The first First Presbyterian Church in Girard did not last long — just 16 years. It lasted from 1870 to 1886 and was “built like a barn”.

The first First Presbyterian Church in Girard did not last long — just 16 years. It lasted from 1870 to 1886 and was “built like a barn”.
But on Nov. 27, 1886, that first church became no more.
“Students were walking home from school on the north side of town and they ran back to the square and said ‘The Presbyterian Church is gone!’ A tornado had come through and sure enough, the church had caved in,” said one church member, who wished not to be identified because “we are so few at the church that we are just one family.”
However, by 1888, the church had been rebuilt in a Romanesque Revival architecture style. Now, more than 120 years later, the church still stands, strong as ever.
Not only that, it has been nominated by the Kansas Historic Sites Board of Review for evaluation on the National Register of Historic Places. Church members hope to know whether the church has made the register by late June.
Working in their favor is the history found in the church.
For one, famed philanthropist Jane Adams, known for her work in creating Hull House in Chicago, spoke at the church at one point because of family who attended the church.
Through Adams, the church was able to get in touch with steel magnate Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie got in touch with the church and offered to pay half of the cost of an organ if the church could get together the other half. The church was able to pay their portion, $750, by 1917.
“We beat out the Episcopalians,” the church member said.
Beyond that, there are other parts of the church with history.
There’s the bell that was made in Baltimore.
“One of our former members said she can see the factory from her home,” the church member said.
The stained glass windows are not quite the same. A plastic film on the top of them has aged. The church would have to pay $40,000 these days to take that off and put on a new, non-yellowed plastic covering.
That’s a little hard for a church that only boasts six to seven members. In fact, Sunday mornings the church is used by the Girard United Methodist Church until that church builds a new building.
However, the church does have one significant change: They’ve built a bathroom, which was not originally part of the building.
Beyond the architecture, the church also hosts a lot of local history. The upstairs hasn’t changed since it was built.
“Aunt Nell Raymond had a class of high school students up there,” the church member said. “They all came every week. Then again, word got out that she gave them each a quarter if they came.”
The church member also noted Jane Townsend, who was principal of Girard High School from 1916 to 1959.
“We never had any discipline problems when she sat in the pews. She was wonderful to us.”
The church also had a darker moment. That moment happened at the funeral of W.B. Connor on Nov. 23, 1923. Connor had died in a car accident.
“At the close of the service, members of the Ku Klux Klan held a brief ceremony, left a flag on the casket and a beautiful large cross beside it. They then had a moment of silent prayer. They left as silently as they came while the audience remained quietness itself,” the church member said.
But now, in 2009, the church is vying to be included on the National Register of Historic places. The goal is to protect the church from the ravages of time and development. More than that, being on the register would open up the church to additional funding opportunities.
“It’s always been well cared for,” the church member said. “People have loved it. Once people started in the church, they’ve always wanted to stay forever.”

Andrew Nash can be reached at andrew.nash@morningsun.net or by calling 231-2600 ext. 132.