REV. STEPHEN A. NORTHROP, D. D., LL. D. - With the urge of intrinsic optimism and with an altruistic fervor not to be denied tangible and practical results, Dr. Northrop has brought to bear splendid powers in the aiding and uplifting of his fellow men. He is both an idealist and a man of affairs, that is, he has the ability to crystallize dreams into deeds, and, animated by abiding sympathy and a clear apprehension of the well springs of human thought and action, it has been his to do a really wonderful work in the cause of the divine Master and in proving himself guide, counselor and friend to "all sorts and conditions of men." As pastor of the First Baptist church of Kansas City, Kansas, he is continuing his fruitful labors with all of zeal and consecration, and to whom is being given a most generous co-operation in the plan for erecting in the metropolis of Kansas a magnificent house of worship, to be known as the Central Temple and to be a veritable place of refuge to all who may come. Dr. Northrop has achieved wide reputation in his noble calling, as well as an author and a man active in the support of all things that make for social and material progress and prosperity. It is matter of gratification to those concerned in the preparation and publication of this history of Wyandotte county and its people to be able to present within its pages a brief review of the career of this honored and valued citizen.
Dr. Northrop claims the old Buckeye state as the place of his nativity and is a scion of one of its sterling pioneer families. He was born at Granville, Licking county, Ohio, on the 7th of April, 1852, and is a son of Rev. William R. and Laura (Abbott) Northrop, the former of whom was born in Gallipolis, Ohio, and the latter in Busti, New York. After due preliminary discipline Dr. Northrop entered Colgate University, at Hamilton, New York, in which he was graduated as a member of the class of 1876, and from which he received the degree of Bachelor of Arts, In preparation for his chosen calling he completed the prescribed course in Rochester Theological Seminary, in which he was graduated in 1877, in which year he was duly ordained to the ministry of the Baptist church. In 1904 the degree of Doctor of Laws was conferred upon him by the University of Missouri and in 1895 he received from Franklin College, Indiana, the degree of Doctor of Divinity. He has held two importnat[sic] and eventful pastorates, the one at Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he remained for fourteen years, and the other at Kansas City, Missouri, where he was pastor of the First Baptist church for ten years, at the expiration of which he assumed his present charge. He has received more than three thousand persons into fellowship in the three churches he has served, and the funeral and marriage services performed by him have reached an aggregate of nearly five thousand. He has served as president of the board of trustees of the Baptist Ministers' Home for Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois; was for three years president of the Indiana Baptist State Convention - these being the highest honors conferred by ths[sic] denomination upon its clergy - and he was prominently concerned in the organization of the Kansas City (Missouri) Baptist Theological Seminary, of whose board of trustees he served for some time as president.
A close student of economic subjects and well fortified in his views concerning matters of public polity, Dr. Northrop has given his influence in connection with practical political matters, a duty which he believed should be recognized by every citizen. He has been chaplain of two national Republican conventions, and he was appointed by Governor Polk to represent Missouri at the World's Temperance Centennial, at Saratoga Springs, New York, in 1908. He has aligned himself as a zealous supporter of every interest for the uplift of humanity. In Kansas City, Missouri, he was referred to in a newspaper article as a veritable 'steam engine in boots," and further statement was made to the effect that he has the natural gift of securing a grip for good on all classes, "from bootblack to banker." His interposition as an afterdinner speaker has been constantly in demand; he has delivered nearly one hundred and forty sermons and addresses before universities, colleges, military academies, ladies' seminaries and high schools, at commencements and on other occasions, and his services in this line have been given in Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Indiana and Michigan. He has been president of several Chautauquas and has given frequent lectures before Chautauqua assemblies. He has contributed to various magazines of the higher order and is the author of a work entitled "A Cloud of Witnesses." Concerning this volume no further word of commendation is demanded than that offered by the late Rt. Hon. William E. Gladstone, former prime minister of Great Britain. This eminent authority gave the following estimate: "As a religious textbook for young men I place 'A Cloud of Witnesses' next to the Bible. Such an array of cumulative testimony will vindicate the divine claims of Christ and the Word more than all the battles of scholars and critics."
With great richness of scolarship[sic] and with the loftiest of ideals, there is naught of intellectual bigotry or intolerance in the attitude of Dr. Northrop. He is the friend of all men and the best feature of his work is that it is essentially and emphatically practical, with deep appreciation of the service that should and must be rendered by the church militant. Apropos of this statement there is consistency in perpetuating in this article the following extract from the Word and Way, published in Kansas City, Missouri, and written by a prominent pastor of that city at the time when Dr. Northrop was there pastor of the First Baptist church:
"I have been a close student of Hugo's 'Miserables' all my life, and if you should ask me to tell you the greatest sentence of all, I would name the one most human: 'It was in the sewer of Paris Jean Valjean found himself.' That man who links himself to the sorrows of humanity I love, and this is why I am writing of Stephen A. Northrop, the pastor of the First Baptist church of Kansas City.
"A great church, with a thousand members or more, lying at the heart of a great city of three hundred thousand souls. A Baptist church at its center, one block from the largest hostelry in the Mississippi valley. One block from one of the most gorgeous and generously patronized theaters in the United States. Two blocks from the largest and most famous hall in America - Convention Hall. Two blocks from the 'Century,' the twin sister of Boodler Butler's 'Standard' in St. Louis. Two of the blotches on our western life and pride. Each week, from August until May, twelve thousand young men pass Dr. Northrop's church doors to visit this place alone. Could one be glad that on the First church in full view hangs a sing[sic] with gold, like the gold in the city of God, bearing this inscription: 'The Young Man's Church Home, To Make Kansas City a Safe Place for Young Men to Live in.' A house of worship on a street car line that links the stock and grain trade of the west to the money market of the east. A church surrounded by 'frenzied finance' and in the midst of commercialism's galling greed, with the 'bulls and bears' growling and bellowing at the doors. No wonder that I have climaxed every sentence with an exclamation point, is it? Not a very good location for a church, somebody asks? Yes, the best in the world; may it stand there till Jesus comes! So Dr. Northrop stands every day in the midst of the irresistible tide, facing it bravely with faith and work! All day long, and way into the night, fevered fingers find his doorbell, and from early dawn till the midnight hour, cries of the needy and afflicted pull upon his heart strings. I tell you Tom Dixon, in his 'One Woman,' did not overdraw the life of the downtown preacher. To the beaten and broken of Kansas City Dr. Northrop is Hugo's bishop, raised from the dead.
At the time of assuming the pastorate of the First Baptist church of Kansas City, Kansas, Dr. Northrop made the following statements in the Bulletin, published by the church, under date of October, 1909: "The one purpose of this Bulletin is to define the policy of the church and pastor at the inception of a relation which promises greater things for this city along civic and religious lines. For nearly ten years I was a down town pastor in Kansas City, Missouri, and had much to do for its many sided needs. I have come to Kansas City, Kansas, with the hope of doing even greater thing for Christ and the church. I have not come to invade the territory of any other congregation or pastor. A city of one hundred thousand is room enough for all, without conflict of interests. I am no class preacher. The humble toiler, the professional and commercial man alike will have my warm hand clasp, and I want theirs also. * * * If we can not bring the people to the Gospel, we must bring the Gospel to the people. Every consecrated Christian can do something along this line by personal invitation in business, social and school circles. But bear in mind that the church in this great enterprise is a means, not an end. The important thing after all is not the building up of a congregation but the Christianizing of of Kansas City."
The following quotations are self-explanatory and consistently find place in this brief sketch. Under date of November 19, 1898, President McKinley wrote to Dr. Northrop as follows: "Many thanks for kind attention expressed in various ways. Your book, 'A Cloud of Witnesses,' arrived safely. It is indeed a revelation to me, a great stimulus to faith. You are to be congratulated on this unique and important contribution to Christian apologetics." April 4, 1910, President Taft wrote as follows to Dr. Northop: "I learn that you break ground for a Temple of Worship. I sincerely hope that your plans may be perfected, and that you may soon have a magnificent sanctuary where all people may feel at home. I do not doubt that this central movement will widen your denominational usefulness and mean much to the moral and religious elevation of the entire community." Hon. E. M. Clendening, one of the representative citizens of Kansas City, Missouri, pays this tribute: "I recall the many years Dr. Northrop spent in Kansas City when he was pastor of the First Baptist church, at Twelfth and Baltimore, a great business center, and while to most preachers this would have been a disadvantage, his tactful adaptation and happy faculty of becoming acquainted with men of all classes and conditions made him an inestimable power for good in this community. As the pastor of this church he came in closest touch with our business and professional men, with stockmen and bankers. By congenial manner he proved himself to be a real friend to all mankind. I know of no minister who ever lived in Kansas City who knew as many men and was loved by as many. He did a wonderful work for the great mass of people who had no pastor."
This extract from the Los Angeles Herald will give a fair idea of the all around qualities of our little family from the standpoint of a Kansas City reporter who often found his way within its circle:
"His church is on one of the most prominent downtown corners, and his parsonage is next door. With a wife thoroughly in accord with his ideas, who possesses the Christian virtues in abundance, as well as a fine voice and decided musical ability, and a daughter the echo of her mother, the Doctor has been available at any hour of day or night for spiritual consolation or need.
"Often he has been called out of bed in the early hours to attend the bedside of some dying man and frequently he has been aroused to wed some belated couple. But always he is ready and so are his good wife and daughter, if music is desired. In their one family they can furnish a complete wedding or funeral party, even to the music and the bridesmaids. Hence he has unbounded popularity, there as 'the people's preacher,' and he is the best known and beloved pastor in the Kaw city."
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