As part of her report to the county commissioners in August of 2018, Thayer County Museum Curator Jackie Williamson reminded the county commissioners the Hubbell United Methodist Church contained two historic stained glass windows — one from the Grand Army of the Republic and the other, the Women’s Relief Corps, the G.A.R.’s auxiliary.
In 2017, Williamson wasn’t sure if the church itself was for sale, but had heard rumors it was. That took her back to 1976 when she visited every church in the county and recorded their histories into a slide show.
After speaking to several people, Williamson said the conclusion was to preserve the windows and use the building for museum events, like quilt and wedding dress shows.
The pews inside the church were gone — they had been sold to a church in Windsor, Colo.
In her report to the commissioners, Williamson recalled raising $3,000 for the church’s move, but it wasn’t enough and she returned the funds to the donors. The church’s owner, Linda Reid, eventually sold it to the Thayer County Historical Society for $500.
At the top of Williamson’s list were the windows. Society president, Bob Reinke, contacted Architectural Glassarts in Lincoln. They were asked for a bid to removing, restoring, storing for the future and reinstalling them in the church once it was moved to the museum grounds.
The bid for the windows was $19,000. Two donations of $5,000 helped the museum accept the bid.
The society then received bids on moving the church from Ball & Son Movers out of Belleville, Kan., and Williams Midwest House Movers in Hastings. Ball and Son offered the lowest bid, and on Dec. 6 after several months of preparation, the church was steered north by the Belleville family moving business.
Perhaps it was meant to be that a fourth generation family business moved history from Hubbell to Belvidere as the United Methodist Church made its way through Thayer County at five miles an hour.
David Ball of Ball & Son Movers out of Belleville, Kan., was ready to go at about 8 a.m., Dec. 6 to move the 1901 structure.
Ball said the church needed rebuilding underneath because it was rotted. He was standing near his dad, Leon, who would help with the move. Ball & Son Movers was started by his great grandfather, Cleo in 1944, along with Cleo’s son Leo.
They have moved larger structures — churches, homes with chimneys, a locomotive and all the airplanes to the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum near Omaha.
Ball said they would keep to the country roads in transporting the church with the exception of about two miles of pavement.
The Hubbell church had made it four to five miles south of Highway 136 about a mile west of Gilead by 10 a.m.
Spectators were parked along the way to watch the magnificent structure inch to Belvidere.
Mike Fischer, Glenn Fischer and Lonny Jacobitz were parked facing the road as Norris Public Power trucks zoomed by ahead of the movers to check lines. Glenn had the binoculars.
Norris trucks followed the route, and made sure lines weren’t in the path of the church. Residents in the area received text messages their power would be out for a period of time during the church move.
Between 4 and 5 p.m., the Hubbell church was within a block of the Thayer County Museum, coming in from the north.
Williamson and her husband, Kent, had followed the church for hours, watching it crawl over the railroad tracks as a UP group removed one of the signals for the church’s crossing.
Upon the arrival of the church, Williamson said the museum would like to restore the church to its original facade with a double door entry and open bell tower.
The cost of moving the church and having it repaired, plus additional costs to Norris and the Railroad, along with the preservation of the windows, will total approximately $75,000.