Excerpts from chapter: "Faith Among The People" from "Honoring Our Heritage" by Marge Lawson, pg. 17.
Used with permission of the author.
The early church records give the history of the three religions in Sylvan Grove. Part 1 deals with the Presbyterian church.
The Rev. H.C. Bradbury was known as the "old circuit rider". He was one of the most famous men from Lincoln County during the early pioneer days.
Those who knew him considered him the most loved of all Lincoln County leaders.
He was born in New York State on August 15, 1844. Following his graduation from a Presbyterian Board of Home Missions to take charge of missionary work in Ottawa, Mitchell and Lincoln Counties, and in addition, Wilson and Elkhorn in Ellsworth County. He located to Minneapolis (KS) in 1872 where he organized the Minneapolis Presbyterian Church. A little later he was instrumental in the organization of the Beloit Church. Later he moved to Lincoln and organized the church there. Others he organized were Delphos, Bennington, Barnard, Wilson, Sylvan Grove, Vesper, Elkhorn, Harmony, Pinon, Pleasant Valley, Pleasant Dale, Shiloh and Westfall. Rev. Bradbury had 2,500 square miles of territory to preach in. Sometimes he had to walk forty miles for a service. He preached the gospel any place where people would gather to listen to him - in log cabins, school houses or public places.
Rev. Bradbury passed away in 1923. He is buried in Lincoln, where a monument among the evergreens marks his grave.
On November 8, 1892, the corner stone was placed on the foundation for the Sylvan Grove Presbyterian Church. H.C. Bradbury attended and gave the following historical talk. It was printed in the 1924 "Yearbook of Lincoln County Churches.":
"About sixteen and a half years ago a Presbyterian missionary hunting around for neglected fields came where we now stand. There were no houses near on this side of the Saline river except Bob Dinwiddie's, Jim Scrivens', H. Bodka's and Herman Witte's. But the country was just grand to behold and well fitted for growing good Christians, if rich soil and fine scenery have anything to do with it. But so few lived on this side that I crossed over
to the south side of the river. They told me that there had been no preaching there for two years; the field was vacant, and they were hungry for the gospel.. Rev. O. Maxon, a Methodist preacher, had preached there for a year and a half, commencing somewhere in 1872. So I gave out an appointment to preach in the log house of Charles Heaton. This was well attended by the natives. Among those families that came out to the meeting on that side of the river were the following: The Coles, Biggses, Smales, Buzicks, Peases, Prescotts, Myers, Oswalds, Pughs, Rackerbys, Frans, Kisers, Gabels, Frank Johnson, Putnams, Hurlbuts and others."
"Germans were few, but they all attended English meeting in those days. New settlers kept coming in. Things went so well that it was decided to organize a Presbyterian church. The day came and the folks gathered at Wm. Hillmer's deserted log cabin, one mile southwest of Sylvan Grove. My father, Elbridge Bradbury, who was here on a visit, preaching the sermon on that occasion, but only five organized into a church: Elisha Nash, Susannah Nash, Martha T. Farnsworth, Sallie Rackerby, and Frank Johnson. Two of these came from the Episcopal and one from the Baptists. The Methodists, so me of whom first were going into the organization, decided to send for a preacher of their own and organize. The Presbyterians withdrew their preaching, and which was commencing to bet settled. We first preached at T.L. Webster's house, above the gorge. I will say of Father Nash that he is the only man I ever met in my life who was a real good dancer, and still a very spiritual Christian man. He was a man who loved to study his Bible and talk about it, and I often found him reading it. Susannah Nash was a near relative of the great evangelist, Moody. The Naylors and Cowans attended preaching at Webster's and a very few others."
"A Sabbath school was first established in Sylvan in 1878. The Luffs, Benhams, and Creightons came afterwards and took part in the school. New people kept coming in - the Benders, Blythes, Browns, Newcomers and others. The Germans then commenced to have regular preaching. In 1880, my father moved to Kansas, and for five years he helped me in the work at Sylvan Grove and other places. Oh, how he loved the people here, and loved to preach to them about the Savior."
"Mrs. Agnes Blythe and Mrs. Magdelena Dick were the first on this side of the river to join our church. At this time the Blue Stem church and ours were all one and numbered over 30 members. In 1885, Father Bradbury, aged 80 years was unable to help longer in the severe work, so Rev. B.F. McMillan of Allentown, N.J. came to the rescue. He had lived in Kansas before. He at first built his house in Lincoln, but in the summer of 1887, when the railroad was coming and all was excitement, he joined the procession and came to Sylvan Grove. He lived half a year near Father Sassaman's. In September 1877 he commenced building here, and in May, 1888, his happy friends gathered to welcome him and family as the first resident minister in Sylvan Grove. In July 1887, A.R. Buzick, W.A. Sassaman, A.B. Cross, J.P. Harmon and A. Masterson were elected trustees. Stone for a foundation was hauled to the lots presented to us by the town company. A ladies aid society started, which earned $80 towards furnishing the church. The Sylvan Grove Presbyterian organization was now perfected; W.A. Sassaman and Levi Kistler were elected elders. The members were Matilda Blair, J.P. Grim, Mary P. Grim, Ellen Kistler, Milton Kistler, Mary Kistler, Samuel Kistler, Samuel Peters, Caroline Peters, Mary Powers, Mary Ann Richardson, Sarah E. Sassaman, John B. Spencer, Mary Spencer, John F. Seirer, Agnes Seirer, Agnes Blythe-Whiteman, William Yenser and Lizzie Yenser."
"Other good members have entered our fold, and the church has gathered strength. Among them are the following: Mr. & Mrs. Charles Brunson, Martha and Sarah Mae Berkley, George and Aurilla Ide, Sarah G. Masterson, Emma Morgan, Eula Morgan, Sherman and Laura Moore, Sallie Rice, John Richardson, Will Lyon, Amanda McAdams, Irvin and Ella Yenser."
Rev. Bradbury terminated his long years of service with his church in 1910.
The following is a list of Presbyterian pastors and their years of service:
Rev. Keeler, 1910-1912
Rev. Stinson, 1912-1913 (passed away in 1913)
Rev. Clark, 1913-1920
Rev. Henry McMican 1920-1923
Rev. Bradner E. Wells, 1924-1926
Rev. C. Humphrey, 1926-1930
Rev. Gerald Fitzgerald, 1930-1939
Rev. Clyde Wolfe, 1939-1946
Rev. John Thorns, 1946-1957 (passed away in 1957)
Rev. Wm. Staub, 1957-1963
Rev. Vinaroff (from Russell, served five months in 1963)
Rev. Jennings, 1963-64
Rev. Harry Hirsch, 1964-66
Rev. David Irwin, 1966-67
Rev. Ernest Largent, 1967-86
Rev. Martin Klingberg, 1970-