About a hundred miles west-northwest of Wichita is the small community of St. John, Kansas. St John was once known as Zion valley, and this town has played an interesting role in the ongoing restoration of the gospel.
After the martyrdom and succession crisis at Nauvoo in 1844, Sidney Rigdon went to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with his followers. They were known as the Church of Christ (Rigdonites), or simply as Pennsylvania Mormons. In 1845, William Bickerton heard Rigdon preach, was converted to The Restoration, and accepted baptism. When the Rigdonite congregation failed, Bickerton was left without a church. He briefly joined with a branch of the Utah church which met in Elizabeth, PA, and eventually became an Elder in the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints. However, after a visit from missionaries in 1852 who told him that Brigham Young was openly teaching plural marriage, Bickerton left the LDS church. He continued to believe in The Restoration and the Book of Mormon, and in 1862 founded an organization known simply as The Church of Jesus Christ, which is sometimes colloquially known as The Bickertonites.
Bickerton felt strongly that the message of the Book of Mormon needed to go to the American Indians, whom he considered descendants of the Lamanites and a branch of the House of Israel. In 1875, he and approximately forty families moved from western Pennsylvania to the plains of Kansas. They located themselves on the banks of Rattlesnake Creek and founded a community they called Zion Valley. They committed themselves to the principle of economic communitarianism and to evangelizing their neighbors and the nearby Indian tribes.
They were successful in their missionary work among their neighbors, and within 10 years their town had grown to number over 500 families. The name of the town was changed to St. John, after Kansas governor St. John. The town grew large enough to warrant its own railroad stop, which was good for the prosperity of the town, but was damaging to the church.
Some of the members of the Church of Jesus Christ still living in St. John have relatives or friends in places like Murray or Pleasant Grove, Utah. They continue to meet every Sunday in a building that was once an LDS meetinghouse. At the current time, there is no LDS presence in St. John. The nearest ward is in Great Bend, 20 miles away.