Labette County Churches
Early Religious Organizations
Seventh Day Adventists
The Adventists have been holding services in
Parsons since 1893. Not having any house of
worship of their own, they rent a hall where services are held. Elder D. H. Oberholtzer has been
one of their principal evangelists in late years.
St. Patrick's congregation was organized by
Father Philip G. Calloten in the summer of 1872,
and lots 1 and 2 in block 122 were secured on
which to commence the erection of a frame
church. In December, 1876, he was succeeded by
Father Joseph Dreason, who served until August,
1881, when Father Rose took charge. Under his
direction the property at the head of Central avenue was secured and converted into a convent.
Five sisters from St. Agnes convent at Osage Mission were secured to conduct the school. Changes
were also made in the church building and the
grounds. Fathers Hodghen, Reil and Ward succeed Father Rose.
Father John Ward served until 1895, when he
was succeeded by Father Nicola Neusius who is
now in charge. Work was commenced on the new
church under Father John Ward in 1891. The
basement was completed and services were held
therein until 1900 when the church was pushed
to completion. It is a fine structure 58 by 145 feet,
with a 75-foot transept; a tower 165 feet high
contains a 2000-pound bell. The church is decorated in Roman style, and has stained glass windows. It is furnished with a pipe organ costing
$2,000. The entire cost of the church and furnishings is said to be $32,000. It has a seating capacity
of 800. The Sacred Heart Academy was started
in 1890 under the direction of the Sisters of Loretto; since 1896 it has been directed by the Sisters
St John's Memorial Church was organized in
June, 1874, as a memorial to Ezra Williams Howard, of Providence, R. L, whose widow, through
Bishop Vail, gave $2,000 toward its erection. The
first board of trustees consisted of Angell Matthewson, W. C. Holmes, J. R. Brown, James Barton, George Thornton, S. 0. Fletcher, and William
Horsefall. Dr. J. B. Lam^b was the first senior
warden. Rev. Benjamin Mower was at once secured as the first rector, and he continued to act
as such for something over a year. He immediately commenced raising money for the erection
of a church. On Sunday, September 27, 1874, the
cornerstone was laid under the direction of the
Masons and Odd Fellows, and on April 5, 1875,
the church was opened by Bishop Vail. Prior to
the completion of their own church they had held
services in the Methodist tabernacle. Mr. Gay,
D. W. Cox, Mr. Talbot, W. T. Bowen, C. W. Harris and J. J. Purcell are among those who have
served as rectors.
Rev. J. J. Purcell, the last named, has been the
rector since 1894, and has contributed by his efficient labors in keeping the church abreast of the
growth of the city.
Elm City Christian Church-organized 1871. See illustration by E. E. Maxson.
The First Christian Church was first organized in 1873, with 12 members and was reorganized in 1875 with 35 members. A brick building
was completed in 1879. Its first elders Phineas
Davis, and John Leonard; its first deacons, J. F.
Van Meter and W. L. Daley. The first pastor was
J. B. Graves, who was followed by C. C. Cline, C.
O. McKinney, O. E. Ebert, W. Thomas, J. V.
Witt, J. T. Tucker, and J. H. Love. In May, 1890
J. P. Witt, who had been preaching for the First
church, organized the Central Christian Church,
with a membership of about 40 and became its pastor. He was succeeded by D. M. Harris and then by Brown. In 1894, the First and the Central Christian Churches, who had maintained separate organizations since their separation in 1890,
concluded to unite, and to be thereafter known as
the Central Christian Church. This union took
place under the leadership of W. E. Harlow, who
had a very successful pastorate extending from
January 1, 1894, to June, 1897, during which time
the membership of the church was very largely
increased. W. W. Burks held the position of pastor from July 1, 1897, to November, 1900, since
which time C. E. Pile has served.
Early in 1872 several citizens of Parsons who
leaned toward Congregationalism, after consulting some of the officers of the Home Missionary
Society, decided to organize, and secured the incorporation of "The First Congregational Church
Society of Parsons" with E. C. Ward, E. S. Stevens and C. L. Whitney as trustees. Hewes' Hall
was rented, and Rev. Mr. Storrs and other ministers promised to preach until the arrival of the
Rev. P. M. Griffin, who was to be sent out by the
Home Missionery Society as soon as he finished
his course at Andover. As the Methodists and
Presbyterians were occupying this hall on alternate Sabbaths the Congregationalists could only
hold services occasionally. This hastened their
action in building a church.
The townsite donated lots 1 and 2 in block 49,
and the church purchased 3 and 4 adjoining. Mr.
Griffin arrived on the ground and commenced
work September 1, 1872. A brick building 27 by
65 was constructed as rapidly as could be done
and was completed the following July. On July
12, 1873, Edmund S. Stevens, Mrs. Elizabeth Stevens, Mrs. Emily Fellows, Rev. Presley M. Griffin
and Mrs. E. J. Griffin formed themselves into and
organized the First Congregational Church of
Parsons. On the following Sunday, July 13, 1873,
the church building was dedicated by Dr. P. McVicar; the church was reorganized and the pastor
was ordained and installed by an ecclesiastical
council. Mr. Griffin remained pastor until August 19, 1879, when he resigned and was duly dismissed by the council.
During Mr. Griffin's pastorate the church
membership was increased from 5 to 62 and the
entire church indebtedness was canceled. Mr.
Griffin was succeeded by Rev. H. M. Burr, who
came in November and continued till May, 1880,
when he was compelled by ill health to resign.
From this time till September 1, 1881, the
church was without a pastor; at that time Rev.
C. Hartley came and stayed until June, 1882,
when he resigned. In December, 1882, Rev. W. H.
Utley became pastor and continued till February
1, 1886. In May of that year Rev. C. L. McKeeson
accepted a call, and remained some two years.
The church was then closed till the summer of
1890, during which time it seemed that the life
of the church had entirely fled; but the membership again rallied, repaired their church, and extended a call to their first pastor, P. M. Griffin,
who accepted, and began work September 1, 1890,
and continued until sometime in 1892. During his
last pastorate a Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor was formed and new vitality was
put into the church in many ways. Since 1892 the
pastors have been: T. B. Jones, three years; A.
W. Bishop, four years; I. G. Ruge, one year, and
the present pastor, T. B. Coachman. In 1894 a
new small brick church replaced the original
structure, which was torn down.
First Baptist Church. In the summer of 1871
Rev. F. L. Walker, of Oswego, visited Parsons and
held some meetings. Perhaps other ministers
may also have rendered them some services. A
few Baptists in that vicinity got together, and
even went so far as to commence the foundation
for a church, but they were so few in number and
so scattered that the enterprise was for a time
abandoned. On March 2, 1873, Rev. Robert Atkinson preached in the Methodist Church and
took the first steps tow^ard organizing a church.
The organization was perfected March 30, 1873,
with a membership of 12, composed of George,
Susan and Emma Everhart, Letitia Rockhold,
Isaac Neptune, Benjamin F., Martin W., Mary B.
and Lizzie Elliott, Ella Hall, Alice Scholl, and R.
M. Donelly. The following officers were then
elected: Rev. Robert Atkinson, pastor and moderator; R. M. Donelly, clerk; Mrs. Letitia Rockhold, treasurer; W. P. Scholl, J. B. Stilwell, J. R.
Bennett and Mrs. Letitia Rockhold, trustees; J.
W. Fee, W. P. Scholl and J. B. Stilwell, deacons.
F. L. Walker and Thomas W. Green served as pastors until 1874; during that year Elihu Gunn
preached for them awhile after which the church
was inactive till September 1, 1877, when it was
reorganized by Rev. Mr. Garrison, and a room
secured on Forest Avenue, in which meetings
were held till the church was erected.
In October, 1879, the foundation for the new
church was laid, and on January 31, 1880, the
building was occupied. In 1887 the building was
enlarged and improved, at a cost of over $3,000,
and on February 5, 1888, was dedicated by Rev.
Robert Atkinson. The church has had two quite
marked revivals, one in 1884 and the other in 1887.
The following have served as pastors: F. M. Iams,
H. M. Carr, W. H. Irwin, L. J. Dyke, A. J. Essex,
W. C. Harvey, J. T. Haye, H. M. Carr, C. H. DeWolfe, H. G. Fraser and J. T. Crawford. The last
named gentleman has served since 1897 to the
present date A number of years ago, a Young
People's Society of Christian Workers was organized in this church, of which H. F. Hixon was
elected president; Rev. J. T. Haye, G. H. L. Copeland and F. W. Flitton also served as presidents.
The name was later changed to that of the Baptist Young People's Union.
Second (or New Hope) Baptist Church. This
church was organized by the colored people April
29, 1876, with 13 members. Rev. Thomas Wilson,
of Ottawa, and Rev. David Payne, of Humboldt,
were the ministers who effected the organization,
and Mr. Payne became the first pastor. A building was erected during the summer of 1876, which
structure was replaced in 1893 by a new brick
edifice, costing $3,000. Rev. A. Fairfax has been
the pastor since 1885.
Mount Pleasant Baptist (colored) was organized May 27, 1886, Rev. G. W. Parks, of Oswego,
acting as moderator, and J. W. Brown, as secretary. W. A. Walton was the first pastor. The
congregation still occupies the frame church that
was erected in 1891, at a cost of $1,500. Rev. D. D.
Payne has been pastor since 1890.
Mount Zion Baptist Church is a small organization of colored members; it has no church
building and holds services irregularly.
An organization was formed in Parsons about
1890 which has had a steady growth and now
numbers about 60 members. In 1898 they erected
a church edifice at a cost of $1,500.
While a Methodist preacher who came of his
own accord preceded them, the Presbyterians
claim to have sent the first preacher to hold services in Parsons. Rev. H. H. Cambern, under the
direction of the Board of Home Missions, came
to Parsons in February, 1871, and commenced
preaching in a saloon. Mr. Cambern held services
frequently during the spring and summer.
The First Presbyterian Church of Parsons
was organized September 24, 1871, by Rev. H. H.
Cambern as moderator. J. V. Thornton, J. E.
Wilkins and J. J. Blause were elected elders. The
membership at organization was 16. In December, 1871, they commenced to take subscriptions
for a church building, but ground was not broken
till August, 1872. The church was completed and
dedicated August 2, 1874, by Rev. C. H. McCreery.
In the meantime Rev. S. F. Farmer was installed
as pastor. An addition was made to the church in
1882, another one in 1883, and a third in 1891. In
May, 1872, Rev. J. H. Metier was employed to
succeed Mr. Cambern as pastor. Since then the
following have supplied the pulpit, some as supplys, others as pastors : Joel Kelsey, S. F. Farmer,
H. G. Miller, F. R. Morton, W. S. Keyes, J. K.
Fowler, Shields, W. S. Davis, Edward F.
Walker, J. M. Wright, and E. O. Hart. Mr.
Wright's pastorate closed in 1893, and he was succeeded by the present pastor, E. 0. Hart. Under
Mr. Hart's pastorate the church building has been
enlarged and improved at a cost of about $3,000.
At present they are building a manse which is to
be commodious and well finished.
At present the church has a membership of
400. In 1882 a Young People's Society was organized for the purpose of holding devotional meetings. At different times it had for its president:
Miss Montgomery, E. H. McCreery, F. H. Schaub,
W. H. Martin, Lena Venable, W. J. McKnight and
George B. Comings. On September 8, 1892, a
reorganization of the Young People's Society was
had, and formed into the Y. P. S. C. E., with
George B. Comings as president.
In February, 1868, a class of about ten members was formed at the house of James Beaver,
some few miles from the present site of Parsons,
by J. Buckmaster as pastor, James Beaver, as
class leader. Reason Tippie, steward, and P. M.
Grant, elder. Those composing this class were
Reason Tippie, Rachel Tippie, N. M. Portrum, C.
Portrum, J. Beaver, J. L. Beaver, A. Pringle,
G. Schekell, G. Botsford and C. Billings. This class
was maintained in that part of the country with
more or less cohesiveness for several years, and
formed the basis for the class at Parsons, which
was organized in February, 1875, with a membership of 15, including Abraham Gary and wife,
James Beaver and wife, N. M. Portrum and wife,
Seth Fisher and wife, Lizzie Kellogg, and having
G. W. Gossett for pastor. January 3, 1877, the
church provided a lot and moved thereon the tabernacle which they had purchased from the M. E.
Church. They used it as a house of worship until
1894, when they disposed of the building and secured a site at the corner of Twenty-fourth and
Crawford avenue, on which they erected a commodious church edifice, and a parsonage on adjoining lots, all at a cost of about $2,500. The
church was impeded in its progress for quite a
number of years by the great division of the
church throughout the country that took place
in 1885. Amxong the pastors who have served this
church are: G. W. Gossett, A. B. McGrew, J. W.
Baughman, William Theope, C. H. Jones, R. C.
Hamil, D. Richardson, W. M. Griffin, and G. H.
Hinton. The church has a good Young People's
Society, both Senior and Junior branches.
African Methodist Episcopal
Rev. A. H. Daniels, of the A. M. E. Church,
came to Labette County in the spring of 1876, and
organized a class in Parsons. In June of that
year he commenced to raise funds with which to
build a church in Parsons. Lot 17 in block 17 was
secured as a site in July, 1876, and soon thereafter
a building was commenced. Messrs. French, Cavanaugh and Miller were the first trustees.
Commencing with 1891, the pastors have been:
1891, J. Allen; 1892, M. Wooten; 1893-1895, J. R.
Ransom; 1896, E. Harrison; 1897-1898, A. C. Terrill; 1899-1900, M. Collins. This and the Oswego
Church were jointly served by the same pastors
for several years. About 1895 they erected a good
brick church building at a cost of about $2,600.
First Methodist Episcopal Church
Methodism in Parsons does not know the date
of its birth. The first religious services on the
townsite of Parsons were held in the summer of
1870, in Abraham Cary's log house on the northwest quarter of section 18, by A. W. King, a local
preacher from Osage township. Mr. King continued to preach there every two or three weeks
during the summer and fall.
The town having been started in November,
a number of buildings were on the ground by
December. Among these was a two-story frame
building standing on lot 32, block 25, next to the
southeast corner of the block, the lower part of
which was occupied by Charles Hazzard with a
saloon. In the room over this saloon, on the evening of December 15, 1870, Mr. King preached the
first Methodist sermon that was delivered in the
town of Parsons; it was also the first sermon
preached in Parsons by any minister. In March,
1871, Rev. G. W. Pye was appointed to the New
Chicago (now Chanute) work, with the understanding that he should also visit Parsons and
preach occasionally. During the Spring he visited
Parsons, preached, organized a class, and commenced the first regular Methodist work done at
this point. During the year he came about every
two weeks. Services were held in what was known
as Hewes' Hall, on Forest Avenue. During the
spring Gary's Hall, on the northeast corner of
block 42, where the opera house now stands, was
built, and the upper story seated by the Methodists, and Presbyterians, in which to hold services. In this room, in May, 1871, the Methodist class was organized. Adam Gebert was the
first to give his name and his hand to the pastor,
Rev. G. W. Pye, and Adam Gary was the second.
At the conference in March, 1872, Rev. J. W. Fox
was sent to the Parsons circuit, which included
besides Parsons, Montana, Spring Valley and Labette City appointments. His salary was estimated at $800, and he was paid $600. At the first
quarterly conference, on April 6, 1872, a building
committee was appointed; which committee, on
April 27 adopted plans and specifications for a
church building, and at once advertised for bids.
On May 8th, the bids were opened, and the contract awarded at $4,753. But owing to the pressing needs of the settlers and the financial distress
generally prevailing, a meeting of the committee
was held June 10th, and it was decided to indefinitely postpone the project of building. In the
fall of 1872, a small building denominated a "tabernacle" was erected on the site of the present
church, at a cost of $700. These lots were donated
to the church by the town company.
The tabernacle was dedicated November 3,
1872, by Rev. H. D. Fisher. In this building the
church services were conducted until the fall of
1876, when it was sold to the United Brethren and
removed from the lots on which it was built. In
March, 1873, Rev. C. R. Rice was sent to the work,
and early in the year built a small parsonage in
block 47, at the cost of about $300. Services were
held quite irregularly on account of the inability
of the church to support a pastor, and in December he removed his family to Emporia and supported them with his own labors, having received
less than $200 from the church during the year.
Notwithstanding all this, Mr. Rice did very
efficient work. Rev. Peter De Clark was the next
pastor. He arrived from the East in April, 1874.
Smallpox, grasshoppers and hard times were too
much for him, and in July he resigned his work.
He was followed in November by Rev. Boyd
Lowe, who was returned to the work in 1875, and
for his services received all that was promised,
viz. $500, the first experience of the kind the
church had had. In 1876 Rev. J. F. Boone was in
charge of the work, and in March, 1877, Rev. C.
A. King came, and remained three years. The
tabernacle having been sold the previous fall, services had to be held in halls, vacant store rooms
and such places as could be secured. This made
the church see the importance of building a house
and the pastor proceeded at once to take steps for
its accomplishment. On November 5, 1877, the
cornerstone of the present church edifice, on the
southeast corner of block 42, was laid by the Masons. The foundation was completed and covered
during the winter, and work resumed during the
spring. In the fall of 1878 the church was enclosed and opened for services by Bishop Bowman. An extensive revival followed. In March,
1880, Rev. M. H. Wilson was appointed to the
work. His ways were not congenial to the membership, and after six months' trial he was allowed to depart, and was followed for the balance
of the year by Rev. C. E. McClintock. In 1881,
Rev. G. W. Pye was returned to the work, and in
March, 1882, Rev. H. W. Chaffee came. The
church and pastor were mutually satisfied with
each other and he remained till 1885, when, under
the limitation, a change was required. During his
pastorate the church, which since its erection had
been occupied in an unfurnished condition, was
completed and furnished, and on February 22,
1885, dedicated by Rev. E. C. Boaz. In March,
1885, Rev. H. A. Tucker became pastor, and continued as such for three years. The following
three years, commencing with March, 1888, Rev.
J. E. Brant was pastor. Rev. R. P. Hammons was
appointed to the charge in March, 1891, and continued two years, being succeeded in March, 1893,
by Rev. John H. Price, who remained three years,
being followed by Rev. Hugh McBirney who
stayed until the conference of 1901. During the
last year of Mr. Hammon's pastorate, the church
was enlarged and improved at a cost of about
$4,500. The debt against the church, amounting
to $2,000, was paid under Mr. McBirney's administration, and, in addition to this, some $1,500 was
expended in enlarging the grounds and in improving the property. The membership of the church
is about 500. In the fall of 1881, the young people
of the church organized the Aftermath Society,
and elected as its officers Mrs. Frank Curtis,
president; Bell Letton, secretary, and Thomas
Clark, treasurer. Under its management the first
young people's prayer meeting of the church was
organized. It did much toward encouraging the
social life of the church, and was also of material
assistance in its financial management. This society was succeeded by the Delphian Society,
which was organized March 1, 1887, with W. J.
Wirt as president; Frankie Reed and Miss Bertha
Kaysing, vice-presidents; Mertie Shannon, secretary, and Charles Nordyke, treasurer. This society did much toward helping in literary and normal work. In the spring of 1889 it reorganized
as the Young People's M. E. Union, with Maggie
Elliott, president; P. W. Blake, vice-president;
Jennie Martin, secretary, and A. D. Lucas, treasurer.
Haven Chapter of Epworth League was organized December 10, 1889, with Rev. J. E. Brant
president; T. R. Breese, W. J. Wirt, Miss Jennie
S. Martin, J. T. Tendrum, vice-presidents ; Maggie
S. Elliott, secretary; John W. Sleigley, treasurer;
and a membership of 17, which in three years increased to 140. All departments of the work are
well in hand, and it has been a great help in the
general work of the church.
Parsons was placed in the Fort Scott Conference District March, 1875.
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