Grace United Methodist Church • 1245 Juniper Avenue • Crete, NE 68333 • (402) 826-2215 • gracechurchcrete@gmail.com

HISTORY OF GRACE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

 

Nebraska, like other plain states, received most of its settlers from the east. Most of these settlers came from Illinois. One of these settlers was a man by the name of J. C. Bickle. Like many others he spied out bottomlands where there was ample water, and timber, which supplied material for building of a house. By 1868 other families came and Bickle was instructed by the government to name the Post Office. Having come from a village south of Chicago named Crete, he no doubt was influenced in giving the Post Office its name. In 1870, J. C. Bickle had the land plotted, calling it Blue River City. A little later in the year, a town site company of the Burlington Railroad Company plotted another town east of it, adopting the name, Crete, which Bickle had given the Post Office. The following year, 1871, the two towns were combined by an act of the Nebraska Legislature, under the same name.

 

Before there was a Crete, however, when only three families lived where the town now stands and the country about was but thinly settled, there came through here two Methodist preachers riding the circuit known as the North and West Blue. There were twenty-two appointments. The preachers who rode this circuit in 1869 were L. Oliver and Wm. M. Worley. In May, 1869, Oliver organized a Methodist class, which was the beginning of Crete Methodism. As there was no church, schoolhouse or other public place, the class met in one of the few homes. Jacob Deems was the first class leader and his home was the stopping place for the early ministers. He lived in a 16 by 16 log house on Walnut Creek about a mile northeast of town. William Worley, the junior preacher on the circuit, preached his first sermon in the locality the second Sunday in May, 1869. This church service was held in the home of John Lee. The year Wm. Worley rode this circuit he received $63.00 from the Missionary Society and $11.00 from the circuit.

 

In the year 1874, the corner stone was laid for a church on the site of the present Crete Power plant. It was a one-room structure, with a seating capacity of 150. It was named “Grace” in the memory of a little girl, who belonged to the D.J.F. Reed family. The family was one of the first builders of the church and the little girl had passed away. In 1875 during the pastorate of A. K. Maxfield the church was dedicated, the membership was increased, and the work took on new life. The first class of which any written record can be found consisted of the following: S. Bingaman, Wm. Clark, Matilda Clark, Jacob Deems, Loisa Deems, Manda Deems, S. Eddy, S. Evans, S. Fletcher, E. Fletcher, H. Fletcher, Thomas Forman, Mrs. T. Forman, C. Gaylord, P. Hooper, Elizabeth Howard, Elenor Howard. In 1871 there were forty members on the circuit of which Crete was a part. In 1872, the membership was increased to 79. In 1875 the circuit was divided and the next year the record shows a membership drop to 34.

 

The one room brick church, which had served the first Methodist families became unsafe and in 1887 it was decided that a new and more commodious church should be built. The following record is copied from the minutes of the Board of Trustees:

Crete, Nebr., March 22, 1887

 

Board of Trustees met with the pastor pursuant to call at the office of Fay & Croston with D. J.F. Reed in the chair. Members present, D. J. F. Reed, E. D. Fay, E. White, J. R. Neil, J. Fisk, A. C. Calkins, pastor.

 

On motion A. Calkins was elected permanent secretary of the Board. Business of the meeting stated by the chair, “To decide upon building a new church and adoption of plans,” etc. On motion it was ordered to proceed to build. That the new church be built of brick; that its seating capacity be no less than 500; that it be known as the Grace Methodist Episcopal Church.

 

Moved and carried that Fay, White, Reed and Calkins be the committee to solicit the subscriptions for the new church and that said committee prepare a paper in suitable form and proceed at once.

 

A.C. Calkins, Secretary

 

 

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Earliest Picture of Church

At a meeting of the Board of Trustees, May 2, 1887, it was found that $4000.00 had been subscribed. It was moved, that “We immediately proceed to the erection of a church on lots recently purchased by the trustees.”

 

The next meeting May 6, 1887, the following were chosen as the building committee: D. Reed, E. Fay, J. Neil, E. White and S. Foss. It was voted that this committee have entire control of the building of said church. Members added to the Board of Trustees in Sept. 1887 were Thomas Booth, J. Ogden, J. Roop and H. McCargar. The original cost of the building, which was constructed, was $11,000. It was dedicated March 13, 1888.

 

The Church has had its struggle with debt. 1897 found a mortgage of three thousand dollars still hanging over it and a floating indebtedness amounting to another three thousand. Among those whose services were indispensable in clearing the church of its indebtedness were: E. Fay, C. White, A.L. Johnson and S. Foss.

For a great many years the church did not have a parsonage. In 1896 Mrs. C. White gave lots 9 and 10 block 147 and the house standing on them for a parsonage. This house was sold and moved to a lot across from the city park in 1915. A new house was built in its place and is still in use.

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First Parsonage

 

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Second Parsonage

 

A new furnace was installed in the basement of the church in 1909. The basement was remodeled, the art glass windows were repaired, the building was painted, the old frame steeple was changed to a brick tower and other improvements were made at this time. In 1911, the church building and equipment was valued at $17,000.

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Church about 1909

 

A pipe organ built by the Estey Co. of Battleboro, Vermont, was installed in 1911 for sixteen ($1600.) hundred dollars. It had a water pump which operated the bellows to produce the air. It was changed to an electric motor in the 1930 or 40s. There are 506 pipes and 16 of the ones in front that can be seen actually play. In 1968 this organ was rebuilt, costing around $2200. This amount was given in memorials by and in honor of very loyal members. 'This is not a complete list of organists up to 1969, but Miss Eva Cooper was the first organist and succeeding her are: Mildred Campbell, Mildred Potter, Ruth Brainard, Mrs. Wightman, Mrs. Lumir Havlicek and Mr. Havlicek who served longer than anyone ‘else, he played from the early 1920s to 1939 and assisted in later years. Mrs. Clyde Knight, Phyllis Bohner, Beth Knight, Harold Kruse, Paul Rhynolds, Joy Booth, Carolyn Ahlschwede, Nadean Kruse and Rose Mary Machacek were later organists.

 

The Epworth League, later named Methodist Youth Fellowship, was organized in 1891. By the year of 1909 the membership was 75.

 

The Sunday School in the year of 1909, had an enrollment of 250. A Methodist Brother-hood was organized about this time with a membership of 50. Any man over sixteen years of age was eligible to join if approved by the executive committee and elected by a majority of the members.

 

‘The Ladies Aid Society was first organized in 1878. The first president was Mrs. Fay. In 1887-8 the society was reorganized and adopted a constitution and by-laws. When the cornerstone of the church was laid there were but 16 members; but in April 1888, they numbered 60 and together raised $500 on-the church debt. The Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society had a membership of 20 and the Woman’s Home Missionary Society was organized.

 

During the year 1923 the order of services went something like this: (taken from bulletin for January 14, 1923, W. H. Shoaf, Pastor) Sunday School] at 9:45; Morning service, 11:00; a long evening service with motion pictures, song service, solo, a sermon, and Epworth League at 6:30. On Monday the Junior Orchestra met with J.G. Adams. Tuesday evening the Senior Orchestra with Lumir Havlicek, Wednesday, the four circles of the Ladies Aid met, Thursday was choir and prayer meetings.

 

The chance] of the church was completely remodeled in the year 1931. A new table, an altar rail, a new pulpit and a baptismal fount, music :stand and other pieces were gifts from several interested and faithful members. A Dedication service was held Aug. 30 of that year. It was during the early thirties, too, that a new heating plant was installed, and a room annexed to the church, which was used for a choir room and later a pastors study.

 

The fiftieth anniversary of the church building was celebrated in 1938. Church School enrollment was 358; Epworth League 45; Ladies Aid 150; Women’s Foreign Missionary Society 25; Women’s Home Missionary Society 23; Men’s Brotherhood 25 and the choir numbered 50.

 

In 1940 the three women’s organizations of the church united, as did all these groups in the Nebr. Conference. The new organization was called Woman’s Society of Christian Service. The executive Committee consisted of 10 to 12 officers and secretaries to carry on the duties for local and mission work. This Society, as the three groups before, has done outstanding work in always meeting the pledge of money asked for by the Conference and contributing when needed by the church. Just one of the projects, which was started in 1966, is providing devotions and entertainment at the nursing homes in Crete and other places. This work is still being done at the present time. A Charter meeting was held in October 1968 to organize a new society. This was done since the Methodist Church united with the United Brethren. The name of the Woman’s Society was changed to Women’s Society of Christian Service.

 

In the forties and fifties the building was redecorated, re-roofed, a wooden floor laid in the basement, and a public address system was installed. The parsonage was equipped with a new furnace, and the building painted. In 1952 a Methodist Men’s Club was organized during the pastorate of Rev. Z. F. Meyer. On October 17, 1954, also during Rev. Meyer’s pastorate, the 85th Anniversary of the church was observed. Program for the day included a breakfast by the Men’s Club with Thomas Dredla Sr. as speaker. At the 11 a.m. service, those participating were: Stewart Nelson, presiding; Nadean Kruse, organist, Mrs. Carroll Moore, director of the choir, and Dr. J. Olson, State Historical Society Superintendent. A covered dish luncheon was held at noon and at 2:15 an Anniversary Program was presented, the chairman being Tom Adams. Mrs. W. Baker gave the worship; Mr. and Mrs. C. Knight sang and the address was given by Prof. Niles Barnard of the State University, Layleader of the Nebraska Conference. Approximately 300 persons attended the morning and afternoon ceremonies. In the recognition of long-time members of Grace Methodist at this time, Mrs. Sadie Baker took the honors for the longest membership. She had joined in 1889. Other long time members attending were M. O. Smith and Mabel McCargar, who had been Sunday School kindergarten superintendent almost 50 years. George Aller was unable to attend but had joined in 1896 and at this time was the only surviving member of the famed Adelphian Men’s Quartet. Rev. Meyer provided an informative and interesting account of “How a Church has Served Its Community”, “Church Landmarks”, and “Historical Review from the year 1869 to 1954”.

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Choir – Pipe Organ

 

06-GROUND BREAKING.jpg Ground Breaking of Educational Wing

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Educational Wing

Through the years many memorials and donations have been given for improvement of the church. In 1956 an air conditioner was installed, an altar cross, candlesticks, vases with altar cloth. The exterior walls were painted and were also repointed at this time at a cost of $3500.  The balcony was constructed to accommodate the capacity crowd and in the establishment of four choirs.

 

Groundbreaking ceremonies were held Sept, 21, 1958, for the basement part of the annex to be built. Due to the increased enrollment of the Sunday School, a committee was set up to investigate a solution for space so badly needed. The recommendations made were adopted by the Church Board, and a building committee advised the hiring of an architectural firm. Together, the committee and firm of Craig & Beers began working on a sketch calling for a half-basement with kitchen enlargement, a second floor and remodeling of the old basement. About a year later, the committee and the Board decided to recommend to the congregation the building, not only of a basement, but the second floor as well. The cost was estimated at $45,355.00. In a vote, the congregation voted to go ahead with the building after at least $35,000 had been raised on a three-year pledge period. Since the lack of space was critical, the Sunday School Board recommended to the Church Board in July, 1958 that the basement portion of the new building be started in the fall of the same year. Again the vote was brought to the congregation and 64 out of 86 voted in favor of starting at once. More definite plans were worked on with the architect and the completed drawings showed the cost to be estimated at 20 to 23 thousand dollars. The committee decided not to build unless $14,000 could be raised in cash and definite pledges payable within 6 months of the end of construction. The same portion of cash to cost would be maintained on the basement as was planned on the overall project. V. D. Goosic was employed to undertake the construction.. Consecration services were held Dec. 14, 1958. The basement is 38 by 76 equipped with mahogany folding partitions, fluorescent fixtures, acoustic plaster ceiling, and vinyl] asbestos floor. The kitchen was enlarged and remodeled with new cupboards, island worktable and with sinks and new floors. Other improvements were made at this time, such as repainting and repointing of the original building, releading of the windows, blackboard and lounge equipment, walks and landscaping and partitions for more Sunday School rooms. The grand total, including the donated labor, was $44,678.00. On December 11, 1960, a service was conducted for the burning of the mortgage.

 

The Childs Study organization of Crete filed an agreement with the Church Board in 1962 to hold Nursery School sessions in the basement twice a year. This has continued up to the present time. Also in this year, the W.S.C.S. extensively redecorated the parsonage. Men from the Men’s Club donated much of the labor.

 

The Church Board as well as the congregation realized the need for a new furnace in 1964 and hired C. Bespalec to install one in that summer. On the belief that a building should be kept up not only for appearance but to preserve it, a committee originating in the W.S.C.S. but representing all the groups of the Church, met and discussed badly needed improvements to the building. Toward the end of 1965 and beginning of 66, the estimates were made by several firms in Crete and the lowest bid being that of Parker Lumber Co., the job was contracted with them. Over half the near $2300 for this project was paid by the WSCS. A donation made it possible to panel the Pastor’s study and at this time a new door to the north was added, closing the door to the west. The work was done by the men of the church in 1966.

 

The kitchen floor was replaced and new vinyl asbestos blocks were laid in 1967 and an air conditioner was installed at the parsonage. The WSCS assumed the finances for these improvements.

 

In the fall of 1968, the part of the original basement of the church building was paneled, carpeted, and painted with a memorial given by members of the church. Carpeting was installed in the parsonage by the WSCS of that year.


MEMBERS WHO HAVE GONE INTO
FULLTIME CHRISTIAN SERVICE

 

The Methodists of Crete produced their share of fulltime Christian workers. Two sisters, Mary Ann and Catherine McClung, left for Korea, during the early part of the present century, as missionaries. Helen Dewitt Trace responded to the call for a missionary to the Philippine Islands. There, she taught in a church related school. John W. Fuhrer spent a lifetime in Y.M.C.A. work. He was general secretary of the Chicago Association at the time of his retirement. Doane College’s new field house will bear his name. Raymond A. Moore decided to enter the Christian ministry while his father was pastor at Crete. Raymond is stationed as Methodist minister at Douglas, Arizona. Betty Hronik is married to Robert Favre, a minister of the Nebraska Conference of the United Methodist Church. Jerrine Bouska is the wife of Roland Larson, a Congregational minister serving as chairman of a church committee interested in Interfaith Housing. Mrs. Vera Roland Barron served, for a time, as the head of an Esther home in Cincinnati, Ohio.

 

PASTORS APPOINTED TO

GRACE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

 

1869 L. Oliver, Wm. Worley 1904 T.H. Worley
1870 A. G. Blackwell 1905 T.H. Worley
1871 (D. S. Kenney) 1906 J. W.S. Dean
1872 H. Presson 1907 J. W.S. Dean
1873 A. J. Swartz; D. Marquette 1908 Harry F Huntington
1874 D. W. Kreidler, G. H. Cooper 1909 Harry F Huntington
1875 S. P. VanDoozer 1910 Harry F Huntington
1876 F. Curtis 1911 Harry F Huntington
1877 (F. A. Burdick) 1912 John Calvert
1878 W. F. Warren 1913 John Calvert
1879 J. M. Richards 1914 John Calvert
1880 J. P. Roe 1915 Harry E Hess
1881 J. P. Roe 1916 Harry E Hess
1882 J. W. Zelley 1917 Harry E Hess
1883 J. E. Rippetoe 1918 WB Bliss
1884 J. E. Rippetoe 1919 WB Bliss
1885 (J. W. Lewis) 1920 FA Carmony
1886 A. C. Calkins 1921 FA Carmony
1887 W. H. Vance 1922 WH Shoaf
1888 W. H. Vance 1923 RJ McKenzie
1889 W. H. Vance 1924 RJ McKenzie
1890 T. B. Hilton 1925 RJ McKenzie
1891 L. T. Guild 1926 WC Kemble
1892 L. T. Guild 1927 WB Pardun
1893 J. F. Kemper 1928 Richard Gibb
1894 J. F. Kemper 1929 Richard Gibb
1895 L. T. Guild 1930 GW Ballard
1896 L. T. Guild 1931 GW Ballard
1897 R. Pearson 1932 Harry F Huntington
1898 R. Pearson 1933 Harry F Huntington
1899 R. Pearson 1934 Harry F Huntington
1900 W.B. Alexander 1935 Leslie A Moore
1901 H. G. Wilcox 1936 Leslie A Moore
1902 H. G. Wilcox 1937 Leslie A Moore
1903 H. G. Wilcox 1938 Handel Collier
1939 Handel Collier 1968 Merton D. Wyatt
1940 Handel Collier 1969 Merton D. Wyatt
1941 Handel Collier 1970 Merton D. Wyatt
1942 Gale A. Moon 1971 James F. Tomlinson
1943 Gale A. Moon 1972 James F. Tomlinson
1944 Gale A. Moon 1973 James F. Tomlinson
1945 Gale A. Moon 1974 James F. Tomlinson
1946 Gale A. Moon 1975 James F. Tomlinson
1947 Bert A. Bessire 1976 Emmett T. Streeter
1948 Bert A. Bessire 1977 C. Grant Story
1949 Bert A. Bessire 1978 C. Grant Story
1950 Z. F. Meyer 1979 C. Grant Story
1951 Z. F. Meyer 1980 C. Grant Story
1952 Z. F. Meyer 1981 C. Grant Story
1953 Z. F. Meyer 1982 Thomas D. Peck
1954 Z. F. Meyer 1983 Thomas D. Peck
1955 Z. F. Meyer 1984 Thomas D. Peck
1956 Richard E. Atherton 1984 (January) Edward G. Bonneau
1957 Richard E. Atherton 1985 Edward G. Bonneau
1958 Richard E. Atherton 1986 Edward G. Bonneau
1959 Richard E. Atherton 1987 Edward G. Bonneau
1960 Richard E. Atherton 1988 Edward G. Bonneau
1961 Cecil B. Green 1989 Edward G. Bonneau
1962 Cecil B. Green 1990 J. B. Choate
1963 Cecil B. Green 1991 J. B. Choate
1964 Cecil B. Green 1992 J. B. Choate
1965 Cecil B. Green 1993 David N. McCreary
1966 Cecil B. Green 1994 David N. McCreary
1967 Cecil B. Green

 

For a general history of the United Methodist Church, click here.



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