Founded in 1860 by freed slaves Corbin and Ann Moore, Campbell Chapel is the oldest African-American congregation in the town of Glasgow, Missouri — a community established in 1836 and located on the bluffs of the Missouri River in Howard County. A small group of freed slaves initially met in the Moore home near the banks of the Missouri River at a site that was originally called Vaugh Pasture, later renamed Stump Island. Church history maintains that in 1865 the small congregation, under the direction of Corbin Moore who was a carpenter, erected a brick structure on Commerce Street, naming it in honor of the 8th consecrated Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Rev. Jabez P. Campbell. The AME Church traces its origins to Philadelphia, pA and freed slave Richard Allen who formed the new denomination in response to issues of control within the Methodist Church. The Methodist’s evangelical outlook and support of abolition were attractive to blacks, but the Church’s choice to continue to segregate congregations was repugnant, as was the Methodist’s requirement that black congregations have white directors and supervisors. The lack of acceptance of black Christians as equals demonstrated an inherent racism within the church. The white Methodist Episcopal Church ultimately split over the issue of slavery. In addition, a number of black organizations broke away form the church, including the AME Church, AME Zion Church, and others.
136 years later, Campbell AME Chapel still stands as one of the most intact mid-19th century African American churches in Missouri. The simple vernacular Greek Revival period building set into the side of the hill features a facade adorned by two entrances with 20′ tall wood doors with transom windows above. Stained glass is a later addition. One window bears a painted inscription with the founders’ name and birth date. Brick pilasters add visual interest to an otherwise unadorned facade. A stepped and angled parapet masks the building’s shallow gabled roof. Clear glass windows with simple rectangular lintels and sills adorn the side elevations.
Remarkably, the interior retains many of its early furnishings, including piano, pulpit stand, cabinet, and altar chairs. The interior reflects the three significant elements W. E. B. DuBois identified as essential in black worship — the “frenzy” of the coming of the Spirit of God during Prayer, “preaching” and “music.” the chancel, surrounded by an altar rail, is elevated one step; the altar rail is an important feature of Methodist Churches and signifies the importance of prayer and repentance. The pulpit at the center of the chancel indicated the centrality of preaching and the respect accorded a pastor in the African American community. Three elaborately carved, velvet upholstered chairs are situated behind the pulpit and were purchased by founding member Anne Moore. The area west of the chancel is called “Amen Corner” and provided seating in a place of respect for deacons and elders. Directly east of the chancel is the choir area with its original piano.
Like Grand Avenue Temple, the threat to Campbell Chapel involves a dwindling, aging church congregation and the fact that funds are insufficient to maintain the historic structure. The building is in immediate need of masonry repointing ‚ its soft bric and mortar having succumbed to 136 year of freeze and thaw. Poor repairs are evident along the base of the church. Deteriorated window frames and entrance doors have made it difficult to achieve energy efficiency in the building. A desire to improve the environment during worship services could result in the loss of important and rare historic building fabric.
The congregation and community of Glasgow have an interest in preserving the building and have initiated fundraising activities; but they lack the resources needed to comprehensively address the building’s needs. Assistance from outside the congregation and community will be needed to save this important part of Glasgow’s and Missouri’s African American heritage.
Update: This building has been SAVED! Read about it here.