CAPE GIRARDEAU—In late August the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) presented an original Bethel Baptist Church minute book from 1806 to the Cape Girardeau County Archive Center, according to the Cash-Book Journal.
On hand were: Doug Austin, retired from the MBC Executive Board; Melvin Gateley, an MBC Historical Commission member of the MBC; Steve Pledger, center director; and Jay Hughes, MBC interim executive director.
The minute book came in a white Fedex shipping box. Layers of plastic wrap, foam and wood were removed, and a brown leather cover emerged.
According to the Cash-Book Journal, the MBC was notified that the book was for sale at a Chicago auction house, with bidding to start at $3,000. The MBC made the minimum bid and was the sole bidder.
The book will remain on loan at the county archive center, where it will be preserved and made available for the public to examine. Center workers will photocopy each page and transcribe the handwritten notes to make the information more readable. The product then will be put into a notebook for all to examine.
“Most people want the information,” said Drew Blattner, the center’s assistant director, told the Cash-Book Journal. “If people want to see the original book, we can bring it out.”
The pages in the original book have turned brown with age. Some have crumbled. To keep them preserved, someone had laminated each page. The lamination was coming apart, and some of the ink was sticking to it. The earliest pages are hard to read because the ink has faded and the pages have turned brown. On later pages, the handwriting is still quite legible. Part of the reason is that inks were improved over time. Some early inks were iron-based and have rusted away from old documents.
The minute book has a sister document which is kept in the Kent Library on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau. Old Bethel Church kept two handwritten minute books in case one was destroyed by fire. It is not yet known if the two are alike in every detail, but this book will be compared to the transcription of the Kent Library copy, the Cash-Book Journal reported.
Bethel Baptist Church in Jackson was the first Baptist church west of the Mississippi River. The original church was later dismantled, and the lumber used to build a barn. A few years ago, the MBC rebuilt the church, based upon recorded descriptions, using the original wood. People are buried in unmarked graves in the church cemetery, and this book will give some clues as to their identities, the Cash-Book Journal reported.
The book also will provide information about church members from a time before the keeping of birth and death certificates. With the addition of this book, the center has the original minute books from Old Bethel, Old McKendree, the first Methodist church west of the Mississippi, and Apple Creek Presbyterian, the first Presbyterian Church west of the Mississippi.