From the collections at the Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum. Reprinted with permission from The Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum and the Leavenworth Times. Donated by Debra Graden.
Independent Baptist Church, 6th and Pottawatomie, observes its 104th Church Anniversary Aug. 2.
The Rev. R. C. Higgs, pastor of the Bethel Baptist Church, Kansas City, Kan., choir and members will be guests at 3 p.m. for the anniversary program.
General chairman of the church anniversary committee is Samuel Kelson; Joseph Brundy is co-chairman if the program committee and the deacons and trustees of the church are leaders of the financial effort for this day.
Rev. T. Franklin Strange is pastor.
Independent had its beginning in the year 1866 as a small white building located on the southeast corner of Third and Kiowa Streets. The Pastor was Rev. Caldwell.
Rev. Caldwell and the members decided to construct a new building. The foundation was laid and the cornerstone put in. The old S. E. Lowery Building at Third and Kiowa now rests on the foundation that was originally laid for the church.
As an interim measure, the congregation rented a building called Dustons Hall, located on Shawnee. Later, the church membership purchased a frame building and moved to a new location on 6th and Pottawatomie. The parsonage now stands where the frame building was located.
In 1879 it was decided by the congregation to build a brick structure on the lot where the present church now stands. The name was changed from Mt. Gillian Baptist Church to Independent Baptist Church, but often referred to Second Baptist Church. During these early years of Independent the Silver Leaf Club was organized.
A wonderful choir was organized in 1906. Miss Roena Brown was organist and Mrs. Rhoda Barnard, chorister. During this time a young home town man, Rev. James Dudley Hunt began preaching under Elder Goree.
Between 1924-1929 the present parsonage was constructed.
During the years 1932-1936 Rev. A. A. Royston served as pastor. The church building was covered with white stucco, the picture of Jesus Christ was purchased, and babies were dedicated to God. Rev. Royston was the first pastor to die while serving the church.
The church mortgage amounting to $600 plus other indebtedness was paid off during the pastorate of Rev. E. L. Alexander. The pastor, officers, and members of the church joined in a celebration on June 17, 1941 to witness the burning of the mortgage.
The Rev. W. F. Strickland was pastor between 1942-1951. During this time redecoration of the interior of the church was accomplished and Rev. L. C. Alexander, son of former pastor Rev. E. L. Alexander, was called to preach.
Rev. W. G. Williams was pastor of Independent from March 9, 1952 to 1964. Many significant improvements were accomplished under his leadership. Ground-breaking ceremonies were held Aug. 16, 1959 for the educational unit. The cornerstone was laid in February 1960. Dedicatory services were held March 13, 1960.
Rev. T. Franklin Strange became pastor in October 1966. In a short time Rev. Strange was a guiding force which has seen the completion of a $2.7 million Rent Supplement Housing Development Project, the first such project in the State of Kansas, which houses 190 low income families. He has led in remodeling the edifice, purchasing new equipment, and in purchasing a bus to convey children and adult members to Sunday School and other church functions. He is a leader of youth and sees to it that the youth have a part in the local church and are active in the denominational work from the District through the national level. The Young People's Choir will be singing at the National Baptist Convention U.S.A. Inc. in September at New Orleans, La.
Rev. Strange became the first Negro minister to preach the Baccalaureate sermon at Leavenworth High School in May 1968, which is a great accomplishment for the church and community.
Many new members have been added to the congregation through Christian experience, and baptism. Under Rev. Strange's Leadership and professional ability, the Independent Baptist Church has thrived spiritually, numerically and financially.
The following ministers have served as pastors of Independent Baptist Church in the past; Rev. Dennis Jones, Rev. T. H. Ewing 1879; Rev. Martin, Rev. P. J. Henderson, Rev. Jessie Harris, Rev. Banks, Rev. Goree 1906, Rev. Hunt 1907, Rev. L. M. Curtis 1921, Rev. C. B. Burton 1923, Rev. B. J. Davidson 1924-1929, Rev. P. L. Riggins 1929-1931, Rev. A. A. Royston 1932-1938, Rev. C. E. Wright 1939, 1936, Rev. William Thomas 1936-Rev. E. L. Alexander 1940-1942, Rev. W. F. Strickland 1942-1951, Rev. W. G. Williams 1952-1964, Rev. Elroy Day 1965-1966.
Deacons serving Independent Baptist Church in years gone by and now deceased were Deacons Burley, Roberts, Louis, Branch, Brickel, Hamilton, Burton, Walker, January, Lee Lamb, Bell, Debow, English Reese, Poynter, Doniphan, Sparks, Grayer, Bowman, Buckner, Wigginton, James Gordon, William Williams Sr., Joseph Chase, Louis McKinnis, Ira Terry, Ord Bell, and Edward Richardson.
Present deacons are Howard Graves, Wilbert Thomas, Garland Gayden Sr., Clarence Thomas Sr., Willie Webb, Walker Cross and Willard Harvel..