This historic summary includes information from Plymouth’s Essays on the history of Plymouth Congregational Church in celebration of its sesquicentennial, 2004.
Plymouth Congregational Church began it history in a setting that was both exciting and difficult. Kansas Territory was opened in 1854 to settlement with provisions for the people to decide whether slavery was to be allowed or forbidden in Kansas. Understandably a number of those who helped found the city of Lawrence came from Massachusetts, a center of antislavery sentiment.
Among the pioneers from Massachusetts were a group of people from the Andover Theological Seminary called the “Andover Band” whose chief thought was to help to develop a Christian State in the center of the continent. A very crucial member of this group was Rev. Richard Cordley who was a very well known abolitionist preacher. Cordley was so well known that infamous William Qunatrill and his band of ruffians wanted to silence him and make their pro-slavery statement in a big way. Quantrill raided Lawrence on August 21, 1863, and killed several Plymouth members and friends. Rev. Cordley escaped, returned and on August 30th, a mere nine days later, part of his sermon included these words, ” My friends, Lawrence may seem dead, but she will rise again in a more glorious resurrection. Our ranks have been thinned by death, but let us ‘close-up’ and hold the ground… The conflict may not be ended, but the victory must be ours. We may perish but the principles for which we content will live.”
Richard Cordley’s words were prophetic. Lawrence experienced new vitality and growth, particularly in the post-war years. Plymouth, too, grew in numbers and vitality, to the point that a new church facility was needed. In 1870 the current sanctuary we have now was dedicated.
Plymouth Church began in the hearts of a people who staked their lives upon their convictions. They were sure slavery was an abomination in the eyes of God. Indomitable in their faith, our forebears left the security of their New England homes for a new life on the risky and violent frontier of Kansas Territory.
Just as Plymouth’s sassy four spires still adorn Vermont Street, something of the abolition spirit still burns in the life of this congregation. The past is but prologue. The Plymouth story is not finished.