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Chillicothe News - Chillicothe, MO
  • 120-year-old church transformed into family home

  • If the walls could talk in the home of Dicky and Debbie McKerlie, in rural Dawn, they would recount a million or more prayers and blessing. Their home was a church for over 120 years before moving from Coloma to the McKerlie farm in rural Dawn in 1997.
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  • Editors note: approximately 20 years ago the writer originally related the story of the old Coloma church building. The writer now brings us up to date with the story of the building.
    If the walls could talk in the home of Dicky and Debbie McKerlie, in rural Dawn, they would recount a million or more prayers and blessing. Their home was a church for over 120 years before moving from Coloma to the McKerlie farm in rural Dawn in 1997.
    At the time, this writer was along for the big move as the building was moved across five county bridges and negotiated past 22 different power lines owned by three different electric power companies.
    It was a major task just to move the building off its foundation, which occurred about two weeks prior to moving the main structure. Four 20-ton jacks were used to move the 32 ½-by-49 ½-foot building a few inches at a time. The sills were all hand-hewn in seven inch squares with the joints notched into the sills. The building is about 32-feet high, with an upper hardwood floor made with precision carpentry. It weights about 35 tons.
    With the many tight turns along mostly graveled roads, the move was a real challenge. On the last bridge two of the 18 wheeler truck tires went off the bridge. Over three hours later, the crew was ready to tackle the last mile up a steep hill, making it onto the farm after 8 p.m. It had a been a long, hard day for an eight mile trip and the ‘church’ was parked inside the property for the night.
    Now, 16 years later, the building has seen many changes as it became a home for the McKerlie’s.
    “It was two years before it was livable,” Debbie said. Meanwhile the family lived in a travel trailer while working on making the church into their home.
    Dicky, an electrician with SEMCO in Chillicothe, hand dug the foundation for the building with a shovel in preparation for the work crew to place it on its permanent site. At some point in time, the church had added on a 16-by-24-foot room. It was detached and moved ahead of the main building.
    Work started immediately to prepare this room for Kevin and for a place for the family to relax. One bedroom, a bathroom and a kitchen were added there before starting on the bigger task at hand.   
    Over a period of time a ‘home’ was carved out bit by bit. Dicky made the kitchen cabinets from oak lumber cut on the farm years before. The lumber was stored for use in the home they hoped to have someday.
    The kitchen island serves as a breakfast bar, and a large pantry provides extra storage. The large open kitchen and dinning room offer quick access though the sliding glass doors to a large deck where sipping coffee and watching wildlife is one of their joys.
    Page 2 of 3 - Debbie has worked along side Dicky in all phases of building their home. It has been a partner project from the start. During their dating years they picked out this part of the farm as the spot where they wanted a home they would someday share.
    As the new church was being built in Coloma the congregation elected to use some of the windows of the old church in the new one. Only six windows were left in the old building. Dicky and Debbie began work modifying the window size openings, and searching for new windows. They added eight new windows, locating them at close out sales, auctions or retail.  
    After living in a travel trailer for three years, Debbie wanted a large bedroom and she got it. The 16-by-24-foot room has all the space she wants and needs. Off the master bedroom, the bathroom is 12-by-12-feet with a tiled walk in shower and whirlpool bath. Beyond the bathroom a large walk-in closet and laundry room offer easy access for dressing and laundry.  
    The main floor guest bedroom, which used to be Kevin’s room (the original added room of the church), also has a full bath. Kevin now lives just down the road on part of the farm in what was his grandparents' home.
    One part of the upstairs is the ‘open’ game room holding a large pool table. Stuffed wildlife adorn the game room walls. The banister is interesting as it is made of limbs from trees on the farm, some straight and some crooked, stripped of the bark and sanded. It is a very unique banister and blends in very well with the log steps leading to the rooms upstairs. The logs are also from trees on the farm.
    The home, standing amid trees, has cream color vinyl siding and a bright red metal roof, thanks to the labor of Dicky and Debbie. There are also three decks on different parts of the home.
    Age has been kind to the old building, whose timbers are thought to have floated down the Missouri river and bought to Coloma by wagon. Work on building the church started somewhere after 1867, and was completed with mostly donated labor. The deed was signed in 1876.
    From the years 1946 to the present time there have only been two pastors. Rev. Bruce Trussell has been the pastor from 1958 to the present. Starting at age 17, he was asked to preach for five minutes, which led to his being called as the pastor. During his years at the University of Missouri, Columbia, he never missed a Sunday. In fact, he did not miss for decades.
    Debby reflected on their home and said, “This home means a lot to us as we have many memories here.”
    Page 3 of 3 - Debby and Dicky attended church within these walls, and this is where they were married 34 years ago, with Rev. Trussell officiating.
    “My mother, sister and three nephews where married here also,” Debby said.  
    The McKerlie’s continue to be the caretakers of the 'old church.' It stands proud as a testament in serving God’s children since the first walls went up in the late 1800s.

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