NEGenWeb Project
Resource Center
On-Line Library




   Since 1875 the work in the eastern part of the state has been consolidating and maturing, and in the middle and western districts the same old privations, heroisms, and conquests have been experienced.
   Our pickets have been pressed westward to Stratton, Ogalalla, and Denver Junction (all of them over 300 miles from Omaha, the last named 380), and northwestward to Chadron, within trumpet call of the Black Hills. Chicago is nearer in time, and almost as near in miles as our furthest station. The Republican Valley and the German associations have been formed south of the Platte river, and within a few months the Elkhorn Valley has separated from the Columbus, making seven in all. Churches have increased according to the statistics of 1884, now one year old, from 77 to 159: ministers, from 50 to 113; members, from 2,002 to 4,548; average congregations, from 3,716 to 7,557; S. S. scholars, from 2,941 to 7,381; benevolences from $1,380 to $7,118; and church expenses from $31,901 to $61,650. The reports of the past year will doubtless show great gains over these figures. Many things have discouraged, and still do, but happily they are decreasing from year to year, so that we can say with even greater confidence than the narrator in 1876: "Many who take the worldly view have said: 'This country has now gone up.' and others in despondency have declared that everything is going down,' but we have been able to feel and say that up or down,' all things are kept and moved on by divine skill and love, and will surely end well."
   Brethren and Sisters of the Congregational churches of Nebraska! what is the message of this review to the present audience and hour? Certainly it is this, that the successors of such men and deeds should be heroic. We have not yet passed the first things in our history. We still need the first consecration and the first self-sacrifice. One generation of pioneers has passed, or is fast passing. Some are dead, some still living, are feeble. Upon a new generation, still pioneers, is resting the burden and heat of this day.
   When it can be truly said, as now, that of the 159 churches one year ago reported, 44 were either too dead or too feeble to report, and that, of the remaining 115, only 15 were self-supporting, while the great remainder were suckling the parent society, is it not evident that we are still pioneers? The eastern part of the state is fast maturing in civilization and comforts, but even in the valleys of the



Missouri and the eastern Platte are churches approaching their tenth, their fifteenth, their twenty-fifth anniversaries-in one instance a thirtieth - and are still weaklings in the arms of a fondling mother. I have searched and I find one church 29 years old, one 22, one 19, two 17, two 16, and forty-five between the ages of 10 and 15 inclusive, which have not yet had the courage to be independent and self-supporting. What! will you suckle for a quarter of a century?
   I remember that, in some sense, this question is asked of the wrong parties - of pastors - many of them recently come, and not yet thoroughly identified with their churches, whereas it should be asked of the churches themselves. Even so asked, some exceptions might fairly be made, since population is very much changed in many of our parishes. Those who organized, and in earlier years supported, many of our churches, are gone from us. Still, though we excuse ourselves from the past (and some cannot do even that), is any pastor, are any people willing to go on two years further repeating this record of weakness if not of laziness and dishonor? This matter in a great majority of instances, is not a question. of means, but of meaning; the weakness is in the will. "They can, who think they can." "A stout heart climbs a steep hill." Congregations have not courageously and persistently said: "We will be free." Things result as we begin and continue them. When a church starts its subscription list, as an old and stable church in Massachusetts did, with this preamble: "We can git two hundred dollars from the society," the battle is lost before it is fought, because self-respect and pluck are gone. But when the first pledge means freedom, the last one will bring it. We have ability enough to make fifty of our churches self-supporting within two years. What we need is courage, self-sacrifice, and the grace of sticking at it.
   This we ought to do for our own honer and good, even if the Home Missionary treasury were a Peruvian house of gold. Dependence is a curse. In tropic lands it makes a stupid population, and in any land a stupid people. Except to save from death it should be neither sought nor given. Growth and might come with independence. So, also, comes what is better still - the Lord's blessing.
God gives us with our rugged soil
The power to make it Eden fair,
And richer fruits to crown our toll
Than summer-wedded islands bear."




   Adversity is the school of opportunity. The churches of Nebraska need only to be heroic to be free and strong.
   But the Home Missionary treasury is not a house of gold. Much of the time it is an empty room. Sometimes it is actually in debt. Nebraska is only one of the thirty-eight states and territories which need her assistance. Old Maine asks aid for 104 missionaries; Central Michigan for 135; Dakota for 110; Kansas for 105; the Rocky Mountain region for 59; the Pacific Slope for 43; our foreign population for 80; the "solid south" for nearly every Congregational pastor in it. More than 1400 prophets of the Lord eat at this table; the exact number list June was fourteeen (sic) hundred and forty-seven. What are we among so many? How can less than half a million dollars a year support these, and have anything left for the new work in cities, among foreigners, and on the boundless frontier? In no way except by our Home Missionary churches, five years old and upward, determining that they must and will come to self-support. The magic answer to our perplexity is the word self-help, a hard word, but with wonders in it for those who will undertake to develop it in their own field.
   This will require, in some instances, a self-sacrificing struggle, steady help for years has made many of our parishes irresolute and illiberal. But why should we shrink from what others have endured? We belong to a faith whose very genius is self-denial. Its founder was "a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, who had not where to lay his head." Its first heralds rejoiced "that they were counted worthy to suffer." Its doctrine is: "if any man will come after me let him deny himself and take up the cross and follow me." Its promises for the world to come are, "to him that overcometh."
   "No cross, no crown" is, in everything but its language, scriptural. The very history we have rehearsed incites to this. Shall the second generation of pioneers in Nebraska be less faithful than the first? The answer must be individual, but the issue must be common. We cannot, any one of us, say yes or no, without affecting the destiny of all. Who will be the next to say, as the Omaha church said in 1857, when only one year old: "Another year we shall support our minister."



[Delivered at the fifteenth anniversary exercises of Doane College, Crete, Nebraska, June 22, 1887.)


   On December 15th, 1873, Mr. Thomas Doane wrote from Charlestown, Mass., to Rev. D. B. Perry, at that time professor of Latin and Greek in Doane College:
   "I advise, on reflection, without hesitation, the purchase of the letter-press of which I spoke to you. * * * * All the correspondence, bills, etc., etc., going forth from the college, will then be copied in order of time, and being the property of the college, will become valuable matter of history in the ages to come."
   The word "ages" he underscored with a vigorous stroke of his pen, thereby expressing the same confidence contained in a previous letter of five closely written letter pages to the same individual (October 28th, 1873), in which he said:
   "We will look forward to a university. We must not so meanly and unwisely plan that future generations will have occasion to regret that we were ever born, or had to do with planning for them; but boldly look forward to great things. Time and things hasten on, and, oh! how rapidly in our Nebraska."
   So a letter-press and book were purchased and set in operation, about the middle of January, 1874, the first entry, after the list of officers and trustees, being a copy of the certificate, duly attested and subscribed (January 14th, 1874) in the presence of H. S. Fuller, notary public, to the effect that the thirty thousand ($30,000) dollars




required to be raised to secure the grant of six hundred (600) acres of land from the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad Company in Nebraska, as by their offer of May 25th, 1872, were secured:
In notes and cash outside the state . . . . . . . . $10,000.00
In notes and cash and land inside the state . . . 11,414.87
In notes and cash by Thomas Doane . . . . . . . 12,000.00

   Nearly upon the same date Mr. Doane himself was moved to act more definitely upon his own suggestion, and opened a letter-book (January 23d, 1874) for his personal correspondence in connection with the college, labeling it upon its back: "Doane College from January 23, 1874, to . . " This book, not yet full, contains to date six hundred and forty (640) pages of compact and invaluable history, its last entry being that of January 19th, 1887. From this it appears that the record, narrative, or, if the largest word be preferable, history, of Doane College, is reasonably secure from January, 1874, to the present time, unless these copies should by some mishap be destroyed; and we may leave, for this occasion, the story of these later years to some other reviewer, thankful that so early in the growth of the institution two copy-books were procured and opened in the interest of ourselves and others.
   But what shall we say of those who failed to do this earlier? It is not surprising that the beginnings of present great institutions, which have continued for centuries, are in obscurity. Methods of record were not then generally known, and time is a great waster. But Nebraska is younger than the middle-aged among us, and her educational history younger still; while all the methods for preserving records were in possession when these things were begun. Yet years of this really recent story, through which some of us have lived, are accessible only in fragments of memory or of accidental account.
   But it is not grateful upon an anniversary to recall omissions. Doubtless we are daily as neglectful in what we are now doing. Some distance is necessary for determining the real importance of facts, and it becomes us chiefly to be grateful that the things we now review were done, the results of which we see, though the steps of their development are not as clear as we would choose.
   So far as can now be recalled the first organized educational effort in Nebraska which looked toward something higher than a mere local



school was made by the colonists from Quincy, Ill., whose representatives crossed the state of Iowa in wagons, and the Missouri river at Omaha by ferry in 1854, and,. proceeding northwestward, located their new home upon the uplands overlooking the Elkhorn and the Platte valleys at their junction, naming it Fontenelle, after Logan Fontenelle, chief of the Omahas. Here, as they selected their homes, they planned a college, assigning for these purposes one hundred acres of land and calling it College Hill. They secured also, from the first territorial legislature of Nebraska at its first session in Omaha, a charter under the "name and style of Nebraska University," and, because most of the colonists were Baptists, they made it of that denominational order. During the succeeding seasons, however, the relative religious strength of the Congregationalists increased. A church of that polity was organized at Fontenelle, as also at Omaha and at Fremont, and a Congregational General Association of the three churches at Omaha on August 8th, 1857. One of its first solicitudes was a college for itself, and a committee was appointed in that interest. This resulted, the following February (1858), in a transfer by the Baptists of their title in the Nebraska University to them under certain mutual pledges, to be under the control of a board of trustees elected by the General Association from year to year at its annual meetings. Under this new management a building for the preparatory department was begun and its corner-stone laid with appropriate ceremonies on July 27th. It was occupied in the fall, with Professor J. S. Burt as its first principal. Everything seemed promising. But hard times came and stayed. Professor Burt resigned the following season. "It passed through a period," says one who knew the facts well, "in which to keep it alive was all we could do." Year by year they brought their reports to the meetings of the General Association; told the story of their trials, needs, and hopes; re-elected as trustees those whose term of office had expired; or added occasionally a new name which might bring a friend and helper. The churches of the state were few; in 1865 seven; in 1869 fifteen. They were poor and struggling. The general population was not large. The East was distant and uninterested. But they were well agreed among themselves, and as strong as their fewness and poverty would permit.
   In the fall of 1864 a new beginning was made, and the following




year a boarding house was purchased and opened. Professor H. E.. Brown accepted the position of principal and began his duties, when suddenly the school building was destroyed by fire. It was a severe blow, but they fitted up a part of the boarding house for school purposes and continued the work. In 1866 an addition to the boarding house was made, and Professor Brown went East for funds. A gift of five hundred ($500) dollars, received during 1867, enabled the trustees to put their building in good repair. Rev. C. G. Bisbee succeeded Professor Brown as principal, and, with two assistants, a flourishing school was maintained during the winter. The accommodations were full.
   At the meeting of the General Association at Omaha in June, 1868, the usual items concerning the college were presented; an historical sketch, a financial report, a statement by the principal, and resolutions:
   "1st. That we recognize in this institution an agency that is worthy to enlist the earnest co-operation and support of all our churches.
   "2d. That we recommend to the trustees to take immediate steps to liquidate all the floating debts of the institution, and that we hereby pledge ourselves to do what we can to forward this object."
   The resolutions were "unanimously" adopted, and the word italicised (sic) in the record. Trustees were elected as usual. But the following month (July, 1868), at a meeting of the board of trustees, a proposition was made by the people of Weeping Water, through Rev. Frederick Alley, pastor of the Congregational Church there, a member of the board, to furnish a property basis of nine thousand ($9,000) dollars for the college, provided it was removed to that place. The proposal was discussed, and referred to the executive committee, which, after careful investigation, reported (June, 1869) unfavorably to the change. But the question was not thereby settled. It arose again in the General Association at Fremont, June, 1869, in the form of a resolution, presented by Rev. Roswell Foster, to the effect that bids be asked from all the towns in the state with a view to securing the beat possible location. A general discussion followed, continued during parts of two sessions, when the motion was lost. But trustees of the university were not elected as heretofore, and the Association finally declared itself as follows:



   "Resolved, That a committee be appointed to have power to convey all the property, right and title we possess in the Nebraska University to the citizens of Fontenelle as per original contract, or to such other persons as the trustees may decide upon."
   This ended the formal connection of the college with the Association. Henceforth it was dependent entirely upon its own resources, which in some respects was an advantage.
   The following year (1870) at the meeting at Camp Creek, the condition of the school - not now styled university - was presented, as also for the first time, that of the school at Milford, and neither school asked the Association for the present to take any immediate responsibility in it. But the subject of education was considered, questions were asked, views expressed, and the whole matter left in the bands of the standing committee appointed for that purpose. This was new - a standing committee on education. Its members were Rev. F. Alley, Rev. O. W. Merrill, and Rev. T. N. Skinner. Mr. Alley was now at Plattsmouth, in charge of a new church just received into fellowship; Mr. Merrill was the successor of Mr. Gaylord as superintendent of Home Missions, and Mr. Skinner was the pastor at Milford. Fontenelle had no representative on the committee.
   Our attention is now directed to Plattsmouth. The Burlington & Missouri River Railroad Company in Nebraska was operating its construction from that place, and pressing westward. At the Brooks House we are asked into a room, in the winter of 1870-1. It is small; so small that when the necessary articles of furniture are placed there is room only for two large easy chairs and a fur robe, kept rolled up and strapped ready for use at short notice, in a nook between the bureau and the table. Here evening by evening - and long evenings they seemed to the lady seated on the fur robe - sit in the easy chairs two gentlemen, a civil engineer of the railroad and a preacher, the pastor of the First Congregational Church of Plattsmouth. The theme is a college, and the idea seems to the lady on the fur robe "as impossible as establishing one in the moon." "Can we secure the land? Where is the best place for it?" Crete is proposed "as being beautifully situated on the Big Blue." But Lincoln seems very young; what may Crete be? In May the lady goes to see and "finds two or three houses, others being built," and dines in a hotel where they




stopped driving nails in the dining room the half hour allotted to dinner."
   Yet months before, beginning with December, 1870, the idea of a new college had become prevalent. Many were thinking of it. The chief engineer had asked his railroad (Dec 20) if he might offer "40 or 50 acres of land" to secure its location, and was in correspondence with the state superintendent concerning it. Towns were multiplying. Greenwood, Crete, and DeWitt were platted and asking donations of church ground. On February 15th, six lots in Crete, three of them business lots, were offered Rev. Charles Little, of Lincoln, if he would establish a paper of given size, type and quality, to be continued regularly for two years. Before February 20th Mr. Alley had located there, entering, it is said, "upon a load of lumber," and had contracted with Mr. George W. Bridges for "one hundred dollars per year for two years" to start an academy. There was talk of a combined residence, school house, and meeting room" (March 29th). Town lots were asked of the railroad - the seeming foster mother of all enterprises - and a canvass for money was made. If this was to be the beginning of the future college, there was no time to waste. Other towns were seeking it, and however true it might be, as Mr. Bross has pleasantly said, that Crete was especially designed as the location for it "when the great World Builder formed the magnificent valley of the Blue," and that the name it should bear was decided upon in the old Doane House on Cape Cod about sixty years ago, in a family council between John Doane and Polly Eldridge Doane," yet it will not do for Crete to be inactive when Milford is busy, such is the sweet simplicity of this doctrine of the divine decrees. So prompt efforts were put forth, money was contributed, and articles of incorporation adopted on May 22d, (1871).
   Meanwhile another Associational year had rolled around and the delegates met at Lincoln on June 8th, with the college idea prominent. The state university had just been organized, and Rev. J. B. Chase was proposed as the choice of the association to occupy a chair in that institution, and word to that effect was sent to the board of regents. The standing committee on education made its report. It "was verbal and not unanimous," was accepted, the committee discharged, and the association entered into a committee of the whole



to discuss the entire subject of a state college and its location. Two proposals were received. Crete and the B. & M. R. R. Co. offered the academic property, eighty acres of land adjoining the town, twelve lots and three thousand dollars ($3,000) in money in four years, a total of twelve thousand dollars ($12,000), less an indebtedness of two thousand dollars ($2,000) on the academy property. To this was subsequently added the promise of fifty average town lots worth three thousand dollars ($3,000). Milford offered one hundred and five acres of choice land near town, value not stated, and three thousand dollars ($3,000) in money, with all the stone needed for building, at reasonable distance, free. It was decided "not best at the present time to locate a college, but to foster as far as possible the interests of academies to be feeders for a college," and a committee consisting of Rev. O. W. Merrill, Rev. Julius A. Reed, and Mr. George F. Lee, was appointed "to supervise, until the next meeting of the association, the general educational interests of our order in the state." Fontenelle, Milford and Crete were commended for their interest in academic work, and the establishment of two or more academies in addition was recommended. The thanks of the association were extended to the people of Milford and Crete and the B. & M. R. R. Co. for their generous offers, and further time for consideration was asked. The importance of many academies and one college for our order in the state," was emphasized in a resolution. At the close of the meeting the association took an excursion to Crete by invitation of the B. & M. R. R. Co., extended through Mr. Alley, and participated in the laying of the corner stone of the academy building (June 12th), returning a vote of thanks for the favor.
   On June 30th, at the annual meeting of the academy trustees, the president and secretary were "empowered to execute a note to Thomas Doane for the amount ($2,000) borrowed of him for building purposes, May 1st, 1871, this note to be secured by mortgage." Mr. Alley was "requested to act as principal of the academy the coming year," and "the erection of the academic building was left with the executive board to be carried on according to the best of their judgment." On July 5th the articles of incorporation were filed, and on the 10th the contract for the building was let to Mr. John Eaton, who was "to take the material on hand and furnish the




remainder," with certain exceptions. During the summer Mr. Doane built a home for himself in Crete and removed thither. The academy was dedicated to religious education," on November 5th, six ministers and one hundred and fifty people being present, and it, it was hoped, the mantle of college dignity would soon fall.
   A school was now begun - or re-begun; it "had been under way before, " - called ":a good school," though a heavy debt burdened it. Mr. Alley was "its president; professor, agent, and nearly proprietor." The winter of 1871-2 wore slowly away without leaving much record of what was done. But preparations for the next meeting of the general association were being made. Crete, disappointed at not having been selected already as the site for the future college, was still determined to secure it if possible. Milford, Weeping Water, and other towns were active. It was understood that Mr. Merrill, the chairman of the educational committee, was favorable to Crete, and that Mr. Reed preferred some point in the Platte valley. That Mr. Lee, the third member of the committee might agree with the chairman, he was invited by Mr. Alley to visit Crete before going to the association meeting at Omaha. He found that a tornado had preceded him and the academy building was eight feet off its foundation to the north-east and considerably damaged. On his way to Omaha, crossing with Mr. Merrill an island of the Platte river, he heard. for the first time what was afterwards known as "the argumentative report," which presented favorably the offer of Crete, viz.: six hundred (600) acres of land, fifty (50) town lots, the academic property, subject to its indebtedness ($6,506) and cash subscriptions of May 5th, 1872, to the amount of eight thousand dollars ($8,000), a total net offer of twenty-nine thousand five hundred and nineteen dollars ($29,519), but made no recommendation. It was said that Mr. Reed would not sign it. While they were "deliberating aside in the timber," Mr. Lee urged that he "was ready to sign a recommendation that the offer be accepted" and the college located at Crete, and then and there such recommendation was added to the report.
   The presentation of this by Mr. Merrill to the association of 1872, aroused a vigorous debate. So "spirited" did the discussion become that "speakers were limited by vote to five minutes and two speeches," and it was established as a rule of the association that when the vote was taken - no one be allowed to vote by proxy or



to cast more than one vote. A recess was taken over night and the question made the order of the day for nine o'clock. "Eleven o'clock was on motion, fixed upon as the time when the debate should cease and the vote be taken upon the adoption of the report, thereby accepting or rejecting the proposition to locate the college at Crete." The question was really two-fold:
   1st, Has the time come to locate a college?
   2d, If it has, is Crete the place?
   Of these the second drew the hotter fire because of individual preferences and interests involved, "each man standing up manfully for the town in which he lived." Mild personalities even were not wanting. One brother, regarded with esteem for his classical abilities, could not resist a rather liberal quotation from Virgil, "I am afraid of those Cretans, even when bringing their gifts." Many shared his solicitude. At eleven o'clock (June 8th) a motion to postpone the whole matter to a special meeting of the association in October was lost by a vote of 26 to 20, when the main question became the order of the hour, "Shall we adopt the recommendation of the committee and thereby locate the college at Crete?" The ayes and noes were called, resulting in an affirmative answer by a vote of 31 to 14, and a committee was appointed to nominate trustees. So ended the great struggle connected with the founding of this institution at this place.
   The development of the college has done honor in part to those who had most to do with its establishment. Its name, Doane, proposed by Mr. Alley, recognizes one of its earliest and most ardent supporters, but should be extended to include his lady, to whom much of its success quietly belongs. The fur robe in the Brooks House at Plattsmouth deserves a place in the memory as well as the two easy chairs. Its first permanent building, Merrill Hall, perpetuates the remembrance of "the argumentative report," and serves as a memorial of the chairman of the committee under whose wise leadership these things were done. But of one other, whose name has not yet been set to any permanent monument, should mention be made, the occupant of that other easy chair at Plattsmouth, to whom belongs a large share of the credit. Indeed it is quite probable that without Frederick Alley, there would not have been a Doane college. And back of these, though he never interested himself in this partic-




ular work because he was devoted to the success of the earlier school at Fontenelle, which he did not believe it wise to supersede, to Reuben Gaylord should some recognition be given at this time as a foremost laborer in the same things which here have their expression, and who, we believe, wished more that the cause of Christian education should succeed, than that any particular institution should be continued.
   I speak only of the more prominent names. Others nobly aided, and others have been as prominent more recently, of whom it would be pleasant to speak if our review were more extended. But under the leadership of these the beginnings, were made which we now commemorate.
   The succeeding year and one-half, to the time named in the introduction of this paper, was a period of intense struggle. It required only a vote to locate the college, but vastly more to develop it. It needed money, land, students, and the recognition and aid of the Society for the Promotion of Collegiate and Theological Education; and all seemed equally hard to reach. But articles of incorporation were filed on July 11th, and the work undertaken. On the same day Mr. D. B. Perry was ordained in the academy building, Rev. O. W. Merrill preaching the sermon, and was informed that the trustees were thinking of asking him to take charge of the infant college. He received the formal invitation on the 25th, and accepted it on the 30th. On September 3d the preparatory department was opened with four classes and eleven students, six of whom were girls. Mr. Perry was the only teacher. On December 14th the president and secretary of the academy were "authorized to convey, by quit-claim deed, all the property, of the academic board to the trustees of Doane College" under certain reversionary conditions, and it was voted that when it was so conveyed the Academic Association should cease to exist, and its books and papers "be placed in the hands of the treasurer of Doane College for preservation." At the close of the first year (June, 1873), Mr. Perry was made professor of Latin and Greek, and Miss Mary W. Merrill was engaged as assistant. On July 2d five young men were admitted upon examination to the first freshman class, and on the 4th application was made to the Collegiate and Theological Society for recognition. The summer was spent in an endeavor to realize an offer of Mr. Doane, of March 5th,



1873, to give two sums of five thousand ($5,000) dollars each to the College, provided ten thousand ($10,000) dollars were raised without the state, and ten thousand ($10,000) dollars within it, in cash or indorsed notes, within six months. Rev. J. B. Chase undertook the task at home, and Professor Perry in New England.
   The Nebraska pledges were usually notes of small amount, at ten per cent, due in five years, but were "from churches all over the state, and from almost all the churches." They represented, in many instances, the severe self-denial of people to whom the college was dear, but who were very poor. The salaries of pastors were small, and paid mostly in fuel, provisions and work, "not one-fourth in money." The college was "what they talked about when they met, and wrote about when they wrote to each other," but money was scarce. Very little was seen from year to year. It was bard to pledge and harder to pay. Before one brother - perhaps one among many - was able to cancel his note for seventy-five dollars, he had paid seventy-five dollars in interest upon it. Some failed altogether.
   But slowly the pledges were secured. On July 12th notes to the amount of $1,120 were acknowledged to Mr. Chase by the treasurer; on July 14th $170 more; and on August 12th $870. By September 18th the sum reported had reached $5,140, not counting the Crete subscriptions of May 5th, 1872, which, with the exception of two thousand ($2,000) dollars pledged and already paid by Mr. Doane, were to be included in the total. Although the time limit (September 5th) named by Mr. Doane in his offer, had passed, the collection was encouraged to proceed, and it finally reached by Christmas day one hundred and fifty-two (152) notes for six thousand and forty-six ($6,046) dollars, all at ten per cent.
   Meanwhile Prof. Perry was in the East endeavoring to raise the ten thousand ($10,000) dollars proposed from outside the state, and was meeting with varied success. He had secured seven and one-half thousand ($7,500) - one thousand of it being his personal pledge when it became necessary to return for the opening of the next school year. Rather than fail to complete the amount be gave his own note in addition for the balance ($2,500), thinking that others would soon be found to assume part of it. But they were not found, and he was compelled to pay all, with interest. "My pledge," he says, "stood for more than I was worth, down to boots and old




clothes." The picture of this honored brother, then unmarried and measurably alone, writing in red ink in his accounts the slow payments of that hard pledge, is one of many in those early days.
   But by such sacrifices was the endowment of thirty thousand ($30,000) dollars raised upon which, in part, was conditioned the offer (May 25, 1872) of six hundred (600) acres of land by the B. & M. R. R. Co., and (June 1,1872) of fifty average town lots in Crete, by the Eastern Land Association; so that they were secured to the college before changes in the officers and methods of the companies made such negotiations impossible. A little later very different results might have been experienced. As it was, the ten thousand ($10,000) dollars from outside the state were declared raised, and Mr. Doane - unable to pay his pledge in cash because of the tightness of the money market - gave his first note for five thousand ($5,000) dollars on September 25, following it on January 1, 1874, by a second note for the same amount, in "consideration of there having been donated by persons resident in the State of Nebraska, the sum of ten thousand ($10,000) dollars to the use and benefit of Doane college at Crete, Nebraska, satisfactory proof of which has been given me." On December 16th, the college received the recognition of the society for the promotion of Collegiate and Theological Education (now the American College and Education Society), and an appropriation of five hundred ($500) dollars for current expenses.
   The way was now prepared for requesting from the B. & M. R. R. Co. the transfer of the land promised, the conditions as proposed to them on April 4, 1872, and accepted on May 25 - that the college be located at Crete, by the General Association of Congregational Churches, for a term of not less than ten years; that the sum of thirty thousand $30,000) be secured within that time; and that the official recognition of the Collegiate and Theoogical Society be obtained - being now met, an application, was accordingly made, and the deed issued, hearing date December 30, 1873, and was delivered to Mr. Doane on January 23d following. Negotiations for the fifty lots were continued until November 7, 1874, when they also were transferred. On March 16, 1874, the treasurer certified that the total assets, reckoning nothing which might be regarded as doubtful, and putting a low estimate upon the land, were $49,719.05. On June 25, the college was "out of debt with a balance in the treasury."



   This, briefly, but aft accurately as the material at hand will permit, is the story of the earlier events connected with the founding of this institution. Of necessity it is limited, at this time, to the first years. It scarcely enters upon the actual collegiate history. It does not consider the erection of any of the permanent buildings - Merrill Hall, Boswell Observatory and Ladies' Hall. It does not reach even to the graduation of its first alumnus; there are now thirty-eight alumni. The story, from the one frame building under the hill, and far "out of town," as it seemed then, nearer town to-day than the academy was in 1873, is a long one. Into this development many costly efforts have gone, and many have won honored names for their services. Of these some one else must speak. Our task is with the beginning, that we may know what of heroism and sacrifice these things have cost, and what we, the inheritors of such labors ought now to do.



   A brief history of the Congregational College, established at Fontenelle, Nebraska, in 1857-58. Compiled chiefly from historical facts furnished by Mrs. E. R. Kline and Rev. C. G. Bisbee, of Fontenelle. Also some notes from an address by Rev. R. Gaylord.
   This paper, by MRS. REUBEN GAYLORD, of Omaha, was read at the fifteenth anniversary exercises of Doane College, Crete, Neb., June 22,1887.
   Soon after congress had organized the Territory of Nebraska, and had appointed officers for its government, a few citizens of Quincy, Illinois, conceived the idea of planting a colony in the newly organized territory. In accordance with this plan they formed a company with printed laws and regulations, to be known as the Nebraska Colonization Company. The payment of one hundred dollars was the price of admission to membership and company privileges. In July of that year (1854) a prospecting committee was sent out to locate territory for settlement of the colony, and select a site for a municipal town. Hon. J. W. Richardson, one of the party, was secretary and field reporter to take notes of the journey. They traveled with wagons, camping on the prairies at night, and after crossing the Missouri followed the divides, going by way of what is now Fort Calhoun, until they came to the high bluffs of the Elkhorn river. Here they looked down upon the Platte and Elkhorn valleys united, making a broad and fertile valley ten miles wide. The Elkhorn, pursuing its winding way, skirted with timber, could be traced for a long distance, and, looking across the valley ten miles away,



the eye tested upon the high bluffs of the Platte river, adding a very pleasing variety to the fine scenery. This prospecting party represented the professor, merchant, banker, lawyer, clergyman and farmer. But as they stood there together on that summer day in 1854, all were so captivated by the scene of wondrous beauty and fertility that they selected it as the site of their embryo city, and the surrounding country for future homes for the families of the colony. They purchased the right of possession of Logan Fontenelle, a chief of the Omaha tribe of Indians, giving him one hundred dollars to keep their claim until they should return. The report of these explorers was favorably received by the Colonization Society at Quincy, and Mr. Richardson was appointed as their agent to return and take possession of their land for them, cause cabins to be built for the settlers the ensuing spring, and to use his influence in the coming territorial legislature to procure a college charter for the Baptist colony, many of them being members of Baptist churches in Quincy and vicinity. In October he returned to the new Eldorado, accompanied by his wife (now Mrs. E. R. Kline). The town was named Fontenelle in honor of the Omaha chief. Logan Fontenelle was a half breed, his father being French. He was educated at St. Louis, and spoke English fluently. Mr. and Mrs. Richardson, Col. Kline, Mr. Seely, and some others spent the winter of 1854-55 at Fontenelle. This winter the territorial legislature was organized and held its first session in Omaha. The company at Quincy instructed their agent, Judge Richardson, to use every effort to secure the location of the territorial capital at Fontenelle. They also sent two of their number to Omaha to work for that interest during the session of the Legislature. In November, Dr. M. H. Clark was elected councilman to the legislature, and Judge Richardson and Col. Doyle representatives from Fontenelle. But their efforts to secure the capital of the new territory were unsuccessful, as the prize was given to Omaha. They succeeded, however, in obtaining a charter for a Baptist college to be located there, under the "Name and Style of Nebraska University." The Colonization Company at Quincy, when they first designed planting a colony in this new land, conceived the idea of an institution of learning in which their own and other children and youth might have the opportunity of obtaining a thorough education. When this charter was granted they felt




that a most desirable point had been gained toward the consummation of their plans. The legislature at this first session gave them a town and ferry charter; also organized Dodge county with Fontenelle as the county seat. During the session a bill was introduced chartering the "Platte Valley and Pacific R. R. Company." On the 16th of February, 1855, Dr. Clark, chairman of the committee on corporations, presented a report of great ability, which contained the following prediction: "It is the belief of your committee that before fifteen years have transpired the route to India will be opened through this valley, and the way across this continent will be the common highway of the world." Fourteen years and three months from this date the golden spike was driven which completed the Union Pacific railroad.
   During the winter the company at Quincy were making preparations to come out in a body and take possession of their new homes. An erroneous idea had prevailed that the Platte and Elkhorn rivers could be used for navigation. With this object in. view the company secured a small steamer, and a portion of them, with their families and effects, embarked at Quincy in the spring of 1855. They ascended the Missouri safely until they were at the mouth of the Platte river. Here the boat struck a snag and was completely wrecked. The lives of all were saved, but the cargo was nearly a total loss. Some were so disheartened that they returned to Quincy on the next steamer, while others pressed on to Fontenelle, took possession of their town lots by numbers, upon which they commenced building cabins for homes. Rev. W. W. Keep, a Baptist clergyman of the colony, was one of those who returned to Quincy, and Rev. J. M. Taggart came to Fontenelle to take his place. In June some lumber was drawn from Bellevue for the beginning of the Baptist college. In July a straggling party of Sioux Indians came suddenly upon the camp of some parties who were opening a farm one mile south of town. They killed the men and rode off with the provisions. They were a portion of the party who, that same month, killed Logan Fontenelle, the Omaha chief. He was hunting, and becoming separated a little from his band, was attacked by these warriors. He defended himself with great bravery, but after killing three of the Sioux, fell, pierced by fourteen arrows.



   This alarm sent some of the settlers back to the states, thus diminishing the colony in numbers. Gov. Burt sent out troops from Omaha for protection, who were stationed in Fontenelle during the fall and winter, but it was some months before the settlers felt secure from further attacks.
   In the meantime more Congregationalists came into the colony. This winter, on Christmas day, 1855, Rev. Reuben Gaylord arrived in Omaha. On the first Sabbath of May following be organized a Congregational church of nine members, and on the second Sabbath a church in Fontenelle with twenty-four members, under very encouraging circumstances.
   Before proceeding farther, a brief account will be given of Mr. Gaylord's labors in behalf of early collegiate education in Illinois and Iowa, for he seemed to have been early imbued with a love for the higher Christian education, and with a desire to do what he could for its advancement. And it will help to explain why, on coming to Nebraska, this should seem to him such an important adjunct to the success of a pure and working Christianity. Mr. Gaylord graduated at Yale College in 1834, and Prof. Sturtevant (afterward president); being present at commencement, sought his acquaintance and gave him an invitation to go out with him as instructor in Illinois College at Jacksonville. This resulted in his taking charge of the preparatory department for two and one-half years. Dr. Edward Beecher was at that time the president. In September, 1837, he traveled from Jacksonville to Connecticut on horseback and entered Yale Theological seminary. During that year seven students of the seminary, whose minds were turned toward Iowa as a field of labor, formed an "Iowa Educational Association." At that time Mr. Gaylord thus wrote: "It is our purpose to establish upon a firm basis a college for the future state of Iowa; also to encourage and assist in the location of a academies throughout the district, and to lend a fostering band to the general interests of education in the common school department. We shall aim to lay our plans so as to secure an endowment for permanent funds which may be worth, ten years hence, two hundred thousand dollars. This can be done with little trouble in the first settlement of a country when land is plenty and cheap. All of our number, with one or two exceptions, are going there to preach the gospel, not to engage in educational work as a

Prior page


Gen. Index

Next page

© 2001 for the NEGenWeb Project by Pam Rietsch, Ted & Carole Miller