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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

1904 Was a Great Year in the History of Epiphany Church

In 1903, after 23 years of being dark and deserted -- mostly, except for occasional 'church days' when the Bishops would come around, or itinerant missioners would pass through town,-- the Reverend A.S. Freese, a supply minister in southeast Kansas decided to add Independence and Epiphany Church to his otherwise busy schedule serving Cherryvale, Neodesha, and Coffeyville. And so, once or twice per month, we would celebrate Eucharist, although sometimes no one would show up, so unaccustomed to having services at Epiphany everyone was. After almost a quarter century, that's how things had gotten. The original building, at 8th and Laurel Streets had gotten pretty dilapidated, and as often as not, the itinerant missioners and such would begin by repairing the roof or windows prior to conducting Morning Prayer services. When Freese came around on a sort of regular schedule, the vestry decided to make a whole-hearted effort to try and repair things and make it a church once again. The Seventh Day Adventist people had last used the building more than a decade before, on a rental basis, and we could not really expect _them_ to do any repairs.

Good things happened in 1904.

A group of English people arrived in Independence to open and operate the Midland Glass Plant, and beginning about the same time, executives from Sinclair Pipe Line Company moved into town. For Midland at least, true Anglicans everyone of them, they were very interested in an active church life, and it did not take them long to resurrect Epiphany and start an active church. Ditto the 'oil people' from Sinclair.

During vacation, while in Seminary, the Reverend George Davidson had been in Independendence. He liked being here, the vestry and parishioners at Epiphany all liked him, and they asked him to become the new rector here, for a salary of $700 per year. He arrived in 1904, and immediatly set about rebuilding and resurrecting the parish. Fr. Freese was only intended to be temporary at best, because his hectic schedule put him more often in Neodesha and Cherryvale than here in Independence anyway. And recall, in these days when automobiles were still new, many people still traveled by horse and carriage, the same as Fr. Beatty and Bishop Vail a quarter century before. So Fr. Freese was perfectly happy when he was able to turn things at Epiphany over to Fr. Davidson in 1904.Now he was able to give those other churches more of his time.

Some folks have contended that we should really say Epiphany Church was a 1904 creation by the Midland Glass Plant and the Sinclair Pipe Line Company and that would be a very interesting theory, except that our charter -- our official status as a corporate entity from the State of Kansas dates to April, 1873 and Fr. Archibald Beatty. (Although our first meeting was April 22, 1872, our charter of incorporation was a year later, in April, 1873. April, 2007 marks the 135th anniversary of our Sunday meetings, and the 134th anniversary of our charter.)

Our vestry which dates to 1872, technically held the church and charter in trust for the 24 years of 'darkness'; the vestry was re-organized in 1904 with C.L. Hanson and C.H.H. Patison as the wardens under the re-organized vestry. Two thousand dollars was raised in 1904, and our church was taken out of the Mission class. There were 65 active communicants that year.

The first choir at Epiphany was a Boy's Choir, founded by Fr. Davidson. The Boys Choir becane quite well known throughout Kansas and Missouri. Founded in 1904, they were soon invited to sing in various churches around the state,including a camping out trip to Kansas City where they sang at a very large church. Some of the first members of the Boys Choir were Nolan Ottman, Fred Truby, Frank Stanford, Paul Surber and William Wallace. All the little guys went to school here in Independence and gave considerably of their free time to 'choir practice' at the church.

The Epiphany Sunday School was also quite active. Founded in 1904, the Sunday School superintendent was Mrs. Catherine Huston, and her assistant was Mrs. Deal. The regular Sunday school teachers were Miss Sophie Bates, Mrs. Carl Gansel, Mrs. John Fertig, and Mrs. John Holdren. Mrs. Holdren was involved with the Sunday School through the end of the Second World War, and she became the superintendent when Mrs. Huston resigned the position. The first Sunday school lesson materials came from Coffeyville.



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