From the collections at the Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum. Reprinted with permission from The Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum and the Leavenworth Times. Donated by Debra Graden.

Friends establish Quaker church, cemetery in Springdale community

Leavenworth Times, Sunday, Nov. 29, 1987

by L. Candy Ruff, Times Lifestyles Editor


Missionary work among the Shawnee Indians brought Quakers to the Kansas territory in the 1830s. The federal government was relocating the native Americans from Indiana to the unsettled Kansas territory and the Society of Friends chose to follow them.

A mission was established not far from the Westport trading post and within a few years, a school for Indian children was established and cabins were built to house the Quakers and Shawnees.

Once the Kansas-Nebraska Act passed in 1854 land was opened for settlement and the farmland surrounding the first city of Kansas, Leavenworth, looked especially good to the Quakers. Several of their number from the Indiana Yearly Meeting had heard of the Shawnee mission and William H. Coffin, Eli Wilson and Benajah Hiatt took Horace Greely's advice and headed west.

Their journey ended 16 miles west of Leavenworth at what was called the Stranger Creek community, later known as Springdale. Coffin's account is captured in "The Settlement of the Friends in Kansas."

We finally found a section of good, well-watered country, interspersed with groves of timber, and open, unclaimed prairie land sufficient to form a large settlement, just west of Big Stranger creek, and lying between Fall and Walnut creeks, some four miles apart, and from twelve to eighteen miles to the fort or city.

By the summer of 1859, five acres had been purchased for $15 and a church was built and cemetery established. In the Springdale Friends Church's 125th anniversary booklet, LaVell Fitch says the original building was 25 by 40 feet and constructed at a cost of $827. Members chose to build a partition between the men and women and worship was conducted in such a way until the present church was built in 1884.

We think the first building was in the southeast corner of the cemetery as it now stands. It was fenced in 1869 and the first grave diggers were John F. Carey and Nathan Boles.

Longtime Springdale residents, Edna Lawrence and Amy Messinger Coffin, recently visited the cemetery and walked among the headstones of their relatives and friends. Mrs. Lawrence pointed out the headstones of the first ones buried in the cemetery.

"They tell us Anthony Way's wife and daughter were the first ones buried here," Mrs. Lawrence recalled. "He had come to Springdale in 1858, and the two died the next year."

Rhoda Way was 46 years old and Huldah Way was 17 years old when they died in 1860. Their headstones are in the northwest corner of the cemetery, along with other older graves. Mrs. Coffin says not all those buried at the cemetery have headstones, especially the children.

Another early burial was that of Jesse Hiatt, brother of Benajah. Jess had taken ill while visiting in the Salt Creek valley. Coffin's history of the settlement indicated this death came as a shock.

Jesse Hiatt suddenly died at Uncle Joel's in Salt Creek valley, being over there on business. His brother, Benajah, had gone east, and I was notified in the night. It became my most painful duty to go and inform his young and intelligent wife. She was at home and perfectly unconscious of it, as he had left the day before in perfect health. Eli Wilson and I went early next morning after him and brought his corpse home in the evening. The funeral took place the following day. It was a great shock to our community.

Mrs. Lawrence says her first memories of the cemetery are centered on her grandfather, William Spray. He had lived in the Springdale community, but after the deaths in 1900 of his wife, Mary Jennie Courtney Spray, and two children, Mable and Edward, he moved to Lawrence.

Mrs. Lawrence and husband Floyd, moved to Springdale in 1830 and settled on the Wilson homestead.

"My grandfather would bring us up here to see her stone," Mrs. Lawrence remembered. "He was so broken hearted by their deaths. He later died in 1927."

Mrs. Coffin moved to the Springdale community while still a young girl. Her parents had died at an early age and she was raise by her grandmother, Amelia Rose. She says the cemetery was cared for by family members and an annual cleanup was held in the fall.

Jenny Zimmerman was active in the care of the cemetery and collected enough money to begin a maintenance fund that continues today. Mrs. Zimmerman kept the cemetery records and upon here death in 1972, much of the responsibility was transferred to Mrs. Lawrence, who has served for many years as the cemetery association's secretary.

The Springdale Friends Church discontinued organized meetings in 1916 and until the 1940s served as a community church.

Mrs. Fitch says in her church history the group was reorganized June 3, 1948, as an outpost of the Tonganoxie Monthly Meeting. She says interest was generated at Springdale because it was the first place the Friends Society had gathered for meetings in 1856.

The church's centennial was held Sept. 15, 1967, but a tornado tore the roof off in May 19, 1960. Church members worshipped the next Sunday with the sky as their roof, but by the following Sunday, the new roof had been completed. The church's 125th anniversary was observed Sept. 5 and 6, 1982.


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