Topeka, Kan. – Topeka’s First Congregational Church will be premiering a documentary about Ichabod Washburn and his connection to Washburn University this Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Washburn, the early benefactor who helped save the school which now bears his name, was a New Englander who had an extraordinary effect on a city he never visited.
The film is being shown to honor the 219th anniversary of Ichabod Washburn’s birth. After the film, several church members who are also Washburn alums will blow out the candles on a birthday cake for Washburn.
Ichabod Washburn – A New England Legacy in Kansas, a film produced by Washburn University Photographer Peggy Clark, tells the story of Washburn’s decision to help the struggling Lincoln College which was founded in 1865 by the General Association of the Congregational Church – now part of the United Church of Christ. Kansas became home to a number of Congregationalists who came to Kansas Territory to help make Kansas a free state. The Congregationalists dedicated their college to the triumph of liberty over slavery and named it for Abraham Lincoln.
Persistent financial hardships plagued the college in its early years. In 1868, nearly on the brink of closing the doors, Lincoln College trustees sent Rev. Horatio Q. Butterfield to New England to seek donations for the struggling college. On the advice of a friend, Butterfield visited Ichabod Washburn, a successful wire manufacturer and deacon in the Congregational Church. Upon hearing of the college and the ideals upon which it was founded, Washburn donated $25,000. In response to this generous gift, the Lincoln College trustees voted to change the name to “Washburn College.” Soon afterward, Ichabod Washburn died from complications of a stroke, never having set foot on Kansas soil to visit the school which was named for him.
The First Congregational Church is located at 1701 SW Collins, in Topeka. The worship service begins at 10:30 a.m. Visitors are welcome to join the service and celebrate the life of Ichabod Washburn.