Historic church in rural northwestern Platte County burns to ground

BRYCE MERENESS/Citizen photo Sara Brown of Rushville, Mo. examines the remains of the Short Creek Baptist Church on Saturday, Sept. 12 after a fire leveled the 120-year-old building located in rural northwestern Platte County. For 120 years, Short Creek Baptist Church sat in the shadow of the Missouri River bluffs along Highway 45 in northwestern Platte County.

Turn off on Cogan Road and wind back until coming to Brown Road. There you could see the simple white building with the year of its completion printed prominently above the front door: 1895.

Almost nothing remains of the historic church outside of Rushville, Mo. after a fire this past weekend resulted in its total destruction.

Contributed photo Flames burst out of Short Creek Baptist Church on Saturday, Sept. 12 near Rushville, Mo. A fire reported early that morning ended up completely destroying the 120-year-old building, located in rural northwestern Platte County.

Multiple fire departments responded to a call at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 12 but were unable to control the blaze. Eventually, firefighters managed to contain the fire to the building but were forced to return Sunday morning to put out some minor hot spots.

No one was injured, and the cause of the fire remains under investigation, although determining a source could prove difficult due to the destruction.

“The tough part was not being able to do anything,” said Walter Engeman, a deacon at Short Creek Baptist Church. “I got down here, and the smoke was just a rolling. I unlocked the front door so they didn’t have to kick the door in, and that’s all we could do. I’ve been here the whole time. I watched the whole thing burn.”

About 10 to 20 parishioners call the church home.

Many of them gathered Sunday morning for the regular service, held at the nearby parsonage, which suffered minor damage due to the fire. The church recently celebrated the 145th anniversary of its congregation, and the adverse situation could not deter the spirit of those in attendance at the rural home located adjacent to the church site.

James Kerns, recently named Short Creek’s interim pastor, declared the theme of the day to be, “We are the church, and the church is going to continue on.”

“We are going to have church in the parsonage, whether it be out here in the parking lot, whether it be in someone’s house. The church of Short Creek Baptist is going to go on,” he told FOX 26 KNPN of St. Joseph, Mo.

As of the weekend, church members planned to go forward with the annual hog roast, scheduled for 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19. They will likely adapt and adjust if the event can carry on, much like during Sunday’s worship service.

Members brought their own chairs while going through the normal hymns and prayers with the rubble and remains of the church not far away.

“It was a lot of good times and memories of the gatherings,” said Sara Brown, a regular member of the congregation who was married at Short Creek. “Life goes on.”