The charter for the Dunlap Methodist Church was signed May 22nd 1880. The first services were held in a school house in the north part of town until an appropriate house of worship was finished in 1883. The following year the edifice was dedicated. Joseph Dunlap donated the lots on which the church was built.
Initially the building was nearly identical in architecture to that of the Dwight Chapel and the Skiddy Methodist church, all having been constructed about the same time. The Dunlap church had a pressed tin ceiling, oil lamps, wooden pews and a large stove which sat to one side of the center aisle. In 1893 a bell was purchased and installed in the tower.
Eugene Kramer drew up plans for an addition in 1906, but it was not built until 1913. In December of that year the annex was dedicated with nearly 400 people in attendance. In 1963 the church underwent a remodel and then in 1978 the new fellowship hall was completed. The sanctuary and fellowship hall were again remodeled in 1993 and 1994, respectively.
Although I have not been able to verify this claim, for what it’s worth Mabel Chandler Harris is said to be the first woman in Kansas history to be ordained as a minister of the gospel by the Methodist Church. She was ordained March 6th 1927 by Methodist Bishop Frederick Lette. If so, the Dunlap church has a significant place in Kansas history as Mabel served as pastor there for many years. After Mabel’s death November 22nd 1961, her home was dedicated to the church by her only child, Florence Ethel.
From The Orel Clyde Harris Lineage by Wylie Vernon Harris written in 1976, we are able to learn a little about the early religious atmosphere in the Dunlap area. “As was mentioned before, all of the Harrises (sic) were devout Presbyterians when they arrived in America, but conditions caused many of them to adopt other church membership. Elizabeth Ann Roof Harris, a devout Dunkard, seemed to have brought John J. into that Church and apparently their nine children were brought up in that religion. Finding no Dunkard meeting houses on the Kansas Indian Reservation when they arrived in 1870, the Harris House was used as a meeting place for the few Dunkards in the community. One of their interesting customs was to wash the feet of all worshipers in the horse trough before entering for the service.”
“Although reared as a Dunkard Wiley C. Harris joined the Americus United Presbyterian Church in 1878 and all eight of his children were baptized in that Church. But over the ensuing years for various reasons several of them left that Church and became members of other denominations. Even Eliza, after the death of her husband, Wiley C., in 1899 became a member of the Dunlap Methodist Church. It is rumored, however, that this change may have come as a result of her personal interest in the Methodist minister rather than any change in her religious beliefs.”
In June of 1967 the Dunlap Methodist Church was renamed the Dunlap United Methodist Church because of the merging of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church. In 1975 it became part of the Santa Fe Trails Parish which, at that time, was a cooperative of eight churches. The Dunlap United Methodist Church held its last service July 8th 2012. It then consolidated with the United Methodist Church of Council Grove that August.
On May 29th 2013 the deed to the Dunlap Methodist Church building was signed over to the Morris County Historical Society along with a $25,000 donation for maintenance. The Historical Society’s main goal at present is preservation of the structure. Locals will also be active in fundraising and maintaining the lawn and building. It was decided at a recent board meeting to accept a bid by Sigles and have a new metal roof put on the building. The shingles received a lot of damage this past summer during a high wind storm that passed through southeastern Morris County. Board members have expressed a desire to use the Dunlap church as a museum with displays and or literature to perpetuate the diverse and rich history of the Dunlap area; which includes the Kaw Indians, Pap Singleton and the Exodusters, M. K. & T Railway, cattle and agriculture and of course information on the once thriving and prosperous town nestled in the beautiful Neosho River Valley.