church, Sunday school, and other religious privileges; none has stood more decisively for social and civil righteousness; none has come nearer planting a church in every city, village, and rural settlement, and thus bringing the gracious influences of the Gospel within the reach of every inhabitant of the state.


   An epochal event in history of the Methodist Episcopal church in Nebraska occurred in the year 1912, when the Nebraska the North Nebraska, and the West Nebraska Conferences united and became one big, powerful conference. This body now has a ministerial membership of about 500, and is the third largest conference in Methodism. There is but one other conference in the state, namely, the Northwest Nebraska, with a ministerial membership of about fifty.


   In these later years an advanced step for the adequate care of retired preachers has been taken. This is the result of education and agitation through a long number of years. Some of the men prominent in the work achieved are: Rev. W. B. Alexander, Rev. P. C. Johnson, D.D., deceased, Rev. A. C. Crosthwaite, deceased, Rev. F. M. Esterbrook, Rev. C. M. Shephard, D.D., and others, both ministers and laymen. In the year 1916 it was decided to put on a campaign to raise a total of not less than $500,000 as an endowment fund for this cause. Dr. J. R. Gettys was selected corresponding secretary and placed in charge of the campaign. In a little more than a year the task was accomplished, and the fund stands now at a little more than $530,000, and is steadily growing. When the program is fully completed, and the entire fund on interest, the church will be able to pay its worn-out heroes around $600 a year. If anyone questions the wisdom of this matter, let him remember that these ministers gave their services sacrificially and received but a scant living. Therefore they are facing the sunset with no means of support.


   In 1908 Chancellor D. W. C. Huntington resigned his position in the university because of advancing age. After a short interval Clark A. Fulmer, dean of the college and one of the best educators of the state, was elected chancellor. He was the first layman to enjoy that distinction. Under his leadership the school grew in numbers and influence until it became widely and favorably known not only over the state but throughout the country. The university now has three fine buildings and an endowment of $250,000. This school is destined to render great service to the state and nation, and to exercise an influence of far-reaching value.


   Just fifty-six years ago the Nebraska Conference of the Methodist Episcopal church was organized. The first session was held in Nebraska City in 1861. At that time there were only twenty ministers and nine hundred and twenty-eight church members. Then there were but twenty-three Sunday schools with a membership of eight hundred and thirteen.
   Today they have more than 500 ministers, and about 80,000 church members, while the Sunday schools number 600, with a membership of about 100,000.


   The purpose of the Methodist Episcopal church is not to claim for itself all virtue and all truth, nor to be a rival to other churches. Its divine aim is to preach and spread the Gospel of the Son of God, and to coöperate with every other body of believers in promoting the kingdom of God among men. We as a church, would build lives into the likeness of Jesus Christ.



   The history of Congregational churches in Nebraska covers a period of half a century, but the springs of their power and influences were far back in the hills of Connecticut and



Massachusetts in the early days of the last century.
   Among those converted in a revival of religion in Norfolk, Connecticut, in 1827, was a young man, fifteen years of age, named Reuben Gaylord. His pastor was Rev. Ralph Emerson, for fifteen years pastor of the historic church at Norfolk and afterwards professor in Andover Seminary -- a man who left the impress of his strong personality upon many young men. Young Gaylord pursued his studies with Mr. Emerson and prepared for Yale at Goshen Academy. The years 1830-1834, which were passed by him in college, were years of intense religious interest, and young Gaylord gave himself to the work of the Christian ministry. At the time of his graduation, however, Dr. Julian N. Sturtevant, the long-time president of Illinois College, was visiting his alma mater, and persuaded the promising young graduate to come back with him and teach for a time in the college; but Gaylord's mind was full of church work and the great problem of church extension. He returned to Yale and graduated from the theological seminary in 1838. Toward the close of his seminary course he became deeply impressed with the growing importance of the great West, and especially with the prospects of the then territory of Iowa, which was rapidly settling with an intelligent, enterprising class of people. He was ordained to the work of the ministry at Plymouth, Connecticut, and soon after left for Iowa, having a commission from the American Home Missionary Society to preach in Henry county. He reached what is now the town of Mount Pleasant, Iowa, September 18, 1838, and entered upon those active services which made him one of the well-known pioneers in religious work in that state. In common with nearly all of the Congregational ministers of his time, he was deeply interested in the patriotic side of home missionary work, as well as its religious influence.
   Soon after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska act in 1854, which made Kansas and Nebraska the theatre of such intense activity for the few succeeding years, Mr. Gaylord's attention was turned toward the needs of this territory, and in the early autumn of 1855 he visited Omaha, where a nephew of his had settled in 1854. Of his first Sunday service he says: "In my congregation was Governor Richardson, to whom I had been introduced the day before. At the close of the meeting he gave me an earnest invitation to come and make my home in the city that was to be. Without giving him a direct answer, the seed



lodged in my mind as a seed drops into the ground. That seed germinated, that thought grew in my mind all the way home."
   The result of this visit was that a council was called by the church at Danville where Mr. Gaylord had been pastor for eleven years, and he was dismissed to enter upon work in Nebraska, being recommended to the Home Missionary Society for a commission, which he found awaiting him upon his arrival at Omaha, December 25, 1855. Of this beginning Mr. Gaylord says:

   I at once commenced preaching in the council chamber of the old state house. I found Rev. Mr. Collins of the M. E. church



and Rev. Mr. Leach of the Baptist church in the place. They had appointments, one in the morning, the other in the evening, and I took the afternoon. There was no church organization in Omaha except a Methodist of about six members, We began with a union Sunday school, which we held for a time in the state house or in the dining room of the hotel. Having no suitable place to hold our meetings, we were compelled to arise and build. This work began in 1856, and the house was completed and dedicated in August, 1857.



   On the 4th of May, 1856, a Congregational church of nine members was organized with Mr. Gaylord as pastor. Of the membership, two were from Michigan, two from Illinois, and five from Iowa. Eight of these were from Congregational churches and one from a Presbyterian. The following Sabbath -- May 11th -- Mr. Gaylord organized the church at Fontenelle, with twenty-four members.
   Mr. Gaylord made extended reports of his work and of the prospects in Nebraska, and these being published in the Home Missionary, the monthly magazine of the society, attracted wide attention. Some of these reports fell under the eye of another minister, then laboring in Wisconsin, who became a large factor in Nebraska pioneer work. In the early autumn of 1856, Mr. Gaylord was walking down a street of Omaha one day and saw coming toward him a covered wagon and a one-horse buggy, a gentleman walking beside the buggy and driving the horse. The gentleman inquired if he could tell him where Rev. Mr. Gaylord lived. Mr. Gaylord replied (with a roguish twinkle in his eye) that he thought he could. That was the beginning of the lifelong friendship and partnership in Christian work between Mr. Gaylord and Rev. Isaac E. Heaton, for many years pastor of the church at Fremont.
   Mr. Heaton was born in the historic town of Franklin, Massachusetts. He prepared for college at Wrentham Academy and graduated at Brown University. While studying theology with Dr. Ide of Medway, Massachusetts, he also found his thoughts and interest turning to the great West. Married at Franklin in 1836, ordained to the ministry in 1837, he started for his home missionary field in southern Wisconsin, where, as teacher and preacher in home missionary churches for eighteen years, he served an apprenticeship which served to make him a master builder in this new region. The two men knelt in the humble home of Mr. Gaylord that autumn of 1856, and consecrated themselves to the work of religion and patriotism in this new region.
   Omaha was then a little straggling village of about 500 people, and the territory of Nebraska had a population estimated at 5,000. Almost the entire population was in a little narrow strip along the Missouri river, and beyond was the treeless prairie, which most people thought would never be populated. Mr. Heaton went on and began preaching at Fremont, where, August 2, 1857, the church was organized. In the latter part of the same month these two active men, with delegates from the three churches of Omaha, Fontenelle, and Fremont, met at Fremont and



organized the General Association of Nebraska.
   Mr. Gaylord began at once to preach in the towns about Omaha -- Bellevue, Florence, and Fort Calhoun. In the year 1857 he preached also at Decatur and at Brownville, where churches were afterwards organized. Mr. Heaton also preached at various points in the vicinity of Fremont. On account of the general absorption of public interest in the contest going on in Kansas in those years, settlement made somewhat slow progress in Nebraska, and at the end of the first decade there were but nine Congregational churches, eight ministers, and 210 members.
   Mention has been made above of the patriotic spirit which characterized Mr. Gaylord's work. Deacon E. J. Cartlidge, the long-time secretary at Lincoln of the Burlington Land Co., mentioned an incident, toward the close of his life, which deeply impressed him in regard to Mr. Gaylord's work. He says:

    A small party, consisting of my family and that of my sister, left Hannibal in the last part of June, 1863, for a trip up the Missouri



river, arriving at Omaha on the 3d of July. We attended the Congregational church the next day. Rev. Father Gaylord was pastor. It was a very solemn and interesting occasion. It was the day for the celebration of the Lord's Supper. It was also a day of great anxiety. It was known that a great battle was impending near Gettysburg and surmised that the same might be true at Vicksburg. I can remember well how our hearts were encouraged and our faith in God's providence and care for our nation strengthened by Mr. Gaylord's earnest prayer and timely words. I remember there were no deacons left in his church to officiate at the communion service. All were away in the service of their country. From the peculiar circumstances I remember the occasion left a deep impression on my mind. We had driven out the rebels from Missouri, and I was out on furlough, but it seemed to us the darkest time of the Rebellion. We were greatly cheered and strengthened by the faith of Father Gaylord, and the next day we had the news of the victory of Gettysburg and the capture of Vicksburg. Mr. and Mrs. Gaylord called on us the next day at the hotel and told us something of the history and struggles of the little pioneer church. The incident would, of course, appear trifling to others



but it impressed me deeply. I shall never forget the fervor of Mr. Gaylord's prayer for President Lincoln, for the soldiers in peril, and for our government and its institutions, nor the earnest words of his address, which gave evidence of such a calm, unfaltering trust in God. I have always looked back upon that occasion as one of the deepest religious experiences of my life, and felt for Mr. Gaylord a peculiar affection, though we never met but once again.

   With the organization of the church, the pressing need was felt for a house of worship, and steps were taken at once toward the erection of such a building. Mr. Gaylord says: "In October, 1856, we had so far progressed with our church building as to hold services in the basement room. Then and there was organized the first distinctive Congregational Sunday school in Nebraska, with John H. Kellom as its superintendent." Mr. Kellom will be remembered by the older citizens of Omaha as one prominent in all the educational affairs of that city through the early years.
   About this time the village was passing through some of those trials incident to a



new settlement, and Mr. Gaylord was always counted upon for helpful services. At the home missionary anniversary in Omaha, in May, 1894, Dr. Geo. L. Miller, who settled in Omaha as a practicing physician about the time of Mr. Gaylord's coming, paid a glowing tribute to the devotion and energy of this pioneer church worker. Mr. Gaylord makes mention of Dr. Miller in the following paragraph:

   The month of December, 1856, ushered in a winter which proved to be one of even greater severity than the preceding. A series of snow-storms, commencing with the very beginning of the month, kept the ground covered until March. The snow often fell to the depth of four feet, was much of the time from two to three feet on a level, and accompanied by an intense cold which seemed to know no abatement for days and weeks together. But hardships and privations were for a time forgotten in the great sorrow which had recently come upon the little family. On the 23d of November the youngest son, the pride and pet of the household, after a few weeks' illness, had been laid away in the lonely spot which those early settlers had selected for the resting place of their dead. The mother wan-



dered about the house aimlessly, not knowing what to do with the care and love which had been given to the lost one, or sat down dazed with grief and folded her hands in silence. But some of these sad thoughts, were destined to be soon diverted into another channel. It was in the afternoon of one of those severe days, early in the month, that Dr. Miller, a young physician, who had made his home in Omaha two years before, called to tell of a case of suffering which had just been discovered by him. In one room of an unfurnished house on Harney street a father was lying very ill with inflammatory rheumatism, and in the bed with him were his two little girls, one two and the other four years of age. During a heavy fall of snow the wind had burst open the door and fastened it open with a snow drift, so that the little girl of four had tried in vain to close it. For more than twenty-four hours they had been without food or fire or care of any kind, and had not relief come soon they must have perished. A few weeks previous the wife and mother had died, and a little babe of a few days old soon followed.
   Mr. Gaylord at once accompanied the doctor to the dwelling of the stricken family. A nurse was found, provision made for the supply of their wants, and their sufferings relieved as far as possible. Mr. Gaylord took the youngest child home and Mrs. A. D. Jones cared for the other, but in a short time this one was also taken by Mr. Gaylord. In the meantime Dr. Miller was constant in at attendance upon the sick man.
   At this time Mr. Gaylord was paying $21 a month for a little dwelling of two rooms. Good flour was from $8 to $8.50 per 100 pounds, but they were using an inferior grade which they could get for $7. They were denying themselves the luxury of butter; sugar was twelve and a half cents per pound and other groceries in proportion.
   Near the close of 1857, the church building was completed and dedicated. It was 27 x 36 feet, built of brick, with a good basement, 19 x 24 feet, a seating capacity of 225 persons, and cost, exclusive of furnishings, $4,500. At a fair held in June; 1857, and from which all exceptional features were excluded, the ladies' aid society raised between $600 and $700 for the furnishing of the new building.
   Mr. Gaylord continued to push the work through the eastern part of the state, while remaining pastor of the First Church, and in 1864, he was appointed agent of the American Home Missionary Society. At first his district embraced the western part of Iowa also, and the church at Atlantic City and others in western Iowa were organized under his leadership. With the close of the war in the spring of 1865, population began to set toward Nebraska, and Mr. Gaylord was active



in gathering and establishing churches. With the removal of the capital to Lincoln, the South Platte country attracted wide attention, and from Cass and Otoe counties westward soldier colonies and others began to take possession of the rich valleys and to dot the prairies.
   The church at Weeping Water, which was composed largely of Congregational colonies, was organized in 1860, and the one at Nebraska City in 1863. In addition to Messrs. Gaylord and Heaton, Rev. C. G. Bisbee, Rev. V. Alley, Rev. I,. B. Hurlburt, Rev. E. C. Taylor, and Rev. M. F. Platt were pioneer workers in establishing churches and Sunday schools. The Sunday school work, which has been a prominent feature in the progress of









the denomination, was carefully fostered by Mr. Gaylord. During a visit to the East in 1864, he spoke before various Sunday schools, interesting them in the work of the West, and helping to lay the foundation for that wider interest which has resulted in the organzation (sic) of schools numbering now nearly 20,000 members. Rev. J. D. Stewart was for twenty-four years the devoted and efficient superintendent of this work among the churches.
   The completion of the Union Pacific railroad soon after the admission of Nebraska into the Union in 1867 gave new impulse to all the interests of the state. During that year Rev. A. F. Sherrill took charge of the First Church at Omaha, and Rev. Amos Dresser entered upon that pioneer work in Butler county out of which the four self-supporting churches in that county have grown, Rev. David Knowles had commenced work at Greenwood the previous year.
   The annual meetings of the general association have been occasions of fellowship and of great aid in fostering and forwarding the interest of the churches. As the work developed, local associations were formed, and there are now nine of these local bodies, all auxiliary to the general association. Every annual meeting has marked a sort of milestone in the denomination. At the session of 1870 Superintendent Gaylord made his final report, and Rev. O. W. Merrill of Anamosa, Iowa, was appointed his successor by the Home Missionary Society. Mr. Gaylord continued to supply vacant churches from time to time until his death at Fontenelle in 1880, while acting pastor of that church. At the meeting of the association in 1870, eight new churches were reported, and the list numbered twenty-three, with a total membership of 569.
   Then came the building of the Burlington road and the great tide of immigration into the South Platte country. Doane College, a brief history of which is appended, was founded in 1872, and there were forty-two churches with a membership of 869. Rev. Marshall Tingley had commenced work at Blair in 1869, and Rev. J. B. Chase came to the pastorate in Fremont in 1870. In 1872 Rev. Henry Bates gathered the church at Plymouth, Rev. S. C. Dean that at Jenkins Mills (now Steelburg), and Rev. Thomas Pugh that at Fairfield. Rev. H. A. French came to Wilford in the same year.
   The memorable grasshopper raid in 1874 somewhat retarded settlement and interrupted work, but in October, 1876, the general association went as far west as Kearney, where Rev. L. B. Fifield commenced pioneer work in 1873. There was a new house of worship, and the records showed eighty-two churches, fifty-two ministers, and 2,398 members. About the time of this meeting at Kearney the churches entered upon the era of church and parsonage building. At that time only twenty churches had houses of worship and only four had parsonages. The Church Building Society had been able to help but sparingly, and there had been small means for these material improvements.
   With the extension of the Elkhorn road through northern Nebraska to the Black Hills 1884-1886, that part of the state received a large and rapid accession to its population. All the counties in northwestern Nebraska were organized, homesteads were taken, towns established, and there was earnest call for church extension. February 1, 1884, Rev. H. Bross, who had been for nearly eleven years pastor of the church at Crete, having been appointed general missionary for northern Nebraska, entered actively upon work in that part of the state, encouraging feeble churches, gathering new ones, and promoting church and parsonage building. Churches were organized in northeastern Nebraska; in the new towns along the extension of the road in the northwestern part of the state a large group of churches was organized out of which grew Chadron Academy. The increase of population along the extension of the Burlington road in southeastern Nebraska in 1886-1887 called for another forward movment (sic), and Rev. George E. Taylor was summoned from his successful pastorate at Indianola to act as general missionary for

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