Beecher Bible and Rifle Church

This month I took a short, hour and half drive out to Wamego, Kansas. Wamego is a town of 4,000 about a hour northwest of Topeka. The town is the home of the Wizard of Oz Museum and has totally embraced the notion that they are center of the Wizard of Oz universe. But first the history.

About 6 miles south of Wamego, just off route 99 is Wabaunsee, KS, which is the location of the Beecher Bible and Rifle Church. The church itself is a couple hundred yards down a gravel road, but it is well marked and easy to find. There is a little roadside marker on the main road. The church is still in use as a church and is only open for tours if you call in advance and set up a tour. I did not do this and it’s probably not worth it since the church has been updated many times over the years the interior is mostly modern at this point.

I must admit that I had the entire Beecher Bible story wrong. I had always thought that the story here was the one we have all seen in movies where the kindly minister is taking bibles to the abolitionists, Native Americans, or some other downtrodden group. But wait! Surprise, there are rifles in the crates under the bibles. Well, sorry to disappoint you if you were like me and loved the details of that story. That is not what happened here.
The Beecher Bible story is simply this. In 1856 after the Kansas/Nebraska act had opened up Kansas and the Bloody Kansas era was in full swing. An abolitionist town in New Haven, Connecticut had raised money to send a group of anti-slavery pioneers to Kansas to help fight against slavery. A famous presbyterian minister in New York, Henry Ward Beecher, had pledged that his congregation would provide some Sharps Rifles to the group for their trip. A Sharp Rifle was the latest and greatest rifle of the time. When the rifles were delivered to the group before their trip, there was also bibles in the crate. End of Story. A little less exciting that I had always thought.
While in the area I also went to the Mount Mitchell Heritage Prairie Park, which is a Freedom Frontier site. The park is very scenic and gives the user, after a short hike an amazing view of the Kansas prairie in the area. It’s kind of cool to be able to look around see the prairie as it would have been when the Beecher Church members came to the area in 1856.
Back to Wamego and the Wizard of Oz Museum. There is a $10 fee for the museum, but if you are there, you have to go. I have included several pictures of some of the exhibits. Basically, imagine that you are the world’s most crazy Wizard of Oz collector and purchase anything Wizard of Oz. That is what is in the museum. I’m not a super Wizard of Oz fan, but it was interesting. They have every plate, cup, toy, doll, figurine, book, poster etc. that has anything to do with the Wizard of Oz. It was busy, not overcrowded, but busy, on a very hot Sunday in September. Again, if you have made the trip out to Wamego, you should go.
As mentioned earlier, the town has totally embraced the Wizard of Oz thing. They have a Oz winery, the boutique shops in the downtown have Wizard of Oz themed names and a yellow brick road that is good for pictures. (See the images that accompany this post)
In mid-October, I’m going to post an update for all those interested in the process. This update will include sales numbers on all my book, how my marketing efforts have gone and the progress, or lack thereof, of my Amarugia project. Look for that this month and then another Jesse James related post in November. In the meantime, checkout my website, to see where I’m speaking next and heck, buy a book. Why not!

Click on image to read captions