McLain’s Chapel



You can’t beat the Indian Creek Community for story telling: it’s a mix of Revolutionary War soldiers, Indian maidens, the Trail of Tears and a Civil War atrocity all wrapped up in about 640 acres.

It’s hard to break out McLain’s Chapel from all of the other things the McLain family touched in the Oriole / Egypt Mills / Pocahontas area. I’ll touch on McLain’s Cemetery, Apple Creek Cemetery, Indian Creek Store and School later. [Note: the sign and a stone marker in front of the Chapel spell it “McLains Chapel,” without an apostrophe. Other sources spell it McLain’s Chapel. I’m going to use that spelling.] You can click on any photo to make it larger.

McLain Brothers fought in Revolutionary War

LaFern Stiver provided this background:

This area was settled early by the McLain Clan, from the Isle of Mull in Scotland. The family came from South Carolina and established itself here before 1815, based on the earliest tax records. Alexander McLain, was one of four brothers who fought in the Revolutionary War. John, the older brother was killed; for his sacrifice, his family was given one half bushel of salt.

The father of the whole McLain Clan, Alexander McLain, settled near Indian Creek School and McClain’s Chapel Methodist Church and Cemetery. On the banks of Indian Creek is a spring that furnishes water all year, something pioneers needed for their homesteads.

David McLain given 15-year-old maiden

A letter written in 1932 from a 94-year-old lady states that David D., the youngest son of Alexander, was told by the Indians that they would allow him to have as much land as he could walk and return in two days for 8 cents an acre. For this privilege and the protection of the tribe, he was given a 15-year-old Indian maiden as his mate, with the understanding that all children remained with the tribe.

Alexander received land for service

Herbert McLain provided some information about Alexander, his third great-grandfather, in a post on flickr.

Alexander was able to acquire a 640-acre land grant that dates back to the Spanish Land Grants (date unknown) for his service to the government during the Revolutionary War, but he couldn’t claim it until after the War of 1812..

Alexander and his family lived among the Shawnee and their wigwam communities that existed for many years after they settled there. According to the Lewis and Clark documentation, there were 400 Shawnee in Apple Creek at that time.

Alexander McLain’s property backs up to the Trail of Tears State Park. Alexander, friendly with the tribe, would let Cherokees shelter there through the winter after crossing the Mississippi. When President Andrew Jackson developed his lifelong enmity for Native Americans and set a policy to relocate approximately 100,000 westward toward Oklahoma, a trail was developed by Captain John Stuart, a Scott British Army Nobleman, who had come to the colonies to serve as an Indian agent. The trail that connected Kentucky to Arkansas and Missouri stretched across Alexander’s property.

Even though Alexander was able to enjoy his land grant most of his adult life, it wasn’t until March 4, 1831, when he was 77, that he began receiving his $33.33 per year pension for his services in the Revolutionary War. He lived out his life in Missouri with his family. He gradually went blind, as his father had. He died February 8, 1847.

 Wouldn’t plow holy ground

LaFern passed on another Trail of Tears story. “I know that two braves escaped and hid on the property that was owned by descendants of Alexander.  One of them died shortly after his escape, but the other had a rough shelter built on the farm and stayed to help my grandfather.  He refused to come into their home to eat and crouched Indian fashion at the back door as he ate his food. 

“I know that when my aunt owned the farm, we did not plow over two areas in one of the fields because her father had told her that was where the two Indians were buried and we should keep the ground holy for  them. My cousin griped because he had to plow around them.”

Blood spilled in church

A March 5, 1931, Missourian story recounts a chilling story of how the Civil War touched the area. “Down the creek from Oriole is located a Methodist Church known at McLain’s Chapel…. It was in this church that a Civil War tragedy was enacted. A farmer in the neighborhood by the name of Hamilton, who was known to be a very pious man, and also known to be loyal to the federal government during the war between the states, was apprehended by a number of bushwhackers, most of them residents of Jackson.

“The marauders took Hamilton to the church, and told him to kneel and pray, which he did, and was shot down in cold blood. The spot where his blood soaked into the rough planks of the floor was visible for years.

Building in bad shape

When I shot these photos April 20, 2011, I wondered if the building would stand through summer storms and the winter. The church really IS leaning. It’s not a trick of lens distortion.

Vickie Sams Cash asked about McLain’s Chapel when I did the piece of the Trinity Lutheran Church in Egypt Mills.

Reader Dick McClard answered her, “McLain’s Chapel is now in the hands of David McLain.  He’s thinking about knocking the old church down because of its poor and unsafe condition. This may be the last year to see the building.  It’s unremarkable in its architecture and contains nothing of value.

34 Replies to “McLain’s Chapel”

  1. Great story, Ken. You had me going on the Revolutionary War bit until i realized they started out in South Carolina, which was part of the “colonies”. Our local Unitarian Church here in Chelmsford, Ma is from the late 1600s. It is still in use and we all do our part to keep it up. It is a shame to see historic relics deteriorate by abandoned interest. We have many homes here from the 1600,1700,and 1800s in excellent shape and still lived in. A strong sense and a lot of historical sites does help our cause.
    I actually think we attended services there. I know I fished nearby Indian Creek.

    1. In fairness, the McLain family has done an excellent job of maintaining the school and other buildings in the Indian Creek Community, as you’ll see when I get around to doing those stories.

      Deterioration happens. I am reminded of that every morning when I look in the mirror.

  2. My grandmother was a McLain – Hazel. She married Fred Parker and they are both buried there in the cemetery along with my great-grandparents, whom I never knew. I have an aunt, uncle and several cousins buried there as well. My dad is buried there (Jerry Statler) and so will my mother be when the good Lord calls her home. Thanks for the story, Ken. It is sad to see it in that shape, after all of the years that I have visited there 🙁

  3. Thanks Ken for another great history lesson. It’s to bad the old church can’t be preserved.
    Joe Whitright “45”

  4. Ken,
    My mother grew up in Oriole and attended Indian creek school.Both of her parents are buried in the cemetery. I remember many trips to the old homestead just across the creek behind the Oriole general store.
    Dad and I squirell hunted the hills on the farm.
    My dads sister, Aunt Vi, cousin,John Reed ’67 had a farm just east of there and we spent may weekends “going to the country”, walking to the store for a Coke, to get away form the parents. John and his wife Cheri ’66 (Huckstep) live on a portion of it now.
    Our family ties go back to the McLains, Farrows and Abernathys of the area.
    As many have expressed its a shame to see such a landmark fall to such disrepair. I know there are many other CHS alums that have a connection to this area.

  5. My mother was a McLain, Eileen McLain Groves. She is buried in the family cemetery along with her parents and siblings. I can remember being able to go into the Chapel many years ago but these days it’s in such bad shape that I’m afraid someone would be hurt if they tried to enter the building.

  6. My mother Jeanette, was the daughter of Charles I and Mamie McLain.Her and my father Albert Viehland were married in the church on June 2 1941.

  7. A paragraph from the “Rememberances of Ruby Marie McLaird” about our ancestors in this area.
    “Other homesteaders soon settled nearby. Together, about one half mile south of the McLard homestead, they all built a little church known a McClain’s Chapel to worship God. Just South of the church on a beautiful, peaceful hillside they buried their dead. The old church still stands at this site, and also the cemetery is still being used at this date,1972. Now about 50ft South of the church going up to the cemetery is a small ravine, and just about here were the Southern-Northern lines. Then while their (James P McLard and Margaret Peel) children were still very small came the Civil War. Margaret set up a relief station in the old church, where she ministered to the wounded of both the Yankees and the Rebels. Little Reuben was her water boy for both sides.”
    The comment about the “ravine” being the line between the North and South adds to the story of Mr Hamilton being killed.

  8. Ken, I enjoy reading your blog. In regards to the Civil War atrocity there is only one reason that Southern partisans would have murdered a loyal citizen and that was if he was turning his neighbors in to the federal authorities at the time. I have no proof that this is what happened in this case but it was the usual punishment for Unionist who turned in their neighbors.


  10. My family tree traces back to Alexander McLane via his son James. I had heard of the Oriole story but still enjoy new chapters and hope to hear more.

  11. As a descendent of James P McLain – son of Alexander McLain Jr.- I find this fascinating! Is it possible to acquire a copy of this article? Fees involved? Please contact me!

  12. My Great-great grandmother is Missouri Adelaide McLain. Anyone have any information on her line? She married Henry Bynum and they had a daughter, Lerah Bynum (my great grandmother. She married John Mann and their daughter Lila Mae Mann is my grandmother. She married Thomas Bradley Myatt in Martin, TN.

  13. I found the story about McLain’s chapel and cemetery very interesting. I am a descendant of Alexander McLain. My grandfather was Harvey Dewitt McLain. Is the account of the McLains being involved in the wars true or just a story?

    1. The stories are true and have been validated to DAR and SAR standards which are very strict! Search for Alexander McLain’s pension deposition- it is a fascinating read!

  14. My mother, Loida McLain Gilbert was born August 22,1917 at Neelys landing. She is the daughter of Charles and Mamie McLain. She is still living and is now 97 years old. She lived next to Indian Creek across from the road from the Mclain’s Chapel area. She attended school there as a child. I have heard many stories. For her 96 birthday we traveled from Herrin ,Il to re-visit her past. One of her cousins, Mary Beth Vogt lived on this property and her son Frederick continues to live and maintain this property.
    The Mclain Legacy is an interesting story.
    One thing I tring to figure out is my name: Loida.
    I am the third Loida and have seen signs closer to the St.Genieve area with Loida Agguculture. Anyone know anything about this name?

    1. Loida, I think I know where your name came from. Grandma (Mamie Edith Henson McLain) McLain’s father, Minos Henson was first married to Viola M. Vieten, who died in childbirth when Aunt Elsie was born. A year later, Grandpa Henson married Ida (Loida) Westrup Weddendorf. Every one called our step great grandmother Ida but the census lists her as Loida. Incidentally, it is with Ida’s brother, Uncle Authur and his wife Lucy that your mom stayed with when she was studying to be a nurse.

  15. My great grandfather was Monroe McLain, and my grandmother is Mary McLain Wissmann, who is 93. She used to tell me lots of stories about the chapel and about all her relatives, which I really enjoyed.

  16. Perhaps……Missouri A McClain (sometimes spelled) b 1845 d 4 Jan 1927 married Henry BYNUM in Weakley County, Tn 1868. They are buried in Weakley County as well.

  17. I am looking for info on Makin McLain, born 1775 in S Carolina, maybe ???. His daughter was Catherine (Katie) McLain, who married John Fendlason, my gg/grpa, from N Carolina. They eventually moved to southern LA. Their son Norman and wife Polly Core had a son Hines Norman Fendlason, my grdad. Hines and wife Geneva (Neva) Cordelia Rogers had Eula Delores, my mother. Eula and Harry Nathan Cabaniss had me, Sarah Deloris Cabaniss Weaver. Around the circle goes, back to Makin.
    Who were his parents and sibs, did he come directly from Scotland ? Did his dad fight in the Am Rev. ? So many questions and so few answers. Thanks for anything.

  18. Nora Dewrock McLain is buried there at the chapel. Her father was Samual L. Dewrock my great great grandfather. They all centered around Neelys Landing and Egypt Mills. My grandfather was Clarence Dewrock, his father was Isaak Dewrock her brother.

  19. I am a descendent of Alexander McLean. My grandparents were born in Fruitland. Can you tell me if the chapel is still standing?

    1. No, it is not. I took my dad, BJ McLain, out to see it one last time when he was ill back in possibly 2014. It was being torn down by tractor that day and we were too late to see it whole. Just a pile of rubble. Dad chatted with his distant cousin who was doing the demolition. I hate that it’s no longer there, but understand, considering its condition. I feel like part of the clan’s history is gone.

  20. Thank you for the history of this chapel. My paternal grandparents (Robert and Adeline Abernathy) and further back, originally settled in that are from North Carolina. My grandmother used to tell me stories about her playing the organ in church and that the cows would come running when they heard the music.
    Grandma’s sister, who I knew as Aunt Callie, married Carl Trickey, and my siblings and I spent many summers visiting them on their farm, fishing and running around. They are both buried in the cemetery there.
    My dad, Chet Abernathy, went to school in the little schoolhouse there.
    My brother and I were hoping to visit the area again sometime next month and pay our respects.
    Thank you.

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