Monday, March 16, 2009

Pembina Methodist Church(es)

Built in early 1900's, burned down in 1937

I was checking out the State Archives of North Dakota's Digital Horizons online archives the other day, and came across these two photos of two churches in Pembina. The first one is the first Methodist church built in Pembina in the early 1900's.

Grace Episcopal Church, built 1886 - later repurposed as
Pembina Pioneer Memorial United Methodist Church
The second one was originally built as Grace Episcopal Church, and later re-purposed as a Methodist church. In 1994, Myrtle Hart of Pembina submitted the paperwork that successfully got the church listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

From the submitted form comes this invaluable history of the church...
In June 1881, the first Episcopal church services were held at Pembina in a log schoolhouse by Reverend Thomas Villiers-Appleby, who served in St. Vincent, Minnesota. A transient congregation, the parishioners moved three times during the winter if 1884-1885 and then called upon Bishop William David Walker to help them build a permanent place of worship in Pembina.

Bishop Walker, instrumental in the building of early Episcopal churches in North Dakota, advanced their cause in the eastern United States, with the Society of the Double Temple and Grace Church of New York City responding. The north half of Lots 16, 17 and 18 were donated by Charles T. Cavileer, one of the first settlers who is credited with "bringing the first permanent agricultural colony to North Dakota." (Slaughter)

In 1886, construction began using local brick from the Pembina Brick Company1. Unfortunately, the architect of the church is unknown and no architectural plans exist. Only two other buildings contracted of Pembina brick exist: The former bank building located at 113 West Stutsman Street, and a residence at 246 South Cavalier Street.

Grace Episcopal Church was one of twenty-two churches built between 1883 and 1886. In 1883 there were only four Episcopal churches on the plains of North Dakota. Grace Episcopal Church opened its doors on Christmas Day, 1886. Reverend Appleby served the parish until 1888 when he was replaced by Reverend Henry Beer. Reverend Beer, also from St. Vincent, ministered to the communicants until 1893.

Without a spiritual leader, the parish became idle. Reverend Watson served the parishes at St. Thomas, Bathgate, and St. Vincent, Minnesota and in 1898, Reverend Watson reestablished Sunday school at Pembina. He and the Women's Working Society set about reopening the neglected church. "Between June, 1900, and June 1901, he held 114 services from twenty-five communicants and their families. Among those added by confirmation was Mrs. Charles (Isabella) Cavileer, wife of the North Dakota pioneer." (Wilkins).

Good attendance continued with the arrival of Reverend R.C. Johnstone of Winnipeg, Canada in October of 1909. Three years later, politics affected religion when the county seat was moved from Pembina to Cavalier taking six prominent parishioners from the Pembina community. With so few communicants and their families, the congregation nearly folded.

Episcopal church records show the dwindling number of families belonging to the church. In 1919, the 35th Annual Convocation of the Church listed eight families in the Pembina parish. By 1922, the number of families had dropped to seven and the congregation was relisted as a organized mission rather than a parish. The downward trend continued.

In 1937 at a meeting of the Bishop, Chancellor and Standing Committee held at Gethsemane Cathedral, "The matter of disposing of the Church at Pembina was discussed at length. Reverend Harrington moved the officers of the corporation be authorized to complete the sale of Grace Church at a price satisfactory to them. This motion was seconded by Reverend Simpson, and carried, all voting Aye." The sale of the church is mentioned in the minutes of a September meeting of that same year. Between 1936 and 1951, the Bishop, Chancellor, and Standing Committee sold eight other churches.

In 1937 the United Methodist Church purchased the property and continues to use the church to this day as the Pembina Pioneer Memorial United Methodist Church. The Methodists constructed the 1937 addition on the rear of the building. The addition is painted to match the color of the Pembina brick and lancet windows were used on the visible northern elevation. The addition does not detract form the significant of the property, and it is over 50 years old, therefore historic.
1 - I couldn't find anything online to support a brick company by the name of Pembina Brick Company, but I did find evidence of brick making in the area, very nearby, at the Mayo Brick and Tile Company...