History of the Baptist
In the fall of 1871,
the South Platte Land Company, agreed to donate, free of expense,
two lots in the townsite of York to each church which should erect
a church building thereon. Today the First Baptist Church is the
only church receiving such donation, in the town, which has kept
their church building upon the site originally selected.
The organization of the church dates back to August 23, 1878, when a small company were gathered into what might more properly be called a class. Some meetings were held in what was then called "the new school house," and at one of these meetings David Graham was ordained as a deacon of the church.
Until 1879 no regular pastor was located here, and with but a few scattered members, it was difficult to keep up regular prayer or church meetings. In the fall of 1879, Rev. A. W. Peck moved into the county from New Jersey, and began the work of collecting the names of Baptists who had moved here and of building up the church. The first baptisms were August 9, 1879.
October 18, 1879, at a service held in a vacant storeroom on the south east corner of the square, a call was given to Rev. Peck to become pastor of the church, which was accepted and he immediately began his work as pastor. For a year he worked hard to build up the membership and hold regular services. After this came a time when the church was without a regular pastor.
On July 26, 1883, Rev. A. W. Clark was secured as pastor, entering at once upon his work. The Universalist Church was secured as a regular place of worship, and the organization of a sunday school was perfected which began the work that has steadily kept pace with our town and com-
munity. At this time there were about thirty members connected
with the church. Preparations were at once begun for the building
of a church. A committee was appointed, money subscribed and plans
submitted and adopted, and on February 21, 1884, the contract was
let and the result we now see in the present church building. The
church was dedicated November 16, 1884, by Dr. Wm. Lawrence, of
Chicago, and Rev. W. R. Connelly, of the Home Mission Society of
Nebraska. A bell had been presented and placed on the church by D.
E. Sayer of York, just before the dedication. The Home Mission
Society gave a donation of $500 on the cost of the building. The
church membership had increased to about 85 so that as the church
began the worship of God in its new home they were cheered by a
good membership and large congregations.
The pastors of the church have been men well thought of and earnest in their endeavors to establish a fruitful church of God-fearing men and women in York and the surrounding community.
Rev. Peck lived on a farm two miles south of town, but was "in and out" among his people "doing good."
Rev. A. W. Clark followed and was a "builder" in one sense, working with his own hands to erect a house of worship and then getting the people to worship. The first candidate for baptism in the new church was one of the present deacons, M. Castle, baptized December 14, 1884. The Baptist State Convention met here during Rev. Clarks pastorate.
Rev. R. L. Halsey proved to be a "missionary preacher" resigning his pastorate here to go to India as a foreign missionary.
Rev. W. G. Evans built up the church in many ways and won many into its folds by his preaching and teaching. He resigned to engage in the financial work of Grand Island College.
Rev. E. D. Bewick was a "teacher" of the
scriptures and aside from the work of the church gave extra time
to teaching the Bible and giving instruction. He closed his labors
here to re-enter the work in Wisconsin.
Rev B. F. Fellman came to the York church as "a young man," and as such won many young people as well as old into the church. He also took up the work at "Maple Grove" school house during two summers. He was ordained while serving the York church. It was during his pastorate the the (sic) Baptist State Convention again met in York. About $500.00 was expended for fixing the interior of the church the last year of his pastorate. Bro. Fellman left York to build up a church in South Omaha.
Rev. J. A. Meehan was called from Iowa to take charge here at York, and during his short stay of a year, made friends and sought to build up a spiritual and earnest church membership. Bro. Meehan left the church here to enter the Medical school at Des Moines, Ia.
Rev. S. C. Green, the present pastor, is now closing his second year's work with us. It was by his efforts that the parsonage has been erected the past year, at a cost of over $1,500.00. The church building has been repaired also in this time and the large pedal organ added to the audience room of the church.
All the ex-pastors of the church are still living and laboring in their different fields at the present time.
The church has granted ministerial license to three of its members: Bro. L. F. Salee in 1891, Bro. C. R. Rockwell, July 13, 1890, Bro. Marion Bollen, Jan. 1, 1903.
The deacons of the church in the order named have served in the past: David Graham, died Feb. 19, 1903; J. M. Stilson, died Sept. 12, 1902; E. V. Green; Daniel Longwell; Wm. Ong, died June 20, 1888; J. W. Shoetler; Melvin McCracken; Louis Provost; A. J. Wilkins: while the present board consists of the following, E. M. Burke; Daniel Longwell; Morrison Castle; C. D. Chapin; Wm. E. Stilson.
The finances of the church have been cared for by the following named; F. M. Dillon; Mrs. Josie White; J. E. White;
J. E. Phillips; J. W. Shoetler; A. J. Wilkins, and the present
treasurer B. A. Ward.
Among the church clerks of early years we find the names of Thomas Porter, O. A. Stubbs, Prof. R. M. Bridges and eleven others, with the present clerk, Wm. E. Stilson, serving his seventh year in this capacity.
Four of our young men went to Manila with the First Nebraska regiment; three returned and one died in the hospital, of sickness.
SUNDAY SCHOOL which
was organized in July, 1883, has been running continually ever
since with uninterrupted progress. Mr. J. E. White was the first
superintendent and served some time after the new church was
built. Mr. E. V. Green was his successor and served the school
until his removal from the city. E. C. Knight, O. S. Dillon, C. K.
Struble, followed. Mr. Struble resigned to go to Manila with the
1st. Nebr. regiment. F. C. Stilson and Mrs. E. Edgecombe followed
until Mr. Knight was again reelected and who is the present
superintendent. The school has a fine average attendance both
winter and summer and is supported by old and young alike. The
school has a Cradle Roll of over 30; a Home Department of about
20, and a Kindergarten with separate room and good supply of
tables, chairs, maps, etc. The Sunday School is a great help to
the church in many ways.
The SENIOR B. Y. P. U., is doing good work in several ways; besides a prayer meeting each Sunday evening a social is held every month and a literary and musical program carried out. The JUNIOR society is well organized and carries on its work within its own membership having only a young lady to superintend the work for them. Both societies help much with the church work and especially do they help in a financial way. Some of the church membership is coming from these societies where they have been taught of and brought to accept Christ.
The LADIES' AID and MISSIONARY SOCIETIES have both been in active working order almost continually since 1883, when the first public supper was given on Thanksgiving Day
in a vacant room near the north-west corner of the square. Much money has been raised for church expenses and good contributions sent to the mission fields.
The present pastor of the
Baptist Church was born on a farm in Southern Ohio, July 24th,
1862. His father, who was a local Methodist preacher, entered the
Union Army, when the son was but six weeks old. His grandfather
and great grandfather were Methodist ministers, and on the mothers
side they held to the same belief. After the close of the war the
family moved to Portsmouth, and in 1870 moved by steamboat up the
Ohio River to Bellaire, two years later to Zaleski, Ohio. In each
of these towns Mr. Green attended the public schools, and at the
age of fifteen years passed the examination for a two years state
certificate. In the spring of 1878 he came with the family to
Nebraska, and located at Plattsmouth, Cass Co., where he entered
the employ of the B. & M. R. R. learning the trade of coach
painter and was afterwards transferred to the clerical force of
the supply department. He continued in the service of the rail
road for fifteen years.
The last sunday in 1887 he was converted and immediately became an active christian worker. Two years later, in 1890, he was called as general secretary of the Young Men's Christian Association of Ashland, Nebraska, and served in that capacity for one year and from that entered the evangelistic field, and held many successful meetings in different parts of the state. While in Ashland, be changed his views upon the subject of baptism and withdrew from the Methodist denomination. He was baptised by the Rev. T. J. Penny into the fellowship of the Baptist church and granted a license to preach.
June 1st, 1894 he accepted the call of the churches of Swaledale and Thornton Iowa and became their pastor, be-
ing ordained at Thornton, April 27th, 1894, and from there was
called to the pastorate of the Baptist of Blair Nebraska, February
1st, 1896. The Nebraska Baptist State Convention recognizing his
ability as a leader and organizer asked the Blair church to
release him for the general work of the state. This the church
refused to do, but November 1st, 1898 he took up the arduous work
of a district in missionary, visiting the weak churches and
encouraging them to new life, breathing inspiration into them and
establishing new churches.
The church at York extended a unanamous (sic) call to Mr. Green without having heard him, or the usual preliminary of candidating, but purely upon his record. He began his work April 1st, 1901, since that time there has been a steady and healthy growth of the church in every way. Among other things is the beautiful parsonage. As a public speaker, Mr. Green ranks high in his profession, and is called upon for a great many public addresses. He is in special demand by Grand Army Posts, Fraternal and Patriotic societies.
A Bit of "Early" History.
No church history of York would be complete without mention of Mr. Butterfield, father of E. A. Butterfield. He homesteaded the land where his son now lives, building a small sod house about where the K. C. R. R. comes onto the farm, living here alone, the later part of 1870 and 1871. He sought the companionship of his fellow man, and at times on Sunday would collect some neighbors and teach them from the bible. We think that to him should be accorded the honor of being the first bible class teacher upon the territory now covered by the city of York. As we reccollect (sic) him standing beside a dry goods box, near a little building about where Murphy's blacksmith shop now stands, in the spring of 1871 teaching from his open bible to the three or four persons who would listen to him. There early pioneers builded (sic) better than they knew.