William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas


[TOC] [part 14] [part 12] [Cutler's History]


The First Methodist Episcopal Church.--On the 21st of March, 1855, a small number of men and women met and formed themselves into this church organization. Rev. A. Still was the presiding elder, Rev. James S. Griffing the Pastor, and J. Case, class leader; H. H. Wentworth, Sunday-school superintendent. The first quarterly meeting was held at the house of Osborne Naylor. In 1856, G. W. Pipher was Pastor, and through his efforts, and those of some of the members, the Town Company donated to the church the lots on the west side of Quincy street, between Fifth and Sixth, for church purposes. In 1857 and 1858 J. V. Holliday was Pastor;in 1859 and 1860 Ira Blackford. In 1860 the church building was commenced, and work was sufficiently advanced so that the basement was occupied as a place of worship during the year.

In 1861, and in 1862, John Paulson was the Pastor; and in 1863, and 1864, Thomas A. Parker; in 1865, 1866, and in 1867, John D. Knox. In 1867, the church building was generally improved; the steeple finished and the clock put in. In 1868, 1869, 1870, T. J. Leak was the Pastor. In 1870, the church building was enlarged. In 1871 and in 1872, D. P. Mitchell was the Pastor. In 1873, 1874, and until August, 1875, J. J. Thompson was the Pastor; but, at that time, owing to the transfer of the presiding elder--Rev. J. Boynton--to the Michigan Conference, Rev. J. J. Thompson was appointed presiding elder of the conference, and Rev. D. J. Holmes became the Pastor, remaining as such through the years of 1876 and 1877.

In 1873, the long remaining debts on the church were paid; in 1877, the church building was beautified and stained glass put in the doors. In 1878, 1879, and until near the close of 1880, Rev. James E. Gilbert was the Pastor. A parsonage was purchased in 1878 for $2,500, and suitably furnished. The church membership at that time was 353; probationers, 109; Sunday-school scholars, 500. In 1879, the parsonage was sold and a new one purchased at the cost of $7,000, on the southwest corner of Sixth and Harrison streets. In October, 1880, O. J. Cowles was appointed Pastor, and he remains as such.

In 1881, the new church edifice on the the southwest corner of Harrison and Sixth streets was erected, at a cost of $30,000. The building is 116x70, exclusive of steps and areas, with the extension of the south end, westward, 33x40 feet. The auditorium is 68x57, with gallery around three sides. It is forty-nine feet from floor to ceiling. The main walls are sixty-two feet from the ground to the peak of the gable. The roof is open timber work handsomely decorated. The style of the exterior is English gothic, built of stone. The building is heated throughout with steam. There are two towers, the taller one at the corner of Sixth and Harrison street, 124 feet high, containing the bell and clock. The partitions between the auditorium and Sunday-school room are so constructed as to be opened, and thus the two rooms are thrown into one when desired. The seating capacity of the building, when all the departments are thrown open, is about 1300. The building was dedicated by Bishop Hurst, June 11, 1882.

The First Congregational Church.--The history of this organization is one of the most interesting of any in the city of Topeka or the county of Shawnee. This history has been so well delineated by President Peter McVicar, of Washburn College, in his memorial discourse of April 25, 1880, that the following gleanings are gathered therefrom.

The first sermon ever preached at Topeka was on December 29, 1854, by Rev. Samuel Y. Lum, then pastor of the Plymouth Congregational Church at Lawrence, at the house of Mr. A. A. Ward, near the bank of the Kansas River.

October 14, 1855, nine persons met in a small cabin constructed of boards and oak bark, the home of Mr. James Cowles, to consult in reference to the formation of an Anti-slavery Congregational Church. Their names were, Rev. Paul Shepherd, John Ritchie, William E. Bowker, Milton C. Dickey, A. H. Barnard, William Scales, H. H. Cowles, James Cowles, and Charles A. Sexton. Mr. Shepherd was elected chairman, and James Cowles secretary. A committee was appointed to draft articles of faith and covenant, and report on the following Sabbath. A subscription was started to procure funds wherewith to erect a house of worship, and it aggregated $330 from those present. July 14, 1856, a meeting was held at Constitution Hall, "to completely organize our body by the election of deacons, trustees and clerk." James Cowles and H. W. Farnsworth were chosen deacons; John Ritchie, Milton C. Dickey and H. P. Waters, trustees; Martin Luther Gaylord, clerk. Application having been made by the trustees to the Topeka Town Association for a grant of suitable lots as a site for a house of worship, a donation was made of six lots 25x150 each, on the southwest corner of Seventh and Harrison streets, four of which constitute the present location.

The first pastor of this church, Rev. Lewis Bodwell, of Clifton, N.Y., who had come to Topeka with a commission from the Home Missionary Society, said in a report made to the society: "There was but little to cheer a minister of the Gospel." One of the nine members had gone East, another was in Ohio, a third was just recovering from severe illness, a fourth was a territorial prisoner at Lecompton.

The clerk entered a minute upon the church records as follows: "We are perplexed and somewhat cast down in view of the state of the society, resulting from the outrages perpetrated upon the people of our Territory--outrages unparalleled in the history of our Nation."

Notwithstanding the discouragements of the Pro-slavery times, pastor and people went to work, and on December 9, 1856, although the membership of the church was but sixteen, it was voted to build a house of worship, and subscriptions to the amount of $700 were secured, which, augmented by donations from friends in the East, and pledges of citizens, warranted the laying of a church foundation 42x70, early in the autumn of 1867. A year later the walls were ready for the roof, but owing to the lateness of the season and the lack of means, the roofing was postponed till spring. June 19, 1859, a sweeping storm struck the unprotected walls, and the greater portion of the rear and side walls were demolished. In the autumn came a pledge of $300 from the American Congregational Union, and efforts at rebuilding commenced in the spring of 1860; but in the latter part of May another violent gale laid the south wall in ruins. A third time the building of the ediface was commenced, after the removal of the debris, and before 1861 the building was enclosed, and on January 1, 1861, the first sermon was preached in the sanctuary. Constitution Hall, Old Union Hall, Museum Hall and the Brick Schoolhouse had been the worshiping places of the congregation through these years.

January 3, 1864, the house was dedicated; Mr. Bodwell preached the dedicatory sermon. The building cost $7,000. In October, 1860, Rev. Mr. McVicar was called to the pastorate, and he remained in the work until July, 1866, when he was succeeded by Rev. Mr. Bodwell, whose second term of service extended into the summer of 1869. Then Rev. J. G. Merrill became Pastor, remaining for one year. Mr. Merrill was succeeded in September, 1870, by Rev. Linus Blakesley, the present Pastor; Mr. Merrill having entered upon the general superintendency of Home Missions for Kansas.

During Mr. Blakesley's pastorate there has been an increase in membership of over 400. The necessity arising for a larger structure, on May 18, 1880, the contracts for the present edifice were let, and work on the same soon after began. The building has cost $21,000, and is entirely free from debt. It was dedicated January 2, 1881; Rev. Richard Cordley, D.D. of Emporia, preached the dedicatory sermon. The former church building was occupied by the first State Legislature in the spring of 1861, and therein was born the motto of Kansas "Ad astra per Aspera." The present edifice is a model in its convenience of arrangement. The form of the main auditorium is amphitheatral, the slips being curved and the sides descending and centering towards the platform. The spacious lecture room adjoins the auditorium, which, by lowering the large stained glass windows between, can be used to increase the seating capacity of the church. In the rear of the pulpit is a beautiful pipe organ, built by Hook, Hastings & Co., of Boston, Mass., and secured for the church through the "Monday Club," an organization of the young people of the church and the congregation, which has provided lectures and concerts from distinguished persons, for the benefit and gratification of the citizens of Topeka.

The First Baptist Church of Topeka was organized March 1, 1857. Its constituent members were Jesse Stone, Joseph C. Miller, Sarah E. Miller, Christopher Fitzgerald, Charles A. Bliss and William Jordan. The organization was effected in the basement of the house of J. C. Miller, on Sixth avenue, Revs. James Gilpatrick and Edward Seagraves being present. Rev. R. M. Fish, of Auburn, preached for them a part of the time thereafter, until C. C. Hutchinson became pastor of the church, June 18, 1859. He remained with them, being partly supported by the Baptist Missionary Board, until 1861. In 1862 they completed a small hall over Mr. Miller's store, which they occupied until January, 1879, when they entered their new house of worship on Ninth street, opposite the State House.

The church consisted of about twenty-five members, when Mr. Hutchinson was compelled to abandon the field, because of the pecuniary inability of the church. Rev. E. Alward received an appointment March 30, 1862, from the Mission Board, dividing his time between this church and the one in Burlingame, until 1865, when his whole labor was devoted to this church. He remained until the first of June, 1866, forty-seven persons having been added to the church during his pastorate. October 21, 1866, Rev. Isaac Sawyer, D. D., accepted a call to the pastorate. He remained until June, 1868. Rev. H. B. Fitch became the pastor, August 1, 1869, and remained one year. The foundation of the church edifice was laid under the administration of Dr. Sawyer, and was so far completed that the congregation occupied the basement. Rev. E. O. Taylor, of Chicago, took charge of the church April 12, 1871, and remained two years and ten months. Rev. J. L. Moore, D. D., of Piqua, Ohio, supplied the pulpit a portion of this time. Mr. Taylor's labors closed the first of February, 1874, and on July 6, 1874, Rev. C. Monjeau accepted the pastorate. For more than five years he remained pastor, during which period all the church debts were paid, the edifice was artistically completed, and the grounds graded and ornamented. Mr. Monjeau's labors terminated here early in 1880, and in February, 1881, Rev. C. C. Foote, from Philadelphia, came to this field of labor, and is the present pastor. The membership of the church is now about 175. The average attendence at Sunday-school is about 120.

H. M. Billingsley, the long-standing Sunday-school superintendent, in 1882, was succeeded by Samuel Dalton.

Grace Episcopal Cathedral.--In 1857, Rev. Charles Callaway began this mission. In 1860, the parish was organized with about twelve communicants. In 1864, Rev. N. O. Preston then having charge of the church, the edifice located on the southwest corner of Seventh and Jackson streets was so far completed as to be open for divine service. From June, 1865, to June 1869, Rev. J. N. Lee was Rector, when he resigned, and the Rev. Charles Stewart succeeded him, remaining as Rector until March, 1871. For seven months thereafter, Rev. D. O. Kellogg, of Lawrence, officiated as Rector. In the autumn of 1871, Rev. John Lukewell ministered to the church until June, 1875, when he resigned on account of ill health. When he left, the church edifice had been so extensively remodeled, enlarged and improved, as to constitute it virtually a new building. In January, 1876, Rev. Henry H. Loring was called to the Rectorship, and in October, 1879, Rev. J. F. Walker became Rector, but his labors did not long continue, for death claimed him as her own. The present Rector and Dean, Rev. Richard Ellerby, entered upon his labors August 1, 1880.

First Presbyterian Church.--On December 19, 1859, Rev. A. T. Rankin, of the Highland Presbytery, organized this church at the house of Mr. John Jackson, the members consisting of eight males and nine females. The ruling elders chosen were J. M. Hamilton and Ephraim Herriett.

A session was held February 15, 1860, for securing right of corporation, and the following named persons were recorded as members:

Mr. J. M. Hamilton, Mrs. M. A. Hamilton, H. H. Hukill, Mrs. M. V. Hukill, Charles McDonald, Mrs. M. J. McDonald, Ephraim Herriett, E. B. Conklin, Mrs. H. Conklin, W. H. Fitzpatrick, Mrs. Fitzpatrick, Andrew J. Ritchie, John Plily, Mrs. Plily, John Jackson, Mrs. R. W. Jackson, Mrs. Freeland, Mrs. Deming, and Mrs. W. P. Douthitt. John A. Steele was Pastor; John Jackson, J. M. Hamilton, A. J. Ritchie and H. H. Hukill, trustees; E. R. Conklin, clerk.

The first house of worship was situated on the east side of Kansas avenue, between Seventh and Eighth streets.

Rev. Mr. Steele was a native of Greenbrier, Va.; he graduated at Athens, Ohio; took a theological course at Union Theological Seminary, of Virginia; was ordained and installed as pastor of the church at Stanton, Va., by the Presbytery of Lexington, Va. He removed with a colony to Grandview, Ill., where he built up a successful work in the ministry.

Consequent upon the drouth of 1860, there were removals from the place. The pastor was absent East, obtaining assistance for the people of Kansas, and the residence of some of the early members was lost. There were scarcely any records for 1861.

The first certificate of transfer of membership was that of Mrs. Sylvia Blake, from the North Church of St. Louis to that of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and was here recorded December 23, 1861.

Rev. Mr. Steele died October 12, 1864, aged sixty-two years.

From this time to November, 1865, the church was without regular services; then Rev. S. T. McLure, a licentiate from Vincenens, Ind., commenced labors with the church and remained four months. April 5, 1866, there was a regular call given Rev. John Ekin, D. D., of the Presbytery of Miami, Ohio, and he was installed as pastor November 7, 1866. There were then about thirty-seven members.

The new chapel situated on the south side of Eighth street, east of the corner of Kansas avenue, was opened for service October 5, 1867. It was a very fortunate selection for a site, and the wisdom of its founders has been attested. November 28, 1868, Rev. Alexander Sterrett, D. D., of the Presbytery of Indiana, came upon the field, and Rev. Francis S. McCabe, of Franklin, Ind., who had commenced his ministerial labors, September 28, 1868, was, through Mr. Sterrett's action, placed in full pastoral relations to the church, and from January 1, 1869, to April 16, 1882, he has steadily labored for the prosperity of this society, and through his ministry the communicants have increased tenfold, the number now exceeding 300. The church edifice and grounds are beautifully located, and their value is $15,000.

R. B. Gemmell is the Sunday-school superintendent; he has served for many years, and there is a membership of about 300. Rev. H. W. George succeeded Dr. McCabe in 1882.

Rev. Dr. McCabe has gathered and organized several churches in Shawnee County.

(1). Bethel Church, seven miles southeast of Topeka, organized May 28, 1871.
(2). Pleasant Ridge Church, nine miles northwest of Topeka organized July 16, 1876; Silverlake and Kingsville churches are its adjuncts.
(3). Wakarusa Church, twelve miles south of Topeka, organized December 5, 1877.
(4). North Topeka Church, organized September 15, 1878
(5). Mission Center Church, six miles west of Topeka, organized January 16, 1881.

All of these churches, except Wakarusa, received their original membership largely from the Topeka Church. These churches have good houses of worship which are free from debt, except Mission Center Church, which has obtained its grounds for the church building and parsonage and will build ere long. The aggregate value of this outlying church property is $10,000.

Church of the Assumption (Catholic).--This congregation, one of the oldest church organizations in the city, was organized prior to 1862, by Rev. James H. Defouri. The first church edifice, the oldest in the city, was completed in August, 1862.

This building, located near the corner of Eighth avenue and Jackson street, is now occupied as a parochial school, under the auspices of the Sisters of Charity. The school, which has an attendance of two hundred and forty pupils, employs six teachers.

In 1881, the foundations for a new and more commodious edifice were laid. The building, which is a handsome brick structure, 56x115 feet, was completed in the winter of 1882-83, at a cost of $20,000.

Assumption Cemetery, which was established in 1873, occupies a tract of five acres, lying four miles southwest of the city.

A flourishing Sabbath school of two hundred pupils is connected with the church, which numbers seventeen hundred communicants under the pastorate of Rev. James Riley.

Congregational Church, North Topeka.--In May, 1866, Rev. Rodney Paine commenced his labors as a missionary in North Topeka, and in July, 1869, this church was organized under Mr. Paine's pastorate, with a membership of eleven: Rev. Rodney Paine, Martha Paine, C. R. Paine, J. L. Paine, Deacon Elisha Ward and wife, Mr. and Mrs. George Ward, Catharine Garamier, Elizabeth Van Order and Martha M. Finn. Rev. Mr. Paine continued his labors until the autumn of 1870, when he resigned his charge in consequence of ill health. Rev. John H. Barrows succeeded Mr. Paine, as a stated supply for three months, and he was succeeded by Rev. Walter M. Barrows who preached as a stated supply for nine months. In September, 1871, Rev. T. W. Jones was called to the pastorate, his labors having commenced the Sabbath following the dedication of the present church edifice, which had been begun and finished during the ministry of Rev. Walter M. Barrows.

The first house of worship was a log building, then standing upon the southwest corner of Kansas avenue and Laurent street.

The present edifice is located upon the northeast corner of Laurent and Jackson streets.

It was dedicated August 13, 1871; the dedicatory sermon was preached by Rev. William Kincaid, of Leavenworth. The organization then numbered twenty-four.

The edifice, including the ground and bell, which is an 800 pounds Meneely, the gift of E. W. Baker to the church, cost something in excess of $4,000; the bell with its fixtures and setting cost $655.

Rev. H. C. Scotford succeeded Mr. Jones in June, 1876, and in September, 1877, he was succeeded by its present pastor, Rev. Samuel P. Dunlap. The church is entirely free from debt, and its prospects for an enduring growth and influence are very encouraging. Its present membership is about seventy-five. Its Sunday school averages about seventy.

Spiritualists.--The First Society of Spiritualists in the city was organized in the spring of 1867, obtaining the services of occasional speakers. In the autumn of 1868 they secured Mrs. H. T. Thomas, a distinguished inspirationalist, and they held meetings Sundays morning and evening, at Odd Fellows Hall, No. 152 Kansas avenue. In September, 1868, the society was incorporated, and through the kind munificence of its President, Dr. F. L. Crane, it became the owner of a good house and lot, which was used as a parsonage. In 1872, Mrs. Thomas passed to the higher life, and the society employed as lecturer, Rev. T. B. Taylor, A. M., M. D., who, for many years had been a leading and successful clergyman in the Methodist Episcopal Church.

It is several years since there have been stated and regular public services of this society, but weekly meetings are held each Sunday evening at the residence of Mrs. E. Greer, northeast corner Sixth and Topeka avenues.

[TOC] [part 14] [part 12] [Cutler's History]