Until 1854, when Kansas was opened for settlement, the spot on which this old landmark church stands was just part of a vast ocean of tall prairie grass, under the ever-changing skies. To the north lay the Kaw River, crowding the bluffs beyond. A few miles to the east stood hills of spectacular beauty, and the prairie rolled gently away toward the south and west. The silence was broken only by the winds or by the song of a meadowlark, and at night by the music of the prairie wolves. The land belonged to the Indians, to the roving herds of buffalo and antelope, and to the great flocks of migratory birds.
The Kansas-Nebraska Bill, passed in May, 1854, changed all this forever. It provided that Kansas could become a free state or a slave state, depending on how the people of Kansas voted. The race was on to stake out claims, and to vote Kansas "free," or "slave."
Two years later, in 1856, there were already about sixty people living within a few miles of this place that they called Wabaunsee, an Indian name meaning "Dawn of Day." Here, on the south bank of the Kaw River, 100 miles west of Kansas City, a settler had built a tiny store.
In New England "Kansas Fever" ran high. The people of New Haven, Connecticut, raised money to send a group of colonists to Kansas; fifty-seven men, four women, and
two children. Led by one of New Haven's most respected citizens, Charles B. Lines, these were well educated men, many with professional training. They left good jobs and
good homes behind them. They were not just adventurers, with little to lose by going west; they were men making a sacrifice for their ideals.
Before the Connecticut-Kansas Company left for Kansas, a meeting was held in North Church, in New Haven. Professor Silliman, of Yale, pledged $25.00 for a
Sharps rifle for the Company. Then Henry Ward Beecher, the great minister from Brooklyn, NY, pledged that his congregation would give the money for twenty-five
rifles if the audience would give another twenty-five; people in the crowd responded in great excitement, and soon twenty-seven had been promised. A few days later
Mr. Beecher sent Mr. Lines $625 for the rifles, and with the money came twenty-five Bibles, the gift of a parishioner.
BEECHER BIBLE AND RIFLE CHURCH