A HISTORY OF THE DISCIPLES OF CHRIST AND FIRST
IN ATCHISON, KANSAS 1869-1954
By G. Harold Roberts Updated to 1982
This booklet is made possible by sponsorship of the Christian Women’s Fellowship and great appreciation is extended to this organization.
DECEMBER 1869: FIRST MEETING TO ESTABLISH DISCIPLES OF CHRIST CHURCH
Toward the close of the year of 1869 there were persons living in Atchison who were eager to establish a church of Disciples of Christ persuasion. In December 1869, at a meeting of Atchison residents who desired to organize a Christian Church a decision was unanimously made “to employ Elder Wm. Rodgers one half of his time for the term of one year, the members pledging themselves to the payment of $600.00 for that purpose.”
The beginnings of our religious movement in Atchison were carefully recorded by Joshua J. Locker, a native of Sheffield, England, who was a register of deeds residing in 1870 in a house on the northeast corner of Sixth and Atchison Streets. Mr. Locker was later probate judge of Atchison County. He set down minutes of early meetings, both of the church and the church school, and his choice of words was discriminate, and his penmanship was beautiful. Fortunately, his valuable account of early Christian Church history in Atchison have been preserved.
On December 26, 1869, at a meeting presided over by the Reverend Rodgers, James F. Butcher and John M. Holmes were appointed to serve the new congregation in the capacity of elders and Thomas B. McCleery, J. L. Berry, J. A. Ham, and J. J. Locker were appointed to serve as deacons.
JANUARY 1870: REVEREND W. C. RODGERS PREACHES
In The Atchison Champion for January 21, 1870, it is announced that “Reverend W. C. Rodgers will preach in the Hall of the Christian Church, in Price’s building this evening (Friday) at 7 o’clock. Also Saturday evening and Sunday at 11 A.M. and 7 P.M.” Price’s Hall was located on the northeast corner of Fourth and Main Streets. Its owner was John Moses Price, father of John M. Price, Jr.
MARCH 1870: BUY OR BUILD?
As early as March 1870, the congregation was trying to determine whether to buy a building or to erect a new building to meet the purpose of worship. A committee was appointed to consider “the propriety of purchasing the M. E. Church building in Atchison.” Our Methodist brethren were then preparing to build a larger building on a different site. No action was taken authorizing the purchase and the next information concerning building aspirations is the notice that Sister Ellen Patton returned to Atchison “the 3rd Lord’s Day, August 1870, from her eastward trip where she had been endeavoring to raise funds for the purpose of building a church in Atchison. She reported times hard (financially) in most places.” However, she had made some collections, the amount collected resulting in “a balance of a few dollars in favor of the church.” On motion is was “Resolved, that the Church of Christ at Atchison tender their thanks to Sister Ellen Patton for efforts in raising and trying to raise funds to build a Church in this place.”
MARCH 1871: REVEREND GASTON BEGINS
The Reverend Gaston began a labor that gave much promise. There was optimism in the town, too. THE CHAMPION for March 19, 1871 had stated: “J. J. Locker, esq., Register of Deeds, informs us that sales of Atchison lots have never been so brisk before as at the present time. Purchases are chiefly made for building purposes.” It is recorded that the members of the congregation were “very earnest in their supplications to the Great giver of all good and perfect gifts for more spiritual strength and strong importunities for the increase of the Church of Christ especially in Atchison.”
APRIL 1871: JAMES E. GASTON BECOMES PASTOR
In April 1871, James E. Gaston became pastor of the little congregation and his residence in the 1872 Directory is given as being on “7th between Kansas Avenue and Santa Fe St.” He was to receive a yearly salary of $1,000 and the church guaranteed to pay his moving expenses.
JANUARY 1872: KNOWLES SHAW ASKED TO COME SPEAK
On January 8th, 1872, the officers of the church met with Brother Gaston and “it was unanimously and heartily decided to put forth additional efforts in behalf of the cause of Christ.” A protracted meeting was recommended, and the minister was instructed to write to Knowles Shaw, a famous preacher-evangelist among Disciples of Christ, with the purpose of securing his services as evangelist. Brother Gaston is commended, and the hope is expressed that his services can be retained. (Mr. Shaw’s services could not be obtained).
MARCH 1872: ARTICLES OF INCORPORATION DRAWN UP
March 28, 1872, articles of incorporation were drawn up for the congregation at the office of David Patton, notary public, the corporation to be known as “The Church of Christ of Atchison, Kansas; the members of which are known in history as the Disciples of Christ.” The object of this Society is “the restoration of Primitive Apostolic Christianity in letter and spirit, in principle and in practice; their only rule of faith and practice is the Sacred Writings of the Apostles and Evangelists of Jesus Christ.” Those who signed the articles of incorporation were James E. Gaston, T. B. McCleery, James A. Patton, J. J. Locker, J. A. Ham, C. E. Gaston, Mary A. Tracy, Frank E. Gaston, Ellen Patton, H. M. Beeston, James F. Butcher, C. W. Barker, Simeon Walters, Sidney Walters (grandfather of Mrs. Fred Evans), Emily C. Locker, J Edgar Park, and Ann M. Walters
APRIL 1872: ARTICLES OF INCORPORATION FILED AND PURCHASE OF A LOT
On April 4, 1872, W. H. Smallwood, Secretary of State of Kansas announced that he had affixed the state seal on this original certificate of incorporation, it being filed in his office at Topeka.
On April 11, 1872, a lot had been acquired at the corner of Santa Fe and Seventh Streets, opposite our present edifice. It had been purchased from Ella Bull of Missouri for $600.00 and J. J. Locker, T. B. McCleery and James Patton had represented the church. The Champion for August 24, 1872, in its columns concerning building operations in Atchison, states: “The society known as Christians are erecting a neat stone and brick house of worship on the corner of Santa Fe and Seventh Streets.”
AUGUST 1872: FAILURE OF CHURCH
But the promise of success did not materialize. The chief cause of failure no doubt was a lack of funds and the building program stopped with the laying of a foundation. The Reverend Gaston must have become discouraged for on the third Sunday in August 1872, an order is given to J. L. Locker, clerk, to make out letters of demission for Brother James E. Gaston, Catherine, his wife, and Ella Frances, their daughter. After the minister’s departure the congregation ceased to meet.
APRIL 1873: CHRISTIAN CHURCH MEMBERS BEGIN MEETING AGAIN
But not for long! On Sunday, April 27th, 1873, a number of persons holding Christian Church membership met in the hall of the Aetna Engine Company, located on Sixth Street, and were addressed by William C. Rodgers, a former pastor. At the meeting, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas D. Chiles were admitted as members by letter from the Christian Church at Winchester, Kansas. And Mr. Chiles immediately found himself a job, being appointed a deacon and the church clerk! Brother Rodgers was asked to make other appointments and he selected John M. Holmes and T. B. McCleery to serve as elders and J. A. Ham and Thomas D. Chiles were appointed deacons.
1873, 1874, 1875 and 1876: FALTERING CHURCH AND SECOND FAILURE
The fact is that the years 1873, 1874, and 1875 were difficult years for Atchison’s Disciples of Christ. The issue of The Champion for Saturday, January 3rd, 1874, sheds some light: “For some cause no further attempts have been made during the past year by this society (the Christian Church) to go on with the church building they have commenced on the corner of Seventh and Santa Fe Streets. It was a big work, and we hope it will not be allowed to go to decay. It is true the society is small but let it be the more energetic, and it is worthy of more assistance. They are at present worshipping in the hall of the Aetna Engine house, where every Sunday they have a prosperous Sunday School. They have lately purchased a new organ and are doing all in their power to make their school interesting.” (The Aetna Engine House was on the east side of Sixth Street and situated about where the City Hall is, though nearer to the street).
We know little of the activities of the congregation during 1873 and 1874, though there is an occasional record of meetings. On June 10th, 1874, Mr. Chiles, church clerk, gives the names of members of the church and the total is 60. The church is reported as being in debt to the amount of $151.30. On October 1, 1874, Brother C. C. Bonds agreed to serve the church as pastor for six hundred dollars per year. His service was of briefest duration.
Meetings were probably held intermittently during 1875 but hardly with appreciable success. The Champion for January 8th, 1876, in its report of churches, states: “In 1872 the Society known as the Christian Church completed the basement for a church 35 by 55 feet, on the Corner of Santa Fe and Seventh Streets. Since that time, however, nothing further has been done. The building was to have been of stone. The Society now worships in the Good Templar’s Hall, Glick’s block.” The 1876 Directory says that the Christian Church worships in Glick’s block and that M. S. Johnson is pastor. (The Glick building, a two-story brick, was situated on the south side of Commercial Street between Fifth and Sixth Streets. The Goodrich Company, 508 Commercial, and the Holland Furnace Company, 510 Commercial, now occupy this building).
If Mr. Johnson preached for the church it was on a temporary basis with meetings infrequent. Shortly after 1875, or the early part of 1876, the congregation ceased to meet and a second attempt to establish a Church of Disciples of Christ in Atchison failed.
1881: THIRD ATTEMPT TO ESTABLISH CHRISTIAN CHURCH
“The third time is the charm,” as the old saying goes. In 1881 people of Christian Church persuasion began to meet in the home of Mr. and Mrs. C. F. Saunders, 1107 Santa Fe Street (the house still stands), who had come to Atchison from Chicago. Out of these meetings was to come the inspiration for a third attempt to establish the Christian Church in Atchison and this time there was to be no failure.
Mr. and Mrs. Saunders were energetic and popular, a challenge to the residents of the city who had previously failed to establish a Christian Church locally but had actually never surrendered their hopes of doing so successfully. The Reverend S. T. Dodd of Topeka met with those who assembled at the Saunders’ home. He advised that a temporary organization be set up with a view to affecting a permanent one as soon as possible. Brothers Saunders, Allensworth, and Locker were instructed to procure a meeting place.
JANUARY 1882 – APRIL 1882: CONGREGATION BEGINS MEETING IN PIONEER HALL
By January 15, 1882, the congregation was meeting in Pioneer Hall, located at the northeast corner of Fourth Street and Kansas Avenue, (unfortunately, this quaint and historical building was torn down in 1944). In its column, “The Church Chimes,” The Atchison Daily Champion announces that Dr. Dodd of Topeka (he was state secretary of Christian Churches) will officiate at both morning and evening services. On January 22nd Elder J. R. Spencer (Mr. Spencer’s first initial was really I) of Topeka is announced as speaker. On January 29th Elder J. C. Shepherd of Topeka preached. On February 5th the preacher was Elder W. D. Starr and on February 12th M. S. Wells preached. On February 19th Elder Spencer preached at morning and evening services on the subjects, “Paradise,” and “Conditions of Salvation.”
On Feb. 26th, March 5th, March 12th, March 19th, March 26th, and April 2nd, Elder Spencer preached. This preaching ministry of seven consecutive Sundays by Rev. Spencer has caused some to view him as the first pastor of this church; such, however, is not the case since both Elder Spencer and the congregation understood that he was but helping a temporary organization to stabilize itself. In January 1882, Brother Saunders had been directed to correspond with preachers who might be interested in the pastorate and in March he had reported to the Advisory Board that he was in communication with the following clergymen: David Wetzel, M. P. Hayden, E. S. Bowers, and C. Monroe.
APRIL 1882: FIRST PASTOR CALLED
The Reverend Morgan P. Hayden of Columbiana, Ohio, was called to the pastorate. He accepted the call and began his work as pastor April 7, 1882. The Board of The General Christian Missionary Convention pledged to pay $100.00 of the amount of Mr. Hayden’s salary, an example of the support of local churches by our Brotherhood.
Once in the field, Pastor Hayden’s choice of sermon subjects reveals that he knew what kind of spiritual instruction and challenge a new church needed. Some of his topics, as announced in The Globe and The Champion were: “The Parable of The Sower,” “The Gospel Leaven,” “Divine Covenants,” “The Tests of Discipleship,” “Working With God, “ “ The Uplifted Savior,” “Church Unity,” “The Lord’s Prayers,” “Reconciliation In Christ.” “All are invited and cordially welcomed,” said two notices in The Champion and added, “Seats free.”
Not only was the new group receiving a preaching of basic Christianity but there were other activities designed to give esprit de corps. A “social” is announced to be held at the home of Pastor and Mrs. Hayden, “on Atchison Street, second house west of 9th Street” (918 Atchison Street). The women of the church gave a supper and a program at Markham’s old store on Commercial Street on Friday, March 17, 1882, and served dinner there the following day from 11 to 2 P.M., a project to make money for church expense. Patronage was announced as being good.
MAY 1882: SIGNING OF COVENANT TO FORM CHURCH OF CHRIST IN ATCHISON
Sunday, May 28, 1882, was named as the date for the effecting of a permanent organization of the Atchison Christian Church and notice to the effect had been given in the papers. The meeting was held at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. At the suggestion (and likely by his authorship) of Brother Hayden a Covenant had been drawn up to which twenty-five charter members affixed their signatures. Thus, the present Atchison Christian Church in its continuous life was born! The Covenant read: “We, the undersigned, having been immersed upon confession of our faith in Christ, do unite to form a Church of Christ in Atchison, Kansas: and, having already covenanted with God in Christ, do hereby covenant with each other that we will keep all the ordinances of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; agreeing to be governed in our personal conduct and in our church relations and obligations by the law of Christ as taught in the New Testament, and pledging each other to do all in our power to promote the peace, unity, and prosperity of this Church, and to extend the Kingdom of Christ in all the world.”
“In testimony whereof we affix our respective names on this 28th day of May, A.D. 1882.
Those who signed the charter were: T. B. McCleery, Mr. and Mrs. J. J. Locker, J. T. Allensworth, Mr. and Mrs. C. F. Saunders, Mr. and Mrs. J. F. Palmer, The Reverend and Mrs. M. P. Hayden, Will F. Allen, L. D. Patton, John Pullen, N. G. Rose, Mrs. Minnie H. Calvert, Fannie Irvin, Henrietta M. Beeson, Catherine Moore, Eliza Baker, Maranda Housel, Mary E. Munn, Georgia Braden, Mary Lattin, Ophelia Pierce and Sue Ogan.
In previous sketches of the history of the Atchison Church the list of charter members has never been completely nor correctly given. Otho Hastings, who wrote a brief history for the occasion of the “Golden Jubilee” celebration in 1932, stated that a complete list of charter members had not been preserved. But such a list was preserved by Judge J. J. Locker and the original signatures, as given in this history, are in our possession.
It should be noted that the list of charter members does not include such persons as Mr. and Mrs. John M. Holmes (he signed the Covenant June 4th, 1882, and she signed it June 18th), J. A. Ham, Benjamin Ham, Doctor J. A. G. Sample, Samuel McBride, Elder Merritt, S. Johnson, H. W. Johnson, and others who had been prominent in earlier organizations. A number of persons active in earlier membership, led by Doctor Sample, refused to sign the May 28, 1882 Covenant because they suspected it being a human creed (always anathema to Disciples of Christ!) and protested that the Bible alone was their Covenant. Brother M. S. Johnson in later years said that he considered himself a charter member and it can be said in favor of his claim that he did not sign the charter because he was in Nebraska at the time. He had indicated in a meeting prior to May 28th that he did not think the Covenant to be a creed and that he would have no hesitancy in signing it. His affirmation stand had carried great weight with the Advisory Committee, and it was he who best answered Doctor Sample’s objections.
To those who objected to the Covenant, and who refused to sign it, the Advisory Committee made this explanation: “You are aware that two former attempts to establish a Church of Christ in Atchison have been made, and that both were unsuccessful. In making a third effort to establish a church in our city it is manifestly necessary to build more firmly and substantially than our predecessors if we would avoid the same result. The former failures show that there was something wrong and fatally defective in the organization of the church, in its management, or in its materials, or in all of these respects combined. In the present movement we are seeking to learn the lessons of the past…”
FEBRUARY 1883: MORGAN P. HAYDEN RESIGNS
History shows that most of the objectors united with the church, several doing so immediately. The Reverend Mr. Hayden gave the church good leadership. But some misunderstanding arose and at a meeting held February 5, 1883, the Advisory Board voted to instruct Brother T. B. McCleery to inform the pastor that the Board was not in favor of retaining his service for another year. On February 14, 1883, Brother Hayden handed the Board this statement: “Laying the responsibility of my action in this matter upon your Advisory Board, in accordance with their expressed desire, I hereby tender to you my resignation as pastor of this church – – this resignation to take effect April 1st, 1883.”
“Whereupon,” reports J. J. Locker, clerk, “Brother J. T. Allensworth addressed the meeting, expressing regret at the necessity arising for Brother Hayden’s tendering his resignation – – that though his relation as Pastor to this church be severed, his heart and prayers would be with him wherever he went, that he had no other opinion of him but that of an earnest, honest and conscientious Christian gentleman and brother – – that whatever the causes that brought about the change it was a failure of the head and not the heart and that for which he was not altogether responsible – – but a combination of circumstances – – which made it necessary for his own good, perhaps as well as for that of the church, that his relations as pastor be severed from this church. He would, therefore, with the kindest of feelings toward Brother M. P. Hayden, move that his resignation be accepted without the remotest consideration of reproach.”
What happened to lead to the termination of so profitable a relationship? If one may conjecture, the opinion is offered that Mr. Hayden aggressively did the job he knew had to be done. Likely, he was a driver. Likely, he was plain-spoken, and feelings may have been hurt. Perhaps he was too impatient for results. Perhaps the tension caused by refusal of some to sign the Covenant continued to be a disturbing factor. Perhaps he was, in modern expression, “expendable.” He was a capable man and went from the Atchison Church to the post of State Evangelist of Kansas Christian Churches. It is recorded that he met with the Advisory Board at least twice during Brother Walter Scott Priest’s pastorate and led the brethren in prayer. Presumably, he was at the meetings to counsel with the board concerning building plans. Apparently, the board never lost confidence in him.
MAY 1884: ARTICLES OF INCORPORATION SIGNED AND FILED WITH STATE OF KANSAS
Articles of Incorporation were drawn up in 1884, signed, and were filed with the Secretary of State in Topeka. At a meeting of the Advisory Board on May 11, 1884, Attorney J. T. Allensworth reported the Church as being incorporated.
JUNE 11, 1884 AND MAY 24, 1885: WALTER SCOTT PRIEST BECOMES PASTOR/ CHAPEL ERECTED
M. P. Hayden was succeeded by the Reverend Walter Scott Priest of Illinois, who took up residence at 406 S Street. A more capable man could hardly have been selected. “After preaching in Pioneer Hall about a year, he began agitating the question of building a house of worship. The congregation numbered but forty and was poor and the task seemed hopeless. But by lecturing and preaching in Kansas and other states, and with a loan of $500 from the Church Extension Society (the first loan the Society made, being closed on June 6, 1884 and paid in full February 2, 1885) a lot was secured on Kansas Avenue, near Tenth Street, and a neat frame chapel was erected and dedicated May 24, 1885.” The site of the building (lot 4, block 34) was purchased June 11, 1884, from Mr. and Mrs. William Challis for $850.
MAY 1885: DEDICATION OF NEW BUILDING
Sunday, May 24, 1885, the day of the dedication of the new building, began with a heavy rain storm. Alexander Proctor, “the sage if Independence” (Missouri), whom Joseph Pulitzer once called the greatest mind in America, preached at the morning service on the subject, “The Claims of Our Brotherhood To Recognition.” In the afternoon, T. P. Haley of Kansas City, another giant among preachers of Disciples of Christ, spoke on the subject, “Our Plea.” M. M. Goode, another preacher of stature, spoke briefly at the evening service. Atchison pastors who felicitated their Christian Church brethren at afternoon services were the Reverend J. B. Mulford of the Baptist Church, the Reverend James Chew of the Congregational Church, and the Reverend Abiel Leonard of Trinity Protestant Episcopal Church.
The cost of the building was $2,604.00. H. B. Prudden, 313 Commercial Street, was architect and James Nesbitt was contractor. Mr. Nesbitt’s sealed bid of $2,360 had won over bids of $3,705 by Charles Siegwald and $3,090 by John T. Wright. The two largest financial gifts for the new building were made by John M. Holmes and J. J. Locker.
The fact of brotherhood ties is dramatically illustrated when one consults the records of the 1884 and 1885 donors from organizations to our building project. Some of the donors were: Kansas Sunday School Convention, Pleasant Ridge, Missouri, Falls City, Nebraska, Jacksonville, Illinois, Bloomington, Illinois, Lexington, Missouri, Higginsville, Missouri, Cantril, Iowa, Independence, Missouri, Muscotah, Kansas, Marshall, Missouri, Ludlow, Illinois, Farmington, Kansas, Manhattan, Kansas, Keosauqua, Iowa, Normall, Illinois, Rockport, Missouri, Hamlin Kansas. Some of these gifts were from ladies’ auxiliaries of the churches and a number represent the Thanksgiving Offerings which were designated for the Atchison Church. The Farmington Church was especially helpful and Brother Pardee Butler, immortal in Kansas Christian Church history, made a liberal personal gift.
JULY 1885: WALTER SCOTT PRIEST RESIGNS
On July 18th, 1885, Brother Priest dismayed the Advisory Board by tendering his resignation, to take effect October 1st. He wrote: “Among the “various reasons” is the very pertinent one that I do not feel capable of discharging the duties of pastor as I know they ought to be discharged. I had hoped that my strength would be sufficient for the task. But it is not. I am thus honest in stating it to you and give way to someone physically more able to serve you than I.” Protests were made by the Board, but Brother Priest would not withdraw his resignation and it was accepted. Later he was to return for a second pastorate – unique distinction in the history of this church.
OCTOBER 1885: J. S. MYERS BECOMES PASTOR/ WORKING COMMITTEES FORMED
Brother J. S. Myers succeeded Walter Scott Priest as pastor, arriving in Atchison October 18th, 1885. Meeting with the Advisory Board on November 1st, 1885, he outlined procedures “for making use of the latent dormant abilities of the membership by placing them on active working committees.” His committee system was as follows: 1. Committee on Church Work, 2. Committee on Home and Foreign Missions, 3. Committee on Seeking Out and Welcoming Strangers, 4. Prudential Committee (Membership Cultivation and Public Relations, as we’d probably term it now), 5. Committee on Music.
JANUARY 1886: LONGEVITY OF MEMBERSHIP in 1954
January 29 of 1886, Mrs. George Keltsch (then a girl of twelve) united with the church and was baptized February 1st by Mr. Myers. Thus Mrs. Keltsch has held continuous membership with this church for more than sixty-eight years. This is a record for this Congregation. Mrs. Keltsch is held in great respect and love. Across the years she has been faithful, loyal, untiring, and gracious; so as to win, by her life, many friends for her church. Doctor Elizabeth Wood, secure in our affection, has the second longest continuous membership, dating from March 14, 1886. The third longest continuous membership is held by Mrs. Anna Askren (Anna Bilimek), who united with the Church November 25, 1886, and she is an inspiration to us. Edith Patton Brockman, now living in Wichita, joined this Church September 23, 1885, but hers has not been a continuous membership.
MARCH 1886 AND DECEMBER 1886: MEMBERSHIP NUMBERS
Apparently, Mr. Myers was an excellent pulpiteer. On March 15, 1886, this report is given in one of our Brotherhood publications: “We are more than pleased with our selection of Brother Myers as pastor last fall. We now know that we have the ablest minister in town. “He makes everything so plain.” “I learn something new every time I hear him” are remarks of those who come to hear him. Have had 92 additions, so far, since he came amongst us – – 63 by confession and baptism. Present membership – – 54 males, 119 females, total 173.” The reporter was Judge J. J. Locker.
On December 14th, 1886, the membership of the church was listed as 230. By June 12th, 1886, it had reached 262.
JUNE 1886: TREASURER’S REPORT
The treasurer’s report for the quarter ending June 30th, 1886 showed receipts of $287.07. Expenditures were: Pastor, $199.98, Janitor, $18, Gas, $25, Loan, $20, Baptistry, $1, General Missionary Board, $5, Hall debt, $10, Tacks and Broom, 50 cents, and Sundries, 20 cents. Balance $7.39. But the indebtedness, principally building, was $1,370.25. The amount of $1,111 was still due Contractor Nesbitt. Brothers Myers and McCleery were instructed to solicit funds from persons in the community friendly to the Christian Church and Brother Myers paid visits to Kansas City, Richmond, Missouri, St. Joseph and Leavenworth seeking financial assistance but without results. Tradition has it that Brother Locker once mortgaged his house to come to the aid of his church and this is likely the period in which he did so. Is there comparable stewardship today?
JUNE 1887: DISCUSSION OF BUILDING AN ADDITION
But on June 26, 1887, the Advisory Board and the Pastor considered the matter of building an addition to the church building. This is the language of faith and not defeatism.
SEPTEMBER 1887: J. S. MYERS RESIGNS
September 25th, 1887, Brother Myers submitted a letter of resignation, such resignation to become effective the second Sunday in October or soon thereafter. He gave two reasons for his resigning: (1) The building was inadequate, and he has found his work circumscribed because of lack of room and (2) “Notwithstanding the noteworthy liberality of most of the members of this church, my salary is not sufficient to meet my necessary expenses.” He added: “I never expect to labor amongst a more zealous and faithful people. Nor do I ever expect to spend any two years of my life more pleasantly than I have spent with you. If I have been a help to the church, I want to bear witness that the church has been a help to me.”
The local board expostulated with Brother Myers to rescind his resignation and he admitted that the state board, the national board, and leaders like J. M. Rains, had protested his leaving Atchison. Brother Myers expressed his appreciation and reiterated his fondness for his congregation but insisted that his release be granted. His Atchison residence had been 510 North 10th Street.
Soon the Board was corresponding with the Reverend Henry Cocks of Pompey, New York. He accepted an offer to become pastor at a salary of $1,000 a year with the further understanding that such salary would be raised to $1,200 if, at the end of six months, the financial condition of the church warranted it. It was agreed to pay both Mr. Cocks’ moving expense and passenger fare. C. A. Robinson and J. T. Allensworth were appointed to make collections to pay the freight bill and J. J. Locker to solicit money to pay the passenger fare.
JANUARY 1888: HENRY COCKS BECOMES PASTOR (DISMISSED AT END OF YEAR)
Brother Cocks arrived in Atchison in January 1888. His place of residence was 614 North 4th Street. We know little of his work. His was an undistinguished pastorate but hardly given a fair chance as financial support was so poor. At a meeting of the Board held on June 25, 1888, Secretary Kimball, closes his record of minutes with the terse and somewhat disapproving observation: “As usual, financial matters were discussed with the usual conclusion. No result. Upon motion, Board adjourned.” At the end of a year, Brother Cocks is advised that “owing to the depressed conditions of our church finances” it is not possible to retain him for another year as pastor.
JANUARY 1889: REV. A. J. WHITE ADDRESSES CONGREGATION
On January 28, 1889, the Reverend A. J. White spoke at a congregational meeting. He was present at this meeting by invitation and he was under consideration for the pastorate. He must have made a good impression. He must have given the congregation a new sense of responsibility and new courage. This conjecture is indicated by the tenor of a talk made by Attorney J. T. Allensworth who had been elected presiding officer. Brother Allensworth reminisced and told of attending a meeting some eight years before, at the home of Mr. and Mrs. C. F. Saunders, of persons interested in trying once again to organize a Christian Church in Atchison. Twenty-four persons had attended. “It has been with difficulty sometimes,” said Brother Allensworth, “that we have discharged our duty, but it has always been done. There was a bond of union between the members who started this church – – perhaps not different from that which now exists, but if at all stronger out of the circumstances which called us together – – and that bond will last as long as we live.” Brother Allensworth added that “it was a source of gratification to him that the members of the church were poor then and are poor today because the poor are organizers and establishers of churches. What has been accomplished had been by everyone giving something.”
Records of early Christian Church history in Atchison show that our brethren and sisters had their problems and vexations. Financial insolvency was almost an omnipresent problem. But lack of abundant funds was not permitted to block building effort and expansion. Now and then disciplinary problems were confronted:
– – a brother’s chronic inebriation, a brother’s penchant for telling false-hoods, a sister’s unbecoming conduct, and charges were preferred against the erring. Sometimes fellowship was withdrawn from members judged unworthy but there was great rejoicing when penitence was expressed, and membership was restored. Granted that the policy of preferring charges against brethren could lead to serious abuse, the fact remains that there was a great striving for purity and sincerity.
The early Atchison Church met the issues of instrumental music, what is a creed and what is not, and the manner of missionary support – – issues that have divided congregations – – but there was never serious dispute about these matters. When an organ was purchased in 1882, a brother withdrew his membership, stating that while he was willing to give of his means to the full extent of his ability for the support of the Church of Christ, he could not conscientiously take part in services where there was such an “unholy” instrument. But the “anti-organ issue,” that resulted in a major division among Disciples of Christ nationally, made for little disturbance in Atchison. Likewise, the church did some worthy thinking concerning its position with regard to human creeds, and from the very beginning the church decided to support missionary causes within the framework of the Brotherhood organization and there has never been agitation for deviation from this sound policy.
MAY 1890: A. J. WHITE BECOMES PASTOR
J. White came to live in Atchison at 1026 Parallel and as pastor he led the congregation in a fruitful period of its life. The state Sunday School Convention was entertained in Atchison in May 1890, with attendance of 646, the revival meeting held by Evangelist Updike was successful, and the church building on Kansas Avenue enlarged. Brother Fred Scammel became church clerk during Brother White’s pastorate, and this was the beginning of a many-sided and long-time devotion on the part of this good man. During his pastorate, Bertha Wood, whom we esteem highly, united with our church.
PASTORATES OF LOWELL MCPHERSON, R. H. INGRAM AND M. E. HARLAN
Not a great deal of information is obtainable concerning the activities of the church during the pastorates of Lowell McPherson and R. H. Ingram. It was about this time that fire destroyed records kept in the home of our church clerk. Lowell McPherson’s pastorate was brief; R. H. Ingram’s pastorate a little longer but yet a brief one. In previous sketches of the history of this congregation the Reverend Ingram’s initials are never given but an old Atchison Directory gives his name and his residence as 1106 Parallel.
The McPherson’s resided at 945 Parallel Street. They were lovable persons. It was during Mr. McPherson’s pastorate that evangelist T. A. Boyer held a successful revival meeting and during this meeting Mrs. W. E. Broshous (then Stella Robinson, age eleven) was baptized. Mrs. Broshous is a most beloved and active member today. She recalls that her father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. C. C. Robinson, held the McPhersons in great affection. Mrs. Emily Bowen, whom we love, united with the church during Mr. McPherson’s ministry and she speaks highly of him. Our beloved Mrs. Nels Fletcher’s membership began in 1892.
R. H. Ingram was a quiet and unassuming man. He was a good pastor. He had the largest family of any pastor in our history – – eight children. Mrs. Ingram is remembered as often arriving at the church a little ahead of time for the missionary meetings and sitting on the steps to write letters to her mother. She was admired because she gave devotion to her large family but did not neglect to serve her church. During Mr. Ingram’s ministry two of our beloved members united with the church – – Mrs. Joe Bilimek and Mrs. C. L. Mowbray.
M. E. Harlan gave the church a high type of preaching ministry and pastoral office. He resided at 945 Parallel Street. His wife was active on behalf of the missionary program. When they left Atchison to go to Topeka, they became state leaders whose memory is blessed. It was Mr. Harlan who became editor of the Kansas Messenger when it was established in March 1897. He never let his Atchison congregation forget that church membership is not just a concern of a provincial local fellowship. All congregations need such a reminder.
APRIL 1898: WALTER SCOTT PRIEST BECOMES PASTOR FOR SECOND TIME
April 1, 1898, Brother Walter Scott Priest was called to a second pastorate with the Atchison Church. He too resided at 945 Parallel Street. His very first Atchison residence was at 406 S Street; the 1884 City Directory gives his address as such. He was a constructive worker. People loved him. Doctor Chilton, who served First Christian Church, St. Joseph, Missouri, for many years, and the Brotherhood as its president, once told the author of this sketch about a revival meeting held in Atchison during Walter Scott Priest’s second ministry. “I went with him into the homes of members,” recalled Brother Chilton, “and I worked with him enough to see him for what he was – – a great soul, a noble and beloved minister.” His wife, Anna, was a lovely woman and an excellent singer. Brother Priest was later to spend fifteen years with Central Church, Wichita, the largest church of Disciples of Christ in Kansas. In 1903 he reported the Atchison membership as numbering 500 persons.
PASTORATE OF EDWARD L. ELY
Edward L. Ely, a former Congregational minister, was successor to Brother Priest. Mr. Ely is remembered as being the intellectual type. His short Atchison ministry was hampered by his poor health. His wife, a very outstanding woman firm of will but not domineering, gave the women’s work some of the finest leadership in its history. The Ely’s resided at 945 Parallel. It was during the ministry of Pastor Ely that the late George L. Wolf became treasurer of the Church, succeeding W. E. Broshous – – a post he was to discharge faithfully and efficiently for forty-eight years and his name will always be among the foremost in the history of this fellowship.
PASTORATE OF W. T. HILTON
It was during the ministry of W. T. Hilton, who resided at 926 Santa Fe Street, that the first of Charles Reign Scoville’s revival meetings was held in Atchison. It was held in a tabernacle near 9th and Commercial Streets. The increased membership of the Church made the need for a larger house of worship apparent. It was during Mr. Hilton’s ministry that the lots were purchased which became the site for our present church edifice.
AUGUST 1906: LOTS PURCHASED FOR PRESENT CHURCH EDIFICE
The lots were purchased August 31, 1906 from Joseph L. Wade for a consideration of $3,500. Trustees who represented our church were: J. A. Fletcher, Albert Cure, A. H. Moore, P. T. Corder and S. H. Kimball. (The remaining lots on which our new education building rests, were purchased July 2, 1913 from G. W. and Ellen Butcher, husband and wife, for $2,650. Wisdom was exercised, certainly, in the securing of these ample and well-located lots.
Brother Hilton was a rather handsome man but gentle and devoid of vanity. He dismayed some members of his flock by the outlandish (so they called it!) rig he drove and his little yellow horse, but their dismay didn’t perturb this plain man of the common people.
1907: ZIMRI ENOS BATES BECOMES PASTOR
When Mr. Hilton left Atchison, the Reverend Zimri Enos Bates was chosen to become pastor. He was a jolly fellow, with a lively sense of humor. He had a large red nose and jested about it, explaining that inebriated had been known to approach him as a fellow-traveler. He had been married in Atchison on April 13, 1886, to Mary P. Troutman by Judge Joshua J. Locker. Mrs. Bates had been baptized by Pastor J. S. Myers. When Zimri Bates came to the Atchison pastorate in 1907 he was forty-seven years old. He held B.A. and M.A. degrees from Bethany College and used to say smilingly that “he was a real Campbellite.” He made the dreams of his people to build a new structure much more definite by a positive leadership. His red-haired wife also exercised a sound leadership. They resided at 922 Santa Fe Street.
JUNE 1911: JESSE BADER BECOMES PASTOR
June 1, 1911, Jesse and Golda Bader came to serve the Atchison Church. They were young, brilliant, personable, indefatigable; giving promise even then, of the leadership that later became a blessed reality in the ecumenical church. When he preached his first sermon in Atchison, Jesse became so enthusiastic that he didn’t realize how close he was to the edge of the platform. He “fell off” the platform and the congregation “fell” for him. They visited the membership, they lent skill or organization, they were active in community circles. Now and then Jesse dropped in to chat with men of the shops during the noon hour. Such a ministry was productive of great progress. In one year, for instance, 501 new members were added to the church.
AUGUST 1913: PRESENT CHURCH DEDICATION
August 17, 1913, our present church edifice was dedicated at a cost of $47,000 – – small cost for such a big and well-constructed building. Walter Shuck was contractor. The building committee was composed of Fred Oliver, Chr. (an esteemed man and an efficient chairman) who did not live to see the dedication, H. P. Armstrong, A. L. Moore, Walter Shuck, George Wolf, William Mize (who had married Kate, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John H. Holmes, pioneer members), John Fletcher, and Ferd Ledoux. Only Ferd Ledoux of this group of consecrated men in now living; he resides in Holton, Kansas, and honored us by his presence and a gift on May 23, 1954, at the dedication of our new religious education building.
Beloved Walter Scott Priest had spoken at the laying of the corner stone (a ceremony held uniquely at night), and for the sermon on the day of dedication George L. Snively, known among Disciples of Christ far and wide for his ability to inspire the opening of purse-strings, was on hand to exhort in behalf of a generous stewardship. George huffed, and he puffed, and he pranced, and results were good.
A week of nightly services followed the dedication of the building and speakers were Dr. Charles Finch of Topeka, Dr. R. B. Peery, President of Midland College, Dr. Wm. Oeschger, Chancellor of Cotner College, Lincoln, Nebraska, and the Reverend J. E. Holley, Everest, Kansas. Edward Kreiser, organist of the Independence Blvd. Church of Kansas City, gave an organ recital on one of the evenings. Honor for being the first couple married in the new edifice went to Martha Case and James Nielson, who were married there November 4, 1913.
PASTORATE OF W. E. HARMAN
Brother Bader’s successor, W. E. Harman, recently deceased, was a capable minister. He was a good speaker. He was high-spirited. Those who remember him preaching speak of him as excelling in the pulpit. He was a generous man and it was often said of him, “if he liked you, he’d give you the shirt off his back.” Mr. and Mrs. Albert Armstrong remember his prayers at the time of a serious illness for Mrs. Armstrong and attribute recovery more to the efficacy of his supplication than to anything else. He could be wonderfully gentle; but arouse his Indian blood, and he could stand before the congregation and make a declaration of independence in words hurled forth: “The Apostle Paul didn’t have anyone following him around telling him what to do and believe me, I’m not going to either!” It was during Mr. Harman’s ministry that the Jesse Kellem’s revival meeting was held in Atchison. The Harmons had lived at 941 Laramie Street.
PASTORATE OF ARTHUR LONG
Arthur Long, who resided at 901 Kansas Street, was a highly regarded minister whose pastorate was constructive. The statistical table of Christian Churches of Kansas for the year closing June 30, 1922, shows that Atchison has received 149 new members in the one-year period. The membership is listed as being 1500 and the average per Sunday church school attendance was 660. These statistics tell a story of constructive pastoral leadership. He made many friends for the church in community circles. He and his first wife are buried in Atchison in Mount Vernon Cemetery. Two of his daughters married ministers: Mary married George Myers, and Muriel married Glenn Crosby.
OCTOBER 1924: WALTER R. BACON BECOMES PASTOR
Wallace R. Bacon came to the pastorate October 5, 1924. His Atchison residence was at 515 Kearney Street. He had served as a missionary in China. He was an earnest man whom sorrow had deepened. He was a statesman of that gospel which is for all the world. He was a man of poise, gracious and kindly, and an excellent speaker. He was here but a short time as pastorates go. The Fort Smith, Arkansas, Church sought his services, but he declined. However, at the international convention held at Memphis, the Fort Smith congregation renewed its appeal and persuaded him that he was the one man needed. How right the appeal was is proved by his notable pastorate there of twenty-six years. Mrs. Bacon was a woman of superior culture and educational training and of charming personality. Wallace Bacon could read the signs of the time and he worked as a pastor on the theory that the revivalistic patters of evangelism had declined. Succeeding pastors have held pretty much to the same theory.
FEBRUARY 1927: M. OWEN KELLISON BECOMES PASTOR
February 20, 1927, M. Owen Kellison became pastor. He was an exceptional leadership. Mrs. Kellison was a woman of fine academic training and she did much good for the church. Owen Kellison was a preacher of power, energetic and evangelistic, with a desire to see things move. He was a good pastor, understanding, sympathetic and warm of heart in relationships with people.
MAY 1932: CHURCH CELEBRATES GOLDEN JUBILEE
During his pastorate in May 1932, the church celebrated its golden jubilee. Jesse Bader and Z. E. Bates came here for sermons and other preachers who spoke during the week of services were Wm. R. McCormac of First Methodist Church, C. K. Davis of First Presbyterian Church, Frank S. Johnson, all of Atchison, and H. Parr Armstrong, a young man who had grown up in this church, and then residing in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The resident membership of the church was listed as being 1948.
JULY 1935: OWEN KELLISON RESIGNS
When Owen Kellison resigned his Atchison Ministry, July 28, 1935, to accept the pastorate at South Street Church, Springfield, Missouri, he had served eight years and five months, the longest pastorate in the history of the church.
SEPTEMBER 1935: ROY FIELDS BECOMES PASTOR
Roy Fields served the church as pastor from September 1, 1935 until February 28, 1939. He was young and energetic and an excellent and dynamic pulpiteer. His was a prophetic voice and a fearless one. He challenged any situation he deemed static. He led the church to greater expression of democracy. He called for stewardship, generous and unashamed. When he left Atchison, he was still challenging the congregation by his admonition that a minister should be looked upon as a leader and not a follower and only with such an attitude could a congregation prosper.
JUNE 1939: LOYAL S. NORTHCOTT BECOMES PASTOR AND RESIGNS
Loyal S. Northcott became pastor June 18, 1939 and resigned May 11, 1947. He was young and personable, and his ministry was outstanding. He had a sense of worship and the desire, (biblically authorized, incidentally), that all things be done decently and in order. He was community-minded, a leader in the city. His wife, Ella, was appreciated greatly by the congregation.
During Mr. Northcott’s ministry missionary support was intensified, the congregation giving excellent support to Stella Tremaine, living link missionary in China. Also, the system of rotation of members of the board was adopted, a real boost to the democratic practice. Certainly, no church should be without a parsonage and on October 9, 1940, during Mr. Northcott’s ministry, the parsonage at 713 Santa Fe was dedicated. The sixtieth anniversary of the church was fittingly commemorated the week of May 24-31, 1942.
SEPTEMBER 1947: G HAROLD ROBERTS BECOMES PASTOR
G. Harold Roberts came to Atchison as pastor September 8, 1947 from an eight-year pastorate at First Christian Church, Ottumwa, Iowa. He learned that the congregation had accepted a Crusade Goal of $16,000, one of the larger goals among Kansas churches, and gave immediate leadership to this cause. He found a people convinced of the merit of the cause and the goal was met when due and surpassed. Shortly after Mr. Roberts’ arrival, Stella Tremaine was forced to give up her work as a missionary because of illness – – an illness that was to bring death to this dauntless and consecrated woman. The church later chose H. Gray Russell as its service link missionary. Brother Russell is head of the mission schools of Disciples of Christ at Bolenge, Coquilhatville, Belgian Congo. He and his talented wife, Lois, have visited us twice and we like them very much.
FEBRUARY 1953: CONGREGATIONAL APPROVAL TO BUILD RELIGIOUS EDUCATION BUILDING
In 1952 the Atchison Church began to talk seriously of its need for more room and improved facilities for the conducting of its church school. Especially was inadequacy felt at the point of the needs of the little children. Although the need to build had been agitated often across the years and come to naught, the result this time was different. February 1, 1953, the congregation, by an overwhelming ballot vote, approved the proposal of the Official Board to build a religious education building. Charles Betts, Advisory Architect of Disciples of Christ, visited Atchison and made recommendations. Rolland Sheafor of the national Board of Church Extension also came to Atchison and outlined procedures for the financial campaign.
The campaign was conducted March 27-31, 1953, under the direction of Mr. Sheafor, the minister, and Speed Stanton, Chairman. Financial Campaign Committee members were Chairman Stanton, Fred Allison, Jr., Fred Dyer, Rena McGauhey (superintendent of Atchison’s hospital), Charlotte Kohler, Ralph Henderson, Sr., and Clem Tuggle. Team captains for the fund-raising were: Fred Allison, Jr., Fred Dyer, Clem Tuggle, Ralph Henderson, Sr., Elvin Jones and Edward B. Leath. Team secretaries were Mrs. Eugene Linscott, Hazel Broshous, Rena McGauhey, Mrs. Lawrence Marshall, Mrs. Marvin Strong, and Mrs. Elvin Jones. 120 men canvassers made calls on the congregation and total pledges reached the amount of $40,614.25, payable by April 1, 1954. Mr. Sheafor had suggested a goal of $30,000 to be paid in the period of one year; the minister had suggested $35,000; the board’s enthusiasm resulted in its being put at $40,000. This ambitious goal was met and surpassed.
The Building Planning Committee, most efficient and active, was composed of Lowell Dagenais, Chairman, Dale Skelton, George W. Shuck, Wyatt Butler, Gladys Cooper, Mrs. Arthur Anslinger, and Dorothy Townsend, president of the C. Y. F. at the time. The architectural firm of Boller and Lusk, Kansas City, Missouri, was retained. Pleasure was given when George W. Shuck received the contract for construction in competitive and secret bidding. George is an esteemed member of this church and his labor of love, his father, the late Walter Shuck, having built our present church edifice.
Neewannah Schmidt, director of religious education during much of the time of the building effort, Hal A Waisner, church school superintendent, Charles Hanna, chairman of the official board, Mrs. Carl R. Schroeder, efficient office secretary, and Charles Spencer, publicity chairman, rendered valuable services.
JULY 1953, OCTOBER 1953 and MAY 1954: GROUND-BREAKING AND LAYING OF THE CORNER STONE
Ground-breaking ceremonies were held July 16, 1953, with Raymond Baldwin, state secretary of Christian Churches, as guest speaker. The laying of the cornerstone took place October 4, 1953, with Dean Harold Barr, Chair of Kansas Bible, as speaker. The building was dedicated Sunday morning, May 23, 1954, with Eugene S. Ogrod, director of religious education for Kansas Christian Churches, speaking on the theme, “To Perpetuate Christian Teaching.” Thus, a dream has come true! Cost of the building is approximately $65,000. Mr. and Mrs. Jack Stanton and Mr. and Mrs. Albert Rasmussen made the largest gifts for our building program.
It must be remembered that the new building is not the total expression of our program of improvement in 1954. The fellowship hall is to be greatly enlarged and other re-modeling work will be done. Extensive work on the outer structure was done in 1953.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AND THOUGHTS FROM REV. G. HAROLD ROBERTS
What of the church school from the early years until now? From the beginning the Sunday School, as it was called years ago, has been an integral part of the religious movement of Disciples of Christ in Atchison. From perusal of old Atchison newspapers, one would judge that the Sunday School experienced a vitality that gave more promise of a stability than was really the case in our early history.
At the end of December 1882, after the organization of the church on May 28, 1882, Ella Hooper, secretary of the Sunday School records 86 names enrolled, an average attendance of 28, and that prizes were given to “J. Locker, B. McCleery, Gracie Saunders, Laura Lattin, Nora Locker.”
To start the year of 1883 J. T. Allensworth was elected superintendent, J. J. Locker, assistant, N. G. Rose, secretary and C. F. Saunders, treasurer. The six teachers were Elder M. P. Hayden (whose last name was consistently misspelled as Haden), Maranda Housel, Belle Burnaugh (who worked at the Howard and Co. Overall Factory), Mrs. Patton, Miss Gray and Mrs. M. E. Saunders. The yearly report for 1883 shows 95 persons enrolled, an average attendance of 59, and contributions totaling $66.38.
To start the year of 1884 W. S. Priest (the minister) was elected superintendent, H. M. Elliott, his assistant, J. J. Locker, secretary, and C. F. Saunders, treasurer. It is recorded that the school received a shock toward the end of April 1884, when the popular Saunders family moved away. N. G. Rose was chosen to succeed Mr. Saunders. October 19, 1884, Mr. Rose resigned because he was moving to Valley Falls and he was succeeded by Lewellyn Patton. The school enjoyed a picnic Thursday, July 3, at Challis’s grove, being asked to meet at Pioneer Hall as early as 7:30 or 8 A.M. to leave for “the excursion.” The average attendance per Sunday of 1884 was 85 and the total offering was $150.42.
The pattern of early period meetings is interesting. The superintendent called the meeting to order. The people sang and prayer was offered. The lesson was then studied in the respective classes. Re-assembly found the superintendent reviewing the lesson and often he conducted a period of questioning. Scriptural verses were recited at each meeting and the number recorded. The secretary, with over-statement, called those who attended “scholars.”
These early records are cited to show that the church school was enjoying growth. With the new church building dedicated May 24, 1885, the school received fresh incentive.
Its “boom periods” were to come much later during the ministries of Jesse Bader, Arthur Long, and Owen Kellison. Shortly after the dedication of our present church building in August 1913, the attendance for one Sunday was 1,025 persons. We are in somewhat of a “boom period” at present but we do not equal the attendance of the earlier peak periods. It is likely, however, that the number of children now attending compares favorably with that of any other era.
To speak of the church school is impossible without mentioning the name of Housen P. Armstrong. He put his very life into his long and productive service as superintendent. He bought books on methods and teaching. He kept alert to progress. He attended conferences and conventions. He spoke in behalf of attendance to people he met on the street and to people who came to his grocery store. The enthusiasm and witness of such a man was bound to pay dividends. His wife, Lorene, was just as enthusiastic as he and she was intellectually keen and progressive – – a wonderful teacher and woman, indeed. It is no accident that their sons, Parr and Homer, are outstanding clergymen.
Nor could a history of the church school be completed without the mention of the ministry of music as rendered by Ralph Fletcher. He led singing both at church school and church services. He led singing at evangelistic services here and elsewhere. He had great ability to get people to sing. He was probably the most beloved man in the history of this community. He began his leadership in 1909 during the ministry of Zimri Enos Bates.
The adult classes are the finest the author of this history has ever known. The oldest class in point of organization is Class 13. This class began in the fall of 1898. Mrs. May Smart is a charter member and much beloved by the congregation. The Dorcas Class, The Whatsoever Class, The Modern Builders Class, The Men’s Class, The J. O. Y. Class, The Helping Hand Class, and The Friendship Class have great worth. They enrich our fellowship and do many good deeds. They have been very wise in their realization that Church school classes are not an end in themselves, with interests that can become divisive, but are, rather, units existing to serve their Church. We are a better Church because of these classes. They do much toward membership cultivation, toward keeping significant tradition alive, and teaching in the name of The Great Teacher. They have produced the fruits of Christian commitment.
What of the women’s organization? Words cannot express the debt this congregation has owed in all its history to the women. They out-numbered the men when the church was organized: – – they outnumber the men today. In 1882 Mrs. C. F. Saunders organized the Women’s Missionary Society and Selencia M. Hayden (the minister’s wife) was its first president. Mrs. Marian Harlan, wife of M. E. Harlan, pastor, gave it much leadership. Mrs. Ely, wife of pastor E. L. Ely, led it to heights of membership, usefulness, and service.
Not long after coming to Atchison, Mrs. Harold Roberts led the women of the church (who were, incidentally, most responsive) in the formation of the Women’s Council (now the C.W.F.) as the kind of organization best serving and expressing the total relationship of women to the local church and the kingdom of God. Mrs. William Krusemark skillfully guided the new organization for its first two years. She has been ably succeeded by Mrs. Joe Buis, Mrs. R. D. Holder, and Mrs. Clement Trapp. July 1, 1954 Mrs. William Bunnell becomes president.
In 1910 our missionary society decided to support a living link missionary. Mrs. Bertha Loher was our representative, with India her field of service. Alice Greenlee Himes, a local girl, served in Mexico. She was recalled during the first World War. Stella Tremaine, missionary to China, became our representative and the relationship was long and blessed. Our Guild is named in her honor. H. Gray Russell in now our missionary ambassador.
In 1917 Mrs. A. E. Ricks became church organist, a post she held for thirty-seven years. She has a kind and appreciative word for the ministers she has known. Her charm and poise an excellent disposition have made her ability the more precious to our people. Mrs. Ricks has now taken up residence in Denver, Colorado.
Joyce Wentz, a highly trained musician to whom honors have come deservedly, has been director of our choir since 1936 and has won our admiration and friendship. The late Chan Adams, of glorious voice, sang in the choir thirty years.
Music has always been a powerful factor in our history. Christianity is a singing religion. The Disciples of Christ have always loved to sing. The years have brought changes, of course. The hymns today are more churchly, perhaps, and the three-fold norm for judging a hymn (1. Is it good theology? 2. Is it good literature? 3. Is it good music?) is today more often invoked in the selection of hymns. But it is still true that there are lots of “good old hymns” that wonderfully meet this three-fold norm and we sing them often and love them. Our anthems are, characteristically, an expression of the best in sacred music. We have cause to be proud of our choir and grateful for its service.
We have ever given attention to our youth. At times our youth groups have been large; at other times, they have been small. Perhaps in no realm of the life of a church are conditions more variable than those related to youth work. We have had several directors of religious education: Myron Hopper, Mrs. Glenn Squires, Lois Faulconer, Neewannah Schmidt. We have sought to teach our young people that not only does the church have an obligation to them but that they also have an obligation to their church. Every Sunday morning finds many of our young people present at the worship service, a well as at church school. Their evening groups have had an uneven success, but it must be remembered that competition today for the attention of youth is keener and more multiple than ever before.
We budget generously for our youth and encourage them to attend conferences and fellowship meetings. They are given opportunities to express themselves in terms of relationship to their church. For instance, the naming of Dorothy Townsend to the building committee (and she was a good member, too!) would not have been thought of in the early history of our people but it is an illustration of our regard for our young people. The president of the C.Y.F. is a member of the church board.
A number of young persons received inspiration in this church to serve in Christian vocation. Among this number are: Will Armstrong, Parr Armstrong, Homer Armstrong, Julian Stuart, Granville Beitzel, Meek Hamilton, Frank Johnson, Ernest Seibenthal, Bertha Loher, Donald Case, Ida Jean Davis. May we ever speak words of encouragement to young people who contemplate Christian vocations!
We challenge the men of our church to greater interest and to more effective witness for Christ. No church can long be vital if its men are unconcerned. Christianity is a job for men, as well as for women and children. Our men are challenged to attend church services. They are challenged to take Christ into business partnership. They are challenged to make the work they do an expression of the sacramental. We have called upon our men to keep alive a vital program of visitation evangelism. We have a C.M.F. with U. E. Gardner now serving as its president.
There are, of course, no charter members now living. However, Ambrose L. Locker, son of Joshua and Emily Locker who were charter members, is an active and appreciated member of our fellowship. Brother Locker has been our missionary treasurer for ten years. Like his father before him, he brings a high degree of efficiency and conscientiousness to the performance of office. We are forever in his debt that he recognized the importance of preserving the valuable records his father had set down.
The Atchison Church entertained the state convention of Christian Churches in October 1913 with our erstwhile and beloved pastor, Walter Scott Priest, presiding.
Our relationship with our black brethren and sisters of Second Christian Church are appreciated. The Second Christian Church was incorporated in 1887, a committee appearing before Attorney J. T. Allensworth of this congregation to sign the application for incorporation. Through the years the Second Christian Church has been found faithful. Some of the best citizens in Atchison are to be found in its fellowship. We now give some budgetary support to our sister church and hope that we may further prove our regard and appreciation and fraternity. Second Christian Church has a membership of 102 persons. It is located at 7th & M Streets. Brother Anderson Thomas of Kansas City is its minister.
THOUGHTS FROM AUTHOR, REVEREND G. HAROLD ROBERTS
In writing this history the author realizes keenly that scores of names of leaders have been omitted. He realizes, too, that unnumbered deeds of service, and unnumbered words of praise, and unnumbered acts of sacrifice, have made us what we are. These cannot be put down on paper, but they are known in heaven. The cumulative power of the witness of humble followers is our glorious inheritance.
We know our faults. Of our 1,282 members, we have far too many who are inactive – – “out on the margin,” as George A. Campbell used to say. It is still true of us as Walter Scott Priest said of our people in 1903: “Some of the members are not living the kind of Christian life they ought to live; they have neglected the Lord’s house; they have refused to support the church with their means. We most earnestly hope that all such will renew their allegiance to the church and help the building up of Christ’s kingdom.”
Yes, we know our faults. We lack sufficient leadership. We lack sufficient willingness to serve, to assume responsibility. We are lacking in steady Sunday by Sunday attendance. We need greater evangelistic passion. As Stanley Jones indicts present-day Christians, we are more often a field for evangelism ourselves instead of being evangelists. We need more tithers. We need to have a larger percentage of our membership sharing in financial support. We need a deeper reverence when we enter the house of God; – – no talking, less moving about, and a prayerful expectancy, would help deepen our worship and we must work to this end.
We know, too, our possibilities. We know our resources. We know our love of God. The challenge is made to each of us. God will richly bless that church whose members ask constantly to know His will and for strength to do it. God bless a humble, earnest people who want to know the unsearchable riches of His love. God will bless that church to who the lordship of Jesus is all in all. God will bless that church which is found faithful. We have a charge to keep; a God to glorify.
The Atchison Church has membership in the Kansas Christian Missionary Society, the International Convention of Disciples of Christ, the World Convention of Disciples, and the National and World Councils of Churches.
This history is written during Atchison’s Centennial Celebration. As our community faces a new century let us hope that the prophecy of John J. Ingalls will come true both for the community and this church: “This is but the dawn. We stand in the vestibule of the temple. The achievements of the past will pale into insignificance before the completed glory of the century to come.”
THE PRESENT OFFICIARY (1954)
Elders: J. R. Adams, Fred Allison, Jr., Walter Burden (Chr., Official Board), Rex Davis, Logan Higley, Edward B. Leath, Robert Low, Chester Moore, Nathan Repstine, George Reynolds, Hal Waisner. Emeritus: Wm. Stanton, Sr.
Deacons: Robert Binkley, John Case, Jr., Lowell Dagenais, Delbert Ehret, Kenneth Erdley, Raymond Erdley, Harry Frantz, Wilbur Gilliland, Bert Godding, Orean Hale, Edward Hiner, Edward Kanning, Harry Kew, J. Ross Knowles, Will Krusemark, J. H. Larson, Frank Leighton, A. L. Locker, Charles Regnary, Roy Reid, Frank Roberts, Harry Scott, George W. Shuck, Dale Skelton, Dan Stanton, Jack Stanton, Speed Stanton, Wm. Stanton, Jr., Marvin Strong, LaVerne Stucker, Clement Trapp, Clem Tuggle, William Wright, Ernest Yost. Lifetime member: John Case, Sr. Emeritus: Albert Armstrong.
Deaconesses: Mrs. John Allen, Mrs. Arthur Anslinger, Hazel Broshous, Mrs. Wm. Bunnell, Mrs. Edward Burdette, Mrs. Glenn Engelhardt, Mrs. Fred Evans, Mrs. Ralph Fletcher, Mrs. Tom Gorrell, Mrs. Bert Joes, Rena McGauhey, Mrs. James Nielson, Mrs. Keith Runyan, Mrs. Harry Scott, Mrs. Clement Trapp, Mrs. Carl VanWelden, Mrs. Clem Tuggle, Mrs. Hal Waisner.
C.W.F. Representative: Mrs. William Bunnell
Treasurer: Wyatt Butler (great grandson of Pardee Butler)
C.Y.F. Representative: June Reid
Trustees: Nathan B. Repstine, Hal Waisner, Frank Leighton
Minister: G. Harold Roberts
Director of Music: Joyce Wentz
Organist: William Stanton, Jr.
Director of Youth: Dorothy Higley
Secretary: Mrs. Carl R. Schroeder
Service Link Missionary: H. Gray Russell
Custodian: Earl Van Liew
M. P. Hayden, Walter Scott Priest, J. S. Myers, Henry Cocks, A. J. White, Lowell McPherson, R. H. Ingram, M. E. Harlan, Walter Scott Priest, a second pastorate, Edward L. Ely, W. T. Hilton, Zimri Enos Bates, Jesse Moren Bader, Walter E. Harmon, Arthur Long, Wallace R. Bacon, M. Owen Kellison, Roy Fields, Loyal S. Northcott, G. Harold Roberts.
Appreciation is expressed to The Globe, Kansas State Historical Society, Mrs. Gail Reece, Register of Deeds, Mrs. Tom Gorrell, of the office of Register of Deeds, Arthur Metz for the 1860 Directory, with its picture of the Price Building, and to the following persons who gave helpful interviews: Mrs. George Keltsch, Ambrose L. Locker, Mrs. Emily Bowen, Mrs. W. E. Broshous, Mrs. A. E. Ricks, Albert Armstrong, Mrs. R. D. Holder and Mrs. James Nielson. Mrs. Carl Schroeder typed the manuscript.