Photos provided by Vinland Methodist Church
An Historic Look at the Vinland United Methodist Church
Vinland is known to some as a “hamlet” or community that is smaller than a village. This rural destination, nestled north of Baldwin, is the home of a charming old structure, known as the Vinland United Methodist Church. Still standing in the same vicinity as its original structure, the church is located just off of county road DG 700.
Construction on the little church originally began in 1879, and was completed in 1880. Its simple design is that of a 30 x 48 ft. salt box with a bell tower facing the front of the building and reaching high above the Vinland Valley area below. According to historic church documents, the original church community ordered a bell for its tower from a foundry on the East coast for $196.75. This was a lot of money for this time, but would prove to be a worthwhile expense as it helped the church become the community gathering place. In those early days, the church bell would ring, calling residents to worship service on Sundays, for funerals leading the way to procession toward the Vinland Valley Cemetery, and to alert others to fires and other disasters. It was a place that brought additional development in later years.
Present day church historian Talitha Bailey acknowledges the growth and expansion that the church brought long ago, growth that has since been historically preserved or renovated with new uses, “at one time there were two grocery stores, a bank, a grain elevator, railroad depot, Grange Hall, and cheese factory.” For years the church continued to serve as a strong hold, watching over its people, bringing new residents and new businesses, until one particular Spring day.
Sadly, on May 17, 1940, as an early morning Kansas storm approached, lightning struck the little church, burning it to the ground very quickly. The entire church building and all of its contents were lost. Church records indicate the bell having sustained a crack during the fire, one that was thought by some to be an unfixable problem. However, there were those like building committee member Perry Stevens, who weren’t willing to give up the famous bell or what it stood for, expressing his feelings in writing, “so great was the love for the bell that it was sent to a foundry and repaired and now hangs in the belfry of the re-built church.” This direct quote by Stevens and the difficulties of that time right after the fire are described in a cherished book, Vinland Area History and Episcopal Methodist Church of Vinland, by Anne Hemphill (a long time resident). Although the repairs were made and the bell hangs again in its tower today, the tone of the old bell changed forever, but its importance has not. According to Hemphill, “each Sunday we still ring that bell, worship doesn’t start without it. When you hear it or look up in the belfry and see it there, remember it was and is a very important part of our Vinland United Methodist Church.”
Some of today’s church members descend from those early Vinland residents. Together they share and enjoy the history of their families in this very special place. According to Bailey, “the rebuilt church is a good copy of the original and was remodeled in the 1990’s to add space for the sanctuary and Sunday school classes.” The most beautiful of these renovations are the two stained glass panels in the front of the sanctuary: they are in memory of earlier members.