember when my Grandmother Rose Schwiddee Cunio told me about her mother having terminal cancer. There were two things she wanted her daughter to do for her. One job was for Grandma to make her “burial shroud” and the other one was to get the Old Argo Church opened up and “fixed up” for her funeral. This lady, Christina Schwiddee, was my Great Grandmother.
The church had been built in 1885 on a plot of land purchased from a railroad company. The cost was $50.00 plus donated labor. Rev. Braly had dedicated the building and he and his sons had provided church services until 1905. The old church had been locked up for 16 years with only occasional services. I can only imagine the kind of cleaning and repairs that had to be done to get that church ready for the funeral in 1921.
After the funeral for my Great Grandma, the church was again locked up with only occasional services. My Grandma told me during this time was when the “Homecoming Day” with a basket dinner on the third Sunday in June had been started. This tradition continued on and was a community affair for many years under the big oak trees.
A few years after the funeral, Rev. Boyd came to preach at our church and organized a Sunday School for us. I remember my mother and grandmother taking me, and this was my first experience with Sunday School. My first Sunday School teacher was Erma Parshall, and such a nice lady she really was! We only had church once a month but we had Sunday School every Sunday. I was told he baptized my parents, George and Mabel Cunio Luecke. After Rev. Boyd passed away, we were again without a preacher. We kept the Sunday School going but only had an occasional church service once again.
I remember when my Grandma, Rose Schwiddee Cunio, was told about a preacher in Cuba that was willing to preach in country churches. I recall her making that long trip to Cuba to talk to that man. This was a very important trip she made. The preacher’s name was Rev. George Bruner and he was in the pulpit for the most of 35 years. I was only 7 years old when he started preaching at our church, and the next several years were very important in my Christian development! I was able to attend Sunday School, and later was a Bible School helper for him – playing the piano and teaching a class. I remember that at Bible School he would organize a softball game. That preacher could pitch a ball as good as he could preach!
I remember that when I got to stay Saturday night with my Grandpa and Grandma Cunio, we went to church very early on Sunday morning. It was dark and they took the coal-oil lantern for light. Grandma’s and Grandpa’s job was to make the fire in the wood stove to take the “chill off” so the building would be ready for church services that morning. It was a happy day when the oil furnace was put in and you could “turn on the heat.”
I remember when my Grandpa Cunio passed away in 1950 and his funeral was in the old church. It was a tradition then for the “wake” to be in the home and the neighbors would come in and stay all night – being in the next room close to the body. The old church was full of people that day for Grandpa’s funeral.
I remember when the Old Argo Church burned on February 18, 1954. I was working in St. Louis and learned of the news when I came home for the week-end. Everyone was sad! My Grandma, who wrote news for the Sullivan paper, wrote “Our Dear Old Argo Church Building burned down at midnight, a new hardwood floor had just been laid and other improvements. Start of the fire unknown. The age of the church was past 70 years, yet it was still in good condition.” At this time, we were able to move our church services to the Old Argo School. I remember sitting in the school desks for services and also singing some songs out “The Golden Book,” our school songbook. We had our business meeting there and with the leadership of Rev. Bruner, we were encouraged to “move on.” A committee of volunteers was formed to help collect money for our new church. I remember that my Grandma Rose Schwiddee Cunio was on that committee. She sent letters to all of her Schwiddee siblings and made many trips in an effort to collect money to build a new Old Argo Church. The insurance money was $2000 and the money collected was $4200. There was also a grant from the presbytery of $1200 and a loan from the presbytery of $1800. Rev. Bruner was a great leader and a good carpenter. Church members and community people volunteered much labor for the building of our “new Old Argo Church.” The building was completely done and a group from a Presbyterian Church in St. Louis installed cabinets in our kitchen and brought us dished and silverware. Our church was dedicated to the Lord on the 3rd Sunday in June (June 20th), 1954 – just 3 months after the old one burned.
Katherine Bell and Raymond Enke were married in the church in September of 1954.
I was married to Norman Stumpe on February 19, 1955, just one year and one day after the old church burned. All 6 of our children, Rick, Kevin, Keith, Steve, Penny, and Kelly, were christened and confirmed in this church as well as the Grandchildren listed below –
Kevin and Barb Stumpe’s children - Danielle, Danette, Tyler and Trina; Steve and Cathy Stumpe’s children - Stephanie, Tiffany and Jeremy; and Penny and Cavada Wells’ children - Luke, Katie and Jacob
I remember when I joined my daughter, Penny Stumpe Wells and daughters-in-law Barb and Cathy Stumpe, along with other young leaders teaching Bible School and using the stock trailers for some of our classrooms. The Bible School songs we sang made our church rock with joy.
Since our basement was “old” and becoming too small for our Fall Festivals, it was decided that the church needed a “Fellowship Hall.” We all had worked hard on the apple butter project which had become a tradition at our church and made money to do repairs and improvements. We had built inside bathrooms and put in central air using this money and also money we had made serving at the auction sales around the community. The Old Argo Church was noted for the delicious chicken salad sandwiches they served. Each family cleaned, cooked, and ground the chicken at home. The church ladies mixed this all together in a big dishpan at the sale and made the sandwiches. We had saved money from these projects for a few years and in 2003 it was time to get started.