Churches of Kansas

Kansas Churches

Kansas Churches


The St. Fidelis Church in Victoria, Kansas still serves a congregation today by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

The St. Fidelis Church in Victoria, Kansas, still serves a congregation today by Kathy Alexander.

General History:

The first churches in what is now the State of  Kansas were established while it was still an unorganized territory. Missions were built among the Indian tribes during the first quarter of the 19th century by various denominations. From that time, the church and the mission school dwelt side by side and worked hand in hand to evangelize and educate Native Americans. In 1854, when  Kansas became a territory, the Methodists had churches at Shawnee Mission and at Wyandotte (Kansas City); the  Baptists had a mission church two miles northwest of the Shawnee Mission, one near the Delaware post office and still another in what is now Mission township in Shawnee County; the Friends had a mission and school west of the Shawnee Mission, and among the Sac and Fox Indians, the Presbyterians had located a mission and school near the present site of Highland, in  Doniphan County. Two missions had been established by the Catholics — St. Mary’s, located in what is now Mission Township in Shawnee County, with three stations within a radius of 20 miles, and a second on the Neosho River, in what is now Neosho County.

Nearly all the  Free-State settlers had belonged to churches in the communities from which they came, and one of the first provisions they made after settling in the territory was for religious services and schools for their children. At first, the services were held in the open air, in tents or rude cabins, but as settlements increased, church buildings were erected, many of which are still used today. In the outlying districts where settlement was thin, the people gathered at some convenient locality and were ministered to by circuit riders or missionaries. Many of these early congregations later became permanent and prosperous churches.

The earliest available record of churches in  Kansas is that taken by the Kansas State Board of Agriculture in 1875, which is meager and may not accurately give an idea of all denominations, but it gives the largest, which in that year was the Catholic church with 202 organizations and a membership of 37,198; the Methodist church with 621 organizations and a membership of 22,696; the Baptists with 286 organizations and a membership of 12,197; the Presbyterians with 220 organizations and a membership of 7,962, and the Congregationalists with 121 organizations and a membership of 4,458, making a total of 1,484 organizations and 85,924 communicants. By 1880, the number of organizations had increased to 2,155 and the membership to 189,629, or more than twice that of 1875.

As settlement moved westward across the state, churches were established in nearly every community, and their growth was steady. In 1890, the proportion of church members to the aggregate population in Kansas was about 28%. There were 4,920 organizations with a membership of 336,575. In 1906, there were 994 church organizations in the state, with a total membership of 458,190. Of the organizations reporting, 4,020 had church buildings, and 602 used halls or other buildings for places of worship. The aggregate value of the church property in the state in 1906 was $14,053,454. In that year, 78.7% of all church members in the state belonged to Protestant bodies, 20.3 % to the Catholic Church, 0.5% to the Latter-Day Saints, and 0.5% to others.

Compiled and edited by Kathy Alexander/Legends of Kansas, updated March 2024.

About the Article: The text in this article comes from Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History, edited by Frank W. Blackmar and published in 1912. However, the story as it appears here is not verbatim, as it has been edited for clarity and the modern reader.

Also See:

Kansas Destinations

Kansas History

Kansas Main Page

One-Room, Country, & Historic Schools of Kansas