Organization of Wamego First Presbyterian Church
by B.J. Kerr
What does it mean to organize a church? In the case of the First Presbyterian Church in Wamego, it took seven dedicated people. Those seven dedicated Christians decided on February 7, 1869, that they would have a church.
These seven met in the only schoolhouse in town. School was held there on weekdays and church was held on Sundays. This was a common practice in many communities. The schoolhouse was on the site of the current Central Elementary School playground. Thus, it began!
Wamego was not yet a “town.” The area was a hub for the Union Pacific Railroad. The company requested a settlement where its workers could have homes. In 1866, the Wamego Townsite Company plotted some land here in Pottawatomie County and names the area for an American Pottawatomie Indian Chief: Wamego.
For this area to become a town, surveyors were required to set the parameters. After being declared a town, businesses and other organizations could develop and build. Plots were donated by the company to honorable sources.
Ours as not the first church group to organize here, but we were the first to have an actual building in which to worship. The location of our first building was 711 Lincoln Ave., and it cost $3,500 to build. The dedicated families were Thayer, St. John, Gardiner, and Challis. Shortly thereafter, Talbott, Hicks, and Barrett families joined. When the building was completed, 25 persons became members. By 1878, membership had grown to 40.
Thus, the church was well begun — but oh, the difficulty to get up all those wooden steps from the horse-drawn “vehicles,” especially in bad weather! Going to church required dedication. Imagine the clothing worn in the mid to late 1800s, and those icy wooden steps in winter and poor heating system inside!
People moved west in the 1800s for two primary reasons: education and religion. Even today, we remain faithful to these two causes and can be pleased that we have survived 150 years looking to the future and all it will hold for us.