"The Presbyterian Church in Lincoln County"
From the Lincoln Beacon, March 10, 1887
There is a tradition that Father Morrison, of Salina, preached the first Presbyterian sermon in our county. He was a good old man and usually took his text from some place in Revelation.
Next came Rev. Seth Clark, with Elder Taylor. They ran what the boys called a "Presbyterian circus." They used a very large tent for preaching services. Seth Clark was an eloquent preacher. Elder Taylor helped by selling and distributing tracts, books and Bibles. They thought the prospects for a Presbyterian church at Lincoln Center very poor. This was in July 1873.
A young Christian lady, Miss Lizzie McNair, moved with her parents to a claim one mile north of the Center. She had worked in a Presbyterian minister’s family, and when she wrote to this minister she told him of the great spiritual poverty of Lincoln County. He sent her letter to Dr. Timothy Hill, who in turn sent it to H.C. Bradbury, Presbyterian pastor at Minneapolis, Kan. He at once went over to the Center. Once before he had visited the town as a forerunner of the "Presbyterian circus." At that time the walls of the school house were up, but the Court House was only half built. Elder Woody, of Georgia, entertained him over night in his dugout on Elkhorn. But the second time over, in 1874, he found a Baptist Sabbath school in the school house and a Methodist minister (Elder Barker) living in town, and two others in the county.
The Center people turned out in good numbers to hear this new preacher, and kindly received him in their homes. They showed him a square laid off for a Presbyterian church. He told them if they would build such a church he could get $1,000 to help them. So they called a meeting and decided to build immediately. James Goff, our present postmaster, hauled the first loads of stone for the church. The Hudson (N.Y.) Presbyterian Sabbath school sent $50 to start the work and afterward $26 more. Mr. Robertson was the builder. But money was scarce, there were hardly a hundred people in town, and grasshoppers soon became very plenty. So the work stopped when the building was only about five feet above ground and remained so for over two years. During this period the first organization was effected, at first with only three members: E.B. Bishop and wife and Lizzie McNair. This was in 1874. Then Dr. T. Hill came up and we had an organization of six members, by the addition of three lady members. The town grew slowly and had so few houses in it that we could look to the north through town, some Sundays, at meetings at the school house, and see men hunting rabbits in the fields.
In 1877, Father E. Bradbury came out from New England to see his son, and held some revival meetings in the Center school house, in which many were converted. He became so interested in the church that he gave $500 in one check to help start the building again. New life came to the people – they tried by subscriptions, festivals and various ways to raise money. They held socials to which almost all the town came as one family. D.E. Coolbaugh was elected elder, and was a noble helper by his generous gifts. The Church Erection Board of the Presbyterian Church gave $500, and we were stuck again. After quite a rest with boarded windows, on Sunday, July 27, 1879, the church was dedicated by Rev. Francis McCabe, of Topeka. For a long time all denominations of Evangelical Christians worshipped together in love and unity in this building, finding out "how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity." The Methodists occupied the pulpit half the time, and did their part well in the union Sabbath school and prayer meeting.
Father Bradbury moved to Lincoln and took charge of the Center church in 1881. His son Henry commenced in 1880 to work entirely in the country.
Father Bradbury preached at Lincoln two years. Then he gave all his time to the county. God blessed his work and the church became more solid.
Rev. W.D. Ward, the present pastor, was first called to take charge of the Center church in 1883, in his seminary vacation. The people liked him so well that they gave him a call to become pastor when through his studies at Lane Seminary. He was installed pastor in June 1884. During his pastorate the church building has been improved; the Christians have become so numerous that the building could not hold them.
Our Methodist brethren, a little over a year ago, put up a house of their own. Others also branched out for themselves. And still the old church is full of worshippers, though being, as yet, the largest structure in the county reared for religious purposes.
During the last year the church has greatly developed itself in giving. The contributions for congregational expense will amount to more than $1,000 for the year ending in May 1887. Besides this contribution for home expense, they have in the same time given $125 or $130 for outside benevolence. Every quarterly communion sees a goodly number added to its membership.
In regard to the country churches of Lincoln County, most of their history is yet before them.
Vesper church was organized by Rev. Timothy Hill, D.D., in 1875. They are noted for Christian hospitality and kindness and a rising generation that will be a great power. Rev. B.F. McMillan is now their pastor. He is a hard and successful worker. He returned to Kansas in 1885, when he heard in New Jersey that there was a work for him to do here and that Father Bradbury could labor no more. Bro. McMillan preaches too at Sylvan Grove, Rosette, Bashan and Blue Stem.
Our Bashan church was organized in 1883.
Milo has a church building and a genuine Scotch element which is good solid material for a Presbyterian church. Our church here is only partially organized.
Orbitello, organized Jan. 23, 1887, is the youngest member of our church family and starts out with much Christian enthusiasm and zeal and love for the preacher and each other. They attempt great things and will accomplish great things.
And what shall I saw now, for time would fail me to tell about the stations of Sylvan Grove, Rosette, Pinon and Spring Valley, which are growing trees and will bear fruit. Also what shall I say about all the kind and noble acts that have been done to further the cause of Christ in our county. What self-sacrifice, what kind hospitality, what love to God and man. He has been always with us in joy and sorrow.
Over 45 years ago the poet Bryant stood in solitude upon prairies. He saw myriad of insects and flowers; here and there a sliding reptile, a graceful deer and the bee, too, was here, but no man or his habitation could he see and prophet-like he wrote:
"I listen long
To bees domestic hum, and think I hear
The sound of that advancing multitude
Which soon shall fill the deserts. From the ground
Comes the laugh of children, the soft voice
Of Maidens and the sweet and solemn hymn
Of Sabbath worshippers. The low of herds
Blends with the rustling of the heavy grain
Over the dark brown furrows. All at once
A fresher wind sweeps by and breaks my dream,
And I am in the wilderness alone."
Could this poet now stand again on these same prairies and see the beautiful farms and villages and see the school houses and churches rising high in air and hear their sweet bells calling so many willing feet, he would say "My dream has been more than fulfilled." "What hath God wrought!"
Henry C. Bradbury
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