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Museum initiates ‘Trolley Tour of Churches’ as part of community’s Christmas celebration

St. Luke’s Episcopal

Pisgah Baptist Church

Main Street Baptist Church

Woods Memorial Christian Church

November 10, 2017 – The Christmas season in Excelsior Springs officially begins with the lighting of the Mayor’s Christmas Tree, the Lighted Christmas Parade, the opening of the Hall of Trees and the Lane of Lights on Nov. 18. New this year is a “Trolley Tour of Churches” initiated by the Excelsior Springs Museum & Archives. Tickets, available at the Museum or online, are $15 for the trolley ride and tour, or $10 if you drive your own car.

The inaugural event will feature four churches significant to the beginnings of Excelsior Springs: St. Luke’s Episcopal, Woods Memorial Christian, Main Street Baptist and Pisgah Baptist.

The tour will begin at St. Luke’s Episcopal at 1 p.m. After touring the church and hearing its history, the trolley will lead the way to the rest of the churches on the tour, ending at Pisgah Baptist, where refreshments will be served.

The trolley tour guide will also tell a little about some of the other churches along the way between this year’s stops.

At St. Luke’s Episcopal at 412 Regent Ave., tour goers will hear how the land for the picturesque Gothic Revival Church was donated by one of the earliest boosters of Excelsior Springs, Major W.A.J. Bell. Major Bell arranged for a finely carved stone from his Episcopal parish in England, dating from the 15th century, to be incorporated into an interior wall of the church here.

The next stop, at 417 Concourse, will be at the impressive Woods Memorial Christian Church building, which was erected in 1922 and dedicated to memory of William S. Woods, the early banker who built the former bank building that now houses the museum. The Christian Church is one of the earliest churches established in Excelsior Springs, serving the community continuously since 1894.

Even earlier than that, prominent citizens of the black community had organized a Baptist congregation in 1885 in Excelsior Springs, meeting first on the Lincoln School site. One of the founders was Travis Million, whose story is crucial in the discovery of the mineral springs upon which the town was founded. The Main Street Baptist Church was built at 411 North Main after meeting for some time on the site that became the Lincoln School. The old church was torn down in the mid-1920s, when today’s larger church building was constructed.

The land for the original Pisgah Baptist Church was donated by early Fishing River Township settler Christian Wyman, whose son Anthony founded the town in the valley some 30 years later. The congregation was organized around 1849 by the Rev. Robert James, a skilled revival preacher who had also founded the New Hope Baptist Church outside Kearney. The reverend’s sons, however, eclipsed their father’s place in history: the notorious Frank and Jesse James. The original church was on the south side of Highway 10, near the existing cemetery. The new church was built north of Highway 10 in 1964 and expanded in 1976, and the congregation continues to grow.

This article originally was published in The Phunn, the museum’s newsletter.

By Standard Staff • StandardStaff@leaderpress.com

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