Church Conditions of Pioneer Times in Seward County, Nebraska
From: General History of Seward County, Nebraska
BY: John H. Waterman
Beaver Crossing, Nebraska - 1914-15

Church Conditions of Pioneer Times in Seward County,

We view any endeavor that we could make to delineate the progression of any church or churches under the many different opinions, dogmas and creeds as wholly unsatisfactory in its results and altogether out of place in this work. One of the most difficult problems for the solution of the early settlers was that of church organization. The settlements were generally composed of those of different denominations and unbelievers and to get them interested in church work only along their line of thought was like peforming a miracle. And with this predominating condition the formation of churches dragged along through the pioneer period. Occasionally there would be a movement bordering upon church union and congregations would be formed, but generally proved to be only temporary formations. One of this kind was formed at Beaver Crossing early in the seventies under the name of the Congregational Church, but lost its cognomen shortly after its formation, the members meeting and holding forth the banner of Christianity without a name. This congregation was partially claimed after a short time by the M. E. church, but during the entire time from its formation till along in the eighties there was no permanent church organization at Beaver Crossing. The Methodist Episcopal, Protestant Methodist and Congrational churches were generally foremost in, pretentious of church organization, but there were but few church houses and the societies were not permanently located. A Congregational church was organized in Milford in 1869, and also an M. E. church about the same time, both of which became permanent organizations. Rev. C. E. Phinney, a homesteader in L precinct, organized a Protestant Methodist church in 1871 and through his efforts a sod church house was erected in 1872, six miles north of Beaver Crossing in L precinct. A Lutheran church was organized in H precinct in the fall of 1872. Also a church of the same denomination was organized on Lincoln creek in 1873. An M. E. church and also a Baptist church was formed in Seward in the early seventies. A Catholic church congregation was formed in the northern part of the county in 1876 and also at Seward about the same time. An Adventist church was organized near where Ruby is located in 1875. An Amish Mennonite church congregation was formed west of Milford in 1873. The Oak Groves M. E. church was organized in 1875. While this may not be all it is undoubtedly the greater number of 'pioneer churches in Seward county.

There were a few preachers of various denominations, a majority perhaps being of the M. E. faith, traveling and holding meetings in various localities throughout the county, but permanent congregations and church homes were limited until well along in the eighties. One peculiar character who undoubtedly is remembered by many of the early settlers, at least in the south half of the county, was Rev. Goss,a young M. E. minister who made many trips to different localities in what might be termed a pioneer vehicle with a pioneer horse that traveled at a three mile an hour gait, advocating the cause of Methodism. He couldn't preach much, but held meetings in school houses, sod residences and dugouts, getting some exhorter to talk for him when he could, and in this way did the church a great deal of good. But there was a lack of able effort in the matter of church work during the first twelve years of Seward county history. There were members of all denominations among the early settlers and it is just as loyal to truth to say that all churches came with the advance guard of settlement as to say that any one of them did as there was no organized system followed by any of them.

The foregoing brief mention of church work we believe represents the pioneer period. With the approach of more favorable conditions advancement commenced all along the entire line and was led by such grand christian motives that the cause has advanced in Seward county until it stands today upon the highest eminence of modern times. There are representations of the greater number of christian denominations of the uneverse in Seward county and the many magnificent and expensive structures erected in nearly every locality of the county and dedicated to christian worship at the present time as compared with the period of seeming indifference is indicative of the predominating power of Christianity throughout the enlightened world. In viewing the advancement tHat has been made in the cause of christianity in Seward county since the beginning of the changed era a person is apt to forget the real conditions of pioneer times. And we are tempted to say that the cleansing power of christian endeavor is much more needed in these later days than it was in the time of the humble sod homes with the pure atmosphere untainted with the fumes of modern corruption. In considering the wildness of the country in its earliest period of settlement many people class the early settlers in the wild grade with the country. But experience has taught us that this is erroneous and that the tamer the country is the wilder the people are. And we only have to point to Europe in this enlightened day and age in the wild struggle of its people to see which set can make the largest display of inhumanity and murder as proof. And so wild have they become that they would murder any and every chronicler of their deeds who dares to give a reduced account of their mad acts. The prairies of Seward county in pioneer days teemed with christian spirit, peace and kindness.

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