Rural church celebrates 150 years
LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Many rural Nebraska churches have stood the test of time. The Osage St. Paul’s church north of Cook is one of them.
St. Paul’s UCC is celebrating 150 years on June 5. “After the close of the Civil War, several families came from Illinois, Iowa and Missouri areas and started trekking through this area,” church member Lonnie Damme said. Those families settled in the area, and began farming. One of the early pioneers was Lonnie Damme’s great-great-grandfather. “In 1871, the people missed their family churches from back home, and decided to start a church here in what is now known as Osage precinct of Otoe and Johnson County where they settled,” Damme said.
The church actually started the church in a small public school in Osage precinct. “Thirteen names actually signed the original constitution, and one of them was my great-great-grandfather Fritz Damme,” Damme said.
Many descendants of those original founders are still a part of the church today. “I personally have seven generations who have been through this church,” Damme said.
While the church started in 1871, the congregation bought the land where the current church, parsonage, and cemetery now stands today in 1872. The original church was built in 1878. “And then it was followed up in September of 1911, when they erected the new church building. That’s the current church structure,” Damme said.
As you might imagine, this church means a lot to the congregation. “I just like the heritage of it,” Damme said. “I still farm the 200 acres that surrounds the church. I’m the fifth generation to have lived on the farm, and farmed on it.”
The church may be small, but the church is well-known for its important outreach programs, including a local food pantry. “We average about 43 families from 16 local counties, one over in Kansas,” church member Bob Fisher said. “They drive all the way over here, because they have relatives in Beatrice and Falls City. We also serve 98 individual family members. We just do that once a month. It is the third Thursday of every month from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. At Christmas time we give donations to the Beatrice State Developmental Center for their use, and we also participate in Operation Christmas child.”
Church pastor Ken West says the fact that the church is so giving, is just one of the big highlights. “Whenever you need something, people are ready to help,” West said. “If there’s a tragedy, like the other day we had a windstorm come through and some trees got knocked down. The men of the church just lickety-split got here quick and got everything cleaned up.”
As church members mark the 150th anniversary, they are finding it fascinating to consider the church’s past. For example, German was spoken here in the early years. “On the third Sunday of every month, the sermon would be in German until 1930, when they stopped doing that,” church member Linda Graham said. “The men used to sit on the west side of the church, and the women on the east side. The young children would sit with the women, and the boys after they were confirmed would move to the men’s side. But around 1944, a young couple that got married, they were the first couple to sit together. And that started the couples to sit together!”
These days the church is much more modern, offering a fellowship hall that was built in 1996. In 2008, the congregation built an addition to the fellowship hall, and built a pastor’s office. Everyone is now happy to celebrate the church’s 150th anniversary. “My family’s gone here, I was baptized, confirmed here,” Graham said. “I moved away for a while, just moved back recently and to me it’s important, I have a lot of relatives who are in the cemetery here. You feel at home.” The congregation looks forward to calling this church home for years to come.
Copyright 2022 KOLN. All rights reserved.