Church origins

Posted 1/23/23

Plans to create a Presbyterian Church in the village of Kansas started in November 1858, the same year the village was incorporated.

C.A. Hite, a local historian of the Kansas area in the 1920s, …

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Church origins


Plans to create a Presbyterian Church in the village of Kansas started in November 1858, the same year the village was incorporated.

C.A. Hite, a local historian of the Kansas area in the 1920s, wrote the Palestine Presbytery approved organizing an Old School Presbyterian Church in Kansas. A committee designated by the Presbytery met to form this new church met at the Methodist Church Nov. 6, 1858. The Methodist Church was the only church in the village at the time.

After a sermon by the Rev. Henry Venable, the committee partially organized and adjourned to meet the next day. The Sunday organizational meeting followed another sermon by John A. Steele, who contemporaries regarded as a dynamic speaker.

An interesting side story is how Steele acquired the nickname of the Tramp Preacher. On one occasion, he went to Chicago on cattle business which required an overnight stay in the Windy City. Somebody who knew him asked him to preach Sunday for another Presbyterian preacher who was ill.

Steele brought only his working clothes for the trip and had not packed a suit and tie. He went to the morning service in his well-worn clothes that were brushed as clean as possible.

From the pulpit, he noticed some congregants in silk dresses and broadcloth coats quickly left the church. That seemed to fire him up, and he delivered a surprisingly good sermon which, according to the story, reached the hearts of those who attended. Steele was asked to preach again for the evening service. This time the church was jam-packed because the word had gotten around about the Tramp Preacher and his speaking ability, again amazing the audience.

The next morning the church elders offered to provide Steele with a handsome suit of clothes. He politely turned them down and explained why he was so plainly dressed. The committee members understood and perhaps laughed a little.

As Steele rode his horse south, he reflected on his experience in Chicago’s most aristocratic pulpit and was pleased with the result. It was not surprising Steele had such good effect on this new church membership in Kansas. 

The Presbyterian congregation arranged to meet at the Kansas Methodist Church building for the next four years, until it was possible to build a new church.

Seventeen charter members joined the church on its organization day of Nov. 7, 1858. They were: George Brown, Hannah Brown, S. C. Hogue, Martha Hogue, James Hogue, Samuel Hartzell, Sarah Hartzell, Mr. and Mrs. Cyrus Goodale, Henry Shafer, Mrs. M. Shafer, Daniel Shafer, Lois Shafer, Henry Bull, Mrs. Mary Shy, Miss Mary Shy and Margaret Barnett.

The next big step came March 18, 1862, when a building committee consisting of Dr. J. M. Steele, John Allison, George Brown, Thomas Paxton and Dr. George Ringland was authorized to find a site for the church. Two weeks later a site was selected and $2,000 subscribed from the church members. Within a week, a contractor was hired with stipulations the construction was not to exceed $2,800, and the new church was to be done by Dec. 1, 1862, however, it did not finish until April 1863.

Fourteen pastors served the church from its inception in 1858 until 1906. Hite wrote, “the church passed through the stormiest period of existence — but, storms pass, as does everything else on this mundane sphere.”

W. C. Snider was pastor when a new church was planned and built during the summer and fall of 1909, and the dedication service was Nov. 28, 1909.

The Rev. Willis Craig from McCormick Seminary of Chicago presented the message for the dedication services, and an offering of $3,200 was sought to complete the church. Another $8,600 was pledged during the service.

According to the old records, the total cost of the building was approximately $18,000.

A pipe organ was installed at a cost of $2,200 during the pastorate of Ross McCown and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie provided $1,000 of the cost. A celebration of the installation was Aug. 23, 1924, and included an organ concert, a message from the pastor and a special vocal number by the choir.

Mrs. Jess Hite McAdams was the main supporter for the organ and had accumulated funds for several years to purchase an organ. The church’s music department was at its zenith during that period. For many years, the church was noted for its good Sunday school program.

In the mid-1940s, the Presbyterian Church of Kansas joined the More Abundant life campaign when the Rev. Harry E. Bicksler was minister. This created a new interest in the church, and it led to an abundance of spiritual growth, both financially and numerically.

The church’s centennial was celebrated Nov. 9, 1958, with two services. The main speaker for the occasion was the Rev. Joseph Laughlin, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Urbana.

John Morris is the current pastor of the church, and Katherine Fell is the pianist. The congregation meets for services the second and fourth Sunday of the month.

The abbreviated meeting schedule, plus illness in the congregation, delayed the traditional Christmas service to Jan. 15. Morris told the biblical Christmas story, and the congregation sang appropriate Christmas Carols to herald the event.

After each service, a meal is served creating a time of fellowship where the people enjoy being together. Despite the small gathering of 15 to 20 people every other Sunday, members are dedicated to the Bible verse of, “Whenever two or three meet together in my name, I will be there also,” to keep the true Christian spirit alive.

Katherine Fell provided information about the church and the writings of C. A. Hite and Doris Pinnell Rhodes were additional sources.