A flatboat journey has been made by a descendant of early Thompson family members of Bethel Church,
in remembrance of the Primitive Baptist heritage they have in this pioneer church for Missouri.

Brother Ron Drake (eldest son of Elder Mervin E. Drake, of Indiana, who is also well known in Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa) embarked upon a journey of remembrance on a flatboat trip from near Cincinnati, Ohio to Cape Girardeau, Mo. The trip on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers brought to remembrance the difficult and dangerous journey made by Closs Thompson, and his sons Elder Wilson Thompson and Jeremiah Johnson, and others of the Thompson family in 1810. Brother Ron Drake is a descendant of Closs and Jeremiah Thompson. Elders Wilson Thompson and Benjamin Thompson served as pastors of Bethel Church for much of its existence, and others of the Thompson family, including Jeremiah, were members there. The descendants of Closs Thompson, have the right to claim their heritage at Bethel Church, both from a church and family standpoint, and they are proud to be known as Hardshell Baptists. There will be no fundraisers, and contributions will not be accepted, as it is an endeavor of the Thompson family of Bethel Church, in honor of the heritage of true Primitive Baptists.

The flatboat, 12' wide and 42' long, with a cabin on top, is constructed from timber on the Jeremiah Thompson farm in Western Indiana. The journey took place in December, 2006 and began where the original 1810 expedition is believed to have embarked from, near the confluence of the Little Miami and Ohio Rivers. The flatboat's name, "Journey of Remembrance," is engraved on
a log from the old Bethel Church meeting house; the log is mounted above
the door of the flatboat's cabin.

Along the way, the Journey of Remembrance made stops including the Rising Sun Marina (Ind.), Markland Lock (Ind.), Madison (Ind.), McAlpine Lock (Ind.), New Albany Ramp under Bridge (Ind.), Leavenworth (Ind.), Tell City Ramp (Ind.), Cannelton Lock (Ind.), Grandview (Ind.), Newburgh Lock (Ind.), Evansville (Ind.), Mt. Vernon (Ind.), John T. Myers Lock (Ind.), Old Shawnee Town (Ill.), Cave in Rock (Ill.), Elizabethtown (Ill.), Smithland Lock (Ill.), Metropolis (Ill.), Lock 53 (Ill.), Ft. Defiance State Park (at the confluence of Ohio and Mississippi Rivers); Turning up the Mississippi River: Elkins Landing on Price Landing (Mo.), Cape Girardeau (Mo.).



The second* Baptist Church organized in Missouri Territory was called Bethel, which was organized on July 19, 1806, near Jackson, in Cape Girardeau County. Bethel Church continued to be affiliated with the Regular Baptists, or what is now known as Primitive Baptists, throughout its existence. Elder Wilson Thompson, a well-known Primitive Baptist minister, and Elder Benjamin Thompson, his uncle, were two of the men who served as pastors of Bethel Church. The Missouri Baptist Convention (Southern Baptist) obtained ownership of the site, a few years ago, and is presently rebuilding the log meeting house. They know, but will not admit, that Bethel Church was constituted by, and continued to stand with, the Primitive Baptists.

The Primitive Baptist Library of Carthage, Illinois, is presently in the process of reproducing an early edition of Elder Wilson Thompson's Autobiography, published by D. H. Goble. The Primitive Baptist Library Quarterly will publish nearly 100 hymns composed by Elder Wilson Thompson, which appear in his Baptist Hymn Book copyrighted in 1844. The library's copy is an 1850 printing. The library also has a transcript of the records of Bethel Church, which shows that the church held to Primitive Baptist beliefs from the beginning.

At the time of his trip to Missouri in 1810, Elder Wilson Thompson was 22 years old, and his library at that time consisted of a small Bible, Rippon's hymn book, and Pilgrim's Progress. Copies of these three books will be taken along on the flatboat journey.

Drawing of old Bethel Church near Jackson, Cape Girardeau County, Mo.
Elder Wilson Thompson. Others who came by flatboat with him, in 1810, included his wife, Mary Grigg Thompson; his father and mother, Closs Thompson Jr. and Rebecca Wilson Thompson; his oldest sister (Jane); and children (presumably his younger brothers and sisters, or perhaps cousins) are also mentioned but not by name. Elder Wilson Thompson's brother, Jeremiah Thompson, and a cousin, John Reynolds, came by land, at the same time, to bring the horses.  
Information provided by
The Primitive Baptist Library