Archive for Thursday, May 24, 2007

Long shares church’s history

May 24, 2007

The Eudora United Methodist Women had its annual mother-daughter brunch and fellowship May 12 at St. Paul United Church of Christ. There were about 60 in attendance.

Several church members including Elva Kindred, Edna Holmes, Arlene Lawson and EvaBelle Gerstenberger told their memories of the Eudora, Salem and Captains' Creek Methodist churches. The audience responded with other memories. Marcia Bagby read a humorous Mother's Day poem.

Hannah Circle president-chair is Anissa Norris. Prizes were given to several women who wore lovely or unusual hats. Fern Long also gave scripture, prayers and poems.

Eudora United Methodist Church historian Fern Long gave the following presentation "How We Came to Have a Methodist Church in Eudora" at the annual United Methodist Women mother-daughter luncheon.

The beginning

We have a Methodist church in Eudora because of Shawnee Chief Paschal Fish Jr.

He was born in 1804 and educated in a Friends Mission School. When the Fish Tribe of Shawnee Indians came to Kansas because they were forced to move to this area in Kansas set aside as the Shawnee Indian Reservation, they settled near Turner by present Kansas City.

Paschal Fish Sr. was a white man and he and his brother were taken as captives by the Shawnees in Kentucky as young lads. Paschal chose to live with the tribe so his brother could return home.

He requested a Mission school from the government and the Methodists were contacted and started the Shawnee Indian Mission School, which has been restored and tours are now available.

After Paschal Fish Sr. died in 1934, Paschal Fish Jr. because Chief of the tribe. He and about 600 Indians moved to the Eudora area. He asked for a Mission school and the Missouri Methodist Episcopal Church South sent the Dr. Rev. Abram Still in 1851. He built a school of logs with two stories and a thatched roof. He was against slavery and this caused the school to close in 1854.

Paschal was a Methodist minister, had a roadside inn on the Westport-Fremont Trail on the south of present Eudora, and a ferry across the Kansas River near Weaver Bottoms.

As Germans came seeking land to found a town, they bought 774-1/2 acres from the friendly Paschal Fish and his family and started the town of Eudora. They named the town for Paschal's daughter, Eudora.

After the Mission closed, this area was served by circuit preachers, who rode horseback or horse and buggy in all kinds of weather. They could not be at one worship service every Sunday so they had a circuit of many homes, schoolhouses, barns, etc., holding worship services on a circuit of every few weeks or months.

Most people were poor and these preachers covered a large area with little pay for hard work, many dangers and were fed mostly cornmeal foods. Some of their wives and children lived in poor conditions too. One wife had only two dresses.

They never knew when their husbands would return home or if he would. What a wonderful day when the church people could build them a church building to worship in and a parsonage to live in. They were such dedicated Christians.

Eudora has always had many churches, with six on Church Street at one time.

After the town was established, people came from other language speaking areas; many spoke English and several small churches started in this area. Several joined together as Methodists and in World War I people started to speak more English so the German- and English-speaking Methodists united and started to build this brick church at 703 Church Street and sold their two small churches.

Fund-raising

The Rev. John Patterson was the pastor who started the project, but left to go to India as a missionary. The Rev. Charles Davis finished the project.

Men of the church talked to members to get pledges and even non-members gave donations. Many fund-raisers provided more money.

Within two years the congregation was worshipping in the new building. It was dedicated in 1924 with a day of dinner, program and fellowship with the bishop and former friends and pastors present for a program.

This great and grand church with its special basement with no pillars in the middle was unheard of in such a small town, but they had a vision and got it paid for quickly and worshiped in it for 86 years. It was with lots of hard work and sacrifice to make it all happen, and hard to make loan payments -- many could only give pennies at times.

I was told that every brick in the building represented a pie baked by the church women.

Women have been the backbone of the churches and they used to keep up the parsonages for the pastors and families. Women have been active in this church since Josephine Gilmore gave the land for the church. Women have served on the administrative board and many committees and were Sunday school workers and leaders in many areas.

Membership was low in 1940 when I moved here and the population was only 500 residents. After Pearl Harbor caused the building of the Sunflower Army Ammunition Depot to be built a few miles east, Eudora's population soon tripled.

People had to open their homes for strangers. Garages and chicken houses became apartments. We had a family of five that lived in a tent in our backyard and two rooms rented upstairs.

The church had to open its doors, too. The first grade of 60 pupils from Eudora Elementary School met in the morning in the church basement. Second-graders met in the afternoon.

Church women

The church women have had group meetings since 1888.

Often they could not start their meetings until they had cooked a big farm dinner, cleaned up, hitched up the horses to the buggy or wagon, got their children ready and drove to the meeting on dirt or mud roads.

Sometimes they only met four times a year because of weather, sickness or bad roads. Those brave dear souls really loved their Lord.

Children have always been a strong consideration of the church to learn spiritual values. Tell the children that a long time ago this church always had a Christmas Eve program and each child got a gift. The children did not get a lot of toys like children do today and this church gift might be the only one the child would get for Christmas.

A number of years ago when I worked in the nursery, the room got moldy and caused me to have asthma, so I had to quit. The church men solved the drainage problem so it was safe for the children.

One time we lost an active church family's daughter to leukemia as a child and this saddened the whole church and town.

This church sponsored a European refugee family in the 1960s to come to America, which was a daunting project for all, but our membership was highest then.

One year we had a polio epidemic and even the CPA Picnic was canceled. In 1918, the influenza epidemic caused the death of many people. At these times, the church held meetings to a minimum.

I think of no certain happy times or joys but church was serious business. We did have good times and happy fellowship at church.

This church has been a lovely place to worship, to be married, baptized, have funerals, vacation Bible school, youth groups, women's groups, study groups, great music, fabulous dinners served for fellowship or to raise money at bazaars or auctions and basement sales.

As we say goodbye to the 703 Church Street building and Salem Chapel, we now have to use our time, money and talents for God's new church near Kansas Highway 10 and make it the beautiful church God deserves. What a contrast from the little thatched log cabin mission of 1851.

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