the use of the building. A few words of explanation resulted in his taking off his coat and assisting in arranging seats as best we could with boxes, nail kegs, and boards. I preached the next morning, and N. D. Hillis in the evening. At that time I believe I could preach as well as he. He is now pastor of Plymouth Church, Brooklyn.
"My next service in Cambridge was in an unfinished blacksmith shop with roof partly shingled, dirt floor, and improvised seats as before. For the winter we used the 'barracks,' as the building was called. It was three stories long, the west sod, the center log, and the east boards, all on the ground. We occupied the log story. It had been used for a dwelling, and sometimes called a hotel. All the inhabitants had not moved out. The warm spring days seemed to bring them forth, and their gamboling up and down the walls and elsewhere compelled us to seek other quarters. A frame building was secured for a school house, and we used that until better accommodations could be had.
"I preached the first sermon in Oxford in an unfinished store building. The next time I was there the services were held in a grove where a platform had been erected for Fourth of July celebration. We used that until cold weather forbade. We then accepted the offer of a Mr. Mugg of the space between the counters of his drug store, which we used till spring. Mr. Mugg furnished fuel and seats.
"I preached in sod dwelling houses, in dugouts and in the open air, wherever there was need and people could be gathered together.
"At one place we found a novel Sunday school. Christians were scarce, but the people wanted a school. Several men, only one of them claiming to be a Christian, agreed to superintend one month each, thus distributing the burden. It was a success. We now have a Congregational church in the town. I think N. D. Hillis assisted the school when
on his way up the valley. I do not know that the plan was his.
"When Franklin was first seen by me there were three buildings on the present town site, a dugout, a log cabin, and a small frame building unoccupied. I preached there in October, 1889, in a schoolhouse, part dugout and part log, with sod roof. In company with Rev. J. M. Strong I took dinner at the home of A. E. Rice, now of Hillsboro, Oregon. Our conversation drifted naturally to the subject of Christian education. Mr. Rice was anxious to give his children as good an education as possible. He was acquainted with the history and work of Denmark Academy, Iowa. The need of an academy for the Republican valley was considered, and from that time plans were thought out which resulted in Franklin Academy. My plans were for the institution to be further west in the valley, but I was content with the location, as at the time that seemed best. Everywhere I went parents were discussing the educational problem. Young people were anxious to have better advantages than the sod schoolhouse afforded. It was not strange that the first term of Franklin Academy opened with fifty-five students.
"My experiences during my work as general missionary were an inspiration to me. The strong faith of the people in the possibilities of the valley, and their determination to win victory out of every seeming defeat were worthy the heroes of any age. The gracious revival in Franklin in January, 1882, followed by constant revival in the Academy, the campaign of Mrs. S. M. I. Henry at Riverton, Alma, Bloomington, Franklin, and Red Cloud in the winter of 1884-85, have left their impress upon all that region, and have reached to far distant places through the immigration of converts.
"These seasons of spiritual refreshing have been among the most precious remembrances of my life."
Rev. George E. Taylor writes as follows:
"The year 1880 was notable in the development of southwestern Nebraska. The region was reviving after the prolonged drouth that had discouraged all but the most persistent of the early settlers. The B. & M. railroad was extending its line up the Republican valley. The flickering churches at Guide Rock, Red Cloud, Riverton, and Franklin were being fanned to increased ardor under the new leadership of Rev. George Bent at Red Cloud, and Rev. J. M. Strong at Riverton.
"At the uttermost frontier in Red Willow county, the venerable Amos Dresser was heroically at work. In the north part of Franklin county a little church had gathered about that herculean Vermonter, the Rev. S. N. Grout, 'holding down' a homestead at Macon. In the spring of 1880 Rev. W. S. Hampton of Arborville was commissioned, for general missionary work in the Republican valley with headquarters at Cambridge. During the year eight churches were organized, mostly under his care.
"In the northwest corner of Franklin county Amos N. Dean was one of the sod house dwellers. In his Iowa home he had served as county superintendent of schools, also as an elder in the Presbyterian church. In his new prairie home he was an efficient teacher in Sunday school. With no minister in the region he could not resist the call to unfold the Word of God to the congregations which crowded the schoolhouses at Freewater and Morning Star. Churches were soon formed at both these points. Mr. Dean, well passed his fiftieth year, responded to the invitation of the two churches to become their pastor, and was ordained by council. In 1881 Mr. Dean was called to Cambridge, where for nearly ten years he was a beloved and effective pastor and an esteemed brother and father in the association.
PHASES OF CHURCH GROWTH
"In the autumn of 1880 some seventeen churches united in forming the Republican Valley Association of Congregational Churches. Early in 1881 the association founded Franklin Academy. From the first this school has been a loved and loving child of the churches, a bond of fellowship, a force for spiritual and intellectual life. The men who have wrought themselves into the school are those who have most effectually built up the Kingdom of Christ from Hastings and Red Cloud to the Colorado line.
"Rev. Amos Dresser, then pastor at Indianola, prayed, toiled, and won for the academy a constituency extending to the eastern seaboard. Rev. W. S. Hampton relinquished the pastorate of six frontier churches to become the first principal. Rev. C. S. Harrison, pastor at York, assisted Republican valley pastors in evangelistic work and gave tremendous impulse to the academy movement. Later, in 1884, Mr. Harrison accepted the call of the Franklin church to become its pastor. As pastor of the church and 'father of the academy,' he toiled with masterful efficiency till 1892, when he devoted himself to the wider academy interests.
"Mr. Harrison was succeeded by Rev. G. W. Mitchell, less massive in form but mighty in faith, love, and capacity for effective work. As pastor, as chairman of academy trustees, as member of association, he made his impress on every church and on nearly every Congregational household in southwestern Nebraska through a period of ten years.
"Since 1888 Alexis C. Hart has been headmaster of the academy. Peerless as administrator, as teacher of youth, as trainer of teachers, he has proven not less a spiritual father and wise counselor. It is doubtful whether there is a church in the Republican valley and Frontier associations that has not been helped by his kind and timely influence.
"The Construction of the 'Kenesaw Cut-off' in 1884; of the DeWitt-Holdrege-Cheyenne divisions in 1885 and 1886, and later the Frenchman valley line of the Burlington & Missouri railroad opened many fields for aggressive work. At its fall meeting in 1887 the Republican Valley Association adopted a memorial to the State board presenting the urgent need and asking the appointment of a general missionary. The proposition was cordially approved at Lincoln and New York. Rev. George E. Taylor, pastor at Indianola, was appointed for the work. The association authorized its home missionary committee to hold monthly sessions in conference with the general missionary. The following years were marked by careful oversight of feeble churches, prompt occupation of new and needy fields, constant endeavor to secure effective ministers, the equipment of each church with a commodious house of worship and progress of churches in careful and forceful administration.
"In 1890 the churches along the Holdrege-Cheyenne divisions of the Burlington railroad withdrew from the Republican Valley Association to form the Frontier Association.
"The limits of this review do not permit appreciative mention of many worthy ministers and laymen whose sustained devotion, faithful and wise labors have built up churches and established Christian institutions in southwestern Nebraska. Some are yet there, some are in other fields, and some have gone to their reward."
From these reports of the work in southwestern Nebraska it would seem that the foundations of our Congregational work are well laid; that Congregationalism is a growing tree whose roots, like the alfalfa of the region, strike down deep to the springs of living water.
The Republican valley represents a strong and aggressive force in Congregational Nebraska.
Rev. A. E. Ricker, who has had much to do with the pioneer work in western Nebraska, has kindly furnished the following account of our work in western Nebraska:
"In the autumn of 1883 a little company of Christian people met in the parsonage of the Methodist minister in the town of Sidney. It was a very small company, perhaps not more than six or eight persons, including the Methodist pastor, Rev. Leslie Stevens, now departed hence, and his devoted wife. The occasion of that meeting was the regular prayer-meeting of the Methodist-Episcopal Church of Sidney. In those days the people of Sidney, however pious they may have been, did not manifest their religions proclivities by excessive attendance upon the weekday meeting of the church.
"Though this particular meeting was so small its influence has been large. Among the number present were Rev. C. W. Merrill, then Superintendent of the A. H. M. S. for Nebraska, a young Congregational preacher who was that year teaching the Sidney high school, Rev. L. E. Brown, and the writer of these words, who was just about to begin study for the ministry.
"During the evening, conversation naturally turned to the religions needs of the surrounding regions of western Nebraska. The town of Ogalalla, especially, was mentioned as a point of a few hundred people where there was no regular preaching and almost no religions work on foot.
"Superintendent Merrill turned to Mr. Brown with the question, 'Why couldn't you go down to Ogalalla and preach for them occasionally, during the time you are teaching here?' Little more was said on the subject, and presently the little company scattered. Although it is probable no definite agreement was made, I think there was an under-
standing between Superintendent Merrill and Mr. Brown, at the close of the prayer-meeting, that the latter should visit Ogalalla and establish a preaching station. This was the real origin of the Congregational Church of Ogalalla, Keith county, Nebraska, for shortly after that hint of Mr. Merrill's Mr. Brown went down from Sidney to Ogalalla, a distance of seventy miles, and preached, leaving an appointment for another preaching service in two weeks. This appointment was filled, the writer himself being present at one of these services, which was held, as were the other meetings of that period, in the old frame schoolhouse. And I am nearly certain that Mr. Brown kept up preaching services every two weeks during that winter--1883-84--and the following summer, and quite so that he preached frequently, even if not so often during this time. For to meet one of these preaching appointments the writer made his first effort in the pulpit; this was June 9, 1884, in the schoolhouse of Ogalalla.
"I can say from personal knowledge that Mr. Brown came to Ogalalla as a Congregationalist, and that his work was the first regular and permanent work ever taken up in the town. The school board of Ogalalla employed Mr. Brown to teach the town school for the year beginning September, 1884, and in connection with his work as teacher of the village school, he kept up stated preaching services. He was presently ordained to the Gospel ministry, and in due time a Congregational church was organized, and recognized by an ecclesiastical council in the orderly Congregational way.
"These facts are of considerable importance because the Ogalalla church has since become a center of evangelistic movements that have affected the town and the regions about for many miles. Following Mr. Brown's work have been the labors of Rev. J. A. Thome, closing about 1887,
PHASES OF CHURCH GROWTH
Rev. A. E. Ricker, 1888-91; Rev. W. E. Pease, 1892-93 perhaps; Rev. W. S. Hampton for several years; then Rev. G. W. Knapp, and the present pastor, Rev. Mr. Duncan.
"During Mr. Hampton's pastorate wide-reaching revivals occurred, and the work was pushed into outlying rural regions, resulting in the organization of at least three churches which now cluster about Ogalalla as a center.
"While, strictly speaking, it is not a part of the history of Nebraska, the beginning of the work in Julesburg was the outgrowth of Nebraska influences, and indeed during Superintendent Maile's time, by agreement with the Colorado superintendent, this town was reckoned as a part of the Nebraska field.
"In the spring of 1885, returning from Chicago Seminary to my parents' home in Sidney, I called on Superintendent Maile in Omaha, and he suggested that during my summer vacation I look about in that western part of the state, and if I found a needy field, establish a preaching station, and see what I could do: So early in May, going down from Sidney, I visited the town of Julesburg. It was in the midst of the liveliest boom and buildings were going up everywhere. Perhaps there were 300 people then in the town and 'land agents' were doing a thriving business 'locating' new corners on their claims. I succeeded in finding some Christian people and others who were interested in having preaching services. Finding accommodation in the dining room of a hotel, I held the first religious meeting in the history of the town, and continued preaching statedly through that summer, going down from Sidney and preaching once in two weeks.
"A Sabbath school was organized in an empty saloon building, and toward the latter part of the summer, a Con-
gregational church was organized of about twelve members. Rev. H. P. Case, flow Sunday school missionary in southern California, was present and assisted in the organization of the church. The meeting for the organization was held in the waiting room of the Union Pacific depot, and I remember that the meeting had to he hurried a bit to get out of the way and remove all evidences of the meeting before a passenger train went through toward evening.
"This first organization was suffered to lapse, but at a later date was revived and the Julesburg church has maintained a continued existence.
"It was my privilege again to minister to this church for about a year from the summer of 1890, preaching every alternate Sabbath there while pastor at Ogalalla. Two or three weeks of special meetings were held during the winter of 1890-91, several converts resulted, part of them joining the Congregational church, and part of them the M. F. church, which at that time was without a pastor."
This rapid survey of Congregationalism in western Nebraska completes the survey of church extension as we have seen it, beginning with Omaha and eastern Nebraska, extending up the Elkhorn valley and into the sandhills and cattle ranges of the northwest, in the Republican valley and the western part of the state.
In much of this territory pioneer work is going on to-day, and western Nebraska is especially home missionary ground. Whenever irrigation is extended in western Nebraska, there we find rich farms and growing settlements, and there is a field for home missionary enterprise. With the extension of irrigation canals there will be an enlargement of missionary work. In other parts of the western half of the state we find the large cattle ranches, with few settlers, and correspondingly small opportunities for church growth.