Lincoln Republican, 2 February 1922
The Best Loved Man in Kansas
By Harry Stover
Bradbury Day has always been held in August of each year in the little town of Lincoln, Kan. It is a day set aside for a holiday and basket dinner in order to celebrate the birthday of Henry Bradbury, the oldest missionary in Kansas. Hundreds of people come from the surrounding country for the dinner, bringing food and gifts. All morning the cars swarm toward the town until one would think it was the day for the races at the county fair. On this day Rev. Bradbury receives letters of esteem and friendship from all portions of the United States.
He came to Kansa in 1872 as a missionary and circuit rider and is still active in the ministry although he is now 78 years of age. He now has but a few small churches where he preaches regularly, while in the early days every home was a chapel. During harvest time and other busy seasons of the year, he would print his sermons and then hitch his two ponies to the buckboard and deliver them to everyone he could reach, often traversing two or more counties.
No one ever heard him complain. The personification of penitence, he would daily spread his message through a country of droughts and grasshoppers. The following quotation taken from a newspaper in the central part of Kansas, dated Dec. 16, 1878, is an example of his tirelessness. “The irrepressible, indefatigable Bradbury is getting up a Christmas tree for the little folks.”
The Bradbury ancestors came from England to America at an early date, one of them having acted as an agent for Ferdinand Gorges, 1620, who had extensive colonization rights from the Crown and made the first settlement along the coast of Maine. Henry Bradbury attended the Classics Institute at Hudson, N.Y., of which townsite his great-grandfather was the original owner. He was one of the founders of the Amherst chapter of the Chi Psi fraternity and while at Amherst, his father’s alma mater, he decided to enter the ministry.
While at school he had won considerable local fame as a boxer and intended to go into the ring, but decided in favor of missionary work.
During the early years of his ministry he was forced to get his audience together as well as preach. One Sunday morning he entered a saloon and gave all the hangers-on a cordial invitation to come to meeting. A boxing match was in progress and some facetious bystander made the remark that if he would put on the gloves and win a four-round bout, they would go to church. He demurred, but finally said that he would try it if they would stand by their proposition.
The bout began. After sparring gently for a few seconds, the Rev. Mr. Bradbury started such a whirlwind offensive that the remainder of the fight resembled the Dempsey-Willlard struggle. His opponent was crowded in to a corner and immediately yelled “Enough.” Needless to say, every man went to church that morning filled with a new respect for the gentle missionary who had proved to be a genuine man according to their standards.
Perhaps his only fault is his generosity. The story is told by Lincoln residents that at one time he bought a pair of shoes for one of his children but gave them away to some child in need before he reached home. Certain it is that he gave away two legacies which he inherited through the death of wealthy relatives in New York and Massachusetts.
Like the proverbial Rip Van Winkle as the way in which children love him, is Henry Bradbury, and usually one will find him with his pockets full of candy for the little ones. Fifty years of work and kindness have earned for him the title of “The best loved man in Kansas.”
Lincoln Republican, 9 February 1922My Dear Friends:
Many thanks to you for publishing such a lively account, calling me “The Best Loved Man in Kansas.”
But your biography made one mistake, it magnified my virtues and achievements, but gave none of my faults and failures and shortcomings and sins. The heroes of our Bible had sins, Christ only was perfect, Moses could not enter the Promised Land on account of sin. David that valiant youth who trusted in the living God and slew the great giant Goliath, the bragging champion of the Phillistines. Even David in his prosperity and old age could not conquer himself and committed the vilest of sins, which he asked God to forgive. (See 51st Psalm.) Saint Paul in his humility says, this is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptations that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief. The Publican’s prayer suits up all. “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Goldsmith writes of his village preacher: “And even his failings, learned on virtue’s side.” So we may say love is blind, so Harry only mentioned my virtues.
Let us all rejoice and be glad that God so loves us all that He sent His So to die for our sins on the cross (John 3:16) and that the fruit of the spirit is love, joy and peace.
“Wonderful things in the Bible I see, This is the dearest, that Jesus loves me.”
Oh, thank God for my dear loving friends – This last year they have made the best year of my life. Not only in Kansas I have so very many of them, who are always every day brightening my pathway and by kind words, loving deeds, and gifts making my cup run over. But from the Atlantic to the Pacific I have so many true, always helping friends. I cannot count my blessings. Now Bradbury Day lasts all year from the first of January to the last of December. Love covereth a multitude of sins.
Harry, I can never forget that every week while your parents lived in Lincoln they prepared such a loving dinner for me. Yes, every week to cheer my soul. Harry, you are a fine good, brilliant writer. I predict you great success in life. But the next time you and Bro. Carter tell of a man’s life choose a better character than mine, and after consulting his wife and neighbors give us a few of his failures as well as his victories. Again I thank you. Love to all,
Bill and Diana Sowers, Lincoln County Coordinators
Tracee Hamilton, Lincoln County Coordinator
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