By Marjorie Welter
Pioneer history has as its foundation the church, which was the first organization established in each settlement as the nation expanded westward. The present church in Grantville was one of these early churches for it was in 1855 that it was first organized.
Rev. A.A. Wilson, a circuit rider, came to Kansas with the burning desire to establish the Methodist Church. His endurance, patience and zeal supported him in a bleak wild country, to cross forbidding areas of swampland and great distances of forests to gain for those of the future, a church to be proud of.
In 1855, Rev. A. S. Wilson built a residence large enough for a mission and the first Methodist organization in the Kaw Township met to establish a church the first Sunday in June. Two ministers were present, Rev. W. O. Bradford and Rev. L.B. Statler. This was the beginning of what is now the Grantville United Methodist Church, (the Methodist Church South). This organization was the seat of the church for many years. When Rev. Wilson died in 1864, he was succeeded by Rev. J. C. Foresman.
In 1857, the Methodist Church (North) met for the first time in the Kaw City Hotel which was located where the old Haynes home north of Grantville stands today. The minister was Rev. James Griffith (1862-1863). As most setters were either Southern people or in sympathy with them, a church was not organized as such until 1861. At this time Rev. J.J. Early (1861-1862) organized the first class and presided as its pastor until 1862.
From 1865 to 1877 when the first church was erected, several pastors served the Grantville circuit. They were Rev. Taggard, Rev. Bartram, Rev. Murch, Rev. Buffington, Rev. Arrington, Rev. Houts, Rev. Tresize, Rev. David Campbell, Rev. Wm. Campbell and Rev. Lewis Biggs. While Rev. Buffington was the pastor the church parsonage was built. Rev. William Campbell was the pastor when first church was erected in 1877.
From early records the circuit was changed many times, having many pastors, some successful, and some not. The circuit bore the names of Rossville and Grantville, North Topeka and Grantville and Perry-ville and Grantville. At the conference of March 1872, at Emporia, it took the name of Grantville Circuit stretching over a district of county of about 35 or 40 miles in length and about 15 miles in width having eight appointments and as many more where preaching was called for which was impossible for one man to supply.
At the conference of 1877, L.C. Biggs was appointed pastor and on arriving found the church building covered and enclosed. An excursion was organized by the pastor for the purpose of raising funds for the seating of the church. This took place July 14, 1877 and was run from Topeka to Ft. Leavenworth. It resulted in a net profit of $245. With this sum the church was seated and otherwise furnished. On Sunday, August 19th, Rev. William Smith of Leavenworth preached the Dedication Sermon and after preaching raised $710., a sum sufficient to cover all indebtedness.
On the following Sunday the first Sunday School under the auspices of the Grantville M.E. church was organized. A series of meetings was held in September by the pastor assisted by Mrs. N.L. Reeder of Burlingame. Seventeen accessions to the church was the result. In December, a series of meetings was held in Huber school house and an organization was made by the pastor in the neighborhood. On Christmas Eve the ladies of the sewing circle gave an entertainment for the benefit of the church which resulted in a profit of $108.00 Note: This was the first year money was raised for church support by other means.
Rev. Horsefield, who was appointed to the circuit in 1878 was devoted to his task and entered heartily into the work and immediately gained the love and respect of the membership. He died while serving the charge much to the sorrow of the people who cared for him during his last illness with loving care. He died with a full assurance that all was well and the prospect bright. Bro. Fielder finished the year.
When E.P. Holland came as pastor from the Conference appointment of 1879, he found that the Rev. Fielder had neglected the Charge. He went about building up the circuit. A class was organized at Williamstown; Ebenezeer Chapel was constructed and Huber was attached to it. The Medina appointment was discontinued by consent of the official board.
After the Conference of 1886 and the appointment of W. L. Morris, there are no official recordings for 22 years so it is assumed the church had a full time pastor.
Many pastors served the Grantville Charge during this period: Rev. John Henderson, 1889-1890; Rev. Olaf Call, 1891-1892; Rev. J. L. Thompson, 1893-1894; Rev. Floyd Seaman, 1895-1896; Rev. H. B. Hammond, 1897-1898. While Rev. Hammond was pastor in 1897, the two churches, North and South were united. Rev. Hammond was followed by Rev. J. Lawrence, 1898-1900; Rev. M. Jackson, 1901-1904; Rev. W. C. Osborne, 1905-1906; Rev. John Cook, 1907-1908; Rev. W. C. Osborne, 1908-1909; Rev. Edwin Peterson, 1909-1913.
At one o’clock A.M. July 30th, 1909 the church was struck by lightning and with the exception of a few chairs, the pulpit and the Sunday School organ, everything was destroyed by fire. The insurance was $1200 on the building and $100 on the piano. The little church was very dear to the hearts of many, dearer than they knew and was associated in the memory of almost every family history in the community having served as a place of worship for 32 years. It was like the passing of a very dear friend. Plans were immediately drawn up for a new building and on April 24, 1910, it was dedicated. The cost of the building and furnishings was $5,000 all paid in cash and individual notes. The dedication was made by Rev. J. Ream, District Supt., and the morning sermon was by E.E. Urner of Osage City. His text 1Cor. 3-14. The afternoon sermon was given by Rev. Ream who chose as his text 1Chron. 29:5. The evening service was a sermon by F. N. Lynch of Topeka with the text Heb. 11:12 This edifice still stands as a monument to the early endeavors of a group of settlers who felt that a community’s first need was a place to worship.
It was also during Rev. Peterson’s pastorate that a Tithe Covenant was established in the church on January 29, 1910. Thirty-six people signed the covenant on this day, several of whom were children. Rev. Ream, Dist. Supt. The Covenant stipulated the provisions of a tithing church. Each year, those who had signed on January 29th renewed their willingness to keep up their promises of tithing. This system is still encouraged in the church in 1976.
Following Rev. Peterson, the pastors were Rev. A. P. Jones, Rev. T. B. Adell, Rev. H. A. Cook, Rev. G. A. Clarke, Rev. William Pyles, Rev. A. S. Houts, Rev. E. W. McDonald, Rev. Z. B. Ermey, Rev. E. T. Cooprider, Rev. C. E. Holcombe, and Rev. Schulenberger.
The church in the course of its history has had its ups and downs and during the depression years of the late twenties and thirties was an especially bleak time. It was necessary to hold sales to finance the upkeep, as everyone was hard pressed to make scant contributions. Faithful members held on and eventually better days came. Because of the set back due to the depression and unfavorable farm conditions, and since small churches were uniting to survive, the Grantville and Oakland Churches came to a decision to share a pastor, with the pastor residing in the Oakland parsonage. The pastors under the regime were Rev. Otis Beach, 1944-1948; Rev. W. E. VanPatten, 1948-1954; Rev. Chester Sisney 1954-1957. Rev. Sisney died while serving the two churches and Rev. Frank Warren who had just returned from serving as an army chaplain during the war, was appointed as pastor. He served for ten years, until 1968. During his pastorate the church was remodeled and a Sunday School wing was added. The church advanced rapidly under Rev. Warren’s leadership and continued to do so under the pastors who followed him. Many new members have joined and become active members.
In 1953, when Mrs. Della Crosby of Topeka died, it was discovered that she had established a substantial trust fund as a memorial gift to the church in memory of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. A.J. Kleinhans, the original grantors of the church property. The income of this fund was to used to keep up the church. One of the stipulations was that the bell should be rung every Sunday.
Since 1966, the church has supported resident pastors. Rev. Warren was the first minister at this time. After he was transferred, the trustees agreed with the conference that we should have as pastors young student ministers enrolled in St. Paul’s Seminary in Kansas City. The first to come was Rev. John Hasting and while he was pastor a new parsonage was built, largely through volunteer efforts, and consecrated.
Rev. John was a great help in this construction and many times was seen on the roof with “hammer in hand.” Kingsford David followed, but remained only part of a year, leaving the pulpit ministry to join a gospel quartet.
Han Lankhorst came as a pastor in 1971. He and his wife were born in Indonesia of Dutch and Indonesian ancestry and after living in Holland, came to the United States where Han decided to become a Methodist minister. Han and Eva brought much of their culture to our community life and endeared themselves to the community as Christian leaders of great faith.
The present pastor is Charles Claycomb and as a Christian leader is involving church members in a meaningful part of the worship service. He is an excellent pastor and perhaps his greatest asset is his visiting the sick and in the homes of all the residents of the community and becoming acquainted with both members and non-members.
The present building has been remodeled several times. A Sunday School Department consisting of several rooms has been added and at the present time, the sanctuary has just been redecorated and new memorial windows will be added this spring. All of the windows of the church will then be memorial windows. Under the present leadership, a program of expansion is before us as it relates to the future development of a prosperous church to meet the demands of our youth in an ever changing society.
It would be impossible to list all of the faithful membership throughout the years. It is wonderful that we are able to maintain a congregation that still has active members who are direct descendants of the founders of the church. A second generation member of the church; Mrs. Etta Markell, the daughter of A.C. Hurd, one of the first trustees, is still living and for many years was very active in all church organizations. She is in her 99th year and has seen the development of the church from early days through its periods of depression, as well as prosperity. She has been an inspiration to all of the membership.
The church is indebted to many faithful members who have passed on to their heavenly home. They are to be remembered for the service they rendered so willingly in their giving not only of their money but of themselves in serving their church in all of its endeavors to build a spiritual life in the community. Words cannot express the loyalty of the many members who continue to carry on this tradition. Their whole-hearted devotion and service stand as living memorials.
The many memorials that are in the church, visible to the eye, to make it a place of beauty and serenity, added to those that have been made to building funds, memorials, have indeed made our church a house of God that throws its beam to all who come under its influence. The early founders would indeed be proud that from its inception in 1855 a House of God has served the community.