Eyes of World
Man's a Man
Son of Father
Long Ago Told
To My Sons
I know Him
BSC no numb.
Hall Photo Co.
Matt's Cabn RP
Matt's Cabn tnt
Matt, Mollie, etc
Uncle Ike RP
Uncle Ike Tint
Bennett Sp. Tint
Bennett Spr RP
1925, Son Father
1925. Brian K
1926, Barb W
1935, When Man
1936, The Mine
1936, Wild Brian
1937, West Gold
1937, Out West
1937, Secret Vly
1959, Shep (TV)
Indiana U. Libr.
E Clampus Vitus
Photo from History of the First
Christian Church, Pittsburg, Kansas
on the 75th Anniversary
1881 - 1956
Wright moved from Pierce City to
Pittsburg during the winter of 1897-1898, and stayed until sometime in 1902--the
longest pastorate of his career. He preached in the building shown above
and used this coal mining town
as the setting for his first book, That Printer of Udell’s.
In 1956 this congregation published a
52-page booklet (including covers) celebrating their 75 year history.
About the second building, shown above, the booklet says: "R. E. Carlton
donated the site, and a frame church was built at 7th and Pine, where a
dedicatory sermon was preached March 15, 1890...." Wright seems to have
been the first pastor to preach in this building for more than one year.
Early pastors are listed as:
1891-1892 J.E. Pickett
1892-1893 Edward Cantrell
1893-1894 B. B. McGraw
1894-1895 Willis F. Jordon
1895-1896 C. D. Purlee
1896-1897 J. C. France
1897-1902 Harold Bell Wright
Click photos to Enlarge
The booklet reports on page 17 that in 1899, near the middle of Wright's
time there, the pastor was paid $800 per year and the membership was 25.
The salary figure is probably accurate, but I don't believe the membership
figure is, for several reasons: twenty-five members founded the church in
1881, the same booklet says the membership had grown to about 200 in 1884,
25 members could not have paid a salary that high, and the photo of the
choir in 1901 shows about 25 people in the choir. I am guessing the
typesetters dropped a zero, and the membership in 1899 was about 250. By
1927 the membership had climbed to 2560. In 1956 the Pittsburg church
membership was 1285.
The booklet goes on to say: "It was during the
ministry of Bro. Wright that we are furnished with the first definite
records of church activities. The first choir was organized, Mr. Evans as
director and Mrs. Minnie True as leader.
"It was while at this church that Bro. Wright was ordained by Rev.
Milton of Fort Scott, and at a board meeting in June, 1900 Rev. Wright
talked of his coming vacation and his plans to devote part of it to
writing a book of facts such as he found in this church; and to set forth
a plan of procedure he would like to see carried out. It is believed that
this plan, which he called, 'Applied Christianity,' is the one set forth
in 'That Printer of Udell's,' the first of many novels which were to make
him a famous author.
"Wright popularized reading, for his books were ones to be read,
enjoyed, interpreted and understood. The lonely pioneer, pitted against
the forces of nature, realized his weakness and turned to a Greater Power
for strength. In his humbleness the pioneer said grace before every meal,
read his bible, and closed his day with prayer, and in that world Wright's
books had great appeal, since many of them were thinly veiled sermons. He
was indeed one of the most interest-holding preachers of any pulpit."
During Wright's pastorate the church made an advance in sanitation: "In
1900 a motion was passed by the church board to purchase another goblet
and plate for the communion service. 'Our sacred ordinance of communion
has undergone a commendable change. The individual cups we now use came
after long years of rebellion at use of the unsanitary goblet...and this
rebellion reached its height of distastefulness when fashion decreed that
men wear whiskers and mustaches, and many of them were tobacco users.'"
Besides serving as pastor, Wright is listed in 1901 as co-chairman of
the Prayer Meeting Committee and the Reading Room, and as Financial Clerk.
Music was a hot topic in this congregation. The authors of the booklet
note that "We believe the music of the church plays a very important part
in our worship. Those who opposed this belief broke fellowship with us
about 1912 and began a 'Church of Christ', which forbids the use of a
musical instrument in their worship service."
Evidently this controversy was already in progress when Wright was
there because the board minutes of January, 1901 state: ""***after quite a
discussion*** the Board unanimously authorized and instructed Bro. Wright
to organize a chorus and to use his best judgment in conducting the
same***', and such a group was organized, with Mrs. Minnie Carlton True as
leader, which position she held for seventeen years."
The minutes of December 16, 1901 include this note: "***Bros. Wright
and E.G. Tucker suggest that a bathroom be built***four bathtubs and one
shower bath; they have plans and estimate of cost, including all building,
plumbing and necessary appliances to a first-class bathroom,***of $750.00.
The plan***is that they will build and furnish one room without asking the
church for any money until the end of the first year, then only $200.00
shall be asked for, the balance to be raised during the year by selling
bath privilages, and with the payment of the entire $200.00, it shall
become church property***."
I said in my Collectibles book ,
“Residents in Pittsburg . . . have done much to keep his memory alive.
They have renovated the second of the three homes he lived in here, at 410
West Kansas Street, and may now have it ready of tours.”
Click to Enlarge
From Little Balkins Review, Fall, 1981
History of Crawford
County website says, "Harold Bell Wright House, located at 412 W.
Kansas, is currently being restored by the Little Balkans Preservation
Guild. When renovated it will house a museum relating to the history of
Wright while he was minister here in the 1890's at the First Christian
Church and his writing of "The Printer of Udell" which contains references
to many people who were living in the Pittsburg area at the time." I have not heard any updates since then.
Perhaps someone from that area of the country will send me a report.
I also mentioned that Gene DeGruson,
curator of special collections at Pittsburg State University has developed
an extensive collection of [published] references to Wright, undoubtedly
the most extensive in existence. Mr. DeGruson
passed away recently, but his work still lives on at the university.
Click here for more information about Wright's stay in Pittsburg
The postcards, booklet and plate below show the First
Christian Church that was built in Pittsburg, Kansas in 1917,
structure pictured above--which stood at the
Click to Enlarge.
This 100th anniversary plate, owned by Robert Lewis, gives a history of the Christian Church before, during, and after Wright's
pastorate there. Wright pastored the church on the left.
Your Questions and Suggestions are Welcome.
Click here for
This Harold Bell Wright web site is written and produced
by Gerry Chudleigh with the help of many friends.
Copyright © 2000-May, 2011 by Gerry Chudleigh