Churches of Miller County

Charles Marriott Sooter
by Peggy Smith Hake

Rev. Charles Marriott Sooter was born in Newton County, MO, in the Ozark Mountains of southern Missouri. In 1869, his parents left the Grand River country of southwest Missouri and moved to Miller County when Charles was about 12 years old. His ancestors were immigrants of Northern Ireland who settled in the Carolinas; later became part of the migration of settlers who stopped awhile in Tennessee; and later came to the Missouri Ozarks.

Charles was born 24 Aug 1857, was one of five children born to Harvey Van Buren Sooter and his wife, Sarah Ann (Smith). His brother and sisters were: William M. 'Ned' Sooter, Louisa Sooter Shelton, Geretta/Nettie Sooter Renfrow, and Margaret/Maggie Sooter Hensley. Charles' father, Harvey, was a physician who did not go in a church until he was an old man. His mother, Sarah (Smith), was a Methodist.

In 1873, Charles married Harriett Pankey who died a short time later after giving birth to two children: Nettie Sooter Wiles and Leona Sooter Shelton. In 1876, he married Jane Alice Carson and they had seven children: Menzo E. Sooter, Charles W. Sooter, Mark Sooter, W. M. Sooter, Elizabeth Sooter Hodgden, and Lena Sooter.

During his early years of marriage, Charles worked his farm and operated a sawmill. At the age of 27, c/1884, while working his sawmill, an itinerate Christian minister (sometimes called 'Newlights') came from Iowa and held revival services in the community. Charles attended some of these meetings and after awhile, his life was changed. He fought it for awhile, but the conviction overpowered his life when he realized he was receiving a call from God. He was an unlearned man who had very little schooling and at first was afraid he could not speak publicly nor pray before a crowd. I have been told by those who remembered Brother Charlie Sooter that he quickly overcame that obstacle in his life with flying colors!

His first attempt to preach occurred at an 'all-day-meeting' in a nearby schoolhouse. People came from miles around to hear Rev. Charlie Sooter preach and stayed for an all day service with filled baskets of food. In later years, he said at first he had to 'trail' for awhile, but before he knew it, his sermon became easy to deliver. He sang his way into the hearts of many people and played an old fiddle to the delight of the crowd. It was said his gifts were Providential, but I am sure those Irish ancestors contributed to his talent as well.........

Charles Marriott Sooter helped to organize many churches in the area including Union, Mt. Zion, High Knob, Campground, Humphreys Creek, Little Tavern, Liberty, Atwell, Iberia, Fairview, Gott, and Ketchum, Oklahoma. He bought 140 yards of heavy canvas and made a huge tent. He conducted services under that old tent until a church could be built on the spot. It is said he preached 5,250 sermons; had 4,500 conversions; baptized over 3,000 people, and probably conducted more funerals than anyone, before or since, in our central Missouri region.

In 1929, his second wife, Jane Alice, died and he was married a third time to Mrs. Lucy Stark, widow of William Stark. Rev. Charles M. Sooter died at his home five miles south of Tuscumbia in the summer of 1938 at the age of 81 years. His funeral services were held at the Iberia Academy by Rev. A. L. Alexander of the Eldon Christian Church. He was assisted by Rev. J. Merle Bandy of the Iberia Baptist Church and Rev. Deweese of the Iberia Newlight Church. The Jones brothers, old friends of Brother Sooter, had a beautiful and inspirational song service. He was laid to rest at the Brays Union Cemetery, northeast of Iberia. His descendants have carried on in his tradition. Four of his sons became ministers and the musical talent continues to be heard in his grandchildren and the newer generations of the Sooter family.

A Revival Incident
A History of Miller County, Missouri
By Gerard Schultz

The following revival incident was related by C.M. Sooter, who has been a minister in the county for almost fifty years. After holding a revival at Gott's Graveyard he organized a church of nineteen members, only two of whom were men. These two were made deacons but being new converts they were limited in their ability to "deek". The names of these men are omitted but neither one was Alex Gott. With a perfectly sober face and apparently serious intent, Mr. Gott suggested that one of the deacons, a neighbor, should be called upon for prayer. This was done at one of the evening services without first consulting the deacon. After getting down on his knees the deacon started out with, "O, Lord!" which was first said as an exclamation, followed by a long silence, then repeated as a groan and another long pause; then repeated in despair, followed by "Some of you brothers will have to take it. I'm choking." The whole congregation almost choked in trying to conceal their amusement. Of course, the most amused person in the audience was Mr. Gott. When the preacher later asked the deacon why he did not say "Amen" and quit, he replied that he thought he had not said enough yet to say "Amen."

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