Last May, a piece of Hiawatha history was uncovered in a time capsule that was encased in the cornerstone of a building constructed in 1917.
Not much was known about the contents of the time capsule, found in the apartment building at Seventh and Utah Streets. As Shawn Loyd and others opened the time capsule, they found a King James Bible New Testament and a Science and Health With the Scriptures book.
Eric Thompson, director of the Brown County Historical Society, was present at the time the time capsule was uncovered and conducted some research on the books and found an inscription on the inside of the Science and Health book by what appeared to be the name “Gertrude.” However, he said the other writing was hard to decipher.
After other research, he found that the building was originally constructed as a Christian Science Church in 1917, according to an article found in the July 14, 1917 Hiawatha Daily World. The article detailed that local members of the church invested $2,000 in the site just west of the new post office building and the trustees of the will of Mrs. Eddy were to furnish funds for the new building. It was proposed that the new church would be 28 by 50, to seat about 250 people, stucco with a fire resisting roof.
This was about all of the information that Thompson could uncover about the building. In the article, the Hiawatha World asked whether anyone would be able to provide any further information about the history of the building. Ten months later, the Hiawatha World was contacted by Troy M. Simmonds, an archivist with the Daystar Foundation & Library in Oklahoma City, who had been conducting research. He said that last year, one of his members was traveling throughout Kansas, photographing current and former Christian Science church buildings. He catalogued the photos and read about the cornerstone and time capsule in the May 20, 2016 issue of the Hiawatha World.
After much research, he found an article in a 1919 issue of one of the official church organs “The Christian Science Journal.” Simmond noted that the information in the World article stating the building went up for sale in 1950 correlated with the information he found that the church was no longer active after 1951.
“It disappears off the church directories issued from the headquarters of the church, starting with 1952,” he continued.
The following is the information Simmon uncovered about the former Christian Science Church in Hiawatha, formerly located on the southwest corner of Seventh and Utah streets.
Christian Science Society Hiawatha, Kansas
“In the year 1879 Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, organized The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, with twenty-six members. It was not until about twenty years later that the first thought of Christian Science reached Hiawatha, being brought here by a young student from Kansas City. The seed which was sown at that time took root and lived. In the year 1914 it was learned that a few families were reading the Bible with “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mrs. Eddy, and helps from The Christian Science Quarterly. In the early spring of the same year this small company of truth seekers met and agreed to come together at one of the hospitable homes every Sunday to read the Lesson-Sermon and sing hymns from the Christian Science Hymnal. Two of this company were invited to act as Readers. After meeting in this manner for a year and a half, it was thought best to organize into a Christian Science Society. A business meeting was called September 23, 1915, at which a Christian Science Society, which later became a branch of The Mother Church, was organized with twenty two charter members, and by-laws were adopted. A charter was secured under the laws of the state of Kansas.
A church home was bought from the W. Overfield estate for two thousand dollars, and in the early spring of 1916 the society began to hold meetings in the dwelling that stood on the property. Services were held here until August, 1917. On August 1, 1917, the contract was let for a new church building, and the society moved into the I. O. O. F. Hall while the old dwelling was being torn down and the new church was being built. The corner stone was laid November 17, 1917, and the first services in the new building were held February 10, 1918. The church home, with furnishings at a cost of $7696.33, was completed June 1, 1918, and was dedicated June 16. To the Trustees under the Will of Mary Baker Eddy we are indebted for drafts received.”
~ The Christian Science Journal, January 1919 ~