The History of Eudora, Kansas
The History of Eudora, Kansas
Photograph: Built in 1890s, First Missionary Baptist Church in the 600 block of Locust
Assembly of God. Joseph White and his wife held the first services for the Eudora Assembly of God Church in June 1945 for 11 individuals in the former Eisele Hardware Building at 739 Main Street. The church organized March 13, 1947 with 19 charter members. On March 23, 1947, the church bought land at 823 Elm Street and built a basement in which to worship. A parsonage was built in 1952, and the additional story to the church was dedicated October 15, 1954. The 48-foot by 75-foot sanctuary was built in 1969. Hugh Jackson, one of the early members, served more than 40 years as Sunday school superintendent during Sunday services. Source: Eudora Community Heritage, Eudora Enterprise (1969), Eudora News
Bethel Missionary Baptist Church. On November 4, 2000, Darrell Hargiss led 25 members in the church’s first services at the Eleventh Street and Maple Street location. Source: Eudora News
Church of Christ. On June 5, 1955, the Eudora Church of Christ met for the first time. Twenty people gathered that day at a former theater east of Eudora City Hall. In 1956, the congregation bought land at Eleventh Street and Maple Street. Volunteers built a church there at a cost of $10,000. In 1990, the church bought two-and-one-half acres for a new church at 1530 Winchester Road. Its first services took place November 10, 1991. The 8,000 square foot facility can seat up to 250 people, holds 10 classrooms, and cost $400,000. Source: Eudora News (1991).
Clearfield United Methodist Church. In 1858, area residents formed an Evangelical church in the Clearfield community. Early meetings were held in homes until a log cabin school house was built for worship. Members built a church in 1880. Its chancel railing around the pulpit was hand carved and the pews made by carpenters. To prevent falling plaster, George Schattenberg installed a wood panel ceiling. The interior was remodeled in 1917 and a belfry and balcony were built. In 1945, the sanctuary was replastered and hardwood floors were laid. Electricity was installed in 1947 and a furnace in 1956. The Evangelical Church merged with the United Brethren in 1956 to form the Evangelical United Brethren Church, which itself merged with the United Methodist Church in 1968. That year, too, the educational annex debuted and a new organ was bought. Paneling replaced the sanctuary wainscoting in 1972. The Clearfield United Methodist Church Christmas German Fest began in 1986 and was held each December with a Christmas tree decorated with candles, craft and baked good sale, music program, and a German dinner (for example, bratwurst, hot or cold potato salad, sauerkraut, rolls, homemade apple sauce and dessert of German chocolate cake, Black Forest cake, or German apple cake. Wrote George Strum who made the tree’s candleholders:
“As nearly all the families that settled in the Clearfield community came from Germany, Christmas was celebrated very much the same as the country they left, much the same as now, but everything was in the German language. Two men and three women were on the Christmas committee, very much the same as now. The first two men I remember were David Schendel and William Selzer—they got a nice tree and decorated it with a lot of ornaments and a lot of popcorn strung around the tree like rope. The candles were small and were first lighted when the program was half over. Programs were very much the same as now, only it was all German. Treats were much the same as now. The little children’s treats were always hung on the tree in a red mesh bag which looked real nice. Sometimes an arch was put on the altar rail in front of the tree about six or seven feet high and about twelve feet wide and decorated with evergreen and ornaments. Preachers were always well remembered with good things to eat. Many families made the German Christmas cookies decorated with colored sugar. Christmas was a jolly time for the young and old—it still is.” Source: Clearfield History: 1859-1976 (and its updates) available from the Eudora Area Historical Society.
Covenant Church. Associated with the Southern Baptist Convention, this church first met in the home of Rob Long in 2000. Members next moved services to Tenth Street and Maple Street, and, currently worship in a home on the westernmost street of Eudora near the intersection of Winchester(2100E) Road and Hawthorne Street. Source: Church website
Family of Faith. This is a southern Baptist church located at 2295 N. 1300 Road.
First Missionary Baptist Church. Almost from the start of Eudora’s history, the blacks had their own church. They first shared with the Methodists and had services on the second and fourth Sundays. They also worshipped at Union Church in 1876 with Dudley Lee. According to Cutler’s History of the State of Kansas that referred to the church as the “Colored Baptist Church,” H. Ford oversaw services a few years later. The Black Methodist Church was said to have been built about 1876 at 610 Church Street with an interdenominational black church next door south. In later references, one of these churches was called the First Missionary Baptist Church. The First Baptist Church, 620-622 Locust Street, was completed in 1896 and was used later as a house. This church may have been built over time or earlier as the local newspaper wrote on July 11, 1889: “Nothing of interest going on, except the laying of the corner stone of the colored church.” In “Remembering My First Eudora Days,” Frank Page wrote: “There were two churches north of the school for the Negro people, one was Methodist and the other Interdenominational but they were not used as a new church had been built for the Negro Baptist on the 600 block of Locust Street.” In 1915, the newspaper mentioned that the Locust Street church revived the custom of baptizing new members in the Kansas River. Membership as high as 125, was around 20 in 1957, and in 1975 had dwindled to seven members: Mable Means, Abby Burrow, Clara Harris, Albert Harris, Bannie Anderson, Robert Anderson, and Moses Williams of Kansas City, who was ordained in this former church. The Locust Street church was torn down in 1987. Source: Besides those listed, Eudora Community Heritage
First Southern Baptist. Founded June 1, 1953 by Eudora Baptist Mission members, the group first met in the home of Myrtle and James Long with Vada Ritter, Violet Gray (age one), Barbara Noble, and Don and Richard Long (sons of Myrtle and James). Wilbur Noble led services there and, starting in August 1952 at the former Victory Theatre. The first elected officers were: Vincent Miller (Sunday school superintendent), Bernice Broyles (church clerk), Clinton Williams (choir director), Jessie (Nadine) Button (pianist), and Joan Gaunt (treasurer). On February 22, 1953, the Eudora Baptist Mission was formally organized as the Eudora Baptist Church. The church bought five lots on the corner of Eleventh Street and Main Street in the fall of 1953. Volunteers built a basement there and held services and Sunday school there until they completed the upstairs sanctuary in 1957. Before that time, baptisms were done in the Kansas River, said Mary Beam, a member who was baptized in a Weaver Bottoms’ mud hole left by the 1951 flood. Built in spring 1966, the education unit tripled the educational facilities. Members also remodeled the basement that year. A bus ministry began in June 1974, and, a few months later, a mission began at Clearview City with Tom Patton as pastor. Another mission, the Greenwood Heights Mission in Shawnee, later became the Trinity Baptist Church. After many years, the parsonage built in 1954 at Eleventh Street and Main Street and west of the church was sold for use as a private home, said Nellie Hicks as quoted in the May 29, 2003 Eudora News. In May 2009, 900 volunteers with Baptist Builders for Christ, a nationwide group of amateur builders, constructed the 12,000-square-foot building at 525 W. 20th St.
First United Methodist Church. Slavery split the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1848. Abraham Still became part of the Northern Conference that opposed slavery and served as a Methodist missionary in Eudora from 1848 to 1854. Monticello Circuit preachers, including J.S. Kine, G.W. Paddock, C.J. Lovejoy, J.C. Tilford, on the Franklin Circuit held worship services in Eudora in 1859 to 1860. Later ministers (and often Baker University students) were John T. Miller, Adam Mueller, Frederick Jansen, C. Steinmeyer, and Christian Brugger.
German Methodists. August Mecke started a church for German Methodists at Captain’s Creek (Clearfield) around 1860. Members also bought a stone dwelling at Sixth Street and Main Street for $600 in 1870. Worship services took place on the second story; a Brugger [perhaps Brueggan] lived on the first story. Charter members were Henry Abels, Gustave Rosenau, Herman Gabriel, Dan Hunzicker, Frederick Weibel, Jacob Hammig, Jacob Hersch, William Bartz, Charles Albrecht, Ernest Abels, Mrs. Dan Miller, John Brender, and August Faimer. In 1881, the 50-member congregation built a wood frame 36-foot by 44-foot building for $2,500 on the west side of Church Street between Eighth Street and Ninth Street at about 815 Church Street. A parsonage built by Frank Brender south of this church in 1884 burnt in 1928 when the Daugherty family lived there. John Edelbrock razed the church building.
Church members used to host an annual picnic at the old Fendt Grove, according to a 1910 news account. Records also show the women organized Frauens Verein, a foreign missionary society, and baked goods to fund their work and support the church. Its records, written in German until 1914, show the 1902 membership as: Minnie Reichardt, Minnie Walter, Louise Abels, Caroline Schaefer, Margarethe Albrecht, Elizabeth Miller, Mary Rosenau, Mary Kraettle, May Gutknecht, Dora Mertz, Elizabeth Diedrich, Rosina Abels, Hanna Rausch, Anna Hunzikcer, Margaretha Wuensch, Rebekka Schneider, Caroline May, Lydia Fiehler, Julia Leonhardt, Christine Eisele, Caroline Bohnsack, Christine Schroeder, Louise Baecker, Mary Ahrens, Tillie Rosenau, Emma Eislele, Dora Gabriel, and Mrs. Feldman.
Another group of German Methodists started a church in 1859 along the Johnson County line and Captain’s Creek. Early members were August and Frances Gabriel (1867), Louis and Marie Lefman (1876), Alex and E. Gnase (1873), Jacob and Christian Kanzig (1885) along with the Brecheisen, Miller, and Knabe families. The Methodist church built in 1882 at Captain’s Creek was named the “little church in the valley,” and later known as the “little blue church.” It got the name “blue,” said Eudora historian Fern Long, because its inner walls were painted blue. On land donated by the Knabe family, the church was two miles north and two miles east of Clearfield, said area residents. It shared a minister with Eudora until 1955. Some members, including the Amos Westerhouse, Eugene Westerhouse, Philip Lefman, Alvin Gabriel, and Harold Gabriel families joined the Eudora congregation when it got a full-time minister.
English Methodists. English-speaking Methodist records date to 1885 when members met in the Sixth Street church vacated by the German Methodists. Some (for example, the Gilmores, Hills, Fullers, and Westheffers) had been meeting at the Kaw Valley Methodist church at the Hughes home on east Fifteenth Street about three and one-half miles west of Eudora. (Others joined the Belleview and Roscoe Methodist churches that started around 1887. The Roscoe members met in the Roscoe school building that had a front door sign saying “Don’t spit on the floor.”) Founders included Mrs. Agnes Fuller, Mrs. Tom Rayson, Minnie McCrea (a blind pianist), George Rayson, and Mr. and Mrs. John Gilmore.
Reverend Meggs took the train from Baldwin on the first and third Sundays of the month to lead the congregation, often referred to as Methodist Episcopal Church South. The list of succeeding ministers is long and includes Charles Parham, who at age 19, in 1892, Parham succeeded Dr. Davis, founder of Baker University, as minister and also preached Sunday afternoons at Linwood. Two years later, he resigned because of rumors about his personal life. In 1886, the English Methodists bought the Temperance Tabernacle, 736 Church Street, between St. Paul Church and Salem Chapel on Church Streeton Lot 8. In May 1891, members carpeted the floors, papered the walls, put a fresco on the ceiling, and added a vestibule to the front. They worshiped here until 1916, the same year the German and English churched merged and met at the German Methodist Church until the brick United Methodist church was completed in 1923 on the southwest corner of Seventh Street and Church Street. John Edelbrock bought the German church in 1927, razed it, and built a bungalow there. Groundbreaking for the 66-foot by 66-foot, three-story building was in August 1920. Originally budgeted for $20,000, the building had a final cost of almost $45,000 when complete and financing proved difficult for many years with several bonds reissued. The bricks were joined with raked brown mortar joints and finished in white Carthage stone. Hard pine woodwork with oak finish matched the hard pine flooring.
In 1924, Mrs. Asbury Endacott, Tulsa, Oklahoma, a native of Eudora, gave the church a bronze tablet commemorating Methodist missionaries in Eudora. The 18-inch wide and 24-inch high tablet in the church’s entry states: “This tablet is erected to commemorate the fact that in 1851 the Methodist Episcopal Church founded a mission school for the benefit of the Shawnee Indians which was continued for some years “at the mouth of the Wakarusa” now this town of Eudora, Kansas. The missionaries were Rev. Abraham Still, M.D., and others. The school was in the southwest part of town on the site of the Snyder home. Such schools have ever been the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Erected by Sympathizing Friends 1924.” More information about this tablet can be found in “The Story of the Bronze Tablet Unveiled in the Methodist Episcopal Church at Eudora, Kansas, May Third, Nineteen Hundred Twenty Five, compiled by John Endacott, former pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Eudora.
High ceilings in the basement designed for the basement basketball court, later were lowered and the floor cemented laid with asphalt tile. The basement also housed the kitchen, furnace room, rest rooms, showers and classrooms. The first floor had a lobby, pastor’s study, choir loft and classroom with sliding doors. Extra classrooms also were in the balcony with extra seating for overflow crowds. Later additions were an elevator (1984), a library on the second floor (donated by Alta Jennings), carpeting, secretary’s office on the red floor, air conditioning (J.D. Adams memorial), and bronze tablet commemorating Wakarusa Methodist Indian mission (1925).
The Victorian house to the south was bought in the late 1920s for use as a parsonage from Charlie Schlegel. It was replaced by a parsonage built north of the church and parking lot. W.O. Watson led services at the new church and at Prairie Center Methodist Church from 1928 to 1935 where members also gathered at tent or camp meetings on Spoon Creek in Charles Reeds’ timber. During the 1960s, the George Born property to the north of Salem Chapel was purchased. The building there was torn down in 1976 to make space for parking. The Kansas East Conference acquired 38 acres south of Highway K-10 at Winchester Road for a new church in 1993 from the Gerstenberger family and raised funds for several years for the proposed 11,500 square-foot building. Members began building a new church at the site in August 2006 and sold their former church in September 2006. A 2008 fire caused $800,000 in damage to the new church, 2084 North 1300 Road, which took nine months to repair. Source: Besides those listed, Book of Minutes, Fern Long writings, Life of Charles: Founder of the Apostolic Faith Movement (by Sarah Parham, published in 1930 by Garland Publishing, Inc. in New York City); Eudora Weekly News’ Fiftieth Anniversary issue, and It’s Time!; Eudora Methodist Church Capital Funding Campaign Fall 2003
Hesper Friends Church. Located at 2344 North 1100th Road, this Quaker church was built in 1882 for a cost of $1,150. In 2005, with proceeds from 80 acres of land donated by Charles Hill and funds from Ramona (Stanley) Brecheisen, the church added a 3,600 square foot Morton Building expansion on its east side to house classrooms, restrooms, and a community room. A new entrance also was built to be more accessible.
Holy Family. Holy Family organized in 1859. From the notes and research of William Stadler, editor of the Eudora newspaper, the story of Holy Family Church unfolds. Stadler wrote:
“Several of the original townsiters were Catholic and those that immediately followed them such as Fred Faerber, the first mayor of Eudora, Anton Gufler, L. W. Pfeifer and Lao Vitt. At first, they rode horseback or walked to Lawrence to attend services by a missionary priest. The trip took an entire day and entailed going through Blue Jack Crossing over the Wakarusa and through the Franklin river bottoms. Because of these exhausting and sometimes dangerous trips, in 1859, they appealed to Most Rev. John Miege, Vicar at St. Mary’s, Kansas, to send a Missionary Father to Eudora to say Masses here frequently. At that time Kansas was part of a territory Miege presided over that comprised also Colorado, New Mexico, and Nebraska. The bishop granted the request and sent Father Lewis Guenther, a missionary from Shawnee Mission, Kansas, to say Mass. Eudora was also frequently visited by Father Kuhls of Wyandotte.” For several years, Mass was celebrated one Sunday each month in a store building (later known as the Schroeder building and destroyed by fire) owned by brothers George and John Andreas, both Jewish. On other Sundays during 1864, Carl Neumann, a physician, held services in the Joseph Herz home, one of the first residences built in Eudora and located around 734 Main Street.
When the Catholic population in and around Eudora numbered about 20 families, it was decided to start the erection of a sandstone building, 20-foot by 48-foot, which was not to exceed $3,000 and was to bear the title of “Holy Family” church. According to the History of Wyandotte County Kansas and Its People, Father Kuhls in Leavenworthoversaw the construction of Holy Family in Eudora in 1863. He visited the site monthly. “The trip, a distance of forty miles, was made on horseback and took a full day. The principal benefactors there were Messrs. Piper and Herz.”
The German Church of the Holy Family officially organized October 1, 1864, with 32 members, Cutler’s History of the State of Kansas said. The Deed Book L, page 287, dated March 13, 1865, shows that its site on lots 1, 2, and 3, in Block 204, was donated by Bernhard Herman Tegder and Anna Catharina Tegder and Peter Anton Hartig and Franciska Hartig to John B. Meige, Catholic bishop of Leavenworth. John Kellerman donated sandstone from his quarry just outside the eastern city limits. Jacob Pabst, Mike Branagan, John Welch, and James Brazil used their teams to haul the quarry rock and sand from the Kansas River to the building site at the southeast corner of Church Street and Ninth Street.
Frank Blechel, the son of Franciscus (or Franz) Blechel, who came to Eudora in 1861 with his parents, said his father would lift him up on the scaffold to give the stone masons small rocks to be placed in the mortar between the largest ones. Blechel also said he saw Jacob Pabst kill one of his horses while hauling sand to the church. The animal balked when pulling a heavy load, and in a fit of anger, Pabst picked up a club and struck the horse on top of the head, killing it almost instantly. (Frank Jr., later married Anna Sommer, had eight children, and worked in the machinery department of the Pilla General Store.)
Joseph Herz, Peter Hartig, and John KelIerman, expert cabinet makers, made the door frames and window frames. Casper Weber and Franz Blechel did the masonry work, assisted by several Lutherans, who also were original townsiters. Blechel, an expert stonecutter, cut, and dressed most of the stones. The church was finished by October 1864 and the first baptism was that of Otto Vogl, son of Franz VogI.
The $3,000 raised for the church was spent on its exterior. After another fundraising, the interior was completed in the spring and summer of 1865. John Kellerman made the altar with a large, round pillar on each side about ten feet high and in the center at the top was a cross that almost reached to the ceiling. The rear of the altar was used as a sacristy for years. Priests used the built-in cases and drawers to store the altar boys’ vestments. The Ladies Altar Society, later known as the St. Theresa’s Society, was formed in 1865. The first officers were Theckla Seiwald, president; Anna Stadler, treasurer; and Katherine Blechel, secretary.
Wrote Stadler: “Now that the church was finished one important item, a bell, was needed and as all the money was used it was suggested a petition be circulated asking for donations to be use for the purchase of a bell. As the sawmill had been moved to Lawrence after Quantrill had sacked and pillaged the town, and the flour mill had no whistle to sound the time of day, the parishioners promised the citizens if a large enough fund could be raised for the purchase of a bell, the Angelus would be rung three times daily at 7 a.m., 12 noon, and 6 p.m. o’clock. Every citizen in town, regardless of religious membership donated toward the purchasing of a bell. The necessary amount was subscribed and a bell was secured in Kansas City. The church had no tower in which to place it so a frame rack was built beside the church from which the bell was suspended. Parish carpenters built a small cupola on the roof in the front of the church, to house the bell. For a number of years the pastors rang the Angelus regularly at the hours agreed upon in the petition.”
The Sisters of Charity in Leavenworth came to Eudora in 1870 at the request of town Catholics, according to the History of the Sisters of Charity. “The people of Eudora were very happy to have the Sisters in their midst. This they showed in many ways. When the farmers came to church on Sunday, there was always something in the buggy or wagon ‘for the Sisters’’ they would bring butter, eggs, chickens, some fresh meat, vegetables according to the season, and even sometimes a housewife more thoughtful than the rest, would bring in a jug of fresh buttermilk; and during the week, if a trip was to be made to town, “the Sisters” were not to be forgotten. In summer, perhaps, it would be some bursting heads of early cabbage and a basket of tomatoes and cucumbers, and in the winter, baskets of rosy-cheeked or yellow apples, and if it were “killing time,” it would be some spare ribs and pigs’ feet.. . .All went well until the year of the grasshoppers, when it was found impossible to get a support for the Sisters, and, to the regret of the people and the grief of the Sisters, they were withdrawn from their hitherto delightful mission (p. 117).”
In 1872, John Greiner and family came to Eudora from Germany. Greiner took over the task of ringing the Angelus, cleaned the church, and built fires during the winter months. He built his house on lots adjoining the church to the south. “John Greiner was very accurate as to time; in fact so accurate, that practically every workman in town started and stopped working at the sound of the Angelus,” Stadler wrote. About Greiner’s custom of tolling the bell for funeral processions, Stadler wrote: “We don’t think there ever was a man who could toll a bell as poignantly as John Greiner. He would reach and pull, and bend—relax the rope—reach and pull, and bend again in perfect rhythm.”
After the church was completed, its members built a one-story, two room frame parish house for Father Mayer on lots across the street from the present parish house. He lived there four years. In 1892, it was used for the school. (Later, D. H. Melcher bought it and moved it about 100 feet west for his physician’s office. Louis Eder razed most of it—part of the school became his dining room—and put up a two-story home in its place.)
Father J. Pichler followed Mayer and was responsible for the building of a brick, two-story, five-room, 20-foot by 20-foot parish house on the lots due east of the church. He was succeeded by Father A. Carius in 1875. In 1924, L. C. Cox, a dentist, bought the house used for the sisters of the parochial school, moved it, and converted it into a dwelling. Father Joseph Reich decided to raze the parish hall and use the best lumber, plus new, to build a school building on lots south of the house with an addition on the west side to store the furnace and fuel. The school basement was used as the parish hall.
During Father Gerlach’s pastorate — 1886-1891 — Gerlach started a campaign to build a new Catholic church either next to the first one, which was to be used as a school, or on the site of the first church. The project never got past the planning stage. However, he did manage to oversee the building of a 18-foot by 18-foot sacristy consisting of one room, the same height of the church and built of sandstone to match the church. This was built on to the southeast corner of the church. Alois, George, and Stephen HadI did the masonry work, and Franz Blechel dressed and faced the rock. By June 1891, masons laid the foundation for the new addition. Once ready for use, the altar was moved back to the wall at the south end of the church and more room was available around the altar and communion railing. In May 1896, during Father Simmer’s Pastorate, a thief stole two silver chalices by forcing open the back door. Two weeks later, the two chalices were found near the engine room of the Jewett Mill.
In the winter of 1896, Father Simmer and the church committee decided to build an addition to the church. The parish men hauled stone from a large sandstone quarry on the Charles Willsdorf farm, three miles southwest of town, to complete a 26-foot by 20-foot addition with vestibule, 60-foot steeple, and 5-foot cross. The old bell, plus a new bell, a gift of Mrs. Valentine Anton, was placed in the steeple belfry. Bishop Fink blessed the addition and new bell in the fall of 1897. A large “town” clock also was planned but apparently wasn’t added.
Theckla Seiwald, Franciska Hartig, Mrs. Kern, Lao Vitt, and Peter Hartig were the first choir of Holy Family and sang for several years. After years of singing the mass hymns without music, the church choir had an organ bought for them in 1899. Emma Kunkel was the first organist. Later organists, in order, were Caroline Eder Casper, Emma Kunkel, Theresa (Blechel) Rothberger, Cecelia Blechel, Maurine (Blechel) Katzfey, Marie (Grosdidier) Sullvant, Delores (Blechel) Beers, Delores Schopper, Edna (Sommer) Zillner, Mary Ann Schopper, Virginia Nusbaum, Patsy Schehrer, and Rose (Pyle) White House.
In memory of her father, Peter, Theresa Hartig donated a statue of St. Anthony in 1905. It was placed on a shelf about half way in the church on the east wall. Also in 1905, Jack Müller, 25, from Luxembourg was commissioned to paint a mural and stencil the interior for $300. He would go on to adorn 5 more churches including these in Kansas: St. Benedict (Atchison, 1906); St. Wenceslaus (circa 1907, Wilson); St. Francis Xavier (Burlington, 1908); St. Patrick (Emerald, 1908); St. John the Baptist (Doniphan, 1908); St. Joseph (Topeka, 1909); and St. Boniface (Tipton, 1910).
Learn more about Holy Family's mural artist! Watch this video or read the following article.
After the first altar was removed in 1921, Frank Sommer built an enameled white altar in memory of his father and mother in his basement and transported the pieces to the church. The following year a room (with an outside entrance) large enough to house the wood-burning furnace was dug out from under the church. Later, this furnace would be converted to burn coal and, in time, gas. Originally clear, the windows later were painted by Joe Blechel to resemble stained glass. Around 1942, real stained glass windows were installed representing the Holy Family, St. Lawrence, and a harp. Symbols included grapes (wine), eagle (St. John), ox (St. Luke), dove (Holy Spirit), man (St. Mathew), a lion (St. Mark), and wheat (bread).
The Catholic School and convent, 900 block of Birch Street, was built in 1924 and housed nuns until 1963. The building was torn down in 1992 by Ernie Simon. Joe Bollig’s October 23, 2009 Leaven article quoted Jay Grosdidier, then 92 and the oldest active parishioner as saying, “I drove a horse and buggy to school for two or three years.” That was in the 1920s, and everyone in town had a barn behind their house. The Sisters had a horse barn where they lived. My granddad lived about a half block away, and he’d stable the horse. The horse knew where he was going, so you didn’t have to do much driving. It wasn’t hard to drive a horse. It got pretty cold, and I would take [my younger sister and brother] to school with me. Mother would heat bricks up for the floor of the buggy and we used a big robe. We never got real cold.”
In 1935, the congregation consisted of 52 families. Those receiving their first Holy Communion were Maurine Blechel, Jo Ann Minot, Mary Hereto, Marie Rothberger, Arlene Vat, Carroll Shopper, Donald Seaward, and William Staler Jr. The previous year, a class of 21 boys and girls received the Sacrament of Confirmation. They were George Bichelmeyer, Bernard Grosdidier, Norbert Grosdidier, George Schopper, Edward Schopper, George Rothberger, Leo Rothberger, Ernest Weixeldorfer, Charles Winter, Robert Zimmerman, Harold Zimmerman, Catherine Zimmerman, Agnes Bichelmeyer, Dolores Hadl, Dolores Schopper, Marcella Schopper, Rosemary Grosdidier, Charlotte Stadler, Virginia Stadler, Dorothy Weixeldorfer, and Dona Mae Zillner. Services were held at the church until 1963 when a new church and school were built at 820 Birch Street. In 1981, the Committee for Remedial Repair of Old Holy Family Church group consisting of Al Colman, Kenneth von Achen, Kurt von Achen, Norbert Grosdidier, Gerald “Jay” Grosdidier, Alf Oleson, Jim Hoover, Tom Pyle, Don Bagby, Leo Lauber, and Stan Byrne launched a restoration effort for the old church that had fallen into a state of disrepair. Their restoration included vine removal stone replacement, backlit stained-glass windows, carpeting, floor repair, pew furnishing, and stained woodwork. The original Holy Family Church is now open on special occasions and for a Christmas carol program. Recent donations and grant funds have enabled needed tuckpointing in 2021`and the 2023 repair of its 18 stained-glass windows.
Several members of Holy Family have chosen vocations within the Catholic Church. Henry Grosdidier, born in 1903, was ordained to the priesthood in Romein 1929. Theresa Grosdidier, a sister of Henry Grosdidier, became Sister Agatha, a member of the Ursuline Order at Paola, Kansas, in 1924. Anna Schehrer, known as Sister Mary Jerome, a daughter of Stephen Schehrer, in 1925 also joined the Ursuline order in Paola. Ferdinand Madl, son of John Madl, joined the Passion Order. Dolores and Marcella Schopper, twin daughters of John Schopper born in 1922, entered the Carmelite Convent in St. Louis, Missouri. Shirley Hadl, daughter of Leonard Hadl, entered the novitiate of the Ursuline Convent in Paola, Kansas, in 1961. Patrick Jerome, who served the church for many years beginning in 1991 when he was ordained to the Order of Deacons at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, later became a linguist who worked for the Vatican in Rome. Anthony Mersmann was ordained in 2020.
Holy Family now includes about 350 families from Eudora and neighboring cities such as DeSoto that do not have a Catholic Church. Church members traditionally have a picnic every summer, a tradition that dates back to before 1900 when members went to Fendt’s Park in Eudora at the end of each July and then to a dance following at Lothholz Hall. Holy Family Catholic Church completed construction in 2015 of a new church, 409 E. 8th St., on property adjacent to the former church on Birch Street between 8th and 9th Streets. The 8,000 SF, two-story church facility adjacent to the existing church consists of a 441-seat sanctuary with a work-sacristy, narthex, confessional, and vesting, acolyte and cry rooms and downstairs area for classrooms. Source: History of the Holy Family Parish; Hodl Family History, 1690-1989, (by Jack Williams); and History of the State of Kansas; Eudora News; Piper-Wind Architects, Inc., and Janet Campbell’s 2009 church history.
The 1864 Holy Family alter built by Frank Sommer in 1921.
Organized in 1869 by a German-speaking congregation, Salem Chapel, 718 Church Street, was built in 1870 for $1,050. Jacob Strobel Sr. and Christine Strobel organized the construction of the 26-foot by 40-foot brick building. Strobel and his daughters, Caroline and Pauline, carried water from the Wakarusa River for the brick’s mortar. Cutler’s History of the State of Kansas referred to the church as the (All Brights) German Evangelical Church and said it “embraces among its membership many of the prominent farmers in the vicinity of Eudora.”
Charter members, according to the Eudora paper’s fiftieth anniversary edition were Mr. and Mrs. Adam Ernst, Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Meyer, Mr. and Mrs. Femmer, Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Ott, Mr. and Mrs. Kraft, Mr. and Mrs. Jacob and Christine Strobel, and Mr. and Mrs. Manskey. Circuit ministers served the church and those in Clearfield, Worden, and Stull. An 1871 class at Salem included Peter Neis Sr.; Fred Neis Sr.; Jake Meyer; and Jacob Ott and their wives. The Ernsts and Yosts also were members. Another was Dorothea Emma Charlotte (Meyer) Schulz and her husband John Shulz. By the early 1900s, only Eudora and Clearfield remained on the church circuit.
In 1905, the belfry and south room were added. Rev. J. Fricker organized the Women’s Missionary Society on December 6, 1911. The wives of George Schubert, Carl Schubert, William Schubert, Peter Neis, Dan Reber, J. Fricker, George Schneider, Roy Combest, and Edward Mistele chartered the Society.
The church was sold in 2007 for $75,000. New owners converted the church into a two bedroom, two bathroom, 3,700 square foot residence.
The group’s name changed to the Women’s Society of World Service and later merged into the Methodist women’s group in 1968. Services were offered in both German and English until about 1917. Men of the church laid the brick sidewalk in 1939. When Jacob Nelson was pastor in 1956, a 24-foot by 38-foot concrete block addition was added for classroom and kitchen space. That same year, the Evangelical conference and United Brethren churches united. At that time, the Eudora congregation numbered 56 members. The First United Methodist Church took over ownership of the church building and loaned it to the Eudora Youth Service Organization that paid for its repair and upkeep for meetings of scout troops, 4-H groups, and other youth organizations. Source: 1957 Eudora Centennial Magazine and History of the Evangelical Association and Evangelical United Brethren Churches in Kansas and Eudora: Salem 1871-1971 (by Sarah Abel)
Image: St. Paul Church in 1868, courtesy of George Gerstenberger
On December 27, 1868, under the auspices of the “German Evangelical Synod of North America,” St. Paul Evangelical Church of Eudora organized and held services led by Christian Haas, a native of Wuertenburg. Upon coming to Kansas for health reasons in the summer of 1868, he found families such as the Gerstenbergers, Altenbernds, Kochs, and Thorens desiring a church based on Evangelical beliefs and needs. Reports differ on the names of the charter members. But there is general agreement on the following: Christian Thoren, Ferdinand Vitt, Wilhelm F. Alternbernd, Konrad Alternbernd, Gottlob Koch, Henry Loesch, Christian Strobel, Christian Schneider, Anna Rosine Gerstenberger, John Bernard, Carl Torneden, and Christian Haas. The One Hundredth Anniversary of the St. Paul’s Church also listed: C. Vogelsang. H. Whittler. G. Wanger. F. Fleer, and G. Huck.
On June 21, 1868, William Philip Loesch, born in February 1868, was the first baptism. The first wedding (Casper Marfelens/Marfelius and Lena Kueppel) and funeral (Elizabeth Richter) at St. Paul were held on the same day, September 30, 1869. In 1868 at St. Paul, all spoke German, so the services, Sunday School, and confirmation classes took place in the German language. Early church records are hand-written in German. Like many beginning churches, the Rev. Haas and his growing congregation worshipped in homes and other area buildings. The construction of the first church building located at Eighth Street and Church Street, began in 1870 and was completed in 1871, when Rev. George Tonnies was minister. Twenty-four oil lamps lit the simple brick structure that measured 25-feet by 40-feet by 14-feet. A tower steeple, added later, topped the building. Pictures show a board walk, rail fence and lots of trees. This church stood until 1913 when it was torn down.
In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, during Sunday morning and evening services, men sat on south side and women on the north side of the old church building. A heating stove was in the middle of the north side of the building. Members of the church board passed a fringed, velvet bag back and forth for donation collection. Sunday evening services discontinued in the early 1940s. Members dedicated their new brick church building facing Eighth Streeton May 10, 1914. William Lothholz, Charles Gabriel, Adolph Lotz, Jr., and the Rev. Frederick Stoerker served as members of the building committee. Electricity replaced the original gas fixture lighting in the sanctuary about 1931. Gas heating replaced the wood stove in 1934, when in October and November of that year, the men of the church laid the gas lines. By August 3, 1937 water and sewer lines to the parsonage had been installed. Other additions included rest rooms (1938), Sunday School room in the northwest corner of the basement (1947), and elevator and classrooms (1980). The stained glass windows had their leading replaced in 2013.
In 1916, the first English-speaking service was held and gradually after that English became the norm. On August 11, 1918, after much discussion and concern, the congregation voted to adopt English as its official language. The onset of World War I and the national anti-German attitude pushed the decision. Confirmation classes and some services, especially special ones continued in the German language until the 1930’s. The Evangelical Synod of North America merged with the German Reformed Church of the United States in 1934, causing the renaming of St. Paul to St. Paul Evangelical and Reformed Church of Eudora. Another merger occurred in 1957 when the Evangelical and Reformed Churches and the Congregational Christian Churches combined. At that time, this church became St. Paul Evangelical and Reformed Church of Christ. In 1961, the name was simplified to St. Paul United Church of Christ.
Social groups have included a Men’s Brotherhood, organized in 1950 but not currently active. A Women’s Fellowship or “Frauenverein” (Frawenferain), as it was called, has been active since 1896. Originally starting with 17 members, the purpose of the Aid Society or Women’s Union, the name changed throughout the years contributed towards the expanding work of the Church.
The first youth organization, the Young People’s League or JugenBund met as early as 1918. These young people often sponsored the Easter services held at sunrise. By 1942, the group had modernized the name to Youth Fellowship. In 1965, St. Paul’s Youth group combined with the Methodist and EUB groups to become the United Youth Fellowship. More recently, the youth have been active in an interdenominational group that includes many other area churches and their young people. St. Paul, too, helps maintain a local food pantry, and members of the church work closely with the Ministerial Alliance to assist needy families in the area.
Pastors were Christian Haas (1868-1873), George Tonnies (1874-1881), Adolph Pister (1881), T.F. Engelbach (1882-1884), J. Silbernian (1884-1892), W. Schaefer (1893-1895), A. Leutwein1(895-1902), Ludwig Koelbing (1902-1911), Richard D. Loew (1911-1914), Frederick Stoerker (1914-1920), Walter Kicker (1920-1922), Theodore Hauk 1922-1930), Charles Decker (1930-1932), Henry Reifschneider (1932-1945), Karl Baur (1945-1950), Joseph Polster (1950-1954), Arthur Reiss (1955-1962), Maynard Beemer (1963-1970), Steve Pierce (1970-1972), Eldon Schmidt (1972-1976), Margie Bertsch (1977-1981), Donald Sinclair (interim)(1981-1982), Howell Bischoff (1983-1988), Robert Yanek (interim)(1988-1989), Paul Witmer (1989-1996), and Ian McLean (1996-). Source: One Hundredth Anniversary; St. Paul United Church of Christ book in 1968 written by Mrs. Oscar Broers, Mrs. Homer Gerstenberger, Lena Altenbernd, Homer Gerstenberger, and Mrs. Walter Gerstenberger, and The Uniting by Patty Johnston