Friday, October 24, 2014

Humble history for church that burned

By KATE SHELTON, Herald Staff Writer | 8/6/2014

The nearly 147-year-old church that burned early this week began in small home nearby.

Bethany Chapel Baptist Church dates back to 1867, when the Rev. Gabriel Gray, Lawrence, established it as the Third Baptist Church of Ottawa in a small house at First and Sycamore streets, according to local historical documents. The church moved in 1895 to its current location, 131 S. Poplar St., where it has become a cornerstone of Ottawa’s black community.

The nearly 147-year-old church that burned early this week began in small home nearby.

Bethany Chapel Baptist Church dates back to 1867, when the Rev. Gabriel Gray, Lawrence, established it as the Third Baptist Church of Ottawa in a small house at First and Sycamore streets, according to local historical documents. The church moved in 1895 to its current location, 131 S. Poplar St., where it has become a cornerstone of Ottawa’s black community.

From its start, the church was a nod to diversity in the city, with most of its 12 charter members being former slaves who had left the slave state of Missouri to make a home in free-state Kansas, historical documents say. Today, the church’s congregation is about 70 to 100 strong, church leaders said this week.

Through its 147 years, the church has welcomed more than 30 pastors. One of them, the Rev. S.E. Hopkins who served for 12 years, later became the first black man to serve on Ottawa’s school board, according to historical documents. The Rev. Armogen Walker has served the church since 2005, according to the church’s website.

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