Red Bird Mission was established in 1921 by the Evangelical Church at the head-waters of the Red Bird River. The land was made available by the Knuckles family of Beverly, Kentucky in Bell County. Timber and labor for building were contributed by local citizens.
Rev. J. J. DeWall was the first superintendent of the Mission and served from 1921 until his death in 1928. Under his leadership the campus was constructed including the church, dormitories, and housing for staff. In addition, he established centers at Jack’s Creek and Beech Fork.
Dr. A. E. Lehman served as superintendent from 1929 until 1946. Following his retirement Dr. J. W. Bischoff was named superintendent from 1946 until the early seventies. Under his leadership the campus at Queendale, named for Henry Ford’s overseer of his lands in the Red Bird Valley, Mr. Queen. Dr. Bischoff led the construction of a new hospital there. Rev. Edward T. Ehresman served as Executive Director of the Mission following Dr. Bischoff. He provided leadership to build new dormitories and the new Red Bird school dedicated “to the glory of God for children and youth” in 1983.
A number of persons served as Executive Director in the years to follow: Robert Z. Carlisle; Andrew Thornton; Donald W. Raffensperger; Gerald B. Kinney; Chris A. Blanchard; Kenneth Ludwig; Les Harris; Fred Haggard; and Chris Klemenco. Dr. O. Taylor Collins returned to the Mission in 2010 as the first alumnus of Red Bird High School to serve as Executive Director.
In 1968 the Evangelical United Brethren Church (E.U.B.) united with the Methodist Church to form the United Methodist Church. The “United” in the name today reminds us of our heritage as E.U.B.s. The Mission churches were reorganized under the name of Red Bird Missionary Conference. In 1973 the Conference, under Rev. John Bischoff, became the umbrella organization for Red Bird Mission and Henderson Settlement.
Education was always central to the work of Red Bird. The school was the charge for the establishment of the work here. On January 29, 1922 the school (utilized too as the first Church) was dedicated. Miss Myra Bowman and Miss Emeline Walsh taught 6 high school students and 95 elementary students that first year. In 1923 the first dormitory was opened and Rev. E. M. Miller was named the first Principal of the school.
The student enrollment and teaching faculty grew over the years. In 1952 a gymnasium was constructed in the Quonset style. In 1971 a new girls’ dormitory was dedicated at Queendale. Today named the Bonnie Adams Lawson Dormitory in honor of the philanthropy of Bonnie Adams Lawson and her husband Leonard Lawson, members of the class of 1958.
On May 17, 1981 the school building and gymnasium were destroyed by fire. For two years a temporary school was set up at Queendale. In the second year of this temporary facility, the Jack’s Creek Elementary School was combined with the Red Bird School.
The present school building at Queendale was dedicated in September, 1983. In 1988, the school was separated from the public school system, and was re-named the Red Bird Mission School. The progression of names for the school are as follows: 1921 to 1983 – Red Bird Settlement School; 1983 to 1988 – Red Bird High School and Elementary; 1988 to 2012 – Red Bird Mission School. In 2012 the Mission’s Board of Directors renamed the school the Red Bird Christian School to underscore the renewed emphasis upon the spiritual development of students and faculty plus the teaching of Christianity and the Bible. The school campus at Queendale was named “The Bonnie and Leonard Lawson Campus of Red Bird Christian School” in tribute to the generosity of Bonnie and Leonard Lawson.
Medical work at Red Bird Mission began in 1922 when Miss Lydia Rice, R.N., served as the first nurse. Dr. Harlan Heim came in 1926 and the original hospital was built in 1928. In August, 1946 the Evangelical Church joined the United Brethren Church to form the Evangelical United Brethren Church. Dr. E. W. Schaeffer began his medical career at
Red Bird Hospital that very same year. He made many a house call on horseback throughout the valleys and hollows.
A new, modern hospital was constructed on the Queendale Campus and was opened in December, 1959. Additional doctors and nurses were to come and to serve. In 1986 a decision was made to discontinue hospital services at Red Bird. However, the out-patient services continued in a new clinic building recently added. A new dental clinic was built and opened in 1976.
Today, the Red Bird Clinic is operated via lease agreement with the Manchester Memorial Hospital. The dental clinic was closed for a season but re-opened by the Mission in 2012.
The dormitories, closed in 2010, are slated to open after a long hiatus in the Fall of 2014. Friends of Leonard Lawson donated $185,000 to renew and renovate the girls’ dormitory. The boys’ dormitory was renovated in 2011 by workcamps from various United Methodist churches. A mission has been crafted that will focus squarely upon the development of ethical-moral leaders for the political and private sectors in addition to leadership for the Church. Our motto in the school and the dorms is “Enter to Learn; Leave to Serve.”
Today, Red Bird Christian School is a ministry of Red Bird Mission which is a project related to the National Program Office of the United Methodist Women.