Kansas History and Heritage Project-Labette County

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 of Charity.

Protestant Episcopal

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.

German Baptists

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.

United Brethren

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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This website created September 18, 2011 by Sheryl McClure.
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