Prairie Union Baptist Church

The Prairie Union Baptist Church is about a mile from the original Bright homestead, between Stella and Shubert, Nebraska.  My great grandfather, Arthur Williams, helped build the church, and many Brights, Timmermans and Williams are buried in the adjoining cemetery. My parents were married there. The church was struck by lightning on two separate occasions, and rebuilt each time. – Curt Bright

For fifty years Prairie Union Baptist church has been rendering valuable service, and is yet in a very flourishing condition. Linked with the early history of this society are the names of Thomas Higgins and his wife, Catherine Davis Higgins, who, in an early day when there were no meeting houses and no facilities for public worship opened up their dwelling of the use of a union Sunday School, the meeting of which were subsequently transferred to a school house near Mr. Higginsí home. It was at the latter place on March 3, 1867, that the Welsh Baptist church, which later became the Prairie Union Baptist church, was organized. There is no recorded action on the part of the congregation relating to the calling of a pastor prior to March 9, 1872, but it has been learned from some of the older members that Rev. J. T. James supplied the church with preaching during the interval.

At a regular covenant meeting, held on February 28, 1869, it was voted that, as the membership consisted of both Welsh and English, the services of Rev. E. D. Thomas be secured in addition to those of Reverend James, so that the congregation could have preaching in both the English and Welsh languages. On April 9, 1869, a the regular meeting of the year, it was voted that the name of the church be changed, and in the place of being called the Welsh Baptist church the society was henceforth designated as the Prairie Union Baptist church. In 1870 some interesting changes were made in the church. Formerly the Sunday school was undenominational, but in the April of the year mentioned, it became a Baptist Sunday school. Later in the year, in December, at a regular meeting it was resolved to eliminate the clause in the church’s constitution requiring member be received by the laying on of hands. This plainly shows what had been the custom of the church in the reception of new members.

Almost until 1872 the church had been without a place of worship of it own, but on November 26 of the year preceding it was voted, at a business meeting to erect a church edifice, and a board of trustees, which was to have this matter in hand, consisted of the following: Thomas Higgins, J. D. Jones, B. S. Hart, E. D. Evans and J. B. Evans. To acquire funds for this purpose the church applied for loans to the American Baptist Home Mission Society for five hundred dollars in April, 1873. During this year, the house was enclosed and occupied by not finished. Before the completion of it, the house took fire and was, with great difficulty, saved from total loss. On August 3, 1874, the new house of worship was formally dedicated and in the following September the association convened in it. It was not, however, until February 27, 1879, the church paid one hundred dollars, the balance of its indebtedness on the erection of the edifice. This old church served the needs of the congregation until September 15, 1905, when it was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. Immediately afterward a committee was appointed to plan for a new building, and it was decided to erect a new edifice which would cost about three thousand dollars. The work was begun in November and carried on throughout the winter. It was completed on August 12, 1906, and dedicated on September 12, free from debt, the total cost being four thousand dollars.

During the fifty years of its existence this society has been quite active. In the history of the church the total number baptized has been two hundred and ninety-five, the total membership, four hundred and seventy-four; and the present membership is one hundred and twenty-four. Several pastors have served the needs of the congregation during its existence; they are: Revs. J. T. James and E. D. Thomas, 1867-72; D. V. Thomas, 1872-76; B. B. Lawler, 1876-82; John Powell, 1882-84; I. D. Newell, 1884-88; J. C. Lewis, 1888-90; F. C. Bingham, 1890-93; J. W. Evans, 1894-97; A. B. Bohannon, 1897-99; I. D. Newell, 1899-1904; D. L. McBride, 1904-05; F. C. Lusk, 1906-09; Samuel Miller, 1910-15; and E. H. Teall, 1915 to the present time, 1917.

History of Richardson County Nebraska
by Lewis C. Edwards
B. F. Bowen & Company, Inc.
Indianapolis, Indiana, 1917
p. 382-384

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