Monticello United Methodist Church celebrates community history with 150th anniversary
In the quickly growing western Shawnee, sometimes history can be easily passed over as people speed by in their daily routines.
But this month marks in monumental anniversary for a western Shawnee establishment: The Monticello United Methodist Church is celebrating 150 years. To celebrate, the church is welcoming anyone who wants a break from their daily routine and wishes to tune into the incredible history of the area.
Cindy Ashby is a member of the fifth generation of the Kueker family to attend the church. For generations, life in western Shawnee centered on the church. Ashby is one of the great-grandchildren of the first Kueker in Monticello. They have an extensive written family history, compiled by a distant cousin in Illinois, which has allowed them to tell the story of their family's roots, which began in 1844 when the first Kueker family came to American from Hanover, Germany.
“The church is a big part of my family’s history and it will probably be big a big part of my family’s future,” Ashby said.
Ashby’s new grandson is likely to be baptized in the church, making him the seventh generation of Kuekers in the church.
There are several other charter families that have attended the church for at least five generations and all of them will be celebrating on Sept. 12 and 13 for the church’s 150th anniversary. The event will take place both in the present-day church and the original 19th-century chapel at 23860 W. 75th St.
Monticello United Methodist Church was organized in 1865 at the end of the Civil War. It was established soon after “Wild Bill” Hickock served as one of the Monticello Township’s constables. The settlers established the Monticello Methodist Episcopal Church and school at 71st Street and Gleason Road in a building called the Old Virginia Schoolhouse. Charter members included Fannie Olson Jackson, the Keukers, Henry Mize, H.M. Dubois and N.W. Murphy, among others. The first pastor of the church was Rev. A.R. Houts.
The original church was built for $2,000, but it was totally destroyed by fire during an electrical storm in 1894. The Board of Trustees decided to raise money for a new building, and $1,250 was raised to build the new building in the same spot.
The church's early history is only known thanks to a church history written in 1982, compiled largely by then-pastor Michael Gardner and Dena Rae McLaughlin, a church member since 1939.
The building stands today, next to the church's new fellowship hall and sanctuary, built in 1973 and 1990, respectively. Today, the old church serves as a testament to each family’s history.
“It’s a living history,” Ashby said. “For us, it’s like walking into our old home.”
For many of the new families flocking to Shawnee, which is according to census data, the third fastest growing city in the state, history can sometimes remain in the background and be forgotten. Ashby hopes that the 150th anniversary brings the area's history to the foreground.
"At one point in time, this was the glue that held the township together," Ashby said. "It think it means a lot to a lot of people in the area."
The anniversary event will feature tours of the old chapel, originally built in 1894. Tours will be held from 4 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12. Quilts crafted and auctioned over the church’s many years by the United Methodist Women will be on display.
A time capsule buried at the church in 1990 will be opened at 5 p.m. Saturday and a dinner is scheduled to follow along with entertainment. A church service is being held at 10:30 a.m. Sunday with special guest speaker the Rev. Dr. Bruce Emmert, the Kansas City district superintendent for the Great Plains United Methodist Church. Current and former members of the church, as well as members of the community at large, are invited to attend the anniversary event.