But Pennytown still lives. It lives in the memories of Pennytowners, and its story is passed down to
younger generations and honorary Pennytowners of all ages, races and creeds. The small church, listed in the
National Register of Historic Places, is the visible memory of the history of the town and the triumph of its people
over adversity and injustice in post-Civil War Missouri. It also serves as an important reminder of a part of
Missouri's and America's history that should not be forgotten. It was for these reasons that Pennytowners, under the
leadership of the late Josephine Lawrence, began their lengthy effort to gain national recognition for the Pennytown church and
raise enough money for the restoration project. Through bake sales, dinners, raffles, the sale of a Pennytown cookbook
and "passing the hat," the group had raised $18,000 by 1994. It was not enough for the restoration project, but it was
enough to help match a Historic Preservation Fund grant, awarded in early 1995 by the Missouri Department of Natural
Resources' Historic Preservation Program.
In 1996, on the first Sunday in August, as they had been doing for 50 years, Pennytowners from throughout the United States came back to the church for the Pennytown homecoming. More than 200 people gathered on the lawn surrounding the building to greet old friends, make new ones, eat dinner and enjoy an inspirational program. But most of all, they were there to celebrate the restoration of the Pennytown church; their "project" had come to a successful conclusion, and a new life was just beginning for the church building.
The restored church will play an important role in Saline County's heritage tourism initiative, hosting busloads of visitors who want to learn about Pennytown's history. It will also be the location of an educational field study program for the county's school children, especially those who are studying Missouri history.
Pennytowners, now under the leadership of Lawrence's daughter Virginia Houston, have many plans for the future. Fundraising will
continue for maintenance of the church building and for the restoration of the historic privy (also listed in the National Register). A
fence, a sign and a brochure for visitors are also planned.
For more information about Pennytown or to arrange a tour, call Virginia Houston at (816) 886-8171 or 886-8418.