Referring to the churches of Concordia collectively it must be said, seldom in a city of its inhabitants is the religious and moral atmosphere more apparent. Nearly every denomination and sect are represented and their places of worship are dignified and graceful edifices. The ministers who labor in the interests of divine teaching are men of learning and character eminently worthy to occupy any pulpit. They are eloquent in expounding the teaching of the gospel, zealous and exemplary in their lives.
Concordia is the residence of the Catholic bishop of the see of Concordia. They have under course of completion a magnificent cathedral, also a convent which is one of the largest and most elaborate within the state of Kansas. There is a commendable feature worthy of notice regarding the people of Concordia; although all sects are represented within its boundaries, they have no religious disputes, but recognize each other as Christians.
If the Catholics need assistance they call upon the general public for aid, and the other denominations do likewise. To a very great extent this condition has been brought about by the conservatism of those who have administered to the congregations, but more particularly to the great ability and broad humanitarianism of Rev. Joseph Perrier, the vicar general. Another reverend gentleman who has done much for the upbuilding of Cloud county, in a broad sense, is Father Mollier, of St. Joseph, whose sketch appears elsewhere in this volume. Generally speaking, the various congregations throughout the city are composed of the reputable of all classes and more moral or better citizens do not exist in any community.
In the years of 1869-70 there emigrated to this part of Kansas from Sweden a colony of Swedish people, mostly from the Isle of Gottland, who settled on the Republican river in the vicinity of Concordia, took homesteads which they improved and by their industry and thrift have built comfortable homes and many of them have acquired wealth. This settlement was called Gottland, in honor of their native country. Here they built a school house and established a church organization, holding services in the school building, where they continue to hold services occasionally and prayer meetings regularly. Some of these pioneers were Baptists when they came, but most of them were poor and did no missionary work until the Rev. August Johnson, of Chicago, came of his own accord and began the work among them in 1877. That year he organized a church of nine members and was elected moderator or pastor.
Reverend Johnson has given most of his time in doing general missionary work; has been and is now connected more or less with Swedish Baptist churches throughout the state. For many years he made his home in Concordia, but now resides with his daughter, Mrs. Martin, of Peabody, Kansas. He is all influential man, a born leader and widely known.
In 1878 the congregation of the Swedish Baptist church erected a house of worship in Concordia, which was purchased in 1900 by the denomination of Christians. In 1900 they built a church, a stone edifice which, in point of architecture, is one of the most substantial buildings of its kind in the city. The grounds include a parsonage and nine twenty-two foot lots. The church is fifty by twenty-two feet. The capacity of the audience room is about two hundred people. Under the building is a basement for the accommodation of societies, suppers, etc. The baptistry is just back of the pulpit and is accessible by the upward sliding of a large arch-shaped door. This property cost eight thousand dollars, all of which has been paid for, a distinction which they very much enjoy.
The following pastors have been in charge: Reverend August Johnson, Reverend J.P. Dolquist, Reverend N.F. Person, Reverend A.B. Anderson, Reverend A.J. Benson, Reverend John Peterson, Reverend John Johnson, Reverend John Bjork, Reverend C.A. Roberg, Reverend J.A. Huggerth. The latter is the present pastor and has occupied the pulpit for the last three years. The total membership of all the years is one hundred and seventy-three. Many have removed from the city and state and some have passed into the unknown. The present congregation consists of fifty-two members, principally living in the country districts adjacent to Concordia. A partial record of the total amount of money raised for church and missionary work Show an expenditure of twenty-two hundred dollars.
The members of this congregation are a unit and dwell in peaceful harmony.
The First Presbyterian Church.
Soon after preaching his first sermon he moved to Concordia, where he continued his labors until December, 1874.
Public religious services were held at various places for a time with no very great certainty of long continuance. The land office, May & Burns' office, the "new" hotel and Wetherell's shoe shop were all occupied for a time.
On the 4th of June, 1871, the Presbyterian church was organized in the old court house, with eighteen members; but one of these remain, Mrs. Anna Bethel. Albert Strain, a son of Judge Strain, their first ruling elder,was a mere boy when uniting with the church, and is now a missionary of Ecuador, South America. All of the others have either removed to other places or passed into the great unknown.
Soon after the organization the congregation hired a hall which stood where the First National Bank now stands. From this locality they moved to Sturges' hall, which was then located a little further east. In December 1872, both of these buildings were burned and the congregation moved to Carnahan's hall on Sixth and Broadway.
The present church building on Seventh street, west of Washington, was erected in 1874-5, being only church edifice which the congregation has used. Reverend Benjamin F. Haviland supplied the church from June, 1876, to June, 1878, a period of two years. Reverend Samuel F. Farmer was the next minister and continued his labors from the autumn of 1878 until April, 1881. during both of these pastorates a considerable number was added to the church.
January, 11, 1882, Reverend H. Bushnell, Jr., was installed as pastor of the church by a committee of Solomon presbytery. Judge Strain served in the capacity of ruling elder from its organization until his death, January 1880. Messrs. James Woodward, H.E. Smith and J.F. Rogers, all of whom have removed to other places, also filled the office for longer or shorter periods of time.
The session, as now constituted, consists of the pastor, Reverend Bushnell, with the following elders, viz: Thomas A. Sawhill, John A. Tyner, W. Walter Bowman, Dr. William F. Sawhill, John H. Morrison, James Clithero, Oscar Park and George A. McEckron. The church building is a handsome stone edifice, well located in a part of the city devoted mainly to residences, and is not only in ornament to the city but admirably adapted to the purpose for which it was built.
The church has a seating capacity of two hundred and fifty and a membership of one hundred and seventy-three. In 1883 the debt of four thousand dollars was paid by a hard struggle. The tower was completed, a bell placed at a cost of four hundred and ten dollars, and various other repairs and improvements were made at a cost of eleven hundred and sixty-six dollars in 1893. The church is practically out of debt. During 1899 the seating was changed and electric lights put in at a cost of five hundred and ten dollars. A subscription of four hundred dollars was taken up and every dollar was paid at the close of the year, not a subscriber failing nor one scaled the price.
The church has contributed annually about four hundred dollars for benevolences, not for themselves, but for work elsewhere. They have a Sabbath school of one hundred and fifty members and regular attendants. W. Walter Bowman is the efficient superintendent. A young people's society of Christian Endeavor meets every Sunday night, with about forty members; F.J. Atwood is president. Societies all meet in the basement. The Pastor's study is also located there.
There has been no complete record kept of this church, but after careful research the following has been obtained:
For several years prior to 1886 the denomination known as the "United Brethren" had a number of classes in the western part of the county, which constituted the Cloud county circuit, and within the Northwest Kansas conference. Reverend O. Beistle served the country charge several years and during the latter part of his services there was an opportunity to begin a church work in Concordia, whereupon he organized a class of fourteen members on May 9, 1886. T.E. Thachery was elected first leader and J.H. Bogue, steward.
The annual conference convened at Harlem, Smith county, Kansas, October 14 to 18, 1886. During this meeting the Concordia and Sibley classes were constituted Concordia circuit, and Reverend Jospeh[sic] Bays, then a young and single man from Indiana, was appointed minister in charge and served two years, during which time he was married to Miss Nora Smith.
Services were first held in the Swedish Baptist church, but a few months later and at the beginning of Reverend Bays' pastorate, the Grand Army of the Republic hall was secured for worship, and the work prospered. Preparations were made for the erection of a church, a location was secured in block ninety-four, lot six, and a small frame house was erected during the fall and winter of 1887-8, which furnished a comfortable meeting place for the small society which now numbered about sixty members.
The location of the church proved to be an inconvenient one, remote from the center of population and, after much consultation and planning it was decided to secure a new location nearer the business part of town and rebuild. A location was secured on the southwest corner of Eighth street and Lincoln avenue, consisting of lot number one and the east one-half of lot two of block one hundred and fourteen, of the First National Bank of Concordia for a consideration, of three hundred dollars, and a larger and much better building was erected on the new site, and so nearly completed as to admit of conference being held there in October, 1892. The house was dedicated to the worship of God by Bishop W. Castle, D.D., in February, 1893. The buildings, lots and furniture are valued at about twenty-six hundred dollars.
Reverend Joseph Bays served two years, was reappointed to this work for the third year, but was cut down by the "grim reaper" in 1901, and after his death the work was put in charge of Dr. Williams, who received a temporary appointment. Reverend Bays was a man greatly beloved by his congregation, and did much for the upbuilding of his church.
The United Brethren have a Sunday school in flourishing condition, under the superintendency of J.T. Rogers, who has filled this position for a term of ten consecutive years, with the exception of one year. The attendance is large, numbering about two hundred. The church is a comfortable, well finished building with a seating capacity of three hundred and is practically free of debt. In 1899 they built a parsonage on the lots adjacent to the church ground - a six-room cottage.
The present steward is C.T. Wilson, who has served several years. C.U. McKee is presiding elder, and Harry Key, class leader. Bishops, N. Castle, Q.S. Mills, E.B. Kephardt and I.W. Holt; ministers, Reverends O. Beistle, Joseph Bays, W.W. Carper, W.I. Murphy, T.J. Richie, M. Jennings and C.U. McKee. Reverend Joseph Bays was again appointed, making this his first and last work.
The Woman's Missionary Society and Children's Band of Willing Workers are in a healthy and vigorous condition and are doing excellent work.
February 26, 1877, J.F. Rairden, a pioneer Baptist missionary of the Republican Valley association, called a meeting, which was held in Carnahan's hall, and perfected an organization of twenty-four members. The following year an effort was made to form a partnership with the Swedish Baptist church, but failed; the latter, however, succeeded in building a church and the congregation of the First Baptist church worshipped there until 1887.
In the early part of 1880 ground was broken on the location of the present house of worship, a kiln of brick was bought for three hundred dollars, stone for the basement was donated, and so great was the amount of labor and material given that a church worth five thousand dollars was built for three thousand seventy-nine dollars and twenty cents. Of this sum five hundred dollars was donated by the American Baptist Home Mission society, the remainder was subscribed at dedication in October, 1881. However, of those who had subscribed on the day of dedication, some, through failure of crops and general stringency in financial matters, were unable to pay; others removed without paying, until August 1, 1882, the church stood face to face with a debt of twelve hundred dollars.
Under the leadership of Elder Nash four hundred dollars of this was paid. The friends of the enterprise now felt that they had reached the extent of their ability and hope gave place to doubt and dispair. Elder Nash's resignation followed and matters were left in this unsettled condition until September, 1883, when Elder Wood took charge of the work. December 3, 1883, the remaining indebtedness was paid and the mortgage released.
The Baptist denomination have a handsome edifice, one of the best in the city. It is built of brick, with a basement. The auditorium is handsomely furnished and finished. The windows are of beautiful stained glass. Above the entrance are cut out of magnesia limestone the following inscription: First Baptist church, 1880.
Elder Wood was followed by Reverend B.P. Russell. The pastorates of Elders Wood and Russell were characterized by no great ingathering, but in seed sowing; they prepared for the period of harvest by which the pastorate of Elder Simmons was distinguished. The following pastors have been in charge: Reverends J.F. Rairden, C.H. Nash, M. Wood, B.P. Russell, W.A. Simmons, W.J. McCollom, C.B.P. Fox, J.R. Rairden, B.B. Brink, C.S. Taylor, Charles McMann. A. Frank Houser of Carthage, Illinois, was assigned and took charge October 1, 1901.
This circuit comprises the Republican Valley Baptist Association and embraces the following towns: Belleville, Clay Center, Clifton, Clyde, Concordia, Highland, Junction City, Kackley, Morganville, Republic City, Riverdale, Uniondale and Vinton.
While there has been no great demonstration in the church work of this denomination, there has been a steady and healthy growth. During the boom in the early 'nineties they had a membership of over two hundred, but many removed, some deceased, and a church was organized in the country by J.R. Rairden, which took many members from the Concordia church, leaving the present membership one hundred and three.
A Sabbath school has been in existence for twenty-four years, with an average attendance of about eighty-two. Judge C.P. Smith is the present superintendent. Prior to him, the late E.L. Ackley served four years. Mr. McMann served this charge three years, during which time there was no great demonstration, but good seed had been sown. As a successful minister and Bible instructor, he had few superiors in this part of the country. His sermons were instructive and edifying He was a good counselor and safe leader.
The church was also fortunate in securing a man of so much experience, rare ability, so deep a thinker and powerful speaker as Reverend Frank Houser.
The following auxiliaries are in good condition: The Ladies' Aid Society, the Woman's Home Mission and Foreign Society and a Junior Baptist Young People's Union.
Transcribed from E.F. Hollibaugh's Biographical history of Cloud County, Kansas biographies of representative citizens. Illustrated with portraits of prominent people, cuts of homes, stock, etc. [n.p., 1903] 919p. illus., ports. 28 cm.
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