History of our Congregation
-by Jim McKee
We know little about the original congregation of what today is First-Plymouth Congregational Church and only a bit about the village then known as Lancaster, a name borrowed from the county in 1855 one year after the territory of Nebraska formed. The village was formed in 1864 by a group of eight men from Nebraska City who planned a Methodist Protestant female seminary on an 80 acre site which sat on the north side of today’s O Street from about 5th to 14th Streets. The 1864 30 by 50 foot two-story stone seminary building sat just north of today’s northeast corner of 9th and P Streets. It was in this building that six people met on August 19, 1866 and formed the First Congregational Church of Lancaster County.
Of the charter members, three came by letter from Presbyterian Churches, Mrs. Langton from the Methodist Protestant Church and two by profession of faith.
About Mrs. Welthy P. Gregory we know nothing but her name, though she may have been related to Mary E. Gregory who we know only by the fact that she married Lewis A. Goff and moved to Omaha in 1868. Attorney John S. Gregory moved to Lancaster County from Michigan in the summer of 1862, lived first in a dugout on the bank of Salt Creek, later built a small frame house near what today would be Charleston Street and became the first postmaster in the area in 1863 at a point he named Gregory’s Basin and received a salary of $1 a month. John was later named the first deacon in First Congregational Church. Philester Jessup, probably a farmer, came from Palmyra, New York and was buried in Wyuka Cemetery in March of 1891. Ann M. Langton lived at about 230 North 9th Street in one of the four houses in Lancaster in 1866. Her husband, though not a charter member of the church, was later County Treasurer, County Clerk and on the local school board. As the village grew, it was their milk house that served as the first jail. F. A. Bidwell was a member of Lancaster’s first school board but by 1872 had moved to York, Nebraska with the Mayflower Colony and established a Congregational church which first met in his office.
After the organization, which was aided by Rev. Reuben Gaylord of First Congregational Church in Omaha, which he also formed, and the American Home Missionary Society, Rev. E. C. Taylor of Weeping Water, South Bend and Ashland preached “nearly every alternate” Sunday. In 1866, services were first held in the seminary building but the following year the Methodists built a small frame church on the southwest corner of 10th and Q where later Congregational services were held.
After Nebraska’s statehood in 1867, the village of Lancaster was renamed Lincoln and on April 1, 1868 the church name became the First Congregational Church of Lincoln.