I tried to think up some flowery language that would serve as an attention-getting introduction, but my mind is currently incapable of being overtly creative. Anyway, enjoy part two of our church’s history as told in 1893 by J.H. Stewart.
“THE NEBRASKA BAPTIST ASSOCIATION –
This association was organized in May 1858, and in September the first anniversary was held at Plattsmouth with an entire state membership of ninety-seven – the aggregate of seven churches. In 1865, our membership had increased to 270 and the number of churches ten. In 1867, we had 504 members and sixteen churches. This being the year of the organization of the Nebraska Baptist State Convention, the association closed. The Omaha Baptist Association was formed April 30, 1867, at Cuming City, its object being to form an association of all the Baptist churches north of the Platte. At their second anniversary in 1868, they report four churches with a total membership of 336. In 1892, the Omaha Association reported twenty-one churches and 1,810 members.
NEBRASKA BAPTIST STATE CONVENTION –
At a meeting called to organize a State Convention on November 12, 1867, at Bellevue, only a few delegates were present. The object was to unite the Baptist churches of the state in the dissemination of the principles of the gospel as understood by them, into all parts of the state. This is the same year the Territory of Nebraska threw off its swaddling clothes and became a vigorous, healthy state. The first anniversary was held in Nebraska City on November 7, 1868. Six churches were represented and there were 697 Baptists in the state. Over twenty-five years have passed since its organization, and we now number over 250 churches and 15,000 members.
HISTORY OF THE BAPTIST CHURCH OF BLAIR, NEBRASKA –
Early in the year 1869, the Sioux City Pacific Railroad Company erected a depot and laid out the town of Blair, and at a public sale of lots on the 10th day of March, $61,000 worth were sold and the work of building a town begun.
Ever ready to ‘go up and take the land,’ the work of evangelizing the town was soon afterward commenced, and in this short reminiscence we must not forget to give due credit Rev. E.G.O. Groat, then pastor of the Cuming City Baptist Church, who on the last Sunday in April, preached the first sermon ever delivered in Blair, choosing as his text, Romans the 1st chapter and the 15th verse: ‘For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.’ This sermon was delivered from the platform of the depot, we having been promised the waiting room, but the agent went away riding and locked the door. For several succeeding Sundays services were held in a car on the track. In June, this congregation (for no church had yet been organized) was invited to occupy a hall owned by Dexter and Smith, whereas the record says on the 18th day of September 1869, the First regular Baptist church was formed, Rev. E.G.O. Groat and wife, Brother Nathan Carter and wife, Brother Burtis Rosa and Brother J.S. Stewart and wife being the original organizers, one of the original number, Brother J.S. Stewart being a member of the church today. In October 1869, occurred the first baptism in the town of Blair, it being Mrs. Burtis Rosa. During the existence of the First Baptist Church as an organization, her people have enjoyed the pastoral watch care of fourteen clergymen as follows: Rev. E.G.O. Groat, Rev. J.M. Taggart, Rev. I. Elkin, Rev. J.D.P. Hungate, Rev. John Young, Rev. G.W. Taylor, Rev. J.C.H. Read, Rev. Amos Weaver, Rev. O.A. Holmes, Rev. Thomas Anderson, Rev. W.A. Brown, Rev. John V. Whitling with Rev. James Sheppard as present pastor.
At a business meeting of the Cuming City Church held on the 28th day of June 1891, a resolution was passed donating their building to us, the motion being made by Brother A.S. Warrick, and in the summer of 1872 the work of moving the building from its old site about two-and-a-half miles northwest of here, and placing it on the lots on which our new building stands was executed by Mr. Solfer of Omaha at a contract of $450.00.
On the 13th day of June 1873, the building was dedicated by the Blair Baptist Church, at which time $625.00 were pledged toward paying the expenses incurred by removing and repainting. Rev. G.W. Westover of Nebraska City who was one of the ablest clergymen in the state, preached the dedicatory sermon.
In 1879 during the pastorate of Rev. J.C.H. Read, the parsonage was erected, and in 1884, while Rev. O.A. Holmes was acting pastor, the addition or main part was built.
The experiences of nearly twenty years of worship in the old building have witnessed many seasons of rejoicing and many hearts have been made glad through their soul’s salvation in the building we have just vacated, cold and lonesome, but we hope not to remain so.
On account of the dilapidated condition of the church building and the increase in membership, our quarters were found inadequate for the demands. Therefore, during the winter of 1892, steps were taken toward the erection of this building; On April 17, a roll call of the church was held and $3,000 was subscribed to the project. A building committee consisting of John A. Moore, J.S. Stewart, Jacob Carter, Isaac Thompson, and E.A. Stewart were elected and a soliciting committee consisting of Rev. J. Sheppard, J.H. Stewart, Mrs. A.J. Kenny, and Mrs. C.L. Carrigan. During April, a lot was purchased on the southwest corner of Washington and Second streets at a cost of $150.00 and the parsonage moved thereon by Z.T. Brunton. The contract of erecting the church was awarded to J.S. Riddler, and on the 27th of August, the cornerstone was laid, a large audience was present and there was great rejoicing that the cornerstone of our Temple was laid. Remarks were made by Rev. C.W. Savidge, Rev. F.W. Foster, of Omaha; Rev. F.E. Hudson, of Tekamah, and Rev. John Power, Rev. H.H. Millard and others of our own city. The building was accepted by the building committee on January 21st, turned over to the trustees of the church – J.S. Stewart, H. Savage and F.W. Kenny on February 4th as complete.
Of the trials, hardships, difficulties and sacrifices to accomplish our purpose many present known, and we will not mention them, but suffice it to say our church you now behold is completed, paid for, and the injunction of St. Paul, ‘owe no many anything’ written upon its walls.
Amount expended in lot, moving and repairing parsonage, $538.34; amount expended in church and furniture, $5,800; balances in the hands of the treasurer of the building committee, $7.00. From a membership of seven in 1869, we have grown to 171 in 1893.”
That’s it for part two of our church’s history! Don’t fear – there’s also a history of Sunday school, women’s ministry and more! Stay tuned.