Carrie Isabelle Rice Raymond
by Jim McKee
Carrie Isabelle Rice, the youngest of four, was born in South Valley, New York on July 3, 1857 to Edgar and Francis Rice. When Carrie was quite young the family moved to Iowa. Her early interest in music developed at 10 when she learned to play a reed organ and by 14 was playing the church’s pipe organ. After studying piano and organ in Brooklyn, New York, she moved to Washington DC where she taught music and developed as a professional organist.
The exact year she moved to Lincoln is unclear but is probably 1885 when her name appeared in a local newspaper as Carrie Rice. Her arrival in the capital city approximately coincided with that of Peter Voris M. Raymond who moved from Fargo, North Dakota to join brother A. Sheldon Raymond and Isaac M. Raymond, both of whom lived at 1642 R Street and operated a wholesale grocery business. Within a year Peter and Carrie married, living first at 1600 R and then moving to 1241 L Street where they were joined by Carrie’s sister Stella, also a musician and teacher.
In November of 1886, Carrie joined First Congregational Church which was erecting a new building at 13th and L Streets. A. S. Raymond, having donated the organ for the new church, “suggested his sister-in-law, Mrs. P. V. M. Raymond, might be chosen organist.” Carrie thus became the first organist for the church which was dedicated January 9, 1887. The newspaper later wrote that “nothing could have been more fortunate not only for the church, but for the whole city—not only for that time but for many years after.”
Two years later Carrie initiated a May Festival which grew so large it had to be moved to the Lansing Theatre at 13th and P Streets. About the same time, Carrie also established the Lincoln Oratorio which the newspaper lauded but added that “only Mrs. Raymond could love that wiggling mass enough to make them hearable.” During the summer of 1892, Carrie also became the director of music at the Crete, Nebraska Chautauqua. Chancellor Canfield appointed Carrie the Director of Vocal Music at the University in 1894 where she established the University Chorus and directed the University orchestra. The same year Carrie received much praise when she was the organist at the wedding of Nell Cochrane and Frank Woods. Because she was not only a performer and teacher of music but also noted as an arranger for many instruments, the newspaper said “we have here…a musical genius.”
By this time the Raymonds had moved to 1414 L Street and in 1901 Carrie had been the organist at the Pan American Exposition, a world’s fair, held in Buffalo, New York. Although her husband’s death date is elusive, in 1904 Carrie was noted as the widow of P. V. M. Raymond.
In 1923, First Congregational merged with Plymouth Congregational, moving to the latter’s third building at 17th and A Streets where Carrie utilized the organ donated by J. C. Seacrest. The following year Carrie was honored by the Lincoln Kiwanis Club with their Distinguished Service Award for her many community services including the annual production of the “Messiah.”
Carrie Belle Raymond died October 3, 1927 and was buried in Iowa. Her death preceded the completion of First-Plymouth Congregational Church’s new building at 20th and D Streets. Some sources say the iconic 171 foot tall carillon tower was named in her honor, other sources say “the 48 bells in the carillon tower are a memorial to Mrs. Carrie Belle Raymond” while still others say the lowest and largest bell, with the note of “C,” weighing 4, 592 pounds, was donated by the Woman’s Association of First-Plymouth Church and dedicated to Carrie. In 1932, the University of Nebraska’s women’s dormitory Raymond Hall/Carrie Belle Raymond Hall was additionally dedicated in her honor.
Though confusion around her name and many dates and even why she came to Lincoln persist with statements like “First Church discovered and brought her to Lincoln,” it is obvious that Carrie Belle Raymond was most obviously a treasure and “musical genius” for all time.