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M. E. Church -- New. Plate I.

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M. E. Church -- Old. Plate II.


History of M. E. Church.

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   The York Methodist Episcopal Church traces it's history back to the month of June 1871 when a little class of sixteen Methodists was enrolled at the home of David Baker who lived on Beaver Creek about two miles from the present city. Brother Baker was a pioneer Methodist class leader and it seems that his zeal and leadership brought about the organization of the class. The details of the proceedings are not obtainable for the organization of a Methodist class is not a stately affair in worldly terms and in those pioneer times, it was far away from being formal and ostentatious.
   The records show that on May 14th, 1871, the Rev. W. E. Morgan of the Rock River Conference, preached in Bro. Baker's house. Mr. Morgan was looking up a homestead and intended to remove to Nebraska in the fall. The knowledge of this fact seems to have caused Mr. Baker to collect the names of Methodists in the vicinity of York and informally to constitute a class. This was undoubtedly in June. On July 2nd, 1871 the presiding elder of the Beatrice district, the Rev. J. B. Maxfield, held the first quarterly meeting in a grove near Mr. Baker's house. The little class at that time or perhaps a few weeks before, was placed in charge of W. H. B. Wilson, a local preacher. The first relation this minister held to the York class is not clear but it is plain that on the 2nd of July he was in charge and the following persons had been enrolled: David and Elvira Baker, J. H. Bell, Thomas Basset and wife, L. D. Brakeman, Mary Brakeman, Ella Brakeman, Thomas Myers and his wife, John and Mary Murphy, S. W. Pettis and Amanda Pettis, Mrs. M. Shackelford and Mrs. Sarah N. Moore.
   During the summer occasional services were held at Mr. Baker's house. On October 16, 1871 Mr. Morgan was transferred to the Nebraska conference and appointed to York circuit, then consisting of the entire county. On the 29th of October, the first services by a Methodist preacher in



York were held by Mr. Morgan in an unfinished building on the west side of the square, known as Brahmstadt's and Kleinschmidt's store. There were no doors or windows in the building. Carpenters benches, nail kegs and boards served as seats.
   During the winter, services were held at Mr. Bakers. On February 9th 1872 the first trustees were appointed, as follows: David Baker, J. H. Bell, T. C. Tagg and A. Deems, the latter serving also as recording steward.
   The first quarterly meeting in the town was held by Rev. H. T. Davis, presiding elder of the Lincoln district in April 1872. The meeting was held in the old B. & M. land office.
   At this meeting steps were taken for the building of the first M. E. Church of York. Its dimensions were to be 24 by 36 feet. The lumber to build the church was hauled from Lincoln on wagons, L. D. Brakeman, being one of those who thus assisted in the construction. The church was located on Seventh Street and Platte Avenue, where the old parsonage now stands. It was enclosed during the summer and while the church walls were being built, the people did not neglect the assembling of themselves together, and services were conducted in a store building, in the school house, and afterwards in the church home of the Presbyterians, who had completed their house of worship.
   In 1873 the sum of $100.00 was secured from the Church Extension Society, The house was completed and dedicated on September 14th, by Dr. Miner Raymond, of Garrett Biblical Institute at Evanston, Ill. All who remember that day unite in pronouncing it one of the great days in the history of York and especially of the York M. E. Church. Eleven hundred dollars were subscribed and the building presented to the church with several hundred dollars more than the indebtedness provided for.
   Edwin Buck was the next pastor. He held a very encouraging revival meeting in the winter of 1875 and 1876. The interest spread all over the county and people came ten and twelve miles to attend the services. As one result of this



revival the first Methodist Sunday School was organized February 27th, 1876.
   The first parsonage was built in 1877 and consisted of two rooms, which afterward formed the west part of the remodelled (sic) parsonage so long occupied and so fondly remembered by the later pastors.
   Following Edwin Buck as pastors were E. J. Willis 1877-78, and W. S. Blackburn 1879-80. The increase in congregation and membership was so great that the need for a larger room in which to worship became imperative.
   In 1880 the church building was sold to the Swedish Lutherans and removed to its present site, south west corner of Eighth Street and Platte Avenue. Then for five years services were held first in the old City Hall, the building long occupied by Marshall's carriage factory, and then in Bell's Hall. God continued with his people in these places, and during the three year's pastorate of Rev. G. A. Smith 1881-83, the work was carried on with faith and courage, with corresponding rewards for faithful work.
   In 1883 Rev. H. T. Davis was appointed to the York Station. There were 271 members. The history of the church during the three years of Brother Davis' pastorate is full of interest and is fittingly told in his book, "Solitary Places Made Glad."
   In the winters of 1883 and 1884, Bell's Hall was the scene of revival meetings that will never be forgotten. After these meetings, all seemed to think that the time had come to build a church, as the results of the meetings had added largely to the membership. After some discussion as to place, the Board decided upon the corner of Seventh Street and Nebraska Avenue as the most desirable location. It was decided that the church should not cost more than twelve thousand dollars, and the work was not to begin until ten thousand dollars were subscribed.
   On the 20th of April 1885, the subscription for the new church was taken, amounting to ten thousand, three hundred and sixty dollars. Work was immediately begun, and at conference time the church was well under way. Brother



Davis was returned to York to complete his work. This occupied the most of the time during the first part of the year.
   The work was pushed, the basement was finished and informally dedicated December 6th, 1885.
   February 27th, 1886, the church was completed, and dedicated by Bishop H. W. Warren. The seating capacity was larger than the present auditorium, with basement and class rooms.
   Rev. Duke Slavens followed Brother Davis with a pastorate of two years of good and efficient work. Rev. W. K. Beans was the pastor one year, and held a revival meeting which will always be held dear in the memory or those attending. It was wonderful, indeed. Brother T. B. Hilton was the pastor one year and continued the work and Rev. A. C. Crosthwaite gave three years of his most earnest effort with the best of results. In fact, when Rev. J. W. Stewart came as the pastor, the members had begun to feel as old people do who have gone through many hardships and have at last builded (sic) a home in which to spend their old age, and welcome their children and grand children, and feel that their troubles were about over. But alas! misfortune will come! One calm, beautiful night in October, the 16th, 1895, while prayer meeting was in session in the lecture room, fire was steadily making its way through the roof of the building, and by the time it was discovered it was too late to save the building; and while members and friends stood by and watched with tears running down their cheeks, and exclamations of sorrow and regret coming from their lips, the beautiful church home was burned to the ground. It was the second year of the drouth, and it was deemed almost an impossibility to rebuild.
   Sister congregations offered to share their church homes but the membership was large, and it was thought best to secure a room though it might be small and inconvenient, where regular services could be held without interfering with rights of others. As in the early days, there was no room suitable for a place of worship. But the Sunday after the fire found the congregation assembled in an empty store room on the south side of the square, fitted up with a pulpit,



a few pews, and the organ, which had been saved from the fire, and chairs sufficient for the seating capacity. After a stirring sermon from the pastor, Brother Stewart, and an appeal for money to rebuild the church, in an incredibly short time six thousand dollars had been subscribed and it was settled that the M. E. church of York would not be homeless for a very long time.
   The task was an arduous one, and many who had been very helpful in building both of the other churches were unable, because of the financial stress, to subscribe even one dollar and be sure of paying it.
   The work of collecting went on, and the people assembled in their uncomfortable quarters, through the frosts of one winter and the heat of the next summer, holding regular services, Sunday School and prayer meetings, the pastor talking and preaching at such a disadvantage that he was advised by his physicians to stop, or his throat might be permantly (sic) injured. But he persevered, trusting in his Heavenly Father for strength to carry on his work. The building went on, and the Wednesday night, October 17th, the anniversary of the burning of the brick church, the new stone church was dedicated to the Lord amid the rejoicings of members, friends and neighbors. The church had cost $12,000, and was dedicated entirely free from debt. Bishop McCabe officiated, aided by the untiring and faithful pastor, Brother Stewart.
   Since the building of the stone church, the growth of the church has been steady. The membership enrolled in January 1903, was 743 of whom 98 were probationers.
   The Thirtieth Anniversary of the church was observed June 30 and July 1, 1901 with appropriate services.
   The old parsonage property was sold in August 1902 and a new and modern parsonage is being built north of the church.
   The Sunday School is one of the largest if not the largest in the state, sustaining all departments of a modern school.
   The work among young people is divided among the Senior, Intermediate and Junior Leagues.



   The Womans Foreign Missionary Society, the Womans Home Missionary Society, the Ladies Aid Society and the Queen Esther Circle are successful organizations.
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   The present pastor is Orien W. Fifer, who was appointed to York in September 1898. He was born in Mendon, Adams Co., Illinois, and came to Nebraska in 1881 with his parents. He was educated at the Lincoln High School, the Nebraska State University, and Garrett Biblical Institute at Evanston, Illinois. He joined the Nebraska Conference in September 1891, and has been the secretary of that body since 1898.

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Rev. O. W. FIFER. Plate III.

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