Pioneer Days in Kansas

Chapter 6

Fellowship on the Frontier

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IN THE AUTUMN OF 1857 there were but eight Congregational churches in the territory of Kansas. Each of these had grown up by itself to meet a local need. They were scattered over a distance of one hundred and twenty miles. Long stretches of Indian reservation lay between many of them. The fellowship of the churches was not an easy thing to establish and a still more difficult thing to maintain. Yet this scattered condition made fellowship all the more essential. If the churches were to work together with any effectiveness they must know one another and they must confer together. This necessity was felt by all the churches and special efforts were made to overcome the diffi- culties. All the forms of fellowship by means of councils associations and exchanges were kept up with as much frequency as in more dense communities. The result was that these scattered churches became better known to each


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other than churches in the same town in older communities. It cost much toil and sacrifice to maintain these forms of fellowship but because they cost so much they were prized the more.

The first ecclesiastical council which ever met in Kansas was at Quindaro. It was called for the purpose of recognizing the church at Quindaro and ordaining their pastor and also ordaining the pastor-elect of the Lawrence church. The new house of worship was also dedicated at the same time. The council met at Quindaro January 28th 1858. There were only three members two ministers and one lay delegate. Only two churches were represented-that at Lawrence and that at Topeka. Even this small council involved a good deal of travel. Rev. Louis Bodwell came from Topeka seventy miles; Rev. S. Y. Lum and Deacon Henry F. Parker came from Lawrence forty miles. I rode over with the Lawrence party as one of the candidates for ordination. We went on horseback. It was a beautiful day so warm that we carried our overcoats across our saddles all day. The council dined in a body at Wolfe Creek under whose sheltering ledges many a cold lunch has been eaten by the Pilgrims of the olden times. Our


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road lay across the Delaware Reserve and this was about halfway. We reached Quindaro in time for supper. The next morning the council was organized. There were just enough for an organization. Rev. Samuel Y. Lum agent of the American Bible Society was chosen moderator; Deacon Henry F. Parker of Lawrence was chosen scribe; while Rev. Louis Bodwell of Topeka was left free to make the motions. It seemed a small council and there was some question as to the wisdom of proceeding with so small a number but there was no likelihood of doing any better if we adjourned and tried again. We must make a beginning sometime. Therefore after due deliberations it was voted to proceed with the business for which the council had been called; The ordination service was held in the afternoon. Mr. Lum preached the ordination sermon from the text " Take heed unto thyself and unto the doctrine." In the evening the Quindaro church was recognized and Mr. Bodwell preached from the text "Lengthen thy cords and strengthen thy stakes." The fitness of each sermon for its occasion will be readily seen from the texts used. The examination of the candidates was not at all severe and the


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vote to approve was unanimous. The council was small but all the proprieties were observed and nothing was permitted which might bring into doubt the regularity of this first council held on Kansas soil. The Quindaro church had just finished their house of worship the first house of worship completed in the territory. They were consequently happy in their new church and with their new minister. The expectations of Quindaro were a little more sober than they were two months before but were still sufficiently rosy and bright.

The second council met in Leavenworth in March 1858 to organize the church and ordain the pastor Mr. R. D. Parker. This was a much larger council as there was now a larger number of churches to call upon. When the members arrived about five o'clock in the afternoon it was in a drenching rain. The absence of pavements or even sidewalks made it impossible for them to go to their places of entertainment. The whole council therefore spent the night with Brother Parker who as a bachelor occupied the second story of a sort of warehouse on Cherokee Street. The room was eighty feet long without plaster or partitions and had in it


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only the furniture used by Mr. Parker and his roommate the proprietor of the store below and of the building. They "divided" the bed clothing with us as long as there was anything to divide and the brethren "bunked" around the great room on quilts and mattresses and blankets as they could. Their humor was not conducive to sleep at least they were never all inclined to sleep at the same time. They repeated the experience of the British officers at Brussels the night before the battle of Waterloo so far as to proclaim " No sleep till morn." In the morning the rain had ceased the sky had cleared and the council organized and completed its work. The services were held in what was called "The Stone School house" a little building on Seneca Street. The benches were rough and hard the windows low and dingy and the walls and ceilings frescoed with cobwebs and smoke. It was the best room they could get in which to hold their services. In such a room the Leavenworth church which now fills its elegant house with a fashionable congregation began its corporate life. But in quality the Leavenworth church has never surpassed that company which met in the old Stone School House and one would


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travel a long distance to find any church which would surpass it. Among those thirty members were David J. Brewer now one of the justices of the United States Supreme Court; Mr. S. Adams several times speaker of the House of Representatives and a prominent candidate for governor; George A. Eddy once one of the receivers of the M. K. & T. railroad; C. B. Brace a prominent business man; H. W. Watson one of the early and most liberal patrons of Wash- burn College and others that might be named. In that company gathered in that obscure room there were men who were bound to make their mark on the city and on the state. They were all in the vigor of manhood full of energy and full of hope. In their business and in their homes and in their church they were at the beginning of things. But they had qualities which made themselves felt in rapid development and large improvement. In a few years they gathered all the conveniences and even elegancies of civilized life. They had the ability the character and the manhood and all the rest came in due time.

The General Association of Congregational Churches of Kansas was organized August 1855.


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This body was unique in one thing at least. It was formed when there was but one church in the territory. The church at Lawrence was the only church in existence. Yet they had thought of prophecy sufficient to call the body "The General Association of Churches." There were several ministers who were preaching at various points. At most of these points there were members ready to be organized into churches as soon as the conditions allowed. while therefore only one church had been actually organized there were several groups of disciples who worked together just as if they had been formally recognized as churches. They had the same varied needs to consider as if they had all experienced the formality of organization.

One of the features of these early gatherings which all old- timers will vividly recall was the long journeys they required. There were no railroads in Kansas for more than ten years after the settlement began. Attending an association or a council or a service of dedication often required a journey of three days each way. But all our work had to be done in much the same way so we were prepared for it, and became accustomed


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to it. An exchange of pulpits involved at least a long day's ride each way. Yet I think we exchanged more frequently then than we do now. Fellowship came high but we had to have it. No minister ever declined to assist in forming a church or in the dedication of a house of worship on account of the distance. We thought less then of a trip of a hundred miles by team than we now think of a delay of three or four hours at a railway junction. Neither distance nor weather had much effect on our meetings. If the dis- tance was greater we simply started a day or two earlier in the week. If the weather was cold we wrapped ourselves up the warmer; if the rain began to fall we spread our umbrellas and kept on. Far or near rain or shine we always " got there" and got there on time. When once there we all stayed through to the end a practice that might well be commended in these luxurious days of rapid and easy travel.

The churches of that time were mostly grouped in two clusters one in the eastern part of the territory and the other about Manhattan which we then called the western part. The Pottawatomie Reservation lay between them. The two groups were so nearly equal in importance


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that our annual meetings usually alternated between them.

In October 1858 the meeting was at Manhattan and the eastern group made the long trip. Those from the Missouri River churches came over to Lawrence the first day and one of the best meetings was held at our house that night as we were all old friends who had not met for several months. The second day the Lawrence delegation joined the procession and we all moved on together to Topeka. Here we took dinner and then the Topeka brethren and those from north and south of Topeka fell into line. The whole caravan moved westward across the great Pottawatomie Reservation. All old Kansans will remember these Indian reservations where we might travel all day and not see a human habitation or a human face. There were several of these reservations and one could hardly go in any direction without crossing one. This Pottawatomie Reservation was thirty miles across. It was quite late when we started from Topeka and we had to go about twenty miles before we came to a house. Night came on long before we reached our destination. There was quite a company of us, a large covered wagon,


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several buggies, and several men on horseback. At first the solitude was inspiring and we talked and.shouted and sang as each felt inclined. But as the hours wore on we grew silent. For the last few miles no sound was heard except an occasional shout from the leader warning us of some turn in the road or a shout from some one in the rear uncertain of the way. About eleven o'clock at night we reached our stopping-place a house on " Mill Creek" about the middle of the reservation. Here Berkaw, a white man who had married a squaw and joined the tribe, lived in a very comfortable way for those times. We first cared for our teams and then only waited for supper for which we were much better pre- pared than the people of the house were. About midnight supper was announced and a very hungry set of people responded to the call. It was a very plain supper they gave us and the cooking was not French but our appetites furnished the sauce and we did ample justice to the meal. Everything was good and wholesome. After supper we were most of us turned loose into the large unfinished half-story chamber of the cabin. Here the kind people had prepared for our comfort by spreading around on the floor


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blankets and quilts and buffalo robes and the many substitutes for beds known only to the elastic hospitality of the frontier. But to our weary bodies an Indian blanket and a cottonwood board were as good as a bed of down.

In the morning we drove out into the solitude again and for twenty miles. more we pursued our lonely way. About noon we came to Wabaunsee which was known everywhere as the home of the New Haven Colony or the Beecher Rifle Company. To all Congregationalists it was known still better as the home of Father Lines. Here the people kindly received us and we remained with them for dinner. Then their delegation reinforced us and we moved on and reached Manhattan in time for a few hours' rest before the evening service. " And the evening and the morning were the third day."

In 1862 four years later the meeting of the General Association was at Wabaunsee and then the returning journey was of special interest. Our numbers had increased and we made quite a display as we wound along over the prairie on our journey home. At noon we came to Mill Creek but not at Berkaw's as we did before. We saw no house all day. We halted at Mill


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Creek for lunch at noon. We lariated our horses that they might enjoy the nice prairie grass which was everywhere abundant. Then we gathered on the beautiful 'green slope under a few scattering trees which gave us a shade. My wife and the other ladies spread the table-cloths on the grass and laid out the luncheon which our thoughtful entertainers had provided for us. A fire was built beside some stones and coffee prepared for those who wished it. After dinner we rested or roamed up and down the stream as each preferred. Then we all came together again and one read a few verses of God's Word. We all "sang one of the songs of Zion" and Father Mills of Michigan led us in a prayer that lifted all our hearts upward. If the poet had seen the prairie before he wrote his poem he would have said " The prairies were God's first temples." We were thoroughly refreshed and proceeded on our way. Now the process of disintegration began. Those living to the southeast of Burlingame Emporia etc. took the right hand trail while the rest of us took the left hand trail. We moved along by almost parallel lines for a time but gradually our roads diverged and our companions of the morning grew more and


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more distant and dim. After an hour and a half or more we saw them for the last time as they appeared on the ridge some miles south of us. We signaled each other by waving handkerchiefs and they passed over the ridge and we saw them no more. We reached Topeka in good time and the next day went toward.home.

In duly 1859 two years before this I had made this same journey alone while Mrs. Cordley made a week's visit to her girlhood friend Mrs. Parker of Leavenworth. She took the Leavenworth stage as I drove off with my pony. I was to assist in the dedication of the new church at Manhattan. The service was to be on Sunday. I left Topeka Friday morning quite late. I was soon "out on the ocean sailing" in the midst of the dreaded reservation. At that time I drove a black Indian pony. She was a good pony with occasional bad streaks. She had a gait of her own a slow jog-trot and it was not much use trying to persuade her to take any other. But once in a while she would take a notion to get frightened at something and dart forward like the " wild gazelle." She was usually very obedient to word or bridle and seemed always expecting to hear you say " Whoa." But


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when she took a notion to run bit and bridle and voice were of no avail. You could simply guide her and hold on to your seat. After a mile or so she would slacken up and fall back into her old gait hang her head and lop her ears and jog along in the old way for three months more. Another of her ways that was peculiar was stopping suddenly whirling about and dashing along on the back track. On the day I am speaking of we were jogging down a long incline about the middle of the afternoon. All at once a flock of prairie chickens flew up just before her face. She stopped as if she had been shot whirled the buggy around as if it had been on a swivel and started toward home on a gallop. I had become weary with the monotony of the way and was half asleep when the thing happened. I had no time to recover myself. The pony literally jerked the buggy from under me and left me suspended in the air. I did not remain suspended long. In an instant I landed upon the hard road. Though the sun was still high the stars were visible. I was badly shaken up. But it was no time for doleful reflections. I was in the middle of the great reservation twenty miles from anywhere and my horse was making good time for home. The


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only thing to be done was to follow her. At first I followed her " afar off." Fortunately she was going up the incline now and after running for a mile or so she slackened her pace and then dropped into a walk. I soon overtook her climbed up into the buggy from behind; turned her about and made her expend some of her surplus energy on the "forward march."

The day was rapidly declining and still there was no sign of the end of my journey. Sometimes I could see several miles ahead but there was no sign of a house. At last it grew dark and I had not the faintest idea how far I must still go. I finally determined to wait till morning and sleep under the buggy. While preparing to do this I saw a light down the road before me. It was evidently a cabin where I might find shelter. I reharnessed my pony and went on again. The cabin was farther off than I had thought but I reached it at last. It was a farm house on the outskirts of the Wabaunsee colony. They were newcomers and poorly fixed but they did the best they could.

At Manhattan I found a charming town. This section had suffered little from political disturbance and the people had had time to make im-


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provements. Rev. C. E. Blood had come with the starting of the town in 1854. His first sermon was from the text "These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also." He had labored incessantly had organized a church and had now completed a house of worship. The building was small but so well built that it is still used as a part of their enlarged house. It was to the dedication of this church that I had come. There had been but one dedication among our churches before so this was an occasion of great interest. The hymn of dedication was written by Mrs. Blood the pastor's wife. They lived on a farm adjoining the town and Mrs. Blood took charge of the dairy. She said " I wrote the hymn while I was churning the butter holding my pen in one hand and the churn dasher in the other."

But if our early gatherings cost us more time and toil they more than rewarded us by their closer fellowship. There were not many of us and we all knew each other. We did not often meet but we kept ourselves in close touch. We were interested in the whole field and watched the progress of all the churches. When we came together it was


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like an annual family reunion. We were not so numerous but we could visit back and forth and inform ourselves of each other's affairs. An absent member was missed and inquired after and every new recruit was given a special welcome. A new church was received with as much ardor as a new baby awakens among the brothers and sisters of the household. We took time to freshen old friendship and make a new friend of every newcomer. We never allowed a new brother to leave the meeting till we had taken him by the hand and bidden him welcome and Godspeed. This close fellowship was due largely to our limited numbers. with a membership of thirty or forty an intimacy is possible which is out of the question with several times that number.

Another feature of our early meetings was the prominence of laymen in them; or perhaps it would be nearer the truth to say that a marked feature in our meetings was the number of prominent laymen who interested themselves in them. I doubt if any association in the West has had more honored names on its roll. look back several unique figures rise before us men who would have honored any body religious


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or secular. Some of these still remain with us some have gone to various fields while others still have passed over to the home beyond. I cannot speak of all who deserve a mention but will only name a few of those who have gone from us.

The most unique figure among these was Charles B. Lines or Father Lines as we loved to call him. He was almost always at the meetings and at the time of his death had attended more sessions of the association than any other person. one of the original members of the association in 1857 and for thirty-two years he only missed one meeting and that by failing to make rail-way connections. So constantly was he present that we were more sure of meeting him than any minister or member. He was not only present but always interested in the work of the churches and would discuss with earnestness every question which that work suggested; taking part in all our discussions with ability and relish especially those which related to temperance and reform. He was an old temperance war-horse from "away back" and he had fought the battles of reform in the Connecticut legislature before Kansas came into notice. On these themes he was at his best and he


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entered into their discussion with the momentum of lifelong convictions. Having begun with the Washingtonian movement he had been in the advance ranks in all the stages of the reform. He had few educational advantages in his youth but under the eaves of Yale College he had caught much of its stimulus and was a recog- nized leader in public affairs for years in his own city and state. He came to Kansas as the originator and leader of the "Beecher Sharpe's Rifle Company" and was prominent in Kansas affairs all through his life. He was a man of boundless resources and tremendous force and his convictions were like " the everlasting mountains that stand fast forever." In debate he was ever on the alert and spoke with a force and earnestness that were irresistible. He was like a fresh breeze from the ocean always from the same quarter and always strong. It was a high wind and was liable to wreck any craft which lay in his way. In his Christian sympathy he was very tender and his personal relig- ious experience was very rich. When he entered the realm of Christian experience his manner changed and everything betokened the gentle and loving disciple. He used to take


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great delight in going into neighborhoods where preaching was rare and holding forth the word of life from the standpoint of a layman and a business man. He sometimes did more formal work in this line and supplied pulpits with acceptance. It seemed as if one of the great landmarks had gone when he passed out from among us.

Another unique figure in all our meetings was Judge Jesse Cooper of Wyandotte. He too was always present unless hindered by some necessity. It made no difference whether the church appointed him a delegate or not he always came. He and Father Lines were essentially life members and at one time it was proposed to create life membership in the association in order to cover their case. They were component parts of the body and it would seem as if something had dropped out if either of them were absent. They were alike in some respects and very different in others. They were equally positive and uncompromising in their convictions but Father Lines was radical while Father Cooper was conservative. Father Cooper was very decided in his defense of regularity and order in all ecclesiastical proceedings and in all church


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business and work. Like the old English sexton "He loved established ways of serving God." He could not tolerate anything like looseness and all newfangled notions were an abomination to him. He used to say; "It is the _stated ministry_ of the word which God blesses" laying special emphasis on the word "stated." He was the firm advocate of the strictest Puritan simplicity. If you wanted to stir up the lion in him it was only necessary to suggest some change from what he called " The pattern shown us in the mount." He was always on the alert as Father Lines was and ready to join in any debate with vigor and effect. While thus positive however he was always kindly and when outvoted he could acquiesce with grace without at all yielding his convictions. He kept up his interest to the last being present at the meeting in 1872 only a short time before his death. He was a native of Vermont and practiced law in his native state until he came to Kansas at the beginning of her history. In a sketch of his life one of his law associates said of him: "He was a good lawyer and an enterprising citizen a faithful friend a firm foe of whomever or whatever he deemed wrong. His


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convictions were very strong and when he had prejudices they partook of all the rugged intense earnestness of the man. He was fearlessly independent of the judgment of men but humble before God and charitable toward all. He was a strong man on whom his pastor leaned and a true Christian with a humble sense of his own imperfections."

Such a man was Judge Cooper in his business and private life and in his intercourse with his brethren. He was a man by himself with a marked individuality and strong elements of character. His like we shall not soon see again.

Another marked character entirely different from either of these but no less original was Dudley C. Haskell. He was not so often with us but his influence was strongly felt. In 1874 he was moderator and preached the opening sermon at the next annual session giving a layman's view of the work. He had been speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives and was soon after elected to Congress. Clear and intense in his thinking he was strong in his convictions and eloquent in his utterance. He had a voice of wondrous power and compass which could wake the echoes or soothe an


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infant's slumbers. He had a magnificent presence and would be singled out from a thousand as a man of mark. When aroused he was a moving tornado making the earth to rock and the trees to bend. Yet he never lost himself in the storm of his own excitement. The storm might rage but he made it do his bidding. The winds might blow but he always rode on the wings of the storm and when the time came he could say " Peace be still" and there would be a calm. In Congress he was always master of the situation and was rapidly coming to the front as a leader in his party and in the body. A great element of his power was his marvelous voice which always commanded a hearing. At one. time his colleague Colonel William Phillips was trying to get the attention of the House to a matter of importance. He was a very able man but had a feeble voice which was lost in the babel of confused talk. Haskell endured this treatment of his colleague as long as his righteous soul could contain itself. Then he sprang to his feet and in a voice that shook the very walls he cried: "I demand that my colleague be heard." After that there was silence in that hall " by the space of half an hour." He was


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richly and variously endowed and in ten years from entering Congress he was next to the leading man in the party on the floor of the house. Whether he spoke from hustings or in the halls of Congress or in the prayer-meeting room of his home church he could always voice the situation and say just the thing that ought to be said. If some of his spontaneous talks in his home prayer-meeting could have been preserved they would take their place among the gems of English speech. He rose so rapidly and so entirely on merit that one cannot guess what he might have come to if he had lived his threescore years and ten instead of two score years and two. We may easily think of him as the peer of any man in public life while surpassing many in the purity of his motives and the elevation of his purpose. It was a bitter disappointment as well as grief to his friends and a great loss to the state and nation when such a man was cut down in the midst of his career at the age of forty-two.

Time would fail me to speak of all the distinguished men who have honored our meetings with their presence and enriched them by their voice and interest. All will remember Honorable


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M. S. Adams the peerless moderator who was always selected for that office whenever he was present. He was chosen moderator at three separate sessions within five years and was a model presiding officer. He had been speaker of the Kansas House of Representatives and one of the best that body ever had. Thoroughly informed on all parliamentary matters he was quick to catch a point and lucid in stating it. He was never confused and the House was never confused under his ruling. At the same time he was the very soul of urbanity and grace.

Honorable David J. Brewer of Leavenworth late one of the Judges of the United States Supreme Court was several times a member of the Association. He was moderator at one of our sessions and preached the opening sermon at the next. He was a poet as well as a jurist and was equally at home in literature or law. He was a living example of the possibility of uniting power with gentleness of manner and softness of tone.

I might speak of many others if there were space. There were the two Thachers - Solon O. and T. Dwight both men of rare gifts and eloquent speech; there was John G. Haskell


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brother of the Congressman who has been a power with us during all these years. Then there were Hannahs and Ritchey Rice and Farnsworth of Topeka; Hunter and Watson and Chester and many others. This is enough to show the kind of men who helped to make the Association the power it was. They were men who have made their mark on the state as well as on our churches and have been honored in public life as well as in Christian circles. They were men of native powers as well as Christian consecration men who would shine in whatever company they might enter. They are the men who have made our churches what they are and who have made our State what it is.

There was another prominent feature of all these earlier gatherings. We believed in them. We magnified our office and believed that our meetings meant business and that our action was important. We may have exaggerated our importance but we were never guilty of belittling it. Newcomers smiled at our assurance but they soon caught the infection. It was a pleasant condition whether the facts warranted it or not. Some of our resolutions seem a bit wild as we read them now but we never stopped


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to think who we were, the youngest and smallest of the Associations. If we wanted to say thing we said it. We were not afraid of that which was high. We did not hesitate to speak our mind in regard to anything which we thought called for our opinion. The audacity with which we discussed the affairs of the great societies was refreshing but it is a satisfaction to know that our ideas were in the line of coming events. We were nearly all young men. This was our first effort. We had not learned how tough this tough old world is. We expected to see things yield to our blows and we struck as if we expected to produce effects. We passed radical and vigorous resolutions on almost everything that pertained to church life and missionary work. There were resolutions on dancing and theatergoing; on Sabbath-breaking intemperance and tobacco; we arranged for calling conventions on Sabbath observance and on temperance; we resolved that the Boston Tract Society was the only one worthy of our patronage; we asked the American Bible Society to appoint an agent to look after Bible destitution we asked the American Home Missionary Society to appoint general missionaries to look after destitute


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fields and a superintendent to oversee the work; we instructed the Church Building Society as to how they should distribute their funds; and we appointed a committee to aid in securing parsonages. But that which most engaged our attention was the matter of founding a college. It was decided to "found" a college at Topeka in response to a liberal proposition from the citizens of that place. That we had not a dollar in sight toward developing such an institution did not disturb our plans in the least nor at all dampen our enthusiasm. We adopted a basis of organization which had all the fullness of a legal charter providing for all emergencies and guarding against all contingencies. The instrument constituted a board of trustees and defined their duties. It directed them how to invest their money not yet secured and how to dispose of property not yet possessed. The board was to consist of fifteen members of whom the president of the college was to be ex-officio chairman. They were to secure first-class men for the president and faculty and pay them good living salaries. At no time since has there been so unquestioning a faith in the success of the institution. There was a feeling that the college was as


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sure to come as the years were to revolve. It may not be easy to understand how much this sublime faith had to do with the reality we now see in Washburn College. But many of us cannot help feeling that if it had not been for the faith of those early years these later years would not have seen the reality they now behold. What was airy vision then is stone and mortar now.

A great deal of sport has been made of the high-sounding resolutions passed by some of these early assemblies. But those resolutions were more than an exercise in English composition. They were the shadows of coming events the prophecy of what faith already saw. The brethren of that day believed that a resolution with a resolve back of it had power in it and had the promise of fulfillment in it. It needs money to build churches and colleges we are told. But money follows thought and comes in response to faith. A resolve baptized in prayer is one of the powers that move the world. Ideas are stronger than stone walls. Stone walls rise and crumble at the bidding of ideas. Ideas that take hold on God and touch human souls take hold also on the forces of the world. The breth-


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ren of that early day came here for a purpose to the possession of Kansas for Christ and freedom. They came to help build a state after "the pattern shown them in the mount." There were therefore an enthusiasm and a glow in all they did which was contagious and effective.