Little Stranger Church has served the community since 1868.
The first congregation
The roots of Little Stranger Church's first congregation can be traced back to a group of settlers who migrated to Leavenworth County from Farley, Missouri in 1858, during a period of rapid settlement in the area. They were members of a Christian church in Farley that had been established in 1832.
The group’s first religious meeting was held in a log schoolhouse located on Little Stranger Creek in Leavenworth County on February 7, 1858. The group continued to hold meetings there for almost ten years. It wasn't uncommon for religious services to be held in any convenient shelter including schools, houses, and stores, during this period in Kansas.
The construction of the church
On December 3, 1867, Little Stranger Christian Church purchased the two acres of land on which the building currently stands, for thirty dollars. The congregation constructed its the church in early 1868. According to handwritten accounts, the cottonwood lumber used for the construction of the church was cut from neighboring farms and prepared in a local sawmill; no professional carpenters were hired. Church members donated money for furniture and finishing lumber and came together to construct the building using their own tools.
The first service was held on May 12, 1868 with 85 people in attendance.
Early Success and an Abrupt Closing
Newspapers from the late 19th century document some of the activities at the Little Stranger Church, and frequent announcements in the newspapers regarding various guest preachers suggest the church may have relied on the assistance of area churches for Sunday sermons. Other newspaper announcements suggest there was an active Ladies’ Aid Society within the church in the 1910s, a period during which there was an especially active congregation with Sunday morning Bible school, Sunday morning and evening church services, and men’s and women’s classes on some Sunday evenings. A letter from J. F. Powers published in the Saint Louis Christian Evangelist on November 11, 1909 shows that the church was quite active during this same period. He wrote: “I closed a meeting at Little Stranger Church yesterday. Thirty-two were added—30 by confession and baptism. Some of them were more than fifty years of age."
According to written accounts, there was a big celebration in 1908 in honor of the fiftieth year of the establishment of the church.
Newspaper announcements suggest there was an active Ladies’ Aid Society within the church in the 1910s, a period during which there was an especially active congregation with Sunday morning Bible school, Sunday morning and evening church services, and men’s and women’s classes on some Sunday evenings. A letter from J. F. Powers published in the Saint Louis Christian Evangelist on November 11, 1909 shows that the church was quite active during this same period. He wrote: “I closed a meeting at Little Stranger Church yesterday. Thirty-two were added—30 by confession and baptism. Some of them were more than fifty years of age."
In 1919, the State Board of Health ordered all public meeting places to close due to the flu epidemic. Little Stranger Church was closed and the congregation never reconvened.
The beginnings of a secular community space
In the summer of 1929, the a local 4-H Club was looking for a place to hold a play. After deciding that Little Stranger Church would be the perfect place, the community came together to renovate and reopen it. Debris was cleared, windows were replaced, and steps were rebuilt. Local families donated money, furniture, and the stove that still exists inside the church today.
In 1931, a Sunday School resumed classes in the building, averaging 25 attendants. Their regular use of the space helped with upkeep and further improvement of the building.
Reverend William Hart, the pastor at the Leavenworth Christian Church, held a series of meetings at the Little Stranger Church from 1938 to 1940.
1940s and onward
A thriving meeting place
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. Bridal showers, baby showers, and other intimate events were held at the church. For many residents in the area, it was where their social lives were centered.
By the 1980s, meetings had mostly dwindled, but the church was still a source of pride for the community.
For the past several years, the church has stood vacant and deteriorating. However, historic records remain intact and memories of the church as a community center remain alive to many. There has been a community effort to come together and bring the church back to its original condition and serve as a community center once again. In 2015, the church was added to the National Register of Historic Places, paving the way forward for grant applications and further excitement around restoring the church. Several successful fundraisers have been held, two majors restoration projects have been completed, and many fallen headstones have been repaired in recent years.