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Lewis Bodwell, Frontier Preacher, 1

by Russell K. Hickman

August 1943 (Vol. 12, No. 3), pages 269 to 299
Transcription by Harriette Jensen and Lynn Nelson; HTML composition by
Tod Roberts; digitized with permission of the Kansas Historical Society.
Numbers in brackets refer to notes at the end of the article.

DURING the stormy days of early Kansas, religion as well as politics played an important role in determining the destiny of the new territory. Slavery and freedom, speculation and sober investment, thieves and adventurers and moral idealists, broken-down politicians and professional agitators, visionaries and soldiers of fortune, and last but not least, frontiersmen who wanted land and not loot -- such was the strange mixture that made up "Bleeding Kansas."

In a boiling caldron of this nature there was little wonder that religion was greatly influenced by the troubled state of affairs. Preachers became intense partisans, and sometimes active participants in violence, to promote the cause in which they believed. Organized Christianity found it difficult to function, while the prevalence of violence and lurid propaganda created an atmosphere contrary to true religion. The urgent need of ready finances, suffered by all frontier areas, made the struggling churches of the Kansas border beseech their Eastern friends for aid, particularly when the prevailing disorders affected them adversely. In all of this, politics and religion were often mixed in an inextricable manner, since the Antislavery churches were frequently the chief backers of the Northern settlers, while their Southern rivals were almost as energetic in supporting their particular denominations. [1] In short, politics and religion were vital parts of the two civilizations that were struggling for mastery upon the Kansas prairies.

Out of these troubles came a growing tendency to look to the East for aid, while the isolation of the border and the privations endured by the settlers gave a characteristics flavor to frontier Christianity. The towns founded by the New England Emigrant Aid Company also became the sites of active pioneer churches. From these centers radiated an atmosphere strongly opposed to slavery, almost equally antagonistic to the evils of strong drink, and firm in its advocacy of free schools and of regular church attendance. The critics of the New England way of life deprecated the relentless pursuit of the "Almighty Dollar," Puritanic intolerance and the "famous Boston propaganda," yet despite all these defects, from the standpoint of the cultural, the humanitarian, and the religious the centers of New England influence were pronounced leaders, thereby leaving to the future a heritage of lasting value.

The Congregational church began its history in Kansas in the fall of 1854, when the Rev. Samuel Y. Lum arrived in the new settlement of Lawrence, "to proclaim the gospel in Kansas." [2] He was sent by the American Home Missionary Society as a pioneer missionary and agent, with limited supervisory powers over Congregationalism in the new territory. In October, 1854, Lum and a group of pioneer settlers organized the Plymouth Congregational Church of Lawrence. [3] Later in the fall the Rev. Samuel L. Adair arrived in Kansas under the auspices of the American Missionary Association, and in the following March began to preach in Osawatomie and vicinity. [4] In November, 1854, the Rev. Charles E. Blood began work along the Blue river, and in the spring of 1855 in Manhattan itself. [5] In May, 1855, the Rev. Harvey Jones arrived under American Missionary Association auspices, and soon began to preach at Wabaunsee and vicinity. [6] Soon after this the Rev. John H. Byrd began work at Leavenworth, Easton, and Grasshopper Falls (now Valley Falls). [7] No church was organized during 1855, but 1856 saw the official founding of seven, including Manhattan, Osawatomie, Zeandale, Topeka, Council City (now Burlingame), Bloomington, and Kanwaka. [8] The speculative boom of 1857 created an atmosphere unfavorable to the cause of religion, but did not prevent the convening of a general association of the Congregational churches of Kansas at Topeka. Among the resolutions adopted was a strong condemnation of slavery, and provision for the location of a college (the original germ of Washburn college). [9] In their general address to Congregationalism the association asserted: "It shall be our aim . . . to transplant the principles and institutions of the Puritans to these fertile plains." [10] Although 1858 was a year of hard times in Kansas, eleven churches were organized, and when the general association met at Manhattan, there were 21 churches in the new territory and 402 members, an impressive record of growth for so short and troubled a period. [11]

The first steps to organize a Congregational church in Topeka were taken October 14, 1855, when a meeting of nine persons was held at the cabin of James Cowles to arrange for an Antislavery church of this denomination. A committee was appointed to draft appropriate articles of faith, and a subscription list was started to raise the funds necessary for a church building. [12] Organization was completed at a meeting in Constitution Hall, July 14, 1856, when James Cowles and H.W. Farnsworth were elected deacons; John Ritchie, Milton C. Dickey, and Henry P. Waters, trustees; and Martin Gaylord, clerk or secretary. Application was made to the Topeka Association for land as the site of a place of worship, and the trustees of the new church were given six lots, at the corner of Seventh and Harrison streets. [13] At the time of organization the church numbered only nine members. [14] The title of "The Free Congregational Church of Topeka" was then adopted, along with articles of faith and a covenant in the usual New England manner, [15] which repeated the traditional doctrine of the fall of man, and the means of atonement through Christ. [16] It was further asserted "that the Christian Sabbath is an institution of divine appointment & its observance of perpetual obligation," and the "constitution & Standing Rules" (Article X) made members liable to discipline for "immorality & neglect of the gospel & stated means of grace." [17] .

Late in December, 1854, S.Y. Lum preached the first sermon at Topeka, and during the winter of 1854-55 he continued at irregular intervals to serve the new community. Thereafter the Rev. Jonathan Copeland and the Rev. Paul shepherd preached occasionally, but the congregation became very desirous of obtaining a minister who would reside at his post of duty. [18] Soon after arriving in Kansas, Lum foresaw the probability that the new settlement at Topeka would need a pastor, [19] and by July, 1856, he wrote Lewis Bodwell: "There can be but little doubt that it is destined to become a prominent place, the country about is nearly all taken up by actual settlers. -- -The brethren are of the right stamp; men of more than ordinary information & energy. They have collected several hundred dollars for a church edifice, &c." [20]

Since Bodwell had already determined to remove to the West, and looked upon Topeka with favor, he wrote to Milton Badger of the Missionary Society quoting Lum to support his candidacy for a pastorate at that place. [21] As Kansas agent Lum corresponded regularly with the society concerning affairs in the new territory, and undoubtedly was very influential in obtaining the appointment of Bodwell. Late in the summer of 1856, when Bodwell received his commission, [22] he was instructed to consult with Lum as to a suitable location, but the executives of the American Home Missionary Society appear to have given him considerable freedom in the matter, as was their custom when sending missionaries to remote regions on the frontier. [23]

Rev. Louis Bodwell, 1827-1894

 Rev. Lewis Bodwell, 1827-1894
The first resident pastor of the First Congregational Church in Topeka.
He served during the years 1856-1860, and 1866-1869.

Lewis Bodwell, the son of Anson G. and Elizabeth Ives Bodwell, was born at New Haven, Conn., in 1827, the eldest of a family of six sons and four daughters, of the best New England lineage. [24] With the exception of a time at Farmington, Conn., his childhood days were spent at New Haven, where he attended the Lancasterian school of Doctor Lovell. As a pupil there he excelled in arithmetic, and because of his scholarly ability he was made a monitor in the school. [25] In 1847 he united with the Howe Street Congregational Church of New Haven, and by the close of the following year he had decided to prepare for the ministry. [26] However, Lewis did not possess the means to bring his dream to immediate fruition, and he was obliged to enter the teaching profession. After fulfilling his engagement at New Haven, he accepted a teaching position for the year 1849-1850 at Trenton, N.J. He spent the following year in the seminary at Cazenovia, N.Y., where he distinguished himself for his scholarly abilities.

Despite the fact that he was seriously retarded by severe illness from typhoid fever, Bodwell completed a second year in 1852, and a third in 1853. [27] During the first half of the third year he was absent when he acted as a private tutor in the family of Judge Dexter, of Dexter, Mich., a position which he resumed during the year 1853-1854. Bodwell was also very active in the Congregational churches where he resided, and came to serve as a substitute pastor. By thus combining teaching and study, he was able to support himself, while gaining an education, but this strenuous method may have contributed to a heart ailment, which appeared in 1854. He entered the sanitarium at Clifton Springs, N.Y., where he gained a new lease on life, but he was obliged to forego his ambition to study at Yale, in preparation for the ministry. In August, 1855, Lewis Bodwell accepted a pastorate at Truxton, N.Y. [28] While there he received enthusiastic support from his congregation, the members of which "would do anything possible to retain him," but by 1856 Bodwell was determined to remove to the West. [29] Before taking a final leave of Truxton, however, he was ordained by the old Cortland Presbytery. [30] this brought to an end the years of training and preparation for his life work, a period concluded by a year of actual experience in the field. Lewis Bodwell was considered energetic and persevering in disposition, and gifted with a good knowledge of human nature. [31] Although lacking the advantages of a college education, he was still regarded as quite well informed, and as having "acquired a good education -- -equal perhaps to that which young men ordinarily acquired. . . . He speaks extempore with great facility & effect; & yet is fond of writing out his discourses, when time is allowed." [32] All in all, he appears to have been better prepared for his profession than many of his day and age.

During the early days of the Kansas struggle, Lewis Bodwell appears to have conceived a deep concern in the fate of that territory. At any rate, when in the summer of 1856 the Kansas Missionary Band was formed at Andover Theological Seminary, with the aims of planting the gospel in that region, and supporting the cause of freedom, he immediately became interested. Although never himself a member, he corresponded frequently with the group, and after arriving in Kansas, he became their most reliable informant, since he was on the spot a year before his friends, who did not complete their training until 1857. [33]

Early in September, 1856, before the disorders of that troubled year had ended, Lewis Bodwell left for the Kansas border. The Missourians had virtually closed the Missouri river to Northern emigrants, so Bodwell decided to join an emigrant train which was taking the longer route through Iowa and Nebraska. [34] Lewis joined his brother Sherman at Joliet, Ill., and on September 20 they came to the Western terminus of railroads at Iowa City, where they hoped to find an expedition, bound for Kansas, but they did not actually overtake the outfit until they reached Osceola, Iowa. [35] This train was organized in a military manner, and was a part of the Northern "emigration" which traveled by way of the "lane trail" through Iowa and present Nebraska. [36] By joining this organization, Bodwell hoped to save money and gain increased safety, but he apparently did not realize the added danger which he was incurring by joining a detachment of "Lane's Army of the North." [37] He wrote: "As did most of the men, I marched on foot to Afton in Union Co., a distance of 30 miles. The small number of trains -- -17 & their heavy loading rendered this a matter of necessity." [38] Here he was fortunate to find a bed of shavings on the floor, which he shared with his companions. The next day being Sunday, Bodwell absented himself from the expedition, and preached his first sermon in the home missionary service, among the shavings of his host. [39]

A march of two days brought the train to Tabor, the general point of rendezvous for emigrants to Kansas on the Northern route. [40] While here Bodwell stayed with the Rev. John Todd, pastor of the Congregational church. He was informed that Governor Geary, although a recent arrival in Kansas, was already "carrying out the same general course as his predecessors, i.e. 'subduing freedom,'" and had arrested a considerable number of Free-State men; also that Methodist ministers had been driven from Leavenworth by the "border ruffians." [41] Bodwell remarked:

I am growing more & more convinced that the "gross exaggerations" of which we hear so much at the East, fall far short of the fearful realities, of stolen property, wasted fields, burning dwellings, ravished women & scalped & murdered men, the acts of a "law and order" party, kept in countenance by officers appointed by our president, & removed in case of any doubt of a leaning in any but one direction. [42]

The expedition resumed its march October 3, but it was delayed by prairie fires, which Bodwell described as follows:

I must say that the fearful splendors of a prairie on fire can only be realized from being seen. -- This, my first sight, was truly a grand one. . . , a wall of fire a mile in length moving along the prairie as fast as a man upon a moderate walk. [43]

The next day they crossed the Missouri river and went into camp at Nebraska City, where they learned of the peaceful turn of affairs in Kansas. [44] After a few days of rest the march was resumed, and upon October 9 the outfit approached the territorial line. Great care was exercised to divest the train of hostile appearances, [45] but despite this, the expedition aroused the suspicion of Cols. P. St. George Cook and Wm. S. Preston, in command of a force of federals sent to examine the outfit. After close examination, the emigrant wagons were found to contain "a supply of new arms, mostly muskets and sabres, and a lot of saddles, etc., sufficient to equip a battalion." [46] When the emigrants refused escort to Lecompton, the federal officers were obliged to seize the superfluous arms, and place the entire party under arrest. [47]

Lewis Bodwell wrote: "I am where I have for some time wished and hoped to be, in Kansas; but also where I did not expect to be -- -under arrest! We are prisoners to U.S. Deputy-Marshal Preston." [48] Instead of the letter of Geary obtaining unmolested passage for them, they had been "stopped in the midst of a drizzling rain, and tents, baggage and . . . all arms and ammunition not claimed as private individual property seized." [49] On October 11, 1856, they proceeded under guard to Straight creek, and the following day, which was Sunday, to Elk creek. At night about the camp fire, Bodwell was invited to preach his first sermon in Kansas, and took for his text the words of Christ: "Lo, I am with you always." [50]

On the morning of October 14, 1856, when the expedition reached the Pappan ferry of the Kansas river, near Topeka, Governor Geary met the emigrants, reminded them of the suspicious position they occupied, and demanded that they immediately disband their military organization. An agreement to this effect was quickly concluded, although some of the emigrants later reassembled, and made a triumphant entry into Lawrence. [51]

Lewis Bodwell and his brother Sherman crossed the Kansas river and found a bed at a hotel in Topeka, "not quite so clean as that of last night upon the grass, no more comfortable and more fully occupied." [52] Lewis had an empty pocket, but fortunately his brother had some $13, and paid the bills, although it later developed that $100 for travel was due from the Missionary Society. [53] Lewis had intended to act immediately upon the instructions of the society, and to consult with the Reverend Lum as to the advisability of locating at Topeka. [54] He now learned that Lum was out of the territory, and already knowing that he favored Topeka, Bodwell at once located at that place, "as the most important unoccupied point in the country." [55] He found a church organization of approximately eleven members, who were waiting for a pastor. The day after his arrival he made his first pastoral call upon a member who was building a brick chimney (H.W. Farnsworth), and the next upon a sick member (Henry P. Waters), in the garret of an unfinished house of two rooms, with blanket partitions, and with a hole in the roof for a future chimney. Bodwell met his third member (William Scales), with wife and daughter, in their primitive cabin home. "In their two rooms of about 10 x 12, and the garret 12 x 20 feet, which last you enter stooping or on all fours, they are doing a fine business at keeping boarders." [56] Later that day he met the clerk of his church, Martin Gaylord. They went to Gaylord's cabin two miles out, which was well ventilated by one- to two-inch openings between the logs, and had supper of potatoes, bacon, and flapjacks. [57] In one day Bodwell had thus visited four of the "seven pillars" of his church, and had obtained first hand knowledge of life in Kansas. [58] To obtain a more complete appreciation of the problems facing him, he now devoted ten days to exploration and planning, during which he slept at night upon the prairie grass.

Lewis Bodwell delivered his first sermon in Topeka -- -the first by a regularly appointed pastor of the Free Congregational Church, October 26, 1856. This was his first chance to use the only public room of the new settlement -- -Constitution Hall -- -"a rough, unplastered room, board and slab seats, a shaky cottonwood table, and an audience of about twenty-five." [59] In a letter to Doctor Badger of the Home Missionary Society, Bodwell described the situation as follows:

Contrary to my expectation a church has been formed in this place about a year, but the troubles which have come upon the territory have prevented its progress. The church will embrace 13 members & several more stand ready to unite at an early day. A subscription has also been commenced for the erection of a church which amounts to some $350. Tho. I intend making a determined effort to at least get the material upon the ground before Spring, I cannot say that the prospect is very flattering. Our forces are diminished by very [various] causes. Of our three trustees, one is just (& slowly) recovering from a severe illness; another has gone East to spend the winter; & the third is a prisoner & now on trial at Lecompton, with the other Free State men . . . [60] All the religious meetings of the place are held in a public room, called Constitution Hall, used for the meetings of the Free State Legislature, the same one as that from which Col. Sumner drove that body last July [4th]. . . . Preachers of 5 different orders, with more or less frequency & regularity use the same room -- -viz: -- -Congregationalists, Methodists, Baptists, Moravians & Unitarians. We hope, pray, & shall labor for a house of worship of our own. It is the ardent wish of our people. It will be at the cost of great efforts & sacrifices, that this will be accomplished. . . . [61]

Bodwell believed that the recent disorders were responsible for much of the suffering in Kansas, and resulted in a great retardation of the cause of religion. [62] In his view the worth-while things of life were very largely bound up with a victory of the Free-State cause. He wrote as follows:

By the disarrangement of all kinds of business; by direct losses owing to this disarrangement -- to plunderings & burnings or to sacrifices made directly for the support of free state principles; sacrifices of time, labor, money, crops, many if not all our people are hard pressed for means. One man, a leading, devoted, influential Christian, has not only spent weeks of time in defense of the territory, but last year fed out at Lawrence some 300 bushels of potatoes, his years crop, his all, on which he was depending as the means of paying for his quarter section of pre-empted land. Many have suffered more & some less, but none who are earnest and active have escaped unharmed. [63]

In a letter to John Hobbie, of about the same time, Bodwell spoke in a similar vein:

The talk about exaggeration is all nonsense. All the horrors which clustered about and made up the history of early border wars with the Indians, have been and are being re-enacted here. . . . Forty families left the Valley of the Neosho in rags, to avoid starvation, whom 40 barrels of flour would have kept in the Territory. Hundreds remaining, unable to get away, whose only food is grated corn. . . . Under the instigation of "an officer of the law," the Kaw Indians of Northern Kansas are throwing down the fences, driving their horses into and through, trampling down and carrying off with perfect impunity the few remaining crops of the Free State settlers. [64]

In such a deplorable state of affairs, Bodwell believed his people had conducted themselves in a manner highly praiseworthy. He wrote to the Missionary Society:

The minister can scarcely do more than keep people reminded of duty. . . . Already I have had the privilege of visiting, praying, eating, sleeping, in the unchinked, unplastered cabin of the Christian, where at his bedside, beside his Bible, stood his musket, loaded & primed & ready within reach for instant service. I can but look with joy upon such piety as amide the scenes of the past year, amid the duties of the cabin & the camp, can live & grow; & finding about me men of such spirit, I should be unworthy and ungrateful did I not "thank God & take courage." [65]

Although Bodwell discovered that the early progress of his church "had been destroyed or rendered inoperative, by the troubles of the summer & autumn," he quickly undertook the work of building anew. After his first sermon on October 26, he preached regularly upon alternate Sundays in Constitution Hall, until more satisfactory quarters could be obtained elsewhere (Union Hall). The "Sabbath" or Sunday School was reorganized, and now contained some fifteen children, in addition to four Bible classes of young people and adults, making a total of some fifty or sixty persons. A Bible society, previously organized, was no revived, and a supply of valuable Bibles obtained. Every Sunday evening they held a prayer meeting, "which is usually largely attended by persons old & young both prosperous & non-prosperous, a goodly number taking part & making the meeting lively, interesting, &, we hope, very profitable." [66]

Sunday, November 2, 1856, Bodwell held a communion service which is said to have been the first ever administered in Topeka. Many of other denominations attended, there being a tendency in the West for people to disregard narrow sectarian lines. [67] By early January, 1857, there were in his church a total of sixteen members, and many more of other denominations who regularly attended. Despite their limited numbers and still more limited finances, in December, 1856, Bodwell's congregation voted to build a house of worship. [68] Bodwell was very hopeful for the future. "I have in a good degree gained the confidence of my church & congregation & thus have a prospect of having their hearty cooperation in my work among them." [69] From the time he arrived in Kansas, he was buoyed up by a spirit of optimism and a faith in the future victory of right over wrong, and no misfortune or evil influence of any sort could shatter this conviction. [70] The nature of the society at Topeka and vicinity encouraged him, as it bore "the true New England stamp." The sale of liquor was severely frowned upon by the best society, [71] and an atmosphere of culture prevailed in the town, which was symbolized by the Kansas Philmathic Institute, with its library, weekly debates and newspaper. [72] Bodwell concluded:

Very encouraging is the number of cases in which the Christian has come back warm & alive from his duties in the camp to his duties in the church, the prayer meeting, the S[abbath]. S[chool], & at the family altar. As far as I can learn profanity is no more common than in many N[ew]. E[ngland]. Villages & here and there the Sabbath is at least outwardly a day of rest. [73] Why these signs of encouragement should be more plain & plentiful here than in other new settlements, especially in such as those of California, is I think accounted for by the motives which induced immigration here & there. A large proportion of those who came hither as "Northern paupers," came willing to remain paupers, provided their efforts could make the right successful. . . . [74] To no one can it be a matter of surprise, that often the debasing effect of war & commotion should be sadly manifest. . . . [Bodwell states at some length that such was not the case, as a rule.] To account for it, he must know, as do I, that so often the long hours in the guard room, by the campfire, on the march, & even in the filthy prison, were improved as seasons of private Christian communion. Christian soldiers must, will, do make Christian citizens. [75]

Such a picture of frontier society could not be regarded complete without some mention of the darker aspects of life, which Lewis Bodwell at the start dismissed rather lightly. He remarked that he had followed Lum's advice "to prepare for all I did know & then allow largely for many unpleasant things which I did not know," and pointed out further:

Sinners here as elsewhere are neglecters & oftimes fierce & persistent opposers of the truth. Christians "in good standing" do not always live up to their covenant vows. Nay, too many are "wandering stars"76 -- -stumbling blocks in the way of the church, the minister, & the world. Neither do I mean that it is pleasant spending a winter like this in a rough log cabin, deprived of all the luxuries and most of the comforts & conveniences of life, deprived of the privilege of study, or the opportunities for quiet retirement and meditation, which the soul so much needs. . . . [77]

Since the American Home Missionary Society did not favor itinerant preachers, and was financially unable to provide pastors for many small communities, it encourage its missionaries to preach, as often as possible, in nearby places otherwise unprovided for. In Kansas the pioneer missionaries to some degree divided the chief settlements among them, thereby increasing the likelihood of locating at a "going" town. Besides acting as pastor at Topeka, Bodwell preached once upon alternate Sundays to some ten to twenty people in a private home at Kansapolis (also called Whitfield), a small Free-State settlement about four miles distant, and he regarded Tecumseh and Indianola as within his parish. This was a region some thirty to forty miles long, extending east to the parish of Lum, and west to those of Jones and Blood. [78]

Early in 1857 Bodwell estimated that the four leading settlements of his parish aggregated some 800 to 1,000 population, with more in the immediate neighborhood. In a five-mile radius of nearly 1,5000 population, "the supply of ministerial labor . . . has been for each month of four weeks: -- -two sermons at Tecumseh & two at Topeka by the M.E. preacher of the circuit; four at Topeka & two at Kansapolis by myself, & one at Topeka by a pr[eacher], of the order of United Brethren." [79] Because of increased work, and the existence of a Methodist preacher at Indianola, Bodwell later relinquished that place, but he continued to preach upon alternate Sunday afternoons at Kansapolis (now called Rochester), until in the summer of 1858 a flood of the Kansas river destroyed the bridge recently constructed across that stream, obliging him to give up the post. [80] With the growth of population the demand for preachers grew, and Bodwell received many requests for sermons, but he continued to serve several small communities, in addition to his principal church at Topeka. In the summer of 1859 he described this as follows:

In a neighborhood south of me to whose inhabitants I have been in the habit of preaching on a week day evening; a small house has been procured, a day school & Sabbath School started, & I am to preach there on the afternoon of each alternate Sabbath.
Across the township 7 or more miles from Topeka, Bro. Copeland of Bloomington has lately organized a small church to which I am to minister as often as is possible. Such opportunities are constantly occurring & the pressing demand for labor is being more & more keenly felt. Shawnee [county] is better supplied than almost any other in the territory; yet as far as your society is concerned, Bro. Brownlee & myself have its 550 & odd square miles all to ourselves. . . [81]

For a frontier preacher and his congregation, no difficulty was more urgent than that of obtaining a suitable house of worship. Before Bodwell arrived in Kansas the little group of settlers at Topeka had pledge a small sum for a church home, and in the summer of 1856 they obtained the needed ground as a gift from the Topeka town company. When Bodwell arrived in October, he intended to make a "determined effort" to begin the initial work of construction before the following spring, but these anticipations proved premature. [82] Early in December the congregation voted to build a house of worship, named a building committee, and subscribed some $700 -- -a sum far short of the amount actually needed. [83] In order to obtain financial assistance for his church, Bodwell investigated both the church erection fund of the Congregational church and the American Congregational Union, and when on his Eastern trip in the summer of 1857, he attempted to obtain aid from these and other sources, but with little success. [84] He also wrote a circular letter appealing for help in the construction of a church building, which appears to have been published in The Home Missionary, of New York, the monthly magazine of the American Home Missionary Society. [85]

Bodwell's failure to obtain substantial aid forced the burden of construction upon his own congregation. The chairman of the board of trustees wrote: "We do not feel able to pay any portion of the ministers salary, for we are doing to the utmost of our ability to build a church." [86] Late in the summer of 1857, when Bodwell returned from his vacation, he found the work of construction already under way, with the hope of enclosing the structure before the arrival of winter. [87] Although such work was not pleasant, Bodwell believed he would be obliged to oversee the work of church erection. Such was the duty of a Home Missionary, and taught one "the force & character of the temptations to which his people are exposed, in doing the business of their worldly callings." [88] He intended to use a portion of his quarterly salary of $125 to forward erection of the church. During the fall of 1857 Bodwell was kept extremely busy with this work. The building was to be of stone, 42 & 70 feet, requiring a large amount of material, the procuring of which was no easy task in a new country. Bodwell was forced to be much in the saddle, to round up the workmen and materials needed to carry on the project, and frequently he was obliged to lend a hand in the roughest of work, all in addition to his regular ministerial duties. This phase of his career exhibits in the highest degree his native generosity, and willingness to subordinate self in a great cause. [89] His description gives a vivid picture of these activities:

I was to look for & hire hands, to note their labor & pay their wages, to see that material of the kind needed & in sufficient quantities was on the ground when wanted. It was necessary for me to do a contractors work, & at the same time attend to such of my ministerial duties as could not be put off. Take, as a specimen, one day of Home Missionary labor. . . .  
Saddled my horse & rode four miles before breakfast, to procure a workman whose presence was necessary by the usual hour for work. Next, five miles more, to visit a neighbor minister who was very ill. Thence, three miles, to order at one place some lime, at another to find a man to load it, & at a third to order stone from the quarry. Back to the church, two miles; thence to another quarry, & helped roll on a load of stone. From there (while the tram was on the way to the building & back,) I walked a mile to call upon a church member lying very ill; back to the quarry & helped load more stone & finally, a four mile ride home. On another day, was stopped in the midst of a similar round of duties, to attend a funeral three or four miles away across the river, a journey necessarily made on foot, crossing the Kansas river & Soldier creek, by ferrying four times. Scarcity of laborers & of means to pay them, lays upon him who would see any such work go on, the necessity of donning his working suit, & putting his own hands to the work. [90]
The directions of your commission make no suggestions regarding the propriety of your laborers turning his attention to quarrying stone, or loading them, or driving teams, or tending the mason; but unless my circumstances are peculiar or I have mistaken my duty, the willingness & ability to do these things are sometimes necessary. It often becomes a matter of serious inquiry, how much may or should the minister do under such circumstances. Should he go perhaps for months, almost wholly absenting himself from his study & supplying some ones "lack of service" by doing the work of a day laborer? [91]

Bodwell believed he had been right in following the latter course, and continuing the work of construction until the cold and growing lack of laborers made it advisable to stop, even though the walls were unfinished. The year 1858 saw a deepening of the depression in Kansas, which forced Bodwell to adopt a new technique, in his campaign for funds. He wrote:

We were far from having the amount necessary to complete, or even to warrant our resuming work until after the beginning of April. Then, even the "hard times" worked in our favor. For want of money, building could not go on & property holders were compelled to regret that the incoming emigrants who were passing us should look upon us at a stand still. Thinking this might be used to advantage I set out. Workmen, out of employ for want of money to pay them, were ready to take property in the town, rather than be idle. . . . I procured property, which our workmen take at about $1,200 -- & the walls are under contract. [92]

It was hoped to have the building ready for use during the following winter, but by late fall a lack of means and the lateness of the season induced the builders to postpone further work. [93] The walls were then completed, ready for the roof, for which the congregation accorded Bodwell chief credit. [94] By the following spring all timber needed for the roof had been given, some of it sawed, and the roads were ready for hauling the rest, when on Sunday evening, June 19, 1859, a violent windstorm struck Topeka. One half of the rear wall, and a large part of the side walls were reduced to a mass of rubbish. "Not less than fifty cords of stone, put up with weeks of toil at a cost of fully one thousand dollars, lie heaped upon the ground, nearly as valueless as two years since." [95] A crisis had already arisen in Bodwell's church, because of his advocacy of the plan to move the proposed Congregational college from Topeka to Lawrence, and the disaster of the elements heaped fuel upon the flames. Bodwell presented his resignation, [96] but the dispute was finally settled, and the church issued a unanimous call for his return. [97] It also voted to "repair and enclose the Church building already commenced," and to solicit subscriptions to finance the undertaking. [98] Bodwell withdrew his resignation, [99] and wrote the Missionary Society as follows:

A house of worship the result of much labor & liberality is laid in ruins; & hardly has the news reached you, ere over $1000 are pledge to do again the work. The men who have given one, three, five hundred dollars each come forward to do the same again, not mind you, from their over-flowing stores, but from moderate means, when the gift equals perhaps in no case less than 1/5 the income. [100]

Bodwell succeeded in raising over a thousand dollars for the purpose of rebuilding, but this was considerably less than what was needed, even though the American Congregational Union helped them with a small sum. The contract was concluded with the provision that the walls were to be finished by July 10, 1860, [101] but again nature intervened. On June 1 a windstorm destroyed the south wall, but despite this discouragement, the work of rebuilding quickly followed. [102] The third attempt was successful, and January 1, 1861, the first sermon was delivered in the new structure, then enclosed for the first time, although provided with only a rough coat of plaster and temporary seats. The building was not formally dedicated until January 3, 1864, when Lewis Bodwell, although no longer pastor, preached a special sermon commemorating the event. [103] During the entire period of his first pastorate in Topeka, he thus served a congregation that had no permanent church home. During the first months of his pastorate the Congregationalists, along with four other denominations, used Constitution Hall. [104] By the beginning of 1857 more capacious quarters had been obtained in Union Hall, [105] and by the fall of that year a room was procured in the two-story brick school house recently completed by the New England Emigrant Aid Company. This room would accommodate scarcely a hundred persons, but it was comfortable and pleasant, and was used every other Sunday by the Congregationalists, who alternated with the Methodists and Baptists. [106] By the summer of 1858 the increased number of public halls in Topeka left the Congregationalists very nearly in entire possession of this school room, in which Bodwell preached three times every Sabbath on three Sundays of the month. [107] In the spring of 1859 a fourth change was made, when Bodwell's congregation began the use of Museum Hall, which would comfortably seat 250 to 300 persons. [108] Despite the hard times and repeated attacks by the elements, the disadvantages of occupying buildings also used by others acted as a constant urge for the Congregationalists to erect a church edifice of their own. [109] Bodwell made a courageous and determined fight to solve this problem, and may justly be regarded as the chief builder of the structure.

First Church Building in Topeka KS, 1857


This building was located on the Northwest corner of Seventh and Harrison streets. The foundation was laid in 1857 but parts of the walls were blown down in 1859 and 1860 and it was not until January, 1861, that it was ready for occupancy. During the spring of 1861 some of the early laws of Kansas were passed here when the first House of Representatives occupied the building, having been driven from its hall on Kansas avenue by a leaky roof. It stood until 1880 when the present Congregational church was built on the site.

As a frontier preacher Lewis Bodwell found it a difficult matter to minister adequately to his flock, and the people of his community. Sickness, hunger, and suffering of various kinds existed in aggravated forms, and often demanded immediate attention. Among his first visits as a pastor were calls upon sick members of his church, or friends -- -illness due to exposure caused by living in rude dwellings, to prevailing ignorance concerning the real cause of the ague (chills and fever), to the lack of medical attention, and to other causes that were magnified by the rough ways of life. [110] Death was a frequent visitor, and demanded the immediate presence of the pastor -- -soon after his arrival at Topeka, Bodwell wrote that five young people had died within a week. In a few months typhoid (probably the ague) afflicted twenty-five persons, most of whom were young, with a total of eight deaths. Because he was free of family worries, Bodwell believed it his particular duty to help the afflicted. In some cases this demanded his attention as much as two or three nights in a week. [111] In the fall of 1856 he wrote: "Reports from various parts of the territory tell of family after family living only on grated or parched corn. . . ." Many families did not have enough well to take care of the sick, or even to furnish water for them. [112] Bodwell did what he could to help those in need, and solicited aid from friends of a benevolent disposition. Late in 1856 friends in Cazenovia, N.Y., and Judge Dexter of Michigan gave him clothing and money to relieve the suffering. Bodwell made gifts to families with small children, loans to young men, and otherwise aided persons in distress. [113] The suffering consequent upon the political disorders, with the theft or destruction of property and the inability to raise normal crops, all tended to aggravate the problem. Although no longer pastor of the Topeka church, Bodwell also played an active part in relieving the distress of 1860-1861, when a severe drought brought general suffering and misery. [114]

The frontier preacher of Bodwell's day usually regarded it as a particular duty to awaken his congregation to the terribleness of sin, and its dire consequences. As a preacher Bodwell was not an extremist, since he regarded it a certainty that Satan would be overcome, in the course of time, but he appears to have believed in depicting the results of sin in eloquent terms. The Lord was "'a Consuming Fire' for all sin," and he regarded it his duty to properly warn his flock. [115] In almost every case, however, he concluded that the chief cause of sin and waywardness among his people was the disorder and political evil through which Kansas was passing. Perhaps this is one reason why he and his colleagues experienced so much trouble in making conversions. [116]

Late in 1857 Bodwell wrote that he had had "the largest, most attentive & solemn audiences I have ever had in the Territory," composed almost wholly of young people, or those not yet arrived at middle age. His themes were "The characteristics of a religion pure & undefiled," and "The impossibility of being neutral," or "The Sinner a destroyer of good." He wrote that "Fixed & earnest attention; thoughtful & solemn faces, & tearful eyes; told me that I had at least hearers of the word." He left in a sad frame of mind, as he could not meet them again for two weeks, while in the meantime "the story of some new wrong, of fraud or violence, may sweep over the mind f every person in this community; & all -- -old & young, men & maidens be borne away by the current of excitement; & fierce and bitter feelings. . . . [117] The few sermons of Bodwell that have come down to us are replete with symbolical allusions, [118] and since he had had no college training, it is possible that he resorted to prepared sermons or outlines, to supply his own deficiency. It seems more probable, however, that he depended chiefly upon habits of diligent study and industry, since this more adequately explains his reputation as a fluent speaker. With the passage of time his audiences grew in size, and he was increasingly in demand for sermons, but he was obliged to face certain difficulties common to all preachers on the frontier. One of the most serious difficulties Bodwell never admitted as applying to his people -- -the doubtful character of many of the emigrants to Kansas -- -he nevertheless did admit in the abstract, when he quoted the words of a neighbor minister: "Outside of my church & of the others formed here, I do not know of one young man who is not addicted to gaming, profanity, intemperance or incestuousness, in some cases to two, three, or all of these vices," which was "a sad story & a fearful account." [119]

Among all these difficulties, no matter was more serious than that of disregard for or desecration of the Sabbath. Although Bodwell seldom failed to have a respectable audience, after two years in Kansas he admitted: "None of our gatherings . . . ever embrace one half of those who living within a convenient distance, would in their former homes have been in attendance." [120] When in 1860 he began to serve widely scattered communities, as an itinerant preacher, he wrote: "It will with all care be very difficult to find any camp which regularly observes the Sabbath in its journey across the plains. The Sabbath is yet hardly a western instituion." [121] This trouble was well described in an article in The Congregational Record, entitled "Worship Versus Entertainment":

There is undoubtedly a growing tendency in our communities to underrate worship, as such. Our Sabbath assemblies are not regarded distinctively as worshipping assemblies, but as congregations assembled to hear preaching. The services are judged, not by their power to build up Christian character, but by their power to entertain. . . . Church service breaks up the monotony, and helps the hours along. . . . A damp day empties our churches. Such a day would not materially affect business, or a meeting for pleasure or for politics. . . . So do hot days, and so do cold days. Only a combination of favoring circumstances, gives us full churches on the Lord's day, if the preacher is not as eloquent as some others. . . . There are many bellwethers in our flocks, who have been accustomed in the East to hear the celebrities of the cities. . . . A large number of these disciples of eastern prophets stay away from church entirely when they come among us. . . . They feel too far advanced in divine knowledge to endure a plain home missionary. . . . All this arises from a false estimate of Sabbath services. They are looked upon as entertainments, and not as seasons of worship. [122]

Closely akin to the problem of Sabbath desecration, was that of disregard for church membership. It appears that the expectation to "move on" in the near future induced many to refrain from identifying themselves very closely with any church, [123] while others seemed to be glad of the chance to divest themselves of the cloak of religion, which had previously retarded their freedom. The Record described this as follows:

Few facts, in connection with the settlement of this new country, are more sad than the wreck of Christian hopes occasioned by the passage from East to West. Members are found in every community who once stood fair in the church of God, but have here denied their professions, or, what amounts to the same thing, have neglected to reiterate those professions in their new home. With some this is mere neglect -- -with others it is intentional. Some seem glad of the opportunity, which a change of residence affords, to shake off the restraints of religious professions. . . . But there are others who are real Christians, who still neglect to reiterate their professions. . . . [124]

Among the many nonmembers who attended church services were a considerable number of other denominations, so that the evil of nonmembership was at least partly compensated by a greater freedom from sectarianism, and a broader outlook upon things religious. [125] Lewis Bodwell frequently referred to the considerable number who attended his church, who had previously belong to other denominations, indicating that frontier society was in a state of decided flux. However, he wondered a great deal about his inability to make conversions, and in his statistical report of March, 1858, he wrote: "Looking backward from today, we have doubled our numbers, & I trust have in no respect gone backward." Nevertheless, he regretted that he could not "remove from sight or mind those sad blanks in my report," and wondered at the cause of "eighteen months of missionary labor, & not one known case of conversion or one new professor of religion," for all of which he could not "give a good and sufficient reason." As was characteristic of him, Bodwell blamed the political situation as the cause of this state of affairs. [126] That he was not responsible for a condition that existed throughout Kansas, was indicated by the general association in its report for 1857: "No revivals of religion have yet been enjoyed, and but a solitary instance of conversion reported. Our work is more that of laying foundations. . . . [127] Despite the transient nature of the population, Bodwell was more successful in the matter of transfers, and before the close of his pastorate, he achieved success in adding new converts to his church. From only three members at the time of organization, by 1858 his church numbered thirty-three, and before the close of his term in 1860 this total ha almost doubled, by virtue of the new members who joined during the revival in Topeka of 1859-1860. [128]

The collapse of the speculative boom and the arrival of "hard times" was accompanied by a renewed interest in things religious, which Bodwell noticed during 1858. [129] By early 1859 he reported: "The interest in religious things increases. I have meetings for preaching &c 2 to 4 evenings each week at various points well attended." [130] By the close of that year he wrote: "Interest in all religious things, as Sunday services & Sunday schools, & prayer meetings has continued to increase. Congregations are two or three fold greater than a year since. . . ." [131] By early 1860 Bodwell was happy to report a great outpouring of the religious spirit in Topeka. He wrote at length to the Missionary Society, describing the revival that followed soon after his decision to remain in the community:

The darkest year of my ministerial work in Kansas has had the brightest close. . . . Tho. In the main contrary to my inclinations: -- -the decision once made, I went with a sad heart to the work of repairing the breaches in a disturbed church & an almost ruined house of worship. . . . In December I began a series of sermons on "The Law" as found in Ex. XX preaching three Sabbath evenings to the largest audiences I have ever had. What are usually considered the most fearful & unpalatable truths; were heard with fixed solemn & even tearful attention. . . .
I need not state at length how sectarian selfishness sought to forestall action; withdrew from cooperation, wouldn't work with Bro. B; secured the use of the only capacious Hall (by right ours 4 to 1); began a series of meetings which by shouting, screaming, & dancing! Were made the point of attraction to scores who "went for fun." When the matter was fairly under way & control; I was asked to assist. Refused to endorse such "shows" as religion, & would not preach where I could be allowed no control of the after doings. Chose to visit and pray from house to house, & when the proper time seemed to come commenced & for a week carried on a Union prayer meeting; & afterwards preaching each evening in connection with Bro. Steel (O.S. Pres) & Bro. Hutchinson (Bap).132 We occupied the school room our former place of worship & one far too small to accommodate us in our work. . . . to the best of our powers we have worked to counteract fanaticism & conquer sin. The attention has been very general. . . . Indeed in my experience, I have never known a community more thoroughly aroused. . . .
As to results, we can as yet hardly come at them; but thus far one young man has joined the O.S. Ch'd; 4 the Bap; 10 or 12 the Epis; & 10 the Cong'l; while 12 more have already made application for examination in view of connection with the latter. . . . Of the whole we hope for the true conversion of not less than 10 heads of families. . . . rejoicing but humble we say "What hath God wrought"! [133]

By the pooling of their efforts, the Congregational, Presbyterian, and Baptist churches seem to have given added impetus to the revival. From Bodwell's description, it appears that he opposed the "muscular type" of Christianity and fanaticism of all sorts, in the conducting of religious services of this nature. [134] The revival was generally praised by the people of Topeka. The Topeka Tribune reported that each of the three meeting places attracted "respectable and seemingly eager congregations," and in consequence "quite a large number of those who have previously wandered in sin, have 'come out from the world,' and given their names to the Church militant and their souls to God." [135] In his report to the Home Missionary Society, Bodwell showed a pardonable pride in reporting that he had achieved final victory in the winning of converts for his church. [136]

During the season of religious revival in Topeka, a number of young men took part in the temperance movement in that community, and signed the pledge of abstinence. [137] This cause was dear to the heart of Lewis Bodwell, who had labored in its behalf since coming to Kansas. In this attitude he had the support of his congregation, and also of the constitution and standing rules of his church, which enjoined abstinence upon all members. [138] In his first quarterly report to the Missionary Society, Bodwell wrote that the regulations of the town company forbade the sale of any lot for the purposes of a saloon, [139] and a temperance society was in operation, whose vigilance committee reported any place where drinks were sold. After the announcement of this fact, a standing committee (then of nine ladies) -- -"request that he stop his traffic, with the full understanding & assurance that if the request be not enough, there are enough of men in the Society at once & effectually [to] enforce a stoppage of the crime." Bodwell remarked that this method had been effective in stopping the sale of liquor, and ending grog shops and bar rooms. [140]

The prohibition society of pioneer Topeka was at the start a mutual self-help organization of the settlers, patterned after the claim clubs, and had no basis in the law. [141] Early in 1856 it was organized as "The Temperance Union." And at the first annual meeting in January, 1857, it elected a slate of officers, with H.W. Farnsworth of Bodwell's church as president. [142] In July of that year this organization engaged in a "liquor spilling" on an extensive scale. "The affair was participated in by a large number of our most prominent and respectable citizens . . . with the entire approval of the ladies," [143] and resulted in the destruction of the entire liquor supply of the town. Bodwell was active in the work of this organization, often speaking before it on the evils of strong drink. Thus at the meeting of January 31, 1859, he spoke at some length in favor of complete prohibition, and in opposition to the license law, which had recently become effective. He pointed out that the use of powder was permitted, but the manner of its use restricted. He thought liquor did more harm than powder, and in licensing persons to sell it, they virtually gave such people permission to commit murder, without being held responsible. [144]

Bodwell also was active in the general association of the Congregational church of Kansas, in behalf of temperance. At the meeting of October, 1858, he offered resolutions from the business committee against intemperance, dancing, and theatrical performances, which were adopted by the convention. They believed "all unnatural stimulants for body or mind to be unwholesome, and an indulgence in them unchristian. . . ." [145] This convention also named a committee of three, "to secure, if possible, the cooperation of all the friends of temperance, in holding a Temperance Mass Convention, at the place where the Territorial Legislature shall meet," with the objects of founding a territorial temperance society, and obtaining legislation favorable to the cause. Due to a failure of the mails, the temperance convention was not held, and at the next meeting in May, 1859, the general association repeated the call, voted to hold the proposed convention at Topeka, and placed Bodwell upon a committee of three, to make the necessary arrangements. [146] It appears that the meeting was again postponed, since it was not until April, 1861, that a state temperance society was actually organized in Kansas, along lines laid down by the general association of the Congregational church. [147] When it finally materialized, Bodwell was not a member, but the organization continued a work in which he had long been interested.

The rules of Bodwell's church in Topeka were very explicit in condemning as immoral such activities as dancing and attending the theater. The general association in October, 1858, adopted resolutions presented by Bodwell which condemned these amusements as "unnatural stimulants for body or mind." [148] Bodwell was not severe in his opposition to such activities, since he regarded it a certainty that all such manifestations of Satan would be overcome, in the course of time. He wrote in December, 1859:

I have spoken of our need of excitements -- -public amusements taking the place of war &c &c. Last year dances &c &c were very frequent with us. Our Gen'l Assoc. recommended the preaching of a sermon. Mine poor as it was, was called harsh; would have enmity & more coolness. But our "theater," fitted up at an expense of some hundreds of dollars, died last winter. We cleared & occupy the room; & this year "The first ball of the season" was a loss to its projector. After paying for room, lights, music, &c &c, -- -he had (as I was told) to pay him for an abundant & costly supper, the sum of one dollar. Gods word does not return unto him void. The seed sown, may in quantity be small; the sowing may be poorly done but if the seed be good, God will quicken it by His power & to his glory. [149]

Many years later, when a new Congregational church wa s in the progress of construction in Topeka, Bodwell brought suit to restrain the use of a temporary tabernacle upon the grounds of his own, for "theatrical purposes, variety exhibitions of various kinds, and for a place of amusement," he being "conscientiously opposed." [150] When one reviews the various reform activities of Lewis Bodwell, he is impressed by the wide variety of the proposals. No keener comment has been made upon the whole program, than by a colleague, who later admitted the "audacity" of the changes suggested:

We did not hesitate to speak our mind in regard to anything which we thought called for our opinion. . . . We were nearly all young men. . . . We had not learned how tough this tough old world is. . . . We passed radical and vigorous resolutions on almost everything that pertained to church life and missionary work . . . dancing and theater-going; on Sabbath-breaking, intemperance and tobacco. . . . [151]

No doubt the enthusiasm of life on the frontier was a large item of this attitude of Bodwell and his colleagues -- they hoped to build a new and better world upon the virgin soil of Kansas.

(To be Concluded in the November Issue)


1. By the 1850s the slavery issue had made a definite split in many of the established churches with a consequent fillip in religious and missionary zeal. -- See William Warren Sweet, "Some Religious Aspects of the Kansas Struggle," Journal of Religion, Chicago, (v. VII) October, 1927, pp. 578-595.
2. The best general account of Congregationalism in early Kansas is by the Rev. Richard Cordley, in The Congregational Quarterly, Boston, July, 1876, entitled: "Congregationalism in Kansas." See, also, the official publication for Kansas, The Congregational Record, before 1859 entitled Minutes of the General Association of Congregational Ministers and Churches in Kansas. Cordley points out that the Kansas crusade resulted in turning Congregationalism into a region farther south than would otherwise have been the case. Eli Thayer, founder of the New England Emigrant Aid Company, stressed the importance of turning the North into the South, in order to stop the expansion of slavery, and to bring about its final extinction.
3. A.T. Andreas and W.G. Cutler, History of the State of Kansas (Chicago, 1883), pp. 314, 327. The name was intended to draw a parallel between the Kansas settlers and the Pilgrims at Plymouth.
4. Cordley, op. cit. (reprint), p. 4. For a distinction between the American Home Missionary Society and the American Missionary Association, see Footnote 23, below.
5. Cordley, op. cit., p. 4. Congregational Record, (v. II, No. 2) April, 1860. The Manhattan church was the second of this faith to be organized in Kansas. For his first sermon at that place (then called Boston), April 22, 1855, Blood used the text: "These that have turned the world upside down have come hither also." In the sketch of this church in the "Kansas Church Charts" of the Kansas Historical Society (v. IV, Congregational, p. 6), are the following comments: "An outpost of freedom from the first it took a radical position as to the great reforms of the day. It declared slavery a 'high crime against God and humanity,' refused fellowship with any ecclesiastical body sustaining it directly or indirectly. Its bylaws enjoined upon members total abstinence from the manufacture, sale or use of all intoxicating liquors except for mechanical, scientific or medical purposes. . . . On its subscription list for building are found the names of Owen P. Lovejoy, John B. Gough, Horace Greeley, Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln."
6. Congregational church chart, loc. cit., p.11.
7. Cordley, op. cit., p. 5.
8. Ibid., p. 10.
9. Minutes of the General Association of Congregational Ministers & Churches in Kansas (Congregational Record, v. I), p. 6.
10. Ibid., p. 12. Daniel W. Wilder, The Annals of Kansas (Topeka, 1886), p. 167.
11. Cordley, op. cit., pp. 15-17. Statistics of each of these churches, dated October 8, 1858, are found in The Congregational Record (v. I, No. 1), p. 9. As early as 1854 the Methodists (Northern division) divided Kansas and Nebraska into two circuits each, and provided preachers, and by 1858 this church numbered 47 ministers and 1,980 members, making it more of a pioneer church than the Congregational. -- Andrew Stark, The Kansas Annual Register for the Year 1864 (Leavenworth, 1864), pp. 84, 85.
12. Andreas-Cutler, op. cit., p. 548, quoting the memorial discourse of Pres. Peter McVicar of Washburn College, April 25, 1880; also a historical sketch by the same author in the Topeka State Record, January 20, 1864. The original minutes of the meetings are found in the documentary record book of the First Congregational Church of Topeka, hereafter cited "Church Record Book."
13. Andreas-Cutler, preceding citation: "Church Record Boo," entry of July 14, 1856. The first church in Topeka was the Methodist Episcopal, organized march 21, 1855, with J.S. Griffing, pastor. However, the Congregationalists were the first to have a church home, which was completed in 1861.
14. Congregational Record, (v. I, No. 1) January, 1859, p.9; first quarterly report of Lewis Bodwell to the American Home Missionary Society (henceforth usually abbreviated A.H.M.S.), January 10, 1857, in Bodwell Papers, Manuscripts division, Kansas Historical Society. Unless otherwise stated practically all the letters quoted in this article are from the Bodwell Papers.
15. Ibid. The principle of autonomy being fundamental, each Congregational church framed its own statement of doctrine, although certain formulations like the "Cambridge Platform" were generally accepted. The Topeka church later dropped the prefix "Free" and substituted "First," when slavery was no longer an issue.
16. "We believe that all mankind are by nature in a lost & ruined state, deserving the curse of God, which is eternal death; can make no atonement for their sins; nor in any way deliver themselves from the just penalty of the divine law.
"We believe that God has by the death of his Son provided an ample atonement for the Sins of the world. . . ." He has "purposed to bring an innumerable multitude to repentance."
17. "Constitution & Standing Rules" in "Church Record Book." Article XI defined immorality as including the use of distilled liquors, holding men as slaves, and attending dances or theaters. A number of members were disciplined for violating these regulations, and several were expelled form the church.
18. McVicar, sketch in Topeka State Record, cited above; Fry W. Giles, Thirty Years in Topeka (Topeka, 1886), pp. 332-336. Despite these limitations, a "flourishing Sabbath school" was organized, and several Bible classes held.
19. Letter of Lum to The Home Missionary magazine of February, 1855: "Since my last communication I have made an exploring tour up the river. From what I saw I am disposed to think there are perhaps two localities that will soon prove worthy the notice of your society [the A.H.M.S.], in fact one of them may need a man immediately. This place, on the Kansas river, about twenty-five miles from Lawrence, is just beginning to be settled by Eastern men. A town . . . will soon be laid out. . . ."
20. Bodwell to Milton Badger of the A.H.M.S., July 21, 1856.
21. He added that there seemed to be nothing "in the way of the progress, or at least of the foundation of a church in T[opeka]." -- Ibid.
22. Bodwell to Badger, October 2 and 21, 1856.
23. Milton Badger was senior secretary of the society, and was assisted by David B. Coe and Daniel P. Noyes, with offices at Bible House, Astor Place, New York City. Before the Civil War this organization was the most important agency for home missions, among the Protestant churches, and included Dutch Reformed, Associate Reformed, Congregational and Presbyterian churches, although the latter two were by far the most important. It was founded in 1826, and by its tenth year supported 755 missionaries, of whom 191 were in the West. -- See Colin Brummitt Goodykoontz, Home Missions on the American Frontier, With Particular Reference to the American Home Missionary Society (Caldwell, Idaho, 1939). The American Missionary Association, a separate organization founded in 1846 with more pronounced anti-slavery principles, also sent several representatives to Kansas territory.
24. The most detailed biography the writer has seen is a reprint from the Clifton Springs (N.Y.) Press, entitled In Memoriam -- Rev. Lewis Bodwell, which appeared at the time of his death. In 1860 he wrote that he was one of a family of eight, so apparently there had already been several deaths. At sixty his parents were "with no property but children," and Lewis regarded himself responsible for the support of several of his younger brothers and sisters.
25. Monitors in the Lancasterian schools usually supervised the work of ten pupils, and received free tuition for their services. In a letter of recommendation of the Rev. N. Porter, Farmington, Conn., to Milton Badger, July 14, 1856, Lewis Bodwell was praised as being distinguished from early boyhood "for his bright talents, amicable deportment & love of learning."
26. In Memoriam, p. 7. In his private journal, under the date of January 1, 1849, he wrote: "T-day I made, or tried to make a beginning of my studies for the first time with a definite object in view. I feel that this day is, in one sense, the commencement of life to me." -- Ibid., p. 8.
27. Ibid., p. 10.
28. Letter of recommendation of the Rev. J.A. Priest of Homer, N.Y., July 31, 1856, to Milton Badger of the A.H.M.S. "But his heart is on the West; he seems a brother of 'the single eye.'" He was "a very earnest & eloquent speaker & a person of untiring industry. . . . He seems just the man for such a point as Topeka."
30. In Memoriam, p. 12; "Sixty Days Home Missionary Work," by Lewis Bodwell, The Kansas Telephone, Manhattan, (v. II, No. 2) July, 1881.
31. Letter of recommendation of the Rev. W.D. L. Lowe, Berlin, Conn., July 17, 1856, to Milton Badger of the A.H.M.S.
32. Letter of the Reverend Porter, cited above. "I would wish that he had the discipline which a regular course in college & the Theological School would have given," but regardless of this, Bodwell probably would excel those so trained. The Reverend Low was even more emphatic in his regret that Bodwell lacked such training, even though he had "picked up much knowledge . . . which legitimately belongs to these departments of Education." He had advised Bodwell to devote at least a year to study, but despite his deficiency, he probably would "do better in the Home Missionary field than many you feel called upon to send."
33. Members of the Kansas band who became prominent ministers in Kansas, included Sylvester Storrs, Grosvenor C. Morse, Roswell D. Parker, and Richard Cordley. Storrs conceived the idea of doing for Kansas what the Iowa band from Andover had done for Iowa, and formed a club with this in view. About a dozen students held a weekly prayer meeting and get-together in Storrs' room, in the interest of freedom in Kansas. They were willing to go to the border en masse, with guns and other "necessities," but in 1857 when the outcome became apparent, interest declined. That summer Milton Badger arranged for the commissions of those about to graduate, who were to "proclaim the gospel in Kansas," with an annual stipend of $600. They were not assigned to any particular place, but Storrs went to Quindaro and Wyandotte, Cordley to Lawrence, Parker to Leavenworth, and Morse to Emporia.
For the antecedents of the Kansas band, see the work by Goodykoontz, cited above (pp. 195, 249 et seq.). The Illinois band of 1825 resulted in the founding of Illinois College, and the Iowa band of 1843 Iowa College (later Grinnell). The Kansas band continued this tradition by the founding of Lincoln College (later Washburn).
34. "Sixty Days Home Missionary Work," loc. cit.; Bodwell to Badger, October 2, 1856.
35. Bodwell to Badger, and to John Hobbie ("Bodwell Scrapbook," pp. 1, 2), both from Tabor, Iowa, October 2, 1856. The conductor of this train, Shalor W. Eldridge, has written a fairly good account, entitled: "Recollections of Early Days in Kansas," Publications of the Kansas Historical Society, v. II (1920).
36. Eldridge, S.C. Pomeroy, and John A. Perry commanded the train, while M.C. Dickey, a trustee of Bodwell's church, acted as quartermaster, and controlled most of the wagons used for transportation. -- See W.E. Connelley, "The Lane Trail," Kansas Historical Collections, v. XIII, pp. 268-279; also Wendell Holmes Stephenson, "The Political Career of Gen. James H. Lane," Publications of the Kansas Historical Society, v. III (1930), pp. 70-83. The expedition was under the auspices of the National Kansas Committee.
37. During the summer it had been rumored that Lane was about to enter Kansas with two thousand "armed outlaws" to rob and kill the Proslavery people, and Bodwell reported that this rumor was again in circulation (letter to Hobbie, October 2, 1856, loc. cit.).
38. Tabor letter of Bodwell to Badger, cited above.
39. "Sixty Days Home Missionary Work," which contains a detailed diary of the trip; also Tabor letter of Bodwell to Hobbie. Bodwell preached twice at Afton, and was well received. His host declined to accept any payment, remarking that "my rule is that of the Indiana ferryman -- preachers and dogs go free." They soon rejoined the train at the French colony of Icaria.
40. Eldridge points out that, while here, military preparations were made, but at the same time steps were taken to conceal the martial aspect of the train. -- Eldridge, loc. cit., p. 110.
41. The arrests alluded to were made in enforcing the proclamation of Geary, which ordered all unauthorized bodies of militia to disband. The force under Co. James A. Harvey was taken into custody soon after participating in the battle of Hickory Point. There was no truth in the charge that Geary was "subduing freedom" -- in reality he was friendly to the Free-State cause, but he was forced to take summary measures, to end the threat of civil war. Two Methodist preachers from the North had been expelled from Leavenworth, because of the intense feeling against this denomination, as a spreader of Abolitionism -- an attitude then common in western Missouri.
42. Bodwell to Badger, and to John Hobbie, October 2, 1856. Bodwell appears to have believed many lurid tales that were largely propaganda. Of stolen property there was clearly a great plenty, particularly of horses, but both sides were equally guilty. Of "wasted fields" and "burning dwellings" there were far less, although attacks by fire were serious, at Lawrence and elsewhere. The charge of "ravished women" was almost wholly false, while the number of "scalped" or "murdered men" was far less than sensational accounts had placed them.
43. Bodwell to Hobbie, from camp near Nebraska City, October 6, 1856, in "Bodwell Scrapbook," p. 2.
44. Eldridge, loc. cit., p. 110; Gihon, John H.,, Geary and Kansas (Philadelphia, 1857), pp. 187, 188; Bodwell to Hobbie, October 6. Messengers had been sent to Geary, advising him of their peaceful intentions, to which the governor replied that such emigrants were welcome, but that he was determined that no force with implements of war should enter the territory. To Bodwell this seemed to be a guarantee for their peaceful and uninterrupted entry, provided they were peaceful, "(as we are)."
45. The enlistment of the companies was annulled, the cannon they were bringing in was buried on the prairie, and the arms were more carefully concealed.
46. Geary to Secretary of State Marcy, October 15, 1856, quoted in Gihon, op. cit., p. 189: "Besides these arms, the immigrants were provided with shot-guns, rifles, pistols, knives, &c., sufficient for the ordinary uses of persons travelling in Kansas, or any other of the western territories." A letter of M.C. Dickey to Thaddeus Hyatt, head of the National Kansas Committee, indicates that that organization had provided the "surplus arms."
47. Gihon, op. cit., pp. 189, 190; Eldridge, loc. cit., p. 111.
48. Bodwell to Hobbie, from Plymouth, K.T., October 11, 1856. -- "Bodwell Scrapbook," p. 3.
49. Ibid.; also "Sixty Days Home Missionary Work," cited above, entry of October 10, 1856.
50. Bodwell's first quarterly report to the A.H.M.S., January 10, 1857. His travel diary, as found in "Sixty Days Home Missionary Work," indicates that his first sermon in Kansas was delivered while in camp on Elk creek, and not upon Straight creek, as stated by Cordley, op. cit., p.7.
51. Gihon, op. cit., p. 190; Eldridge, loc. cit., p. 111. The reply of Eldridge and the officers of the train is also found here. The question of who were settlers, and who adventurers or soldiers of fortune, or even thieves or "jayhawkers," was often a decided puzzle. More than one combined conflicting roles in the same person.
52. "Sixty Days Home Missionary Work," loc. cit., entry of October 14.
53. Ibid. This was in line with the custom of that organization, which sent its men to the more distant regions with expenses paid to their destination, and with a pledge of full support for a year. -- Goodykoontz, op. cit., p. 183.
54. Tabor letter of Bodwell to the Missionary Society, cited above. It was also customary for a new missionary in the West to seek the advice of the agent of the society, if such an officer were located in that region.
55. Bodwell's first quarterly report, January 10, 1857.
56. "Sixty Days Home Missionary Work," entry of October 15.
57. Ibid. Bodwell added that this was the first of many such meals, although often without the potatoes. "Seasoned by hunger, followed by God's word, and a season of worship, whose uplifting power no temple service could exceed."
58. In calling the roll of four of the "seven pillars," Bodwell apparently identifies each of these members. Another a few miles away, and two among the prisoners at Lecompton, completed the list. Under entry of October 30, he wrote that he had obtained permission of Col. H.T. Titus to make a pastoral call upon one of his members (John Ritchie), a prisoner at Lecompton -- "charged with stealing mules,(which, by the way, means about this: in company with other free state men, in an attack upon some old border enemies, the latter are defeated, and some mules remain in the hands of the victors)."
Ritchie was alleged to have been one of Colonel Whipple's (Aaron D. Stephens') force, charged with stealing horses, mules, and merchandise, and to have been at Hickory Point during the first day's battle. He was indicted with many others on the charge of manslaughter, but he escaped from prison. As suggested by Bodwell above, horses and mules, when found in the possession of the "wrong" side, were regarded as proper "spoils of war."
59. "Sixty Days Home Missionary Work," entry of October 26, 1856.
60. The sick trustee apparently was H.P. Waters, the one having gone East M.C. Dickey, and the one a prisoner at Lecompton John Ritchie. The checkered career of the latter is considered in detail later.
61. Bodwell to Badger, October 21, 1856.
62. Ibid. Whether trouble and suffering retard the progress of real religion, is a moot question, but at any rate, it does seem clear that the disorders of "Bleeding Kansas" hindered organized Christianity.
63. Bodwell to Badger, October 21, 1856. Bodwell's political observations are discussed in more detail below.
64. Dated October 17, 1856, in "Bodwell Scrapbook," pp. 3,4. He added that even though Geary now stated that "quiet reigns," there was a ruthless invasion of the polls, and 115 Free-State men were in prison, awaiting the action of Judge Lecompte. They wanted clothing and means to buy provisions, to retain the Free-State settlers.
Concerning the problem of relief, see Footnotes 110-114, below. Some of the above incidents arose from causes largely apart from the political, which Bodwell greatly over-emphasizes. The Kaw or Kansas included many vagabonds who were notorious for stealing and begging.
65. Bodwell to A.H.M.S., October 21, 1856. In view of these facts, Bodwell was not very hopeful that much of the burden of his salary could be transferred from the Missionary Society to his congregation, as was customary at the end of the first year, but he hoped to "do something" toward this end. For the first time that season there was now a good deal of sickness in Kansas (chills and fever).
66. Bodwell's first quarterly report, January 10, 1857. Permanent weekly prayer meetings began November 16, 1856, according to the historical sketch by Peter McVicar. -- Topeka State Record, January 20, 1864.
67. Ibid. In "Sixty Days Home Missionary Work," Bodwell wrote in his entry of November 2: "A stormy day. Preached in the morning; at 1 p.m., the communion service -- no record or memory of any previous one in Topeka -- a truly precious season to us."
68. McVicar, loc. cit.; Bodwell's first quarterly report.
69. In his report to the society, Bodwell made the following summary: "Six sermons each month; a prayer meeting weekly; the S[abbath] S[chool] revived; the B[ible] Soc. res[tored] & eleven dollars placed in its treasury; a church Soc. formed & $700 subscribed for house of worship; two communion services attended, with their prep[aratory], lectures; 6 persons added to church by letter; a somewhat full acquaintance with character, extent & wants of my field; . . ."
70. In his letter to John Hobbie, October 17, 1856, Bodwell described the deplorable state of affairs, but he ended with the conviction that right would eventually prevail, in such a beautiful land, and among so noble a people, with God to protect them. -- "Bodwell Scrapbook," pp. 3, 4.
71. Bodwell's first quarterly report. The regulations of the Topeka Association forbade the sale of any lot for purposes of a saloon. There was a lack of enforceable law upon the subject, however, which induced the people to adopt summary measures.
72. This literary society, the first in Topeka, was organized during the winter of 1855-1856. -- Andreas-Cutler, op. cit. p. 540. Discussions were held weekly, with a lecture once a month. The society published a paper, The Communicator, and owned a library of 700 volumes. Its officers included several from Bodwell's church -- James Cowles, who in 1856 was librarian, and Henry P. Waters, who was then secretary. -- See Giles, Thirty Years in Topeka, pp. 147, 148.
73. Bodwell's first quarterly report. New England ideals did in a measure stamp such settlements as Lawrence, Topeka, and Manhattan, but in general the characteristics of the border predominated, among which disregard of the Sabbath was a prominent feature. Bodwell's letters evince a youthful optimism, and a tendency to gloss over the sordid facts of life. For a more realistic approach to the matter of the Sabbath, see the account by Axalla John Hoole, in William Stanley Hoole, ed., "A Southerner's Viewpoint of the Kansas Situation, 1856-1857," The Kansas Historical Quarterly, (v. III, No. 2) May, 1934, p. 148.
74. The Northern "paupers" included many who were more in the nature of "dupes," brought to Kansas by the Emigrant Aid Company or similar organizations, who were unfit for the hard life of the frontier. When these unfortunates realized the true state of affairs, they often returned to the East, sadly disillusioned, but not without convincing many in Kansas and Missouri that they had fulfilled their mission of voting in the territory. The "pauper" charge was thus not quite as groundless as Bodwell believed, although it was badly "overdone" in Missouri. It is also doubtful that the emigration to Kansas was better than that to other frontiers, although Bodwell probably saw its better representatives in Topeka.
75. These remarks should be interpreted with due weight to Bodwell's youth, the recency of his arrival, and his characteristic optimism, all of which were probably conditioned by a desire to satisfy his employers.
76. The transient nature of frontier society was a basic obstacle to religion on the border. Many frontiersmen made repeated removals during their lives, each of which meant a severing of the social ties which had previously bound them. Another trouble was the diffused nature of the population. Many expected to "make their pile," then return to the East. The restraining influence of age, or of wives and mothers, was often lacking in a society composed largely of young men. See the interesting work by Everett Dick, The Sod-House Frontier (New York, 1937), p. 334.
77. Bodwell's first quarterly report.
78. S.Y. Lum, missionary at Lawrence until the arrival of Cordley, also acted as exploring agent of the society, for Kansas. Among the duties of this office was that of visiting needy and destitute parts of the country, but Lum found his work too burdensome to do a great amount of travel. The problem of itinerancy remained an issue until in 1860 the society named Bodwell to do this work.
79. First quarterly report. Tecumseh apparently was too much of a Proslavery settlement for Bodwell to preach there regularly. Most early-day estimates of population, such as that of Bodwell above, overrated the number of actual inhabitants.
In a circular letter of Bodwell (1857), appealing for financial help for his church, he drew a picture even more emphatic: "At Topeka, -- in March last, a village of several hundreds of inhabitants, -- your Home Missionary had a little Church of 24 members, equaling that at Lawrence, and larger than any other of the eight already organized in the territory. It is the only Home Missionary Church in a district of country, extending along the Kansas river 70 miles, from near Lawrence to Wabonsa; and from Council City to Nebraska; more than 100 miles from south to north. . . . Our only place of meeting at this important point is one public hall; the use of which is claimed by preachers of three or four other sects, at least three-fourths of the time on Sabbaths; while during the week the same room is in use for political gatherings, dancing, &c. . . . We are obliged to preach in the open air, in ball-ro9oms and bar-rooms and kitchens, as we may, and where we may. . . ."
80. Report to the A.H.M.S., September 28, 1858. Late in the winter of 1857-1858 Bodwell was forced to give up his appointments across the Kansas river, due to a fall from his horse, and the difficulty of crossing that stream. In a letter of June 25, 1858, he wrote: "Among our other late improvements a great and valuable public work is the bridge across the Kansas at this place, the first which public effort has ever built over this stream. . . ." After its destruction he wrote (September 28) that this event, with the loss of $15,000 invested, was a blow to his church. He later explained that many of his church members were also investors in the bridge, and now, with the hard times in Kansas, they were financially embarrassed.
81. Bodwell to A.H.M.S., June 11, 1859. Judging by the infrequency of comments of this nature, Bodwell spent most of his time in the service of his Topeka church, and in the cause of Congregationalism throughout Kansas. However, he came to believe that his rightful destiny was that of an exploring missionary, serving many small communities. Jonathan Copeland served Bloomington and Kanwaka, and James Brownlee, Burlingame (previously Council City). According to a statistical table of October 8, 1858.
82. Bodwell to Badger, October 21, 1856.
83. McVicar's sketch in the Topeka State Record, cited above; Andreas-Cutler, op. cit., p. 548; Bodwell's first quarterly report, January 10, 1857. Due to the high cost of materials, labor, etc., about $5,000 was needed for a suitable building. Bodwell also obtained a small subscription for a building at Kansapolis.
84. For an explanation of the work of the church erection fund of the Congregational church, and the American Congregational Union, see Footnote 185 and adjacent text. Some small amounts appear to have been given to Bodwell, but in September he wrote that they were obliged to depend almost entirely upon the members of the church, some of whom had offered to greatly increase their subscriptions. The "Record Book" of Bodwell's church gave more weight to the "funds collected by our Pastor during the last Summer at the East," which were being used to erect a "commodious & substantial House of worship."
85. The primary object of this publication was to aid Presbyterian and Congregational missions in the West. Bodwell's circular letter was written as of March, 1857, and included the following appeal: "Great things are not asked, nor assistance to do aught but necessary things. Our plan, our hope -- the most we expect to accomplish this year, is the rearing and enclosing of a small church, of which we may partition off a portion to use as a sort of lecture room until able to finish for ourselves."
86. Letter of H.W. Farnsworth to Milton Badger, July 12, 1857, requesting the renewal of Bodwell's appointment. The number of communicants was then 23, and the average attendance about a hundred. "We are suffering all the evils of other new countries, besides many peculiar to this. The result is that worldli-mindedness has too much influence over us all." -- Ibid., July 5, 1857.
87. In a report to the Missionary Society of February, 1859, Bodwell stated that the work of construction "was begun during my absence & contrary to my wish & recommendation. But my people was right & I wrong. . . . my plan was a lecture room 25 x 40."
88. Bodwell to Badger, September 24, 1857. During the summer of that year, while Bodwell was in the East, his pulpit was occupied by the Rev. J. Copeland. About one fourth of the resident members left Topeka during this season, but many new ones arrived. Bodwell saw "no cause for discouragement, but many things to comfort & give hope," and believed that they had at least "made even a little progress against such a torrent of excitement, & now of worldliness," even though that outwardly their progress does not appear so great.
Concerning "worldliness," the Minutes of the General Association of April, 1857, remarked: "The spirit of contention has given way to the spirit of speculation."
89. A border preacher unwilling to "work for his keep" probably would have been regarded by most frontiersmen as a "dude," who did not merit their respect. For an example similar to that of Bodwell, see Thomas A. McNeal, When Kansas Was Young (New York, 1922), pp. 129-132. When the occasion arose, Bodwell was also generous in matters of salary, as the following letter to Milton Badger indicates (February 4, 1858): "I would here say once for all that while 'our treasury' is to any extent straitened, tho. I may at the regular & proper time state my claims -- I do not wish that claim to stand in the way of the full payment of any brother with a family whom the committee knows is in want."
90. By this time the panic of 1857 was beginning to make itself felt in Kansas. Many infant communities were scarcely under way -- not a few had only been established that year, when the deadening hand of depression was placed upon them.
91. Bodwell to Badger, December 14, 1857. In his article upon Congregationalism in Kansas (op. cit., pp. 8,9), Richard Cordley includes a vivid sketch of Bodwell's activities: "He was collector and treasurer, architect, 'boss carpenter,' head mason, and laborer; in the woods cutting and hauling timber, in the quarry getting out stone, at the kiln hauling lime, at the building superintending the work, around the parish collecting subscriptions, at the East raising funds . . . ; he could, without equivocation, subscribe to the condition of the Home Missionary application, 'that he had no employment save that of the ministry,' for all these toils pointed t one end -- the building up of the church. Twice he saw the walls of the church blown down, and twice he rallied his people to rebuild them."
92. Quarterly report of Bodwell to the A.H.M.S., June 25, 1858. He remarked that a subscriber of ten dollars now gave them, in lieu of cash, a lot worth $150. It appears that his letters to the society are a trifle too rosy. Perhaps he was guilty of the common practice of "strewing flowers in his own pathway," in order to convince his employers that he was "delivering the goods." Despite the hard times, he asked permission of the society to raise $200 among his people, and with $400 from the society his salary would total $600.
93. Memorial discourse of Peter McVicar, in Andreas-Cutler, op. cit., p 548.
94. Bodwell to A.H.M.S., December 30, 1858; H.W. Farnsworth to Milton Badger, September 3, 1858. Farnsworth wrote on behalf of the congregation: "Mr. Bodwell's removal from this to any other sphere of labor would be regarded, not only by our denomination, but by all this community with extreme regret." As proof of their gratitude, they offered to pay $100 of his salary, leaving the balance ($400) for the society.
95. Bodwell to A.H.M.S., June 22, 1859. Despite the disaster, he asked for the prayers of their friends, in the hope of final success. The following comes from "Sketches of Kansas Travel," in The Congregational Record of October, 1859 (v. I, No. IV), p. 62: "Topeka shows signs both of vigor and decay. It looks like a tree that had stopped growing and sprouted again. . . . The explanation is, that they have attempted to push the town beyond the demands of its business, and have been nipped by the hard times. . . . I have rarely looked upon a sadder sight than the Cong. Church, now a complete mass of ruins. The front wall stands, showing what the building would have been. . . The rear and side walls are almost entirely demolished, and the whole is said to be so impaired that it will not be safe to use any part of the walls for a future building."
96. He had for some time thought of a change, but the crisis over the college was the primary cause of his resignation. The evening after he gave his church this notice, the storm struck Topeka.
97. "Church Record Book," entry of August 15, 1859.
98. Ibid., entry of August 5.
99. Bodwell gave his consent September 10, 1859, which the Topeka Tribune announced a week later, adding that they were glad, "as the Rev. Mr. Bodwell is a fluent speaker and a good man." Despite the troubles at Topeka, Bodwell did not like to leave his congregation in the lurch, "and lose ground obtained at such an outlay of strength & means." -- Letter of August 4 to the society.
100. Bodwell to A.H.M.S., September 14, 1859, at the end of his third year in Kansas. His comments again sound very optimistic in tone.
101. Memorial discourse of Peter McVicar, Andreas-Cutler, op. cit.; Bodwell's fourth annual report, February 28, 1860 (covering only a half year). He again praised his congregation for their help -- they had raised at least 800 to 1,000 dollars a year, for all purposes.
102. Bodwell to Badger, June 11, 1860.
103. Andreas-Cutler, op. cit., p. 548. In the spring of 1861 the building was used by the first state legislature of Kansas. In 1880 a new edifice was constructed, which is still in use. Peter McVicar served as pastor from 1860 to 1866, when Bodwell began a second term of three years.
In his special dedicatory sermon, Bodwell used the following text: "Except the Lord build the house they labor in vain that build it; except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain." -- Psalms, 127:1.
104. Bodwell to Badger, October 21, 1856.
105. Bodwell to Badger, January 10, 1857: "We have lately commenced occupying a new, larger and much more pleasant room than before." From the accounts of McVicar and Sherman Bodwell (the latter in the "Church Record Book"), it is clear that this was Union Hall.
106. Bodwell to Badger, December 14, 1857. This structure, the first school building in Topeka, was erected by Abner Doane, with Emigrant Aid funds. That organization hoped to promote New England concepts of religion and education in the new territory, but it charged the city rent for the use of the building, until the hard times made collections virtually impossible.
107. Bodwell to A.H.M.S., June 25, 1858. In his report of February, 1859, he found considerable fault with these quarters, asserting that "many must stand up -- others in numbers go away -- & a much larger number remain away rather than stand or take the seats of others."
108. Bodwell to A.H.M.S., June 11, 1859. He wrote that on the first day's occupancy his audience was over 200: "In outward things we make progress." The hall was upstairs in the Ritchie block, a three-story building erected in 1858. Early in 1860, during the revival in Topeka, Bodwell's congregation was obliged to return to the school room.
109. September 28, 1858, Bodwell wrote that the Baptists, who also used the school building, so completely disregarded their appointments that the Congregationalists were greatly inconvenienced.
110. In "Sixty Days Home Missionary Work," under entry of November 2, 1856, Bodwell wrote that with stormy weather, he sat up with the Foxes, late companions on the trip to Kansas, whose children were very ill: "In a small house, with no partitions but blankets, no floors but loose boards, no shield from the wind but thin clapboard walls, a room which no fire can warm, is the family of eight and their watchers."
The form of malaria called "chills and fever" was then the plague of new communities. Since in Kansas most of the timber was found along the streams, the settlers tended to locate in these areas, where mosquitoes abounded, and where malarial afflictions were most likely to occur. Bodwell frequently alluded to this ailment.
111. First quarterly report, January 10, 1857. Bodwell believed that the sickness in the fall of 1856 was due in part to the long overland marches, and the anxieties and exposures of the settlers. For a good description of the "chills and fever," see Mrs. Miriam D. Colt, Went to Kansas (Watertown, 1862), p. 88 et seq. The vegetarian colony that settled on the Neosho was much afflicted with malaria. In 1858 Bodwell wrote that that locality was again hard hit with this ailment (letter of September 28).
112. Bodwell to Badger, October 21, 1856, and to John Hobbie, October 17, 1856, "Bodwell Scrapbook," pp. 3, 4. The testimony taken by the Hyatt committee in the fall of that year indicates that much of the suffering was of the usual frontier nature, little connected with the boarder wars. The drought of that year was a factor that has not been sufficiently stressed.
113. Bodwell gives a detailed account in his letter to Messrs. A.B. Hyde, R.W.R. Freeman, and John Hobbie, Ibid., pp. 8,9. With $166 in cash he helped some 14 persons or families, and some half dozen more with clothing sent from the East.
114. Bodwell to "Dear Brother Hobbie," September 21 and October 30, 1860, in Ibid., p. 12. As in 1857, he again obtained help from Casenovia, N.Y., the home of his friend Hobbie. He was then serving on the territorial relief committee, of which S.C. Pomeroy was president. Bodwell's wide travels as an itinerant preacher brought him into close contact with the suffering and privation.
115. From "Half Truths in Religion," a sermon delivered by Bodwell while chaplain of the Clifton Springs Sanitarium, probably in 1869.
116. Note his comment, quoted above, that "The minister can scarcely do more than keep people reminded of duty. . . ." Free-State opinion quite generally held this view, blaming the administration at Washington for most of the evils that beset them.
117. Bodwell to A.H.M.S., December 14, 1857. In March, 1858, he wrote: "Constant excitement, & irritation; arising from constant misrepresentation & slander, with which our rulers seek to justify their constant injustice & oppression; produces a plentious crop of tares. 'Wickedness in high places' makes itself felt now as ever. "The head is sick, the heart faint,' & the body diseased. "The wicked here rule, & the people mourn.'"
118. His sermon at the dedication of the First Congregational Church of Topeka, January 3, 1864, is a good example of this symbolism, but was appropriate for the occasion. "Building with God, and upon His word, a house whose corner stones are justice, mercy, truth and love; the dwellers therein need not fear 'though the kingdoms be moved.'" Other sermons that have been preserved are: "A Discourse preached at the Funeral of Mrs. H.D. Rice," February 13, 1859; "A Paraclete"; and "Half Truths in Religion." Bodwell often included appropriate poems in his sermons. These discourses are of the intellectual type, and avoid the ranting and emotional appeals so common in the early days.
119. Bodwell to Badger, December 14, 1857. The Reverend Lum described the situation even better, in a letter to the Missionary Society, December 6, 1854 (quoted by Goodykoontz, op. cit., p. 296): "Many there are who come here with a noble purpose -- they are willing to be martyrs in the cause of Religion & Liberty & yet I am compelled to think that the number of such is small in comparison to those who have some selfish or mercenary end to gain. I must confess that my mind has changed on this subject & I do not think as highly of the aggregate emigration as at first. I find many, perhaps a majority, without any settled moral principle as a basis of action & when come outside the restraints of eastern society, they act out the native depravity of the human heart. . . ."
120. Bodwell to A.H.M.S., September 28, 1858.
121. Bodwell to Badger, June 11, 1860. The Minutes of the General Association of Kansas, October 8, 1858 (Congregational Record, v. I, No. 1), p.4, contain the following resolution: "That we view with deep regret the prevalence of Sabbath desecration amongst us, and deem it the duty of every Christian to use his utmost influence, by example as well as precept, to create a correct public sentiment in regard to the Sabbath and its duties." A Sabbath convention of the evangelical churches was recommended, and Bodwell was placed on the committee, but the meeting never materialized.
122. Issue of January, 1860 (v. II, No. 1), pp. 5, 6.
123. This was discussed in the Record of April, 1860 (v. II, No. 2), pp. 23-25, under the heading "Homelessness as a Hindrance to the Gospel": "On this western field, the gospel meets some peculiar obstacles incident to the state of society. Of these peculiar hindrances, few are more discouraging than the unsettled character of our population. The western phrase, 'I do not live, but only stay,' is of almost universal application. The word 'home' might be entirely stricken from our vocabulary. . . . It is quite probable that one-half of the present population of Kansas will spend their days here -- while at the same time, there are very few who have positively made up their minds to make this their home. . . . It is all an experiment. . . ."
124. Issue of April, 1859 (v. I, No. 2), pp. 21-23. The writer continued: "The ties that bind them to the 'old church at home' are doubtless strong. . . . The church here may not be like the old church you left, neither is your house, nor the society in which you mingle. . . . You do not live out of doors because your house is not as good as your Eastern home. . . . If you cannot endure these privations . . . you are not fit for the West. . . . Kansas is full of professors of religion from the East, but, instead of shining out of themselves, we need to go around and hunt them out with a torch."
125. A factor not to be lost sight of in this matter was the lack of religious opportunities in many localities on the border. Undoubtedly many frontiersmen were irreligious from no fault of their own, but because there was no church to attend. Bodwell came to realize the importance of this point, and urged it as a justification of itinerant preachers. Other factors working toward the same end were the pre-occupation of the settlers with the urgent business of getting started, and the arrival of an avalanche of new settlers in 1857. The absolute necessities of food and shelter were a much greater problem in a new country.
126. Bodwell to A.H.M.S./, March, 1858 (no day given): "I can reckon up at least fifteen conventions, mass meetings, legislatures &c &c which many of my people have attended within three or four months. . . . Make your only Government a military despotism; put in all of its offices, the very men whom the people most hate . . . & you see again our state. Here as elsewhere no extra aggravations are needed to make or prove the heart 'deceitful & desperately wicked.'"
127. Appendix No. II to Minutes of the General Association, April 25-27, 1857, p. 15, entitled "Narrative of the State of Religion." The Minutes of the meeting of October, 1858, reported similarly: "There are no revivals to record, though most of the churches report an increase of spirituality among Christians, and an increased attention to religious things in the various communities."
128. Statistical table of October 8, 1858, in Congregational Record (v. I, No. 1), p. 9.
129. The apparent victory of the cause of freedom probably caused many people to believe that right was sure to win, in the long run. Such a conviction would encourage many of religious tendencies, like Bodwell, who previously had deplored the "rule of evil."
130. Report to A.H.M.S., February 14, 1859. Attendance at prayer meetings had more than doubled. In his report at the end of his third year in Kansas (September 14, 1859), he wrote: "The time was, not many months since when 5 to 8 was 'a goodly number' at the union prayer meeting & if for any cause I was away, or for any reason failed to light & warm the room the meeting usually & gradually died out." Now when he returned after an absence, he found "the meetings alive, with 12 to 20 or 25 in attendance. Sabbath congregations then 50 to 100 are now under favorable circumstances, 200 to 250."
131. Quarterly report to A.H.M.S., December 1859.
132. O.S. Pres. -- Old School Presbyterian. The First Presbyterian Church of Topeka was organized December 19, 1859, and steps toward incorporation were taken in the following February. John A. Steele was then the pastor. In June, 1859, C.C. Hutchinson become the pastor of the First Baptist Church. -- Andreas-Cutler, op. cit. Pp. 548, 549.
133. Bodwell to A.H.M.S., February 28, 1860. For seven weeks there had been from one to three meetings each night in Topeka, with an attendance at each of 60, 100, and 200 persons. The Methodists claimed 22 on probation, some "reclaimed," and some by letter. All the meetings were now closed, except the Congregational, and being "exhausted by preaching, &c &c," they ha been holding prayer meetings for ten days, with a growing interest. "None but God could have done what has been done in the face of such obstacles. . . . To Him & Him alone be glory.
"From whatever part of our Territory I hear; the story is one of readiness -- a harvest waiting to be gathered, but the laborers are very few."
Under the heading "Religious Intelligence," The Congregational Record of April, 1860, described the revival. The Methodist and Episcopal services were held separately, and the Reverend Callaway of the latter church held nightly meetings, in which he demanded of sinners: "Ye must b born again."
134. The writer has seen no explanation of the "sectarian selfishness" to which Bodwell refers. Perhaps this comment is directed at the Methodists and Episcopalians, who did not join the union meeting.
135. Topeka Tribune, February 25, 1860. "We venture the opinion that a proportionately larger number of the citizens of Topeka are a church-going people and christians, than those of any other town or city in Kansas." Langrish's dramatic troupe visited Topeka during this time, and while two church meetings were crowded, not over forty persons attended the theater. In the issue of June 23, 1860, the Tribune remarked concerning the many church goers in the city: "Christians -- we take it -- certainly must be waxing very numerous, but dress so richly and fashionably, and extravagantly, that poor sinners are ashamed to go and sit down by their side."
136. The statistical form attached to Bodwell's report of February 28, 1860, listed the "No. of hopeful conversions -- In all congregations probably 50; -- Cong -- 18." Twenty had been added to Bodwell's church by profession of faith, and seven by letter from other churches, thereby nearly doubling the previous membership.
137. Topeka Tribune, May 19, 1860. This paper wanted to know "if any of the young men who signed the pledge have broken it; or is it outsiders who so frequently make [the] night hideous by their drunken revels?"
138. Article X of the constitution made the members liable to discipline for immorality, and Article XI defined such immorality as: "Using distilled drinks, when not required as a medicine or furnishing the same to be so used by others; holding men as slaves; attending or patronizing balls, dancing schools or theaters shall be considered immoralities and members shall be liable to discipline therefore." A member given to drink who refused to repent after being admonished of his sin, was excommunicated from the church (August 28, 1862).
139. Such regulations seldom had the force of law, however, unless "backed up" by an aroused citizenry.
140. As early as May 14, 1855, the citizens of Topeka met and organized, to enforce the rule of the town company, "peaceably, if we can; forcibly, if we must." On the following July 4, they destroyed a quantity of liquor, and then properly celebrated the occasion. -- Andreas-Cutler, op. cit., p. 541.
141. See Clara Francis, "The Coming of Prohibition in Kansas." -- Kansas Historical Collections, v. XV, p. 193. The dramshop law of 1855 was a local option measure, and was in force until the act of 1859 provided a license system (which exempted towns of 1,000 or over). At the Wyandotte constitutional convention John Ritchie proposed to empower the legislature to prohibit the sale of liquor, but this was not adopted.
142. Andreas-Cutler, op. cit., p. 543.
143. See Giles, Thirty Years in Topeka, pp. 102-104. Andreas-Cutler, op. cit., p. 544, gives an account from the Kansas Tribune, Topeka, of July 18, and also a copy of the proceedings of a meeting soon afterward, in which the citizens justified the use of force: "In the absence of law for our protection . . . petition, persuasion, remonstrance, and the ordinances of the Town Association having utterly failed to accomplish this work." Gaylord, Ritchie, and Waters from Bodwell's church were among the leading citizens who signed these resolutions. It was proposed to hold an election in Topeka, on the liquor issue, but apparently this was not done.
144. The Kansas Tribune, February 3, 1859. At this meeting the society adopted a constitution, and took the official title of the Topeka Temperance Union. In 1881 Bodwell wrote to the Topeka Daily Capital (issue of August 1), arguing against the system which permitted $500 licenses in Topeka. He blamed it for the death of his brother, Sherman, who was killed by a drunken driver.
145. Minutes of the General Association, October 8-11, 1858, Congregational Record (v. I, No. 1), p. 6. As a leading layman, John Ritchie was very active in this work of the association, and was placed on the committee to arrange for a temperance convention. The preamble to the resolutions calling for a territorial convention asserted: "Intemperance appears to be gaining ground, and threatens to be a most formidable barrier to the progress of christianity and good morals among us." -- Ibid., p. 5.
146. Minutes of the General Association, May 26-30, 1859, Congregational Record (v. I, No. 3), July, 1859, p. 44. The committee, consisting of Bodwell, Cordley of Lawrence, and Dr. A. Hunting of Manhattan, issued a call for a meeting at Topeka, October 26, 1859.
147. Dr. A. Hunting, "Early Temperance Movements in Kansas," Congregational Record, July, 1866, p. 29. The Central Kansas Total Abstinence Society of Manhattan and vicinity, formed during the winter of 1855-1856, appears to have been the most important predecessor of the state organization. For this data, the writer is indebted to Martha B. Caldwell, of the staff of the Kansas Historical Society.
148. Congregational Record, (v. I, No. 1) January, 1859, p. 6. In No. 4 of this same volume (October, 1859), there is an article upon "Public Amusements" (p. 72 et seq.):
"We mourn over the injury resulting from them to the impenitent and the christian. . . . If God forbids conformity to the world, the world asks it, and the world's invitation is to be accepted. . . . Is it strange that, in the mazes of the dance tonight, their hands clasp his whose fingers are yet red with his fellow's blood? . . . Do they tonight listen to the soft-whispered nothings which fall from a tongue yet blistering with an oath -- a tongue which but late lured one as fair to utter ruin? . . . This the christian amusement seeker must do. Profess to hate frivolity, immorality, profanity and vice, and then go himself and lead others into the society of, and the closest contact with, the frivolous, immoral, vicious and profane. . . It [the world] will praise their warmth and geniality, their freedom from foolish fanaticism and bigotry, and behind their backs, in the bar-room and the brothel, will sneer with satanic grin at the light way in which religion sits upon them. . . They will lie among the rubbish which the minister must toil to clear away, when he seeks to prepare the way of the Lord. . . ."
149. Quarterly report to A.H.M.S. In 1862, when Peter McVicar was the pastor, more strenuous action was taken against wayward members. Several were "admonished" for attending balls, although it was not necessary to resort to further measures of discipline, for this offense. In 1859 for traveling on the Sabbath, while teaming, one member was required to "make an acknowledgment of the wrong as public as the offence." -- "Church Record Book."
150. Court petition in The Commonwealth, Topeka, March 24, 1881. Bodwell maintained that the use of the building located on his property for such purposes tended to bring him into disfavor, and was also contrary to the terms of the agreement.
151. Richard Cordley, Pioneer Days in Kansas (Boston, 1903), p. 118.