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Who Became a Bishop

I was able to attend every session of the House of Bishops and spoke on important questions more frequently and freely than ever before. On the eighteenth of October the matter of my resignation was considered and with many kind words of regret from several bishops was accepted. The Presiding Bishop immediately appointed me in charge of the District of Kearney until my successor should be consecrated. At the request of several bishops, desiring to know my wishes as to my successor, I ventured to nominate three, any one of whom I thought would make a faithful bishop; viz.: Geo. A. Beecher, Dean of the cathedral at Omaha and formerly a missionary in my District, Rev. Irving P. Johnson, rector of Gethsemane Church, Minneapolis, and Rev. C. C. Rollitt, Secretary of the Sixth Missionary Department. Of these Dean Beecher received the largest number of votes and was nominated to the House of Deputies as my successor. The nomination was unanimously confirmed by that House. On my way home, I spent several days with Dean Beecher, explaining the condition of the funds and the work and workers in the District of Kearney.
     On our return to Kearney, there was much to do in closing up my work and breaking up our home of twenty-one years. The people of North Platte insisted on my coming there for farewell services and a reception. This was an interesting occasion. I had been present at the consecration of their first church nearly forty years before--had then been called as

The Farmer Boy

their first pastor--had consecrated their second church just twenty years later and had sustained intimate relations with the parish for the last twenty-one years. At the reception I received many touching tributes of respect and affection and a purse of fifty dollars in gold. Mrs. Graves also received loving tributes by the speakers.
     On the evening of November 28th a farewell reception was given to Mrs. Graves and myself in a public hall in Kearney. Complimentary addresses were made by Mr. H. N. Russell, Head Master of our Church school for boys, and by the rector of the parish, Rev. P. C. Snow. It appeared there that a fund had been raised from the District with which to place a large, framed portrait of myself in the school and also a bronze tablet, commemorating me as the founder of the school. At the same time a purse of forty dollars in gold was presented to Mrs. Graves by the Woman's Auxiliary of the District of which she had been president for many years. There were present at the reception not only the people of our Church but also the leading men of the city. This was my last day in Kearney as bishop.
     In my report to the Board of Missions this year I gave them this:


     "A brief summary of my work as missionary bishop for twenty-one years may be of interest to the Board. I have ordained fourteen deacons and thirteen priests.

Who Became a Bishop

We have had eighty-three different clergymen in the twenty-one years. Of these I have transferred sixty-four to other jurisdictions, one of whom has returned. Four have died in this jurisdiction and eight have died since leaving us. We still have fourteen besides the Bishop canonically resident. We have built twenty-six churches and fourteen rectories. I have baptized in my own District four hundred and fifty-six and confirmed four thousand and thirteen. I have married twenty-four couples. Of those confirmed fifteen hundred were brought up in our own Church, five hundred and forty-five had no religious antecedents. The other two thousand and sixty-eight had had some religious training in twenty-four different religious bodies in childhood, but for the most part were not active members of any. The average age of those confirmed was twenty-five, but ranging all the way from ten to ninety-four years. All the baptisms in our present District of Kearney, that is western Nebraska, were four thousand and ninety-five; marriages six hundred and seventy-one; burials seven hundred and seventy-three; public services forty-three thousand five hundred and forty-eight.
     "Twenty-one years ago we had not a dollar of funds of any kind. To-day we have:

"School Endowment Fund
"Missionary Endowment Fund
"Episcopal Endowment Fund
"Insurance Endowment Fund
"Scholarship Endowment Fund
"Church Building Funds

The Farmer Boy

     "When I began my work in this District we had property in churches and rectories to the value of forty thousand dollars. Our property to-day in churches, rectories and the school amounts to two hundred and fifty-four thousand six hundred and forty dollars and fifty-seven cents above debts, showing an increase together with our funds, in twenty-one years, of two hundred and seventy-seven thousand four hundred and ninety-three dollars and nineteen cents.

     "The day after the farewell reception in Kearney we took the train for Omaha to join in the consecration of Dean Beecher as my successor. Again we were guests at the home of my old friend, Philip Potter, who had been a great help to me in investing the permanent funds of our District and in caring for them after they were invested. In the presence of a vast congregation, a large number of clergy and several bishops, on St. Andrew's Day, November 30th, Dean Beecher was consecrated the second bishop of the District of Kearney. As my hands rested on his head in the consecration my authority as bishop of that District passed from me forever and my work as such was ended. Here also, I end this account of myself and my life


     As I look back over my life to the aspirations and inspirations of my youth, I cannot but feel that, in taking up the work of the ministry instead of law and politics, I did the wisest and best thing possible as

Who Became a Bishop

social and civil conditions then existed. Politics were managed by party leaders and bosses in such a way that it was almost impossible to gain prominence and promotion in ways that were strictly honorable. There may have been exceptions, but such was the general rule. I hope conditions are better now and will continue to grow still better. Of this much I am assured that my life has been happier and I trust more useful in the course I have followed. The joys of a minister's life, the triumph of winning souls for Christ, the turning of the indifferent and even the infidel from their carelessness and unrest to the peace and glowing hopes of a Christian, are such as can hardly be equalled in any other calling. While a clergyman may not become wealthy he generally has the comforts of life. In the thousands of homes in which I have been entertained I have generally found those of the clergy the sunniest and sweetest of them all. God be thanked that it is so. May many a youth looking forward to his life work avoid the stormy hunger, the burning greed, the bitter rivalries and the crushing disappointments of most of those who make gold their god and become worshippers of mammon. May more of them seek and find the quiet joy, the lasting peace, the blessed affections and loving relationships which come to the faithful priest and pastor of the Church of God.


     As I never expect to write another book, I append the following odds and ends which may be of interest or amusement to some of those who have read thus far.
     In 1908, feeling the uselessness, except to cultivate the habit of prayer, of a child saying the old familiar

Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take,"

all being about its soul, even before it knows what its soul is, I composed the following, expressing the
simple needs and proper aspirations of a child:


I thank Thee, Lord, for sleep and rest,
For all the things that I love best,
Now guide me through another day
And bless my work and bless my play,
Lord make me strong for noble ends,
Protect and bless my loving friends,
Of all mankind good Christians make,
All this I ask for Jesus' sake. Amen.


Lord send me sleep that I may live,
The wrongs I've done this day forgive,
Bless every deed and thought and word

Who Became a Bishop

I've rightly done, or said, or heard,
Bless relatives and friends alway,
Teach all the world to watch and pray,
My thanks for all my blessings take
And hear my prayer for Jesus' sake. Amen.

In 1872, inspired by an imaginary incident, I wrote the following:


O where is the blood of that stem old race
     Who traversed the sea to that desolate strand,
Who battled New England's forests down
     And hunted the red man out of the land?

Who prayed like a Peter and preached like a Paul,
     But banished the Quaker and murdered the witch,
     Who fought for their rights like a Spartan or Turk
While others they treated to feathers and pitch.

I now see it flow through a maiden's veins
     Whose forehead is high and whose eye is clear,
'Whose delicate nose and lips and chin
     Are classically chiseled, are sweetly austere.

More gently it throbs in her womanly heart,
     But still in its beating is firm and high
And the spring of her pulse shows a spirit well wrought
     To dare or to suffer, to do or to die.

And there is a purity calm and severe
     Which speaks of some hero or martyr of old
Whose ashes have bittered her own limpid mind
     With a truth that is harsh and a love that is cold.

The Farmer Boy

     The following is the substance and almost literally the words of my daily evening prayer for many years during my episcopate:

     O Lord, merciful Father, I pray Thee forgive me for whatever I have done amiss this day in thought, word, or deed, or failed to do that I should have done. Bless what I have done and accept my thanks for the blessings of the past clay. Give me sleep and rest this night to fit me for the duties of the coming day.
     Guard, guide and bless my wife, my children and their children, my other relatives and friends, all who have loved me or whom I have loved, especially Lucy and Philip. Bless also my Godchildren, my clergy and Church workers and our Church school in all its interests.
     Send Thy blessing, temporal and spiritual, upon all the givers and helpers of our work, especially Mather, Hadden, Auchmuty, Walcott, Cochran, Ward and her helpers, the Woodwards, Lewis, Markoe, Coles, Van Wagenen, Brown, Rogers, Benson, the Pierreponts, Godfrey, Thaw, Castleman, Hunnewell, Browning and Welles.
     Bring about the unity of Thy Church in Thy good time and way and the spread of Thy kingdom everywhere.
     Have mercy on the suffering and sorrowing, the unfortunate, the lonely, the aged and infirm, the poor, the disappointed, the discouraged, the despairing and the broken-hearted. All this I ask for Blessed Jesus' sake. Amen, amen.

     In 1876 occurred the Golden Wedding of George and Adaline Graves, the uncle and aunt with whom I

Who Became a Bishop

had a home for two years while preparing for college and whom I loved dearly. I was able to be present and brought the following as my contribution.

'Twas a golden fleece that Jason sought
     O'er land and sea of old,
And a god came down to Danæ's bower
     In a fleece of showery gold.

'Tis a purse of gold the miner seeks
     And delves with laboring pain,
And the farmer bends his back in toil
     To reap his golden grain.

But the golden fleece of tender hopes
     A love grown ripe and old
And the mellow joys of fifty years
     Are the richest feast of gold.

And the fruits of love are good to see,
     Brave sons and daughters fair,
And children's children clustered round,
     Bright eyes and golden hair.

Nor these alone, but others too,
     Who else might wanderers be,
Are nestled in this home of love
     And share its wedding glee.

And not a lamb of all this flock,
     Or here or gathered home,
But owns the bond the Saviour wrought,
     Nor from His fold would roam.

The Farmer Boy

The tender care of parents love
     And wisdom from on high
Have planted here the seeds of peace
     And joys that cannot die.

Then blessings on these honored heads
     And love, their golden fleece,
Still smooth the downward way of life
     Through blessed paths of peace.

Now may the Gracious Comforter,
     The Flame, the Holy Dove,
Keep ever warm their failing hearts
     And brood their sacred love.

     Some time during the hard years of 1894 and 1895, in sympathy with the farmers of my District, I wrote the following in their own dialect. It is safe to say that it expressed the feelings of thousands of farmers in those times:


I have something to say of my masters,
     It will make your ears tingle I know,
For they have filled this fair land with disasters
     And laid more'n a million homes low.

They're the trusts, the combines, corporations
     Of the railroads, of sugar and coal,
The factories, machinery and matches,
     Most everything's in their control

The farmer he toils like a nigger And plows and
     harrows and hoes,

Who Became a Bishop

He fills all his barns full of fodder,
     But that doesn't buy him no clothes.

The market is distant and fickle
     And the freight rates enormous; You've heard
Two bushels won't take one to market
     And commission men gobble the third.

I planted a lot of purtaters,
     'Cause the price was way up in the spring,
And my girls they hoed and picked bugs off
     Hoping dresses and every such thing.

We had a big crop, you believe it,
     The price was good fifty miles down,
The railroad with rules regulations
     Couldn't carry the crop to the town.

The purtaters all rot in the cellar
     And the girls wear around their ole clothes,
But the railroad got rich by a "corner,"
     And that's the way everything goes.

Our corn wasn't ten cents a bushel,
     Though the prices were fair up above,
While the coal it went higher and higher
     And the corn it went into the stove.

     The smell of it burnin' is incense
No doubt to the capitalist's nose,
     But it makes my ole heart ache to smell it
While I shiver in worn out clothes.

The lawyer's foreclosing the mortgage
     And usury's made the thing grow

The Farmer Boy

Till we can't even pay just the interest,
     So our hopes and our home they must go.

The mechanic and brakeman's no better,
     Their wages are all cut so low
On the plea of hard times to the railroad,
     Or the trust can no dividend show.

So we eat our corn cake for our dinner
     Without coffee, or sugar, or wine,
While the rich they grow richer and richer
     And the trusts they go on to combine.

What we're comin' to no one can tell us,
     But the kings and the tyrants of old
Didn't grind their poor subjects no harder
     Than these modern monarchs of gold.

     One time late at night I arrived at the little town of Culbertson. I went to bed in the hotel intending to sleep late in the morning. About daylight a rooster came crowing under my window and woke me up. It made me think of the "the priest all shaven and shorn." in the nursery rhyme of "The House that Jack Built." As I lay there I enlarged the story by bringing in nearly all the domestic animals and all the words that rhyme or nearly rhyme with horn, as follows:

This is the Farmer who tilled the farm
Where lived the Mouse that squeaked in alarm
To the timid Dove that did no harm
To the lazy Pig of rounded form,
Or-the Guinea-hen in her nest so warm,

Who Became a Bishop

Or the Peacock spreading his tail to adorn
The scene where the Turkey with beak like thorn,
That pecked the Donkey so long since born,
That brayed to the Horse that neighed in scorn
At the silly Goose that cracked the corn,
That startled the Duck that quacked to warn
The lusty Cock that crowed in the morn,
That Wakened the Priest all shaven and shorn,
That married the Man all tattered and torn
To the Maiden all forlorn,
That milked the Cow with the crumpled horn,
That tossed the Dog,
That worried the Cat,
That killed the Rat,
That ate the Malt,
That lay in the House,
That Jack built.

     It was my lot while doing my work as bishop in Nebraska to spend hours in making connection with trains at the little junction town of Kenesaw, on the Burlington Line. Once while doing so I passed away the time by writing the following:


There is a dreary junction spot,
     A place by angels long forgot,
Where neither reason, sense, nor law
     Prevents a wait at Kenesaw.

To wait so long will make you sad,
     But there's no use in getting mad,
For smile, or swear, or sing, or jaw,
     You're bound to wait at Kenesaw.

The Farmer Boy

The hours come in, the hours go by,
     You weary grow and fret and sigh.
Look up or down no train you saw
     While waiting long at Kenesaw.

The room is small; it matters not
     If fire goes out, or stove gets hot,
By turns you freeze and then you thaw
     'While waiting trains at Kenesaw.

You sit and read and read and sit
     Until you fear a nervous fit,
The seats grow hard, your bones grow raw
     While waiting trains at Kenesaw.

The time is up! hope beams on fate!
     And then you're told the train is late.
You sigh and groan with hungry maw,
     But still you wait at Kenesaw.

With dreary length the hours drag on,
     You're sick with cursing Burlington,
In heart or brain there's sure a flaw,
     You're paralyzed at Kenesaw.

     I had often to return to my home by a branch railroad and on a freight train. They stopped a long time at each little station and sometimes between stations unloading railroad material. I once cheered the weary way by writing these lines:


Did it ever fall to your miserable fate
To come from the east by the Kearney freight?

Who Became a Bishop

Did you get uneasy and somewhat sour
From waiting at Hastings a good long hour?

Did you whistle the tune "Juniata Blue,"
As that wonderful town you were dragging through?
Did you think it a beautiful city you saw,
While they switched for two hours at Kenesaw?
Was delay at Lowell so dreary until
You thought of the "Tale of Metropolisville"
Of its glory departed out of the land?
Did you wish that your train would pull out of the sand?

Was it car-loads of cinders, or car-loads of ties,
They slowly unloaded, ignoring your sighs
And strung them for miles along by the track?
Did the engine back up and give you a whack?

Did you sing while at Newark a bright, cheerful song?
Did the bridge o'er the Platte seem twenty miles long?
And how many hours did you think you were late,
When at last you got in by the Kearney Freight?

      In 1908 I noticed in some magazine a demand for a new national hymn or anthem, less provincial and puritanic than" My Country 'tis of thee." I composed the following which can be sung to the same tune as "My Country 'tis of thee," though I afterward wrote music for it myself.

Our country fair and strong,
We raise a joyful song
     To thy great name.

The Farmer Boy

Stretching from sea to sea,
A country just and free,
Our hopes are bound to thee
     And thy bright fame.

No tyrants here survive.
Here honest men can thrive
     And freedom find;
With open arms for all
Who flee from kingly thrall.
We send a generous call
     To all mankind.

Here come and toil and live
And learn with us to give
     Our joys, our tears,
Here solve the problems great
Of labor, church and state,
Transplanting love for hate
     And hope for fears.

Now sons of noble sires
Light patriotic fires
     Through this broad land,
Let wars forever cease,
Let justice, love and peace
Throughout the world increase
     By our strong hand.

© 2002 for the NEGenWeb Project by Pam Rietsch, Ted & Carole Miller