Among the early settlers of this country there were many Christian men and women. A Sunday School was organized and regular meetings held, in a sod schoolhouse, the remains of which are still to he seen across the road south of Arley Cuney's place. The first sermon preached in Wray was delivered in the sod hotel on July 25, 1886, by Rev. Moses Anderson, now of the M. E. church of McCool Junction, Nebraska. Until the building of their church the Catholics held services in private houses. Protestant meetings were later held in the little frame schoolhouse which is now used by the city fathers for their deliberations.
Among the early comers Holy Joe, whose name the lake north of town bears, Opino, and many others are recalled by the pioneers. From time to time itinerant missionaries passed through the country, but even the roughest of the cowmen treated with respect those who came among them, and who strove sincerely to teach and live a better life. Tradition speaks of one who held one meeting only in the frame schoolhouse, and who, disregarding the customs of the Plains in early days, came arrayed in a stiff hat, which he ostentatiously placed on the table at his side. He had already fallen into a merited disfavor with the cowboys, but this last affront was more than even western courtesy could stand. The hat was riddled with bullets, the meeting broke up in confusion, and the owner of the skypiece, if accounts are to be believed, fulfilled literally the scriptural command in his departure from the town, by shaking the dust from his feet.
The town in its earliest and wildest days was never a "tough" town. Today its citizens as a rule are law-abiding, and its leading people are Christian men and women of culture and refinement.
There are at present in Wray six churches. The data given in regard to them has been secured through the kindness either of the pastors, or of some leading officer of the church. They are considered in the order of their organization.
On April 17, 1887, in the frame schoolhouse, the First Presbyterian Church of Wray was organized with fourteen charter members. In 1892 the church erected a house of worship that cost them about $1,500. On February 1, 1896, letters were granted to fifteen members of the church to unite in organizing the church at Vernon. In 1900 lots were purchased and a manse built at a cost of $1,400. Finally, in the fall of 1906, the old church property was sold and a new brick church begun on the manse property. This building, which is the finest of any denomination in eastern Colorado, cost about $8,000, and was dedicated June 2, 1907. It is conveniently arranged with class room, library, and pastor's study; lighted with electricity and heated by furnace. The four memorial windows were given by Mrs. Flora Hendrie, in memory of Collier Hendrie; by Enos N. Vaughn, in memory of Thos. and Hannah Vaughn and by William Heindel, in memory of Hetwig Heindel. The first pastor of the church was Rev. Wm. Marshall, now living in Haughton, Washington; the present pastor is Rev. F. R. Marsh. The church has a total membership of about 120.
The next church building to be erected in Wray was built in 1888 by the Catholics. In it the congregation has worshipped regularly up to the present time. The parish is not able to support a resident priest, but Rev. Father Froegel of Brighton is pastor in charge, holding regular services once a month. The congregation has both a good church building and a comfortable pastoral residence with no debt, and is steadily growing in membership. They hope in the near future to have a resident priest.
METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH
The next church to be organized in our community was the Wray Methodist Episcopal Church, which dates from 1892. Services were held in the Presbyterian Church for some years, but in 1900 the church erected a beautiful building of its own at a cost of $2,200. In 1902 a new parsonage was built, and this in 1906 was considerably enlarged. The church is a typical product of western soil, climate, zeal, fortitude, and enthusiasm, consisting at first of a large circuit of seven points -- the farthest being twenty-two miles distant -- and a wide range of buffalo grass partially dotted with squatters' cabins and dugouts. Many strong-hearted, brave, courageous, and God-fearing men have served this circuit. In 1905 the field was divided, Wray and Laird forming one charge. This charge bids well for the future, having many young people within its borders, a strong and encouraging Sunday School, a wideawake Epworth League, and a growing congregation. During the past year the church has increased the pastor's salary and purchased a fine $500 reed pipe organ. The present pastor is Rev. O. S. Card.
LATTER DAY SAINTS
The Wray branch of the reorganized church of the Latter Day Saints was organized in June, 1892, with a membership of eighteen. The first pastor was Elder E. D. Bullard, who served the church until 1902, when he was succeeded by Elder A. E. Tabor, present pastor. Elder J. B. Roush, who had been president of the Eastern Colorado district of this organization, assisted until the time of his death in 1905. For several years the congregation met in schoolhouses in the vicinity of Wray, but in 1901 their present house of worship was erected at a cost of $800, and dedicated free of debt in September of that year. This branch of the Latter Day Saints has no connection with the Utah Mormon church, being a distinct organization both in government and in doctrine. The present membership is seventy.
SEVENTH DAY ADVENTTSTS
The Seventh Day Adventist Church was organized on December 22, 1900, with a membership of twelve. On March 9, 1902, the new church building was completed and dedicated free from debt. The membership at present is forty-nine. B. E. Parkins, is first elder; A. M. Dorman, deacon; Lily Dorman, clerk; S. J. Ness, librarian; A. M. Dorman, superintendent of the Sabbath School; Cora Dorman, secretary. There is an average attendance of about twenty-five.
By suggestion of the Colorado Christian Missionary Convention, Evangelist J. P. Lucas of Colorado Springs, Colorado, was secured to hold a series of meetings at Wray. and began his services on Lord's Day, April 23, 1901. Meetings were held in the Methodist Church. During these meetings scattered disciples, and others by letter, statement and baptism, to the number of thirty, covenanted together as a Church of Christ in Wray, to be known as the Christian Church of Wray. On April 28, 1901, an organization was effected. The new and beautiful house of worship, built at a cost of $2,500 was formally opened on Lord's Day, June 22, 1902. Since then brethren H. K. White, G. C. Johnson, Charles Coleman, and Walter Carter have served as ministers. The church now has a membership of sixty, with a good working Sunday School, Ladies' Aid Society, Ladies' Missionary Society, a Senior and a Junior Christian Endeavor Society. It is gradually growing in numerical and spiritual strength, and is an active moral and religious force in the community.
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