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19th century Tebbetts church to be restored after vandalization

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

"We want to build it and protect it, because there was a lot of heritage there at one time," said George Hord who grew up in Tebbetts going to Sunday dinners at the church.

The 143-year-old, Oakley Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, suffered smashed windows and other damages after a vandalism incident last weekend.

"We picked up the report at 7:00 on Saturday morning, it is our belief that the church was vandalized overnight Friday night into Saturday morning," said Callaway County Sheriff Clay Chism.

Chism said two abandoned residences in the area were also vandalized throughout the night.

He said since the time of the initial report, they have been conducting follow-ups and their criminal investigative unit has taken over the case.

"There has been significant progress today," said Chism. "Suspects have been tentatively identified and I expect arrests will be made in the coming days."

Hord said since the incident, he has been in communication with the district superintendent of the AME church.

"We've discussed doing things with the church in the past," said Hord.

He said what they plan to do is move the church from the location that it is at now.

"We can't protect it there," said Hord. Since the population surrounding the area has died out since it opened in the mid-1800s, Hord said the church has not been able to hold services.

The building was founded by freed Black residents of the area in 1878 but has remained disused for decades.

Hord said they have plans to preserve it and move it to land the community has in Tebbetts.

The Callaway County Historical Society is planning to do a fundraising effort for the building in February.

Hord said the biggest issue that they are having moving forward is that the insurance company is telling them they did not have coverage for vandalism.

Hord said, "I grew up here. I can remember when I was young and they were having lots of Sunday dinners there."

"The traffic would go by my mom's house for about a half an hour each direction as they were going to the meeting and coming back," said Hord.

Hord said parking in the current location is an issue, and once it is moved to the new location, the issue will be resolved.

Chism said they are continuing to investigate the incident and are leaving possibilities open that this could potentially be linked to the Mount Vernon Missionary Baptist Church in Holts Summit vandalism incident last November.

"This is definitely a felony level property damage," said Chism.

He said exact loss value is still to be determined.

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Chanel Porter

Chanel joined ABC 17 News in January 2021 after graduating from Penn State University. She enjoys traveling and a daily iced coffee.

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