The church predated the town, but ultimately passed into history 42 years ago. The structure where it stood still stands today.
This is taken from the Conway Springs 100 Years Book that is in the collection of the Conway Springs Public Library, and shared with their permission.
An important part of the religious heritage of Conway Springs was the Church of the Brethren, first denomination to establish a church here. The following history of that congregation appeared in the Star, September 15, 1966:
The Church of the Brethren, the oldest congregation in Conway Springs, held its final services last Sunday morning and voted in special meetings to disorganize as of December 31, 1976.
The congregation at one time had a membership of about 200, the largest in town. In recent years the membership had decreased to a present level of about 30. Seventeen voting members were present at the last meeting.
During its last thirty years, the church considered itself a missionary church, helping train ministers who were serving here while attaining their education at the denomination college at McPherson.
District Superintendent G.A. Zook, of McPherson, who conducted the meeting, made this statement to the congregation: “We consider the dissolution of of this church as being just the end of a chapter in the work of the church, not the end of the book.” The Church of the Brethren, with its headquarters for this district in McPherson, supports a fine college there, and has a strong church in Wichita, as well as in other communities.
The last officers of the church were: Roy Frantz, moderator; Don Funk, clerk; and three trustees—Kenneth Beal, J.A. Plaugher, and E.J. Frantz.
This church was first organized in this locality—predating the town. It was organized as the German Baptist Brethren in the home of Mrs. Susan Taylor, about three miles east of present day Conway Springs.
Elder Jacob Troxel was largely responsible for the organization in the spring of 1876, with ten members, and he was minister for the first seven years, during which the membership grew to 65.
Some informants state that its first building was somewhat east of the center of the south part of section 26-30-3W, just northeast of what is now called the low bridge a mile north and about a mile and a half east of town. However, the first building in town, which still stands, at 405 Church Street at Parallel, was erected in 1886 at a cost of $1,700. The membership by 1891 was 155, and had four resident preachers—John Wise, Jacob Troxel, Isaac Leatherman, and John Leatherman.
Originally facing the north, the building was turned in 1915 to face the west, a front stoop was added, and a full utility basement was built. In 1957, it underwent major repairs and installation of new furniture and pews, during the pastorate of Rev. Wayne Parris.
In the first few years after organization, services were held for a time in various homes and for a period met once a month in the Far-View Presbyterian Church at the west end of town.
The first musical instrument, a piano, was installed during the pastorate of Rev. J. Perry Prather. Before that, the tuning fork set the pitch for the singing of hymns.
A prominent missionary, Mrs. Anna Newland Crumpacker, was a product of this church. She and her husband served for thirty years on the mission field in China.
On Easter Sunday, 1916, as a climax to a meeting conducted by Rev. J. Edwin Jarboe, more than fifty were baptized in the church baptistry.
A Star item tells of baptismal services in the stream at the Samuel Wolfe farm by the Reverends Johnson and Wise on Nov. 21, 1891, when 1,000 persons witnessed the baptism of 17 new members.
While the origin of German Baptist Brethren goes back to the religious discussions and discussions of the reformation two centuries before, their actual organizations as a separate body of Christians dates back only to 1708, when Alexander Mack and seven others met at Schwarzenou, Germany, to pray and search the Scriptures. The little group was baptized by triune immersion, organized themselves into a separate church, and agreed to follow the teachings of Christ in the letter as well as the Spirit. They located near Crefeldt in North Prussia, Their increase was rapid, and large churches were soon formed.
Fierce persecution drove them to America, where they landed in 1719, and built their first church edifice at Germantown, PA. From there and Philadelphia, they dispersed themselves throughout the whole United States, except the New England states and New York.
Originating in Germany, they were sometimes called German Baptists. The name Tunker or Dunker from the German word ‘tunken’ to ‘dip’ was applied to them to distinguish them from the Mennonites.
They adopted for themselves the little “Brethren” from the language of the Savior. “One is your Lord and Master and ye are all Brethren.” By 1891, to distinguish them from another body called German Baptists, and also from the United Brethren who were also called Brethren, the name German Baptist Brethren was applied to them.
In most of their doctrine, they did not differ materially from other Orthodox Christians. They accepted the Bible as the inspired word of God, and the New Testament as containing a complete system of faith and practice.
Their chief peculiarity consisted in maintaining a more rigid observance of the ordinances, named in the New Testament. This accounts for their baptism by triune immersion based on the meaning derived from a critical analysis of the commission, also of feet washing, the kiss of clarity, and others peculiar to their interpretation and doctrine.
It was the oldest anti-slavery society in America, their general conference of 1872 prohibiting its members from owning slaves; and likewise the oldest temperance society in the United States, having in 1873, forbidden its members to manufacture or deal in ardent spirits.
While the basic beliefs have not been compromised, there are some items in the original practices that have been modified through the years.
The triune immersion Scripture is found in Matt. 28:19, the ordinance of foot washing commanded by John 13:14-17, the kiss of clarity in Romans 16:16 and I Cor. 16:20 and II Cor. 13:12 and I Thess 5:26, not conforming to worldly fashions in dress of Romans 12:1-2 and I Peter 3:5, not taking an oath in Matt. 5:35 and James 5:12, not uniting with secret or oathbound societies in II Cor. 6:14 and Matt. 5:34, not going to war in Matt. 5:30 and Romans 12:19-21 and John 18:36.
The local congregation fostered an excellent segment of the community’s population; for over 90 years they were a most cooperative integral part of the Conway Springs locality