Not until 1804, after the Louisiana Purchase, were Baptist congregations allowed by law in the Missouri territory. Up until that time this land was ruled by both the French and Spanish governments which only permitted the practice of Catholicism. When the Missouri territory came under the ownership of the United States, freedom of religion opened the gate for non-Catholic congregations to meet publicly. Although there were a few small groups of Baptist that met and formed churches they didn’t last long. In 1806 the first permanent non-Catholic religious organization west of the Mississippi River was established near Jackson, Missouri called Bethel Baptist Church. This pioneer church was instrumental in beginning several churches as members moved away and built missions. It continued to grow until it adopted anti-missionary sentiments which ultimately led to its demise. In 1807, Fee Fee Baptist Church, St. Louis, was formed which remains active today as Missouri’s oldest existing congregation.
By 1816, enough churches had been founded that there was a desire to create associations to encourage fellowship with fellow Believers. The first of these was Bethel Association which included seven churches from Missouri and Arkansas. The following year the Missouri Association was formed in the home of Thomas Musick including churches from the St. Louis area. On the heels of the Missouri Association was the Mt. Pleasant Association which was established in 1818 in Howard County. After these three organizations were firmly in place other associations followed the lead and sprang up all over Missouri in return giving birth to even more churches.
Over the next several years Baptists continued to multiply amidst turmoil in the country. By 1834 there was a call to institute the Baptist Central Society of Missouri to serve as a guiding force to assist in the continuation of growth of Baptists in Missouri. Along the way it adopted the names General Association of United Baptists in Missouri and later the Missouri Baptist General Society before it was named the Missouri Baptist Convention. This new Society started out as an idea with humble beginnings; however, Missouri Baptists boldly forged an inspiring heritage.