Old McKendree Chapel Won’t Let Go

It’s hard to say why Old McKendree Chapel has always been a special place for me. Mother was a Methodist when she was growing up in Advance, but she moved over to the Lutheran side of the fence when she married my dad, so that’s not it.

I never attended any of the chapel’s camp meetings or services, but I still find myself drawn there almost every trip.

Schwinn expanded my world

When I got my Schwinn bicycle when I was 12, my world expanded to include rides to McKendree Chapel over roads that were mostly gravel. I can remember maxing out the speedometer on the steep downhill run leaving the chapel. I think my mother must have had to give special attention to my underwear after that trip.

When I was in high school, I rented a bicycle built for two and took a date on a ride to the chapel. It was our last date. The rule of thumb is that two things will challenge a relationship: riding a tandem bicycle and hanging wallpaper. If I’d have given her the wallpaper test, I could have saved some serious pedaling.

Chapel built in 1819

The chapel site was used by church circuit riding ministers as a meeting place to exchange information and plan for the westward expansion of Methodism as early as 1806. It was built in 1819;  the local circuit resolved in 1869  to repair the building, not to replace it with a new chapel.

In 1933, the McKendree Chapel Memorial Association was founded to preserve the building. It was one of the first preservation groups in the state.

Which is the REAL chapel?

I don’t want anyone to think I actually know all this stuff. Like Wife Lila says, you don’t have to know everything, you just have to know where to find it. I get a lot of my info from Missouri Department of Natural Resources list of National Register Listings.

If you scroll down to the McKendree Chapel listing, you’ll find all kinds of interesting stuff. It’s a large file, so you may have to right-click on the file name and then select Save As and open it later with Adobe Acrobat.

One controversy is whether or not the chapel, with its exposed square log walls is the “real” version of the chapel, or if the building’s authenticity was damaged when weatherboard siding that covered the logs was removed in 1977. When I look at photos that are part of the National Register application, THAT is the church that I remember from my childhood.

I KNEW that there was something different about the building, but I didn’t know exactly what it was.

Good arguments can be made for both the weatherboard facade and for the bare logs we see today as being the “real” chapel.

I was trapped

One of the things I’ve always liked about the chapel is that it’s unlocked. There’s a locked grate over the fireplace inside to keep someone from building a fire, but a simple latch secures the double front door.

On my last visit, I decided to go inside to reminisce and to shoot some fresh interior photos. After I finished, I tried to open the door. It wouldn’t open. It’s supposed to open inward, but there was no door pull to give me any purchase on the door.

The Methodists did WHAT to you?

I tried sticking my knife blade into the crack between the doors, but no luck. I debated trying to take the door off its hinges, but didn’t want to take any chance of causing damage. After struggling for several more minutes, I was ready to admit defeat. Darned Methodists. This is an insidious recruiting technique. Once they get you into the church, you’re captured for good.

My mother was waiting outside in the car. I dialed her number hoping (a) that she had her phone with her and (b) that she had it turned it on. Fortunately, (a) and (b) were true, and after a sort of confusing conversation, “The Methodists have done WHAT with you?” she went after the caretaker who was mowing the church lawn. He opened the door from the outside and agreed that an inside door pull might be a good idea. He denied any kind of religious plot.

Oldest cemetery stone is 1821

On the south side of the road leading to McKendree Chapel is a small, peaceful cemetery with stones in very good condition for their age.

The oldest legible tombstone is for William Hooser, who died at 11 years, nine days, in 1821. The National Register application says local tradition says that he became ill and died during the 1821 camp meeting of the Methodist congregation and became the first internment.

Elizabeth Campbell died in 1865 at 95

I didn’t see William Hooser’s stone, but I did see the marker for Elizabeth Campbell, who died Feb. 26, 1865, at the age of 95. Just think, I was standing next to the remains of a woman whose life spanned the American Revolution AND the Civil War.

36 Replies to “Old McKendree Chapel Won’t Let Go”

  1. I wonder if my ancestor Rebecca Harker (or Harcourt) is buried there. Where can I obtain a list of those in the cemetery?

  2. In my just previous email, I should have shown the name of my ancestor as Rebecca Harker Randol. Harker or Harcourt was her maiden name.

  3. I remember seeing the Old Chapel myself as a Ute and saying to my Dad…”I thought old stuff was made of logs, not roofing siding”. Funny I don’t remember the answer he gave me, maybe just the usual shake of the head…
    Nice work on this one, a well-known but seldom visited place. Maybe I should have gotten a bike in those days.

  4. This blog has the added value of humor and history! The “Methodist plot” humor really hit home with me this morning, as my favorite Baptist preacher in Advance just yesterday accused me of writing too much in the local paper about the Methodists! I had to laugh and tell him that I just happened to BE THERE, so I naturally took pictures & put them in the paper. Come now, Methodists don’t “plot”!!
    Ken, you need to come to Advance some day and climb up to the attic in the Methodist church, which was built in 1917-18. Fascinating construction on that stained glass dome!! I’ve made one trip up that ladder and don’t care to return, but the workmanship is well worth the climb.

    1. Thanks, Toni.

      The responses are much different than I thought they would be. I assumed that folks would be more interested in seeing photos of former classmates, but it seems that pictures of places attract more comments.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the tour of the area. You’re a young whippersnapper, so you need to be out and about charging up YOUR memory cells so you have interesting stories to bore folks with in your dotage.

  5. Thank you for the great photos and humorous commentary. I have enjoyed coming home again even though it’s through the blog and not often enough in person. I’m so happy I stumbled upon it.

  6. In the early 1790’s Louis Lorimer, a Canadian gun runner to the Shawnee in what became Ohio, escaped a raid by US troops on his trading post. Crossing the Mississippi into Upper Louisiana, he convinced Spanish authorities he knew how to stem the American tide. For this he received an official title and an area to govern. Almost immediately he began offering essentially free land to settlers willing to accept Spanish rule (a pattern also used in Texas). By this method it was hoped to populate the territory west of the Mississippi with enough self-interested folks to make US expansion into Spanish territory contested.

    Two of those who took Lorimer up on his offer were William Williams and Joseph Waller, neighbors on Randol’s Creek in what is now Jackson (talk about expansion). Williams, the more religious of the pair, dedicated two of his acres for religious purposes. Eventually it became the site of McKendree Chapel.

    Events in Europe put Napoleon into possession of these originally French-claimed lands, but events in Haiti led him to sell them – making Lorimer, the Shawnee who had followed him, and the now vested landowners American citizens – perhaps not a totally welcomed turn of events.

    1. Kathryn,

      That’s a great account. It mirrors some of what I read in the National Register application.

      Your name caught my eye. Are you any relation to the Kathryn Sackman who taught many of us?

      To bring everyone up to date, OUR Kathryn Sackman died April 14, 1992, at the age of 87.

  7. We took a trip to McKendree Chapel once when I was 5 or so. In those long ago days, that was a major trip from Cape. We took a grill made in a bucket and Mother cooked hamburgers for our picnic lunch. Unfortunately, she had set the bucket near some poison ivy and she ended up with a rollicking case of the rash. I was so impressed that I learned to recognize the leaves of three and avoid them except once on the beach across the Mississippi River from Cape Rock.

  8. What a treasure this website is! Love the old bridge picture and the visits to places I hadn’t thought of in years! Thank you!

  9. No relation to Ms. Sackman. She sometimes got her facts wrong, and she was not to be corrected without consequences to which the writer can attest. Nevertheless, the history department gave Central’s students a much stronger frame upon which to hang subsequent data than most current high schools. For that they should be remembered.

    The interest in this piece is with the Waller and Williams ancestoral lines.

  10. Ken, you are both funny and informative: great combination. I certainly remember the “informative” part when we were very serious debate partners in high school. Wonderful to discover the funny part… and what an interesting website/blog you have created! Michael

    1. Michael,

      Thank you, sir. I hadn’t made the transition from sarcastic to funny in those days. I can remember a couple of debates where the judges knocked a point or two off my score for “sarcasm.”

      I still don’t suffer fools kindly, but I have learned to look at life more lightly these days.

  11. Wow! I come to your blog and once again in my life Mrs. Sackman is telling me great stories about the past and enriching history!
    I thought she was a memorable teacher and one of teachers I remember well.
    Who the heck knew that Don Louis Lorimer, was Canadian Gun Runner on the lamb in Spanish Mo., once again a Mrs. Sackman tells us the rest of the story!
    I had never heard where he came from until today! All thru school he was a god, a hero of the American Frontier. Now I know why Clark did not come into town at the start of the Lewis and Clark 1804 trip. He and Don Louis Lorimer were old enemies and for good reason.

    Thanks Dude and Mrs Sackman!

    1. Follow the link in the story to the National Register application (it’s in gray about half-way down). It’ll fill in even more details.

      It points out that the Louisiana Purchase from France opened up the area for Protestant expansion. That’s something I had never thought of.

      History would have been a lot more interesting if we had been exposed to stuff like this instead of being forced to regurgitate the names of treaties and the like.

    2. Terry, you must have stayed after in Ms. Sackman’s class. The leader of the 1782 expedition against the Shawnee, Delaware and Lorimer was General George Rogers Clark, elder brother of William Clark. We are left to wonder whether Lormier did not extend an invitation or Clark refused it when the Corps of Discovery passed Cape by.

  12. Ken: I read with interest your article about old Mckendree chapel. A friend of mine had never seen the chapel so about six months ago we went out there. We got locked in and there was no caretaker. We eventually got the door open but it took some doing. My friend was starting to look at me like “You brought me out here and got us locked in a building!”

    1. Lynn,

      I’m glad I’m not the only klutz in the world.

      How did you finally manage your escape? Were wild incantations involved or was sacrificing your friend enough to set you free?

  13. Thanks for reminding me about the McKendree Chapel. It is a place I have been meaning to go for a long time as my great grandmother is buried there. If anyone finds a list of those buried there I would like to know.

    1. Pat, I found a resource for you (and anyone else) to check grave records.

      Marla Ives, Archival Tech at the Archive Center in Jackson, replied within minutes when I passed your question to her.

      I work at the archive center in Jackson and we have listings of all the cemeteries in Cape County and who’s buried where. If she sends an email to


      with the name of her ancestor, we can look it
      up for her. It might be Tuesday before we can get back to her though.

      Feel free to pass the information along.

      I feel honored that the center thinks highly enough of this site that it lists us on their web page as a resource.

      I was surprised that we were in the category Historic Buildings and Places an not under Things to Take With Big Grain of Salt.

  14. *Note to the NEW Mrs. Sackman!
    Wow! I am impressed…are you SURE you are not related??? It is true, Clark did not stay in Cape, the story I was told was the Don Louis Lormier and Clark had a previous difference of opinion and that Clark would not stay in Cape. Which makes sense when I hear a little more history. In Cape, as least when I was growing up, no one broke bad on Don Louis Lormier, so we probably never would have heard this version of the truth.
    I think the orginial Mrs.Sackman was the first person that told me DDL’s first name was NOT Don…
    Thanks for adding to story…and now I have go to bed so I can get up and look at th estuff online you guys dung up!

  15. Assuming that future plans include a piece on Trail of Tears, comments on that can wait. But, it should be noted that one on McKendree Chapel’s sadder moments was when it served as a temporary camp ground for the Cherokee after crossing the Mississippi.

  16. Ken,
    I found your story very interesting. As the caretaker of Old Mckendree I like to hear stories about how people first found the chapel, their experiences, and what keeps bringing them back.
    You will also be happy to know, no one can get trapped inside. We have installed a handle on the inside of the door. (And thank you for not removing the door!)
    Please come see us again soon!

    1. I’ll be back in Cape in October for my Mother’s Birthday Season. A visit to the Chapel to inspect your door pull will be on my list.

      I WILL make sure she has her cell phone with her, though, just to be on the safe side.

    1. That confused me, too, the first time I saw it.

      Turns out that I have a regular poster who adopts a name that might have a vague connection to the story, although he (she?) has gotten good about adding “(not)” after the name in most of the posts.

      I’ve given this person some latitude because the comments are on topic and flesh out the subject with some unusual perspectives.

      I have the person’s email address and we’ve exchanged some messages, but I’ve respected his (her) privacy and not asked for a real identity at this point.

      The Miss Sackman I recall taught American History when I was at CHS.

  17. Really enjoyed the posting and comments on McKendree Chapel. I left a legacy there in 1952-53 when I carved my, and a girl’s initials on tree. I will protect the innocent, but her initials were ML. At that time I was a General Baptist, but 16 years later became a Methodist pastor.
    Your comments about a relationship surviving riding a tandem and doing wall paper together caught my attention. My wife and I have done the wall paper scene, and we are on our fourth tandem [on one the handlebar broke off at the top of Mackinac Island]. We also went through building a house together and are still married after 54 years.
    It appears we share another memory of Cape. I maxed out my speed odometer going down snake hill. When I reached the bottom I decided to go increase my speed, not realizing that I was already going faster than I could peddle. When I started to peddle my foot slipped off, hitting the pavement, and the peddle struck the back of my leg. I kicked out as hard as I could, managed to keep the bike from careening off the side of the road, and suspect I barely escaped the under wear disaster you referred to. But I did survive and learned that there were good reasons for not trying to go faster when your wheel speed exceeded your ability to peddle.
    As to the confusion between the two Sackman teachers. I had them both, one as librarian at Franklin and the other for Latin American history at Central. As I recall, the history teacher was the daughter of the Franklin librarian. David Middleton

    1. David,

      As a tandem rider, you might be interested in the exploits of Bob and Claire Rogers. I worked with Bob at The Athens Messenger in the late 60s. We went in different directions and lost contact until last year when he stumbled across my bike blog.

      Turns out he and his wife have been all over the world on their tandem – about 30,000 miles if I remember correctly.

      You can read more about them at their website, The New Bohemians.

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