NEGenWeb Project
Resource Center




     The organization of the General Association was an important event for Congregational Nebraska. It occurred on the 8th of August, 1857.

     Three churches, Omaha, Fontanelle, and Fremont, met in Omaha through their representatives and perfected the organization. The roll call as found in the manuscript minutes is of historic value.
     Omaha: Rev. Reuben Gaylord, minister; O. B. Richardson (evidently O. D.) and A. R. Orchard, delegates.


     Fontanelle: Rev. Thomas Waller, Rev. Silas J. Francis, ministers.
     Fremont: Rev. Isaac B. Heaton, Minister; E. H. Barnard, H. A. Pierce, delegates.

     A constitution was adopted, and Rev. Reuben Gaylord was elected moderator and Rev. Isaac B. Heaton, stated clerk.
     After appointing committees to notify the Congregational Herald, Independent, and the city papers of the new state association, the meeting adjourned for the day, and, the next day being Sunday, "met and spent an hour in devotional exercises. Adjourned to perform the service of dedication (evidently of the Omaha Church), and the com-


munion service in the afternoon. At the close of the service the association adjourned."1
     October 30 of the same year the association met in Fremont in its "first annual meeting."
     Mr. Gaylord was again elected moderator and I. Gibson stated clerk, pro tem. A strongly evangelical confession of faith was adopted, rules of business were formulated, and a committee of three was appointed to "take into consideration the location of the literary institution" provided for in. preceding resolution.
     Mr. Gaylord and P. Allen of Ft. Calhoun were two of the committee, and Mr. Gaylord was authorized to select the third member in Omaha.2
     A special meeting of the association was held in Fontanelle, January 5, 1858, to consider the report of this committee, which will be considered in another place.
     At this time special meetings of the association were not unusual, and semi-annual meetings were held for a number of years. The next annual meeting was at Ft. Calhoun, October 1, 1858. Rev. I. E. Heaton was chosen moderator, Rev. E. B. Hurlbut is subscribed as stated clerk, and the roll of churches is increased so as to include Omaha, Fremont, Fontanelle, Fontanelle, Platford, Decatur, and Ft. Calhoun.3 Congregational Nebraska is becoming already an important factor in the development of a state. The State Association of Congregational Churches is already considering questions of grave importance in the development of church life and educational work.

     1 Manuscript Minutes, August 8, 1857.
     2 See Manuscript Minutes, October 30, 1857.
     3 Manuscript Minutes, October 1, 1858,




     It was not all fair sailing for the pioneer churches of Nebraska. The discovery of gold in the Rocky mountains almost led to the depopulation of hamlets and seriously

affected the growth of churches. Bank failures crippled the work; the breaking out of the Civil war distracted the people, the grasshoppers destroyed crops; the Indians at times were troublesome; and when in later days railroads were projected, the routes passed by some towns to their great disappointment and eventual death, while other towns and churches sprang up in unexpected places.
     This in part explains the loss of some churches like Fontanelle, whose early history was bright; whose subsequent


disappointments were many; Fremont secured the county seat, and its name appears in another county; Lincoln was awarded its hoped-for capitol; Crete its college; and the open fields its once ambitious town. The loss of other churches was due to a lack of men and means at the critical times in their development. The Home Missionary Society either lacked the foresight or the money to come to their rescue. Strategic points of strength and opportunity were lost beyond recall.
     Some of these churches were turned over to the Presbyterians, because we had not the men and money to man them. This loss was keenly felt and called forth bitter lament on the part of Mr. Gaylord.1
     His work was constantly growing. He was acting as superintendent of Nebraska long before he gave up the pastorate in Omaha for the general work of Home Missionary Superintendent in the state.
     Churches were growing, new ones were being organized, and the pioneers of Nebraska met discouragement with brave hearts and faced the future with hope.

     1 Gaylord's Life, pp. 211 ff.

© 2002 for the NEGenWeb Project by Pam Rietsch, Ted & Carole Miller