Old Argo Story

In 1921, an elderly lady who lived near the church, Christine Schwiddee, became ill and was informed that she had terminal cancer.  She immediately decided that she wanted her funeral at Old Argo Church.  She hired some repairs on the building and had the old organ tuned for the occasion.  Everything was done according to her wishes and she is buried in the Old Argo Cemetery.  Her daughter, Rose Cunio Ritchey, became interested in the church, and for many years thereafter was a stalwart pillar of the church.  It may also be noted that this family is now into its sixth generation at Argo.  Mabel (Cunio) Luecke, Rose’s daughter, was a member, as well as Mabel’s daughter Ila Faye (Luecke) Stumpe.  Three of Ila and Norman Stumpe’s grown children and many of their grandchildren are currently active members of the church. 

A few years after Christine Schwiddee’s funeral, the Rev. Ernest Boyd, from Cuba, Missouri, a Sunday School missionary, held a revival and organized a Sunday School.  He had several churches in his circuit but preached at Old Argo one Sunday in each month, and we had Sunday School every Sunday.  Homecoming Day with a basket dinner on the third Sunday in June had been a tradition long before this and has continued to be observed for many years.  Once more the old building was renovated and repaired and a rostrum, an altar, and a new flue were added by Mr. Boyd, Ferd Underwood, and Otto Ruwwe.  Outdoor restrooms and picnic tables under the trees were added by other men of the church.

After the Rev. Boyd went to his eternal reward, there were a few years that we had no regular pastor.  The membership roll was carried by the church in Sullivan.  We still had Sunday School but only occasional worship service.

Then we were told of another Sunday School missionary in Cuba, Missouri, who took care of some rural churches.  Mrs. Cunio contacted the Rev. George Bruner, who was highly recommended by Mamie Ruwwe’s brother, who was very well acquainted with him.  His services were secured and he remained our pastor for thirty-five years except for a period of three of four years that he moved with his family to Kirksville where there was a college for his children.

During these 35 years many changes took place.  The church at Tea needed a pastor, so Rev. Bruner agreed to preach there two Sunday mornings and two Sunday evenings a month and the same at Old Argo.  A little later, Trinity Chapel was added to the circuit, having services at 9:00am on Sunday.  The three churches were united and known as the Bourbeuse Church.  When Rev. Bruner went to Kirksville, this union dissolved and once more we became Old Argo Church.

In the meantime, the church had been repaired once more, a hardwood floor, paneled ceiling and walls, electric lights and an oil furnace were added.  The Ladies Aid of the Church furnished the money for material made by weaving and selling rugs, serving dinners at auctions, etc, and the men of the church donated their labor.  The very night the church work was completed, the building was completely destroyed by fire, of which we never knew the origin. 

According to the remembrance of Rose Ritchie, the fire took place on February 18, 1954.  She wrote the following, “Our dear Old Argo Church building burned down at midnight, a new hardwood floor had just been laid & other improvements.  Start of fire unknown.  No stove was in use at the time & had not been for nearly 2 wks. during remodeling.  Age of church was past 70 years yet in good condition.  Words can’t express the sorrow it brought to many people.  But soon God gave us the courage to erect a new building which was a blessing, as one speaker said on the dedication day, some fires were started by the Devil and some were made of God, in this case we feel it was all God’s will as we see things now, we have a lovely new modern church.”  With only a very small amount of insurance, but plenty of enthusiasm, donations came in not only members, but from old friends as far away as California.  A new building was erected with Rev. Bruner along with the men of the community and St. Louis area churches donating labor, financial donations, along with a $1,200 grant and a $1,800 loan from the St. Louis Presbytery.  On the third Sunday in June 1954, the new building was dedicated.

​Front row:  Carol Craig, Mamie Lanham, Verlene Lanham, Jimmie Schaefer, Clyde Ruwwe, Anna May Tayloe, Vernon Tayloe. Middle row:  Bill Lanham, Marjorie Jank, Kate Lanham, Mamie Ruwwe, Fairy June Schaefer, Roselee Tayloe, RubyLee Tayloe, Walter Lindaman. Back row:  Otto Ruwwe, Andy Schaefer, Lelia Schaefer, Elizabeth Craig, Phil Henderson.

Later, complications arose; we found that through a series of legal errors, we had no clear title to the lot on which the church building stood and, in fact, no deed to the parking lot.  A committee was appointed, consisting of Otto Ruwwe, Byron Bell, and Dolph Halmich, alternate, Norman Stumpe.  A lawyer was secured and after much expense, surveying the land, many trips to Union, and innumerable telephone calls and letters by the clerk, the matter was settled, and now we are happy to say the Old Argo Church and grounds belong to God and the congregation.

In the fall of 1977, indoor restrooms and central air conditioning were installed, a project Rev. Bruner wished to see accomplished before he retired.

On January 1, 1978, Rev. Bruner did retire, and the Rev. Kay Mills became our pastor beginning on February 19, 1978.  Rev. Gary Sutter from the church in Sullivan served as Moderator and preached on Sunday evenings between Rev. Bruner’s retirement and the arrival of Rev. Mills.

In the fall of 1979, steel siding was put on the church.  After the annual apple-butter-making, Rev. Mills and the session agreed it would be a good idea to have a fall gathering.  This was done by having a Poshifi Harvest Friendship Supper which was prepared in an outside open kettle by a long-time Indian friend from Oklahoma of the Mills family.  Later that fall, Pastor Mills announced that the Eaton Funeral Home would like to donate their Wurlitzer organ to Argo Church since they had purchased a new one.  It was decided to accept this offer from the Eaton family if it was the desire of the Ferguson family to release the organ they recently donated to the church to the ministry of Tranquil Trails.  Rev. Mills continued as pastor until March 1, 1981, when he was called to pastor a larger church at Raymore, Missouri.

From March of 1981 until December of 1982, we had the very capable and faithful service of the Rev. Ed Wicklein of Pacific serving as Moderator of Session.  Although we were not privileged to have him speak to the congregation, he helped us in many ways during this time.

While we were looking to secure a pastor, we had several supply ministers from the Presbytery in St. Louis for a Sunday or two, and then Dr. Theodore Smylie came to our rescue.  In spite of his almost 90 years, he came and preached to us every Sunday for about a year and great preaching it was.

​Then  on December 5, 1982, we were able to secure the services of Rev. Richard H. Watson, who was serving when we celebrated the church’s 100th anniversary on June 16, 1985.  The enrollment of the church at that time was 54.  Rev. Watson continued serving Old Argo until September 1985.  This time we had the Rev. Paul Bock who was pastor at Washington, MO, serving as our moderator and we were able to persuade the Rev. Charles D. Likely out of retirement to be our pastor.  We were blessed to have Chuck and Dotty with us for seven years, at which time Chuck re-retired on April 25, 1993. 

During the times we have been without a pastor, we have been fortunate to have had many different and capable pastors to fill the pulpit, most of them from the Presbytery supply list.  The Rev. Donald Kratz filled the pulpit several times for us after Chuck retired and we convinced him to come on board.  He signed on for six months in October of 1994 and stayed with us until the end of August 2002.  His wife Lyda was truly a special lady and a valuable asset to our congregation.

Between  Don’s resignation and Rob Cardwell’s commissioning as our lay pastor,  the following filled the pulpit, moderated some meetings and received new members into the church, at the request of Moderator Hugh Stewart:  Rob Cardwell, Robert Doom, Jerry Douglas, Terry Epling (Stated Clerk of Giddings-Lovejoy), Evlyn Fulton, Richard Hunt, Chuck Likely, Eldon McKie, Gary Meader, Jud Miner, Roy Pfautch, Paul Reiter (Executive Presbyter) and Dale Starr.

The upkeep and maintenance of the church building have been taken care of through many years of apple butter making, fall festival suppers, memorial gifts, cash and labor donations made by church members, friends, and other interested parties.  The church has made apple butter for as long as most folks care to remember.  This continues to be an annual event usually the last Saturday in September.  In 1993, Argo Church began having an annual Fall Festival with an all-you-can-eat sausage and sauerkraut supper complete with mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, green beans, home-made rolls and yummy desserts.  We also have musical entertainment, a country store, children’s games and a quilt raffle.

When we began to outgrow the basement and also needed additional room for Sunday School, we began pursuing the possibility of building an addition.  The original building committee started in February 1995.  As you can see it took quite a lengthy stretch to get from there to where we are now.  To make a long story short, no one wanted to incur any debt and it was finally decided to have everything at ground level.  Since we did not have enough land for new construction, Jim and Rosemary Lechten donated approximately one-half acre, and land was also traded between the church and cemetery in order to have access where we needed it to be.

The Rev. Hugh Stewart now serving as our moderator, helped direct us to some good leads during the initial phases of the project.  Over the years, just about everyone has served on the building committee in one capacity or another.  Little by little, everything has come together and thanks to God Almighty for the generosity of members, former members, many friends, memorial gifts and the finances we have accrued over the years, the new building addition was completed without incurring any debt.  It was an exciting and rewarding adventure in which everyone was a team player.  The result is a handicap-accessible building consisting of a large multi-purpose room with a kitchen, new restrooms and a new entryway.  Dedication services for the building addition and the 50th anniversary of the church sanctuary were held June 20, 2004.

Since the 2004 addition to the church, we have had many other improvements to the church.  In 2005, the church received a beautiful new piano acquired with memorials from the funeral of June Moss.  We held a piano dedication service in the fall of that year.  In 2007, the church received new Bibles for every pew from memorials from the funeral of Rick Stumpe.  Jeff Bristow built book holders on the back of the pews to hold the Bibles.  The Bibles and holders were a significant contribution to the church for which we are grateful.  In the fall of 2008, we had a concrete slab poured in the front of the church as well as a new sidewalk in the back of the church.  We received some grant money to help pay for the new concrete handicap parking area.  Paul Reiter, Executive Presbyter at the time, assisted us in getting the grant money and we are very thankful for his help.  In the sanctuary we have installed a new speaker system and replaced our old light fixtures with beautiful new ones.  Our church member, Mark Thurmond installed the new lights and we really appreciate all his hard work.  We have recently placed an attractive new sign at the corner of Highway AE and Highway H (with thanks to the Koelling family for giving us permission to place it there).  The sign was made, donated, and installed by our church member Jesse Smith and we are very thankful for his generosity.  Our church is blessed to have so many active members who contribute to the church their time, money, and talents.  Whether it be volunteering for bible school, apple butter, fall festival; serving as elder or treasurer; sharing musical talents; taking pictures; helping with church improvements; we never have a shortage of people willing to jump in and help when needed.

In addition to apple butter making and Fall Festival, other annual events at Argo Church include Bible School every summer and a children’s musical program at Christmas.  We are very proud of the children at our church and the role they have here.  They serve as ushers for offertory and many have taken confirmation classes in 1999, 2003, 2008, and 2010.  The only other confirmation class on record at Argo was in the spring of 1990, led by Chuck Likely.  The class consisted of Dustin Eichwald, Cheyenne Koch, John Lechten, Jess Moss, and Christine Voss.

Old Argo Church began as a family church and the members still enjoy the feeling of family and togetherness today.  In a time when many small churches don’t exist, we are proud to still have our close-knit church family and to be celebrating our 150th anniversary.