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Third Presbyterian Church (Topeka, Kansas)

Ms. Collection No. 129

 

Administrative History

The sessional records were microfilmed (roll MS 1064) and the originals deposited at the Presbytery Headquarters in Kansas City, Missouri. There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.

The Third Presbyterian Church, with fifteen members led by the Reverend J. W. Crawford, was organized on December 12, 1881. Chartered on January 13, 1881, to be a “railroad man’s” church in East Topeka, Third Presbyterian constructed its first building in 1882 at Third and Hancock, “where these men could see it as they went in and out on their runs.”

The church struggled until the turn of the century, having built a larger building at Fourth and Branner at the time of the “Panic of ‘93” and lost members to a newly organized Third Christian Church. But during the pastorate of Mr. Cleveland, 1904-1908, Third Presbyterian was its most active and secure with its largest membership apparently reaching 349 in 1908. In 1930, the membership totaled 150.

As in most churches, organizations sponsored by Third Presbyterian were created, changed names, lost records, preserved records, grew and disbanded. The collection contains material from several of these groups during their active periods: Ladies Missionary Society, 1886-1952; Westminster Fellowship, 1908-1928; Philoi Class, 1934-1952; Mizpah Society, 1905-1956; Brotherhood Bible Class, 1912-1942; and the Sunday School intermittently through 1960.

In the twenties, the “Santa Fe Men” moved further away from the Shops, and minority people moved in. In spite of repeated attempts at revival and intermittent missionary zeal, the Church was unable to adapt to the needs of its changed community. Urban Renewal and flood control projects destroyed the residential area, and industrial usages filled in the land around the church.

In the 1950’s the church began doing self-studies and neighborhood surveys, discussing future alternatives which included dissolving; relocating; staying, rebuilding, and changing the nature of its mission; or consolidating with East Topeka Methodist Church.

In 1959, Third Presbyterian under the leadership of the Reverend Richard H. Athey and East Topeka Methodist lead by the Reverend Robert Harder cooperated in community service projects. The two congregations held several meetings to explore the ideas of merging, but the Methodist congregation voted to suspend the discussions and concentrate on its ongoing programs in November of 1959.

Meanwhile, engineering firms looked over the Church’s building at Fourth and Branner and declared renovation unfeasible. In 1957, the Presbyterian Alliance had already recommended relocation for Third Presbyterian, and, as a result, the Building Fellowship of the Synod had purchased six lots at Fourth and Swygart.

From at least the mid-fifties, Third Presbyterian received aid from the Board of National Missions averaging about $3,000 a year, or one-third to one-half its modest annual budget. In 1963, the Presbytry also began aiding this congregation, combining with the National Board to support the pastor. The aid level increased to over $18,000 in 1965.

Still, membership dwindled steadily and grew older: 1941 membership, 161; 1945, 137; 1955, 88; 1961, 73. The congregation suffered a dearth of leadership.

In 1963, under the leadership of the Reverend Donald E. Brown, the congregation accepted the final recommendation of the Presbyterian Alliance for relocation to the Eastboro Shopping Center. On December 20, the church members voted to request that the Presbytery dissolve the Third Presbyterian Church and designate East Topeka a “New Church Development Field.”

In 1964, land east of the shopping center was purchased by the Topeka-Highland Presbytery. First Presbyterian Church bought the manse at 409 Chandler and subsequently donated it to the Topeka Day Care Association. The church building was sold to the Ebenezer Baptist Church, and the land at Fourth and Swygart was sold. Third Presbyterian began holding services at the Eastboro Arcade in September 1964 until its new building was completed.

Third Presbyterian dissolved on January 17, 1965, with fifty-six members. Twenty-two of these signed the charter to organize the new Eastminster Presbyterian Church.

Jere Turner
May, 1980

Contents List

Box 1 Ladies’ Missionary Society 1886-1954.
  Ten volumes of minutes and financial records.
Box 2 Missionary Society and some other women’s organizations –
  Two envelopes miscellany.
  Deacons’ reports, one volume & one envelope covering periods
  1955-1958 and 1962-1964.
  Philoi Class, two volumes & one envelope covering 1934-1952.
  Westminster Fellowship – one envelope.
  Westminster Guild, one volume covering 1908-1928.
Box 3 Builders’ Society, material from 1901 and maybe 1905-6 is found
  on first few pages of Mizpah records.
  Mizpah Society, eight volumes & one envelope of records
  and financial reports for Feb. 1, 1905-May 24, 1956.
  Presbyterian Union, “4th book” of records for 1917-1935.
Box 4 Brotherhood Bible Class, three volumes & two spiral notebooks
  of records & financial reports from Oct. 16, 1912-Oct. 13, 1942.
  Third Presbyterian Men, one envelope of material from 1909
  and 1959-1960.
  Laymen’s Missionary Committee, one volume covering April 1910-
  Feb. 1912.
  Sunday School Records, one volume from 1899-1908.
  Sunday School Attendance records, one volume from 1957-1959.
  Sunday School finance, one volume from 1949-1959.
  King’s Daughters, one volume of reports from 1907-1911 and
  one envelope from 1951-1960.
Box 5 Financial Board.
  one envelope records 1900-1913.
  one envelope minutes 1925-1935.
  one envelope correspondence 1934-1939.
  one volume records 1935-1937.
  one volume records 1937-1943.
  one envelope correspondence 1940-1948.
  one envelope reports 1943-1950.
  one envelope correspondence and records 1949-1952.
  one envelope correspondence 1953-1957.
Box 6 Board of Trustees records in one volume 1955-1959.
  Budget materials & Treasurers’ reports 1955-1965.
  Financial Board miscellany, 1 folder 1955-1965.
  One folder loose financial reports – 1882, 1911, 1940, 1954, 1955,
  Financial Secretarys’ reports in four volumes – 1906-1909,
  1926-1944, 1945-1954, 1951-1956, 1956-1957.
  Pledges for church repairs, 1950-1953, one volume.
Box 7 Certificates of dismission and reception 1910-1949, one volume.
  Baptismal stubs, one volume.
  Records of receiving, transferring, dismissing – one folder.
  Church registration through about 1918 – one folder & one volume.
  Membership roll 1891-1896, one envelope, contains some
  congregational and financial board reports.
  “New” Church register, 1924 on, one volume.
  Guest register, 1955-1965, one volume.
Box 8 Session Records, three volumes covering 1880-1893, 1897-1940.
  Congregational Meetings, one envelope 1954-1965.
  Pastoral reports in one envelope 1963-1964.
  Membership Directories in one envelope 1961, 1963-1965.
  Miscellaneous historical material, one envelope.
  Church bulletins in one envelope, 1963-1964.
  Church programs for period that congregation met at Pine Ridge,
  one envelope, Dec. – Feb. 1964.
Box 9 Material concerned with proposed relocation, one folder, 1956-1963.
  Surveys of the neighborhood taken in 1950’s prior to
  relocation, one folder.
  Self-studies, 1956-1961, one folder.
  Redden Chapel & Presbyterian Alliance, financial material,
  1957-1961, one folder.
  Redden Chapel, 1957-1962, one folder.
  Highland Park Presbyterian Church, dissolved in1969, one folder.

Additional Information for Researchers

Acquisition

The records of the Third Presbyterian Church of Topeka were donated to the Kansas State Historical Society by the Eastminster Presbyterian Church through its pastor Alfred Gerdel in 1979.