Last updated: March 23, 2009
July 9, 1986
by Mark Lohr
Churches provide guidance through decades
As Lusk celebrates 100 years, it is of some interest to note the beginnings of some of the various churches in the community. There are at least 13 churches in town at this point. Eight of those were established before 1950, but five have since the Diamond Jubilee of 1961.
In the last 10 years, the Niobrara Ministerial Association has been revived. Participation is voluntary. The association is not a policy making body but exists more for the purpose of fellowhip and to promote the spirit of unity among churches. Currently eight churches are represented at the meetings.
One of the churches represented in the association was already committed to writing a history. The Congregational Church is also celebrating its centennial, and Gerald Bardo has done extensive research which appears in bound form. Some of the churches had never written any sort of history of their service to the community.
Several months ago, each person in attendance at the regular meeting agreed to try to provide a history of his congregation that could be included in the Lusk Herald Centennial Editon. The accounts are not intended to be complete or exhaustive, but rather to provide a brief record that can be preserved in this important edition of the Herald.
Twenty-five years ago, the churches that submitted accounts of their history did so separately. But this year those who submitted histories seemed to feel quite comfortable having them grouped together in one story. Perhaps it is safe to say the spirit of cooperation has grown stronger.
On the frontispiece of the first record book of the Congregational Church of Lusk is a brief account of the "Early History of Lusk Cong'l Church" in which it is recorded, "In May 1886 Rev. Haermon Bross, General Missionary of Cong'l Home Missionary Society, accompanied by Messrs Goodwin, Richard, and Conrad, held a street service in the old town of Silver Cliff, Laramie County, Wyo.
"Rev. Bross brought with him a large tent which he erected and used for a tabernacle." After the Elkhorn and Missouri Valley Railroad construction reached the new town site of Lusk on July 13, 1886, Rev. Bross moved his tabernacle to a lot contributed by the railroad which is now the location of the Baptist Church. First mention of the church in "The Lusk Herald," which was also first established at Silver Cliff, was in the issue of July 16, 1886. Lusk's first public school classes were held in the tabernacle starting in September 1886.
A Sunday School had been organized previously. The church was officially organized previously. The church was officially organized Feb. 20, 1887, and a ladies aid was established. The first regular pastor, Rev. D. T. Jenkins, arrived from Iowa in November, 1887, and the first church building, erected on the site of the tent tabernacle, was dedicated Jan. 22, 1888.
During the next 20 years, the church had that many pastors, some able to tolerate the frontier town only a few months, but one as long as four years. Salaries were as much as $900 a year, and two-thirds of that was paid to the Home Mission Board. A daughter of Rev. Joseph Hancock, the second pastor, married a well-known local pioneer, Lawrence (Yoy) Johnson. For two years, 1894-1896, a woman, Rev. Nina Pettigrew, served the church. Rev. George Dalzell, who had been ordained in the Christian Church, served the Lusk church from 1906-1908 and initiated the establishment of Jireh College.
In 1917, along with the impact of World War I, oil was discovered at Lance Creek, and Lusk became a boom town. The increase of population encouraged the Congregationalists to sell their little church building to the Baptists in 1919. Then the boom faded, and in the face of the world-wide depression the Congregationalists had to give up constructing a new building until 1931. Among pastors serving during this period of discouragement was Rev. Harry W. Johnson (1920-1923) who subsequently became superintendent of the Intermountain Conference and thus maintained ties with the Lusk people for many years. Despite drought and depression, Rev. Edwin S. Ervin (1930-34) was able to lead the church membership in constructing the new edifice dedicated in 1931, and from here on, the history of the church is within the memory of some of the older timers.
Fiftieth anniversary was observed during the pastorate of Rev. Geroge D. Jenkins, 1935-38 (no relative to the first pastor). The pastorates of Rev. Millard Marsja;; (1939-43)and Rev. Lawrence Juell (1944-51)were to see an expansion of the parish to include such outlying churches as Prairie Center, Keeline, Van Tassell, and Manville. Lance Creek and Jay Em at times, but for various reasons including population change, these were eventually discontinued, as other churches were better able to take over.
The longest pastorate was that of Jacob Nein (1951-1961). He came out of the German background, spoke the language fluently and taught German to the high school. This was a period of increased population, and with increased interest of church families it became necessary to expand the church facilities in 1964.
It was a period of strong lay dedication to Sunday School teaching and to a 40 voice choir. Rev. James E. Davis (1961-67), having been a prisoner of the Japanese as a navy chaplain, brought new concepts of the wider mission of the church. Rev. Robert Boutwell (1968-76) was born and reared in Vermont and brought to the western church new concepts of the denomination's beginnings in New England. First educated as an agricultural engineer, he later entered the ministry.
Certainly one of the church's most significant ministries was that of Rev. Frank M. Blish. Retiring in 1970 at Salt Lake City he served a number of interims before coming to Lusk as an interim in 1975. Eventually he served as regular minister for seven years, during which time the building was again expanded and church membership increased. Since then Rev. Roy Howell served 1983-85, and Rev. Nicholas W. Natelli began his present ministry April 1986.
Ministers still living at Centennial time are: Rev. Juell, Rev. Nein, Rev. Boutwell, Rev. Blish in Lusk, and Rev. Howell.
St. George's Episcopal Church
St. George's Episcopal Church was the second church to be built in Lusk and was located across the street from the Congregational Church near the intersection of Third and Elm streets. It was consecrated on May 19, 1899 by the Rt. Rev. Anson Roger Graves and was named St. George's Episcopal Church in honor of the patron Saint of England, as most of the founders were English.
Daniel E. Goddard inspired the organization of the Episcopal church here in 1891 when the town of Lusk was just five years old, with a population of about 300 people. He came to the United States from Wallington Surry, England in 1876 and settled in Alton, KS. His wife, who was from Seven Oakes Kent county, England, followed within a year. In 1886 they moved to Lusk with three children, Elizabeth, who was known as "Lilly", Marian Edith, who was called "Edith", and Daniel H.
The Goddards were indeed "pillars of the church" for the next 20 years. Mr. Goddard, who was Commissioner of Public Lands and Postmaster of Lusk, was choirmaster of the church and served as lay reader on the Sunday when ministers from neighboring towns could not get to Lusk. Mrs. Goddard taught in the Sunday School, and every Wednesday evening the Goddards held a party in their home for the children of the town.
From the time the church was organized in 1891 until the church building was completed in 1899, the Episcopalians held their services each Sunday in whatever space was available. Frequently they borrowed the Congregational Church, but services were also held in the Opera House and Kingman Hall. Ministers came from surrounding towns as the Lusk church did not have a resident rector until 1827.
In 1892 the first women's guild was organized by Rev. Leal of Douglas. Since then there has always been a St. George's Guild. Recorded as charter members were: Mrs. Goodwin, Mrs. Carter, Miss Lulu Goodwin, Mrs. Lee Miller, Mrs. Wm. Holsapple, Mrs. Black, Miss Katie Lewis, Mrs. Hall, Mrs. Willson and Mrs. Goddard.
Bishop Ethelbert Talbot was the first Bishop of the Missionary District of Wyoming from 1887 to 1898. He assisted in the plans for the construction of the church building and on one of his visits to Lusk announced a gift of $500 for the new church from a Sunday School in Massachusetts. Bishop Talbot left Wyoming the year before the completion of St. George's.
In late June of 1896 actual work was begun on the building construction. Subscriptions were promised and work continued steadily until November when funds ran low. By late December construction work was resumed, the interior plastered and a bell hung in the belfry. For many years the frame building with its square tower symbolizing the four Gospels stood virtually unchanged.
Thirty-eight clergymen have served St. George's Parish but only six have resided in Lusk. For the most part the church duties have been administered by pastors shared with other town.
A Deaconess, Miss Mary Bakewell, served the church form 1925 to 1927. Her tenure was plagued with official difficulties because as a Deaconess, rather than an ordained minister, her duties were limited by canon law. The Rev. George Platt came in either 1927 or 1928.
The late teens and twenties were difficult years for St. George's and the ladies of the church were heavily relied upon to keep the work of the church moving forward. They held many fund raising events and during the great depression kept the church alive almost single handedly. From time to time Union services were held with Congregational and Baptist churches. The churches also joined together for Sunday School programs as well as musical programs.
Under the leadership of the Rev. Harold Weaver, who came weekly from Torrington in the late '40's, the church began to make some definite progress. In 1952 the Rev. Raymond Hoffman (1952-1954) established residence in the church's first rectory at 702 S. Linn. This rectory was sold in 1965 and in that same year the residence at 725 South Diamond was purchased to become the new rectory. It was sold in January of 1975.
The Rev. Theodore Foster served St. George's from 1954 to 1965. Rev. James Scott from 1965 to 1967, and Rev. Dean Addington from 1967 to 1971.
In 1956, the lot at 5th and Pine was purchased and the church was moved to its new location. It was enlarged, the interior paneled and redecorated and the exterior faced with stone. A parish hall was added on the west side of the church and named "Erwin Hall" in memory of Matilda Erwin who had been a long time member of the church. The original carved rood screen was carefully dismantled and moved to the new location and reassembled. It continues to adorn the sanctuary of the church today. It was carved by Ellis Johnson (grandfather of Ruth and Roy Johnson, both of Lusk) who came to Wyomiing from Norway and settled in the Silver Cliff area. Johnson was a skilled carpenter and cabinet maker and had the tools required to make the intricate design of this lovely rood screen.
It was during the Rev. Dean Addington's pastorate that the first "Men's Breakfast" was held with Harry Lyon and Rev. Addington acting as hosts. It was also during his tenure that the 70th Anniversary of St. George's was celebrated. At that time a history of the church appeared in the May 22, 1969 issue of the Lusk Herald written by Tutty Collins.
After Rev. Addington was called to serve St. Luke's parish in Buffalo, Wyoming, Rev. Ver Straten arrived in July of 1972. He worked part-time at Peet's Mortuary. He was ordained at St. George's in 1973.
From 1973 to 1975 Rev. Ron Sims came to St. George's from Torrington where he served four churches – Lusk, Torrington, Wheatland and Hartville. He was assisted in the early phase of this ministry by Thomas Polk.
In August of 1976 the Rev. Roger Bond arrived in Lusk and serve as rector until August 1977 when he resigned. Rev. Bond opted to make his home in Lusk where he continues to live at this writing (April 1986). Father Clyde E. Whitney of Scottsbluff finished out the 1977 year and served the parish until March of 1979.
In 1979, the Lusk and Newcastle vestries met to consider yoking the two churches, with a priest serving Newcastle 60% of the time and Lusk 40% with each parish paying accordingly. It was under such an arrangement that the Rev. Charles Wallis entered upon his tenure in April 1979. He developed an "outreach program" which included Bible study classes at Niobrara County Nursing Home as well as church services there one Sunday each month. He was assisted by Helen Oates, a very committed lay reader in the church, who not only continued these services since his leaving Lusk in June of 1983, but has extended the program to include services at the newly built Women's Correctional Center in Lusk. Helen has also represented St. George's Episcopal Church in the Ministerial Association since 1983.
The Rev. William Lamos, rector of All Saint's Episcopal Church in Torrington graciously agreed to come to Lusk two Sundays each month. He began this arrangement in August of 1983 and its has extended to the present time (1986). In addition to Holy Eucharist and Bible Study twice monthly, he also comes to Lusk on special days such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. He might well be known as our "flying priest" for he had years of aviation experience in the military and often flies to Lusk from Torrington to conduct these services.
St. Leo's Catholic
Niobrara County's Catholic Church history actually began in 1851 when the United States Government invited Father DeSmet to the Great Council at Fort Laramie.
As he traveled down the Bozeman Trail enroute to this Great Council he spent a night at Rawhide Butte blessing the travelers and trappers camped there. He was the first Catholic priest known to visit our territory. This portion of Father DeSmet's travels was portrayed annually by Coye Jennewein in the Pageant of the Rawhide.
Father Patrick Brophy, the first priest to come to the Douglas Mission, stopped in Lusk on his way through and said Mass late in 1887.
In November, 1902 Douglas began to have regular services and Reverend Neil Brennan, former chaplain of Fort Douglas, was named the first resident priest of Douglas and its Missions. In 1909 Reverend Ignatius Berna, O.M.C., was sent to erect a new church and rectory in Douglas. It was under his guidance that St. Leo's Catholic Church was erected in the fall of 1912. The contract price was $1535 and the windows cost $165.
Featuring a rock arch over the entrance the church now serves the Seventh Day Adventists. The new St. Leo's Church, west of the present high school, was erected in 1966.
The following items are taken from the June 5, 1913 issue of the Lusk Herald. "Last Friday, May 30, 1913, will long be remembered by the Catholics of Lusk and vicinity, the date being the dedication of their beautiful little chapel. The services began at nine in the morning and closed after eleven, the order of the ceremonies being the blessing of the church, High Mass and confirmation.
The first Nuptial Mass performed in St. Leo's was the wedding of Miss Ella Arnold and Earl Updike October 9, 1913.
The first Requiem Mass was the funeral of Valentine Pfister who came to Wyoming in 1887.
More than 20 priests have served St. Leo's. The first resident priest was Father Othmar Miller, 1948. It was at this time that the church built a lovely home for the resident priests on the lot next to the church building.
In 1938, due to the development of the Lance Creek oil field it had become necessary to have two Sunday Masses in Lusk.
Reverend Michael J. McBrien served the longest time in St. Leo's, coming to Lusk in May 1951 and transferring to Newcastle in September 1960.
Reverend Cornelius O'Connor, native of Donegal, Ireland, replaced Father McBrien in September 1960.
The present pastor is Rev. Anthony Jablonowski. Sister Laurita will also begin serving the church in July 1986.
First Baptist Church
The First Baptist Church of Lusk, Wyoming was organized in a tent with forty members in July 1919. The Rev. J.F. Blodgett was the executive-secretary of the Wyoming Baptist Convention at the time.
Rev. Blodgett and three other ministers assisted the church in a building fund campaign. With financial support from the American Baptist Home Mission Society, the former Congregational church building was purchased.
Rev. Carl Fisher had helped in the organization of the church. He was colporter-missionary and member of the new First Baptist Church. In 1922 he served as pastor. In 1926 Rev. Fisher donated his house to the church for a parsonage. The building was moved and attached to the east (rear) end of the church. However, the new parsonage was small, and not in reality large enough to accommodate a pastor and family.
During about the first five decades of the church, outreach and growth were sustained by revival evangelistic meetings in addition to the regular preaching services and Sunday School. In the more recent years the ministries have centered around worship, Sunday School, and fellowship. Music and good hymn singing have always been a part of the congregation.
During May 1954 the first electronic organ was placed in the church. The organ was a memorial for Rev. Clyde Hampton, who had served the church as both pastor and layman. This Hammond organ was used by the church for thirty years. On Sunday, April 15, 1984, a new $7000 Baldwin organ was installed in the church sanctuary. The funding was from an already existing memorial fund.
After many years of getting along with the small parsonage accommodation that was an annex to the east end of the church building, the church undertook a parsonage project, years about 1951-52. A ranch house was purchased that was located somewhere north of Shawnee, Wy. This house was moved to Lusk and positioned on Barrett Blvd, adjacent to the Town Park. Most of the work to complete the foundation and basement, and the refurnishing necessary to make a better parsonage, was on a voluntary basis by members of the congregation.
Perhaps the most imposing endeavor ever to face the members of the Lusk First Baptist Church was the building of a new church edifice in 1963. The members of the Building committee were Johnnie Thon (chairman), Rosco Kilmer, Paul Morgan, Edna DeCastro, and Ona Higgins. Ex-office members were Pastor Roger Koen, and Church Moderator Venus Kilmer. The new church structure replaced the old wooden frame building that had been built by the Congregational Church about the time Lusk was established, at the same location, Third and Elm Streets.
In 1974, the congregation had the good fortune of having the opportunity to purchase the property just south of and alongside the site of the Baptist church. Accordingly a deal was consummated on Oct. 18, 1974. The newly acquired property consisted of a nice conventional two-bedroom house, and a much smaller three-room dwelling located on the back part of the lot. The larger house was initially converted to Sunday School usage, but in late 1983 was established as the church parsonage. The parsonage on Barrett Blvd. was sold in 1984.
At the inception of the church in 1919, affiliation was with the Northern Baptist Convention. The name was changed to American Baptist Convention in 1950, and upon restructuring the church the present name, American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. was adopted in 1972. The local church is basically independent but holds to certain Baptist doctrines: the Bible is the foundation of belief, inspiration and validity of the Scriptures insisted upon, the Lordship of Christ, immortality and the future life, the brotherhood of man, the need of man's redemption from sin. The ordinances are baptism and the Lord's Supper.
Open Bible Church
In 1943, a group of people, incorporated under the Open Bible Standard Churches, met at the Lusk Café.
The first pastor of this new fellowship of believers was the Rev. Paul Hoover and remained so for nearly two years. As the congregation grew, they moved to the basement of what today is the Sagebrush Flower Shop.
After Rev. Hoover, Rev. Gilbert Henderson served as pastor, but due to illness it was necessary for him to leave after only a few months. Following Rev. Henderson, Rev. and Mrs. Orville LeLaCheur pastored for over a year, and were followed by Rev. and Mrs. Mann Flint, who continued their ministry in Lusk for seven years.
It was during the Flint's pastorate that the new church building located on the corner of 3rd and Poplar was erected in 1950.
In 1953, the Flints completed their ministry and were succeeded by the Rev. and Mrs. Frank Bozart, who served the church for a total of eighteen years. During the Bozart's ministry, the church's mortgage was burned and a beautiful parsonage was purchased.
Since the Bozarts, several pastors have filled the pulpit at Open Bible. Presently, the church is under the leadership of pastor and Mrs. Jerold Romprey, who began their ministry in September of 1984.
Lusk Church of Christ
The Church of Christ in Lusk began in the late 1940's. The first regular meeting of the church board was held April 5, 1948. At that time, the congregation was meeting in the old Butte Café building.
There were frequent business meetings in the early days of the church, with acquisition of a lot and erection of a building being primary concerns. A lot at the corner of Sixth and Maple was bought in May, 1948, and a basement was dug the following month. Much of the work in constructing the basement portion of the facility was done by church members.
The first regular minister at the Lusk Church of Christ was Harry Carter. He started many congregations in the area, or worked with them in their early stages. His wife was also an ordained minister, a rarity as the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ have had predominately male ministry.
Before Mrs. Carter's death in the 1970's, both she and her husband had preached over 50 years. Mr. Carter closed his ministry at Lusk in October 1949.
For several years, the Lusk Church of Christ continued to meet in the basement. Building of the upstairs was frequently discussed, but actual construction was not begun. Finally, on June 6, 1951, the church was meeting in its present structure.
Billie Hughes was minister as the church entered its new building. He had replaced Harry Carter in early 1950 and had a two-year ministry at Lusk. In all, 12 different ministers have served the Lusk church. At times, the same man has preached for both the Lusk and Jay Em congregations, although this is not now the case. Lusk's current minister, Mark Lohr, began serving the church in October, 1974.
First Southern Baptist
The First Southern Baptist Church of Lusk was started as a mission of the First Southern Baptist Church of Douglas in mid 1980. Sam and Hazel Bradley were the first two people to come from Douglas for the purpose of establishing Southern Baptist work in Lusk. Eventually these two became nine faithful members with pastor Tom Karnes as their pastor.
This group of believers originally met in the old Catholic Church at the corner of 4th and Pine which is now the Seventh Day Adventist Church. In February of 1981 the church body signed an agreement to purchase two lots on the southwest corner of 7th and Elm.
In the summer of 1981, a single wide trailer was purchased from the Southern Baptist Church in Glenrock to be used as a chapel, and Sunday School and worship services were begun in their own building on their own land. In the summer of 1982, a double wide mobile chapel belonging to the Old Faithful Baptist Association was placed on the property and church membership began to grow.
By the time the mission was constituted as a church in the fall of 1982, the resident membership had grown to 32. The newly constituted church called Tom Karnes, the mission pastor, as their first pastor and he served until June 1983 when he resigned to accept the pastorate in Hanna, WY.
With the leaving of pastor Karnes, the associate pastor Fred Tuberville was called as the interim pastor until he resigned in December 1983 to move to Douglas, WY. By this time the membership had grown to 46 active resident members.
In May of 1983 Donald and Helen ("Sam") Clark arrived in Lusk to work with the First Southern Baptist Church as members of the Christian Service Corps. In December of 1983 Brother Don Clark dedicated his life to the Ministry and was licensed by the First Southern Baptist Church of Lusk to preach the Gospel Ministry.
In April of 1984 the congregation called Brother Don Clark as the interim pastor, and in September of 1984 Brother Don Clark was called as the full time pastor.
At the time of Brother Don Clark being called as interim pastor the active resident membership of the church had declined to only twelve. This sharp decline in membership in less than year's time was attributable to the severe economic slump that resulted after jobs ran out from all the construction projects in the area being completed.
Even though the church membership has not grown again and in fact has dropped to two active resident members, Don and "Sam" Clark, the work of the church in the community has not declined. Pastor Don Clark is the chaplain for the Wyoming Women's Center, women's prison in Lusk, coordinating all worship services and Bible studies for the Center and providing counseling whenever possible. Pastor Clark is also the chaplain for the Niobrara county Hospital/Nursing home ensuring that someone is at the nursing home each Sunday for worship services and providing a chaplain-on-call program during the week.
In addition to the chaplaincy duties of the pastor, he and his wife deliver meals on wheels on Wednesdays of each week, and "Sam" Clark serves as the homemaker for the Niobrara Senior Center and is on call as Medical Technician (E.M.T) for the Niobrara/Lusk Ambulance Service. Also, Brother Don Clark serves as secretary/treasurer of the Niobrara Ministerial Association. The church also maintains what is called the Baptist Women's Children Fund that is used in situations where a child may need some sort of medical tests and the family is unable to provide the costs.
First Lutheran services held near Keeline
The first Lutheran services in Niobrara County were held in 1909 by Pastor J. Hilgendorf, a Lutheran pastor stationed at Cheyenne. The service was held in a public school located about five miles south of Keeline.
Pastor P. L. Dannenfeldt from Wheatland served the mission from August, 1910, to August, 1911. On August 20, 1911, Pastor Martin Leimer was installed at Keeline. Immanuel Congregation at Keeline was organized by him on December 22, 1912. In addition to Keeline, Pastor Leimer also served mission places at Node Ranch, Jay Em and Casper.
St. Paul's Evangelical Lutheran Church at Node was organized on November 9, 1913. The first officers were: Messrs. H.P. Titze, F. M. Redmer and J. Siemsen. Other signers of the constitution were: J.L. Ohlken, Gottfr. Germann, Philip Frese, Charles Meier, Adam Schmierer, Walter H. Meier, Henry Petersen and William Intveen. The newly organized congregation at once began to build a house of worship which was dedicated to the service of the Triune God by Pastor Leimer, May 17, 1914.
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