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Taken from the 1976 history of the churches in Miami County, pg. 121.
The Spring Grove Friends Church, located seven miles southwest of Osawatomie on the Lane Road, was established in the early days of the history of Kansas, 117 years before the Bincentenary year of 1976.
The attention of the people called "Quakers," the Society of Friends, was first turned to Kansas in connection with Indian Missionary activity. From the time of their arrival in America, Quakers had given evidence of a special interest in the Indians. George Fox had a special concern for their salvation. He came to America and traveled among them, enduring great hardships.
The history of the Friends begins in England of the seventeenth century, which was characterized by religious and political strife. Their founder, George Fox, described his experience: "When all my hopes in ... men were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could I tell what to do; then, Oh! then I heard a voice which said, 'There is One, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition,' and when I heard it, my heart did leap for joy." With this joy in his heart Fox entered his ministry in 1647, commissioned to bring back to the church the truth that all men may know salvation. He called men from "forms and shadows" to the "life, light, and power of Christ in their own hearts." Fox made his first visit to America, traveling extensively, encouraging the groups, winning new converts, and preaching to the Indians in 1672.
Quakers Go West
What really touched off large scale migration of Quakers westward was the establishment of the Northwest Territory in 1787, a territory free from slavery. Years before, Friends had forbidden the keeping of slaves by any of their members and had adopted a consistent testimony against it.
When William Penn obtained Pennsylvania, he had the welfare of the Indians as well as the whites in mind. The celebrated treaty of Friendship at Shakamaxon has become a tradition in American history. Many Quaker ministers with "concerns" traveled among the Indians in the eighteenth century. A mission was established in 1804 among the tribes near Fort Wayne, Indiana. The Shawnees in Ohio were asking help from the Friends.
By 1831 the demand for lands in Ohio forced the government once more to move the Shawnees further west. A treaty was signed in which the government purchased their Ohio land and gave them a tract of land 50 miles square on the Kansas River in Kansas Territory. While the Indians were moving, Friends were disposing of the Mission buildings and equipment in Ohio and were anticipating renewing their work in the west. Henry Harvey was sent out to Kansas with completed plans for Indian Mission to present to the Shawnees. An agreement was made for the erection of buildings and the use of as much farm land and timber as was needed. The site chosen was not far from the large Methodist Shawnee Mission. In the spring of 1837, Moses Pearson and his wife, with Mary H. Stanton and Elias Newby, came out in a covered wagon to take charge of the establishment and opening of the mission.
Kansas Called - Friends Came to Make It Free!
Hardly had the Kansas-Nebraska Act been passed when Quaker families began to turn their faces toward that territory. For nearly twenty years, the reports of the Indian Committee on the Friends Shawnee Mission had aroused their interest in that forbidden area, and now it was opened for settlement. Good land and generous pre-emption provisions invited them to come, start life anew, and make their fortune. Besides in what better way could they help the cause against accursed slavery than to go to Kansas and help hold it for the cause of freedom? Kansas called-they soon heeded.
The significant and important early move for a Friends colony was made by three well-known Indiana Quakers, William H. Coffin, Eli Wilson, and Benejah W. Hiatt. They met in Richmond, Indiana, in October, 1854, and agreed to go west and examine the new territories. They came by railroad to Terre Haute, went from there by stage across Illinois to St. Louis, where they boarded a river steamer for Westport Landing (now Kansas City).
After spending a few enjoyable day at the Friends Mission, the three returned to Westport Landing and secured supplies for a tour of the territory, hoping to find a suitable location for a Quaker settlement. With a Peoria Indian Chief, they proceeded southward about fifty miles to the juncture of the Osage and Pottawatomie Rivers, where they staked out claims for each in the choicest places. But no Friends settlement was to be established yet, for on the following day Orville C. Brown arrived with a party of 26 men and wanted to build a town on that location. The three Friends wanted to form a Friends settlement so they gave up their claims to the party with the stipulation that it was to be a free settlement. The town of Osawatomie was founded there. Information from John Brown's cabin in Osawatomie states that William H. Coffin, gave up his claim with the assurance from Brown's party that this would be a Freestate town. Since cold weather was approaching, the three men went back to Indiana and returned the following spring. When they returned they went on up the river towards Leavenworth where the first Friends colony was planted amidst high hopes on the fertile prairies of Kansas, west of Stranger Creek from 12 to 18 miles from Leavenworth.
Richard and Sarah Mendenhall, who had since 1847 been teaching at the Friends Shawnee Mission, determined in 1854 to seek a home for themselves in their adopted country. The turned southward and found a location a few miles southwest of Osawatomie which suited their desires. On September 15, 1855, they moved to their claim, in the midst of an "ague and fever" epidemic, in the southwest part of Lykens, now Miami County. They were soon joined by Richard's brother, Daniel and his family. Due to the epidemic and extremely cold weather of 25° below zero and deep snows, they suffered many privations. The first meetings for worship were held in a one-room house, 14 by 16 feet, built of unhewn logs, on the Richard Mendenhall farm about three and one-half miles southwest of Osawatomie.
The Spring Grove settlement was fortunate to have the able leadership of Richard Mendenhall. This remarkable man performed the services of doctor, pharmacist, and teacher in the community, as well as being religious leader, politician, and farmer of no mean ability. Meetings were "held in his dooryard, shaded by the forest trees." Other Friends began to settle here, including Simon Jones and his family, and by March, 1858, there were 11 families and 56 members of the meeting.
Friends in other settlements were threatened and arrested by "ruffians." The policy of Friends was to stay quietly at home, open their farms, and mind their own business. Yet the peace-loving Quakers could not feel entirely safe while living near raiding camps. The wonder is not that these were disturbed, however, but that there was no loss of life among them nor greater loss of property in those critical days. They felt their attitude of non-resistance had protected them better than guns or knives.
Although they edured many hardships during the border ruffian warfare, they bore testimony to the truth of their devotion to the cause of Christ. Richard Mendenhall's life was threatened as leader of a group who would not pay their taxes assessed by the "bogus laws" of the Shawnee Pro-slavery Legislation.
Many people fled to the Richard Mendenhall home for refuge and shelter at the burning of Osawatomie in 1856.
Visitors from England
The settlers were in need of spiritual encouragement by 1858. They had been enduring the hardships of cold winters, warfare, and frontier privations for three years. No minister had settled here nor visited among them. Robert and Sarah Lindsey, Friends ministers from England, visited Spring Grove on a visit of Gospel love in March, 1858, on their tour of Friends settlements in Kansas. With Benajah Hiatt in his luxurious covered wagon, they traveled to the various settlements. They met many friendly Delaware Indians on the way. The Lindseys stopped at Simon Jones' home while Benejah Hiatt, riding one of his horses to all the settler's homes, announced the visitor's arrival and the meeting to be held the next day, which was attended by everyone. Sarah Lindsey wrote in her diary, "This morning the meeting was held out of doors, an awning put up for shelter from the wind and planks arranged for seats for the nearly 100 persons attending. The canopy of Divine Love was felt to spread over us and ability was afforded to preach the Gospel of salvation." Another meeting was held in the evening at the Simon Jones' home.
In 1858 the meeting place was changed to the David Mendenhall home, four and one-half miles east of Lane, and one-half mile east of the present location.
In the early years the Friends were strengthened and encouraged by these visiting ministers. Entered into the minutes as "Our beloved friend, a minister, whose gospel labors were satisfactory and edifying, acceptably attended the meeting:" Mary Harvey, 1859; Enos G. Pray, 1860; Ohela Cook, Penelope Gardner, 1864-65; Allis Hawley, 1865; Andrew Hooten, Enos Troy, Andrew T. Evans, 1866; John Hammer, Dorcas Hunt, Joseph Pritchett, 1868; Thomas Jay, Milton Winslow, Lydia Chase, 1869; Jeremiah Hadley, 1870; Isaac Jay, 1872; Benjamin Bryson Hyatt, 1874; Catherine Hammers, 1877; Elwood Hanson, 1882; Martha E. Newby, Barclay Hampton, Melinda B. Hunt, 1884; Eli Henderson, James Hayworth, 1885; Richard and Jane Gregory, Cynthia Stanley, 1886; and Anna Strange, 1891.
Monthly Meeting Organized
These early Friends were so far from any organized church that in 1859 they asked for a Monthly Meeting. This was granted by the direction of Pleasant Plain Quarterly Meeting held at Spring Creek, Iowa, on August 27, 1859. A committee from Pleasant Plain, organized the monthly meeting on October 6, 1859, at the David Mendenhall home. Richard Mendenhall was chosen clerk for the day. He was the first clerk and correspondent of the newly organized meeting. John M. Coffin, Lindley Durham, Millicent Jones and Sarah Ann Mendenhall were the first overseers. Richard Mendenhall, Abraham Holiday and Simon Jones were the first trustees. Simon Jones and Elizabeth Holiday were chosen elders. It is thus the second oldest Quaker Church in Kansas, Springdale Monthly Meeting, north of Tonganoxie, being the oldest.
Meeting House Built
During those early days in a new country, with Kansas City as the nearest market, money was scarce and most Friends were poor, but they decided to build a "meeting house" as they termed it in those days. So in the fall and winter of 1859-60 they procured material for it. It was built of native frame, boxed with undressed lumber, and ceiled with good first-grade pine lumber. It was about 32 feet long and 20 feet wide with two doors in the south side and one in each end of the house. This house was used for a school in the fall of 1860 with Kate Stevens as teacher. This same building was used for the meetings of the church for 17 years.
The terrible drought of 1859-1861 caused untold suffering as there was no moisture except snow in two years. These years were long remembered by early settlers because of the greatest drought they had ever known. From August, 1859, to May, 1861, there was scarcely enough precipitation any time to measure (an exception being a heavy snow in December 1860). "Roads never got muddy and the ground broke open in great cracks. There were no vegetables...and a burning hot wind in July and August withered everything before it. Fall wheat came up in the spring, but withered and died...Prairie grass grew until June, then all died. Wells, springs and streams dried up. The people, generally, where they had any surplus the year before, sold it off to get the money, and were too poor and scanty of means to buy more." (Coffin, Settlement of Friends in Kansas.) Crop destruction was completed in some sections by grasshoppers.
After a visit from a Committee from the Iowa Quarterly Meeting in 1860, a relief committee was appointed. Aid was sent from New England, Ohio, Indiana, London, England, and the Eastern States of the United States to Leavenworth to be distributed to needy Friends settlements in Kansas. Some were living on only cornbread and pumpkin, while others were virtually destitute in every manner. Ansel Rogers and William Coffin, as aid dispensers, traveled among the Friends settlements giving aid and relief funds, and also holding Evangelistic Meetings for encouragement.
In the fall of 1857 Richard Mendenhall began holding school in his home. Many students came on Monday morning, bringing a week's provisions with them, and remaining all week, rooming in the upper rooms of the Mendenhall home.
Among these early families were the Richard and David Mendenhalls, Calvin Barnards, Eli Coffins and Simon Jones as well as the Dunbars, Hamiltons, Holidays, Hodsons and others.
Lovers of Peace
These people bore constant testimony to the truth, suffering many times for their devotion to the Master's cause. During the Kansas troubles the men were taken from their homes for military duty, leaving the women and children at home to get along with but one man, Lewis Jones, left behind. On account of their testimony against war, they were all released except Calvin Barnard, who was found to be a good cook and was retained as a company cook. Colonel George Hume, upon hearing their creed of objection to taking human life, excused them from service and furnished them with picks and shovels for building barracks at Paola to protect the women and children, thus releasing other men for service against Price's raids. Presidents of the United States of early history respected the religious tenents and views of the Friends and made honorable provision for their exemption from active military duty without discredit.
Although the form of worship has changed, Friends still believe in the leadership of the Spirit. When people first attend a Friends meeting, they are impressed with the meeting and the spirit of friendliness manifest, which always makes them feel welcome.
The men and women met in separate business meetings. In the early days their Sunday School was known as "First Day Scripture Schools."
When Spring Grove Monthly Meeting became a part of a Quarterly Meeting in Kansas, it was part of Kansas Quarterly Meeting. Later this was divided, and Hesper Quarterly Meeting (Kansas) and Spring Grove, was set up in 1870. By 1872 it had over 700 members.
In 1876 the question of repairing the old building came up, as it was badly in need of repair. Few were willing to repair the old house. It was found that money could be had for building a new one. So the old building was torn down and the present one (without the later additions) was erected in 1877 on property formerly owned by Simon Jones. While there were many donations of logs to be cut into frame material, and other donations of money and work, yet most of the work was done by Jesse Beals (pronounced Bales) and N.C. Averill. The plan for the building and seats was made by Isaac Arnold, a carpenter who was a member of the church for many years thereafter, and who for a long time resided in Ottawa, Kansas. Though all these have gone to their reward, the church still stands as a monument to their memory. One item in the minutes of the Monthly Meeting at that time, fifth month, fifteenth, 1877, reads: "All of the meetings for worship and discipline has been attended except one which was on account of the old house being torn down and the new one not finished."
"Each family of Friends is furnished with a copy of the Holy Scriptures" August 17, 1872. Spring Grove Monthly Meetings were held alternately between Lane and Spring Grove from July, 1874, to December, 1875, but at Spring Grove at all other times. About February, 1876, some Friends from Hesper held meetings here in the evenings, and visited families during the day, which resulted in much good. But what was perhaps the first real revival effort was in the fall of 1877, held by Eleanor Murdoc, assisted by some others, which resulted in several conversions and ten accessions to the church.
In the early years there were no pastors, as we now understand the term; in fact there have been many periods when no regular pastor served the church.
"We appoint Louisa E. Updegraff to take charge of the meeting." "We appoint Louisa E. Updegraff to time our meetings for worship and request the overseers and elders to occupy seats facing the audience during our meetings for devotion."
Two additions have been made to the original building. The first, 25' x 32' with a connecting hall to the Sanctuary was completed in 1964, providing a Sunday school room which serves as Fellowship hall, and a kitchen and a classroom. The second addition, 30' x 32' includes four classrooms and a church office. It was completed under June Worden, the present pastor, and dedicated to the service of the Lord and the glory of God on March 18, 1973.
"Father, draw us close to Thy throne of grace away from sin and to Thee we give the glory, honor and praise."
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