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Copy of a History of Mennonite Brethren Church of Paxton, Nebraska [written about 1959 for the 40th Anniversary celebrated Oct 4, 1959]
[retyped 2013 with some edits from a 40 year anniversary history and a second written history by Sarah Schellenberg-wife of Pastor John Schellenberg]
The first Mennonite families to settle south of Paxton, Nebraska were the two Thiessen cousins, David and Nick. Since Jefferson County in Eastern Nebraska was heavily populated and real estate prices were high, a number of families in the vicinity of Jansen, Nebraska were planing to move further west. The two men first came alone in the late summer of 1916 to scout out the land they had rented and plow the ground for sowing the winter wheat. They came in two covered wagons loaded with supplies and implements. After the wheat was sowed they went back to Jefferson County by train for the winter.
In March of 1917, Brother Nick and Brother Dave Thiessen loaded everything they owned in their covered wagons with their families and set out once more for western Nebraska. When they arrived after seven days of travel with only five dollars left between them, they were fortunate to find an empty railroad box-car to live in until they could build a more substantial home. Later they located a small sod house on the Jackie Doyle place south west of Paxton. Nick Thiessen built his house 1 mile south and one half mile west of there and Bro. Dave Thiessen erected his home 2 miles south and 2 one half miles west of the Doyle place. George E Thiessen Uncle to Nick and Dave Thiessen built his house just across the road to the north.
Jacob F Thiessen, father to Dave Thiessen arrived on Aug 12, 1917 in an immigrant car with his family and all his farm goods. They located one quarter mile west of his son David. Abram Isaac accompanied the immigrant car and dug the first four feet of the Jacob Thiessen basement. John W Thiessen came by train on Aug 14, 1917 bringing with him his only means of transportation, his bicycle, and helped Jacob Thiessen finish digging the basement.
Carl Walters and Henry Bartel, who by trade were carpenters built the Jacob Thiessen home. A temporary bunk house was built on the Jackie Doyle place for sleeping quarters.In September 1917 the Henry Flaming family arrived in Paxton and bought the half section mile north of proposed church yard. He rented the Fred Pierson place 12 miles southeast of Paxton.
Henry Flaming and his brother-in-law John Friesen each bought a team of horses and wagons and sowed wheat with the one horse stalk-drill in corn stalk ground. Henry Flamings returned to Jansen after wheat sewing was finished. Then in the spring of 1918 he returned with his family to Paxton and later in the spring, David and Jacob P Flaming came along with J P Fasts, Abe Isaacs, A B Flamings, Peter J. Fasts, and Ben K Fasts. They all were busy building homes and preparing the ground for farming.
In the spring of 1919 Walter Jansen came from Syracuse, Kansas in a covered wagon drawn by a team of four horses. He had traveled for seven days and upon arrival stayed at the Jacob Thiessen home. During the summer Jacob Jansen joined his son and they built barns and a dwelling for the family. They also had a well drilled and put up a windmill. In the fall son Harold Jansen came with the rest of the family to move into their new home.
The first church services were held in the various homes, the first invitation came from the Henry Flaming family in their new basement home. [H C Flaming -1st Pastor] There were morning services, a fellowship meal at noon and Sunday School in the afternoon. The first Christmas program was given in the Jacob Thiessen home. A.B. Flaming was the superintendent and John W. Friesen was the choir director. No matter how small the group there was always good singing from the Fast, Flaming and Thiessen families.
By this time there were about ten families attending services. The homes were getting too small for the increase of immediate families so the services were held in the new summer kitchen on the Henry Flaming farm. The first revival meeting was held there with Rev. Adam Ross as the Evangelist. He was the pastor of the church in Culbertson, Nebraska. He also served communion to the congregation later on. Rev. David Strauss also conducted revival meetings and served as Minister.
As the congregation grew they needed a larger place to meet. So they moved into the lean-to shed of the Flaming barn. As more people came they then moved into the large hay loft. The group decided to organize as a body of believers and called Elder Johann Kliewer from Henderson, Nebraska to assist in this new venture. They were from two different groups-they were not all Mennonite Brethren members. There were also Krimmer Mennonite Brethren in this group, but they were asked to join and take part in election and fellowship. The uplifted hand was used and the method of voting. Rev Henry Flaming was elected as leader, which office he filled for twenty years. Charter members were Henry Flamings, Nick Thiessens, Clara, Peter, Jack, Alfred and Elvina Flaming, Dave Flamings, A.B. Flamings, Jake Flamings, Jacob Fasts, and John W. Friesen, for a total of 18 members.
Sunny Hill School:
In the fall of 1919 the John Krause family from Jansen moved into the community, a carpenter by trade. He was contracted to build the Sunny Hill School located just 3/4 mile south of the purposed future church site. The congregation then used the new school building for Sunday services. The first baby to be born into the new church family was Edwin, born to Nick and Mary Thiessen. Next to arrive with much sadness was the still-born son of Peter and Helena Fast. Then twins were born to Jacob and Anna Fast, named Harry and Rosella. The happiness of the Fast family was clouded by the death of Rosella at 8 months. This was the reason the church was so important to these new settlers, it joined them together to share sorrow as well as happiness. The church was the center of their lives, they could not live without it.
First Church Building:
In the fall of 1920 the decision was made to build a church. John Krause was the builder with a lot of volunteer help. A structure 20 by 30 feet was erected on blocks with only a single wall. It was built on the southwest corner of the Flaming farm. Improvised seats were made of boards placed over nail keg. A humble beginning indeed! The ladies living near the church served meals to the hard working men. The first wedding held in this new sanctuary was for Bernard and Clara (Flaming) Fast. This rustic building served its purpose for three years. It was later sold to George Jansen and remodeled into use as a milk barn.
The Paxton MB Church and Choir in 1928
Back row; Henry Jansen, Nick Janzen, Harold Flaming, Henshaw Flaming, Albert Jansen, Menno Schellenberg, Herman Flaming.
3rd row; ? , Allen Fast, John Flaming, Jacob Thiessen, Curt Goertz, Henry Gerlach,
2nd row; Marie (Hiebert) Flaming, Hulda (Isaac) Gerlach, Lenora Janzen, Anna Thiessen, Aggie Flaming, Clara (Flaming) Fast.
1st row; Lizzie (Flaming) Goertz, Eva Janzen, Irene Janzen, John W Friesen, Director, Anna Isaac, Amanda Flaming, ? .
The move to the final Paxton location [pictured with choir]: [photo belonging to Chuck Flaming]
In 1924 plans were made to move the building to a new site that was given to the church by a local farmer, just one half mile further south. A full basement was dug and cemented. The smaller building was moved onto the basement and enlarged. It had two entrances or front porches that were added -one for the men and one for the women; with the baby room between the two halls and a balcony above.This building was all finished by the fall of 1924. In August of 1925 Harold and Rosa Schellenberg Jansen were the first couple to be married in this new sanctuary.
On Dec. 15, 1925 Jacob P. and Anna Fast were elected as deacons. Then in May 1928 the Jacob Fasts and Henry Flamings were ordained as ministers of the Gospel by Rev J. H. Pankratz of Hillsboro, Kansas; Rev. N. N. Hiebert of Mt.Lake, Minnesota; and Rev. Johann Kliewer of Henderson, Nebraska. On August 5, 1928 J. P. Regiers were elected deacons and were ordained on June 2, 1935.
The Missionary Circle was most important for all the women in the church. They made quilts and household items to sell for mission funds. An annual action sale was held every year before Thanksgiving to supply these much needed funds. This church was truly the heart of all the church homes in the Paxton area. The young peoples Organization is recorded to have had 85 members in 1925 but had its beginning at an earlier date and has continued to meet regularly to date.The Church was again remodeled in 1943 or 45. The two porches were removed and one entry was added. The nursery and entry halls were changed.
Added in 1964: In 1960 The John Schellenbergs were asked to pastor the church as interim pastor and later were asked to stay on as the Pastor.
Seeing the circumstances and changing situation for the Paxton church, they felt led to consider relocating. Several came from the Home Missions Board and talked with the church members and made a thorough survey of surrounding towns. They all agreed that Grant, Nebraska seemed like the best possibility for outreach and it being nearer the homes of the majority of members of the church. After much prayer and seeking God's will , the city of Grant was decided upon to be the next home for the church.
Grant, Nebraska location:
In the fall of 1963 the Parsonage was moved into town from rural Paxton and rejuvenated. And then the new church was started at the corner of Forth and Mitchum in Grant. Frank Jantzen and Henry Kornelsen, Lee Harms and Cliff Flaming were on the building committee.
In the summer of 1964 the old church building was moved and sold to a Lutheran church and later it was used as a school by Roscoe, Nebraska District 7. It is still standing.
The congregation moved to Grant, Nebraska and the first service was held June 14, 1964 with the dedication service on August 2, 1964. Later the First Mennonite Church from Madrid joined with the now Grant Mennonite Brethren Church.
An interesting note from the Thiessen Genealogy including Nickoli Thiessen b. 14 May 1886 and Marie Thiessen b. 25 Feb 1888.
In 1917, the Thiessens [~age 31 and 29] moved to Paxton, Nebraska. It was here that they realized their spiritual need and both accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior from sin. Upon their confession of faith, they were baptized July 14, 1918 and admitted to the Mennonite Brethren Church of Paxton, Nebraska. [This could have been before it was formally organized]
In 1958 the Mennonite Encyclopedia stated the following:.
Paxton Mennonite Brethren Church, located on the western prairies of Nebraska about 15 miles south west of Paxton, was organized in 1919 by John J. Kliewer of Henderson, with H. C. Flaming as leader and a membership of 50. It at first met in a rural schoolhouse. This church has contributed much for missions. A church was built and a parsonage provided. Ministers who have served are H. C. Flaming, John K. Siemens, Geo. H. Jantzen, B. C. Willems, Henry Hooge, and Lavern Loewens. In 1958 the membership was 68, with Edwin A. Schmidt as pastor.
Picture from Paxton Church, perhaps the first church building with some early baptism candidates.
The Church History written in 2012 for Perkins County 125th Anniversary.
The New Life Fellowship also known as the Grant Mennonite Brethren Church, started out as the Paxton Mennonite Brethren Church, rural Paxton, Nebraska.
It had its roots in the Mennonite Churches of Jansen, Ne and Henderson, NE area. Several Families were looking for more and cheaper land for their growing families and they found it in the Paxton area. They moved around 1918 and started farming in the area. They soon and organized the Paxton MB Mennonite Brethren Church in 1919. They first met in an old building on the SW corner of H C Flaming land. They built a new church building in 1925 -6 mi South and 5 one half miles West of Paxton. Glen Krause and Mathilda Jantzen (sister to Franklin Jantzen of Grant) were the first couple married in the new Paxton Church on October 8, 1925 but it was not completely finished at that time.
Eventually there were less and less people living by Paxton and more farming around Madrid area. The Church felt like they needed to built a new building and decided if they were going to build they would not stay out in the country but built the church in town. In October and November of 1963 the parsonage was moved to Grant, Nebraska, after it was decided to build a new and larger church that was more centrally located for the memberships. Plans for the new church were approved and work began in March of 1964. In the summer of 1964, the congregation moved to Grant where John A. Schellenberg was the first pastor in the new building and it became known as the Grant Mennonite Brethren Church. The first service was held June 14, 1964 with the dedication service on August 2, 1964. The old church building near Paxton was sold and moved to Roscoe, Nebraska where it was used as a school house in district seven. (Rd East 30 and Road ENS; 3 mil South and one half mile west of Roscoe.)
What later become the parsonage for the church was orginaly built as a house for Frank and Alice Jantzen as their home in 1949. When Alice's folks, the Heinrich Kroekers decided to move to California, Jantzens move into their place and the house, a barn and 20 acres of land was sold to the church and it become the new church parsonage as it was located just one quarter mile from the Paxton Church. The pastor could do a little farming on the side and raise cattle to help with his salary! About 1963 this house was moved to Grant and it became the Mennonite Brethren church parsonage on Mitchem Street where it was used for many years by pastors of the MB Church. Later it was used for Sunday School rooms, various ministries, and housing church missionaries. Lately it has been rented as a residence.
A new addition of Sunday School rooms was completed about 1977.
In 1990 a new sanctuary, social hall and kitchen was added. The first wedding in the new church was August 18, 1990 with the sanctuary completed but the kitchen was not yet completed. The first Sunday service was the next day on August 19, 1990.
At an annual business meeting on September 23, 1990, there was an amendment to the constitution to change the name of the church from Grant Mennonite Brethren Church to New Life Fellowship Church, Inc. The new name was accepted on February 7, 1993.
One of the ministries of the church is Awana which started in 1989 and has developed over the years with the help of Grant E Free Church. The New Life Church still feels helping with missions and missionaries is a very important part of their church. Their goal is to help the congregation grow in Christ and share the gospel of Jesus Christ and the way of salvation through faith alone in Him. Present pastor is John Goodell.
4 Photos below from "A Pictorial History and Genealogy of the Thiessen and Friesen Families"
First Church Building Sunny Hill Church Added entryways Remodeled in 1943
Grant MB Church new in 1964 Interior New Life Fellowship 2014 50 years later
List of Ministers:
John K. Siemens
J P Fast
D M Doerksen
George H. Jantzen,1939 or 194
B. C. Willems,
Henry Hooge -1951
Edwin A. Schmidt - 1957-1960
John Schellenberg 1960-
Joe Agee, interim
Mark Carlton, interim
Vince Carrig, 2004-2013
Bill Wright, interim
John Goodell 2015 -
http://www.directionjournal.org/article/?327 article by David Block, former pastor,
http://callimachus.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15008coll27/id/45/rec/4 picture of Paxton church in 1948
www.ogallalamansiononthehill.com/new_page_6.htm reference to the old church building
Pickard Cemetery where some early church members are buried
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