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The “Bloody Ridge” Church

Friday, January 08, 2010

The Union Ridge Baptist Church is located near the settlement of Union City, Missouri on county road M; halfway between county roads N and K in northern Stone County. In the early part of the 20th century, my great-grandfather, Will Jackson, led the congregational singing on Sundays there (he did this faithfully until his untimely death in 1918).

The church was organized August 21, 1896. My great-great-grandparents, Thomas and Mollie Maples, along with their daughters Frances, Mary, Sibbia, Minnie (my great-grandmother) and Della, lived nearby and were charter members. Generations of my ancestors are buried in the church cemetery, which is a beautiful meadow near the ridge. During the Civil War, the Union Army had maintained an encampment there; hence the name, “Union Ridge.”

On the day the newly formed congregation dedicated their church building, they celebrated with an all-day singing and dinner on the church grounds. My great-great-aunt Sibbia had attracted several suitors – young men who showed up somewhat inebriated from moonshine whiskey. Jealousy for her attentions took over into rage, and a knife fight broke out.

Several people were seriously hurt; a gentleman named Bowman was cut up so badly they did not think he would live. He was taken and laid on the porch of Bill Wilson, another distant relative of mine who lived nearby. Soon after the incident, Luther Jess McReynolds, one of the knife-wielding suitors, married Sibbia; they left for Idaho on horseback and never returned to Missouri.

This story came to me from several people who spent their lives near the Union Ridge Church and knew some of the people who witnessed the bloody event, which resulted in the church being tagged, “Bloody Ridge Church.” One lady told me that her mother would not allow her to utter the moniker.

A favorite story of my dad’s, as told to him by his father, is about a great-aunt, Frances “Fannie” Maples Gilmore, who lived very near the Union Ridge Church. In 1912, a group of the younger church members decided to raise money and buy a small wind-operated organ. Some of the older members, including Fannie, objected to the idea of bringing such a demonic musical instrument into a house of worship. Fannie’s disapproval was so strong that she vowed never to set foot inside the church as long as that instrument-of-the-devil was there. True to her word, when the organ arrived, Fannie stayed home.

Later, on a summer Sunday evening, the congregation held a hymn singing service. Fannie, rocking on her front porch (and likely smoking her pipe), could not avoid hearing the voices coming from the open windows of the church house. Longing to be with her friends and family, and feeling ashamed for her attitude, Fanny jumped up and ran. She didn’t stop running until she was at the altar of the church, asking the congregation to forgive her.

The Union Ridge congregation has remained strong over the years. I attended a Sunday morning service there several years ago. The little building, which has been remodeled and enlarged over time, was packed. The hearty singing of the congregation made it hard to believe that I was in the company of only about seventy-five persons. Before and after the service, scores of handshaking people came up to me, commenting, “we’re probably related.” I believe Will and Minnie Jackson were watching.
— Paul E. Jackson, Sr.

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