NEGenWeb Project
Kansas Collection Books

Andreas' History of the State of Nebraska
Douglas County
Produced by Liz Lee.

Part 1      Part 3

City of Omaha

Note: Please refer back to the Omaha first page, or to the Chapter Table of Contents for the complete listing.

SECTION 1:  The Early DaysSECTION 2:  More Early Days
SECTION 3:  Omaha in 1870SECTION 4:  Present Day (1882)
SECTION 5:  CrimesSECTION 6:  Fires and Public Works
SECTION 7:  Health, Parks, MailSECTION 8:  The Press in Omaha
SECTION 9:  Press ContinuedSECTION 10:  Religious
Religious (cont.)                           
SECTION 12:  Cemetery and Schools
SECTION 13:  Legal and MedicalSECTION 14:  Opera House-Hotels-Business
SECTION 15:  SocietiesSECTION 16:  Societies Continued
SECTION 17:  BusinessSECTION 18:  Manufacturing
SECTION 19:  Manufacturing (cont.)

20 - 46:

   ** Omaha Biographical Sketches **
| WOODARD~ZEHRUNG | West Omaha Precinct | Douglas Precinct |

List of Illustrations in Douglas County Chapter

City of Omaha 11

Tabernacle Baptist Church. In December, 1869, in consequence of a difference of opinion as to the pastorate, a respectable minority of the First Baptist congregation left the church, organizing themselves under the name of Tabernacle Baptists. The Rev. M. Westover assumed the charge of the new society, and during the succeeding year they built the Tabernacle Chapel, on the corner of California and Eighteenth streets, now occupied by the United Presbyterians. The society retained an organization, with several pastoral changes, for two or three years, most of its members finally returning to the church from which they came. The Tabernacle Sunday school was organized January 30, 1870, in Brown's Hall, with a membership of seventy four, the first superintendent being Col. W. B. Smith. Removing to Gise's Hall in July, they were able to occupy their own chapel in September, 1870, and at the time of the dissolution of the society were in a flourishing condition, with an attendance of about 200.

The First Presbyterian Church.--In April, 1857, the Rev. George P. Bergen, a missionary of the Old School Presbyterian Church, came to Nebraska, and on June 14, of that year, organized the First Presbyterian Church of Omaha, the initiatory sermon being preached by the Rev. A. F. Billingly of Florence.

In this organization Dr. John M. Kuhn, Robert Smiley and Daniel Gantt were elected Ruling Elders; O. P. Hurford, E. F. Cook and B. D. Barkalow Deacons of the church, the other members consisting of Dr. G. C. Monell and wife, Mrs. Mary M. Bently, Mrs. J. M. Kuhn, Mrs. Robert Smiley, Mrs. Daniel Gantt, Mrs. B. P. Barkalow, Mrs. E. F. Cook, Miss Anna M. Monell and Miss Nannie Smiley.

Mr. Bergen remained with the church until April 1859, doing good work, when he withdrew to other fields of labor, leaving the society without a pastor until December of the same year, when the Rev. George Webster assumed the pastorate, with Ezra Millard and John R. Meredith as ruling elders. Mr. Webster continued with the congregation until June, 1860, when the church, weakened by the internal dissensions, and weary of fighting against financial difficulties, gave up the struggle for existence as an organization, and practically dissolved, although but few of its members united, at this time, with other churches.

Prior to the arrival of Mr. Bergen, and before any Presbyterian church organization whatsoever had been effected, a Sabbath school was established in a private school room on Howard street. This was on July 20, 1856. The records show William Young Brown to have been superintendent and John Kellom assistant superintendent. The teachers were A. Kountze, T. J. Hurford, James W. Virtue, James Graham, Mrs. J. H. Kellom, Mrs. Dr. Miller, Miss A. J. Goodwill and Miss L. A. Goodwill. Of the pupils there appear the names of Carrie Goodwill, Pholona Lemon, Jenny Lind Lemon, Franklin Lemon and William Henry Lemon. This school appears to have been something of a union organization, the subsequent establishment of various churches causing a disintegration of its elements, but its identity was preserved throughout the year, until in 1857, it was absorbed, or taken in charge, by the Presbyterian Church, that denomination conducting it until June 1860, at which time it had fifty-one pupils enrolled. The dissolution of the church itself produced a like result as to the school.

Second Presbyterian Church.--The attempt of the Old School Presbyterians to establish a permanent church organization, had been a missionary effort, the failure of which and consequent abandonment of the field, made room for the New School Board of Missions, which, in 1861, sent the Rev. Francis M. Dimmick to Omaha to establish a society, if it seemed practicable. Mr. Dimmick, a graduate of the Lane Theological Seminary of Cincinnati in the year preceding, was ordained in the Second Presbyterian Church of that city on the evening of November 7, and on the 27th of the same month started for the West. His first sermon in Omaha was preached in the Congregational Church, at 3 p.m. December 16, 1860. On Wednesday, December 19, a meeting was held at which an organization was resolved upon, this being accomplished on the succeeding Sunday with a membership of twenty-four, twenty-one of whom were admitted by letter. The Ruling Elders of the new church were A. R. Orchard and Robert Mitchell; the Deacons, E. F. Cook, O. P. Hurford, and J. H. Kellom.

At this time the nation, and the people of Omaha, were laboring under intense political excitement and demanded something relating to the topics of the day. The second sermon delivered by Mr. Dimmick was upon "Gods sovereignty over nations as well as individuals," the one immediately subsequent concerning "The duty of the nation and of the individual, under God, in defending its life, and in sustaining its free institutions." In these sermons Mr. Dimmick had the temerity to maintain that there was no alternative for a nation or government, but to defend itself against its enemies with all its available resources. In consequence of these principles, their author was severely attacked in a two-column article in a local paper, an attack which had no other effect that to increase the size of his congregations, and consequently his influence. He continued to preach regularly in the Congregational Church until the last of March, 1861, when he went to the East to endeavor, in face of the severe stringency of the times, to obtain funds to assist in erecting a church building, a trip that was doomed to disappointment. He returned on August 22, and on the 25th and the Sabbath succeeding again preached in the Congregational Church. The society then removed to the Baptist Church located on Douglas between Fifteenth and Sixteenth streets. Here they continued to worship until the 17th of November, 1861, when, by seating the court house hall, they were enabled to occupy it, which they continued to do until June 5, 1864.

At this time the Congregational Church was without a pastor, and at the solicitation of that denomination, they returned to their first place of worship, Mr. Dimmick preaching to both societies until October 30, 1864, when the Presbyterians again had recourse to the court house hall. They were here something over a year, again returning to the Congregational building on November 19, 1865, remaining until December 20, 1868, when they removed to the basement of their present edifice, corner of Dodge and Seventeenth streets, removing to the room above in the fall of 1869.

This building, a magnificent brick structure, was erected at a cost of $40,000, upon a lot for which the society paid $1,250 in the fall of 1866, the same lot having been offered, two years previous, for $400, and on very easy terms. The seating capacity is about 550. Troubles in the church resulted in the withdrawal of Mr. Dimmick in August, 1870, the Rev. George D. Stewart taking his place in October of the same year, remaining with the society until April 1, 1877. On April 22 the Rev. W. I . Harsha, just ordained, came to the church, finding it with a membership of 138. He preached at intervals throughout the summer, and received a unanimous call in September, 1877, since which time he has performed the duties of his high office with satisfaction to all concerned. The present membership of the church is 325.

The Second Presbyterian Sunday school was organized in the court house hall, with about thirty scholars, in May 1861, under the superintendency of J. H. Kellom, who officiated until 1868, when he was succeeded by A. J. Leach, preceding W. D. Hall. On January 1, 1871, P. L. Perrine took charge of the school and has retained that position to the present time. It has now an average attendance of 190.

Central Presbyterian Church.--As has been said, Mr. Dimmick withdrew from the Second Presbyterian Church in August 1870. In December of that year he returned to Omaha, and organized the Central Presbyterian Church, with a membership of about eighty. They occupied the Tabernacle Baptist building, on Eighteenth street, where they worshiped as a society, until Mr. Dimmick received a call from California, whereupon the organization dissolved, most of the members re-uniting themselves with the church from which they came.

North Presbyterian Church.--In June, 1880, Rev. S. A. Martin, of Pennsylvania, visited Omaha, and in addition to temporarily occupying the pulpit of the Second Presbyterian Church, preached for some months in the building occupied by the Union Mission school, in North Omaha. From this movement originated the North Presbyterian Church, which was organized in February, 1881, with forty-six members, under the pastoral charge of Francis F. Blaney, and with O. H. Bellew and S. N. Miner as ruling elders.

The present membership is about eighty. They intend erecting a new frame house of worship on Saunders street, near Izard, within a few months, to have a seating capacity of 300, and at a cost of about $3,000.

Southwest Presbyterian Mission.--This mission was organized in 1881, under the auspices of the Second Presbyterian Church, and through the arduous labors of Mr. Joseph France. The building which it occupies on the corner of Twentieth and Leavenworth streets, was presented by Ezra Millard. The school is at present under the superintendency of Mr. Joseph L. Welshans, and numbers about 100 members. It is expected that the mission will soon be able to secure a suitable minister, and establish a permanent church organization.

United Presbyterian.--At a meeting of the presbytery of Nebraska, held March 18, 1867, the feasibility and propriety of undertaking a missionary work in Omaha, was discussed; and it was finally resolved, in consideration of the importance of the place, that it be favorably recommended to the Board of Home Missions, provided the Rev. Thomas McCague, who was then appointed to explore the field, should deem it advisable. Mr. McCague's report strongly urged the importance of the mission, and the board accordingly appropriated $1,000 a year to defray the expenses of a missionary, appointing Mr. McCague to that position. Beal's school house, on Capitol avenue and Fifteenth streets, was secured at a rent of $10 per month, and services were maintained at that place until February 2, 1868. The church was organized January 11, 1868, Elder George Young, of North Bend, assisting. W. H. Brown and C. S. Henry, were elected elders of the new church, and Encas Wood, William Darrow, Steven Robinson, Colonel Gast and William Fleming, trustees; The entire membership was nine. At the next meeting of the Presbytery, held at Rock Bluff, it was decided, that in view of the transient character of the membership of the organization and the depleted condition of the treasury of the Board of Home Missions not to recommend the continuance of the mission, to the General Assembly; the result being that the assembly refused its support, and virtually abandoned the field. Mr. McCague, anything but satisfied with this proceeding, decided to remain where he had been placed, and if possible to keep the society together, at his own expense. To this end, he built a small church on his own lot, in South Omaha, during 1868, in which services and Sabbath school were held. Until February 10, 1871. In 1870, however, the missionary and congregation urged upon the Board of Church Extension, the necessity of immediate action, relative to erecting a church building in a more central location, and agreed to furnish a lot, worth at the time $3,000, together with a limited subscription, if the board would assist them as to the remainder of the funds requisite. Through the inactivity or unwillingness of the board, this project failed, there being but a trifling appropriation made towards the support of the church, by the Board of Missions; and the struggling congregation was so far discouraged by the result, that there was at once a very sensible diminution of its numbers. At length, in January, 1871, the missionary felt constrained to call the few who remained, together, in order to determine the question whether or not it was feasible to longer continue the effort. Mr. McCague leaving the matter with the people, it was decided by a vote of ten to three, to preserved the organization. At a meeting held February 2, 1871, nine new members were received, and shortly after the Y. M. C. A. Hall was secured for Sunday evening services, and Thursday evening prayer meetings. About this time, Mr. McCague feeling unable to longer continue the work without support, offered to resign all connection with the missions, if the board would send someone to take his place. Instead of this, a conditional resolution was passed, in effect cutting off all appropriations, and making no appointments. This was in 1871, and the self constituted missionary continued to preach regularly during the year, also maintaining the Sabbath school, organized in September, 1867, with twelve or fifteen scholars, which now numbered about seventy-five; all of this without compensation from any source. At last, the long delayed action was taken by the board, and on July 1, 1872, the Rev. James Duncan was appointed to take charge of the work at a salary of $1,000 a year, and the church generally appealed to for funds, to erect the long needed church building. Mr. Duncan found on entering upon his duties, seven persons who acknowledged their membership with the church, and soon after the Sunday school referred to, which was not a denominational one, passed into the hands of the Methodists, in consequence of the sale of the church building to that body, by Mr. McCague, thus leaving a very small charge upon the pastor's hands. The purchasers of the church allowed the Presbyterians to worship in it, as usual, until the latter part of 1872, when the society purchased the Tabernacle Baptist building, corner of California and Eighteenth streets, for $4,500, the money being paid by, and the deed made to the Board of Church Extension. On June 17, 1873, Mr. Duncan resigned his pastorate and returned to Ohio, Mr. McCague taking charge, until another missionary should be appointed. This was not done for some time. The Rev. Mr. McCartney being sent by the board July 1, 1875. Under his control the church prospered greatly, and bade fair to become well established and self-sustaining, a hope that was doomed to disappointment, by the death of the pastor, in the fall of 1877. Mr. McCartney's successor was the Rev. D. R. Miller, who remained but a short time. After his departure, and during 1879, and the early part of 1880, the congregation was ministered to by irregular supplies, until on March 31, 1880, the society, with Rev. David Inches as moderator, made out a call for the Rev. E. B. Graham, who took charge April 11, 1880, as the first installed minister of the church. At this time the church membership was about forty, and the Sunday school had fifty scholars. The present number of communicants is 100, and the church is altogether in a better condition than ever before, and hopes very soon to be self sustaining. The Sunday school has an average attendance of 150, and it constantly increasing in strength and efficiency.

First Christian.--The First Christian Church of Omaha, was organized December 12, 1868, the meeting being presided over by Elder N. A. McConnell, then residing at Marion, Iowa. The election of church officers resulted as follows: Elders, Milan Hunt, Alvin Saunders and Ira Van Camp; deacons, D. S. D. Mercer, William Stephans and J. W. Rogers. The church was fortunate in securing the services of the Rev. J. W. Allen, a young man of rare ability and liberal education, who remained with it, however, but a short time. During his ministration a house of worship was erected on Harney street, the church thereby incurring a debt that subsequently caused its suspension as an organization, this occurring in 1870. In August, 1878, mainly through the efforts of the Rev. B. B. Tyler, of Louisville, a re-organization was affected with a membership of fifty-five. The Rev. J. W. Ingram, of Shelbyville, Ky., was at once called upon to assume the duties of the pastorate, and the society having given a long lease on their own property, secured the fine brick church building, erected by the Methodists, on Seventeenth street, and vacated by them the year previous. This they still continue to occupy. The present membership is about 110. The Sunday school, instituted about the same time as the church organization, under the superintendency of Mr. John Tyler, and with a membership of twenty, is now in good working order, and about sixty in attendance. Its present superintendent is Mr. Oren P. Thompson.

Emanuel Lutheran.--In 1859, the Alleghany Synod of Pennsylvania, sent the Rev. H. W. Kuhns to Omaha, as a missionary, and in the succeeding year an organization was effected, through his efforts, among the Lutherans of the city, known as the Emanuel Lutheran Church. In 1861 the congregation erected at 1210 Douglas street, a large brick edifice, in which they worshiped until the present year. Mr. Kuhns remained as pastor of the society until 1870, after which, for about eighteen months, they were ministered to by irregular supplies, the Rev. Mr. Billheimer assuming charge in 1872. Two years later the pastorate was tendered to the Rev. W. A. Lipe, who arrived in Omaha in the spring of 1874 and continued with the church until 1880. Upon Mr. Lipe's departure, the services of Rev. H. L. Baugher, D. D., late professor in the Pennsylvania College, at Gettysburg, were secured. Mr. Baugher retained the pastorate from July, 1880, to July, 1881, when the present incumbent, the Rev. G. T. Stelling, D. D., arrived, his first sermon being delivered in October. A month previous to his arrival the society sold their church property to the builders of Millard's hotel for $16,000, since which time they have worshiped in Boyd's opera house.

They contemplate building a large church on the northeast corner of Sixteenth and Harney streets, having already purchased the lot, for that purpose. The present membership of the society is 175. The Sunday school of the congregation, organized in 1861, with a very small membership, has now an attendance of about 200. It is under the superintendencey of Dr. P. S. Leisenring.

The Swedish Lutheran Church, situated on the north side of Cass street, between Eighteenth and Nineteenth streets, was organized October 29, 1868, by Rev. S. G. Larsson, as a Scandinavian Evangelical Lutheran Church, by which name it was known until changed to its present one, in 1874. At the first business meeting of this church, Nels Swanson was appointed secretary. The first deacons were John Bengtson, J. A. Lagerquist, Nels Swanson, J. G. Anderson, Andrew Christenson, and J. G. Sandquist. The first trustees were Andrew Christenson, Nels Swanson and John Bengtson. The first pastor was S. G. Larsson, who received his pay from the missionary fund. He was succeeded in 1872 by A. N. Swedus, who remained about one year. The services of this congregation were at first held in Redick's Hall, for which they paid $3 per meeting. The church was admitted into the Synod in the year 1869. During that year, a building committee was appointed, consisting of Rev. Larsson, Andrew Christenson and F. A. Hultman. This committee was not ready to report at the October meeting, J. G. Anderson was added, and instructions were given them to lease a lot and erect a building thereon as soon as convenient. Accordingly, a lot on the south side of Davenport street, between Sixteenth and Seventeenth, was leased for a term of five years, and a building costing $2,000, completed and furnished, was erected thereon. In 1873, Rev. Mr. Swedus was succeeded as pastor by Rev. John S. Benzon, who remained until 1876. The church then had no regular pastor until 1879, when Rev. Erick A. Fogelstrom assumed the pastoral care of the church, and is its present pastor. In 1874, the trustees were instructed to purchase a lot, and remove the church building thereon. In accordance with this, the present lot on Cass street was purchased for $2,000, and the church building moved thereto. In the summer of 1881, the adjoining lot was purchased for $5,000, and as the present house of worship is much too small to accommodate the church-going Swedish people of the city, a new church building is to be erected in the summer of 1882. Under the guidance of Rev. Mr. Fogelstrom, the membership is rapidly increasing in numbers and influence. The congregation at present numbers 200 members. During the year 1881, fifty-one new members were added. The trustees are: Gunnar A. Lindquist, N. Madsen, John Sindbold, P. E. Hodman, A. M. Anderson and John Selin. Prior to 1880, the church was burdened with debt, but during the year 1881, this debt, amounting to $2,500 was paid.

Latter Day Saints.--In the spring of 1847, the Mormon people, under the leadership of Brigham Young, made Bellevue a rallying point, prior to their departure for the promised land. This hegira, however, was not so comprehensive, but that it left a few Saints scattered here and there along the river, who subsequently effected a sort of irregular organization, of which there is little record, it not being until many years later that enough of them were gathered together to properly constitute a branch. Meetings were occasionally held in Omaha, by the Saints, during the years between 1855 and 1868; and in the latter year, a regular organization was attempted, under the presidency of Joseph Gilbert, the first meeting being held at the residence of Mr. George Sylvester, and the branch subsequently renting the old schoolhouse on Fifteenth street, where they continued to worship for about two years. Succeeding Mr. Gilbert, came George Medlock, who retained the office but a short time, giving way to Mr. John Miller, under whose presidency the branch succeeded in erecting a pleasant frame chapel, at 1610 Cass street, which they continue to occupy. The next president was George Hodgits, succeeded by William Ballinger, about 1873. Then came Nicholas Rummell, then George Medlock again, and finally in 1879, the present incumbent, Mr. E. T. Edwards, an Englishman, under whose charge the branch has succeeded in gathering to itself all of the adherents of the faith in Douglas County, the present membership being about sixty, a larger number than ever before.

Young Men's Christian Association.--At a young men's prayer meeting, held at No. 8 Bishops block, November 22, 1867, it was resolved to organize a branch of the Y. M. C. A. in Omaha. A committee was appointed to secure a larger room, and services were at once instituted at the county jail and infirmary. On January 17, 1868, a permanent organization was affected, with the following officers: Pres., Watson B. Smith; V.-Pres., Robert Weidensall; Cor. Sec., I. C. Denise; Rec. Sec., Z. W. Hutchinson; Treas., O. F. Davis. A board of directors was also installed, consisting of two from each of the evangelical churches. At this meeting, resolution of incorporation were adopted, and on January 21, 1868 , the association was duly incorporated under the laws of the State. The society, soon after this, purchased for $2,500, a house and lot on Twelfth, between Farnam and Douglas streets, and rooms were at once fitted up for reading purposes, a library, and for religious meetings. Benevolent and collecting societies were appointed, the association disbursing, between September, 1868, and November 1, 1870, over $8,300, chiefly in the Union Pacific Mission Work, in which the Y. M. C. A. of New York City was also engaged. During this time they also published an unsectarian religious paper, entitled the Western World. In January, 1870, the rooms of the society were closed, and shortly after work of all kind was practically suspended, owing to serious financial embarrassment. For seven years there was really no organization in Omaha, although the directors holding office at the time of the suspension, continued, under a provisional arrangement, to collect rents, and manage the property, yet owned by the association. In April, 1877, a re-organization was effected, at a meeting held in the Baptist Church, Mr. W. A. Lips assuming the presidency. Subsequently adjourning to the Lutheran Church, on Douglas street, the association removed on March 4, 1878, to rooms in William's Block, where it remained until October 1879, having sold, in July of that year, the building purchased by the original organization, in order to settle outstanding indebtedness. Here it held devotional services regularly, and in November, 1878, elected Dr. Robert N. Peck, to the new salaried office of General Secretary, opening reading rooms and a library, which were placed in his charge. In October, 1879, the association removed its headquarters to 1412 Farnam street, remaining there until May, 1880, when it again changed its location, this time to Douglas and Thirteenth streets. In May, 1881, the very pleasant rooms on Farnam and Tenth streets were secured, and the society, it is hoped, at last have found a permanent location. The present officers are as follows: G. L. Howser, Gen. Sec; P. C. Himebaugh, Pres.; J. L. McCague, V.-Pres.; E. C. Reynolds, Sect; E. L. Ware, Treas. Its active, working committees deal with special subjects, such as employment, boarding houses, lectures and classes, and devotional exercises in the jail and infirmary. It has also special committees on finance, rooms, and printing and publishing. The association was never in a condition so favorable to success as now, and is accomplishing a necessary work which is assumed by no other organization.

Omaha City Mission.--This mission was organized under the name of the Christian Workers Association, October 22, 1875, the object being to advance the interests of the Christian religion, by active Christian work. The following were its first officers: President, C. F. Brewster; Vice President, Watson B. Smith; Secretary, Frank Lehmer; Treasurer, John Roberts. In November, Missionary work was commenced among the neglected children and youth of the city, and on Thanksgiving Day, the newsboys, bootblacks and other arabs of Omaha, between 300 and 400 in number, were dined at the store of Mr. Visscher on Douglas street. On the following Sabbath a Sunday-school was organized in the basement of the Baptist Church, there being four scholars present. As it increased in numbers the school adjourned to the Y. M. C. A. rooms, going from there to the Academy of Music, and subsequently to Gise's hall, on Douglas, between Thirteenth and Fourteenth streets. At its annual meeting held in October, 1876, the name of the organization was changed to that which it now bears. The Sunday-school is at present under the charge of Mr. Warren Switzler, and is in a prosperous condition; and doing good work. It is now located on Tenth street between Capitol avenue and Dodge street, in the old schoolhouse, formerly on Eleventh street, which the mission purchased of the Board of Education, and placed upon a lot leased to it, by the late Dr. G. C. Monell. In addition to the Sunday-school the mission has in charge an industrial school and a relief department, the former being organized January 26, 1876, under the superintendency of Mrs. J. B. Jardine. Its object is to aid in clothing the poor, and teach them how they may clothe themselves. The present superintendent is Mrs. S. H. H. Clark. The relief department, devoted to general mission work among the poor, particularly at their homes, is under the management of Mrs. Jardine, and is doing efficient service.

Woman's Christian Temperance Union.-- The object of this association is to aid in bettering the condition of drunken families. Its first officers were: Mrs. Dr. W. B. Slaughter, President; Mrs. W. K. Beans and Mrs. C. H. Dewey, Secretaries. The union took the first steps to test the consitutionality of the Slocum law, a movement that has been so eminently successful. It is now under the presidency of Mrs. Burrows, and its influence for good is being more strongly felt than ever before.

The Congregation of Israel was organized January 8, 1871. Their meetings are held on the first Sunday of each month at Standard Hall. Their membership at present is forty-two. They own property on Davenport street between Sixteenth and Seventeenth streets, where they contemplate building very soon.

St. Philomena's Cathedral.--In the summer of 1855, the first minister of the Catholic Church, Rev. Father Emmonds, visited the town, greatly to the joy of the score or more families and many single members of that faith then here. He enjoys the honor of having been the pioneer priest in Omaha and the Territory. He ministered to the spiritual needs of the Catholics, and celebrated the first mass in the representative hall of the Capitol. By his zeal and his encouraging words the first steps toward the erection of a church were taken; funds were collected, and the project had gone so far that the trenches for the foundation were dug on the northeast corner of Eighth and Howard streets.

The digging of these trenches led to a great commotion. The founders of the town had laid out a park, extending from Jackson to Davenport streets, a block in width, for which their brilliant imaginations pictured future generations singing their praises while "sporting on the green." Before the foundation of the church was laid Father Emmonds was suddenly called away by Bishop Lores, of Dubuque, and the building was abandoned. The park, too, disappeared soon after, and furnished a large portion of the money that built the "Herndon House," now the U. P. headquarters.

The Catholics did not long remain idle, for we find that early in the spring of 1856, with funds newly collected and the donations of recent arrivals contracts were let for building the first church in the city and Territory. The two lots were donated by the Council Bluffs & Nebraska Ferry Company. The building was to be of wood, but the building finally erected was of brick, and 100 feet north of the original site. The contract for the stone foundation was given to two sterling representatives of warring races--Mr. James Ferry and Jenkinson. They also enjoy the distinction of having laid the foundation of the Capitol building, and that of "Western Exchange Bank," now occupied by Caldwell & Hamilton. The former is a hale and hearty farmer, near Forest City, Sarpy County. The stone was first brought from Lutz's quarry, afterwards from A. B. More's, and some from J. H. Green's. The brick work was done by the firm of Bovey & Armstrong, also builders of the Capitol, and the first brick was laid by Mr. Henry Livesey, of this city, one of their employes. The carpenter work was done by Wolfel & Baker, of Columbus.

While the building was under way, Father Scanlan, of St. Joseph, Mo., arrived in town and celebrated the second mass in the parlor of the residence of Acting-Governor Cuming. This brick house still occupies a conspicuous position on the corner of Seventeenth and Dodge streets, and can be easily distinguished from the more elaborate architecture of its modern neighbors. It is still tenanted by Mrs. Cuming, a devout and highly respected old lady, whose zeal and prominence in those days was quite notable.

Shortly after the completion of the building, Father Scanlan returned from St. Joseph, and dedicated St. Philomena's Church in August, 1856. The building was crowded by Catholics, and many people of other creeds who desired to appropriately honor an event of such importance. Most of those whose names are connected with the building of this church are still living here. To Messrs. Ferry, O'Connor and Murphy, the latter a brother of Mr. Frank Murphy and Mrs. Cuming, is due the credit of having started the subscriptions and managing the construction. The following names of families prominently connected with the opening of the old church, are recalled from a much larger number: Ferry, O'Connor, the Murphys, Cassidys, Hickeys, Tiernans, Taners, Connallys, Kennellys, Rileys, Kelleys, Begleys, Suttons, Ryans, Holmeses, Gradys, Hughes, McArdles, Hart, Farmer, Swift, Burkley, McGovern, Carrigan, and the father of Mr. James Creighton.

Having secured a church building, the Catholics naturally expected to enjoy the benefit of regular services. But they were disappointed. Father Scanlan remained only a few weeks and was followed, early in the fall, by Father Kavanaugh, from Illinois. At the end of three months he was removed by Bishop Miege, and the church doors locked. Among the visiting priests of 1857-58, whose names can be recalled, are Fathers Augustine and Tracy, from Kansas, and Powers, from Missouri. The first pastor was Father Power, who was followed in the fall of 1858 by Rev. Father Cannon, of the Benedictine order, who came up from Kansas, bearing letters from Father Augustine, superior of the order, authorizing him to take charge of the church. He was installed as the first regular pastor of St. Philomena's, and immediately began to minister to the spiritual needs of his flock, and the temporal wants of the parish. The first great need was a residence, but this was soon supplied by building an addition to the rear of the church. During the winter of 1858-59, the vicariate of Kansas and Nebraska was divided, and Rev. James O'Gorman, of the Trappist monastery, at Dubuque, appointed vicar apostolic. He was consecrated at St. Louis on the 10th of May, 1859, and reached Omaha the latter part of the same month. This prelate had the mournful satisfaction of finding only two clergymen in Nebraska charged with the care of about 300 families spread along the river counties. He was undecided for a time where to locate, and inducements of the most substantial kinds were offered by the citizens for an immediate decision in favor of Omaha. The offer amounted to sixty three full lots. /p>

But the Bishop was not favorably impressed with the town at that time, for had he been worldly-wise and accepted the gift, their value to the church to-day would be incalculable. He finally concluded to remain, and occupied as a residence, the white house on the southeast corner of Harney and Eighth streets, which was vacated by Thomas O'Connor for that purpose. The church was then elevated to the dignity of a cathedral, and Father Cannon was succeeded as pastor by the Rev. William Kelly, who was ordained in the church on the 25th of June, 1859. The latter, after years of active service throughout the diocese, is assistant pastor at the present cathedral, and a member of the Bishop's council. He was succeeded by Father Dillon, and at different times since then Fathers Lawrence, McMahon, Hayes, Curtis, Daxacher, Greenebaum, and Egan have been pastors of the old church.

The old cathedral was severely plain and unpretentious, free of ornamentation within and without. A simple wooden cross, devoid of paint or gilding, surmounted the western gable, mutely proclaiming, "In this sign conquer." The altar occupied the southeast corner; the opposite corner was partitioned off and used as the sacristy. A rude gallery or organ loft was built over the entrance, and a choir organized shortly after the Bishop decided to permanently locate here. The first organist was Mrs. Burkhard, daughter of Vincent Burkley.

After the completion of the Ninth Street Cathedral in 1867, the church was turned into a school, and placed in charge of the Sisters of Mercy. In this capacity it served to lay the foundations of faith in hundreds of youth in the city, and to guide their footsteps in the paths that lead to usefulness and honor in after life. The changes of a quarter of a century had not disturbed a single feature of the old temple. A brick wing was built on the south side a few years ago to accommodate the rapidly increasing number of children, but with this exception, it stood as it did in 1856, when the pioneers gathered within its unplastered walls to render homage to the Being above.

The new cathedral of St. Philomena was built a few years since by Father Eagan, under the charge of Bishop O'Connor, and at a cost of $40,000. It is located on Ninth street, nearly opposite the site of the first building, and is joined on the south by the pastoral residence, the two buildings occupying the Ninth street front from Harney to Howard street. The building committee in charge of the project consisted of James Creighton, F. X. Dellone and Vincent C. Burkley, all of whom are still prominent citizens of Omaha. Foundations were laid in 1867 by David Richards, but the work of collecting the necessary funds was slow, and it was not until 1869 that the structure was completed. Its size is 125x60 feet; its seating capacity is 1,000. The interior of the church, at first plainly decorated, has been enriched by a beautiful altar of fine Italian marble, the gift of Mrs. Edward Creighton, and valued at $5,000. An organ, the finest in the city, was purchased at a later date, at a cost of nearly $6,000. The cathedral is now in charge of Father English, who is under the spiritual supervision of Bishop O'Connor.

The Francescan Convent.--Prior to the building of the new cathedral, the Francescan sisters had erected at a point in the extreme northwest of the city, a convent in the order in which numerous scholars were taught. This building, which bears date 1866, is 44x60 feet, and three stories in height, and was built by F. X. Dellone and Withnell Bros.; the former doing the wood and the latter the brick work. Its cost was $10,000. The location of the convent was found after some years to be too far from the city's heart.

The Cass Street Convent was then built. This convent, largely a conventual school, is located on the northwest corner of Cass and Eighteenth streets. It was begun in 1876, and completed in the following year. Its size is forty by sixty feet; its height four stories, and its cost $14,000. It was built, as was the older building, of brick, the contractors being F. X. Dellone and Withnell Bros. Here a large school containing the children of many of the best families of the city is yearly assembled, and the work of education is conducted by the sisters in a manner to elicit hearty commendation.

St. Joseph's Hospital.--The hospital, among the most admirable of Omaha's benevolent institutions, is in charge of the Sisters of St. Francis. It immediately adjoins the Omaha Medical College, whose students depend upon it for use in their clinical study. An addition nearly as large as the original hospital building has long been earnestly desired and needed by the sisters in charge. After great efforts, the necessary funds were obtained, the building begun in April, 1882, and completed that fall. Those who executed this work were Withnell Bros., brick, A. Doneken, carpenter work, Joseph Lehman, Milton Rogers and Edward Fitzpatrick, in painting, tin work and plumbing. The new building has four large, light and airy wards for the reception of patients of both sexes--that of the women being upon the upper floor--and a large number of private rooms where those who can afford such luxuries can have separate care. There are also abundant bath rooms, and laboratories and numerous appliances for the comfort of inmates. On the lower floor is a neat chapel, and near the operating room which adjoins the east entrance, a complete pharmacy. The patients admitted here are carefully and pleasantly attended by the sisters, and are given all due care without regard to their possession or non-possession of money. From those who can afford it, a fee of $5 is received weekly, but no advantages are given them over those who have no funds. Four sisters of St. Francis first took charge of the hospital in 1880, but have been reinforced until now the hospital has twelve sisters and three Postolantinin or novitiates, all under Lady Superior Mary Alphonsa. It is a hard matter to say enough in praise of this noble institution or the devoted women who have given their lives to the work. St. Joseph's is a monument of a great comprehensive charity, of which Omaha may well feel proud.

Top of Page   First Page   Back   Next

Chapter Contents      Part 1      Part 3

County Index