Pickrell church celebrates 130th anniversary

November 8, 2018

PICKRELL — It survived the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression and two world wars and, 130 years later, the Pickrell United Methodist Church is still standing.

But not without seeing its own share of changes over the years.

The church, 404 W. Pickrell Road, celebrated its anniversary with a special service recently.

In 1888, the church’s first congregants met in a schoolhouse across the street, according to a history of the church written by longtime member Faye Winkle.

In 1910, the present church building was erected, with members funding the construction the day of the dedication, according to the history.

Roselyn Shaffer has been the church’s pianist for 51 years. She said she appreciates the church’s longstanding heritage.

“Many of the same people from the same families are still there. The same names and the same descendants,” Shaffer said. “They’re still there. I like the tradition, the sameness. That’s important to me.”

It’s a tradition that’s been put to the test.

According to Winkle’s history, the Depression and the Dust Bowl brought hard times on the burgeoning church, which numbered about 100 members in the early 1930s.

“Grief and hardship spread to the whole country, and Pickrell was not excluded,” Winkle writes. “Farmlands in the central plains were devastated by drought. ... Pickrell was a farming town, so it suffered through loss of farm income as well as other jobs.”

Then, a decade later, the town was hit with more “difficult circumstances,” as World War II raged.

Shaffer said stories of the community coming together during rough times abound in the church’s history. Take, for instance, a group of members who compiled cookbooks and sold them for 25 cents apiece to maintain the church during the Depression.

“It’s an amazing history,” Shaffer said.

The church also underwent numerous denominational changes. In 1948, for example, it became the Pickrell Evangelical United Brethren Church. In 1951, it was tied with the Zion Evangelical Church between DeWitt and Swanton. Finally, in 1968, it joined the Methodist church and assumed its current name.

The church’s pastor is Lila Bottolfsen has been with the church since 2009, and its congregation is about 25-35 members.

“I think there’s an amazing number of churches around here that are that old,” Shaffer said.

She said the Oct. 28 celebration went well, with three former pastors from Lincoln visiting.

Shaffer continues to play the piano at Sunday services, performing those ageless hymns — “Nearer, My God, to Thee” and “The Old Rugged Cross,” just to name a few.

“I’ve done it for so long, I just do it,” she said.

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