Callaway County, Missouri is a quiet Mid-Missouri county that shares a border with Boone County. The county is home to rural communities like Fulton, Holts Summit, Kingdom City, and Auxvasse. These small towns offer a sense of safety and community not found in more populated areas, like Columbia. However, for a second time in three months, a historically-black church has been vandalized in Callaway County.
Vandalism at Mount Vernon Missionary Baptist Church
In November of 2020, sheriff deputies responded to a burglary alarm call around 1:30 AM to Mt. Vernon Missionary Baptist Church. Upon arrival, deputies discovered bullet holes in the door, boot prints on the door, windows smashed, an AC unit tipped on its side, pews that were flipped over, toilets smashed, and gaping holes in the walls. Even the blades of the ceiling fan were snapped in half.
In December of 2020, four teenagers, ages 14-16, were arrested for the vandalism. The crime was investigated as a hate crime, but no evidence was found to suggest a motive for a hate crime. Mt. Vernon Missionary Baptist Church was established by slaves in the early 1800s and was later rebuilt in 1869 during Reconstruction following the Civil War.
Vandalism at Oakley Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church
During the early morning of January 23, 2021, sheriff deputies with the Callaway County Sheriff’s Department responded to yet another burglary alarm at a predominately black church in Tebbetts, Missouri located in Callaway County. The extent of the damage to Oakley Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church is unknown to the public at this time, but the windows of the church are currently shuttered by wooden planks.
An investigation is currently ongoing, and it has not been determined whether or not this vandalism and the November 2020 vandalism are related. According to the Callaway County Sheriff’s Office, suspects were “tentatively identified.”
Mid-Missouri’s Tumultuous History with Racial Justice
Mid-Missouri has a tumultuous history with racial justice that stems back to the Civil War. Missouri was made famous for Guerrilla Warfare—an unconventional style of war utilized by Confederate soldiers and sympathizers to terrorize Union soldiers and sympathizers. Guerrilla soldiers often hid behind foliage and forest lines to surprise the oncoming enemy. Guerrillas like Missouri-native Bloody Bill Anderson were uniquely good at this tactic, and earned guerrilla soldiers from Missouri the title “Bushwhackers.”
Bloody Bill Anderson earned his reputation by terrorizing Mid-Missouri Pro-Union communities during the Civil War. His bloody reign in Mid-Missouri was dispersed over Callaway, Boone, Cooper, Cole, and Randolph counties. While in Columbia, Missouri (Boone County), he planned a coordinated attack in Centralia with fellow guerilla and future outlaw, Jesse James. He pillaged and burned entire communities, which later served as inspiration for a series of church bombings in Southern Missouri during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.