For the first half of her life, a softball field, a basketball or tennis court,…
McPherson, Kansas – In 1884, the origins of Central Christian College of Kansas began as a small college in Orleans, Nebraska, and, at the time was known as Orleans Seminary. It was founded by Rev. C.M. Damon, who started the institution in his later years. Thirty years later, the seminary moved locations to McPherson, Kansas where it became Central College, now known as Central Christian College of Kansas. Were it not for its visionary beginnings by the late Rev. Damon, Central would not be what it is today.
In August of 2021, staff at CCCK were able to catch up with a descendent of Rev. Damon
’s, Mr. Erik Meade. Pulling up in a 2017 Moto Guzzi V7 iii, Erik recounted how his great, great, great, grandfather, C.M. Damon founded the College.
In the 1800s, Rev. Damon was a Free Methodist circuit rider, traveling around specific geographic territories and areas in order to minister to settlers and organize congregations. By nature, Rev. Damon was a serious man, devoted to spreading the Gospel. His autobiography confirms that he valued spiritual maturity and seriousness. Erik can remember his father commenting that “[C.M. Damon] was careful to never be amused.” Erik found it funny that they thought not being funny was a great Christian virtue.
Besides this virtue, Rev. Damon also valued the role of education. In his words, Damon relates,
I was working one day in my field when all of a sudden there flashed from my mind, a thought from the Lord, a plan for a school which would not overload the work nor involve the church at large…
Through that vision, Damon began to share the idea with other ministers in the area. With their support, he attended the West Kansas Conference meeting of the Free Methodist Church and presented a proposal to establish a school near Almena, Kansas. At the conference, however, Damon discovered that another group also had plans for a school in Kansas. However, after hearing Damon’s idea and boosted by pledges of cash and labor totaling $1,843.50, along with ten acres of land donated by the town of Orleans, the Conference articulated:
In western Kansas and Nebraska, the region of homesteading, where our people have many families of young children and youth, and ordinary school advantages are not the best, we feel deeply the need of a Christian school…Our brethren of the north district have already taken…steps toward the location of an institution at Orleans, Nebraska…having excellent railroad communications and promise of heartiest cooperation and support of the community.
Damon’s experience as a circuit rider and preacher served him well as he stepped into his new role as Principal of Orleans Seminary, in September of 1884. Being a Christian school, the institution was designated a seminary, though it included education ranging from primary grades through post-high school. Early records indicate that, for a time, Orleans Seminary was also known as Orleans College.
The West Kansas Conference, according to the 1886 conference minutes, hoped the school would be “a breakwater against infidelity…” and a leader in Christian education “…from Chicago to California [sending] out its vital pulsations on behalf of the cause of Christ to remote parts of the earth.”
Rustic conditions prevailed at the Seminary and in the surrounding area. Orleans was a small town (population of 1,000) in a farming community. Electricity and water were unknown in the town until sometime between 1907 and 1910. Overlooking the town, the two-building seminary housed administrative offices, dorm rooms, classrooms, chapel, library, kitchen and dining room facilities, faculty offices, and the principal’s and matron’s apartments. Each dormitory room had its own lavatory consisting of two wooden orange crates, curtain door, water pail, and wash pan – all furnished by the students. Each room also had a small pot-bellied stove supplied with coal, which the students bought and carried from the coal house.
School social activities included jogging around the four-block campus, tennis for the older students, marbles for the younger students, and ice skating parties on the nearby Republican River. The seminary catalog offered courses under the headings: Ancient Classical, Modern Classical, Normal, Scientific, English, and Bible. Selected costs were as follows: board per week, $2.50; rooms (lighted by electricity, furnished with a bedstead, spring, mattress of tick, chairs and table, no heat) per week, 50¢; tuition per term, $8; library fee per term, 50¢; diplomas, $2.50; tea and coffee, per week, 15¢ extra.
Eventually, in 1914, under the leadership of L. Glen Lewis, the Orleans Seminary relocated to McPherson, Kansas, having purchased fifteen acres on the edge of town with only one building – Science Hall. Subsequently, the seminary was renamed Central Academy and College, and though Orleans Seminary faded into history, its heritage and legacy live on still today at Central Christian College of Kansas.
During his visit, Erik shared a photo of Rev. Damon’s son, A.J. Damon who also served as a Free Methodist minister. A relative of Erik’s, Byron Meade, shared that he remembered A.J. from when he was a child. Byron recalled that his mom said A.J. liked to have his picture taken; that he only drank hot water with meals; that he walked to a five-acre truck farm garden built about a mile from where he lived, and then sold produce from a wagon parked in the yard of his grandparent’s house.
The Damon family has had an indelible mark on the work of the Free Methodist Church. From at least the 1800s members of the Damon family have played various roles in the Free Methodist denomination. From circuit preaching to building educational institutions and establishing churches, the Damon family has impacted the world for Christ. And now, over 137 years after that vision from the Lord, Central still stands as a beacon for Christ and Christ-Centered education.
ABOUT CENTRAL CHRISTIAN COLLEGE OF KANSAS
Central Christian College of Kansas is a regionally accredited institution offering undergraduate and graduate-level programs. Central strives to offer Christ-centered education for the whole person – heart, mind, soul, and strength. Its history dates back to 1884, and it is located in the friendly town of McPherson, Kansas. Central is a strategically small college that offers over forty areas of residential study and a thriving online program for non-traditional students. To learn more about Central go to centralchristian.edu/about. Visit the Foundation of Central Christian College to see what projects and events are coming up.