A History of Nebraska Methodism



FOURTH PERIOD. (1880-1904.)


   IT is characteristic of the spirit of Methodism that among the first things the Church thought of and planned for was a great Christian institution to be called "Simpson University," to be located in the city of Omaha. During the first session of the Nebraska Territorial Legislature, in the winter of 1855, the following charter was procured:


   To incorporate Simpson University.
   SECTION 1. Be it enacted by the Council and House of Representatives of the Territory of Nebraska, that Rev. W. H. Goode, J. H. Hopkins, W. D. Gage, Charles Elliott, Moses F. Shinn, Thomas Benton, Jr., O. B. Selden, John B. Robinson, Mark W. Izzard, Thomas B. Cuming, Charles B. Smith, W. N. Byers, and J. P. Buckingham, with their associates and successors, be, and are hereby erected a body politic and corporate, by the name and style of Simpson University, at Omaha, Nebraska. For the present the aforesaid individuals shall constitute a Board of Trustees.
   SEC. 2. The object of said corporation shall be the promotion of the general interests of education, and to qualify students to engage in the several pursuits and




employments of society, and to discharge honorably and usefully the various duties of life.
   That this action was taken prior to the organization of the Church in Omaha or anywhere else in the Territory, as is probable, and before a single church or parsonage building had been erected, and when there were not to exceed 300 members in the entire Territory of Nebraska, is creditable as indicating the interest the Church always took in the work of Christian education. And that this enterprise was not merely local, is shown by the following report which was adopted at the first session of the Kansas and Nebraska Conference, in October, 1856:



   Your Committee to whom was referred the subject of education in this Conference, have had the same under consideration, and beg leave to present the following as their report:
   We are gratified in being able to present to this Conference the fact that our brethren in Nebraska Territory have taken such initiatory steps as to secure the passage of an act of incorporation for the "Simpson University," located at or near Omaha City, the capital of Nebraska Territory, and that the trustees of said institution have been presented with the generous donation of fifty acres of ground, from Rev. Moses F. Shinn, of the Iowa Annual Conference, now residing in Omaha, and twenty five acres more, from Hon. T. B. Cuming, secretary of the Territory of Nebraska, lying adjacent to the town plat of Omaha City, now worth not less than one hundred dollars per acre, as the permanent site of the university,



and for university purposes; and the title to the same will be confirmed to the said Board of Trustees for that object; therefore,
   Resolved, First, That each presiding elder be requested and is hereby instructed and authorized by this Conference, to give especial attention to the subject of education, and where lands and tenements can be secured by donation for educational purposes they take such measures as may be necessary to secure, in fee simple, such lands for sites of seminaries or universities, and their building and endowment by legislative action and otherwise.
   Second. That as a Conference we will co-operate with the Board of Trustees of Simpson University as far as practicable in their efforts to establish and sustain a first-class university at Omaha City, Nebraska Territory, by our patronage and otherwise.

I. F. COLLINS, Chairman.

   Defective titles and consequent litigation defeated this first enterprise.
   Another enterprise was projected in 1857 at Oreapolis, just south of the Platte, and near its mouth. Besides the indorsement of the Conference, Oreapolis Seminary had the backing of some of the wisest and strongest men of Methodism outside the Territory, among them Professor George Loomis, a leading educator, and Hon. John Evans, who had already borne a conspicuous part in the founding of Evanston, Illinois, which was named after him, and the establishment of the great Northwestern University at that place, and who was afterward Governor of Colorado, and contributed largely to the found



ing of Denver University. Even Dr. John Dempster, first president of Garrett Biblical School, proposed to become responsible for a theological school as a department if ten students could be found. But these men themselves soon saw that the enterprise was premature and withdrew, and soon after, the Conference withdrawing its support, the school was abandoned.
   Though this second effort proved abortive, the Conference still maintained the receptive mood assumed as we have seen at the first session of their Conference, with standing instructions to pastors and presiding elders to be on the lookout for opportunities to locate an institution of learning. And if propositions from ambitious towns inviting the Church to locate its educational institution in their community could be regarded as opportunities, there were many such in the first twenty-five years of her history. But in almost every case this very ambition defeated the project by insisting that the institution should be a university or, at the very least, a college.
   A typical case of this kind was the proposition from Peru, under the leadership of Rev. H. Burch, the pastor, backed by the Church and the leading citizens of the place. A generous offer was made on condition that the Church would establish a school of college grade. This the Conference refused to do deeming such an undertaking premature and unwise, but offered to accept the proposition on the basis of an institution of seminary grade. But as the subscriptions of the people of Peru had been made on the basis of a college, the citizens declined the Conference proposal and offered their bonus to the State for the establishment of a normal school, and it was accepted.



   There are few places of any importance in the eastern portion of the State which did not during the first twenty-five years make a definite proposition of some kind, or were in Picturesome way considered in relation to the location of a school. Many private enterprises were begun by Methodist ministers or laymen, and these were constantly knocking at the door of the Conference for adoption as Conference schools, or at least some kind of recognition. Among these private enterprises may be mentioned the Nemaha Collegiate Institute, by Professor J. M. McKenzie, who afterward served the State as State Superintendent of Instruction, and the Church in connection with York College; a seminary at Nebraska City, by Rev. P. T. Kenney; at Factoryville, on the Weeping Water, by Mrs. Nichols; at Fremont, by Rev. Mendenhall; at Osceola, Rev. J. J. Fleharty established Nebraska Wesleyan University, which, on the location of the seminary at York, he removed to Fullerton. Having failed to secure adoption by the Nebraska Conference, he still hoped he might find favor with the North Nebraska Conference, but in this he also failed, and the Fullerton school was abandoned when the Central City School was established.
   Thus there was scarcely a session of the Conference that this matter of the duty of the Church to establish a school of some kind was not considered. In 1870, in order evidently immediately to affect something along



this line the following action was taken: "That a committee of six members be appointed to receive applications for the location of one or two schools, to be under the control and Picturepatronage of the Conference, but for which no financial responsibility shall be assumed, said committee to report at the State Convention" (which had been provided for). Not being ready to report at the convention the committee obtained leave to report to the succeeding Conference at Lincoln, which they did as follows: "Propositions have been received from Papillion, Bellevue, Lincoln, Pawnee City, Weeping Water, and Ashland, each of which has its advantages." Of these it was decided that the choice lay between Ashland and Bellevue. In view of existing numerical and financial conditions it was still deemed inexpedient to attempt to locate a college, but nine trustees were appointed and empowered to accept propositions for a seminary. But at the session of 1872 the trustees reported that no acceptable proposition had been received. They were continued and instructed to meet at the Methodist church at Lincoln on the first Tuesday of the following October, and if practicable make final choice of a location. This Board was compelled to report to the Conference of 1873 that they had not been able to fix on any location for a Conference seminary, but it was resolved "that we will never cease our efforts to build an institution of learning, such as the times demand, until crowned with abundant success."



But before that success was achieved the dreadful grasshopper scourge of 1874-77 intervened, making the postponement of the long-cherished object to a later date necessary.
Picture   In 1879, however, the Conference established a seminary at York, Nebraska, with Rev. E. Thomson as principal. Thus, while Nebraska Methodism had from the first year of its organized existence watched prayerfully and carefully for an opportunity to establish an institution of learning and actually made one attempt, and entertained a large number of propositions from ambitious towns, the Church did not really, in an official way, adopt an institution till its membership had reached above ten thousand and the population of the State had reached 450,000. This seeming failure during the first twenty-five years of her history to formally enter the educational field, was not the result of indifference, or a want of appreciation of its importance, but all efforts prior to 1879 were premature, the population and membership being insufficient in numbers, and what there were being incapable by reason of financial limitations to sustain even a seminary. But from now on she has had from one to three in the field.
   York Seminary continued to prosper, and in 1883 the grade was raised to that of college. In 1883 Rev. R. N. McKaig, D. D., succeeded Dr. Thomson as president.



   In 1884, three years after its organization, the North Nebraska Conference appointed J. B. Maxfield, N. H. Gale, D. Marquette, J. L. St. Clair, William Worley, J. Fowler, J. B. Leedom, a commission with power to act, and instructed them to locate and establish a seminary within ninety days. The commission met at Fremont, and from a number of propositions accepted the one from Central City, and established a seminary. A building worth $10,000 was erected, and Rev. J. B. Maxfield, D. D., was elected president.
   In 1885, by the action of the Conference, it was raised to the grade of a college, and named Nebraska Central College.
   The institution prospered, and the attendance increased from about thirty the first year to one hundred and fifty at one time. In 1887, Dr. J. B. Maxfield resigned the presidency on account of broken health and D. Marquette was elected to succeeed (sic) him. But the task proved too much for his physical strength, and he, too, was compelled to resign in 1888, and was succeeded by Rev. J. W. Shenk. He soon resigned and was followed by Rev. H. A. Crane, and he by F. W. Ware.
   In 1886 Rev. Allen Bartley and others founded the town of Bartley in the Republican Valley, and established Mallalieu University, with a view to its ultimate adoption by the West Nebraska Conference, and Edward Thomson was called to the presidency. While it was never formally adopted by the West Nebraska Conference, it was so far recognized as to be authorized to send representatives to the commission that was to unify the educational interests of the State.



   Thus in 1886, there were three colleges, one in each Conference, struggling for existence. The York and Central City institutions were within thirty-five miles of each other, and each was burdened with debt, and being Conference schools were limited to their respective Conferences for patronage and support. The struggle seemed hopeless and the prospect for building up a strong, high-grade institution of learning, worthy of the Church of John Wesley, seemed to many remote, if ever attainable. Mallalieu, while possessing a pretentious title, had not even been formally adopted by the Church.
   This was the educational situation when Bishop Fowler came into the State to preside over the three Conferences then existing. He found that Nebraska Methodism was already the victim of a tendency to the undue multiplication of institutions, each Conference insisting on having its own high-grade school of learning. This makes it impossible for either to realize the best results in the establishment of a strong institution.
   Bishop Fowler proceeded to lay the matter before the three Nebraska Conferences over which he presided. The result was the following concurrent action, which originated in the North Nebraska Conference, that being held first that year, and was adopted by the other two:
   Resolved, That while there is so much reason for rejoicing because of zeal for our educational interests, we also desire to guard against the disaster sure to come from undue multiplication, within narrow territorial limits, of institutions of learning of the same grade; and, in order to secure the unification of our educational work in the State of Nebraska, therefore we, as a Conference,



request our presiding bishop to appoint a committee of five, to act with a committee of the same number from each of the other Nebraska Conferences together with Bishops C. H. Fowler, Thos. Bowman, H. W. Warren, and C. D. Foss, as a joint commission, to take such action toward this unification as they may deem proper. And we also request Bishop Fowler, as chairman of said committee, to invite this suggested action on the part of these Conferences and the co-operation of these aforementioned bishops.
   Resolved, That the Board of Trustees of Nebraska Central College be requested to appoint three of their number to represent them in the commission to consider the unification of our educational work in the State of Nebraska.
   Besides the four bishops named, the following persons were appointed on the commission:


   Representing the North Nebraska Conference: Rev. J. W. Shenk, Rev. J. W. Phelps, Rev. A. Hodgetts, L. H. Rogers, A. J. Anderson.
   Representing the West Nebraska Conference: Rev. T. B. Lemon, D. D., Rev. L. Stevens, Rev. W. C. Wilson, Rev. G. W. Martin, Rev. P. C. Johnson.
   Representing the Nebraska Conference: Rev. W. G. Miller, D. D., Rev. C. F. Creighton, D. D., Rev. H. T. Davis, Hon. J. W. Small, Hon. C. C. White.


   Representing the "Nebraska" Central College:" Rev. B. Maxfield, D. D., Rev. David Marquette, Hon. N. R. Persinger.



   Representing "Mallalieu University" Rev. L. H. Eddleblute, Rev. Jas. Leonard, Rev. Allen Bartley.
   Representing the "Methodist Episcopal College of Nebraska:" Rev. R. N. McKaig, F. K. Atkins, F. L. Mayhew.
   The Commission met at the call of Bishop Fowler, at Lincoln, Nebraska, December 15th, and continued in session three days. All the members were present, including Bishops Bowman and Warren. Bishops Fowler and Foss could not be present. The following telegram explains the absence of Bishop Fowler: "Chicago, Illinois, December 16, 1886. - Two days lost by two derailings. Baggage just in from wreck. Can not reach you. Very sorry.
   Bishop Bowman was elected chairman of the commission.
   After a careful consideration of all the interests involved, the following plan of unification was adopted:


   First. - That trustees, to be hereafter appointed, secure a charter for a university to include as contributory or allied institutions the schools and colleges at present or hereafter coming under the control of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Nebraska.
   Second. - That all schools or colleges, which are now or may hereafter become the property of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Nebraska shall be under the control of the University trustees, but all the property, real, personal, or mixed, shall be held and controlled by their own local boards of trustees.



   Third. - The first Board of University Trustees shall consist of seven trustees, from within the boundaries of each Conference in Nebraska to be appointed by this commission, and approved by the several Conferences to which they belong, and that hereafter the trustees shall consist of seven persons from each and every Conference, elected in four annual classes by their respective Conferences, The persons thus elected by the several Conferences shall constitute the local boards of the several colleges within the bounds of their respective Conferences.
   These several local boards of trustees to hold and control the property of each college as above provided, and each local board may nominate so many additional members as each separate Conference may determine to elect, who, in addition to said local board, shall perform the duties of said local trustees.
   Fourth. - Duties of the University and College Trustees.
   (a) The University Trustees to have and hold all property belonging to the University proper, and to manage the affairs of the same.
   (b) To determine the course of study, text books to be used, systems of grading, and to do all such other work as appertains, to the general educational interests of the allied colleges. Providing that each college elect its own faculty and arrange for its own internal discipline.
   All other powers remain with the local boards of trustees as defined by their charters and by-laws.
   Fifth. - Any school or college existent, or that may come under the charter of the University, shall be en-



titled to retain its college name, to acquire property to be held for the benefit of such college, to teach regular preparatory and collegiate studies, as far as the end of sophomore year of the university course, and to confer academic and normal degrees. The colleges of the university shall have the same courses of study, use the same text-books, and students of one college shall be entitled to enter the same grade and rank in any college of the university, on certificate of standing, without examination.
   Amendment to Article Fifth.
   The clause in Art. 5 of the above which reads, "as far as the end of the sophomore year," etc., shall be understood to be so interpreted that any college of this university may be graded in its classical curriculum in every detail, so that its classical senior year of graduation shall not be graded higher than the end of the sophomore year of the classical course of the university.
   The following addition was adopted:
   The Board of Trustees shall make the grade of the university equal to that of any Methodist university In the United States.


   Having traced the steps by which, by a process of evolution, this institution came into being, the plan under which it was founded, the subsequent history of its growth and development, contains so much of thrilling interest and far-reaching influence, that a somewhat detailed treatment seems justified.
   Broadly speaking, it may be said that the first ten or twelve years of her history covered a period of as many





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