"History of the Ash Grove Church"
On Fiftieth Anniversary Related" From the Lincoln Sentinel-Republican, 23 February 1956
On this occasion we the Ash Grove community are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the building of the church. Nearly 32 years of toil and struggle had preceded the building of this church. Through these years services had been a part in the lives of the early day men and women. This, our history, has been gleaned from many sources, some gathered from writing, some from verbal statements made by elders as they remember, some from records, newspapers and conference minutes. After comparing notes, conversations, letters, etc, we have compiled the following story which we think is fairly accurate.
The first church in the Ash Grove neighborhood was held in a dugout in 1873. This dugout was located on the creek northeast of the barn on the place which was homesteaded by N.B. Alley, now owned by Arthur Jepsen. It was 14x18 feet in size, dug in the ground four feet, then built up with logs, a fireplace in the east. The door in the west opened out on the ground level. There was 6x14 inch glasses side by side in the south. The seats were blocks of wood with boards on them. Seemingly, David G. Bacon did some preaching in the early services that were held in this schoolhouse. Frank Brown organized the first Sunday school.
When the log school house was erected near the present site of the Ash Grove school house the services were held in this building. The seats in the school house were split logs, bark left on, with legs attached to the rounded side of the log. Imagine how uncomfortable those seats could get, especially if the preacher was longwinded. Among the early ministers that held services were Rev. Benny Henderson of the Lincoln Christian church and Rev. H.C. Bradbury, an early day circuit rider.
Mrs. A.G. (Mother) Lord held services at different places in the community. She will be remembered for the June picnics held in the Christiansen grove.
In 1887 the services were moved into the frame school house. It was here that a revival was held with twin brothers by the name of J.L. and C.B. McKay, one a singer and the other an evangelist. Many in the community were converted and baptized at this time. It was following these services that the mission decided to organize the church. Rosetta Smith was pastor of the Cedron Mission in 1893 at the time of the organization of the Methodist Protestant church at Ash Grove.
The following are charter members on confession of faith: Fabrius L. Brown, Bell Brown, Charles Ellis, Pierce Metzger, Ella Kyte, Albert Geering, Elizabeth Sowers, James Anderson, Wesley Anderson, Simon P. Horner, William Patterson, Nora L. Shirley, Harvey Wright, J.H. Browning, Alice Brown, Robert Ellis, George T. Metzger, Sarah Metzger, Jacob Geering Sr., Mollie Geering,, Ella Sowers, Bertha Anderson, Enie [sic] Mathews, Clara M. Horner, Eva Patterson, Clara Shirley, Thomas E. Bacus, Lou Browning, Cyrus H. Brown, Alice C. Ellis, Lydia Metzger, Frank Kyte, Jane Geering, John W. Sowers, Nettie Sowers, Fanny Anderson, Maggie Matthews, Elizabeth Horner, Elizabeth Shirley, William E. Case, Bianca Bacus, Belle Timmerman, Kate Ellis, Lewis Timmerman, John Ellis, Mary Lunetta Alley. Living charter members are Sarah Metzger Brooks, William E. Case, John Ellis, Jessie Geering Case, Kate Ellis, Lewis Timmerman.
It was during the ministry of Rev. J.C. Milburn that the parsonage was completed and dedicated on the present site. A bountiful dinner was prepared and served from the kitchen by the ladies on a beautiful day in October 1901, the day of dedication. After the dinner improvised seats made of planks were provided and the dedication was held at the parsonage to a full house.
In December 1904, Rev. George Horner held revival meetings in the school house. The majority of young people were converted during these meetings. After this the first Christian Endeavor was organized. John Ellis was the first president. According to newspaper accounts the Endeavor was a very active organization in the community.
Some time following the evangelistic meetings plans were drafted and the construction of the new church was begun. Three different sites were considered, one in the Sulsar pasture, one at the cemetery and at the present site. Finally, influenced by the donations of materials and labor, the site of Ash Grove was chosen. The land for the church and parsonage was donated by the late Chas. Horner in 1901. The rock was donated and quarried from the land then owned by the late J.H. Geering. The stone was hauled by wagon to the building site where it was hand dressed. In August 1905 the masonry work was started by Mart Garrity, John McQuillan, Owen Mulloy and Frank Heiser.
Construction was far enough along that the cornerstone was laid Friday, Sept,. 15, 1905. There were about 40 people present. The Rev. C.E. Harris delivered the message. Some of the living members who took part in the program are Kate Ellis and Bertha Ellis Bacus. Articles placed in the cornerstone were the leather-backed Bible from the school house days, the county paper, and some coin contributed by the workmen.
In notes taken from Sylvan Grove News we find the Sept. 28, 1905, the church was ready for the window caps. They expected to finish the stone work that week.
Work continued with Mr. Tom Allen supervisor of the carpenter work. This work was finished the week of Aug. 2, 1906. Much of the labor was donated by neighbors and friends.
A note from a Lincoln paper, Feb. 1, 1906: “The M.P. church at Ash Grove is nearing completion and will be plastered soon by Chas. Rouse of Lincoln which ensures the work to be done in the best possible manner.”
From the Sylvan Grove News, March 6, 1906: “Chas. Rouse finished plastering July 19, 1906, Tom Allen has nearly completed the belfry on the church. June 6, 1906: Rev. Harris is painting the church. Aug. 30, 1906: Church will be ready for dedication soon, October 1906: “The building committee has ordered a 40-inch bell and gas lamps from the Wick Brothers.”
From the Lincoln paper, Oct. 25, 1906: “Misses Anna Hansen, Kate Ellis and J.C. Brown are the committee named to select the new organ for the church.” An item a little later stated that the organ had been bought.
From the Sylvan Grove News, November 1906. “The dedication of the new Ash Grove church will be take place Sunday, Nov. 18. There will be services morning, afternoon and evening. Dinner will be served on the grounds. Chancellor E.S. Stevens of the Kansas City University has promised the preach the dedication sermon. Rev. B.A. Brooks, president of the conference, and other ministers of note will be present. There will be no services at the Rosette school house in the forenoon nor at the Cedron school house on the evening of the same day. All are cordially invited to be present, Rev. C.E. Harris, Pastor.”
Nov. 22, 1906: “The dedication of the Ash Grove church was postponed till spring as it is getting late in the season. A series of meetings was planning in connection with the dedication so watch for future dates.”
Nov. 22, 1906; “The school teachers are having a vacation now on account of there being diphtheria at Lincoln. The schools and all public gatherings over the county have been closed until Nov. 26, 1906.”
December 1906: “The date has been set for Dec. 30, 1906, to dedicate the new church at this place. Dr. Stevens will be with us and other ministers also. There will be services at 10 o’clock and also in the evening on the same day. Everyone invited to come. Come prepared to help. God loves a cheerful giver. A series of meetings will commence Dec. 26 at Ash Grove. Come and help to make the meetings a success. Remember the dates.”
So, on Dec. 30, 1906, the church was completed, financed and dedicated.
Our communion service was purchased by the Ladies Aid in 1916 and in 1918 the Aid financed the building of the parsonage porch. In this year the parsonage grounds were fenced. The name of our charge was changed in 1918 from the Cedron charge to the Ash Grove charge of the Methodist Protestant church.
An invitation was extended to the Kansas Conference to meet at Ash Grove for their annual conference in August 1919. The visiting delegates and ministers were guests of the various community families. During this conference the first lantern slides were shown in this community. Rev. B.A. Brooks was assigned this charge and served here for 14 years. It was during this conference that the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society was organized. Mrs. O.M. Wright was the first president. An annual affair of the society was the Thanks Offering Program.
During 1922 a new well was drilled at the parsonage, a fine new stone chicken house was built, a new ceiling placed in the church building and new song books purchased.
More room was needed for Sunday school and church activities so in 1925 the Pottersburg Methodist Episcopal church was purchased by the Ash Grove church and moved to Ash Grove. This church, a frame building, was placed at the east end of the original stone building. A basement was dug and walled up with rock brought from the farm of the late F.L. Brown. The rock were hauled by teams to the church. The sand was hauled from local pits. J.H. Geering was head mason. John Kasky was head carpenter and William F. Geyer did the plastering. During this remodeling of the church the heating system was changed from a coal burning stove to furnace heat. Wood was burned in the furnace for many years and wood was donated. This remodeling was all paid for by cash and labor donations.
An annual event was the wood cutting “bees.” The wood would be sawed, cut and sorted ready to use by evening. On some occasions the ladies served the noon meals.
Due to severe depression and drought years the church activities were limited mostly to just services. [From] 1934 to 1936 there was no regular pastor here. The next few years the church shared pastors with Prairie Grove and Hunter.
Quoted from the Conference minutes, 1939: “Whereas, by due and proper legal and constitutional processes, the former Methodist Episcopal church and Methodist Protestant church, have united to constitute the Methodist church.” This merger took place at the annual Conference in October 1939. Mary Ellen Lutz was our first pastor after the merger.
In September 1940 several women met at the church with our pastor, Rev. Mary Ellen Lutz, [and] organized the Women’s Society of Christian Service. Each month the group meets for a study period and handwork. This year we observed our 15th anniversary with a special meeting in November. Each quarter the society is expected to help meet mission quotas of our district. The society sends boxes of clothing to the needy yearly.
The following were charter members: Mrs. L.L. Bacus, Mrs. Lee Lindquist, Mrs. Fred Brown, Mrs. Claude Wright, Mrs. Andrew Nelson, Mrs. Chas. Smiley, Mrs. Quinton Harlow, Mrs. Chris Jepsen, Mrs. Virginia Williams, Mrs. H.J. Van Leewen, Mrs. Arthur Jepsen, Mrs. O.S. Sowers, Mrs. John Peckham, Mrs. Emerald Heller, Mrs. O.M. Wright, Mrs. E.J. Harlow, Mrs. N.P. Peterson, Mrs. J.J. Geering, Mrs. Chas. Ellis, Mrs. R.N. Wilcox, Mrs. Frank Christiansen. The following officers were elected at the organization meeting: President, Mrs. O.M. Wright; vice president, Mrs. H.J. Van Leewen; secretary, Mrs. L. Bacus; corresponding secretary, Mrs. O.S. Sowers; treasurer, Mrs. Chris Jepsen.
The Methodist church at Ash Grove secured a charter of incorporation from the State of Kansas in July 1943. The following were trustees at the time: F.L. Brown, Mrs. Chris Jepsen, Mrs. Lillian Williams, J.J. Geering and H.J. Van Leewen.
Back in the early ‘20s Jim Kennedy furnished electricity and put lights in the church. After he left town the church depended on gas lights except on special occasions when lights were furnished with a portable plant. In 1947 the church was rewired and R.E.A electricity was installed.
In the fall of 1954 the old coal and wood furnace was discarded and a new propane heating system was installed.
A memorial fund was started for the purpose of completing the basement under the Sunday School annex. The work began in August of 1955 and was completed so that the dedication could be included in today’s program.
Here is the complete list of pastors:
Rosetta Smith, 1892-1893; William Acton, 1893-1897; L.H. Smith, 1897-1898 (Feb.); H.C. Cots, Feb. 1, 1898 to June 1, 1898; J.H. Browning, June 1, 1898-1901; J.C. Milburn, 1901-1902; C.E. Harris, 1904-1907; John Buckner, 1909; E.R. Biggs, June 1 to September 1910; J.M. Hanson, 1910-1p13; F.F. Mays, 1913-1915; S.W. Martin, 1915-1917; C.J. Knox, 1917-1919; B.A. Brooks, 1919-1933; W.A. Wilson, 1933-1934; supplies 1934-1936, J.L. Wonder, Glen Fickle, Ben White; E.L. Allen, 1936-1937; Webster Hobb, 1937-1939; Mary Ellen Lutz, 1939-1940; A.P. Cummins, 1940-1941; E.O. Johnson, 1941-1942; John Perrill, 1942-1943; Arthur S. Berg, 1943-1944; Wm. Lambertson, 1944-46; A.J. Bales, 1946-1947; James H. Smith, 1948-1949; Gene Tromble, Feb. 1950 to June 2, 1951; Victor Peterson, June 9, 1951, to August 11, 1952; I.W. Torrence, 1952-1953; J.H. Copley, 1953-54; C.D. Humfeld, 1954.
Marriages that have been solemnized in the church are:
Jesse Brown and Hannah Daughtery, June 10, 1908. John Buckner, pastor.
Russell Byall and Agnes Christiansen, Sept. 5, 1936. J.L. Wonder, supply.
Milford Saine and Veryl Bacus, Sept. 15, 1946. Mary Ellen Lutz, pastor.
Elda Lew Jensen and Helen Stewart, June 20, 1948. A.J. Bales, pastor.
This history was formed from material obtained from church records, conference minutes, Lincoln county newspapers, Sylvan Grove News, Louise Barnhill, Mrs. Martha Hutchins, Jesse Brown, Fred Brown, J.R. Stewart, Scott Sulsar, Lottie Sulsar, Bertha Bacus, J.J. Jensen, Theo [?] Jensen, Glenn Sheppard, Henry Horner, Mrs. Addie Wright, Mrs. Ollie Geering, R.N. Wilcox, Zach Hayden.