Black and white photo, which was copied in October 1967 from a photo taken in 1922, of the Southwest corner of Nebraska's oldest church building. This is the second mission building that was built after the first mission burned down in 1836 or 1837. The first mission was built in 1835. (It is located at what is now 57th and LaPlatte Road, Bellevue, Nebraska; in 2005, the chimney and the cottonwood trees that surrounded the church are still standing.) Logs used in the structure were of poplar, squared and closely notched at the corners. Lime plaster was poured between the inside log walls and the sheathing of planed boards. The large chimney was built of native limestone that was "plastered with lime almost as hard as the stone itself." This chimney was in the center of the mission building. It rose 25 feet into the air and had a base of five square feet. There was a schoolhouse at one end and living quarters in the other. Two small bedrooms occupied the second story. The front porch was between the two end rooms and faced south. Close to the southeast corner of the old mission are three giant cottonwood trees from 25 to 30 feet in circumference. It is believed that Mrs. Merrill planted them.
The mission was built by the government to use in Christianizing the Otoe Indians. The Otoe Indians' nearest village and cemetery lay a quarter of a mile directly southeast. Moses Merrill, a Baptist missionary and his wife Eliza Wilcox were the first missionaries in Nebraska. They were sent by the Baptist Missionary Union and came overland from Missouri in an ox cart. When Mr. Merrill first came to Bellevue in 1833, he studied the Otoe language and later translated parts of the Bible and some hymns into the Otoe language. When the mission was built, they moved there. They established a school for Indian children and held church services in the schoolroom. (They were trying to make changes through the children.) Mr. And Mrs. Merrill lived eight miles from the village of Bellevue, then a trading post. They lived so far from the settlement and other white people because, as Merrill wrote, "the liquor furnished the Otoes by the fur traders hindered the work of saving their souls." The Otoe Indians were very poor and they "begged or stole most of the crops raised by the Merrills." Moses Merrill died of consumption in February 1840. Mrs. Merrill left Nebraska soon after his death. Settlers used the old Otoe Mission for many years after the death of Mr. Merrill; church services were held there into the 1860's and later. Historical information from the Omaha World Herald, Magazine Section, 10-16-1927, "Nebraska Oldest Church is Fast Going to Ruin."