Young Men's Christian Association.The originator of this organization was George Williams, who went to London from Dulverton, England, in 1841 and became a clerk in a drygoods house employing about 80 young men. Williams was of a religious turn of mind and conceived the idea of forming a society among clerks. It was organized on June 6, 1844, and Christopher Smith suggested the name of Young Men's Christian Association, the object of which should be "to promote the spiritual and mental improvement of young men engaged in the drapery trade." The first missionary was employed in Jan., 1845. The association was introduced in America in the fall of 1851 at Montreal, New York and Boston about the same time.
The first Y. M. C. A. organization in Kansas was formed at Topeka on Dec. 31, 1879, in the English Lutheran church and was the result of the efforts of five young men, Charles F. Loweth, F. M. Sheldon, W. W. Bollard, Theodore S. Mason and George T. Coxhead. In 1881 the Topeka association sent a delegate to the Missouri convention at Kansas City. In the early part of 1882 enough interest in Y. M. C. A. work was created in Topeka to hire a general secretary and the first one was W. N. Fisher. In the course of the year associations were formed at Lawrence, Leavenworth, Emporia, Manhattan and one or two other places. The first Kansas convention was held in Nov., 1882, with an attendance of 52. F. H. Clark was made the first president, a state committee of 16 was appointed, of which R. B. Gemmell was chairman; James F. Griffin, treasurer, and W. N. Fisher, secretary. The sum of $516.60 was subscribed for state work.
The greatest question before this convention was whether or not to admit women. It was decided to exclude them as delegates. This question came up more acutely at the 3d annual convention at Leavenworth in 1884. Some of the associations had departed from "the fundamental principles of the organization" by admitting women, and resolutions were passed barring such associations from representation in future conventions. There were then 18 local associations, 4 of these being student organizations.
At the 4th annual convention at Emporia in 1885, the Railroad Y. M. C. A., which had been started in 1880, was organized into a department of the state association with a special secretary. The object of the railroad branch of the organization was to "provide a home for employees who were without home privileges," and giving them a wholesome home environment, baths, libraries, etc. The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad company appropriated $1,200 per annum for this work and gave the use of a two-story brick building.
The next two conventions were held at Ottawa and Wichita, both showing an increase in the number of associations and in the membership of all the old ones. In 1888 there was great activity in the Y. M. C. A. movement. A large number of new associations were formed, 7 new assistant state secretaries were added, making 14 in all. The convention that year was attended by 603 delegates, and $14,408 was raised for state work. The convention of 1889 was held at Topeka and was attended by 912 delegates. The international committee, which had formerly withdrawn because it believed the fundamental principals of the Young Men's Christian Association were being violated in Kansas, there being women's auxiliaries connected with some of the associations, was again represented.
In the convention of 1890, held at Leavenworth, it was mentioned that Kansas was the first state to establish a summer school; to employ traveling secretaries for Bible, evangelistic and college work; and to make contributions to the Y. M. C. A. work in other states. For a few years there was a lull in the activity of Y. M. C. A. work in the state, and on account of a confliction of opinions the chairman of the state committee, the secretary and all his assistants resigned in Dec., 1891. The state committee was then reorganized by electing J. B. Larimer chairman and W. R. Johnson temporary state secretary.
In the year 1894 it was found that there were but 33 organizations in Kansas as against 69 in 1889. Topeka had at that time the best rented quarters in the West. A conference of college men was held that year in Topeka. In 1896 the interest had not yet revived, and only $2,557 was raised for state work. In 1898 the sum of $10,000 was raised to erect a railroad Y. M. C. A. building in Argentine. The state association furnished a Y. M. C. A. tent for the Twentieth Kansas when the regiment was ordered to Manila.
The year 1902 saw a great revival in the work. A building canvass was inaugurated at Fort Scott. For the same purpose Winfield raised $8,000; Hoisington, $12,500; Parsons, $10,000, and Topeka, $30,000 for a railroad building. For the first time in 12 years a secretary for student work was employed, and the number of associations had grown to 42. The railroad branch held an international convention in Topeka in 1903, which was addressed by Theodore Roosevelt and at which the cornerstone of the new building was laid. In 1904 there were 50 associations with a total membership of 8,252, and the sum of $68,000 was spent in buildings that year. At the convention of 1905, held at Salina, it was announced that a railroad building had been erected at Horace, and that an army Y. M. C. A. organization had been effected. A new $40,000 building was dedicated at Lawrence in December of that year. In 1906 the fund for the building at Topeka had reached $64,000, Miss Helen Gould donated $40,000 toward a building at Fort Leavenworth, and the property of the association was increased by new buildings to the extent of $100,000. The year closed with 64 associations in the state, having a total membership of 12,416, an annual running expense of $90,000 and property worth $500,000. At the close of 1910 there were 76 local associations in the state, 22 of which owned buildings, the total value being $850,000, and a number of new buildings were in the process of construction. The activities of the association is divided into departments as follows: College, high school, railroad, city, county and foreign.Pages 951-953 from volume II 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 July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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