During the year 1873, Supt. O. W. Merrill was called to his eternal home and Rev. H. N. Gates of Minnesota was appointed to fill the office of home missionary superintendent.
His first report shows that he was a man of intellectual strength, broad vision, and keen spiritual perception. He already had his work well in hand. The Association in 1874 said:
"It is with devout thanksgiving to God that we record His goodness to us the past year. While we lament the absence of our late beloved superintendent, a feeling of sadness comes over us that we shall hear his cheerful voice and listen to his wise counsel no more. We at the same time rejoice that his place is so richly filled by one in whom we find our hearts so readily and easily to confide. With this exception death has not been permitted to enter our ranks. While some who came with us last year have found fields of labor elsewhere, their places have been more than filled, so that our present working force is greater than it was a year ago. There has been a steady and, we trust, a healthy growth of churches and members."
We begin to feel that we are reaching modern times, for already such names as D. B. Perry, H. A. French, and H. Bross are becoming familiar on the printed page. We note also that "The Ladies'" Association for Home and Foreign Missions is organized with Mrs. A. Farwell of Ashland as president, Mrs. G. W. Hall of Omaha secretary, and Mrs. H. M. Bates of Omaha treasurer.
It was a trying ordeal through which Nebraskans passed. Crops devastated by the locusts; people reduced to poverty; many leaving the state; many more unable to leave; some resolving to remain at any cost, believing in the future of the new state. These had their reward. What kind of a
report should we expect from the home missionary superintendent?
"I have to record the mercy of God to both churches and ministers during the past year--a year of unprecedented hardships and suffering to the people of the state, in consequence of the ravages of the locusts during the last sea-
REV. H. N. GATES, SUPERINTENDENT
son. I would also put on record the wonderful interposition of Providence in shielding our state during the past summer from the ravages of the locusts, which, for several months, hung over us in numbers sufficient to have devoured every green thing; but by the hand of God we were protected from the evil, and instead of devastating fields and suffering families, our people are rejoicing in bountiful harvests and a plenty of all the necessaries of life. To God be all the praise."2
This year some eleven new churches were organized, among them Hastings and Neligh. The work was strengthened throughout the whole state. Superintendent Gates reported eighty-one churches in all.
We find in the minutes of this year the name of the Rev. Lewis Gregory, whose twenty-three years service as minister to the First Church, Lincoln, has made his name a household one in the state, and won for him the title of "The Nestor of Congregationalism in Nebraska." He has filled a large place in the state and has helped in large measure to make its history; a man of rare wisdom, devotion, and loyalty to the churches. Retired from the active ministry, but active in business circles, he still lives among us, a help and inspiration to all who learn to know him.