by Sherry Stocking Kline
January 12, 2010
Burchfiel Church & Cemetery – Harper County, Kansas
In the early 1960’s, my brother pastored at the Burchfiel Church…
Once again, I’m posting information about a cemetery in which I have no family members, although there are family ties to this cemetery and the church near it.
In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, my brother Harold F. “Fred” Stocking Jr. and his wife Nancy served the Burchfiel Methodist Church as pastor and family. The Burchfiel church is located just a little over six miles south of Anthony, Kansas in Harper County on Highway 179.
They lived in the same parsonage on the church grounds that you will see here in the photograph. My brother was a student minister at the time, and attended Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas.
My brother and his wife had three boys and a baby daughter then, and I was just a couple of years older than their oldest boy. Though they had a large yard, we were used to having a quarter section of ground (160 acres) to play on, so it was fairly common for us older children to run up the road that ran on the south side of the church to the old cemetery and play hide and seek among the stones. (would children be safe doing such a thing today?)
While playing among the stones, I noticed many baby and child burials…
Life on the prairie for the early settlers was certainly hard, and from other research and reading that I’ve done since I would guess very few families escaped losing a child to diseases we now cure so easily, so the one thing I noticed while hiding among the tombstones was how many babies and children were buried there in the early days of the cemetery.
This past year, the Burchfiel Church celebrated its 125th anniversary and my brother enjoyed going back for the celebration, and according to information from the article “Rural Churches Provided a Cornerstone for this Area,” by Ruth Jean Anderson, Conway Springs Star, Thurs, Sept 10, 2009 their minister last year and for the previous nine years was Rev. Laurence Hastings and his wife Aletha.
The facts and information following about the early days of the Burchfiel church were excerpted from “Rural Churches Provided a Cornerstone for this Area,” by Ruth Jean Anderson, Conway Springs Star, Thurs, Sept 10, 2009.
William H. and Sarah Denton Burchfiel traveled from Tennessee…
According to Anderson’s article, in 1878 William H. and Sarah Denton Burchfiel traveled from Dandridge, TN to their new home in Harper County, Kansas in a covered wagon and lived in a dugout home, located 9 and one half miles southeast of Anthony, and it was in their dugout home that the Burchfiel church had its beginning.
The Early Church Family met in a dugout…
According to Anderson’s article, Sarah Burchfiel swept out one of the rooms in their dugout home and invited the few neighbors to Sunday School. Later, in 1882, the Burchfield School was organized and Rev Wood, Anthony Methodist Church, held meetings in the school house.
Anderson’s article states that Bill Burchfiel wrote about his new home to his brother, the Rev. Joseph R. “Parson” Burchfiel who was a circuit-riding Methodist preacher in Tennessee, invited him to come to Kansas, and so in January of 1884 Parson Burchfield and forty members of his congregation came to Kansas, first on a flat boat up the French Broad River, then by railroad coach.
Parson Burchfield preached at the church until 1888, stated Anderson’s article, and several other Tennessee families joined them: Sharp, Croft, Frazier, Henderson, Moore, Bettis, Reneau, Willson, Walker, Denton.
“Only two families in the early days did not come from Tennessee. Both the William Geitgey family and the Fred and Steve Rife families came from Ohio. Sometimes the community was known as “Little Tennessee”.
On August 29, 1892 a charter for the Burchfiel Methodist Episcopal Church was obtained for the land and its present location six and one-half miles south of Anthony, and the first Burchfield church was in 1902 “after one of the best wheat crops ever.”
On the 10th day of April 1936 a heater at the church caught fire and the church burned to the ground. The next week a meeting of the official board was held to decide what was to be done. William Geitgey said that he would give $500 right then and more later to rebuild the church.
All during the record hot summer the men gave their time and labor to help on the new brick building. And so it was on the sixth day of September 1936, without one penny of debt, Bishop Charles Meade dedicated the new church.
Today, the tiny church supports its young people with college scholarships, and also supports mission work here in the United States and in Africa. The photographs are ones that I took while taking my mom for a ride in the country, and doing some reminiscing.