Religious Education in early
Religious education was another
very important part of life of the pioneer families living in and around
Dawson, as it was in all parts of our nation in those early
days of our history. Many times their faith in a loving God was
all they had to depend on to keep alive in such a wild and remote part of the
church service was held in the home of John Rothenberger when a traveling priest
came to celebrate Holy Mass in his log cabin home in 1853. For quite a long time
such opportunities came only once in many weeks. Later when there
were more people in the area, the group came together for worship services held
in a home or school house. It was not until 1878 that St. Mary’s built their
first church under the direction of Rev. C. J. Quinn. At that
time, there were 36 families in the parish. The present St. Mary’s
church building is the fourth to be erected by their congregation, all preceding
structures being destroyed by fire or storms.
In 1874 Henry
Allen, who lived on a farm north of Dawson, organized the Union Sunday
School. They met in an empty granary near the elevator.
It was empty that summer because the grasshoppers had eaten the corn crop
which they did again the following summer. Because there was no way to heat this
building, they could not meet in winter. Later, they met for
worship in the I.O.O.F. Hall in the town.
ministers tried to organize a church with no success until Rev S. A. Petit came
and organized the United Evangelical Church. In 1882 a building was erected and
dedicated to the worship of God. Later, this building was
remodeled and enlarged but had the misfortune to be struck by lightning and
destroyed, the present church building replaced it.
The two church
groups worked together for the good of the town and the community and hopefully
the good of the nation.
The closing recently of the
former United Evangelical Church which had become the Dawson United Methodist
Church leaves only one church in the town of Dawson. Such is the
current religious education in small rural communities today. Many
artifacts were rescued from the closing of the Church and will be displayed in
the chapel of the Pennsylvania Colony of Nebraska new museum addition soon to be
erected. Locals and tourists from afar are invited to stop and tour the
museum…it is free and fun to read of early history in the community of
(Compiled and written by Bob Williamson, museum