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Rev Richard Cordley

Rev Richard Cordley

Nottingham, Nottingham Unitary Authority, Nottinghamshire, England
Death 11 Jul 1904 (aged 74)
Lawrence, Douglas County, Kansas, USA
Burial Lawrence, Douglas County, Kansas, USA
Plot Sec. 2
Memorial ID 23918842 · View Source
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Son of Ann Minta and James Cordley. Married to Mary Minta Cox on May 19, 1859 in Hamburg, Livingston Co, MI.


REV. RICHARD CORDLEY, LL. D., during a period of nearly forty years minister of the Plymouth Congregational Church at Lawrence, a victim of the Quantrill raid and somewhat known in public life was born at Nottingham, England, September 6, 1829. When he was about four years of age he came with his parents to America, the family locating on a tract of Government land in Livingston County, Michigan, where Richard attended the pioneer public schools. In 1854 he graduated from the University of Michigan and in 1857 from the Andover Theological Seminary. On December 2, 1857, he preached his first sermon in the Plymouth Congregational Church at Lawrence, Kansas, where he remained as pastor until 1875, when he went to Flint, Michigan for awhile, after which he was pastor of a church at Emporia, Kansas, for six years. In 1884 he returned to Lawrence and continued as pastor of the Plymouth Church until his death, which occurred on July 11, 1904. At the time of the Quantrill raid, August 21, 1863, his house and all its contents were burned, and he was one of the persons marked for death. but he managed to elude the guerrillas. Mr. Cordley was several times a member of the National Council of Congregational Churches. In 1871 he was elected president of Washington College, but declined the office. Three years later the University of Kansas conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Divinity. He served for some time as a regent of the Kansas Agricultural College, and was for several years president of the Lawrence Board of Education. He was the author of "Pioneer Days in Kansas and a "History of Lawrence," and was a contributor to magazines and church periodicals.

A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918

The Emporia Gazette, 11 Jul 1904, Monday

On account of Dr. Cordley's feebleness, Mrs. A. P. Morse has held herself in readiness for some weeks to go to Lawrence when needed. A message from Mrs. Cordley this morning asked her to come at once. The message said that Dr. Cordley may linger until midnight.

The Emporia Gazette, 12 Jul 1904, Tuesday


Dr. Richard Cordley died at his home in Lawrence last night.

Rev. Richard Cordley, D. D., was born in Nottinghamshire, England, September 6, 1829. He came to America with his parents in 1833, locating in Livingstone, Mich., where he spent his youth. His preparatory studies were made in the classical school at Ann Arbor, Mich., under Rev. Daniel Wilkins. He was graduated from the University of Michigan in 1854 and entered Andover Theological Seminary, which course he finished in 1857.

Dr. Cordley came to Kansas in 1857 and located at Lawrence. He preached his first sermon in the Plymouth church, the first Sunday in December, 1857. The membership of the church at that time was only twenty-one or twenty-two, and a large part of the church's support was supplied by the American Home missionary Society. Dr. Cordley was pastor of the Plymouth church eighteen years and left it with a membership of over 400. During his pastorate two marked revivals were experienced: the first in 1867, when over 100 members were added to the church; the second in 1872, added 175 members, of whom sixty-nine were baptized in one day. A beautiful substantial church was built at a cost of $45,000 and dedicated in May 1870.

At the time of the Quantrill raid which occurred August 21, 1863, the residence of Dr. Cordley and all its contents were burned, making a loss to him of $3,000, about half of which was made up afterwards by contributions of friends and churches in the east. He and Rev. Bodwell, who had stopped with him for the night, narrowly escaped death. When they discovered that the raiders were in town, and the main street on fire, they closed the house and watched the movements of the enemy; but when a gang of six ruffians rode up to the house from the opposite side of the street, they decided to wait no longer. Dr. Cordley, with his little girl in his arms, and Mrs. Cordley taking the arm of Mr. Bodwell, they walked deliberately out the back gate and along the street, in full view of the raiders, but were not noticed, and as soon as possible concealed themselves behind some bushes and escaped to the woods.

The well known reputation of both these men as Abolitionists, would have meant instant death if they had been discovered in their flight. For two years subsequent to this raid, which was so disastrous to the people and the town, Dr. Cordley took his turn with the other citizens of Lawrence in standing guard over the town.

In 1875 Dr. Cordley removed to Niles, Mich., where he remained for three years as pastor of the First Congregational church. He returned to Kansas in 1878 and located at Emporia as pastor of the First Congregational church, which then had a membership of eighty-one. During his pastorate, the membership increased to 150. The present Congregational church on the corner of Eighth avenue and Mechanic street was dedicated by Dr. Cordley January 9, 1881. It was erected as a cost of $13,000 and at the time was the most beautiful church in Emporia as well as in this part of the state. Dr. Cordley was then called to the pastorate of the Plymouth church in Lawrence in 1884 and was pastor there until his death. He was succeeded as pastor of the Emporia church by Rev. Ingalls, a brother of the late Senator John J. Ingalls.

During his first residence in Lawrence Dr. Cordley was prominent as an educator. He was a member of the school board six years. After he moved to Emporia he retained his interest in public schools and was a member of the school board here four years and was clerk of the board for three years. He was a regent of the State Agricultural College eight years. He was a trustee of Washburn College of Topeka, over twenty-five years. In the work and growth of Washburn College he always took especial interest.

Dr. Cordley was married to Miss Mary A. Cox of Livingstone Court, Mich., May 19, 1859. They had one child, Maggie, who married William E. Griffith, and resided in Lawrence until she died in 1885.

In Andover seminary, Richard Cordley, Grosvenor C. Morse, Sylvester Dana Storrs and Roswell Davenport Parker formed a Kansas Missionary Band. They were graduated from the seminary in 1857 and came to this state in the autumn, Cordley going to Lawrence, Parker to Leavenworth, Storrs to Quindaro and Morse to Emporia. Coming here when they did and working together for the moral and spiritual good of the state, these four men left a lasting impression of their characters on the commonwealth. Dr. Cordley was the last surviving member of the four.

During his six years here Dr. Cordley endeared himself to the people of this town and he has always had a most kindly feeling for the members of his Emporia church and the people of Emporia. He went from here to Lawrence at the earnest solicitation of the people at Lawrence. The church seemed to be going to pieces, and the members of the church seemed to think that Dr. Cordley was the only man who could hold it together, and he went there because he seemed to be needed worse, although he said it was like a mother having to choose between two children of whom she was equally fond. The people of the Lawrence church have shown their loves and esteem for Dr. and Mrs. Cordley in many ways. A few years ago they sent them on a tour of Europe, and on their return met them at the station with a handsome horse and phaeton which the church presented them.

Dr. Corley's health has failed the last few years and he has had to be wheeled to his pulpit in an invalid's chair. He was able to attend the semi-centennial celebration of the organization of the Congregational church in Lawrence which was held there three weeks ago. At that time he resigned his pastorate as he thought he was getting too feeble to hold it, but it was not accepted. He preached his last sermon two weeks ago.

His wife and Mrs. A. P. Morse of Emporia, were present at the time of his death. The funeral will be held tomorrow afternoon at 2:30 o'clock.

The Emporia Gazette, 12 Jul 1904, Tuesday


Death came to Dr. Richard Cordley at Lawrence, last night, and found him at the close of a long and useful career. His life was quietly efficient, and he died with a local fame and with forty-five years of hard well-directed manhood to show for having moved through this world. He came to Kansas in 1857, with the "Andover band" of Congregational theological students--Sylvester Storrs, Grosvenor Morse, and Roswell D. Parker. They came to help the cause of human liberty in the battle against slavery, and in the first years that followed their settlement in Kansas, they did all that men could do to make sentiment in Kansas for the cause of freedom, and to give such practical assistance to runaway slaves as it came in their power to give. They virtually founded the Congregational church in Kansas. And during the war they played men's parts in sharing the privations and bringing real aid to the distressed people. In those days the Andover band worked unselfishly and got many needed things done. They were Yankees and had a knack of accomplishing results, and the strength and power off the Congregational church in Kansas, is due in considerable part to the solid, practical foundation of common-sense work for the common good of all the people, upon which those men in those days put it. Every religious denomination in every section of the country has its good points--that differ from the equally good points of other denominations--and often from the good points of the same denomination in different sections. The Congregationalists in Kansas have this quality strongly developed: they have moral courage to stand in a fight for the decent, honorable, righteous cause in any local movement in their towns and in the state, and to work quietly and determinedly until the result is accomplished. They are not deeply emotional in their religion; they are slow to get into a contest, even for what others may regard as the right; but once in a struggle, they are the last to quit. The character of the church in other sections may be different, but in Kansas it probably takes much of its ostentatious power from the Andover band that founded the church in this state.

The Man of that band who was most useful--because he was the last survivor--was Richard Cordley. After the war times passed, the church in Kansas was a "feeble folk". During the necessity for hard, soul-grinding work under difficulties that made many a faint-hearted man give up, he kept the faith, and carried it to the people. Drought, grasshoppers, hard times, lawlessness--all these he fought, and against all of them he won. He was a tower of every good movement in Kansas--whether political, social or religious--without stepping across that imaginary line which prejudice marks for a minister to stay behind in influencing public affairs. He worked behind the dead line just as well as those who were on the other side. He was called the "nugget preacher," because he had good, hard sense enough to boil his exhortations down, and not to worry his auditors with much parleying. What he had to say went to the spot. There was no "mere sound and fury ending in nothing" ending in Cordley's sermons nor in his work among the people. He used the methods and the tools at had to do the work at hand, and never complained because the Lord put him at rough work and gave him rough tools to work with. When the tree was to be felled he didn't stand bewailing the lack of a razor. He took the sharpest instrument he could find and down came the tree.

For twenty years last past he has been at Lawrence, the seat of the state university, and the largest congregation of young men and women of that school in the town, has attended Cordley's church. Through these young people his influence has spread, and in a measure he has found a reward for his many years of toil and privation in less fertile fields. He has been an example of high living and clean thinking to these young men and women, and for his life Kansas can never repay him. It will return to Kansas a thousand fold.

During the later years of his life he has written two books setting down the experiences he met in the pioneer days; these books are: "A History of the Town of Lawrence," and "Pioneer Days in Kansas." They are good books and will become valuable as fair unbiased records of a most interesting epoch of western history.

He had a sweet and gentle soul, and it has been a beacon light in the wilderness of the little world wherein he lived and worked. That light will not go out with death, but will rise to "a far more exceeding glory," in some other day, in God's eternity.


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  • Maintained by: Becky Doan
  • Originally Created by: A & R
  • Added: 12 Jan 2008
  • Find A Grave Memorial 23918842
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Rev Richard Cordley (6 Sep 1829–11 Jul 1904), Find A Grave Memorial no. 23918842, citing Oak Hill Cemetery, Lawrence, Douglas County, Kansas, USA ; Maintained by Becky Doan (contributor 46821009) .