MY APPOINTMENT TO OMAHA.
N OCTOBER, 1882, I went to the Methodist conference at Owatonna. Bishop Steven Merrill presided. He had just come from holding the Nebraska conference, though at that time I did not know it.
I realized that my time of service was finished at Mankato and I had no idea where the authorities of the church would place me, but I prayed to God to direct me. I had not been at the conference but a few days until the bishop sent for me and asked me if I would be willing to take the First Methodist Church at Omaha. I said "Yes." He said, "Your father has already moved to that state and your transfer to Omaha might be a very pleasant arrangement." I said I would so look upon it and would go.
I went back to Mankato, packed my library and study furniture, and shipped my belongings, including my horse and buggy and small colt on a freight car and, in order to insure perfect safety for my live stock, I came with them in the car.
My friends at Mankato were very dear to me, and it was with much feeling and sadness that I bade them good-bye. I had spent with them the longest time of any church I had yet served and our relations were very close and friendly.
As I look back now, thirty-one years have passed, and many of them have been removed to the world beyond, but their kindness and words of helpfulness are fresh in my mind. I am confident that the memory will be a wonderful factor in the future world, either of happiness or of misery.
Abraham said to the rich man in hell, "Son, remember!" How careful we ought to be of all our doings on
earth and our relations to our fellow man, because there is a result to all these things. When I reached Blair, Neb., on my way to Omaha, Saturday evening, October 14th, 1882, I heard the newsboys crying the Omaha papers, I heard them shout, "Omaha Bee. Want a copy?" I bought a copy and I thought it the oddest name for a paper I had ever heard, but that paper was to become very familiar to me and its founder and editor, Edward Rosewater, now deceased, was to be a staunch friend for many years, and his sons after him were to be my acquaintances and friends.
As soon as I arrived at the depot in Omaha, the Webster Street freight depot, I got permission to remove my horses from the car and I walked up Sixteenth Street, leading them by the halters and carrying my satchel.
People paused to stare at me; they evidently thought I was the strangest combination that ever struck the town. Little did I think that Saturday evening that I should make my home here for so long a time, should have so much joy and sorrow here, should struggle and pray as I have; yet so it is. I saw Bishop Merrill before his death, many years after he had appointed me here, and I said to him, "Bishop, you certainly were in God's order when you sent me to Omaha." I had then, at the time of the conversation with the bishop, left the Methodist Church and was an independent minister; but the bishop rejoiced with me in my long term of service in the church and the many blessings that God have given me.
I stopped over Sunday at the Millard Hotel, having placed my horses in what we called the Blue Barn, kept by Jake Schreiner, where the Omaha postoffice now stands. On Sunday morning I felt anxious to see the First Methodist Church building and I went over to Seventeenth and Davenport and entered the building. It was not quite church time and only a few were present, but I went in and one man present, Mr. Cyrus Rose, came up to me and gave me his hand and asked if I was not the new minister. The pulpit that day was occupied by that eminent speaker and beautiful woman, Miss
"As soon as I arrived at the depot in Omaha, the Webster Street freight depot, I got permission to remove my horses from the car, and I walked up sixteenth Street, leading them by the halters and carrying my satchel."
Frances Willard, known throughout the world, but I attended the service and enjoyed the day immensely.
I was invited to dine with a family, who up to this day have been my dearest friends, Rev. James Haynes.
On Monday my goods were removed to the parsonage and, being a single man, I occupied the upper floor only, and we were fortunate in securing a most excellent family, Thomas Emerson and wife, to take care of the parsonage for us, they occupying the lower floor of the building.
My relations with the First M. E. Church were very pleasant. The following spring I was successful in paying the debt on the property and our work together was very pleasant.
In my pastorate in the First M. E. Church I was very faithful in my calling on the people. I went to see the sick, and day after day I went into the homes of our people and encouraged them in coming to Sunday School and church.
I preached five-minute sermons every Sunday morning to the children, and some spoke of those brief addresses as more interesting than my regular sermons. I preached to the people without notes and from my heart. I was a young man and lacked the profound knowledge of deep scholarship and that maturer wisdom that comes with years, but I did the best I knew and it was very kindly received by the people.
I look back upon the years that I spent at the First M. E. Church with regret, that my eyes were not opened to the wonderful opportunities and development of this new state.
I think that young men and women need teachers, or rather need teaching in lines that they never seem to have received instruction on. If some one who had passed the greater part of life's journey could have come to me and told me the things that were the most important and strove to fix them in my mind, what a benediction this would have been to me!
I made money in my work as a young busy pastor and preacher, but I loaned it to my father and brothers
and others, and the most of it I never saw again; it was largely trifled away.
As the Scripture says, it should have been put to exchangers that in later years I could have had greater results from it. I could have gone down, when I first came to Omaha, to the Union Pacific headquarters and bought land in western Nebraska, for instance, in the vicinity of Kearney, for two dollars an acre at that time, that today is worth one hundred dollars per acre or more.
There were opportunities for advancement and wealth on every hand, but my eyes and the eyes of my fellow men were largely closed to these things. I think money is a good thing--used for the glory of God and for the benefit of our poor humanity.
I take this position: That our first duty in the world is to support ourselves, thus relieving society of that burden. We must, as long as we live, be supported, and we either support ourselves or we become a burden to. someone else.
This matter is not ordinarily (sic) put in this way, but that is the way it appears to me; but the youth are not so taught. The school and university and the church do not teach the importance of self-support; they fill the mind with theories instead of practical ideas. I think this is wrong. Life is a real battle which must be won or lost by every soul that comes into the world.
A DIVINE CONVICTION FOR THE DEEPER CHRISTIAN LIFE.
FTER I had paid the debt on the First M. E. Church I had a little more time for thought. I was nearly 33 years old, was the pastor of the largest Methodist Church and the most important church in my denomination among the Methodist people in the state; I had no family to burden me nor to care for; I was in perfect health, had money at interest, a nice place to board and my study and rooms were very convenient and pleasant. There were hundreds of homes that welcomed me as a guest in the city. I frequently ran into tea with my friends and was in very pleasant relations with the people. Naturally, I had nothing to worry me, and I may be said to have been care and worry free and, yet at this time, singular to say, I was the subject of deep convictions of heart, yearnings and unrest, which I can hardly describe.
The language of my heart, if expressed in words, might be like this: "Oh, that I knew where I might find Him!" I could hardly define fully to myself my state.
I was not convicted of sin, but I became conscious of a soul-want that was clear cut and well defined. I read religious books; I studied the Bible; I spent a good deal of my time in prayer; I talked with the most mature Christians, but I found no rest.
My case was, as I thought, very singular, and the fact is they did not know what to say to me. They would ask me if I was not in the practice of any sin; but I was not. I was living up to my Light. Others would tell me that I was not perfect in my consecration to God. That was false. I never saw and do not today see any object in living for myself.
This life at best is brief and unsatisfactory, and I knew it and I did not desire to live for myself. I did give and I did consecrate all I had and all I was to God and He knew it; yet I had no rest. Those words of Jennie Lind, the Swedish nightingale, applied in my case:
In vain I seek for rest
In all created good;
It leaves me still unblessed
And makes me cry for God,
And sure at rest I cannot be
Unless my heart find rest in Thee.
Under the direction of my teachers I was led to claim holiness of heart, but the thing would not work; I did not have it. I had not yet the satisfactory portion of God. Later on I will tell how I received the blessing.
© 2003 for the NEGenWeb Project by Pam Rietsch, Ted & Carole Miller.