|City/Town: • Topeka|
|Location Class: • Church|
|Built: • 1890 | Abandoned: • 2012|
|Historic Designation: • African American Heritage Site|
|Status: • Restored 2022|
|Photojournalist: • Emily Cowan|
Table of Contents
Sunday School of St. Simon’s
James H. Guy was the first African American to practice law under the Ohio Supreme Court when he was admitted in 1882. Coming to Topeka in the mid-1800s James started up his own law practice. This same year St. Simon’s Mission was founded, the first services were held in the new law office of James. Guy was a founding member of St. Simons Church, and he was Senior Warden of the vestry board up until his death on Aug. 1, 1931.
Church of St. Simon the Cyrenian
In 1887, the congregation secured land to build their own place of worship. And in 1890, construction was completed, The Waverly Gazette Feb. 14, 1890 reported “On Feb. 2nd, the cornerstone of Topeka’s 48th church was laid. The new church will be known as the Church of St. Simon the Cyrenian. It is an Episcopal church. The cornerstone was laid by Bishop Thomas with appropriate services.” At the time it had no regular priest and was under the wing of Topeka Grace Cathedral. As of 1894 Rev. G.W. Miner was the minister in charge of the church. Services were held at 4:30 p.m., Sunday School at 9:45 a.m., and Litany on Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m.
St. Simon Episcopal Church
By 1905, James Guy, Soloman Watkins, and John Wright had left St. John A.M.E. for St. Simon’s as a badge of attributed status they and their families occupied pews close to the altar. Rev. Henry B. Brown started as a deacon then pastor and then advanced to priesthood of the church from 1906 until 1912 when George Gilbert Walker took over as minister in charge. As of January 1906, St. Simon’s had fifty communicants, a predominantly African American congregation. An annual Easter celebration was put on by the church, “The sunlight streaming through colored glass windows adorned the flower-decked chancel and candle-lit sanctuary; and sweet strains of music were mingled with the solemn intonation as the priest and rector, Rev Henry B. Brown celebrated Holy Eucharist in a “Missa Cantata.” Father Brown delivered a symbolical sermon, the subject being, “light the lights.” Mrs. J.K. Wright sang an Easter solo, and Mr. Harry Dillard played a violin solo as the offertory. The spirit of the day, as manifested in all directions, was a testimony to the prosperous condition of St. Simon’s Church, and is, it is hoped, a forecast of greater prosperity.” The church was consecrated by Bishop Millspaugh on Dec. 10, 1909.
Rev. Joseph (Joe) Allen Tinley Thompson grew up in the church first being a choir member & acolyte, then as a lay reader on Sunday mornings when a priest from Grace Cathedral wasn’t available. He was ordained as an Episcopal Deacon in 1956 and assigned as Vicar of St. Simon’s. It was in 1958 when St. Simon’s was merged with Topeka Grace Cathedral and Rev. Joe Thompson became a deacon at the Cathedral. On April 12, 1964, St. Simon’s was sold.
Other Congregations & Restoration
Since then the church neglected church has been reborn again under The Rock Covenant Church. It has been beautifully restored and a connection to the parsonage next door has been constructed. The stained glass windows were replaced and ready to bring in the light of God once again.
Gallery Below St Simons Church
“14 Feb 1890, 4 – The Waverly Gazette at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/422016155/?terms=st%2Bsimon%2Bthe%2Bcyrenian%C2%A0.
“24 Jan 1906, Page 6 – The Leavenworth Times at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/76942471/?terms=st.%2Bsimon%2Btopeka.
“24 Mar 1955, 4 – Evening Eagle at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/367336306/?terms=st.%2Bsimon%2Btopeka.
“25 Nov 1894, Page 8 – The Topeka Daily Capital at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/64751866/?terms=st.%2Bsimon%2Btopeka%2BGW%2BMINER.
“26 Mar 1910, 3 – The Topeka State Journal at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/323133728/?terms=st%2Bsimon%2Bthe%2Bcyrenian.
“4 Nov 1915, Page 6 – The Topeka Daily Capital at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/64576500/?terms=st.%2Bsimon%2Btopeka.
“7 Jan 1906, 18 – The Topeka State Journal at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/323130019/?terms=st.%2Bsimon%2Btopeka.
“African American Topeka.” Google Books, Google, books.google.com/books?id=8TNoBQAAQBAJ&pg=PA32&lpg=PA32&dq=saint%2Bsimon%27s%2Bepiscopal%2Bchurch%2Btopeka%2Bks&source=bl&ots=O6PZRPWV6O&sig=ACfU3U3a0YYrqR0ai0RRQ1jH-POP2rnObg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiK5ODp1PfpAhXxdM0KHUMgB5QQ6AEwEHoECBsQAQ#v=onepage&q=saint%20simon’s%20episcopal%20church%20topeka%20ks&f=false.
“Black Bishop.” Google Books, Google, books.google.com/books?id=2Ht1WJk5JwAC&pg=PA115&lpg=PA115&dq=st%2Bsimons%2Btopeka%2Bks%27&source=bl&ots=LhXPDcTAvF&sig=ACfU3U3Jr_oW7i0DrEmbz4deWCPDTHH43A&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiz8-Sgx_fpAhVCLK0KHUvhAlYQ6AEwAnoECCIQAQ#v=onepage&q=st%20simons%20topeka%20ks’&f=false.
“Blacks in Topeka Kansas, 1865–1915.” Google Books, Google, books.google.com/books?id=oSFBZ8J1MgkC&pg=PA102&lpg=PA102&dq=st%2Bsimons%2Btopeka%2Bks%27&source=bl&ots=kCgwturacR&sig=ACfU3U2VHI2d6P4yZW8HSescZbw8ca3Wgw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiz8-Sgx_fpAhVCLK0KHUvhAlYQ6AEwAXoECCUQAQ#v=onepage&q=st%20simons%20topeka%20ks’&f=false.
Guy Family Page, henryburke1010.tripod.com/lettsettlementreunion/id21.html.
“Photos of James H Guy – Find A Grave Memorial.” Find a Grave, www.findagrave.com/memorial/83691701/james-h-guy/photo.
Blanche Taylor, Plenteous Harvest: The Episcopal Church in Kansas 1837–1972
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