The First Congregational Church in Crawford, Nebraska, was organized in 1886 by a Home Missionary, the Rev. A.E. Ricker. The first service was held in a tent partially occupied by a storeroom for feed, and in another corner was a barber chair.
The first minister was a student minister, Reverend Irving Meredith, who, with his congregation, met on July 10th 1889 to take preliminary steps to organize a Church and adopt the Dr. Tompkins rule of worship. Reverend Edward H. Pound came in September of 1889. Services were held in the same building until a fire destroyed it and one whole downtown block.
The first persons to become members were: Arthur O. Cheney, Lillie B. Cheney, A. Craig Bowdish and Martha A. Bowdish. The first child to be baptized was Dallas McGregor on November 10, 1889.
On September 10, 1890, it was voted to build a chapel 28' X 28'. Reverend O. Bean, a seminary student and the third minister, was able to obtain a bell for the new building from a church in Massachusetts .
The building was dedicated January 25, 1891, and the church was out of debt. Rev. Pound left shortly after the dedication. The structure is still used today and is shown in 1908 in the black-and-white photograph.
Soon the members voted to ask for a grant of $500 and a loan of $500 to build on the main building of the church. On September 17, 1898, the cornerstone was laid. Reverend Ricker, the first Home Missionary, was invited to take part in the ceremony.
The first sign in the front of the church was put in place March 13, 1913. It was shipped from Chicago. Prices at the time included a minister's salary of $700 a year, a cord of wood cost $3, coal $4/ton, and the janitor was paid $1.50 a week. The entire Thanksgiving offering of $2 went for benevolences. In 1913, a committee was chosen to raise $2000 to remodel and refurnish the building. The pulpit was changed to the west, new pews were purchased to replace the opera chairs, new stained glass windows were ordered costing $240, new carpets laid, and new light fixtures installed.
On February 13, 1913, the "Pound Memorial Library" of 700 to 800 books, was given to the Crawford Public Library by the church. The books had been collected by the members and given to the church.
The new parsonage was completed in 1916, and the old one sold and moved. Sidewalks were built around the property. This was during the pastorate of Reverend Walter C. Rundin, 1912-1917. Reverent W.H. Guest was pastor from 1925-1932. The choir loft was enlarged and the church in general progressed.
More improvements were made on the church and parsonage during the time Reverend Ben Meckel was pastor from 1935-1941. He organized a youth group which was called Comrades of The Way. The present Hammond Organ was purchased and paid for with a lot of effort by several members. Rev. Meckel was called to the service and served as a chaplain during the war.
The Sunday School was organized around 1887. There were classes for every age group. In 1915, there was a Sunday School club called the "NSF Club" which stood for "Never Say Fail!" The pastor's wife, Mrs. Rundin, was the sponsor, and there were 28 members. They disbanded in 1919.
The first meeting of the Ladies Society was held November 5, 1889. Reverent Pound wrote the constitution for them, and he acted as a temporary chairman for the meetings. The dues were 0.25cents and the money went toward the pastor's salary. Later some of their projects were: sharpening scissors for .05cents a pair, tying comforters for .50cents each, and sewing sunbonnets for .25cents apiece if the customer furnished the material. They held Valentine Fairs, Poverty fairs (the proceeds went to the poor), Ice Cream Socials, and Flower Fairs just to name a few. The kitchen was not modern as most of the cooking was done on old wood and coal cookstoves. They served many dinners to raise money and gradually were able to buy dishes cooking utensils, which were badly needed. The name of the "Society" has now been changed to "Women's Fellowship."
Crawford Congregational Church renovation project by Illinois volunteers
by Beth Gibbons, written June 2009
Crawford Congregational Church is 123 years old. This week an all volunteer mission team of 28 people drove from Washington, Illinois, 950+ miles to do renovation work inside and out on the church.
The team from Grace Bible Church drove RVs and cars to Crawford beginning work on Friday June 12 and expect to complete the work by Friday June 19th. They have in the first days made a significant change in the appearance inside.
We, the people of Crawford, look forward with thankful hearts to a renewal of the building. Renovation projects are inside and out. The group put in new floor tile in the kitchen and bathrooms, new bathroom fixtures. They repainted the church basement and painted the bell tower, trim on stained glass windows, completed the handicap ramp and work around honey bees in the attic. One man donned a borrowed bee suit to work around the stinging insects high on the roof.
Workers, ranging in age from 12 to 74, include a professional plumber, carpenters, electricians, carpenters, students, and a nurse. Illinois pastor, Adam Kipp, his wife Cara and year old son Max are happy to be involved with the project. Many willing workers are doing lots of painting and scraping.
Janet Bowman said she is sending an e-mail back to Grace Bible Church each day 'to keep those back home informed on prayer needs and the progress' of the cheerful willing workers. The mission team is appreciative of local hospitality of church members who house church members and furnish food. Some visitors are stying in campers and others are parked at Fort Robinson. They are impressed with the local scenery and nearness to other tourist attractions. Pastor Bill prayed Sunday morning, “May the volunteers from Illinois know how blessed we are to have them here to help with work on repairing our church.” The church has endured and survived the 19th century by keeping doors open to all for so many years. There is an active fellowship on Sunday Mornings with Sunday School and Church services for young ones as well as adults. On Wednesday after school there are programs for young children. Evenings on Wednesday is women's and men's Bible Study and a Youth group meets on Thursday evenings. Pastor Bill Bagley and his wife, Laura keep volunteer team members involved and well fed with food brought from church fellowship. New friends are made as the church looks toward the future serving the community representing Christ and doing his work.
The finished church project will be a joy to behold for all the community to appreciate. Everyone is welcome to visit church services and to come see the finished church renovation.