Rev. J. L. Maile, formerly of Michigan, was chosen state superintendent in place of Mr. Merrill.
During Mr. Merrill's service in the state the work had so expanded that we find in his last report that in this time, three years and eight months, he had traveled 93,712 miles: by team 2,666; by railroad 91,046, and had given 534 sermons and addresses. Forty-two churches had been organized with a membership of 646, and forty-three meeting-houses erected.1 A general missionary was also appointed, Dr. H. Bross, for several years pastor at Crete, entering upon the work.
Superintendent Maile's first report, given at Beatrice, 1884, shows that the list of churches had increased to 168. Seventeen of these were self-supporting. Nebraska was still a missionary state, and its history largely of home missionary work. The development of church and school was largely dependent on the fostering care of the National Home Missionary Society.
The state itself is a large debtor to the generous aid of the home missionary societies connected with the different denominations represented within its borders. It has not yet, nor can it easily, cancel its obligations.
The churches in this period believed in the installation of pastors, and the year 1885 witnessed the following installations by councils: Rev. W. P. Bennett at Crete, Rev. S. H. Harrison at York, Rev. C. E. Harwood at Fairfield, Rev. William O. Wheeden at Beatrice, and Rev. W. D. Page at Cowles. There were also ordained that year Rev.
REV. J. L. MAILE, SUPERINTENDENT
George C. Hall, Rev. John Lich, Rev. George W. Mitchell, Rev. A. B Show, Rev. W. D. J. Stevenson, Rev. W. O. Wheeden, Rev. W. D. Page, and Rev. J. W. Hadden.
The following churches were dedicated that year: Beatrice, Cambridge, Cumminsville, Doniphan, Emanuel, Franklin, Fremont, Gloversville, Indianola, Liberty, Martinsburg, Milford, Newcastle, Omaha Third, Pierce, Richmond, and West Cedar Valley. Chadron, Cowles, Lincoln, Norfolk, Ogalalla, and Stratton had houses of worship nearly completed.2
Such lists from year to year were not infrequent. These are noted as an illustration of the ecclesiasticism of the period; the development of a Congregational consciousness. There was "something adoing" in the state all the time.
The five years of Superintendent Maile's service in the state represents a time of marked interest in the development of the educational interests of the denomination and in questions of church polity. At the Beatrice meeting 1885, Rev. W. P. Bennett read a strong paper representing the old view, "The second principle in our polity," which was published in the Congregational News, and was spoken of as "especially timely in our own state," which indicates the conservative trend of thought at the time in reference to the fellowship of the churches.
The centralizing tendency in church polity of the present day would have been vigorously opposed then. In 1888 Rev. L. F. Berry of Fremont gave a masterful paper on "What constitutes a quorum of a council?" and by vote of the association it was ordered printed in the minutes.3
It was this year that Dr. A. F. Sherrill closed his long pastorate in First Church Omaha and removed from the state, to the great regret of all the churches.
In response to repeated and urgent requests Dr. Sherrill sends a jubilee message to the Nebraska churches:
"LEE, MASSACHUSETTS, August 18, 1904.
"DEAR BROTHER--You ask me to give the relative status of the Congregational churches in Nebraska when I went there in 1869, and when I left in 1888. At the former date there were about twenty of our churches in the state. Some of them had a very plain frame meeting-house, more had none, and all depended on the Home Missionary Society for help. In 1888 there were 168 churches in the state. Forty-seven were self-supporting, generally with good, modern buildings, some of which had cost $50,000 or more. The early churches, though few and small, corresponded well with other growth and conditions in the state, and with their pastors were useful, and regarded well by the people.
"The superintendents succeeding Mr. Gaylord kept pace with frontier progress, and preserved our good reputation as pioneer churches. Our first pastors were followed by younger men, as President Perry, Rev. Lewis Gregory, Superintendent Bross, and others, who came to the state to remain and do permanent work, and their services to the churches, to education, and other interests can not be overstated. When I left Nebraska, our denomination was in the forefront as to number and activity of churches, and Doane College with affiliated academies, illustrated our reputation everywhere for interest in Christian education.
"In those earlier days we tried to plant churches only where they were plainly needed, avoiding sectarian ambition, and keeping the responsibility for too many churches in the town where it belonged. In closing, let me pay a hearty tribute to the laymen of both sexes, whose worth,
REV. J. L. MAILE, SUPERINTENDENT
generosity, and devotion contributed so largely, not only to the growth of the churches but also to all that enters into the foundations of a good commonwealth."
Supt. J. L. Maile closed his labors with the Nebraska churches in 1889 at the Ashland meeting of which he was moderator.
The Home Missionary Society expressed by vote its "high appreciation of the consecration and devotion he has manifested, and the efficiency he has shown in his five years of service with us; and we heartily commend him for the work he has done, and bid him Godspeed in the work which lies before him."4
Mr. Maile has kindly furnished recollections of his work in the following letter:
"LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, June 18, 1904.
"DEAR SIR--In line with your request for some recollections of the events of my work in Nebraska, I send you the following:
"As Superintendent for the Congregational Home Missionary Society in Nebraska, I began my labor in October, 1884, attending the State Association at Norfolk, as a beginning of my work.
"I relinquished my superintendency of state Sunday school work in Missouri to accept this appointment. During the two previous summers I taught in the normal department of the Crete Chautauqua assembly, directing the program during the second season. My previous acquaintance with the Rev. J. D. Stewart at Chautauqua, New York, led to these engagements.
"From the acquaintance thus formed in the state, I was asked to succeed Rev. C. W. Merrill, resigned. He had successfully led the home missionary work for a number
4 Minutes, 1889, p. 24.
of years, following Superintendent Gates. I may say that as Secretary of our National Sunday School Committee, formed at Chautauqua, New York, in 1878, I there met Brother Stewart, and thus one contact and friendship led on to another.
"The work of this national committee led to the holding of a Congregational congress at Chautauqua in 1879, at which Joseph Cook, Lyman Abbott, Dr. J. O. Means, Dr. Hutchins, and others addressed our Congregational people. Our agitation of the need of an advanced movement in our denominational Sunday school work culminated in the appointment by the directors of the Sunday School and Publishing Society of Rev. A. E. Dunning, D.D., as National Secretary.
"Under the reorganization, Rev. Jno. L. Maile was appointed first on the list of superintendents to serve in Colorado, Rev. J. D. Stewart was next assigned to Nebraska, and Rev. H. P. Case succeeded Mr. Maile in Colorado, the latter being transferred to Missouri.
"These successive steps in the development of our general Sunday school work are interesting and important because the prosperity of our home missionary work has been much assisted by the aggressive life of our Sunday school enterprise.
"My five years' work as superintendent of home missions in Nebraska occurred during a period of energetic expansion and occupancy of many communities on the advancing of settlements.
"Some sixty-one churches were organized during this period; not all of these organizations were due to my initiation. I recall as having little to do with starting the work at Beatrice and Seward; the German churches were not recipients of my care, although I cooperated for their welfare as best I could.
REV. J. L. MAILE, SUPERINTENDENT
"General Missionary Harmon Bross, my most efficient and honored successor, started the work at Chadron, Crawford, Hay Springs, Hemingford, and other places. I vividly recollect the improvised meeting-house of Plymouth Church in Lincoln, with earth banked well-nigh up to the eaves of the board structure, resultant in comfort during severest winter storm. In the council organizing the church at Burwell, Rev. Lewis Gregory rendered very important assistance.
"Thus I might recall the incidents occurring on many new fields.
"At Curtis the work was started under very primitive conditions. Doniphan required persistent faithfulness on the part of Rev. J. H. Embree. The church at Dustin was due to the energetic efforts of Mrs. Dustin and family. They had come from Boston for the benefit of the health of a son and daughter, and found a marked contrast in the manner of life at the metropolis, and in the distant valley of northern Nebraska. Mrs. Dustin rode her broncho from one isolated ranch home to another, and interested mothers and children in Sunday school and temperance work.
"The work at Farnam was first led by Rev. John Woolman, whose large family was domiciled in very small quarters, and at that time the people of the congregation were in the midst of the trials incident to pioneering in those days. Our Grand Island church was formed under circumstances which led some good people to doubt the success of the enterprise. Rev. Mr. Comstock was the first pastor, and I judge a succession of efficient ministers have wisely led the church.
"At Leigh I found a Dr. Geer, brother to a former fellow-student at Oberlin, and have since met him here in southern California. This church enjoyed one or two genuine revival seasons, and was much strengthened thereby.
"I think it was at Newcastle that I made my first visit in northeastern Nebraska immediately after the association meeting in 1884. The elderly minister was in a peck of trouble, and the wisdom of the superintendent was drawn upon to solve sundry problems. I trust this work survives in strength.
"At Ogalalla I assisted in dedicating the meeting-house. Mr. L. E. Brown, who was passing from the law into the ministry, was the young pastor. A successful series of meetings was held. The family of the station-master was specially interested and the work received a strong impulse.
"Five churches were organized in Omaha during my administration, and I suppose they have had varying degrees of success.
"I recall the beginning of the work at Strang and Shickley, under the lead of Mr. Glen A. Taylor, who came direct from Yale Theological Seminary. Special difficulty seemed to attend these enterprises, but they were in good measure overcome.
"Geneva was started by the Presbyterians, but was changed to our Congregational fellowship by the almost unanimous action of the people concerned.
"At Trenton, well on toward the western line of the state in the Republican valley, Mr. and the Misses Hogg were the pillars in that church. If memory serves, a very ungodly man made a generous subscription toward building the meeting-house, on the ground that he did not wish passengers, looking from the Pullman car windows upon the village, should consider it a heathen community because no church edifice was visible. I have met the Misses Hogg in Los Angeles, as indeed many old friendships have here been renewed.
"My recollections of the details of the work are so imperfect that I hesitate to write the above. Much more
REV. J. L. MAILE, SUPERINTENDENT
might be said. A true spirit of consecration and of earnest desire to build up the Kingdom of Christ characterized our ministry and churches as a whole. I enjoyed the hearty cooperation and friendliness of pastors of self-supporting churches. A. F. Sherrill, Willard Scott, Lewis Gregory, President Perry, Professor Fairchild, J. D. Stewart, and many others might be mentioned whose inspiring friendship was of greatest value to me.
"Mr. Charles West of Lincoln very efficiently served as Secretary of the State Board of Home Missions. He removed to Denver and there passed to the Beyond.
"It was my privilege to serve as trustee on the board at Doane College. The inside views there obtained confirmed my sense of the importance of education conducted tinder distinctly Christian auspices. Much quiet, hard work has gone into the young life of Nebraska from this institution. The affiliated academies are doing an equally important work, the circle of institutions forming an ideal combination for the attainment of the great ends they represent.
"In my addresses to the churches, I frequently urged the importance of dedicating promising young men to the Christian ministry, and since our churches were served by pastors who had been raised up elsewhere, we should develop our proportion of ministers for the time to come. I pressed the importance of sustaining our educational institutions as an effective method of building up our churches in the Christian life,
"The impression was thus unwittingly made that I was specially interested in Christian education, and when the Educational Society at Boston was, in 1889, looking for some one to serve as college field secretary, I was asked to take that responsibility. I accordingly resigned my Nebraska appointment, and in October of said year began in
New England my work of representing western colleges and academies to the eastern churches.
"Nine colleges, eighteen academies, and twelve mission schools were at times on our list to be presented in public and in private. I frequently met President Warren of Gates College (now of Yankton College) and other veteran presidents.
"In 1895-97 I made a special campaign for endowment for Whitman College, Washington, and gathered much original data concerning the great work of Missionary Marcus Whitman in saving to our country the great northwest region of the Pacific Coast.
"Health being impaired tinder the stress of continuous and heavy work, I sought a change by accepting, in 1897, the home missionary superintendency of North Dakota. I served in this field with happiness to myself until the effect of severe winter compelled the seeking of a milder climate.
"Rev. James T. Ford, the veteran superintendent of southern California, having resigned, to take effect April 1, 1899, I entered the open door of that work, and am wholly rejuvenated by the restoring effects of the most attractive climate on earth.
"I treasure the remembrances of my Nebraska life as among my most precious treasures. It must be that such rich reminiscences will spring into new life in the realms of the Great Beyond, to which we are hastening, and where, perhaps, we shall perfect much that has been begun in this present life under circumstances of limitation and imperfection which the Master wishes to see perfected.
"My affectionate greeting to many friends in the grand state of Nebraska.
"Very sincerely yours,
"JOHN L. MAILE."