In the early nineteen hundreds, the town of Keystone, located on the north side of the North Platte river, consisted of approximately three general stores, a hotel, post-office, bank, lumber yard, school, depot, several livery barns and blacksmith shops. Travel was mainly by horse and buggy with a few buckboards and occasionally a model T Ford.
The entire community had grown to around a hundred families or so but there was no church closer than Ogallala or Paxton. These two towns were south of the river and fifteen miles or more away.
Mrs. Bill Paxton Jr. wife of a prominent rancher, organized a group of eleven young teen-age girls into a club called the "Kings Daughters." This club, which was similar to our present 4-H Clubs, was later to become the instigators for the building of "The Little Church."
These little girls and their far-sighted leader, feeling the need of a church in their community, decided to do something about it. They held food sales, bazaars, oyster suppers and fairs and by their diligent efforts over three or four years managed to raise $300.15. At this time, this was quite an accomplishment. Friends and neighbors realizing the earnestness of this group contributed also and raised the sum to $714.50. The Paxtons generously gave the balance necessary and the church was started.Mr. Paxton ordered a carload of lumber from Omaha Nebr. To be shipped on the recently constructed railroad. The railroad went through in 1906. From this lumber was built the "Little Church" and the Library building. Mr. Ed Casey of Red Oak, Iowa was hired as the carpenter for these two buildings.
The Church is approximately 18 feet by 40 feet and seats 75 people. Truly a labor of love the "Little Church" is especially unique. This church was built for all faiths and there is not another like it. Two alters adorn this place of worship. At the north end is the Catholic altar and at the south end is the Protestant altar. The seats are reversible, the backs being hinged to fold from front to back to accommodate the members of the faith using it at any one time.
It required a special dispensation from the Pop to have dual faiths in the same building. This was given by Pope Leo XIII in a short note to the American Cardinal who had asked for it.
The "Little Church" of Keystone was dedicated on August 16, 1908 and served it's community well for years.
Keystone Church Dedication---August 16, 1908
The King's Daughters Church was crowded to it's doors Sunday, and many were forced to stand outside to listen to the dedication address made by the Very Rev. Dean George A. Beecher, of Omaha Nebraska.
Dean Beecher spoke of the noble work of Pearl Fenwick Dean, Anna Scully Fenwick, May Holloway, Lula Holloway, Josephine McGinley, Ethel Reese, Margaret McCarthy, Eleanor McCarthy, Margaret Leonard, Bertha Matthews and Thresa Feltz in the building of this little church and the assistance of Mrs. Paxton. The Dean said is eleven little girls could establish a church through their efforts surely the able bodies men appointed as officers of the church could and should lend every effort to support this church.
The Dean's very able and practical address was listened to with marked attention. He said he was something of a farmer himself, having for twenty years gone up and down the Platte Valley, sowing Gospel seeds and now he was seeing the harvest in the form of chapels filled with worshiping congregations, scattered here and there in the different towns and hamlets.
At the close of the address Mrs. Paxton made a financial statement. The Chapel complete cost $1200.00. The King's Daughters raised by their efforts $300.15. This sum was increased by the gifts of friends to $714.50. The balance of the $1200.00 is a gift from Mrs. Paxton, and the beautiful little church was turned over to the community free of debt.
The following appointments were then made: Sexton, Mr. Fenwick; Senior Warden, W.A. Paxton; Vestrymen for the Catholic Church, Mr. Leonard, Mr. Feltz, Mr. McGinley and Mr. McCarthy; Vestrymen for the Protestant Church, Mr. Coates, Mr. Silas Sillasen, Judge Matthews, Mr. Chas. Fenwick, Mr. Fred Dean, Mr. Winterer and Mr. Ed Matthews; Treasurer for the Catholic Church, Mr. George McGinley; Treasurer for the Protestant Church, Mr. Jens Sillasen.
A handsome altar Bible and Hymnal are the gift of Mrs. Short of Cleveland Ohio and an organ is enroute, the gift of Mr. And Mrs. Luther Korentze of Omaha.
The King's Daughters are also under obligations to Miss Gifford for her assistance with the music.
An offering was made for providing for the future services. As Mrs. Paxton said in speaking for herself and the King's Daughters, "Our work is now done, and it remains for you to accept and make use of the gift."
The "Little Church" served the community well in the following years. On August 20, 1908, just four days after the dedication services Mr. William Fenwick and Anna May Knight were united in marriage on a Wednesday evening at four o'clock by Rev. Chesbro. This was the First Wedding in the "little Church" of Keystone.
In 1916 a "one-lane" bridge was built accross the North Platte river. This bridge was about one mile long and had two "turn-outs" for passing. Travel became easier and the support of a full-time minister became more difficult.
Due to the removal of records as various denominations left the church for churches of their own, the names of many dedicated men who served as ministers, priests, and officers were lost.
Among the names remembered were Rev. N.C. Johnson of Kearney Nebr. A Pastor Evangelist who traveled the territory with a team and a wagon. He organized the First Presbyterian Church of Keystone on Jan 31, 1912.
The first Presbyterian minister was Rev. Ernest Sauer, followed by many more. Some of the earlier ministers were Rev. John Bennet, Rev. Bryant and Rev. Graham. The Rev. J.A. Campbell, who served over the longest period in the "Little Church" began his pastorade in 1924 and served until Dec. 12, 1926 when the new Presbyterian Church was dedicated in Keystone. These two churches are the only Churches that have ever been built in Keystone.
From the ledger kept by Mrs. Scully we learn Bishop Scannell and Father Woulf of Omaha came to the Paxton ranch on Sept. 15, 1908 to give permission to say Mass in the "Little Church."
The first Mass was held by Father Dobson of Sidney, Nebr. On Sept. 21, 1908.
Father Dobson of Sidney, Father Sloan and Father Gleason on North Platte were some of the first to hold Mass in Keystone, coming from their respective towns by train and returning either the same day or the following morning depending on when the trains were running as there were only two trains a day, one in the morning going west and one in the evening, this one going east.
Georgia Feltz and Harvey Lawler were married at nine o'clock Mass on April 11, 1928 by Father McMahan.
Father McMahan held the last Mass on Oct. 13, 1929 in Keystone.
During the years the Catholics used the "little Church" over twenty were baptized.
After the establishment of the church in Ogallala, the Keystone members went there for services.
The graduation exercises of the Keystone High School were in the "Little Church" in 1934. Mr. Don Weise was the only graduate that year and because he was the only graduate and of the Catholic faith, the exercises were held there instead of in the Presbyterian Church as was the custom then.
The Lutherans perhaps used the "Little Church" as much as any denomination.
The little mission flock of Lutherans was served in this church first by the Rev. Siegmund Thies followed by Rev. O.W. Juengel in the years 1910 to 1914.
In 1914 the mission flock was organized into the first Lutheran congregation by Rev. Hugo Degner who served until 1916. Often the church was filled with people of German, English, Mexican, Italian, and Indian descent, a kind of all-nation assembly.
The first congregational meeting was held Jan. 24, 1915. The trustees selected were Wilhelm Sohrweit, Wilhelm Blomenkamp and Henry Gies. The Constitution was adopted Jan. 27 1915.
The Rev. Otto J. Schumaker served from 1916 to 1918.
Rev. George Kupke, 1919 to 1921
Rev. M. Behrend, 1923 to 1924
Rev. O.W. Ninke, 1928.
On July 1, 1928 Ellen, Ralph, and George Blomenkamp were confirmed by Rev. O.W. Ninke.
Rev. Richard E. Blau served the church 1930 to 1936. Rev. G.H. Boehnke was the last Lutheran Pastor to serve the church on a regular basis. His tenure in the church was the years Jan. 1941 to 1949.
During this time many more were taken into the church. Mr and Mrs. Dorsey Wendt and Mr. Fred Knight were baptized and confirmed Sept. 1948, Freida Knight was baptized in 1948. In June of 1949 Rex Christensen was baptized. This was the last baptism performed in the "Little Church." Rev. Boehnke left the church of Keystone in June 1949.
Other denominations held services for short periods of time in this church during the years of it's usage. Revival meetings were held and services that were more or less non-denominational, due to the small congragation.
The names of many faithful members of the church have not been mentioned, members who tended to the upkeep and repairs, members who paid the insurance in times of stress, members who were married, confirmed or baptized, ministers who tended to the needs of the community and the few faithful who never missed a Sunday service. These names have not been omitted out of slight or because they are entirely forgotten, but simply because "time" has dimmed our memories and names and dates are fading.
Many interesting things took place in the church; such as the day Mr. And Mrs. Irwin's dog, which slept under the pews during the services was accidentally locked in the church. It's efforts to get out are still visible on the inside of the door that it nearly chewed through before being rescued; and the dog that found sanctuary under the church in which to rear a family. These and many more incidents have endeared the church in hearts of the community.
|Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Ratzlaff||Paxton, Nebr||June 7, 1964|
|Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Smith||North Platte, Nebr||Febr. 18, 1966|
|Mr. and Mrs. Gary A. Thies||Fort Calhoun, Nebr||April 3, 1968|
|Mr. and Mrs. Gregory Beal||Ogallala, Nebr||Dec. 20, 1970|
|Mr. and Mrs. Dale Florke||Lodgepole, Nebr||Oct. 3, 1971|
|Mr. and Mrs. Daryl Congers||Ogallala, Nebr||May 28, 1972|
|Mr. and Mrs. Rick Carr||Ogallala, Nebr.||May 28, 1971|
|Mr. and Mrs. Jon Wayne Schrack||Giltner, Nebr.||July 2, 1977|
|Mr. and Mrs. Steve Schou||Oshkosh, Nebr||[No date given]|
|Mr. and Mrs. Al Wolf||Ft. Morgan, Colo||July 17, 1976|
|Mr. and Mrs. Ron Kubiak||Keystone, Nebr||Aug. 18, 1984|
|Mr. and Mrs. Rex Christensen||Keystone, Nebr||May 4,1985|