For 147 years, Little Stranger Church has served as a place of worship, a meeting place, a community center, and a cultural landmark. For those with ties to the surrounding area, it is a physical manifestation of their heritage. The church is currently closed and in need of repair, but community members are making improvements and raising money for restoration. The goal is to have the church reopened for its 150th birthday in 2017 so that it can continue to serve future generations as it has in the past.
Little Stranger Church was built in 1867 by a Christian congregation that had moved from Farley, Missouri when Kansas was opened for settlement. The first worship service was held May 12, 1868. That fall, the first two graves were made in the cemetery.
In 1908, there was a big celebration in honor of the fiftieth year of the establishment of the church. In 1919, the State Board of Health ordered all public meeting places to close due to the flu epidemic. After WWI ended, interest in the church had apparently dwindled, perhaps because some of it’s core members had joined the army, and it was not re-opened.
A decade passed. The building stood deserted and was considered a blemish in the community. In the summer of 1929, the 4-H Club was looking for a place to hold a play. The community came together to renovate and reopen Little Stranger Church. Debris was cleared, windows were replaced, and steps were rebuilt. Families donated money, furniture, a stove, and other items. In 1931, a Sunday School was organized which helped in the upkeep and further improvement of the building.
From the 1940s - 70s, Little Stranger Church served the community as a meeting place for various groups including 4-H, the Canning Club, and the Home Demonstration Club. For many residents in the area, it was where their social lives were centered.
For the past several years, the building has stood vacant and deteriorating. However, many historic records remain intact and memories of the church as a community center remain alive to many. Recently the process to have the church listed in the National Register of Historic Places began. This will increase the opportunity to obtain grants for restoration. Hopefully the community can come together just as it did in 1929 to bring the church back to its original condition and serve as a community center once again.
If the church is accepted to the National Register of Historic Places, there’s a better chance of getting grants to aid with major restoration needs such as repairs to the building foundation. In the meantime, individual donations will help prevent further deterioration of the building.
Funds lightbulbs to keep the property lit at night and discourage vandalism
Puts 30 new shingles on the roof and prevents further damage
Pays the filing fee for the Kansas Not-for-Profit Corporation Annual Report
Provides protection from the elements with 20 sq. ft. of new siding
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