Early Time Methodist Ministers in Kansas

From the time of his coming to Kansas almost to the year of his death Colonel Price was the Kansas contributor to the columns of The Barnesville Enterprise, the paper of which he was a former editor. These Kansas notes were interesting letters dealing with educational, social, political and ecclesiastical matters. Several letters contain valuable reminiscences of the early-time Methodist ministers in Kansas. Among the subjects of these biographical sketches are included Rev. D. P. Mitchell and his son, now Bishop Charles Bayard Mitchell, Thomas Hodgson, Bernard Kelley, Henry Coker, and John W. Hancher.

The following paragraphs are taken from three successive letters written in 1911 to this Ohio newspaper and embody his favorite convictions concerning “What the East Owes to the West.”:

It was the greatly enjoyed privilege of the present writer, recently through the columns of the Enterprise, to contribute a number of articles briefly setting forth the indebtedness of the West to the East, especially of Kansas to Ohio, for assistance of most valuable character in the growth and establishment of temperance, righteousness and advanced civilization along all lines of civil and virtuous progress.

“Our object was especially intended to confine our work to the subject of the religious obligations of Kansas’ early statehood to the ministerial help afforded by the churches of Ohio and the East in general for the establishment of a firm religious and moral conviction in the minds of all classes of the varied phases of citizenship. While acknowledging to the fullest extent our indebtedness in this respect, it seems right and proper for us to inquire if in any respect we have made any returns to the benefactors of the East for the benefits they so freely bestowed in our earlier years. Kansas is composed most emphatically of a cosmopolitan people. From every state in the Union, and perhaps from every civilized nation in the world, and from some hardly yet entitled to be called civilized, people have come to Kansas and it might reasonably be expected that in our strenuous efforts to assimilate and unify these seemingly discordant elements, we might neglect or even forget the expression of our gratitude to the chief source of our supply of citizens, namely, the Eastern states, or even we might forget entirely that we were under any obligations at all. So rapid had been our progress along all material, political, moral and religious lines that long since we ceased to be dependent upon extraneous means, or outside helps of any kind, and have not only set up housekeeping for ourselves but often flatter ourselves that we have become the virtual Eden in the rapid progress of all reforms. Instead of looking to the East for instructors and guides, we are very much inclined to point the world ‘and the rest of mankind’ to our many-phased forms of advancement and complacently to compliment our own great and virtuous deeds and then invite the world to follow in our footsteps. That our self-complacency and our semi-boastful pretensions are not altogether vain and inapplicable, we need only point to a few of those particulars in which we have contributed in some degree to repay the lasting debts we have owed to the Eastern States. We will first note our contribution to educational matters.

“From the Boston Herald of recent date we learn that the great schools of learning of the East have imported from the West presidents for Wesleyan University, Dartmouth College, Williams College, Smith College, the University of Maine, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Middlebury and Boston University. All these men are without the bounds of New England. This section of the country, long noted as the home of culture, refinement and classic education, and the prolific source of supply for educators for all sections of the country, may well force the Herald to ask ‘Why is this so?’ ‘What are the factors that make men of the middle and central states preferable to those who are home-made and trained?’ And then it is added, the echo answers, ‘Why?’

“We may be permitted to answer in a few words. The East lives upon the memories and the achievements of the past, the West had its eyes on the future. The fathers are our models, says the East. We of the West are working for the generations to come as well as for the present. The East contents itself with the old-time methods and programs; the West believes in progress, new methods and culture in the maturist forms. The East is following the old customs, walking in the old paths; the West is devising methods following the leadings of newer and brighter pathways to honorable achievement and the most brilliant success.

“The world demands in all phases of its work men of action, men of integrity and high moral standard, and men of progressive tendency, and the times are fast losing patience with the followers of ruts simply because the fathers wore them out or walked in them in their work, whatsoever it might be. As highly illustrating this tendency of the East to look to the more recent civilization of the West for its chief educators, take the case of Boston University, the leading theological institute of the Methodist Episcopal church in the center of New England Culture and scholarship, going to Kansas and with unanimous choice of the trustees selecting Dr. Murlin, president of Baker University, to fill the chair of president of the Boston University. Dr. Lemuel Herbert Murlin is Ohio-born and Kansas-trained. For several years be was a traveling minister in Indiana, and well educated in the leading schools of that state. In 1894 he joined the Kansas Conference and was elected president of Baker, succeeding Dr. Quayle, since elected bishop. In the seventeen years of his service in that office he had seen Baker grow from a small college in a little wayside village to be the chiefest of all the denominational schools of the State, coming well up in number of pupils and character of scholarship to several of the state institutions. Dr. Murlin will bring to Boston the energy and skill so characteristic of the Western culture and enterprise. He will see to it, we think, that there will be no more complaints of heterodoxy come from that quarter, and the church may expect it will become a school of much wider influence and greater power for the dissemination of the Christian doctrines than ever before.

“Kansas had but recently sent two more of her educators to Ohio, Guy P. Benton to the presidency of the old honored institution of Oxford college. He too was born in Ohio, and having years of experience and training in the Kansas schools and ministry, catching the characteristic Western enthusiasm, he soon passed from principalship and superintendency of public schools to the seat of the professor in one of our best denominational colleges, from whence he was taken to his present important field to work, in which he seems to be again making a successful record.

“Again, there is Rev. J. W. Hancher, who had just gotten himself fame in helping Ohio Wesleyan University to raise her half million dollars’ endowment. He also was born in Ohio, came to Kansas and was inducted into the regular ministry in that large class of probationers spoken of in a former article. In Kansas, Colorado and Iowa, he successfully filled various fields of service in pulpit and school work until he reached the presidency of Simpson College, Iowa. Here, as usual, he was making good until a serious illness compelled his retirement. Recovering health, he is again at work at the Ohio Wesley an.

“Still another, a purely Kansas product, by birth, early experience and ministerial work, the Rev, Charles Bayard Mitchell, now of St. James Church, Chicago, was caught by the power of the East and taken to Pittsburg, thence to Cleveland, in which places for a number of years he was known as a most successful minister and a very popular platform speaker. He stands before the church today as a man of a spotless reputation, with high promise of still further promotion. It seems to be the custom of the East to keep its eye on the West, watching for the rising young men in all fields of work, and with the one thing in which the East surpasses the West, abundance of surplus funds, it is able to influence western talent to migrate eastward, just as the East in like manner listens to the call of titled homes in the old world and sends it daughters and wealthy young men to possess the homes of royalty, or the position of high social standing that money can obtain. This later phase, perhaps had a sordid tinge, while the former had no need for a stain of reproach or wrongdoing.

“To this list of prominent educators, it is altogether appropriate that we add some names in the lecture field. The first that comes to mind is that of the peerless Bishop Quayle, who is equally at home as literary critic, author of valuable books, platform lecturer, preacher of the gospel and administrator of church and college government. Quayle is a thorough Kansan in birth, education, ministerial and educational work. A graduate with high honor from Baker University, he soon rose to the office of president of that institution, from which after a brief pastorate he was chosen as one of the chief officers of the church. While his home is still in the West, yet his time as Bishop and Lecturer is divided and circumscribed only by national limits. Bishop Quayle had a most wonderful and picturesque command and use of the English language. In his lectures, mostly on literary subjects, authors and characters are characterized by a deep insight into the workings of human nature. He revels in the search of the mysteries of the human mind and heart as he finds them in Milton, Shakespeare and Browning. His lectures on Macbeth, Hamlet and the Merchant of Venice are wonders of analytical and practical observations. Indeed, everything he touches in authorship, lectures or preaching, is unique in character, chaste, fervid and sublime in their execution. An orphan boy, adopted by a friendly minister, by his fidelity, industry and moral stamina he had risen to his present exalted position. From a rural society of most rustic nature his life is expanded to one of the most cosmopolitan characters of this day and generation. No pent up Kansas confines his powers. With the true Wesleyan spirit he claims the world as his parish. With all his wondrous gifts he displays no evidence of human pride or separation from his fellowmen, but frank, genial, with no show of condescension, he walks, talks and fellowships with the humblest as well as the greatest of men.

“Doubtless the most popular as well as one of the ablest of professional lecturers on the American platform is ex-Governor Hoch of Kansas. He had just returned from a six months’ engagement in which he had occupied platforms probably in every state east of the Mississippi and many of those south of the Ohio and Potomac. From Maine to Georgia and from the Lakes to the Gulf, his popularity, manner and speech are everywhere spoken of in the same tone of approval, praise and cordial acceptance of the truths he delivers. Governor Hoch is an eloquent and polished orator in speech and manner. As you have had the privilege of hearing him in Barnesville, of course it is ‘carrying coals to Newcastle’ for me to attempt any description of his excellencies. He is Kentucky born, but is essentially a Kansas product, as his active life had been spent here, coming first to public notice by the excellence of his editorial writings on a small country village newspaper, the Marion Record. By his sterling worth and advocacy of temperance and moral principles, he rose in the esteem of the people of the state to be twice elected as governor. He developed his wonderful power as a platform speaker, and had since followed the work of which the East claims an abundant share.

“In the matter of ministerial aid the churches of the East have received many additions of a superior character, as men of great intellectual ability, pulpit oratory and high moral standing, from the newer pulpits of the West. We have lost a number of our ablest men because of their excellent attainments and because the richer churches of the eastern cities could offer them greater inducements in the way of pecuniary rewards and prospects of a swifter promotion. Like other men, ministers are susceptible to such promising offers, and who shall blame them if a laudable ambition calls them to accept the more pleasing offers.

“In addition to those educators mentioned in a former article, Hancher, Benton and Murlin, who are all able ministers, we may mention some who belong to both sections, such as Bishop Quayle, who as an eloquent preacher is excelled by few in any church, who by his office divides his time equally between both sections of the country.

“So, likewise, Henry J. Coker, a purely western product, another of the classmates of the writer when we were probationers in the South Kansas Conference, who is now one of the secretaries of the Church Home Missionary and Church Extension Society, and, like the Bishop, visits equally all parts of the country in the interests of his work. He is an able preacher and a noble man. There was no mistake made when the great church placed her hands upon him and took him from his local field and position as an itinerant in Kansas and in true Methodist style gave him ‘the world as his parish.’

“Don S. Colt, recently stationed in one of the leading churches in Baltimore, a few years ago was but a small, seemingly physical weakling with but little promise of long life. Possessed of a strong mental and religious nature and a courage that overcame all physical deficiencies, he secured a good education, was licensed to preach, became an eloquent and powerful pulpit orator, as a mere boy filling with great acceptability a number of our chief appointments, one of them the pulpit of the First Methodist Episcopal Church in Wichita, now a city second only to Kansas City, Kansas. Soon after this he was transferred to New York, where he had fully sustained his western reputation in a number of the best of the talent of the older conference.

“Frequently young preachers come out West, get at least a taint for western style and manner, catch the fever of western energy, ambition and desire for the highest success, then return to the East to improve, if possible, upon their experience while in the ‘wild and woolly West.’ Such is W. C. Snodgrass, once a prominent young minister in Wheeling, who came to Kansas, was pastor at Emporia for a term, then he returned with his added experience to the far East, even to Jersey. Revs. I. N. Moorehead and Wilson from Philadelphia, young men in the ministry, became very popular, then want back ‘home.’ The latter recently died in Salt Lake City, Utah, where for only a few months he had been in charge of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Many others, both from among the Methodists and other churches, have gone to the East, where they are proving the excellency of the western spirit by their successful work in the older churches. Their energy and enthusiasm have added greatly to their work in reinvigorating the more formal church services in these older states.

“In politics it would seem as if the West, especially Kansas, had set the pace for national progress. More than any other state, yea more than any other state leaders, they are more in the public eye than any or all others combined. Her Senator Bristow; her Congressmen Murdock and Madison; her Governor Stubbs and ex-Governor Hoch all stand in the brightest limelight of the world’s progress in civic righteousness. Six out of the eight congressmen were elected on the platform of the most advanced moral progress that was ever proclaimed in any state. The other two congressmen secured their election by their conciliations and promises of carrying out the principles of the progressive platforms, but Governor Stubbs had not hesitated to visit the President himself and obtain from him the most direct orders ever received from any administration for the fullest enforcement of our prohibition laws. He had visited the presidents of the leading railroads and demanded of them that they improve and properly administer their roads in Kansas, and this to be done at once or the roads would be placed in the hands of a receiver. The order was given at once. The election last fall all over the United States shows clearly the effects of the western leaven in the body politic. The reform in Congress, the work of such men as Governor Wilson of New Jersey tell most clearly that the West politically had invaded the East, and overturned many of her ancient idols.

“One of the most curious incidents of the East and West recently occurring was the appeal actually made to our Home Mission Societies that we send help to the struggling societies in the East, especially into New Hampshire and Maine. In the struggles of the early days in Kansas to establish churches and follow the western march of emigration it was confidently expected that much of our financial help must come from the good people of the East. Our confidence was never misplaced. Their generosity made the foundation of churches and civilization safe and secure. By this aid we have prospered greatly and needed but little help from the former source in Kansas no more than in greater or less degree prevails in all the conference, especially among the immigration of the foreign element. What was our surprise when visitors from our connectional societies a few years since told us that many places in those old states needed our help much as ever we had needed their help in former years. They said there were many places where the work would have to be abandoned unless the Home Missionary Societies went to their rescue. This condition was caused by two sets of influences. The worn nature of the soil, that caused many of its former owners to seek the more productive lands of the West and South, and the incoming of so much of the foreign element, which was often alow in becoming thoroughly Americanized and evangelized. The plea of these chief men of the church was answered quickly and freely. The sections should have no separating differences when it comes to religion, common morality and civic righteousness.

“The well-known slogan of Horace Greeley of more than three score years ago, of ‘Go West young man and grow up with the country,’ is seemingly now being practically reversed. The advice of Greeley was a large factor in the rapid settlement and development of what was then known as the far West and even further out toward the Pacific coast, where the hardy pioneers and their descendants have made even ‘The Great American Desert’ to bloom and ‘blossom as the rose,’ and the rich virgin soil to yield its cereal products in sufficient quantities to feed the civilized world. After a half century of thrift and enterprise the ‘sons of those illustrious sires,’ who conquered the prairies, grown rich by their industry are selling their hundred dollar per acre farms and returning to the far East and buying up the unused or worn-out farms of New York and New England, where with the modern methods of agriculture and horticulture, home lands will be speedily renovated and rapidly increased in value. This movement is a most emphatic contradiction of the long prevailing opinion that agricultural success and opportunities were to be found only in the West. And it is also a proof that the scientific processes now so successful and prevalent out here are to have proof of their value in the abandoned lands of the older states.

“Other states may have equaled but none have surpassed Kansas in the application of scientific processes in the cultivation of her wondrously productive soils. It had been a long and severe trail of method and applications of science to enable the farmers to conquer the difficulties and remove the obstacles that were in the road to success, but by the valuable aid of our Agricultural Schools and Experiment Stations, his work seems well on toward completion. Our farmers are generally close and intelligent students of all that is best in the culture of the fields or in the growth of their orchards. A number of experiment stations are established and professors of all departments of soil culture are commissioned to travel throughout the state and hold institutions, teaching the best manner of soil culture and the best kinds of cereals and fruits to plant. The success of their work is evidenced by the very high price of lands and the uniform prosperity of the farming community.

“The great number of men in all departments of work, mercantile, professional and political, who have passed in the last few years from the West to the East, and the popularity of our orators and platform performers in the eastern states, would indicate the West was no longer considered a missionary ground for the culture of which leaders of thought in the older civilization claimed the right and duty to aid and assist in its improvement and elevation. As illustrating this change of action and thinking, a few instances of paramount interest may properly be here related.

“In the field of politics, especially, it had been thought that we of the West were in the greatest need of instruction, and it was customary on all important occasions for the East to send for enlightenment a number of their finest orators and ablest platform speakers. Indeed, it was often the case that in the humble estimate of our abilities we asked of the East this boon to be sent to our aid. In one of the McKinley campaigns it was deemed a matter of the greatest importance to have that greatest of Eastern statesmen, Thomas B. Reed, sent to us, that he might enlighten us concerning those things that were of such great importance in the issues before the country. Great preparations were made for his coming and great expectations were aroused among the people. Vast crowds of rural and city people assembled at Wichita to see and hear this stalwart advocate of republican principles. He came with his daughter and some personal friends in a private car, in which he remained virtually secluded until the time of his speaking to begin. He was not disposed to court fellowship or force social relations with the crowd, and comparatively few of them visited him in his car. But if the expectations of the people were great at his coming, their disappointment was equally great when they heard his speech. His address, of course, was faultless from a political aspect and plainly set forth, but the quality of it was not superior to that of many of the home-trained politicians and statesmen that we could hear every day.

“Another of these great expectations and great disappointments occurred a few years later, when the great Ohio orator, J. B. Foraker, made a tour of Kansas, on a special train, ending his ‘Swing around the circle’ at Wellington, where a vast crowd had assembled to hear this much lauded orator from the state so noted for its orators and statesmen. If possible, his failure to meet expectations was even greater than that of Reed. He gave no exhibit of the splendid shilities for which he was proclaimed. Now the failure of these two great men was occasioned by the fact that they had mistaken the intelligence and character of the people composing their audiences and treated them as if they were a set of unlearned backwoods rustics who were incapable of understanding the political questions of the times. So it was, as with an air of personal superiority, they spoke and acted as if it was a matter of great condescension on their part to address such rustic crowds at all. In all probability neither of them had ever spoken to such crowds in the East when the audience, as a whole, was in any wise superior in intelligence and culture to these Kansas assemblies.

“In striking contrast to the failures of these eminent men we will give the case of the influence of one who seemed to understand the western people, and standing face to face with them, talked as man to man with them. With no semblance of a claim to any special superiority of either personal, intellectual or political knowledge, but putting himself on the level of equality with his hearers, he spoke as friend to friend. It was in the days of the free silver craze, when Bryan was at the zenith of his fame and influence in his persistent advocacy of his celebrated slogan of a ‘sixteen to one’ coinage of silver and gold; it seemed as if it would finally triumph. Times were hard all over the land, the result of various causes. Tariff disputes, as ever, were one of the chief causes of trouble. Drouths were disastrously prevalent. Thousands of men were unemployed. Coxey’s army of men were marching out to Washington to give a practical exhibit of hard times to Congress, and to awaken the gold standard President Cleveland to a sense of his folly in his veto of the bill for the free coinage of fifty millions surplus of silver bullion in the treasury vaults. All these and numerous other schemes of relief were in the thoughts of the people, but everywhere there seemed only disaster as the result. As a cure for all complaints and sure preventive of all coming social, economic or political evils, the coinage of silver at the rate of sixteen to one with gold was advocated by Bryan and his vast multitude of followers. With her usual impulsiveness and hasty adoption of new theories, often the false as well as those that were true, Kansas as a whole was carried off her feet by this persistent outcry for her silver.

“At the height of this widespread excitement when men’s minds were in wild confusion over the issues of the times, Senator Burrows, of Michigan, made a tour of Kansas and it is putting it mildly to say that his speeches simply revolutionized public opinion of the money question and so unified the distracted thought of the people that free silver idea is buried in the almost forgotten memories of the past. In his coming to Wellington he was greeted with a large audience of the most thoughtful and intelligent people of the city and community, all anxious if possible to learn ‘the way out’ of their present very doubtful situation. For two hours they were entranced by the most lucid and convincing argument ever heard by this people. With no airs of superiority, with no efforts at oratorical display, Mr. Burrows just talked to the audience as if he were one of them. His language was so simple and his themes and arguments so clear that the most ordinary mind could grasp them. The questions of the coinage of money, the financial standards of the country, and the true basis of political economy as held by our constitution and government were plainly and most satisfactorily set forth in this masterly talk that impressed the minds of all who heard him with the truth of his position, so much so that from that day to this the free silver coinage had had no hold upon the minds of the people or upon the theme of party politics in Kansas. Aside from the facts of his address, his personal attitude toward his hearers, taking them into his confidence, treating them as friends of equal worth with himself, had very much to do with the success of his speech. While the most recent orators have been forgotten for their failures, the memory of Burrows is still fresh in the minds of those privileged to hear him. From these facts, the East and West may learn that the seeming differences of thought and action that apparently separate them result more from a misunderstanding of motives and conditions rather than from any radical difference of opinion and questions of policy. Out West, perhaps, we are somewhat in advance of the East in progressive ideas and the necessity of civic righteousness in all departments of human active life, but we see the same leaven is actively working in all parts of the country and we only hope for its speed and universal sovereignty.”

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