Religion in the Con. 8 Community with Emphasis on the Community Friends Church
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friends church art portrait   The Con. 8 Community Friends Church --Started 1952.  Completed 1955.
Source material for most of the community churches and Sunday schools is very sparse.  There is a brief mention of those activities in the opening panel of this picture story.  I do have some more material which will eventually be linked from that brief opening.  But the Community Friends Church was the one with the best documented history.  This was due to the efforts of Val and Carolyn Bridenstine and helpers who put together a "Scrapbook" at the time the church disbanded in 1980.   I have used bits of that to piece together a story based on a few of  the many  pictures in that work.  It may seem that the story I tell   focuses too much on the physical developments whereas the true importance was in the spiritual realm; but surely that is true in all parts of my story of the community.   But  I feel those physical matters reflect to some extent the underlying spiritual story.  For the churches this was   in many ways a continuation of the Con. 8 Community Tradition that developed in the first half of the last century.  In any case, the Scrapbook is the major resource for recalling and   understanding community life after the school disbanded in 1957.

Churches Services Before 1950

In the early days, there were no churches built in the Con. 8 community.  At almost any time, there were services held at the various schools in the community.   A few general descriptions of those exist, and there are two pictures which perhaps give some impression of  the Sunday Schools that operated in the very early schools:     Shiloh Evergreen Union Sunday School and an apparent Sunday School at Con. 8 in the twenties.

In the thirties, the Twin Mountain Baptist Church, 1 mile east and three miles south of Con. 8 school was attended by many of the families especially in the south part of the community, and the Mullins Church of Christ operated from about 1909 into the late forties serving also a few families of the Con. 8 Community.  Churches across the river at Warren became more accessible after the better bridge was built in the late thirties.  For others regular church affiliations were in surrounding communities; but the services, especially Sunday School held at the Con. 8 school at different times were well attended.   These were hard to maintain on a continuing basis, as the organization was very informal and there was no pastor.

The Beginning of the Con. 8 Community Friends Church

Val Bridenstine became the pastor of The Cold Springs Friends Church in 1943.  Some in the community had associations with that church for many years and in the forties quite a number of Con. 8 families attended and joined that Church.   There was so much interest that in 1949, Val Bridenstine and his wife Carolyn, began conducting services periodically at the Con. 8 school building in addition to the Cold Springs Services.  Over the next year more interest developed, and a group of Con. 8 residents, organized the support necessary to provide a full time pastor for a community Church

Val became the full time pastor for Con. 8 in September 1950.  Services, Sunday school and Bible School activities were held in the Con. 8 school building, and Val, Carolyn, and sons, Stanley and Lester moved from the Cold Springs Parsonage to a house on the Peter Lanig farm at the site of the old "Frog Pond" school.

The growth of interest during the first year lead to the beginning a plan for a "permanent work" -- a church building.

bridensteinfamily   Val had a dream and a plan.  The only fixed feature of the plan was "It can be done! And pay as you build or build as you pay ".  
The commitment was made and, a building committee was established.   Aaron Jackson donated a plot of land across the road  north of the Con. 8 school. 

The survey committee saw to the layout of the plat.
land survey
County Engineer , O. P. Wilson, and the survey committee, Coy Nichols, Dick Culvahouse, and Aaron Jackson--Spring 1952.
Funds for the initial stages of construction were pledged and more fund raising activities got underway. The building committee and other interested persons visited rural churches all over southwest Oklahoma, before they decided upon plans for the church.  

Thus the way was cleared for the groundbreaking ceremony about
noon on Friday,   July 6, 1952. 
In the picture below taken looking to the west, most everybody is equipped to break that ground


The people as far as they have been identified are by the numbers : 1. -----, 2. Janel Culvahouse, 3. -----------, 4. Winefred Bock, 5. Mary Bock, 6. Walter Ankney , 7. Jewel Ankney, 8. Edgar Ankney , 9. ........10.  Gerald Bock, 11. _________ ?, 12. Marlene McClure. 13. Mae Ann Bolding?     14. ............,   15.  Mrs. Roy Bolding,   16 .  Lillie Guy ?, 17. Mrs. Miers ?, 18. Blanche McClure,   19 . ........,   20.  Carolyn Bridenstine , 21.__________, 22. ___________, 23. V. H. "Dick" Culvahouse, 24. Sybil Culvahouse, 25. Clara McClure, 26 Billy Jack Brock ?, 27. __________, 28. M. E. "Chuck"   Miers ,  30. Ruth L. Jackson ? , 31. ____________, 32. Aaron Jackson ?,   33. Val Bridenstine , 34. Troy Guy,   35 . Randy? Jackson ,   36 .__________, 37. Stanley Bridenstine ,   38.  ____________,    39. ___________,   40. Lester Bridenstine ?,   41. __________,   42 . _? Jackson ,   43. Joey Courtney?,   44 . Danny McClure


The Builders Come Forward

With funds that were donated, brought in by sales and auctions held by the women of the Church;   and with much donated labor the church building got underway immediately.
building the church-1952
1952-the building goes up. Stanley, Val, and Lester Bridenstine.  The left-handed sawer at right is Henry Estoll .  Henry was employed as lead carpenter to direct the work.  Val and others in the community were skilled carpenters. They as well and others contributed their varied skills, talents and energy.

Within a few months, the building was brought to a condition of near  weather worthy. This taken Oct. 12,  1952.
church oct 11, 52 Late 1952 About the end of 1952, Joe Denham runs the road grader over the church grounds to prepare the way for landscaping and eventually concrete walks.

It was to be nearly three years yet before the interior of the building would be finished so that the first services could be held.  In the meantime there was a more urgent need.

As later pictures show, the school building provided satisfactory facilities for church services and outstanding ones for both the Sunday School classes and the Summer Bible Schools ;  but there was an urgent need for a parsonage on the church site.  Early in 1953,  an old farm home was purchased and moved to the site.
bob smith house jacked up
In this February 1953 picture, the old Bob Smith farmhouse located 2 miles south of the Church is up on blocks and ready to move.  The front porch has been removed.

The house was moved onto a new foundation already poured and set about 100 feet east of the church building.  And work began immediately on restoration. A stage a few weeks later is shown in the following
refurbishing the old house
Note that in the process the house is being enlarged by building rooms under the old porch overhang of the roof.  The result was a very nice and quite large modern rural home.  

So we come to a snowy Dec of 1954 or January of 1955 when the parsonage looks very snug and conformable as viewed looking north from the east-west road in front of the church grounds.

To left of the parsonage,  and a few days later the church building is now within a few months of being finished still  The cement walkway from the parsonage to the church is shoveled clear.
church in snow blanket

All this and the rest that would be done required not only vast amounts of contributed labor
(8000 hours by 55 men), but also cash funds.

Funds were raised in many ways, canvassing the community for direct contributions, bake sales, rummage sales, and auction sales of contributed craft work.

A Community Canvass Committee   in about 1951. The community was divided into 4 districts and teams of two covered each district.  Pictured here are: Ruth L. Jackson, Blanche McClure, Sybil Culvahouse, Alene Nichols, Ethel Bolding, Mary Ankney , and Lillie Guy.  An unidentified eighth member is probably the photographer.

canvas group 0n2  

From the Hobart  Democrat-Chief   Friday Nov. 28, 1952

Tonight at 7:30 women of Con. 8 Community Friends church will conduct an auction sale of household goods at Con. 8 School.   Money raised will be used to fiancee laying of a cement floor to be covered with asbestos tile in the new Friends Community church across the road from the school.  Funds for the church building have been acquired by food and rummage sales.  No Community canvass has been conducted, the women explain, because of poor crops this year.

Pictured to the right are church women, (from right to left around the table)  Mrs. V. H. Culvahouse,  Mrs. Walter Ankney, Mrs. W. E. Mires, Mrs. B. E. Snow, Mrs. Coy Nichols, and standing at the end of the quilting frame, eight-year-old Eric Jackson and his six-year-old brother, Randy, sons of Mr. and Mrs. Aaron Jackson.  They are  working on the church quilt which will be a featured item of the sale tonight. 

In the original caption Mrs. Carl McClure was listed between Mrs. Culvahouse and Mrs. Ankney, but apparently she was missed in the actual picture. In the next story this quilt is identified as the Name Quilt.

Con. 8 Student Paper Reports the Results

studentreview reports sale
The auctioneer for this sale was Jackie Shelton Class of '48.

All this industrious work by the ladies of the church did not all go to building the church.  The Missionary Society also met regularly to make other items to benefit that fund

And Then there were more Harvest Sales for the benefit of the church construction.   The craft work for a sale in November 1954 is exhibited on the stage of the Con. 8 auditorium.
items for 1954 autum sale

From time to time the ladies also did their part of the purchasing for the new church building.  Here is a group leaving the church to shop for a stove to place in the church kitchen--about 1955
shopping for a stove
Left to Right-Mary Ankney, Debby Ankney, Ruby McCollom with son Mark, Ruth L. Jackson ,  Mary Bock, Mary Fowler.

The first services were held in the new church in September 1955, and it and the new parsonage were dedicated in April of 1956.
The pictures above serve to sketch out in part , the progress in the building of the physical structures that would house the church for another twenty five years.   But those were the just the outward signs of a spiritual building that was the more permanent  result .  While all this was underway,  the main activity of the church was conducted in the Con. 8 School Building

This is the Adult Sunday School Class in the Fall of 1954
Standing at the east entrance to the old brick building.
adultclassin 1954
Back Row: Aaron Jackson, Charles McCollom , Dick Culvahouse, Chuck Miers, Carl McClure, Roy Bolding, Ethel Bolding, Jewel AnkneyMiddle Row: Birdell Schrader, Lillie Guy, Alene Nichols, Carolyn Bridenstine Bottom Row: Velma Brock, Ruby Miers , Mary Bock, Blanche McClure.

And here is the Summer Bible School Class in the early fifties--probably also 1954
bibleschoolclassearly fifties
In addition the school building provided a wonderful facility for the Summer Bible School for which the attendance reached about 100 during the peak years. Identifications here are possible on a larger copy.  We point out here two teachers, Mary Ankney on the far left and Ruth L. Jackson on the far right.

Here is one of the extra features provided by the Con. 8 school that were especially appreciated during the summer Bible school.

bibleschool and Merry Go Round

Mary Ankney-teacher, Steve Hutchinson, Penny McCollom, Mary Jan Jackson, Debbie Ankney, John Allen Nichols, Dennis Cooper, Steve Sims, Mike Jackson, Ross Jackson, Virginia Hawkins, Bill Hawkins, Virginia Jackson

Behind the scenes there were work groups always in the homes.  Here something seems to being planned.  It might be fund raising but perhaps more likely a Rally Day to stimulate attendance.
work group at culvahouse
Left to Right: Marlene McClure at typewriter, Val and Carolyn Bridenstine, V. H. "Dick" and Sybil Culvahouse, Billy Jack Brock, Janel Culvahouse also at typewriter.

By 1957 the Church Facilities were fully functional 

In this March 1959 photograph, the Church stands in silent witness to the final stages in the demolition of the old school.
School is demolishished  
          The Church and the old school lunch room which was kept as a community building now became the focus and cohesive force for the Community.

The Bridenstines and the Community had build well, and the Bridenstines felt free to answer a call to meet another challenge.  In 1960, the Bridenstines took up their work at a Friends Church in Topeka , Kansas .

In the nearly twenty years that Val and Carolyn had spent at Cold Springs and Con. 8, they had great influence for betterment of the spiritual lives of at least three generations.
On the firm foundations established, the Church continued to enjoy success as a sturdy member of the Kansas Quarterly Meeting of Friends ..  In the following years, the ministry changed periodically, but the strengths in the neighborhood and dedication of the ministers maintained a steady course, continuing to define a social as well as spiritual life and an identity for the community.
church in 1970

Time For Church Summer 1970

The ministry of the church was conducted by the following parsons over the years.

Val Bridenstine       Sept.1950 -- Aug. 1960
Ercil Craven          Sept. 1960 -- Aug. 1962
David Cox                Sept. 1962 -- Aug. 1964
Sylvan Mardock      Sept. 1964 -- Aug. 1966
Clifford Arndt         Sept. 1966 -- May 1967
Gerald Holden         Aug. 1967 -- June 1970
Loyd Fitzsimmons   July  1970 -- Mar. 1972

                (Rev. Fitzsimmons suffered a heart attack on Friday and died the  following Sunday April 2, 1972)
Charles Cox Jr.        June 1972 -- June 1973
Joe Watkins           April 1974 -- June 1978
Val Bridenstine        June 1978 -- April 1981

Continuously, from 1960 to 1980, the number of people in the community declined.  In 1978, Val and Carolyn who had retired a few years before agreed to come again as Pastor and work with the people to see if the Church could continue.  

The hope that someway could be found to maintain the church was pursued with dedication, imagination and skill; but nothing could be done about the external factors that promised yet further depopulation of the area.
val and carolyn about 79  
Val and Carolyn at the Church about Spring 1979 or 1980.

By late 1980, the congregation had shrunk to 16 members some of whom were no longer living in the community and others could see that there would need for them to move to a less isolated area.    With much sadness, the congregation voted to discontinue the Church.   The last service was held March 22, 1981 .  This story from the Hobart Democrat Chief at the time perhaps best describes the feelings, but also the thankfulness of the congregation as they moved on firm in the knowledge that they had done well.   Go to Con. 8 Home Page for more about the community.

church closing