In Nebraska, the membership figures closely match 19th century settlement patterns, said Professor Frederick C. Luebke, a specialist in Nebraska history at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
For example, the Panhandle counties of Kimball and Cheyenne were settled by German Lutherans and still have a large Lutheran presence, he
said.Czechs immigrated to Colfax, Butler and Saunders counties, which remain largely Catholic.
Swedes settled in Knox, Burt and Phelps counties, and Danes in Washington County, all of which are Lutheran bastions.
Poles congregated in Sherman and Nance counties and the Irish in Greeley and Holt counties, where Catholicism is the main denomination.The largely Lutheran-Catholic pattern of northeast Nebraska is the legacy of German settlers, who were both Catholic and Lutheran, Luebke
said.They were by far the state's largest immigrant population in the 19th century, he
Saline County, with a large Czech population, and Polk County, originally settled by Swedes, don't fit the Czech-Catholic, Swedish-Lutheran pattern.Reasons could be the anti-clericalism of many 19th century Czech immigrants and the similarity between 19th-century Methodism and the Swedish Covenant Churches, Luebke
Some Czechs, he
said, brought with them a "long, long tradition of opposition to the Roman Catholic Church."When anti-clerical Czechs are "churchy," he
said, they are more likely to be Presbyterian, not Catholic.
The settlement patterns of the 19th century continue to have political implications in the 20th, Luebke
The Catholics, Episcopalians, Orthodox and German Lutherans , members of denominations that Luebke
called "ritualistic" , tended to join the Democratic Party
The Methodists, Disciples of Christ, Congregationalists, Quakers, Presbyterians and the Scandinavian Lutherans , members of "pietistic," or non-liturgical denominations , leaned toward the Republican Party, he
Various political issues also tended to split along religious lines.
Nineteenth-century pietists, who subscribed to the "it's not what you believe, it's how you live" school of thought, disapproved of drinking, dancing, card playing and baseball on Sunday afternoons, Luebke
said.They fought for prohibition and commerce-free Sundays.
On the other hand, the German Catholics and Lutherans liked their beer, Luebke
said, and they tended to vote for open liquor laws.