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     Lying just west of Iowa it was natural that Nebraska should attract some of the pioneer preachers from the "Massachusetts of the West" to her own land of promise. One of these pioneers, the Reverend Reuben Gaylord, was the first settled Congregational minister in Nebraska.
     The way had in part been prepared for him by Gov. O. D. Richardson, for four years Lieutenant Governor of Michigan, Dr. George L. Miller, a physician of Omaha, and the Rev. George G. Rice, pastor of the Congregational church in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Governor Richardson was a native of Vermont, came to Michigan when thirty-two years of age, settling in Pontiac. He came to Omaha in September, 1854, was an earnest Congregationalist, a man of wisdom and strength of character.
     Mr. Gaylord said of Governor Richardson: "He was an intelligent Congregationalist, and desired to see the Gospel standard raised in this, the frontier town. He was a wise counselor in church organization and church building. He took great interest in all that concerned the welfare of the church, and ever proved one of its pillars--was constant in attendance upon Sabbath worship and the prayer meeting, and was a man around whom others loved to gather."1
     This Christian lawyer had much to do with laying the foundations of Congregationalism in Nebraska.
     Dr. George L. Miller was one of the first trustees of the old First Church in Omaha,2 a warm friend and valuable

     1 Gaylord's Life, p. 334.
     2 Personal letter to the writer dated June 23, 1904.


helper in pioneer Congregational work. It is he who tells this interesting incident in connection with the early work of Reuben Gaylord: In going by the improvised chapel he heard the voice of a man in prayer, and looking in he saw

Mr. Gaylord on his knees praying that the Lord would send him an audience. Dr. Miller also said in a letter to Dr. Joseph B. Clark, Secretary of the National Home Missionary society: "It was Reuben Gaylord, the brave Christian


soldier, who brought Sunday into Omaha and the trans-Missouri country. "3

     The writer has been at considerable pains to ascertain who preached the first Congregational sermon in Nebraska. There seemed to be different opinions in reference to the

     3 Leavening the Nation, by Dr. Joseph B. Clark, p. 119.


matter. Fortunately a letter from the Rev. G. G. Rice4 settles the question. Mr. Rice writes:
     "Dr. D. B. Coe, Secretary A. H. M. Society, wrote me in July, 1854, requesting that I keep the society informed in regard to the settlements and needs of Nebraska. August 4, I replied: "The Indians have not yet been removed to their reservations, and until that time the territory will not be open to settlement; The agent is hastening the removal of the Indians, and the territory will likely be open for settlers in a few days.' September 19 I wrote again: 'The Indians have been removed and there is a brisk movement into the territory. Omaha, just across the river from Council Bluffs, is to be the capital of the territory. A steam ferry boat is conveying material across the river for the capitol building, which is already under way. Omaha should have a minister as soon as a suitable man can be found, for, being the capital, it will build up rapidly. Another man should be sent to the territory as general missionary.'
     "About this time I secured two lots--a gift from the 'Omaha Land Co.'--for a Congregational church. When the church was built one of the lots was sold for $700, and the money was used in building.
     "The latter part of January, '85, I spent a Sabbath in Omaha and preached morning and evening in the legislative hall, and Monday morning I officiated as chaplain in the same hall. This was the first Congregational sermon in Nebraska after the territory was organized. There were a few Congregationalists in Omaha at this time with whom I was frequently in conference, trying to aid them in securing a minister.
     "In September, 1855, Rev. Reuben Gaylord came across the state on a vacation tour. I went with him to Omaha

     4 Dated. July 5, 1904


and we called upon Governor Richardson and made arrangements for Brother Gaylord to preach in Omaha the next Sabbath afternoon. Sabbath, after morning service in Council Bluffs, we rode down to the river, tied our horse in the willows, and were conveyed across the river in a canoe. At the close of the (afternoon) service several persons expressed the wish that Mr. Gaylord would come and be their minister. After considerable correspondence he resigned his charge in the eastern part of this state, and came to Council Bluffs with his family, December 22, 1855, on his way to Omaha, where he at once commenced missionary labors. The slow movement of Congregational ministers into Nebraska was the cause of some Congregational settlements being organized into Presbyterian churches, yet Congregationalism has flourished and been a power for good in Nebraska."

     Mr. Gaylord's visit to Omaha in September, 1855, was for the purpose of learning the particulars in reference to the last sickness and death of a nephew who had lived in Omaha, and while in Omaha he consulted with Dr. Miller, who was his nephew's family physician. We may rest assured that their conversation was not limited to family matters, but included the pressing needs of a new town and growing territory. "Being invited to preach the next day he consented, but returned to Council Bluffs and officiated for Rev. Mr. Rice on Sabbath morning as he had promised. In the afternoon he recrossed the river and preached in the old state house."5 In his congregation that day was Governor Richardson whom he had met the day before, and who, with others, gave him the call to Nebraska; and it was Governor Richardson's earnest appeal that led him to consider the question of leaving Iowa for this land of promise, to which he finally came, as related by Mr. Rice.

5 Life of Reuben Gaylord, p. 167.


     Mr. Rice had already written the A. H. M. Society6 of the needs of Omaha, that he held the deeds for lots there for a church, and said of Governor Richardson, "He is now a member of the council of Nebraska, is a member of the Congregational church, and probably would do what he could to aid and sustain the minister you may send them."
     Others also were looking toward the setting sun, and seeing visions of future states, of the growing kingdom of God.
     "In the latter part of June, 1855, Rev. John M. Ellis, D.D., came to the territory to select a site for a Congregational colony. June 24 he preached for Rev. G. G. Rice, pastor of the congregational church in Council Bluffs. Crossing the Missouri at that point he spent several weeks in explorations along the river, and finally chose a location for his colony. The land chosen lay between Omaha and Florence, at that time hardly more than names upon the map, and extended some distance north of the latter place."7
     The death of Dr. Ellis, August 6, 1855, was the death also of his enterprise. What missionary work he may have done, and where he preached while making his explorations, are left unrecorded so far as the writer can learn. No records of other Congregational ministers visiting Nebraska at this early date can we find. Other men had done valuable preliminary work for the future state, but to one man belongs the honor of laying deep and strong the foundation walls of our Congregational Zion, and that man was


     Reuben Gaylord was born in Norfolk, Connecticut, April 28, 1812; graduated from Yale College in 1834; taught in Illinois College from the spring of 1835 to the autumn of

     6 See Gaylord's Life, p. 176.
     7 Education in Nebraska, p. 162.


1837; returned to Yale Seminary for further study in 1837; was ordained in Plymouth, Connecticut, August, 1838, as a Congregational minister, and the same month left New England for his life work in the West. He first settled in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, and afterward located in Danville, where he lived during the larger part of his residence in Iowa.


     In November, 1840, Rev. Harvey Adams, Rev. Reuben Gaylord, Rev. Julius A. Reed, and Charles Burnham, a licentiate, organized the Congregational Association of Iowa. The association was composed of three churches, Denmark, Danville, and Fairfield, and the three ministers just mentioned.8

     Reuben Gaylord was one who helped organize Iowa College and was one of its trustees until after his residence in Nebraska in 1855. It was very natural, then, that he should interest himself in Christian education as soon as he found himself settled in his new home in Omaha. This part of his work will be considered in a later chapter.

     8 See Gaylord's Life, p. 109.

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