Thursday, February 6, 2014

Macksville Methodist Church

Isaac B. Werner's relationship with organized religion was complicated.  During his childhood in Pennsylvania, community life centered around St. John's (Hain's) Church (See "Isaac's Childhood Church," in the blog archives at 2-23-2012), and his personal library contained books evidencing his religious study.  He admired Rev. Henry Ward Beecher (See "Advice from Henry Ward Beecher," 12-7-2012 and "Keeping a Journal," 6-6-2013), one of the most famous ministers of that period, and a newspaper column written by Rev. Beecher was glued in the front of Isaac's journal.

Isaac was critical of anyone who, in his opinion, practiced their profession or craft in a careless way, whether the person was a farmer, a newspaper man, or a politician.  If Isaac felt that a minister was a second-rate preacher, he did not hesitate to criticize even a man of the cloth in his journal entries.  He seemed particularly critical of a minister because of such a man's ability to influence others.

In Isaac's community, religious services were held in the school house, conducted by lay pastors from other communities.  For example, Rev. Hoddle was a farmer-preacher from the Garfield community who came to preach at Emerson school.  Neighbors also held morning prayer services in their homes, especially during the difficult times when rainfall and money were both scarce.  When Isaac saw wagons parked at a neighbor's home for these morning prayer meetings, he reflected in his journal that studying better farming methods for the prairie soil might do their families more good than praying about their misfortune.

 Although Isaac's immediate community did not have a church, the town of Macksville about thirteen miles away organized the Methodist Episcopal Church even before the community officially became a city.  The church's charter was granted on November 13, 1885, and in March of 1886 Rev. B.F. Rhoads was appointed as the first pastor and the first church was built.  George Mack, after whom the town was named, donated land for the construction of the church, and for a time the structure was called Mack's Chapel.  Lumber and other building materials had to be brought by team and wagon from Larned, and it is likely that members from the community served as the carpenters.

The belfry, bell and steeple were added in 1888, and the original bell that called the early settlers to worship now occupies a place of honor outside the present church building, which was constructed in 1951-1952.

Among the names of those early members of the Macksville church appears George Hall, Isaac's friend and my great grandfather.  It was the Hall family that first took Isaac into their home when his health deteriorated to the point that he could no longer live alone, and it was George Hall's granddaughter, Lucille, who preserved Isaac's journal and bequeathed the journal to the Lucille M. Hall Museum in St. John, KS.  (See "Finding Isaac's Journal," 10-23-2011, "Small Town Museums," 10-29-2011, and "2011 Victorian Tea," 11-8-2011.)  I cannot help but wonder if Isaac and my great grandfather ever discussed the Bible during their evenings together.


Talya Tate Boerner said...

Things really aren't that different in the farm community where I grew up. Lay farmer-preachers still show up and preach whenever given the opportunity:) sometimes the local Saturday night beer joint becomes the place for Sunday worship.

The Blog Fodder said...

Isaac's comment about learning how to farm better instead of praying for rain was bang on. Or do both.

Ramona in Idaho said...

Lyn, what a thrill this morning to read your blog about my Great Grandmother Hattie Gerst Tousley and her husband, friends of Isaac,
Joseph C. Tousley. In years past, before the internet we had not been able to locate Hattie's gravesite, thinking as you did before finding Isaac's that it may not even exist.
A million thanks for opening up their world to us.
Ramona in Idaho