By H.W. Ewing, Clerk of the Session
"The history of Presbyterianism in Iola began several months before Kansas was admitted to statehood. The first sermon by a Presbyterian minister was by Rev. E. K. Lynn, pastor of the Carlyle Church in the fall of 1860.
The services were held in the upper part of a frame building, known for many years after that as the old Colborn store building and standing where Coutant's Hardware now stands, on lot 8, block 76. Services were held with regularity by Rev. Lynn from that time until the organization of the society nearly four years later.
It is said that two ladies living here at that time being very devout and earnest women, were largely instrumental in bringing about the organization. These ladies, who were Mrs. Sarah Rogers Jones and Mrs. Emily J. Thrasher, spent much time driving about together and visiting such persons as they could interest in the organization of a church. On a beautiful Sunday in June, 1864, a little company of people from round about, and bringing their dinner with them in baskets, gathered in Parson's Grove and the First Presbyterian Church of lola was organized by the committee which had been appointed at a meeting of Highland Presbytery and which was composed of The Rev. E. K. Lynn and Elder John M. Evans of the Carlyle church and Rev. Austin Warner of Mapleton. Rev. Warner is still living in Fort Scott. Parsons' Grove was located about three miles northwest of lola, on the west bank of Deer Creek, and was on the east 80 of the NW1/4 of section 16, township 24, south and range 18, east and in the southeast corner of Geneva township.
The charter members were: Mr. John N. Covert and his wife, Mrs. Jane E. Covert; Mr. John McClure and his daughter, Mrs. Henry Bostwick; Mr. Rufus Perkins and his wife, Mrs. Jane Webster Perkins; Mrs. Emily J. Thrasher, Mrs. Elizabeth Parsons, Mrs. Sarah Rogers Jones, Mrs. S. A. Terrill and her three daughters, Mrs. Susan E. Post, Miss Mildred E. Terrill and Miss Nannie Terrill; Mrs. Elizabeth Longstreet and her daughter, Mrs. Effie Longstreet Twiss and Miss Lizzie Case. Mrs. Susan E. Post is still a member, being the only charter member who has held a continuous membership since the organization nearly 40 years ago. Miss Lizzie Case is now Mrs. Nimrod Hankins and is still living in Iola but has been a member of the Methodist church for years.
At the organization Mr. John Newton Covert and Mr. John McClure were chosen as the first elders of the church. Mr. McClure being installed and Mr. Covert being ordained and installed, on July 16 following.
Iola was then a village of about 250 population and the church services were held for nearly four years first in the public school building on the southeast corner of State and West streets, it being a small frame structure which at the present time is the kitchen of Mr. C. C. Luccock's residence, on Lot 5, and block 72. And later in the courthouse on the northwest corner of the square, where Mr. T. B. Shannon's hardware now stands, being lot 8 and block 53. The first church building was a neat brick structure 35 by 55 feet in dimensions. It was completed in the spring of 1868 and was dedicated in September of that same year. The church was rebuilt at that same site, in 1891, being rededicated December 6 of that year. This is the present site of the old church on the NE corner of Madison and Chestnut streets, being lot 6, block 71. In the summer of 1884 a two-story frame manse was erected on lot 7, block 71, adjoining the church building. This has been improved and added to from time to time and is still the residence of our pastor.
In 1899 a site for a new church was purchased for $800. This was a piece of ground 100 feet square on the northeast corner of Madison Ave, and Buckeye Street, being lots 6 and 7, block 65. On the 18th of July of this year (1903) the first dirt was turned for this new building. We expect this building to be a handsome stone structure which will cost about $25,000 when all finished and with a pipe organ.
Following is a list of all the pastors who have served the church, and 18 elders and 19 deacons who are deceased or moved away. The present board of trustees is: H. L. Henderson, Chas. F. Scott, Lewis L. Northrup, John Vannuys and George M. Nelson.
After the organization, five persons united with the church before 1870: Mr. Lewis Lee Northrup and his wife, Mrs. Mary E. Northrup; Mr. and Mrs. C. F. J. Barth and J. Webster Johnson. Mr. L. L. Northrup joined the church by letter from the Congregational Church in Geneva, Kansas.
Although Mr. Northrup was one of the principal businessmen of the village and very, very busy, he always found time to go in person and sweep, build the fire, and light the old school house, the court house, and the new church, for all the services that were held in them, until he was relieved by the coming into the church of three young men, in the spring of 1870. With scrupulous regularity he attended the mid-week prayer meeting and the Sabbath school, which he often superintended and in which he taught a Bible class. He was always in his place in other services. Always a liberal contributor, he did much from the first to maintain the church, especially while it was under the care of the Home Mission Board, and his death, March 3, 1896, was a loss severely felt.
We wish also to make special mention of Dr. John W. Scott, one of the charter members of the church at Carlyle, who, with his wife and children, transferred their membership to the lola church in 1874 and was an active and efficient worker until he removed from lola a short time before his death, which occurred in Oklahoma in 1899. For many years he served as chorister, being succeeded in that office by this son, Angelo C. Scott, and he in turn by his brother, Charles F. Scott. The services of the three members of the family in this capacity extended over a period of more than a quarter of a century.
In 1870 the church had 53 members; in 1880,104 members; in 1890,175 members; in 1897, 219 members and at present, August, 1903, the membership is 302. During the last 15 years 175 members have been dismissed to other churches, 52 have retired and 23 are deceased. There also have been in that time 100 baptisms.
The Woman's Home and Foreign Missionary Society was organized Dec. 4, 1876, it being the first missionary society organized in the Neosho Presbytery. It worked as an auxiliary of the Woman's Mission Board of the Northwest at Chicago until May 5, 1881, when it became identified with the Board of the Southwest at St. Louis. In connection with this society, the Do What You Can Mission Band was formed in June, 1886 under the superintendency of Mrs. H. A. Ewing and for many years it carried on its work and instilled into the hearts of the young members a love for mission work. Two of the charter members of this board are now engaged in mission work: Miss Mary Clark, daughter of one of the former pastors, Seth G. Clark, in Persia and Miss Alice Crosby at Muscogee, Indian Territory. Miss Meda Brewster, who married Rev. Hayes and went as a missionary to Japan was a member of the band. Miss Ruth Ewing, who married P. O. Hanson and will start for China next month to engage in mission work, was also a member.
In speaking of the missionaries who have gone out from our church, we must not omit Mr. Wm. Davis, who was a Sunday school missionary for 16 years in Oklahoma.
The Woman's Working Society for Church Work, Financial and Spiritual, was organized in the parsonage on May 10, 1887, and has proved an important agency in carrying on the work of the church. It has much to do in maintaining the social life of the church and in making comfortable and attractive the parsonage and church building.
The first Young People's Society was organized in May, 1889 and in Nov., 1890 adopted the Christian Endeavor methods. The society was more fully organized under Christian Endeavor methods in Dec., 1892. At this time the church was without a pastor and a wonderful revival was started among the young people in the church which brought many into the Kingdom and deepened the spirituality of the whole church.
The enrollment of the Sunday school is about 250 and, like its parent, the church, was the first to begin Sunday school work in the little frontier town.
The 25th anniversary of the organization of the church was observed by special services in the church on Sunday evening, June 23, 1889. Rev. Wm. H. Hyatt was pastor at that time and Wm. H. Evans was clerk of the session. Taking part at that service were Rev. Austin Warner, who helped organize the church, Rev. E. S. Miller, the preceding pastor, Mr. Wm. Davis, who read a very complete and accurate history of the church from its organization, and Mr. L. L. Northrup, who talked entertainingly about the difficulties encountered by the church in its early years and the makeshifts and devices and hard work by which they were overcome. It was an interesting record of faithful, zealous service, which only lacked completeness because the large and honorable part which the speaker himself had taken in it was left untold.
The one-third centennial anniversary was observed in the church on Sunday, Oct. 24, 1897. Rev. W. L. Squier was then pastor. We hope to celebrate our 4Oth anniversary next June in our new church.
There are three missions which have been enlarged, encouraged, supported and maintained by the church. These are Prairie Dell Sabbath school three and one half miles from lola, a little east of south in Prairie Dell school house; The Little Builders in their chapel on North Street and Bassett Bible school in the suburb of Bassett south of lola.
TWO NOBLE MEN
We cannot close this sketch without speaking of two venerable men who have been associated with us but whose names do not appear upon the church roll: The Rev. Jas. P. Wright, a retired minister who came to live among us in 1890, whose sweet face and gentle life was a very blessing until he died, Jan. 28, 1902, aged 83. And again, Rev. Lewis L. Drake, who has lived among us for a number of years. Dr. Drake was born in 1826, is a graduate of Hanover College and McCormick Seminary. He was pastor of the church at West Liberty, Ohio, for 30 years. He was stated clerk of Sidney Presbytery, old school, from 1855 to 1870, a service of 30 years. After coming to Kansas he was pastor of the church at Humboldt, our neighboring city, for nine years. He was elected stated clerk of Neosho Presbytery in 1892 and still holds the office. He has been chairman of the Home Mission Committee for five years and has supplied the Iola pulpit during the interim of pastorates and the vacation of pastors for over five years. He has been moderator of the Synods of Cincinnati, Toledo and Kansas. So while he is retired he is anything but inactive. He is our "grand old man." Dr. Drake was married on May 9, 1849, to Mary Ann Gaston, who still survives to share with her distinguished and noble husband the affectionate regard of the entire community."