The History of the Keystone Church and Related Stories
The Pilgrim Holiness Church was organized in 1914 by Rev. J. J. Cork. The church construction started around 1914 and was finished by the winter of 1916. A group of local men were involved in all aspects of construction.
The stone was quarried from the surrounding chalk formationsmost probably taken from a quarry two miles north east of the church’s location. Sand for the cement mortar was hauled from the Smoky Hill River by oxen team.
Church dedication came on a blustery, cold day on January 17, 1917. A large amount of money, $600, was owed for materials, but the church ended up being dedicated debt-free.
The original membership totaled twenty-five or thirty. In 1933, the group had 20 members. Meetings were held at two different school houses while the church was being built.
Services were held every Sunday morning and evening, plus prayer meetings during the week.
The church continued operating until around 1951 or 1952. Its common name was the Keystone Church, presumably named for the town of Keystone located north of Lake Scott State Park, which was also on the C.K. & O. railroad line. Many of the parishioners came from the town and surrounding area to worship. Barbara and Chuck kept part of the building’s nickname when they started their business, thus becoming Keystone Gallery.
The buildings were virtually abandoned after 1953. In 1980, when Barbara purchased it, only shells of the buildings remained. The story of how they restored and modified the buildings can be found on the Keystone Renovation page.
The information listed in this section primarily came from a variety of sources including: historical records, oral history, and letters from former preachers and parishioners. I have attempted to collect as many stories and photographs as possible over twenty-six years. Not all the stories agree and just a few documents still exist.
The stories of what life was like here are sparse. People tended to remember the strange tales, not the everyday church life.
I know there are many more pictures and tales to be shared stored somewhere. Thanks to all that took the time to share information with us. It is greatly appreciated in our attempt to reconstruct the Keystone Church’s history. Additional information is welcome.
The Keystone Church started out as a Pentecostal denomination. Many stories have been related over the years of people speaking in tongues, rolling on the floor and walking on the back of church pews towards the pulpit. Parishioners would give witness to speaking directly with the Lord.
Through my research, I have not met one person who claimed to be Pentecostal. Most old-timers said this was a community church and they came from a variety of religious backgrounds.
The building utilized gas lights and an oil-burning stove. In different years, cow chips and coal were also used for heating. There was the accompanying piano or organ, and two different sets of church pews. Depending on people’s accounts, they were either solid long wood pews or double wooden folding chairs.
The founder and builder of the church was J. J. Cork, who came to western Kansas via covered wagon. He started three Pilgrim Holiness Churches: two in Logan County and one in Gove. According to Sada Munkres, Colby, Kansas, Rev. Cork was a tall, thin man and was known for his fire-and-brimstone services.
One story she related pertained to his church in the city of Gove, which was remodeled into a house after WWII. Her sister’s husband went to sleep during the service. Rev. Cork threw a book at him to wake him up and her brother-in-law never went to church again.
Cork’s daughter was raised very strict and married a preacher at age 49. Cork’s relatives are still in Winona, Kansas. Paul is a brother of J.J. Cork.
J.J. Cork was also a “Whiskey Drinker,” which was not uncommon during these years. Many ministers had their pay supplemented with whiskey, although they preached that whiskey drinking was a sin. Rev. Owen, formerly of Scott City, told this tale, plus added that J.J. Cork was also involved in the erection of many stone houses in this area.
Ralph Smith had three children, played the mandolin, and would travel around visiting local people. They donated meat and other food to help feed his family. All the Smith children had names beginning with r.
“Pink” Patton gave a small milk cow to Ralph Smith. The stone shed was built in 1935 by Clifford McGuire for this cow.
On a Memorial Day Sunday they both came to church service even though Blue was not too thrilled about it. The preacher, at that time, singled him out during the sermon and basically said he would go to hell for drinking whiskey. Blue said this made him extremely uncomfortable and he vowed never to attend a service again.
However, after leaving Velma discovered she had forgotten her purse, so they turned around and headed back to Keystone. When they drove back in, they found the preacher stealing coal out of the back shed. Blue said he thought the preacher was a hypocrite.
Ted Patton, Scott City: Helped build the church when he was really young. Rock for the house came from the Elkader school house that used to be on the west side of the road by the Smoky Hill River. The recycled stone was moved using a wagon. His father, “Pink” Patton raised turkeys for the church. His Uncle Farr lived in rock house just south of Keystone; the old foundation still remains.Floyd and Vivian (Robinson) Griffin. Uncle J.O. Griffin and Verladine all lived in the parsonage and went to the Good Luck School.
Cleadeane Chism, daughter of Floyd Griffin said: “In 1938, my grandfather, Floyd Griffin, was helping the neighbors to the south clean out their cistern where he became stuck. He told my grandmother, Vivian, to tie a rope about his waist, drive the car and pull him out. He finally got out by inching his toes up one wedge at a time. We still laugh when my mother would tell the story.”
This story pertains to a cistern just south of this property on the hill. According to another account, they greased him up with lard or butter, tied a rope to him and pulled him out with a team. Rev. Griffin was heavy and big enough around his waist to become wedged into the cisterns’ opening hole.
Gloria Gafford (Clifford Conard’s daughter) lived here during the Depression. When attending church service during the winter, people took alcohol out of their car radiators, poured it into a metal container, and kept it hot on the church stove. They would then put it back in their cars for the drive home. People couldn’t afford anti-freeze so they used an alcohol specially made for car radiators.
“There were quite a few people that lived in the ‘hollers’ around the church when we lived there. We arrived in the night. The next morning daddy went over to the church and the attendance board read ‘60’. He came out and looked all around maybe one house far south in sight. He said, ‘where do they come from’ But come they did.’
“When we were there, there was a pump-organ which stood on the right side of the platform. The church was heated by a stove that stood midway from front to back, and most of the fuel was cow chips. That’s what we burned in our heating stove in that south room of the parsonage.’
“The folks hauled water and put it in the cistern. We drank it and used it, but it was not good. I remember the day mother found a centipede in the drinking dipper.’
“Land my brother and me were hungry sometimes. Oh, I have memories. The fear was the worst. The highway was alive with what we called “tramps’, poor men who had no jobs (it was the Great Depression) and many came to our door for food we had so little of. Something about the loneliness of it all left me with such fear. But I would not feel that way now.”
In 1980, we went purchased this property there was still at penciled sign on the inside cellar door. “Steel (sic) if you must, Sin if you do”. According to a letter from Gloria Gafford, she writes: “I can believe the vandalism and the cellar I remember someone stole a lot my mother had stored there.’
“Elkader I remember well. The little store and they also sold gas. I remember daddy pushing our 1928 Whippet (car) and letting it coast down the first hill toward the store, then pushing it and coasting down the second one to get a little gas.” Elkader is now a ghost town located on US 83 adjacent to the Smoky Hill River.
The Conard family would then continue their trip for supplies in Oakley. Upon returning to Keystone their gas tank would be empty, thus repeating the car pushing process all over again on the next trip.
“By the way are there any black people still living along the Smokey Hill River seemed it was north and west of us? A whole settlement lived there when we were there and they were so good to our family. We spent Christmas Day in ’35 and ’36, both, with them the only whites. I remember being in their church (or churches.) I’ve never forgotten their goodness.”
The black parishioners didn’t come regularly although Grandma Watson did give testimony. One couple was interracial. Gloria thought that was really different to meet children of other colors.
Grandma Watson was born into slavery 1865. Around 1915 to 1917 when her son Alva Watson and his wife were a young couple, she taught school, probably in Logansport Township, which was primarily a black settlement. Logansport was also a train stop station on the C.K. & O. Railroad. There were two churches in Logansport, one Baptist denomination.
Black parishioners were more generous than most to the Conard family, according to Gloria Gaffords’ reminiscing. When the Conards were packing their belongings for a move to Johnson City, it was a very hot August day, with August being an unusually hot month that year. White parishioners had come by to help. Then the Watsons showed up with homemade ice cream packed with ice from their ice house, traveling a significant distance to bring it. Gloria said nothing had ever tasted so good.
Alva Watson, Jr. told this story: When he was around 14 years of age, he hauled the sand from the Smoky Hill River with an oxen team for the church building. He remembered the house being moved here from Elkader sometime between 1927 to 1933. The church was built in 1916 and the north wall fell out upon completion. It was rebuilt in winter of 1916 before the church dedication. .
Dorcas (Chance) Foncannon: Went to church here in 1918-1923. House was built in 1923 or after as they heard about plans to build a parsonage.
Martha (McGuire) Turley not only attended the Keystone church but also lived in the parsonage while teaching at the Good Luck School which was located down the hill to the west. I asked her about the Clyde Cook Incident. Here is her version. “Clyde had a white horse hair long coat he had just bought. He rode his horse to the Church but not into it. He busted through the double doors as the congregation were praying around the altar Declaring he was the risen Lord coming to gather the faithful to heaven It caused quite a stir.”
Another Oral History says that Clyde Cook rode a horse through the double doors saying “here comes the Lord”. Either version would make the congregation take notice.
“Hazel Browning’s mother (Mrs. Patton) was my favorite Sunday School teacher. In fact I stayed in her class until the church board became aware of it and passed a resolution as to ‘age’ for classes. Then I was escorted handily to Mrs. Rossie Strickler’s class. She was a good teacher, too.”
“Ladies must have long hair, long sleeves and hems about 4 inches off the floor, and black stockings for church. The men however could wear pretty ties, suits and any color socks. After Pearl Harbor the women started to work out of the home. There was a rebellion and the women shucked long sleeves etc. and even began wearing make up and jewelry.”
All my correspondents additionally agree that no make up or bobbed hair was allowed. Women also could not wear short sleevesas their arms needed to be covered at all times.
Paul and Edna Sickler: “My first experience at hearing a hoot owl was at Keystone. We had retired one night and suddenly there was this owl, hooting on top of the church. I nearly pushed my husband out of bed from fright. He assured me what it was so I was happy to know it wasn’t after me. We heard it several times after that. Edna Sickler April, 2002Parishioners:
Beaver, Browning, Cardrodt, Chance, Cook, Farr, McGuire, Patton, Phillip, Miller, Russell, Stout, Watson, and Wright.
Old Highway 83 ran through this property, and is still visible by the different types of grasses growing. There used to be two stone outhouses adjacent to the highway and in back of the church. Both vanished and we haven’t found any existing pictures of them.
Thomas Kirk, Scott City, KS: Harold Kirk and his Scott City High School football team mates spent the night in the church for shelter during a blizzard during the Fall of 1921. They were returning home from a football game in Oakley.
The Good Luck School was in operation until unification in 1966. Mrs. Lacy was the last person in 1953 to live at the Keystone parsonage and taught at the school down the hill.
“Judge Force furnished treats and toys for all community children during the ‘dirty thirties’. He lived in Scott City.” Martha Turley
Pyramid View School
Blanche Schwilling, Bazaar, KS wrote of her recollections in September of 1992.
“In January of 1925, I went out and taught four months at the Pyramid View School. The experience still stands out vividly in my mind although I taught in four other schools during the 1920’s. Idella Russell Wright of Scott City was a seventh grader. Velma Cook Mastin of Russell Springs had younger brothers and a sister in the school twenty seven pupils in seven grades and I road about twenty five miles in a lumber wagon with a school board member Owen Harrick. We left Scott City about 10 a.m. and reached their sod house home about 4 p.m.” This is in reference to her initial ride to this area for work.
“I think I could almost write a book about the area I love it.”
1917 to ?: J. J. Cork
1917 to 1933: No records available
1934-1935: Ralph Smith
1935, August-1937, August: Clifford Conard
1937-1938: Mrs. Floyd (Vivian) Griffin
1938: Church records are blank for this year. However, Floyd Griffin “filled in”
1938 (part of): Rev. A.E. Whittington
1939-1940: Rev. A. E. Whittington
1940, Fall-1941: Paul Sickler and his sister Elizabeth Webster
1941, Sept.-1942, Sept.: Rev. Paul Sickler and Mrs. Edna Sickler
1944-1945: Rev. S. A. (Albert) Gillum (Gloria Gafford’s cousin). They had the twins that were born at the Keystone parsonage.
1945-1946: Rev. Gillum
1947, Sept.-1948, May: Joy Mason, later married Don McGuire
1948 or 1949: “Prairie Pastor” from KXXX Radio, Colby, KS
1951-1952: Rev. Fred Patton
The information by years was mostly taken from the Pilgrim Holiness Church records owned by Gloria Gafford, and kept by her father Clifford Conard. Other pertinent months and dates were supplied by former ministers’ relatives. No other records have been located after numerous years of searching through sources.
In 1951, the Church’s address was Oakley, KS. Keystone was listed as an unorganized church in 1952 and by 1953 the Pilgrim Holiness Church was disbanded.
In the middle part of the 1950’s after the Keystone Church official closed, the parsonage was still used for Sunday school and various activities. Velma Berkgren and Charles Watkins preached infrequently. Hazel Browning served as Sunday School Superintendent and Mrs. Jim Cass helped out.
On many Sundays, people would meet here, even if services were not officially held. The kids would play baseball and have community get-togethers.
The Pilgrim Holiness Church denomination is no longer in existence. The Pilgrim Holiness Church merged with the Wesleyan Methodist Church in the early 1970’s. The Wesleyan Church is now inclusive of both denominations.
Pilgrim Holiness Church Cemetery Records
Only a few stories have been told about the cemetery. When the church closed, most of the people interred were either moved to Scott City or to the Pyramid View Cemetery east of this location. Some graves remain, plus two markers. All others had yellow chalk rocks placed as tombstones or metal markers with paper name plates which have deteriorated over time.
When the church closed, the records were left here (as far as we can determine) except for those kept by Clifford Conard. The cemetery records have not been found. Below is all the information we have on the cemetery.Alvin Earl McGuire, 1935, lived three days.
Wesley, Melissa and Martha Mills died in a buggy accident.
1953, July 16: Manley Cook funeral on Monday, 10 a.m. News Chronicle, 7-16-53.
Cleo Statts is buried in the middle part of the cemetery. His grave had a yellow rock marker at one time
The northeast corner was the black section according to Florence Howard. The Scruggs family is buried there, as is Joe Holloway, who worked for Herbert Steele. The Steele House is now a museum at Lake Scott State Park.
Obed Sears was driving a wagon with both a child and a fifty-five gallon barrel of water in the back. They hit a pasture bump wand both the kid and the water barrel fell out. The barrel landed on top of the child, killing him or her. The child is buried 300 yards south of the gallery in the pasture with no tombstone. Told by Gerald Beckley, Scott City, KS.
©2006 Keystone Gallery / Photos ©Barbara Shelton unless otherwise noted