Historical Briefs

These are brief snapshots of our church history.

Historical Brief No. 1:  The Founders

A year and a half after the small town of Manhattan was established in the Kansas Territory, a group of five men and five women met at the schoolhouse on Sunday morning,August 14, 1858, to organize a Baptist church.Elder M.L. Wisner and his wife,Lydia, were from Pleasant Branch, Wisconsin. James H. Young and his wife, Cordelia,and Elizabeth Swan had come from Kansas City, Missouri. George and Harriett Ferguson were from Michigan.

William S. Hurlbut listed his home state as Vermont. Everett Colburn and JaneA. Williston had moved to Kansas from Roxbury, Massachusetts.

Because Elder Wisner was ill, they decided to meet later in the afternoon at his house.When the group arrived, they found him confined to his bed. James Young was appointed chair of the meeting, which was opened with singing and prayer. The ten professed Christians who were present agreed to a declaration of faith and church covenant. By this act they organized a church to be known as the First Baptist Church of Manhattan, Riley County, Kansas.

Elder Wisner accepted the call of the new church to take the pastoral charge”for the time being.”A motion was made that a church meeting would be held on the Saturday preceding the first Sunday in each month for the transaction of business matters. A second motion was made to observe the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper on the first Sunday of each month. The final motion was to meet regularly every Sunday morning at the schoolhouse for public worship.

The people present and their actions leading to the establishment of First Baptist Church were recorded in minutes taken by George Ferguson, Secretary pro-tem.

Historical Brief No. 2:  Our First Pastor, Elder Morgan Lewis Wisner

 In all of the records we have been able to access to date, we keep coming across the name of the first pastor,Elder M. L. Wisner. On February 4, 2008, we received information from Laura Clark, his great-great-great granddaughter. Laura had previously been in contact with Ruth Ann Warren about any information that we could locate for her as she worked on her family history. The following historical data is what she provided for our records:

“Morgan Lewis WISNER was born 6 March 1805 in Aurelius, Cayuga County, New York. On 13 September 1827, he married Lydia Hinman, who was born 27 September 1806 in Newark, Essex County ,New Jersey. The marriage took place in Bolivia, Christian County,Illinois. They had twelve children: Angeline,Thaddeus(my Great-Great Grandfather),a female infant who died at a young age and Jechithan H. who were all born in Michigan from 1828 to 1831.From 1832 to 1839, Amanda Frances, George W., Servetus H.,Mary Ann,and Montgomery L .were all born in Orange County,New York.

Between the years 1844 and 1849, after being sent on a Mission trip to Illinois, Ruben P., Francis J., and Lydia E. were born in that state.

According to a WISNER cousin,who has also been researching this family,Morgan was in Mt.Morris, Livingston County,New York, in 1841 where he became a Baptist Minister and Missionary. I have no information of him being in Wisconsin,however his mission work may have led him there prior to coming to Manhattan,Kansas.

Some interesting information as to Morgan’s stay in Michigan,according to the Oakland County,Michigan Historical Society, a newspaper article published 8 May 1969 stated,‘According to the story printed in the History of Oakland County,1817-77,and published by……,The history [of the Franklin House] related that the first store in Franklin was built by Dr. Ebenezer Raynale and operated by William Huston.In 1832,Dr.Raynale took over the store with the aid of Morgan L. Wisner,the brother of Michigan’s Governor…..’    In another article also about Franklin’s pioneers, at around 1830,there were more than 30 children of school age in Franklin,prompting the erection of a much-needed school.

Townships in that area with at least fifty families were to employ a school master who would receive$15 a month. By law,schools were to operate at least six months a year; however,the law was not enforced.‘Men like the intellectual Morgan Wisner, Ira Wisner,and their brother-in-law,John Robinson,were early teachers in Franklin. Brothers of a future governor of Michigan (Moses Wisner,1859-60), they taught during winter terms. Morgan Wisner owned 11/ 2 acres in town purchased from Elijah Bullock.’ One thing I [Laura Clark] find very interesting in Morgan’s travels, he is listed as a passenger on the Daniel Webster, departing San Juan,Nicaragua and arriving in NewYork on 13 March 1852. We may never know why he went there,but I’d have to presume it was for a Mission trip. In the 1860 Manhattan, Riley Co., Kansas Census, Morgan is listed as a farmer ,with wife Lydia and children Montgomery (now 20 years old) and Lydia (11 years) in the household.

Morgan died 22 December 1867 in Manhattan, Riley Co.,Kansas. Lydia died 7 August 1874, also in Manhattan,Kansas. They are both buried at Sunset Cemetery in Manhattan (Block 2 ,Lot 117, Grave 01 for Morgan,Grave 03 for Lydia).I [Laura Clark] have photos of their grave markers,however,they are not in very good condition.I don’t have any photos of Morgan or Lydia.The closest I can come to that is a child, Thaddeus, as a grandfather sitting with his daughter, Estella,and their family at their farm in Butte County,California.“

Reference: McKeen, Walter E., History of the First Baptist Church of Manhattan, Kansas. INSharp, W. A. Steward. History of Kansas Baptists, 1939.

Historical Brief No. 3:  The Treasurer’s Report from December 18, 1867

Among the old church records inventoried over the past few months,Phyllis found this Treasurer’s Report prepared by William Dent for a meeting of the congregation on December 18,1867. To preserve the more strident and direct language than we use today, I [Carol Ann] have chosen to present the report verbatim and in its entirety.

The following statement shows the transactions for the year to be as follows:

Amt pledged to Elder Gale for the year $650.00
Amt paid to Elder Gale during the year 491.85
Leaving a balance due him of $158.15

To meet this indebtedness then are unpaid subscriptions to the amount of $133.38, which,when all paid will leave a balance due the Pastor and unprovided for of $24.77.

On the Contingent Expense fund I have to report balances now remaining unpaid amounting to$68.00.There are now bills outstanding against the church(which have been presented for payment)amounting to$82.74,besides several other bills to be presented which will probably amount to making the total indebtedness of the church exclusive of the $200due the Women’s Missionary Society. I desire to call the attention of the church to the fact that financially for the past year we have not been paying expenses. It is undoubtedly in expedient for a church to assume obligations that are not promptly met and faithfully discharged.In view of these facts I would earnestly recommend that the church take this matter into serious consideration and adopt some plan which will always keep sufficient money in the treasury to pay current expenses. The present plan (of taxing all male members except minors 35 cents per month,and all women and minors 10 cents per month) would seem to be all that is necessary if the members of the church would feel the importance of paying their dues promptly every month or 1 month or 3 months in advance (which all can do, just as well as not.)But if(as has been the case the past year)more than one half of the members do not pay one cent oft heir dues for a whole year at a time, the church must always be in debt,and consequently in an unprosperous condition. I have no plan to recommend for remedying this evil (for a great evil I deem it to be), but hope the church will give the matter serious and earnest consideration.

The estimates of the expenses for the coming year are $125.00 which the present system of taxation is sufficient to cover,if it is all paid. But if,as here to fore the expenses of the church are all to be paid by a small minority of the members, I would recommend that the rate be increased to 50 cents per month for each member without regard to age or sex.” With projected expenses of only $125.00for 1868,Elder Gale must have decided to leave or he was dismissed.Note that there is no mention of tithes or pledges,only taxes paid by a small minority.Ron and Phil would probably say:“not much has changed in the past 140 years.”

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