From:   A Century of Service

1870 - 1970

Shortly after the close of the Civil War, in 1869, the Osage Indians agreed to give up their reservation in Southeast Kansas and move across the border into Oklahoma.  Even before the final treaty was signed at Drum Creek, settlers were pouring into the area.  A party of men from Oswego came to the forks of the Elk and Verdigris Rivers and decided to found a town there.  So Independence was born.   The first “houses” were only lean-to shelters made of prairie hay cut that summer of 1869 — hence the early nickname of “Haytown.”  By the following spring there were close to 200 people in Independence and the lack of any church was keenly felt.  A schoolhouse had been built of logs on the North West corner of Fourth and Maple, but it was not until April, 1870, that the first church group was formed here.

A young Presbyterian minister, Rev. J. J. Brown, had arrived on a missionary mission from the East and was staying in an upper room of a log carriage-house (or inn) near the Northeast corner of Sixth and Laurel Streets.  Learning this, several men arranged to meet with him in the home of Daniel Cline — a log cabin on the West side of Ninth Street, a short distance north of Laurel. — and there, on April 2, 1870, the Presbyterian Church was organized in Independence.  The following day being Sunday, the first church service in Independence was held in the log schoolhouse which was finished but as yet unplastered.  After the morning service, two elders, John McDill and Daniel Cline, were ordained and the Communion of the Lord’s Supper was administered to the nine charter members of First Church.  That same evening Rev. Brown performed the first marriage ceremony in Independence at the same schoolhouse. 

Rev. Brown stayed only a few weeks before returning to the East, but in October the Rev. C. H. McCreary was appointed by the Presbytery to preach and administer the Sacraments to the local congregation.  A meeting of the Session was held at the home of Professor Boles, when 11 persons with proper certificates were received into the church, making the membership 26 persons.

In response to the members’ expressed desire for a pastor of their own, Dr. McCreary wrote to the Rev. S. A. Stoddard of Holden, Kansas, inviting him to come to Independence to preach.  When he came it was decided to secure his services for one year.  A committee of one man and three women was appointed to see what money could be pledged toward his salary.  As a result of this committee’s report, it was considered safe to promise $300.00 yearly toward the support of a pastor; the Home Mission Board granting him $500.00 additional.  Rev. Stoddard and his wife arrived December 24, 1870, and his first sermon was preached on Christmas Day.  No house being available, they were entertained by Mr. and Mrs. W. T. Bishop in the only plastered rooms in town. 

Shortly thereafter, Rev. Stoddard purchased a small house north of the present courthouse, made it habitable and moved in the latter part of January, 1871.  About the same time an important meeting was held in the home of W. T. Bishop.  Up to this time a union Sunday School had been held for all children in the town, but now the Presbyterian Sunday School was organized with Prof. Boles named as its first Superintendent as well as teacher.  Church services were held in the minister’s house and in the little log schoolhouse mentioned previously, even in Vandiver’s Hall which was in the 400 block on East Main Street.  The Baptists, having erected the first church building in Independence late in 1871, gladly shared their church home with the Presbyterians and Congregationalists who held their services whenever the Baptists were not meeting.  Late in 1871 the first Court House was built on the site of the present one and this building was also used as a meeting place until our first church edifice was built in 1872.  The first baptism recorded was in 1871.

By the end of 1871 the membership had grown until it was felt that the lack of a permanent church home must be amended, but from where would the money come?  Mrs. Stoddard, the pastor’s wife, having died suddenly in May, 1871, Mr. Stoddard returned to the East for a short visit and while there mentioned to friends the great need of a church building here.  They promised their help through the Boards of Church Erection and on the pastor’s return to Independence it was decided that the time had come to start building the dreamed-of church home of the Presbyterian church.

The first site selected was on North Eleventh Street and the foundation stones were carefully laid there, but later it was decided that a location on Fifth Street between Main and Myrtle Streets was more centrally located and more desirable, so Mr. Stoddard, himself, raised the heavy foundation stones and transported them to their new site.  It had been decided to build a brick church building which was to be the first erected in the whole Osage Reserve.  Since no suitable bricks could be found nearer, it was necessary to have them brought down from Chanute “at a heavy expense.”  After many delays and disappointments the church was finished at a cost of $8,000.00 and the first prayer meeting was held there on November 21, 1872.  As the record states, “Heartfelt gratitude to God was manifested in remarks and prayers and all sang feelingly, ‘Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow’.”  On December 1, 1872, Rev. Robert Irwin, Jr., preached a sermon and the church was dedicated.  The same month Rev. Stoddard was installed as minister with a pledged salary of one thousand dollars.

The Mite Society, the first ladies’ group, wished to buy a bell for the new church as a memorial to Mrs. Stoddard.  Such a bell could be purchased in St. Louis for $100.00.  A cousin of Mrs. Stoddard agreed to pay half this cost and the remaining $50.00 was raised by small individual donations from all the town’s people.  When the bell finally arrived, it was discovered that the small bell tower would not hold it, so for several years the “silver-toned” bell was mounted on a small platform beside the front door of the church—an irresistible target for the children of the church who loved to push it as they passed through the door to Sunday School just to hear it ring.  This same bell was transferred to each successive church building and until the present structure, rang out in loving memory of the wife of our very first pastor.  When the present church was dedicated, the old bell was removed and carefully stored in the basement where it still remains.

The organ from that first church, a Mason and Hamlin reed-organ, played faithfully for many years by Mrs. Susan M. Finley, has also become a symbol of our link with the past.  As we moved from one location to another, the old organ was always installed in a place of honor as a sacred relic.

Through the efforts of the Mite Society, a fine red ingrain carpet was also purchased for the first church.  Mush and milk parties, attended by men as well as women and children, with bowls of mush and milk selling for ten cents apiece, oyster suppers and pancake suppers, dramatic performances, even a “Mum Sociable” where no one could talk aloud on pain of being fined but had to “converse by pantomime,” raised the necessary money.  The ladies did the janitor work of the church building including varnishing the pews and the pulpit.  There was no extra money to pay for laying the carpet when it arrived, so those same church women pinned up their skirts, went down on their knees and, praising God, stretched and tacked the carpet all the way from the vestibule to the pulpit.

It was about this time that a severe drought threatened the local crops, so it was decided to hold an outdoor prayer meeting to pray for rain.  According to the records only Mrs. B. F. Masterman showed her faith by bringing her umbrella.

During the first 25 years of our church we were privileged to have with us 11 ministers who served here from two months to five years (pictured):


            J. J. Brown                  S. A. Stoddard            William Bishop, D.D.             I. W. Monfort

            R. B. Herron               J. S. Grimes, D.D.       E. C. Jacka                              F. E. Kavanaugh

            John Herron               J. N. McClung            G. W. Bean

Rev. Jacka was here only two months but during his short pastorate he organized the Young People’s Society, soon to be known as the Christian Endeavor. 

This brings us to the pastorate of Rev. S. S. Estey, newly ordained, who began his ministry here in 1895.  The evangelistic meetings of Major Cole had added many to our membership and by this time the church was out of debt with a membership of 187.  The Benevolent Boards of the church received contributions regularly and there was a steady increase of spiritual strength in the church and of Christian influence of the community.

In 1898 the ladies of the church bought a lot at the Southeast corner of Fourth and Main Streets where later the Manse was built.  Dr. and Mrs. Estey were the first to occupy it.  The church enjoyed great spiritual growth and when Dr. Estey accepted a call to Salina we felt the loss would be irreparable; but Dr. Elmer A. Bess came to us with his wife and family of lively little boys and we were greatly helped by their presence here.  Demaree Bess, the noted war correspondent of World War II and former editor of the Saturday Evening Post, was one of those little boys who so enlivened the Manse and the Sunday School of that day.

It was during Dr. Bess’ ministry that the Northeast corner at Fifth and Main was purchased and plans made for a large new church to be erected at the site.  The cornerstone was laid in 1904 and on February 12, 1905, what was the largest brick church in this section of the country was dedicated.  Dr. Estey came from Topeka to preach the sermon on that glad day while the congregation listened with reverent hearts to the sound of the fine new organ, a present from Mr. A. C. Stich.  The two large windows which may be seen today in our present chapel and Library as well as the pews, pulpit furniture, carpets, lighting fixtures and kitchen equipment had been purchased by the Ladies’ Society, as the Mite Society was now called.  The entire structure with its furnishings was valued at more than $20,000.  The little old church that had been our first home was sold to the Salvation Army who used it as their Citadel for many years.  Later they in turn sold it to the Church of Christ.  Sometime during this period the brick facing was removed and the building covered with asbestos shingles.  A north wing was added to the church in 1968.

 In 1907 Dr. Bess left us and Mr. Thomsen and his family arrived to serve us during one of the most difficult periods in our history.  For it was about this time that the discover of oil in this area led to the oil boom and easy money came and went.  At one time Independence was credited with more millionaires per capita than any other place in the entire country.  During all this excitement and subsequent deflation, Dr. Thomsen was loved by all for his charity and encouragement.  When he felt that he must leave us for his health’s sake, he encouraged the congregation to waste no time in filling the empty pulpit.

 So it was with great joy that we learned that Dr. Floyd Poe was coming to us in the summer of 1911 together with his lovely young wife.  Their daughter, Helen Louise, was born during their eight year stay in Independence.  Possessed of a wonderful voice, Dr. Poe served us in the ministry of song as well as in the pulpit.  The rapid growth in the town’s population due to the oil boom had been reflected in the growth of the church and it was felt that the church building so proudly dedicated in 1905 was now inadequate for our needs, soon May 11, 1917, after an extensive remodeling, the expanded church building was rededicated.  Again Dr. Estey came to preach the sermon, assisted by Dr. Bess and Dr. Thomsen.  Pictures of the outside of the building show the greatest change in the location of a basement door which was in the center of the west side, but the interior was also altered.  By raising the entire building on jacks the basement was greatly enlarged and now was ready to take care of the Sunday School classes as well as the kitchen and dining room.  The cost of the remodeling was over $20,000.00 and it was felt that the entire structure was now to be valued at $65,000.00.  Only a few short months after completion of the remodeling, on the morning of the first Sabbath of the New Year of 1918, we awoke to learn that our fine new church had been extensively damaged by fire during the night.  The entire structure as well as the organ and furnishings would have to be repaired.  It was the encouragement and inspiration of Dr. Poe that enabled us to have everything finished and ready for rededication so quickly—on March 31, 1918.

In 1919 Dr. Poe accepted a call from Texas and Dr. Clyde Howard took his place in the pulpit.  Before Dr. Poe’s departure, he had been instrumental in fitting up the basement and recreation room of the church building as an emergency hospital for use during the war years.  So it was that Dr. Howard began his ministry here with the church basement filled with victims of the great “flu” epidemic that swept the country during 1918 and the early part of 1919.  His kindness and sympathy toward those who had lost loved ones during the epidemic or in WWI will long be remembered.

Situated as it was between the sheriff’s house and the crumbling old county jail directly across the street, the church at times was involved accidently in unusual events.  Once a bullet fired at an escaping prisoner passed through the open windows of the church causing the Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting to hastily adjourn to the safety of the basement.

In 1920, as part of our Fiftieth Anniversary celebration, the church was able to purchase from Mrs. A. C. Stich a house on the northeast corner of Sixth and Magnolia, which was remodeled for use as a Manse.  It was in 1921 that Earl W. Hille first took his place at our organ to begin his long and faithful term as organist and choir director.  In 1922, the Mary and Martha Class was founded by Mrs. C. V. Dennis, Jr.  Its membership was restricted to “under 35” thereby causing many flurries of indignation among the ladies of the church.  But down through the years the members of this class have greatly enriched the life of our church with their spiritual insight and material help.  Dr. Howard had remained with us during the anniversary celebration, but soon after took his leave.  We were fortunate in having a supply pastor, Dr. Charles Luck, living in Independence.  He ably filled our pulpit until 1924 when we called Dr. John Luke Gehman from Lebanon, Ohio.  Dr. Gehman and his wife were young and courageous.  Looking ahead to the future we again began to wonder about a larger church building.  The Gehmans were the mainstay in this ambitious plan.  First the southwest corner at Fifth and Maple was obtained from the estate of Mrs. A. C. Stich.  The Stichs had been loyal supporters of First Church as long as they had lived here and it was Mrs. Stich’s dearest wish that her home should furnish the means to further the building of a new church.  Little by little the money was pledged, with every church member pledging according to his means.  This was by far the most ambitious undertaking that we had ever planned and many family discussions over finances took place before all the pledges came in, but in 1928 the cornerstone was laid for the present church structure where Mrs. Stich’s house had stood for so many years.  Then on November 10, 1929, the dedication ceremony was held.  Meeting at the old church at Fifth and Main the congregation bowed in prayer.  While trumpets sounded we formed in two columns led by our pastor, the church officers and the choir and sang our way to our new church home.

Gothic in style, built of gray limestone at a cost of $261,625.00, it is a fitting memorial to the far-seeing and Christian influence of our fathers.  The church was inspired by the architecture of Melrose Abbey in Scotland, though not an exact copy as some in the past have believed.  The organ, the furniture, the baptismal font, the beautiful Communion Table carved by a nephew of Anton Lang (a member of the famous Passion Play held regularly in Oberammergau, Germany), the angelic lectern and the pulpit were all gifts of members of the congregation.  Every dollar needed was pledged and we were so proud of the beautiful French jewel glass windows made to order.  But—note the date of the dedication—1929! Within a few short months the stock market crash had heralded the Great Depression.  Changes in business had removed many of our staunchest members from the town while business reverses had affected those who remained.  The failure of a local bank was the final blow.  Business ground to a halt and for a time grass literally grew in the streets of Independence.  No one’s budget could possibly meet the pledges made during “good times.”  Over $150,000.00 still remained to be paid on our debt.  What could we do?  That debt loomed over our heads and hearts like a threatening tornado.

This was to be the pattern of the next 10 years.  More than once we were threatened with total loss through foreclosure.  It was almost more than we could do to scrape up the interest payments while a reduction of the debt itself was out of the question.  But throughall these difficulties Dr. Gehman never wavered in his faith in the future of Independence and First Church.  “If only we worked hard enough and prayed hard enough a way would be found,” he assured us.  Although he had many offers, he refused to leave here until 1938 when Mrs. Gehman passed away after a lingering illness.  Then, he explained, the time had come to leave Independence where he had spent to many years.  His influence and affection are still being felt here; his faith and strength still sustain us.  It was during these difficult years that Sherman Walker became our first Youth Director, helping our young people become a true part of our church family.

After Dr. Gehman’s departure we were fortunate in securing the services of a young man of great charm and ability, Rev. Clarence H. Shackelford.  “Shack,” as we called him, made it his primary objective to find some way to wipe out the enormous debt that still hung over our church.  For years the session and trustees, together with Dr. Gehman and now Rev. Shackelford had struggled with this problem that deeply concerned the entire congregation.  At last in 1941 the way was found!  The mortgage was refinanced through an insurance company.  The members of the congregation dug deep into their meager savings to loan what they could to the church to pay off the debt, and the church, in turn, guaranteed the repayment of these loans with life insurance policies.  The entire congregation agreed to join in the payment of the premiums on the policies.  So the Penny-a-Meal plan was born.  A little box sat on every dining room table and every day before every meal each member of First Church — men, women, and children — bowed in prayer and then dropped in coins to help save our beautiful church.  Thus with prayer and total cooperation we went to work.  It wasn’t easy but it gave us a deeper sense of fellowship and gratitude to God and gradually the debt was reduced.

Most appropriately, the highlight of our Seventy-fifth Anniversary celebration came on April 4, 1945, when at a congregational meeting the mortgage was solemnly burned.  At last, after 15 years, our beautiful church was free for us to enjoy —- even more beautiful to our eyes than at its dedication because of the years of toil and sacrifice it represented.  At last we could sing as did that first congregation 75 years ago “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.”  But Rev. Shackelford was not here to rejoice in person with us.  World War II had broken out...

World War II had broken out and during 1942 and 1943 the young men and women of our congregation had left to serve their country in the various armed forces.  The service flag that hung in the Narthex held 76 stars, including one for our minister, for Rev. Shackelford was now a chaplain in the Navy.  We were fortunate indeed to secure the services of Dr. David McCleave as interim minister during the leave of absence granted to Mr. Shackelford.

Because of the gravity of the war situation it was decided that the occasion of our Seventy-fifth Anniversary should be celebrated with quiet prayer and thanksgiving to God, but in spite of the difficulties of travel, all four of our living ex-pastors came back to rejoice with us:  Dr. Howard, Dr. Thomsen, Dr. Poe, and Dr. Gehman.  Their presence made the continuing life and growth of the church seem very real.  This feeling was intensified by the gift from Lt. Com. Clarence P. Oakes—a fragment of a column from the Temple at Capernaum where Jesus often preached during His short time on earth.  The stone was prayerfully placed over the South door of the Nave as an inspiration to all.

By the end of 1945 the war was over and our husbands, sons, and daughters were coming back—all except those who would never come back again.  Among those who did not return was Lt. William Hille, son of our organist, E.W. Hille and Mrs. Hille.  In his memory the family presented the lovely vibrachord accessory to the organ.

The first concern of Rev. Shackelford when he returned to the pulpit was to offer spiritual comfort to those families that still mourned the loss of their loved ones.  It was this feeling of kinship with the families of servicemen that led to his decision in 1947 to return to California and resume his work as chaplain.  So we sent him off with love and prayers for the work he had chosen.

In June, 1948, Dr. Roy W. Peyton and his family arrived from Knoxville, Tennessee, to fill our vacant pulpit.  Once again we could rejoice in the pastoral relationship that he brought.  Dr. Peyton’s chief concern was the spiritual education of our children and under his guidance a Vacation Bible School was held for the first time in 20 years.  Mrs. Peyton gave freely of her musical talent by organizing a Junior Choir.  It was at this time that the Men’s Council was formed under the guidance of Elder E. E. Woods and the Key Class for married couples.  More than a half century ago the Ladies’ Society had split into three different organizations—the League, the Missionary Society, and the Westminster Guild—but now under Dr. Peyton’s urging all the women of First Church combined into one group again, United Presbyterian Women.  It was with deep regret that we learned in December, 1953, that Dr. Peyton was leaving us to go to Arizona for organizational work in new churches in that area.

First Church has been fortunate to have Rev. Frank A. Johnson, retired Presbyterian minister living in Caney, who is always happy to assist us whenever our pulpit is vacant.  Rev. Johnson served as our interim minister until February, 1954, when Rev. John A. Westin and his family came to us from Perry, Oklahoma.  Rev. Westin charmed us with his sincerity and spiritual grace.  Under his leadership the membership of the church rose to new highs while our benevolent giving increased proportionately.  An assistant pastor and youth director, Mr. Gordon Muir, was hired for a year.  When two years later, in 1956, Mr. Westin announced that he wished to leave us to enter into missionary work, the congregation felt a great sense of loss.

Several years earlier, in April 1952, the bells of the symphonic carillon first rang out—given in memory of Mr. and Mrs. W. J. Bovaird by their sons and daughters.  So at last a fitting successor to the “silver toned bell” of the previous church buildings had been found.

For several years the condition of the Manse had caused great concern and many plans were made for building a new Manse.  Money was pledged; architects’ plans drawn up; the site chosen.  However when Rev. Arthur F. Raeside and his family arrived from Gardner, Kansas, to fill our pulpit in December, 1956, they occupied the old Manse which has been repaired for them.  The plans for building a new Manse were abruptly changed in 1960 when it was learned that the will of Mrs. Harry F. Mitchell gave partial ownership of her home to First Church.  This large brick house, which had originally been built for Harry Sinclair during the oil boom days, stands directly south of our church and it was felt by all that it would be a very suitable Manse.  It was agreed that the church should purchase the equity of the other heir, Grove City College, Grove City, Pennsylvania, and this being done should proceed with the necessary remodeling.  Rev. Raeside, a very scholarly man, had been the guiding light in this ambitious project but he was able to enjoy the fruits of it only a short while before he and his little family departed, to our regret, for a pastorate in Sidney, Iowa.

Dr. Gehman came back from retirement to act as our interim minister and it was quite fitting that at this time the Memorial Chapel organ should be dedicated to the loving memory of Earl W. Hille who had served faithfully for over 35 years as organist and choir director. 

In November, 1962, Rev. Donald G. Burt of Haddonfield, New Jersey, accepted our call as minister.  We welcomed the Burts with joy and faith in their spiritual influence and this has been amply evidenced during the years that they have lived and worked with us.  In 1963 a major remodeling project was completed.  The recreation hall below the Nave was completely redecorated and remodeled to accommodate the air-conditioning ducts for the Nave above.  (Thanks to the memorial gifts of many of our faithful members, the air conditioning work was completed and enjoyed the summer of 1968.)  Dr. Gehman was persuaded to come for the rededication of the room and great was his surprise and inner joy to learn that he was really the guest of honor.  The room was now to be called “Gehman Hall” in acknowledgement of the many years of faithful and inspirational guidance that he had given us.  It was also in this same year that we learned that Mrs. Elmer A. Miner had left many bequests to First Church in her will.  In addition to trust funds established for our spiritual betterment, the Miner home was to be used as a manse for an assistant pastor.  The home was used by Donald M. Mihaloew who came to us in this capacity but it was sold in 1966.

In 1965 we had the opportunity to give back to God a small portion of what he had given us in the past.  For the first time in the history of First Church a member of our congregation desired to enter the ministry.  When James Kenny made his wish known to the congregation, we voted to support him with our prayers as well as our funds.  He and his family went to Princeton for study and when in 1968 he was ready to assume his first pastorate he wished his ordination ceremony to be held here among the friends who had loved him so well.  So, on May 8, 1968, we were privileged to watch the ordination of one of our members as a minister of God.       

In the fall of 1967 the church was fortunate to secure the assistance of W. Russell Ward as Student Pastor.  His youthful enthusiasm and tireless energy resulted in many programs among all age groups though his work was principally with the youth.  In the summer of 1968 the first Family Vacation Church school was held in the evenings for one week under the leadership of Mr. Ward, his wife, and Mrs. Bea Stanfield, able assistant to the Pastor and Church School Director.  A great loss was felt in September, 1968, when Mrs. Stanfield moved from the city and Mr. Ward returned to seminary to resume his studies. 

Many educational trips have been enjoyed by the youth of First Church because of the generous gift of Mrs. Elmer A Miner.  In July, 1968, 30 young people and sponsors participated in a three weeks tour of cathedrals in England and Scotland.  Part of the funds for the trip came from the Miner Fund and the remainder came from many projects conducted by the young people including serving spaghetti dinners, ice cream socials, and selling firecrackers in a stand.  Not only was the necessary money raised but the spirit of fellowship greatly strengthened. 

As we look back over this brief record, it is very evident that our concept of a Christian has changed and grown as our town itself has changed and grown.  In the pioneer days of Independence, the Christian emphasis was on personal behavior and strict adherence to the tenets of our faith and I am sure the early records show occasions when church members were publicly rebuked for moral and spiritual lapses.  Some years later there is evidence of a growing spirit of brotherhood over the entire fellowship of the church and a resulting concern over the needs of the town itself.  This sense of mission has spread until now the entire world is our commitment.

Thus this story of the first one hundred years of First Presbyterian of Independence, Kansas closes with the account of our outreach ministry.  Over the past six years we have been blessed with a number of young people who have decided to dedicate their lives to the Church.  Besides James Kenny who was supported by our congregation and was ordained in our sanctuary, there is Henry Roberts, son of Mr. and Mrs. H. A. Roberts, who having been ordained as a minister in the Southern Presbyterian church has accepted a call to minister to college students.  William Butts, a former member of this congregation, is now attending seminary and upon ordination plans to work in the Mid-West.  Two members of our church, John McCoy and Theron Stanfield, have been commissioned as church workers by Neosho Presbytery and they frequently fill pulpits in the Northern part of the Presbytery.  Bill Bradley, our former organist, plans to enter Westminster Choir School where he will train to be a Minister of Church Music.  Miss Linda Watts, daughter of Mrs. Phil Watts, is presently studying to receive a Director of Religious Education degree.  Russell Ward, our student pastor last year, has recently been ordained and soon will be arriving at his first pastorate.  To all of these we give our prayers and our support so that we too may share in their work and complete the circle — as we were once a tiny struggling group, dependent upon missionary help for our very existence, we now proudly send our fine young people out into the Christian world so that others may learn to join with us in a world-wide Church.

In the century from 1870 to 1970 we have seen our church home change from a log cabin to the present magnificent Gothic edifice — we have watched our membership grow from nine to 654 members.  The Gospel of Salvation has been proclaimed in continuous sequence for 100 years.  The ministry of sacred music has elevated the souls of countless numbers; men and women and little children have been comforted and strengthened for the trials of life and the sure knowledge of their reward.

 However, a church is only as strong as the people that make up her congregation.  The faithful Elders, Deacons, and Trustees; the choirs and organists who have led the people in worship and praise; the devoted officers and teachers of the ChurchSchool; the leaders of the young people’s organizations; the unfailing, uncomplaining labors of the women of the church in so many fields — these make our Church what it is today.  Our ties of memory and devotion to those who have gone before us are exemplified in the families that have labored and served — generation after generation — that First Presbyterian Church of Independence, Kansas, may always be a source of joy and service to humanity.  So it is very fitting that one of our present Elders, Jack Sanders, should be the great-grandson of Daniel Cline, a charter member and one of our first two Elders.

 A century of Salvation and Service.  Let this be our greatest joy and deepest satisfaction now and our firm commitment for the future.


To begin the process of celebrating our 150th Anniversary, please see below our history in chronological order as well as listing of all ministers from our beginning to present (2018):

First Presbyterian Chronology and List of Ministers

1870                                       First Presbyterian Church of Independence organized.

1870                                       First minister – J. J. Brown

1870-1874                            S. A. Stoddard, minister

1871                                       First Presbyterian Church of Independence incorporated

1872                                       First brick church building erected

1875-1877                            Wm. Bishop, D.D., minister

1877-1882                            I. W. Monfort, minister

1882-1885                            R. B. Herron, minister

1886-1888                            J. S. Grimes, D.D., minister

1889-                                     F. E. Kavanagh, minister

1890-1891                            John Herron, minister

1891-1892                            J. N. McClung, minister

1892-1895                            G. W. Bean, minister

1895-1900                            S. S. Estey, D.D., minister

1901-1907                            E. A. Bess, D.D., minister

1904                                       Cornerstone of church at Fifth and Main laid

1905                                       Church at Fifth and Main dedicated.

1907-1911                            R. Thomsen, D.D., minister

1911-1919                            Floyd Poe, A.M., D.D., minister

1917                                      Church remodeled and rededicated

1918                                       Church damaged by fire; repaired and rededicated.

1919-1923                            W. Clyde Howard, D.D., minister.

1920                                       Golden Anniversary celebration

1923                                       C. E. Luck, D.D., (stated supply)

1924-1938                            John Luke Gehman, Ph.D., minister

1928                                       Cornerstone of church at Fifth and Maple laid.

1929                                       Present church dedicated.

1938                                       Clarence H. Shackelford, minister.  (went on leave as Chaplain in U.S. Navy)

1943                                       David McCleave, D.D., minister ad interim  (served during Shackelford’s Navy Chaplaincy)

1946-1947                            Clarence H. Shackelford, minister. 

06/1948-1953                     Roy W. Peyton, D.D., minister

03/1954-1956                     John A. Westin, minister

12/1956-1962                     Arthur F. Raeside, minister

12/1962-10/1993              Dr. Donald G. Burt, minister

12/1994-02/1995              Dr. Reinhold Schmidt, interim minister

09/1995-02/1997              Dr. Paul E. Detterman

03/1997-07/1998              Dr. Reinhold Schmidt, interim minister

10/1998-06/2002              Dr. James E. Ayers, minister

11/2002-05/2003              Rev. Hugh O’Neal Dancer, interim minister

08/2003-05/2004              Rev. Henry Roberts, interim minister

06/2004-Present              Rev. John P. Wilson, minister