Our family and the Burr Oak United Methodist Church 1873-2010


Burr Oak, Kansas United Methodist from SW 1.JPG

The Lewis and Riner families were among the
founders of the Burr Oak United Methodist Church,
which began in 1873.

[notice the symbolism of the Twelve and the Upper Room]

The Burr Oak United Methodist Church was founded
on June 28, 1873. The first class met in the upper room
of a local log cabin on that date. Of “the twelve,” our family
members were Thomas Lewis, brother of  our great-grandfather
Cal “CE” Lewis; Robert Richland Skeels [RR] and his wife
Susannah Riner Skeels. She was the sister of great-great
grandmother Mary Riner Clayton [mother of Belle].  Soon
they were joined by Harve J and Mary Skeels Grubbs,
[grandparents of Homer Lewis]. CS Pangborn [married
to Roseanna Riner, another of Mary’s sisters]. William and
Phoebe Lewis [Cal’s brother]. William Riner [Mary’s brother]
and his wife Jennie Lewis [Cal’s sister]. Cal also joined in the
1870’s. All these names were on the subscription list
which paid the minister’s salary [annual renewal].

Finally, one day I noticed this name on the subscription
list: Mrs. Clayton, 1886, and it dawned on me that she
was great-great grandmother Mary Riner Clayton, our
great-great grandmother from the Riner line, who moved
to Burr Oak in 1886 to be near her Riner sisters and brother
after her husband Ben Clayton passed away. Her daughter
Belle, a widow, came with her mother and her two small
daughters. Soon Belle she renewed her acquaintance with
Cal and our line began. As a little girl, Belle lived next door
to Cal and his first wife Milly; Cal’s property was next to our
progenitor Daniel Riner in Onarga, Illinois. Daniel, born in
1796 in Virginia, was the father of Mary, Susannah, Will,
Roseanna, and Hannah, along with others who died before
the family moved to Kansas. Cal was 21 years older than Belle,
but they had the happiest of marriages from 1886 until his
passing in 1928. [saddened only by the deaths of two of their
children, and one of hers, and one of his].

Over the decades, family members served as deacons,
taught Sunday School, sang in the choir, worked in the
Sunday School classes, served in the Ladies’ Aid Society,
and faithfully served the church until the doors were closed.
Our dear cousin Anna Belle McDonnel Grubbs was there as
the numbers dwindled down to 5 or 6, faithful until the end.

In 1870, following the death of his wife and son, Cal Lewis,
our great-grandfather went to Burr Oak, Kansas and made
a claim. He joined his older brother Thomas, who had arrived
the year before. Thomas had been taken prisoner during a raid
by the 9th Illinois Calvary in Tennessee and placed in the Libby
Prison for a time and then taken to the Andersonville Prison. He
was kept in the two prisons for nine months but was liberated
and received an honorable discharge from the army at the close
of the war.

Their brother William Lewis and his wife Phoebe, along
with their sister Jennie and her husband Will Riner, came
in September 1872 [some sources say 1871]. Cal, Tom, William,
and Will Riner, and their cousin Tom Miller had all served
together for three years with the 9th Illinois Calvary. Soon
Will Riner’s family began to join him: Susanah Riner & R R Skeels
came in March 1872. Cyrus Pangbourn and Roseanna Riner
came in March 1882. Hannah Riner and Jesse Drake arrived
in 1888.

After she was widowed, our gg-grandmother Mary
Riner Clayton also came to Burr Oak in 1886, along with her
daughter Belle Hunt Fry. Soon afterwards, on April 29, 1886, Cal
and Belle were married at her uncle’s home in New Bedford, Iowa.
Cal’s brother David stayed in Onarga, IL on the family claim. Cal’s
sister Sarah Lewis & Ben Brown also pioneered in Kansas, as did
Jacob Riner, Daniel’s oldest son. The Riner-Lewis-Miller-Pangbourn-
Skeels, Grubbs, and Drake family farms line two roads in Burr Oak
Township, out toward Otego and White Rock. All these  siblings
and cousins came to Kansas together and lived [and prospered]
on a line of farms in north-central Kansas.


Methodist Church

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