NEGenWeb Project
Resource Center, On-Line Library



     There is, perhaps, no interest in the State that has received such universal and hearty indorsement [sic] as have the Churches of all denominations. From the first settlement of the Territory there has been a constant spirit of sacrifice to lay deep the foundations of all the different Christian denominations. It has been less a spirit of strife, or rivalry, than a recognition of the great fundamental law that neither new nor old communities can long exist and prosper, without the softening, chastening and refining influences of Christianity; and the zealous labor of Christians in all the history of the State has been marked, as they have made education and Christianity the corner-stone of all their institutions. There is no State in the Union, with the same number of inhabitants, that has so many and so good Churches and school houses, nor one that gathers more to the services of the various Churches, considering that the State is yet comparatively in its infancy.

     Many are swift to conclude that in a new frontier State but little will be done in this direction, and they hesitate about leaving their Church associations and privileges, and coming to a new country, but these fears are groundless. The pioneer denominations, as usual, have occupied the frontier. They have gathered the people for worship in groves in the open air, in dug-outs, in school houses and private dwellings. All denominations have




done this, the Bishop and the Priest, and the Minister and Preacher; and almost invariably as soon as a passable home has been provided for the family, and a room, however humble, for the school, the next thought has been for the Church in which to worship God; and this has been built, sometimes rudely and cheaply at first, but always in keeping with, and often beyond, the means of the inhabitants.

     And in this action there has been a singular unanimity of all classes in the community. Men who have belonged to no Church, who have expressed no particular religious convictions, who have identified themselves with no creed, have been just as anxious for these privileges for themselves and their children as those connected with the Churches. They have recognized the great power and benefit of the Christian Church in the formation of morals and the dissemination of virtuous principles in the communities where they have lived.

     There is another peculiarity that has been marked in the progress of the Christian Churches of this State, and that has been the conspicuous absence of denomination rivalries and disputes. Bigotry has seemed to have no place in the denominational work. There have been few or no angry discussions or denunciations of different religious beliefs or theories.

     Men have accorded to each other the best intentions, and while disseminating widely different doctrines and usages, they have done this in a spirit of Christian charity, manly forbearance, that recognizes the fact that there is room for all of every faith; that each Church or organization must stand or fall on its own merits, and while the most zealous work has been done, often calling for severe labor and constant sacrifice to build up these institutions in their own way, according to early habits and influences, and in accordance with their peculiar views, there has been but little effort to pull down others and build on their ruins. It is the freedom of our Churches from this sectarian strife, the willingness. to give every man the unrestrained right of opinion, and of practice that has made the Churches of all denominations so great a power throughout the State. Men are not to be trammelled. Their religious convictions, and the expression of them, is free as the air they breathe on our vast prairies. It is the genuine freedom of



thought and action that is found in all the history of the world in the settlement of new countries, and developed peculiarly here from the influence of our free institutions, that make every man, however humble, a sovereign in his own right in all matters of opinion.

     In all our prominent cities and large towns, comfortable, and spacious, if not elegant Churches, are found with their heaven-pointing spires, showing that God is honored, and that men acknowledge this by building temples in which to worship according to the dictates of their own consciences. And in the more remote settlements the people are not behind the large towns in the erection of suitable places of worship. And these results of Church building, Church going and educational facilities are produced by the character of many of the settlers on the frontier. Said a clergyman a short time since who preached in the most sparsely populated and distant portion of the State, "I have for my hearers here three College graduates, with families of the best educational and Christian culture; and the leader of my choir is a lady who has delighted thousands of metropolitan ears in fashionable Churches." This is the character of many, very many of our settlers. They have come from the best homes and purest associations of the East; they are cultivated, educated and refined, and they demand, and will have around them that which will satisfy the cravings of their natures for spiritual and intellectual and moral food. High intellectual attainments and moral and religious culture are confined to no localities. They flourish as surely on the prairie, in the humble home, by the fireside of comparative poverty, as in the abode of wealth and metropolitan influence. Nebraska can point with pride to the record of the Churches and schools. The men who have molded and controlled, and fashioned them, amid their arduous labors, their isolation, and their long and wearisome journeys, have found time to become men of letters, scientific men and authors, who have made themselves famous, and who have ranked first in the work they have undertaken and in the books they have published.

     The right-arm of the Churches -- the Sabbath schools of the State -- have no superiors anywhere, whether we consider their management, their progress or their numbers. They have




been complimented by experts in Sabbath school work, from the great educational centers of the country, as fully up to the best standards, and equal to any in the front rank of schools in the world. This of course commenced in the cities. Men were found who bad peculiar adaptation to this work, men who had the ability and who were not satisfied to be behind the very best of self-sacrificing Sunday school workers in any land; and they have accomplished all and much more than they promised. And this work has spread by individual effort and by united influence until there is no better system, and none more carefully and conscientiously and intelligently followed than that of this new State.

     It follows then that we have all the agencies, appliances, and zeal in this great work that is necessary to carry it forward and give the Church, the universal Church, a place in the hearts and homes and the institutions of our State. We are laying the foundations broad and. deep for an universal acknowledgement of the claims of the Christian Church, and for its firm establishment in the minds and hopes of the people, and as a bulwark against bigotry, fanaticism and indifference, and as a perpetual acknowledgement of the enduring truths of Christianity.

     The following statistics of our Churches show that our estimate is in keeping with the facts as they exist throughout our borders:

Furnished by Rev. Wm. McCandlish, Omaha.

     The State of Nebraska had, on the 1st of May, 1879, one Synod in connection with the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church; three Presbyteries -- Omaha, Nebraska City and Kearney; sixty ordained ministers; one licentiate and four candidates for the ministry; 101 organized Churches; 3,573 members; 501 members added on profession last year; 446 members added on certificate last year; 4,250 scholars in Sunday schools; $710 contributed to Home Mission last year; $507 contributed to Foreign Mission last year; $33,385 contributed to congregation purposes, including pastors' salary, Church buildings, &c., and $1,544 contributed to miscellaneous causes.

Furnished by Rev. A. F. Sherrill, Omaha.

     The first Society was organized at Omaha, on the 3d of May,



1856, by Rev. Reuben Gaylord, with six members. Their first Church, a brick, was commenced in 1856 and finished in 1857. A second house of worship, a frame, was built in 1866.

     The present number of Congregational organizations in the State is 112; houses of worship, thirty-six; ministers, seventy-four; membership, about 3,000; value of Church edifices, $80,000; college and school property, $55,000; parsonages, (four) $5,000; total value of Church property $140,000.

     Doane College, located at Crete, Saline County, founded in 1872 by Colonel Doane, is a flourishing and rapidly growing institution, conducted under the auspices of the Congregationalists. It has an attendance of about one hundred and fifty students, of both sexes. It has an endowment of six hundred acres of valuable land adjoining Crete.


     The first class of this Society was organized at Omaha, in the Summer of 1855, by Rev. Isaac F. Collins, and in the following year their first house of worship, a brick, was erected at Omaha.

     The present membership in the State is 8,039; probationers, 1,156; local preachers, 136; Churches, fifty-seven, estimated value, $124,250; parsonages, forty-two, estimated value, $25,025; Sabbath Schools, 172; officers and teachers, 1,478; scholars, 8,745.

Furnished by Rt. Rev. Bishop Clarkson, Omaha.

     Number of baptized members, 3,340; teachers and officers of Sunday Schools, 202; Sunday School scholars, 1,830; Churches, thirty-two, value, $117,500; educational institutions, five, value of buildings, $54,500. The first Church was organized in the spring of 1856, by Bishops Lee and Kemper.

Furnished by Rev. John F. Quinn.

     The first Catholic mission was organized by Rev. T. Tracy, in 1854. There was not a dozen Catholic families at Omaha at that date. Rt. Rev. James O'Gorman was the first Bishop, and made Omaha his See in 1859. He died July 4, 1874. When he arrived at Omaha there were only two Churches in the State, and only two priests. When he died there were fifteen Churches and



thirty-five missions, attended by thirteen priests. The Catholic population was 10,500. The present Bishop, Rt. Rev. James O'Conner, came to Omaha in 1876. There are now in Nebraska sixty Churches and ninety-five missions, cared for by forty-nine priests. There is one free college, three female academies, three convents and a number of parochial schools.

Furnished by Rev. W. A. Lipe.

     Number of members, 4,000; Sunday school children, 6,000; congregations, 175; ministers, eighty; Church buildings, thirty; value of Church property, $60,000.

Furnished by Rev. E. H. E. Jameson.

     The first organization was effected in 1856, at Florence, under the direction of Rev. G. W. Barnes. During the past three years the Baptist Church has increased more rapidly than for any previous period. The last annual report shows 138 Churches, with a total membership of about 5,000. These Churches do not all sustain independent Sunday schools, but unite largely with other denominations. There are, however, about sixty Sunday schools, with an average attendance of 3,600 Scholars. The houses of worship are generally small, but the Church at Omaha has recently finished a magnificent building, the total cost of which will not be far from $32,000. The Nebraska City Church is a model of neatness and comfort. The Lincoln Church, besides having a neat house of worship, has recently built an elegant parsonage, at a cost of $2,500.

Furnished by Rev. W. E. Copeland.

     The Unitarians have six Societies in Nebraska, and one clergyman the first Unitarian Church of Omaha was formed in 1869. Its first pastor was Rev. H. F. Bond. In 1870 a house of worship was erected worth about $6,000. The Society of North Platte was formed in 1869, and in 1871 a wooden Church was erected valued at $4,000. Societies were organized in Crete and Beatrice in 1875; no Church buildings. The Society of Lincoln was formed in 1874, with Rev. W. E. Copeland as pastor. Soci-



eties were formed at Fremont and Hastings in 1875, a wooden Church building being erected at the latter place in 1878, valued at $4,000. Rev. W. E. Copeland since moving to Nebraska in 1874, has acted as State Missionary under the auspices of the American Unitarian Association of Boston.

Furnished by Rev. R. C. Barrow, Tecumseh.

     Organized Societies, seventy-two; membership, 3,530; ministers, 40; Sunday school children, about 2,402; houses of worship, eighteen; value of church property, $28,900.

     Rev. R. C. Barrow has been. a traveling missionary of the Church in Nebraska during the past fifteen years, and for ten years "State Evangelist."

     We have not been able to gather statistics relating to the other denominations represented in the State, some of whom have a very large membership.

Map or sketch


Prior pageTOCNext page

© 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 for NEGenWeb Project by Pam Rietsch, T&C Miller