Carlyle church reaches milestone

By BOB JOHNSON
Register City Editor

Register/Bob Johnson
Gary Hawk created these and other historical sketches to help celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Carlyle Presbyterian Church.

Carlyle Presbyterian Church will recognize a milestone in its history a little early Sunday. When the recognition is 150 years, what does four days matter?
The church was organized by the Highland Presbytery on June 25, 1859.
Sunday morning services will feature a concert by 3 Rusty Nails and Pastor David Moore’s sermon. Following the service will be a covered dish meal. The 3 Rusty Nails — Rick Yeager and Lloyd Houk — will perform again and members and friends, including former minister Susan Rosenbaum, will spend time visiting and recalling stories about earlier years of the church.
Nationally known artist Gary Hawk, who attended the church with his parents as a child and returned in recent years because “it just feels like home,” has done a series of sketches that focus on historical events from the time the church began. They will be on display Sunday.
Hawk also is doing an elaborate painting of the church, “complete with horses and buggies tied out front, but I don’t think I’m going to have time to finish it by Sunday,” he said.

CARLYLE Presbyterian Church is thought by members to be the oldest Presbyterian church west of the Mississippi River. Having started soon after settlers began to populate the Great Plains, that supposition could be accurate.
Carlyle was founded when a party from Indiana came to eastern Kansas and found “a suitable site for a settlement between Martin’s Creek and Deer Creek.”
Religion was a prominent part of everyday life and within two years the church had 27 members in a stone building.
The early years had their reverses. The church building was toppled by a wind storm soon after it was erected. The year after the church was established significant drought beset the settlement and the year after that the Civil War interrupted life throughout the nation. Able-bodied men of the church, 15 in total, went to fight, leaving “old men and women and little children to look after their own affairs as well as those of the church,” an early history, “Carlyle and its Church,” recounts.
In September 1867 the church roster again showed 27 members after “dismissals” of those who decided that churches in Iola, Neosho Falls and Geneva were more to their liking.
Church members built frame structures after their original stone attempt, including one on the Mealy farm, north of town. In 1925 a new church was built on the edge of Carlyle, with an opening planned for Jan. 17, 1926. The church mysteriously burned on Jan. 7. The current church, in the south part of the hamlet, was built in 1926. Iola banker Tom Bowlus contributed $5,000 to help construct it.

TODAY’S membership is similar in size to the church’s start 150 years ago.
“We don’t have a lot of young people in Carlyle and mainly it’s an older crowd,” Hawk said. “But, we have a good time every Sunday and have an upbeat congregation. I’m eager to go to church every Sunday.”