In May 2013 I shared here my hunt for the location of the former Neosho Tabernacle. I regret to tell you now that I still do not know. But I have found a clue.
It all started with a postcard.
The postcard is dated Jan. 27, 1910. The front of the postcard is a photo of a line of people seemingly waiting to enter a large barn-like structure. Stretched across the front of the building is a giant banner that reads “Christ Died for You.” The building fronts a tree-lined street. There isn’t much in the background to speak of, or least no identifiable landmarks. The caption reads, “Tabernacle. Neosho. M [Missouri]. Rev. I.E. Honeywell. Evangelist.” On the back of the postcard is the date mentioned above and this message, signed by a Kate Veerkamp: “We are having wonderful meetings at this tabernacle. About 300 converts to date. Egbert and Fern are the couple farthest to the right. Will write letter later.” It is addressed to Mrs. E.H. Skelly, Audrain C [County], Mo.
At first I thought it would be relatively easy to discover the location of the Neosho Tabernacle. However, Internet searches turned up dry. In digging through microfilmed newspapers at the local library I found several articles about this big revival happening in Neosho, led by a Reverend Honeywell. However, none of them mentioned where the Tabernacle was located. I found articles about the Tabernacle's construction, but still, no address. I do have more newspaper pages to search, however, and confess I dropped off my research for a long while. Even my trusty Sanborn fire insurance maps were a dud – possibly because the Tabernacle was built and demolished in between publications. These fire insurance maps show what buildings were being utilized for at the time (and are very interesting). In relation to my search, maps were published for Neosho in 1909 and and 1916. Either the Tabernacle lived and died within that time window, or it was simply not listed on the maps.
However, some time back I found a clue in an unexpected place. I've written before about one of my favorite websites, findagrave.com. Well, under a listing for a James Milton Purdy, buried in IOOF Cemetery in Neosho, is a newspaper clipping from the Jan. 20, 1910, edition of the Neosho Times – just seven days before our postcard in question. It seems Mr. Purdy died on Jan. 14 after suffering a heart attack and falling off the seat of his wagon “in front of the Tabernacle on McCord Street.” Hell-o! I'm sorry Mr. Purdy died, but if he had to go I'm glad it was in front of the Neosho Tabernacle and that the newspaper decided to finally name the street where the Tabernacle was located.
I have spent hours trying to nail down McCord Street sites but haven't had a lot of luck. At least my search has been narrowed, though. If you look at the postcard, there is a house at the back of the tabernacle. One chimney is visible. Initially I thought it might be the “old Rice home,” currently owned and occupied by Dr. Andrew Hamby, at 322 W. McCord St., but now I'm not so sure. Also, if you look down the street in the photo, far in the background, above the people's heads, you can see a white speck that may be a landmark – or nothing at all. There does seem to be a ridge in the far background, though. Of course, Neosho is built on ridges and valleys, so that doesn't help an awful lot.
At the least this hunt has offered me some distracting personal entertainment. You're welcome to join me, too, so let me know if you turn up anything. Before, I wanted to uncover the answer to this question on my own, and thus revel in the satisfaction of discovery. But now I'm too curious to care how I find out. I just want to know: Where was the Neosho Tabernacle?
• • •
Reminder: Please come to the Crowder College Elsie Plaster Center Auditorium at 1 p.m. Saturday July 26 for a special program on Walt Disney, presented by Disney historian and scholar Dan Viets of the Missouri Humanities Council. Viets will talk about the Missouri influences in Walt Disney's life and work. I'm looking forward to it!
Wes Franklin writes a weekly column for the Daily News.