A Brief History of Bethel Baptist Church 1809- present

The History of Bethel Baptist church begins in Virginia with Thomas Jefferson and Revolutionary War veterans Joseph Olge and James Lemen Sr, a life-long friend of Jerfferson

In 1802, Joseph Olge and his family and three Lemen sons moved from New Design to Ridge Praire, southwest of present O'Fallon. Four years later, at the home of William Whiteside near Belleville, the Olges, the senior and junior Lemens, and Whiteside organized the first Baptist Church in St. Clair county, Richland Creek, as a branch of the New Design church. Fife of the six Lemen sons were ordained ministers, and when he was nearly 50, James Lemen Sr. was ordained by one of them. The family was active in local territorial government and influential to the point that Aaron Burr solicited Lemen's support for his unsuccessful attempt to create a South Western Empire from the Territories in 1806.

On December 9, 1809m the Baptist Church of Christ, Friends to Humanity was formed by James Lemen Sr. and his wife Chathrine; Robert Lemen and his wife Hetty; Joseph Lemen and his wife Polly; and Benjamin Olge. In 1810, "at Canteen Creek" was added to the names of our present church. Members of the new church were listed as " male members" and "female members."

By 1825, the size of the congregation necessitated the building of a meeting house, a few yards north of the present church. The meeting house was called Bethel( God is here) , and by common use that became the church name. Bethel was the laser of eight churches established by James Lemen Sr. and his followers, and the only one still in existence. By the late 1830's, the church required larger quarters. A simple barn-like building, 40x60' , was finished in 1840 at a cost of $4,100. Two east-facing doors provided for men to enter on one side and women on the other.

In September of 1840, John Mason Peck preached the dedication sermon for the new meeting house, and in 1851 he followed Benjamin Olge, and Joseph James Jr and Moses Lemen as pastor. At that time membership was about 180.

In 1854 the church bough nine additional acres of land; a parsonage was built on the northwest side of intersection of the current South Clinton and Bethel Meadows roads. The church cemetery( in its current location) was laid out on three acres north of the parsonage.

Though the meeting minutes during the 1860's do nom mention the Civil War directly and slavery is mentioned only a few times, according to members' letters and family records , fugitive slaves making their way from St. Louis to Alton and Jacksonville were hidden in a crawl space under the southwest corner of the church building accessible by a trap door that had been cut in the floor above. In the 1940's when a new floor was laid, another trap door was installed to Thea the original could be seen.

After the war, the church shows a renewed in test in home missions, helping establish a church in O'Fallon, and contributing with the community $300 toward the building of a "Baptist House of worship" in Tipton Missouri. A Sunday school was started in 1866. At the "protracted meeting" on October 21, 1866, 25 people presented themselves for baptism

The World War 1 years were difficult for the church spiritually and financially. The last meeting minutes are dated April 18, 1926, and recorded the approval to bill a fence around the cemetery. In 1927 the church was closed until 1938.

The church minutes resumed on September 1, 1940. Sunday school. continues every Sunday, and a Sunday morning preaching service was conducted by various minsters and laymen. On September 8, 1940, a three day observance of the 100th anniversary of the church building was held.

World War II is mentioned only as it impacted church operations. The ration board disapproved the gas ration for the Sunday school bus and an outpost was established in Hollywood Heights for members how could not purchase gas to drive to the church. Meetings were suspended for the winter from November 1944 until Easter 1945.

The Reverend Jack Stanton was pastor from February 1942 until April 1943. Rev. Hicks became interim pastor in 1943 and in 1945 became permanent pastor until his death in September 1958.

The minutes through the late 1940's and 1950's recon the Young People Society helping with yard work and donating the platform fo the pulpit; a Young Married Peoples group to work with the young people. Betty( George) Daniel and her sisters and the Burns family were active in the youth group. Betty and Joe Daniel were married by Rev. Hicks a few years later.

In 1957 Daily Vacation Bible School was conducted from August 12 through August 26, 9:00am until noon, by Misses Peter and Melgar, Missionaries from Child Evangelism in Europe. Daily Vacation Bible School would be held every summer after that for almost 30 years.

A public school stood on church property since the early days of the church. In 1917, a two room brick structure was built. In 1962, the church and the O'Fallon School District came to an agreement whereby the church deeded the property to the school district with the provision that it would revert to the church when the building was no longer used as a school. The church was also allowed to tie into the water line fro the new well at the school. In the late 1960's the land and building were returned to the church.

During the 1970's, the old parsonage was torn down and a new ranch style home was built for the Beckner's. The upkeep of the church building was a growing and divisive problem. In 1977, the old building was closed and a. new building built attached to the Bethel School, which was by now and been returned to the church. After many years of unsuccessful efforts to maintain the old church as an historic landmark , in 1981 the building was dismantled by two Collinsville miners who were interested in savaging the huge walnut timers. An historical marker was placed at the site in 1988.

During Pastor Lassley's tenure, an AWANA program was begun that involved almost every church member at some point, including Bob Burns and Lola Schultz who were 70 years older tan som of the children. A celebration fo the church's 190th anniversary was observed on August 15, 1989 and the church was registered as a not for profit organization.

Carole Lassley encouraged the one of the church to get to know each other by working and socializing to gather through classes, fellowship meetings, and retreats including the church's first involvement in Women of Faith wit a road trip to Detroit. She also worked with children in the nursery, in Sunday school and AWANA.

Pastor Mike Evans and his wife Julie came to the church with their son Jordon from Grace Baptist Church in Decatur, Illinois in August 2001. His Special training in grief counseling was heavily relied on during his first few months when it seemed as though a church member or friend died each weak.

Pastor Evans teaches and preached to equip members to share Christ with the community and to keep the church relevant and visible for those who need a spiritual home. He has traveled to Ethiopia at the invitation of Berhanu Yosef, a national pastor, and the East African Baptist Mission to teach a class on the book of Acts to other pastors. Outreach and fellowship activities to help share Christ with the local community have included Vacation Bible School, Truck-of- Treats, programs by Trevor Thomas, a Christian dramatist, and Christmas concerts by the Living Sacrifice quartet.