ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF YORK, YORK CO., NEBRASKA
M. E. Church -- New. Plate I.
M. E. Church -- Old. Plate II.
History of M. E. Church.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
The Sunday School is one of the largest if not
the largest in the state, sustaining all departments of a modern
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.
ORIEN W. FIFER,
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.
Rev. O. W. FIFER. Plate
© 1999, 2000, 2001 for NEGenWeb Project by Ted
& Carole Miller