Ansley UMC History

On September 18, 1886 a group of people in Ansley,Nebraska met together to worship under the leadership of W. A. Hodges and Rev. William Esplin.  This group was an outgrowth of what was called the Algernon Circuit served by JC Dorris. Rev. Esplin homesteaded seven miles southwest of Ansley and also served as a pastor at PleasantValley.  The Ansley Methodist Episcopal Church was officially organized on July 12, 1887, with Francis Brock as the pastor.  The nineteen charter members of the church were Mrs. D. A. VanSant, C. J. Stevens, W. A. Cross, T. T. Daniels, Anna Hawk, May Hawk, Mr. and Mrs. J. Harson, Mary McCarger, Mr. and Mrs. James Davies, William Hawk, Sarah Gilbert, Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Porter and the C. D. Munson family.  Services were first held in the Burlington Depot.  Later the Presbyterian Church was built and services were held there.  In 1890, under the pastorate of Rev. D. M. Ellsworth, the present building was erected. It was heated with a furnace and lighted by electricity. However, hanging kerosene lamps were also installed.   The church was built by Mr. Al Hoover, assisted by Sid Harris, Henry Hogg and Lem Clay, as well as several others whose names were not recorded. A difficult task was the painting of the steeple. Sid Harris and Lem Clay offered to do this for eight dollars.  All materials, pews, chancel chairs, pulpit, organ and stained glass windows were shipped from New York State.   Since that time the following pastors have served the church: H. H. York in 1890-91, B. F. Peck in 1891-93, John P. Cram in 1893,  D.W. Denny in 1893, L. W. Chandler in 1894-95 and in 1901-03, Alfred Gilson in 1895-97, W. H. H Forsyth in 1897-1900, N. S. Foutch in 1900-01, Seldon H. Ewing in 1903-05, Raymond Rush in 1905-08, John T. Carson in 1908-09, W. S. McCallister in 1909-14, R. H. Carr in 1914-15, O. E. Johnson in 1915-16, W. L. Hadsell in 1916-18, Ralph A. Pinkham in 1918-20, W. W. Gettys in 1920-21, J. W. Henderson in 1921-23, D. B Brooks in 1923-24, W. H Wright summer of 1924, G. A. Schwabauer in 1924-27, F. A. Shawkey in 1927-30, M. Wayne Pickerel in 1930-32, N. C. Hansen in 1932-34, Carl J. Wells in 1934-36, John W. Payne in 1936-37 and 1939-40, Melville Pruitt in 1937-39, C. T. “Ted” Hawes in 1942, Wallace P. A. Humphries in 1942, none in 1943, Mrs. Jestine Jensen in 1944-47, W. H. Hendrickson in 1947-49, Arthur Hurder In 1949-57, Carl L. Johnson in 1957-59, Clyde A. Wells in 1959-62, Esther Young in 1962-64, Ratilal Solanki in 1965-66, Loren Mullins in 1966-68, Elvin H. Bratton in 1968-70, Charles Mitchell in 1970-71, Randall Sailors in 1972, Clarence Davis in 1973, Tom Rehorn in 1973-76, Curtis F. Trenhaile in 1976 –78, Donald E. Littrell in 1978-80, Gilbert Jackson in 1980-84, William Hunter in 1984-87, C. A. “Sandy” Carpenter in 1987-95, John R. Green in 1995-99, Sherry J. Sklenar in 1999-2005, Inez Foster in 2005-2007, Michael Laing 2007-2012, and Joel Plisek 2012 -2014, Stacey Erstrom, CLM 2012 to 2015,  Jim Koontz 2014 to 2019, Dean Millsap,  DSA 2016 to present, and Lori S. Stevens 2019 to present. Around 1908 a parsonage was built west of the church. On August 12,1910, the church was opened for people who were stranded in Ansley by a flood. There was no basement under the church until 1915-1916 when O. E. Johnson was pastor. In 1917, the Custer County Red Cross Chapter placed sewing machines and other equipment in the church basement and numerous articles were made to help in the war effort. In addition to this work, Liberty Bonds were sold during the war period.  Since that time the church basement has been used for a number of activities. For a time, Boy Scouts meetings were held there. The Ansley Rotary Club met there for a number of years and their meal was cooked and served by women of the church. For about ten years starting in the mid 1990’s a children’s pre-school was held in the basement during weekdays.  It now houses classrooms for the Sunday School and hosts an occasional meeting. In 1940 the name of the church was changed from the Ansley Methodist Episcopal Church to the Ansley Methodist Church when the two branches of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Protestant Church united to become the Methodist Church. In June 1962, a tornado swept through the town of Ansley and the church was severely damaged.  Services were held in the basement except on special occasions when the old Baptist Church was loaned to the Methodist congregation.  Within a year the church was repaired and ready for use. Legacies, memorials, and gifts have been received which have added greatly to the beauty and dignity of all services.  Mrs. Doris Negley Comstock painted the picture of the Good Shepherd, which hung in the sanctuary for many years.  After a remodeling project there was no longer a place for the picture and it was returned to the family of Mrs. Comstock.  Items given as memorials include pianos, an altar bible and stand, musical chimes, a baptismal fount, an Advent wreath and stand, several altar and pulpit scarves, pictures, clocks, choir music and the sanctuary sound system.  In November 2012 memorials funds were used to install 2 televisions in the sanctuary for multimedia purposes within services. In June of 1964, the Custer Methodist Charge was approved by the Nebraska Conference.  Anslemo, Ansley,Berwyn, Broken Bow,Mason City, Merna, and Westerville, joined together in a working relationship that included 3 ministers serving the seven churches.  One minister resided in Merna, one in Broken Bow, and one in Ansley.  It was commonly known as the Custer Parish.  Since the origination of the parish the Mason City and Berwyn churches have closed their doors.  Their congregations transferred their memberships to Litchfield, Ansley, and Broken Bow.  In 1968 the United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church united and were then called the United Methodist Church. In the mid 1960’s the old parsonage was sold and moved to the north part of town.  A new split level home was built to house the pastor for Ansley and Westerville.  It included an attached 1 car garage, 3 bedrooms, a family room, and an office for the minister. When Gil Jackson came as a pastor in 1980, the church was in very poor condition.  He encouraged members to work together in taking on the restoration of the church.  New siding and shingles were installed on the outside.  The interior of the sanctuary was completely gutted then insulated, sheetrocked, then paneled and painted.  New light fixtures and carpeting were installed and upholstered padding added to the pews.  A rock wall was erected behind the altar.  The bell tower received a new foundation on the bottom and a new lighted steeple on the top.  The basement was the final phase in the plan.  It was gutted as well with sheetrock and paneling going back in. An additional restroom was added, the kitchen reconstructed and carpeting put down.  When these projects were completed we were fortunate enough and blessed to have everything paid for. The remodeled basement served the congregation for many years, however, in 1991 plans were made for an addition to the church to serve as an educational unit and fellowship hall.  The first funds for this project came from the “Mile of Pennies” jar, which was instigated by Mrs. Dorothy Parks.  The members of the church volunteered their time, talents, and money and when the addition was completed in 1995 it was paid in full.  The facility has its own main entrance as well as an entrance into the sanctuary and into the basement.  We are truly blessed to have the main hall, large kitchen, restrooms, and storage closets for our use.  Fold up dividers were also installed in the hall in order to divide it up into 4 different classroom areas. In September of 1997 a flood in the basement gave us another remodeling project.  The carpet as well as several feet of sheet rock on the bottom of the wall was ruined.  Because we no longer needed a multi-purpose basement, we were able to add some new walls while repairing everything.  When finished we had 4 new classroom areas in the basement in addition to a small kitchen and restrooms, all with fresh paint and new carpet. In 1999 the sanctuary was refurbished by doing some wall repairs, a new coat of paint on the walls, floor cleaned and resealed, and new upholstery on the pews.  A new sound system was also installed in the sanctuary at this time.  The outside of the church saw some new paint as well. During all of these years, our church has had only six organists, Mrs. Carrie M. Stevens, Mrs. Mattie H. Crawford, Mrs. Hattie B. Mattley, Mrs. Dorothy S. Parks, Mrs. Karen Childers, and Mrs. Patty Reed.  Mrs. Elsie S. Mackey and Mrs. Dorothy S. Parks were the choir directors for many years.  The choir is a very active ministry within the Ansley church and community.  Besides providing special music during regular church services, they also perform for special occasions in the community and also present to the public a concert once or twice a year.  Often the children join the choir in presenting holiday programs. The Ansley United Methodist Church members had been active volunteers in our Custer Parish serving on committees and attending activities.  One of our members, Florence Cox, even served on the parish staff.  The parish was dissolved in 2005 and Ansley shared a full-time minister with the Westerville United Methodist Church through June of 2012. Our congregation members attend District and Conference activities and have often served on different District and Conference committees. Florence Cox served the United Methodist Women as a District officer and as a Conference officer and finally as president of the Nebraska United Methodist Women.  In 2011-2012 Paul Bennett served as the Gateway District Layleader. Through the years the Church School has provided many children and adults with Christian education.  For many years Sunday School was held all year long.  We also provide a Vacation Bible School in May after school is out for the summer.  For several years Westerville joined Ansley in conducting the VBS. For many years the church had charge of the Traveling Library.  They also took part in the welfare of the community.  We had pancake suppers, soup suppers, and dinners to gather money for those in need.  We have covered dish dinners and kitchen showers to honor the newlyweds in our church.  We also contribute to the Ansley Food Pantry which is coordinated by the Ansley Ministerial Alliance.  Since 2007, we have chosen to highlight a different mission project each month.  Many projects are local, but some reach well past our state boundaries.  It just goes to show that there is need everywhere, but also the opportunity to help spread God’s love through our endeavors.   With the Westerville United Methodist Church closing in June 2012, Ansley became aligned with the Loup City and Litchfield United Methodist Churches in the ALL Parish. Prior to Pastor Joel Plisek and his family moving coming in July 2012, the Ansley parsonage was completely refurbished inside with repainted walls, new flooring, and updated appliances.