Beecher Rifle Church.On May 31, 1857, the settlers in and about the village of Wabaunsee, the most of whom were members of the New Haven colony, held a meeting for the ultimate purpose of forming a church organization. At this meeting resolutions were adopted recognizing the expediency of organizing a Congregational church. Committees were appointed to attend to the preliminary matters and to obtain the names of those willing to unite in organizing a church, such organization to take place on the last Sunday in June. On June 21 it was resolved to set apart Saturday, June 27, as "a day of fasting and prayer," and that seven persons, then present, having letters from other churches, should constitute the nucleus of the proposed church. On the day appointed the brethren and sisters gathered in a ravine on the east side of the Wabaunsee townsite, where they were undisturbed by the noise and clatter of the village, and devoted all this day and the forenoon of the following one to the organization of a church which, as stipulated beforehand, was to be Congregational in form, as unsectarian as possible, and was to be known as "The First Church of Christ in Wabaunsee." A council of neighboring churches had been called to recognize the new church, but the Manhattan church was the only one to respond. It was therefore deemed expedient to organize a council, which was done, and Rev. S. Y. Lum, who preached the first sermon in Kansas, in 1854, delivered the one on this occasion, and Rev. C. E. Blood, of Manhattan, gave the fellowship of the churches, and the Wabaunsee church was launched.
As long as Beecher lived he took an active interest in the Wabaunsee colony, and it was the custom of the colonists at each annual meeting of the church to read his letter which accompanied the rifles, "Let these arms hang above your doors as the old Revolutionary muskets do in many New England homes. May your children in another generation look upon them with pride and say 'Our fathers' courage saved this fair land from slavery and blood.' Every mornings' breeze shall catch the blessings of our prayers and roll them westward to your prairie homes. May your sons be large-hearted as the heavens above your heads; may your daughters fill the land as the flowers do the prairies, only sweeter and fairer than they. You will not need to use arms when it is known that you have them. It is the essence of slavery to be arrogant before the weak and cowardly before the strong."
Rev. Harvey Jones was the first pastor of this church organization and served for nearly three years, holding the early meetings in a tent. A temporary church was shortly after erected and plans discussed for a suitable stone building of sufficient capacity for the needs of the community. After your years of effort the present building was dedicated on May 24, 1862, the General Association of Kansas Congregational churches meeting with the church at this time, and taking a recess to dedicate the new church. During the early days of the church it received support from various church societies, but in less than ten years from its organization it became self-supporting. In 1860 it reported the largest membership of any church in Kansas, having one more than the Lawrence and eleven more than the Topeka churches. On June 29, 1897, the fortieth anniversary of the church was fittingly observed, and on June 27 and 28, 1907, the fiftieth anniversary was made the occasion of a great celebration, during which an elaborate program was carried out. Hundreds of visitors were in attendance and the semi-centennial of this famous pioneer church was made a memorable one.Pages 167-168 from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed May 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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