Looking back into history when Park’s Grove had a different meaning; Park’s Grove was always a closely knit community revolving around family, church and school.
Located on the high prairie between Otter Creek, which flows into the Grand River and Muddy Creek, which in turn flows into the Osage River, the land was virgin prairie until 1850. The prairie country of our middle west was totally new to settlers coming from the east and it was generally believed that the prairie soil would not grow good crops. Consequently, the wooded stream bottoms were settled first and not until the 1860’s did settlers really turn to the prairies for their homesteads.
In 1841, Overton Park at age of 21 walked to Missouri with a change of clothing carried in a small bundle and joined his brother, Guilford in Benton Co. In 1844 he married Ellen Foster and they had 13 children. He planted a large orchard of many varieties of fruit trees and butternut trees and the family lived off the land. Overton was a man who abhorred idle hands. His son Milo said of him that in winter when no other work was feasible, Overton busied himself with whittling out axe handles, which he sold on trips to Clinton, which was an all day trip with a wagon load. He was firm in his convictions and never deviated from that which he believed to be right. With his wife Ellen he was a faithful member of the Park Grove Christian Church—both were charter members. It is said that when Overton arrived at church, driving his spring wagon packed with the wriggling children of his second marriage, someone would chant in sing-song voice, “Yon come Sam an’ Dick an’ Bob an’ Toad an’ Tad an’ Scrub”.
One of the first to take up land on this prairie, where “the tall blue stem grass grew as high as a horse’s head” was Guilford Park, who left the river farm in Benton Co in 1856 to settle on the prairie in St. Clair Co., about eight miles north of Osceola—the neighborhood in Butler Twp. , Section 5 later known as Park Grove. Guilford’s brother, Overton, had settled on land just over in Henry County in 1855. In 1866 their sister, Narcissa Loveless, moved to the area. There Narcissa and Chillion Loveless opened a general store and post office called Spring City, which later was renamed Chloe.
Guilford Park was a well educated man. In 1838 he married Susan Foster and they had eight children and later ten children by second wife, Hannah McClain. He had served as Justice of the Peace in Benton County. He was a surveyor for the government, a farmer, a teacher and a man with strong religious principles.
Very few families were listed on the 1860 U.S. Census for the area. Those living on the prairie at the time were Evans, Denny, Miller and Cline, with Bunch and Walker in the Muddy Creek area. The John Ed Jones family moved into the area in 1873 and the family still has a prominent role in the neighborhood. It is said that “John Ed was a person with many talents.” He was skilled at surgery and was known as “the best well-digger anywhere around;” as wells were an absolute necessity on the prairie.
The first school, built of logs, was located in a grove of trees on Guilford’s farm and so the neighborhood began to be called Park’s Grove. Guilford was the first teacher, with the first pupils being his and Overton Park’s children.
From the oldest existing school records, now held by the St. Clair County Historical Society, we find that in November 1888, Emerson Barber was to receive $34. a month for teaching and that 100 bushel of coal for heating was purchased from Gray Miller for $12. Also it was “moved that we adopt McGuffey’s Readers and spellers and Ray’s Arithmetic.” However, students had to furnish their own books. The second school house was later built in 1910 at a new location north of the country road where children attended school until 1953. Therefore when the schools made a decision to consolidate, students of the first school had to be transported by bus to Lowry City.
On the third Sunday of August in 1866, the Park’s Grove Church of Christ was started with 16 charter members; with Overton and Tobias Park as Elders and James Arvis and Chillion Loveless as Deacons. The Park Grove school house was used as a meeting place of the new congregation for a time and then on March 7, 1886, an acre of ground was deeded to Trustees of the church from Mr. & Mrs. Guilford B. Park and Park Grove Christian Church was built on the site which today continues to be a landmark of Christianity dedicated to the service of God. This church served the community until a new church was built in the fall of 1984; the pastor serving at the time was Brother Wilbur Zink. The congregation held a sacrificial Sunday and the members pledged money towards the building of a new church. With the pledges and the money they already acquired, they were able to pay for the building of the church without going into debt. The new building contained classrooms, a nursery, a baptistery, and a fellowship hall in the basement with kitchen facilities. The dedication of the new Park Grove Christian Church was later held on April 21, 1985 with the then serving pastor, Brother Alan Black. For the first time the church had “preaching” every Sunday instead of only on the first and third Sundays of each month. The church steeple was built and erected by Sen. Delbert Scott.
With a steadfast commitment to our Lord Jesus Christ, and with a mind to build for the future, a beautiful new parsonage was added in 1995 on land graciously donated by elder Eugene and Mary Colley. In response to the needs of an ever growing family of believers, groundbreaking for a larger sanctuary and the addition of new classrooms took place on August 20, 2000. Mark and Gay Smith gave the deed to the land. The new Pastor serving during that era of the church was Brother Bob Fenwick. That year, Park Grove celebrated their 135th Homecoming on Sunday, August 19, 2001 with the dedication of the new addition to the church. To commemorate the occasion the people stood in a 135 formation outside the new addition while aerial pictures showing the church in the shape of a cross were taken from an airplane.
The Park Grove Cemetery had its beginning as a burial plot for members of the Park family and was located on Guilford’s farm. Probably the first burial was a son of Guilford and Hannah who lived less than a year in 1859. Soon the community began using the cemetery and today it is well kept and continues to be used for internments.
It has been many years now since Park Grove was founded and many pastors have ably served the Lord at Park Grove Christian Church. To name a few, Brother Strohm April 1933, August 1934 F. A. Emerson, Arthur Lindsey, Clyde Merriman, July 1960 Clarence Jones, Jan. 1967 Ben Stuart, Feb. 1972 Bob Fenwick, Nov. 1981 Wilbur Zink, June 1985 Alan Black, Sept. 1992 Bob Fenwick, Dec. 2001 Bill McCarty, Dec. 2003 Logan Dunham, July 2004 Ron Cook, July 2005 Shawn Sealy, October 2010 Bro. Shawn Wallace and then May 4, 2014 Bro. Jack Coultas began his ministry with us. Bro. Jack and wife, Elaine are serving the church and community faithfully today.