The Frontenac United Methodist Church had its beginnings in 1890, when Frontenac was a coal mining town without a Protestant church. A small group banded together and not having money to build a church obtained permission to hold services and Sunday school in the Frontenac Santa Fe Depot (100-200 block of what is now Summerset Street, between Crawford and Labette) which was lead by William Reynolds a local miner. Services were held in the Depot until moved to the old school on the east side at approximate 230-240 N. Cayuga.
The Pittsburg Circuit was set apart at conference in March of 1893. J. R. Ewbanks, preacher and miner from Scammon, was chosen as supply for the circuit. Litchfield, a mining camp with a good church and active membership was made the head of the circuit.
Rev. Ewbanks visited Frontenac in 1893 and found William Reynolds, conducting Sunday school in the old frame school house. After a few meetings, a class was organized with Reynolds as leader and Rev. Ewbanks coming to preach regularly.
The two men began a drive to build a church. With urging from Henry Wilson, the superintendent of the old Cherokee Coal Company the Company donated the lot on which the first church was built at 507-511 East McKay in 1896. The Rev. J. M. Dunlavey was pastor at the time. A parsonage was added west of the church in 1905. Later an activity center was added to the rear of the building.
The church served the congregation until it was destroyed by fire on Dec. 22, 1946. The school was again used for services until a new church could be built on the northwest corner of Cayuga and Lanyon (102 S. Cayuga). The church purchased all the property on the west side along Cayuga south of the alley (behind Miners State Bank aka Labette County Bank) to Lanyon street. Going south along Cayuga was a house, a vacant lot then the corner where the church was built. The house was owned by Jack Kabonic who allowed a lady church member to live there free of charge until her death in 2002. The house was removed and the land donated to the church several years later.
The first services were held in the new church sanctuary with seating for approximately 75 members on January 25, 1948. The building was formally dedicated on Sept. 25, 1948. Rev. Samuel F. Dutton was pastor at that time.
The adjoining vacant lot was used to build a free standing Sunday School building to the north of the church. It was completed in 1963.
In 1985, the Sunday School building was leased to SEK-CAP for the Head Start program. In the late 1990’s, the congregation recognized a need in the community for quality and reasonable child care for working families. The year 2000 brought plans for the church to fulfill that mission and have a day care center for pre-schoolers. Funds were obtained through grants, contributions and loans to remodel the Sunday School building for that purpose.
At the same time, it became apparent church membership had outgrown the church. In the late 1990’s, it became apparent a larger church was needed. They voted to build the new church where the existing church stood. The new day care center would adjoin the church’s north wall. The day care center funding and plans were already underway, but the congregation wanted the day care to be completed first. Therefore, the new facility was named “Kids First”. Construction was completed August 22, 2001 and “Kids First” started taking enrollment.
In 2002, the church building was razed and new construction began at the same location at 102 S. Cayuga. During construction, services were held in the Frontenac City Municipal Court Room, 200 E. McKay. Upon completion of the new church, services and the building dedication were held on March 2, 2003 with Rev. Verl Strong officiating. In April 2007, the church’s mortgage burning ceremony was celebrated with Rev. Verl Strong and Rev. Jan Hayen, Conference District Superintendent from Parsons, KS.
August of 2011, the church purchased and removed the house directly west of the church on Lanyon Street. Plans for the addition of a youth center were discussed but have been tabled for the time being. Gravel was spread on the vacant lot for additional congregation parking.
The Frontenac church became part of a two-point charge with Grace United Methodist (located at 1903 N. Elm Street, Pittsburg, KS) in 1956. In 1987 Rev. Verl Strong added the Opolis, KS Methodist Church making us a three-point charge. In 1998 Rev. Strong retired from Grace Methodist returning us to a two point charge. That charge was dismissed in 2007 when Rev. Strong retired completely.
Chicken Noodle dinners have been a tradition with the Frontenac United Methodist Women for 65 years starting in 1948. What started in the basement of the church serving about 30 people has grown to a full blown 3 day preparation event serving 200 to 250. The third Wednesday of the winter months has been a date looked forward to by generations. Our loyal customers come from near and far, say the hardworking staff ranging from 15 to 30 people. Not everyone working the chicken noodle dinners are even church members, just folks wanting to help out. All proceeds are donated back to the Church or given to other worthy organizations.
Information gathered by:
Nanette Azamber Krumsick