Revolution United Methodist Church
(Formerly Westport United Methodist Church)
500 W 40th Street
Kansas City, Missouri 64114
(Remember, you can enlarge any image simply by “clicking” on it.)
The history of Revolution United Methodist Church tells us much about the troubled history of our region, state and country. I am indebted to the Golden Threads of Memories: The History of the Westport Methodist Church compiled by Mrs. (H.H.) Phyllis Edwards Kite in 1964 for much of the history of this church and its windows.
The area we know as Westport is about three miles south of present-day downtown Kansas City, Missouri. It is now a neighborhood within Kansas City, but in the early 1820’s the area was little more than a vast wilderness. It was first settled in 1831 when a Baptist missionary named Rev. Isaac McCoy built his log cabin home in what would soon be the town of Westport. Other settlers soon moved in, and Westport, Missouri became an important frontier outpost.
In the 1840’s Westport became a starting point for the Santa Fe, the Oregon and the California trails, major pathways for the movement of settlers and missionaries into the West. In fact, the original name “West Port” referred to its function as the entry point for travelers heading out to the Western Territories. Missouri became the 24th state in 1821 following the Missouri Compromise of 1820 which allowed Missouri to enter the Union as a “slave” state, while the State of Maine became created as a “free” state, thereby preserving the balance between free- and slave-holding states.
The Westport Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1836. Kansas City was incorporated in 1848, and Westport was formally incorporated as the Town of Westport, Missouri in 1857.
While the country was expanding westward, the Methodist church was growing throughout the United States. However, the church was not immune to the schism that was to divide the nation over slavery and which would ultimately lead to the great Civil War that tore the nation apart. Although John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America, was clearly an opponent of slavery, by the mid 19th century it was evident that the question of slavery was as divisive in the church as it was in the nation at large. In 1844 the Methodist Episcopal Church split into two distinct organizations, with the churches in the southern parts of the country organizing themselves as the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.
In 1846, the Westport Episcopal Methodist Church, South decided to join with three other Westport churches in building what would be known as a Union Church. Services were celebrated separately in the shared structure, with each congregation using the building one Sunday a month for worship and education. As the population of Westport grew in the 1840’s and 50’s, each of these four churches saw the need for building their own church structures. By 1853, the Westport Methodist Episcopal Church, South had constructed its own building at 40th and Washington (its current location), and, being free of debt, the new church building was dedicated in 1853.
Around that time, part of the church began to be used as a public school. In fact, it was to be the first public school in either Westport or Kansas City. The elementary school was known as the Allen School and the high school as Westport High School. (These names are well known to Kansas City citizens today.) Both schools ultimately moved out of the church to other nearby locations.
Located on the border of Missouri and Kansas, Westport was in the center of much of the violence and destruction that occurred before and during the American Civil War. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 had provided that the question of slavery in the territories west of Missouri would be determined by popular sovereignty. Missourians who favored slavery were encouraged to settle in the newly opened lands in Kansas to counter the anti-slavery settlers from New England who were also settling there in an effort to influence the elections. The conflict between pro- and anti-slavery groups escalated into armed conflict resulting in much bloodshed and suffering in the border region surrounding Westport, the region often being referred to as Bleeding Kansas. Although Missouri did not join the Confederacy, much of its population in the southern and western parts of the state was clearly favorable toward the institution of slavery and overall opposed the cause of preserving the Union.
The area around Westport was frequently beset by guerrilla warfare before, during and even after the war. Militias caused widespread death and destruction throughout this area. Massacres were not uncommon and extra-judicial murders, pillaging, robbing and destruction of property was frequent throughout the region. Vigilante groups exacted punishment from those they believed to be sympathetic to the opposing cause.
In 1856, pro-slavery settlers were massacred in Pottawatomie, Kansas by John Brown and his group of abolitionists. A group of pro-slavery Missourians invaded Kansas and burned the town of Osawatamie in the same year. Quantrill’s Raiders terrorized the countryside, striking military and civilian settlements alike, most notably, massacring 200 men in nearby Lawrence, Kansas in 1863. These raids and massacres took place only a few miles from the town of Westport.
As the Union troops gained control of areas around Westport, they often treated those they suspected of being sympathetic to the Southern cause with brutality and harshness. Property of many landholders was confiscated and destroyed, stiff fines were assessed, and some ministers and landowners were even banished. In 1863, General Ewing issued General Order No. 11 in an effort to eliminate local support for the Southern cause. The order forced the evacuation of the surrounding rural areas of Jackson, Cass and Bates counties, but not of Kansas City or Westport itself.
By forcing residents out of their farms and homes, it was hoped that support for the guerrillas would be reduced. Union forces hoped that without places to hide and people to support them, they would be able to track hostile irregulars down and to destroy them. Ewing’s General Order No. 11 forced almost 20,000 people, mostly women and children, to leave their homes and farms without compensation or restitution, creating an area that would remain economically devastated during the remainder of the war and for many years after its conclusion. Crops, homes and farm buildings were burned to the ground. Although the Town of Westport itself was spared this trauma, the surrounding population, and certainly many family members of those living in Westport, was effected by the harshness of Order 11. It resulted in great hostility and animosity which colored the history of this region and divided its people for many years.
The Westport Methodist Episcopal Church, South found itself in the center of this social and physical upheaval. As the Union forces became the controlling power in this area, the ministers of Methodist Episcopal Church, South, perhaps for good reason, were treated by the Union military forces as Southern sympathizers. Many of the churches in Westport that were suspected of Southern sympathies were closed, their use as places of worship and education suspended. This was certainly true for The Westport Methodist Episcopal Church, South.
It was not uncommon for the military commanders of the Union troops to send special orders to ministers of the “Southern” Methodist churches ordering prayers for special persons or things and requiring United States flags to be flown from the pulpits or church doors. In 1863, Major W. C. Ransom, the commander of United States forces in Westport, ordered the Westport church pastor to display the flag of the United States in front of the pulpit at all times, telling him that he must also publicly pray for the President of the United States, naming him, and for the government of the United States. The order was carried out by the church leaders in order to save the church and its property.
Military battles and bloodshed were not only limited to areas near Westport. In October of 1864, the Battle of Westport raged in and around Westport itself. The Westport Methodist Episcopal Church, South along with the nearby Harris House and the Wornall House, as well as the Old Methodist Church at 5th and Walnut in the Town of Kansas, all served as hospitals for the wounded and dying from both sides of this tragic conflict.
At the end of the war Missouri abolished slavery before the adoption of the 13th amendment to the US Constitution. However, the new state constitution adopted in Missouri denied voting rights and included prohibitions against certain occupations for former Confederacy supporters. Those who were thought to have been southern sympathizers were required to take a loyalty oath. In other states, this applied only to those who had fought for the South or held office in the Confederate regions, but in Missouri, the new constitution required such an oath of teachers and ministers. In 1865 all ministers of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South were required to take what has been referred to as the “Test Oath,” attesting to their past and present loyalty to the government of the United States.” By 1867, the “Test Oath” was determined to be unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court.
In spite of bloodshed, warfare and political harassment, Westport Methodist Episcopal Church, South continued to thrive, as did Methodism in this region and the country. In 1867, shortly after the conclusion of the tragic period of the Civil War, the old frame church building was torn down and the Warfield Chapel, a new brick church, was built to serve the growing needs of the congregation and community.
In 1894 a new stone building “with beautiful stained glass windows” was added to the Warfield Chapel building. (According to Kite, writing in 1964, some of the existing stained glass windows in the Westport church may date from that period.) In 1899 the Town of Westport was formally annexed by the City of Kansas City, which by then had completely surrounded the small community. The church was remodeled in 1925, and some of the present windows may have been installed at that time. In 1939 the two branches of the Methodist Episcopal Church reunited and Westport no longer used the “South” designator. In 1952, again free of debt, the church was rededicated.
In 1968 The Evangelical United Brethren Church and The Methodist Church joined in what would be known as The United Methodist Church. The new denomination was given birth by two churches that had distinguished histories and influential ministries in various parts of the world. When the Methodist Episcopal Church joined with the Evangelical United Brethren Church, the name of the Westport Methodist Episcopal Church was changed to the Westport United Methodist Church.
In 2005 the church once again changed its name to Revolution United Methodist Church. In 2012 this church and Keystone United Methodist Church joined together to share resources and strengthen their shared commitment to serving central Kansas City residents.
The history of Revolution United Methodist Church in Westport reveals much about its values. The spiritual needs of its members and its dedication to the work of the church’s missionaries and to its charitable and social service efforts in the community have been central to its mission since the founding of the church in 1836. The Westport community has grown and changed over the years. From a frontier boom town, serving the needs of westward settlers, it survived the difficult years of border and Civil wars, and periods of economic decline as well as prosperity. Now it is once again an important participant of a newly thriving and growing community.
The Windows of Revolution United Methodist Church
(This information is also based on the Golden Threads of Memories by Phyllis Kite.)
As of the summer of 2015 I have been unable to locate information about the designers or the fabricators of the Revolution Church’s stained glass windows, or the dates of their installation. Some or all of the windows may have been in the building when it was built in 1894. Certainly the “Victorian” style of the window designs suggest that may be the case, Kite (1964) indicates that some of the memorial dedications were made after 1918 and in the 1920’s. However, it is possible that the windows were in place earlier and the dedications made at a later date.
Starting from the front of the church, at the western end of the sanctuary, and moving toward the back, which is now the main entrance on the East, the windows are found in this order.
On the North wall of the Sanctuary.
Given in memory of Sarah A. Proctor by her son and daughter-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. C. O. Proctor. Sarah was the mother of C. O. Proctor and the grandmother of Mrs. W. A. Calhoun (Martha Proctor).
Given in memory of John Tinker. No confirmed information has been found regarding John Tinker. However, Kite suggests that Tella Dora Tinker Porter gave the window as a memorial to her baby brother, John Tinker, who died before his first birthday in 1866.
Given in memory of Mrs. Elizabeth McCormack. Mrs. John F. (Elizabeth Mauzey) McCormack was the mother of Ella and Sallie McCormack. Ella McCormack married Charles B. Overton. Sallie McCormack married Fredrick W. Klaber.
The next set of six windows rise the full height of the sanctuary just inside the East entrance. (A similarly high group of windows comprised of 11 panels mirrors this group on the opposite South wall, again at the rear of the sanctuary, near the East entrance.) This group of six windows, at the rear of the sanctuary on the North wall, includes three longer arched ones above and three rectangular ones below.
On top, on the left, is a narrow arched window including a design focused on the Greek letter Alpha.
The longer and wider window in the center features a cross within a crown. This window was donated by the Epworth League of the church.
The narrow arched window on the right features a design including the Greek letter Omega.
On the lower left is a window given in memory of Mrs. Julia Holmes Simpson.
Julia Simpson was the mother of Charles T. McCune and the daughter of Judge Holmes and his wife Laura Holmes. Records indicate that in October of 1864 she was one of the women who nursed confederate soldiers who had been wounded in the Battle of Westport in the old Methodist church at 5th and Walnut in what is now downtown Kansas City.
The center window of the lower three was given in memory of Rev. C. C. Woods, D.D.
The window on the lower right was given in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Charles B. Overton. Mrs. Overton was Ella McCormack, the daughter of Elizabeth Mauzey McCormack.
High over the East door, above what is now the Choir /Organ Loft, is a large arched set of three windows. I am not aware any dedication or the date of installation.
On the South wall, moving from the back of the sanctuary toward the front.
A very large multi paned window in rose, purple and varicolored glass rises on the South wall at the back of the Sanctuary. It is comprised of a large arched center grouping of 9 windows plus two additional windows on either side.
The three windows at the top of this grouping provide a rounded arch with scrolled decorative elements. These three windows do not exhibit memorial dedications.
The two center windows on either side display more scrolled floral patterns. The center panel displays a crown. None of these three windows exhibits a memorial dedication.
The three lower panels are each identified with memorial dedications.
The window on the left is dedicated to Mr. and Mrs. D. C. Clevenger.
The central panel is dedicated to the memory of Martha Hinshaw and was given by her children.
The two narrow windows on either side of the large grouping of 9 windows show a flame on the left and a lamp on the right. No dedications are indicated for either of these windows.
The next window is dedicated to the memory of Nellie F. and James M. Klapmeyer, given by their daughters, Mary and Florence (Mrs. J. J. Bruce) in 1925.
The next window is dedicated to the memory of Harry Anderson.
In rooms off the vestibule, beside the Eastern front entrance to the church.
Holmes McCune was the grandson of Julia Holmes Simpson and the great grandson of Judge and Laura Holmes.
Two additional small windows are in the East entrance partially obscured by the choir loft ceiling which was constructed after the windows were installed.
The Revolution United Methodist Church, founded in 1836, and serving the citizens of Westport, Missouri as well as central Kansas City, Missouri, is a small and rather humble structure, now over 120 years old. Its memorial stained glass windows are loving testaments to members and families who built and served this community in years past and whose memories have been honored in beautiful creations that will inspire worshipers for many years in the future.