Sunday, January 17, 2010


The Humboldt Methodist Church burned down last night.

First reactions by former and current residents of the area...
"This is difficult to believe but the video clearly shows Humboldt's Methodist Church in blazes from a fire last night. It's a sad day for us all and a catastrophic loss for the community and for those of us who love Lost Humboldt..." - Mike Rustad

"I was told the Humboldt Methodist Church burned to the ground last night. Going up to Humboldt shortly so might have some photos of what is left tomorrow...First they burned my school to the ground and now the Methodist Church. What will be left of my youth if Pearls Inn burns to the ground? Humboldt will be a ghost town..." - William Ash

Cindy (Twamley) Ritteman remembers - and asks if I do - "...when your youth group came over and we made candy and had a good time running around Humboldt?" I sure do, Cindy, I sure do!
Thanks to Mike Rustad for letting me know about this. Thanks also to Bob Bockwitz for sharing video of the very sad event...

Photo by Lynda Johnson CasselsHymnal in the ashes of Humboldt Methodist Church [Photos by Lynda Johnson Cassels]


  1. Additional comments from people who knew the church:

    "I was saddened to read of the fire in Humboldt. Do they know what happened? First, I could not remember what it was built with and then remembered it was wood,You were not born yet but when I was a little girl, there were two women ministers that served that church and they were the nicest women. They took our class inside that church and showed us everything. It did not matter to them that we were Catholic or Lutheran and I never forgot their kindness. When Dad had his garden down there next to what became Hilson Stewart's place, the women used to come down and give us a hand and Dad gave them fresh veggies. A lot of good memories are connected to that little church and I do not understand the comment made that said Smile-it burned down-what is that about? I am sad when buildings are gutted or burned or collapse when a town that is so tiny to begin with loses its soul...Clara Wagner and Alice Englebretson were the ministers and the year they came was 1934 and they stayed 13 years. THe first church in Humboldt was 1898 and the present location was 1901. Do you have the Big Red Book that has Kittson History and was published in 1976 and without it I would be lost. At the time they built the church they found a great need for a parsonage so it was built at the same time. The land was a restricted lease drawn up by the church trustees and James HIll, then King of the Railroad and the lease expired in 1998. The parsonage was built for $600.00" (Pat Miller Herzog who grew up in Humboldt - Her parents were Sylvan and Sarah Miller)

  2. Further Comments from past/current residents:

    "I also got up and watched a very disturbing video of the church in Humboldt burning. My mind was flooded with memories and sadness. I hope that the people of Humboldt remember that the church didn't burn, the building did. The people are the church and a great people they are." - John Bergh (minister, said during his sermon on 1/17/2009)

    "One thing that I am certain of is that we had a very good socialization thanks to the values of that Church. As a non-member, I was also enveloped in their activities such as dinners, the Methodist Youth Fellowship, and the centrality of the community church for all members of the community. Even though I was a member of the St. Anne's Catholic Church in St. Vincent, I always felt welcome to join in youth activities. My Grandma Rustad was a member of the parish. My Grandfather preferred to sing Norwegian hymns at home rather than public worship." - Mike Rustad

  3. A.Farol@yahoo.com1:03 PM

    I was saddened to hear the news this morning about the fire- thanks to Bob Bockwitz for letting me know. Any word yet on the possible cause?? Audrey Stewart-Farol

  4. No, haven't heard what the cause is yet, sorry...

  5. From Keith Finney (who grew up in the area): "This is a sad time for those tied to Humboldt in one way or another. This was my church early in life and was confirmed into the Methodist faith in this building. It had become the community center with all the meetings and even the “Ham Supper” tradition. I was gone to the ND Grain Dealers annual convention and met the elevator manager at Humboldt and the first thing to come out of his mouth was, I don’t know where to have our annual meeting now."

  6. According to Facebook sources, "The fire alarm went off at 11:19pm Saturday night and the firefighters got home at 5:30am Sunday morning and they are thinking it was the furnace that started it...from Pembina..."

  7. Humboldt church burns down
    The only church in Humboldt, Minn., burned to the ground in a fire discovered shortly before midnight Saturday.
    By: Stephen J. Lee, Grand Forks Herald

    The only church in Humboldt, Minn., burned to the ground in a fire discovered shortly before midnight Saturday.

    The pastor, Gary Johnson, grew up and was baptized in the Methodist church in Humboldt, where he’s lived all his life.

    Humboldt is only six miles from Canada and about eight miles southeast of Pembina, N.D., on U.S. Highway 75.

    Johnson, 71, is a retired schoolteacher and farmer who is in his fifth year of seminary and licensed as a local pastor in the United Methodist Church where he grew up. The close family connections make the loss even deeper, he said.

    A member of the congregation and Johnson’s son, Lee Johnson, was returning to town when he spotted the fire about 11:30 p.m. Saturday. Soon, firefighters from five departments were battling the blaze, Johnson said.

    “It was totaled,” he said Tuesday.

    Insurance adjusters examined the ruins Tuesday, Johnson said.

    The fire clearly originated in the area housing the furnace and the electrical equipment, Johnson said. Firefighters decided that a state fire marshal’s investigation wasn’t needed because there is no sign of any vandalism or other foul play, he said.

    But the loss is historic. Humboldt United Methodist was one of the oldest church buildings in the region.

    Built in the 1890s as a Methodist-Episcopal Church by English immigrants, many from the Prince Edward Island region of eastern Canada , the church was the community center in Humboldt, used by “everyone,” Johnson said.

    He serves three North Dakota congregations, in Drayton, Joliet and Pembina, as well as in Humboldt.

    The Rev. Marilyn Spurrell, the district superintendent in the Dakotas Conference of the United Methodist Church came to Humboldt on Sunday to help lead a service at the burned-out site and later in Johnson’s farm home. The Rev. Jerry Bass from Grand Forks, part of Johnson’s ministry team, also was there.

    “We had the support of the whole conference,” Johnson said. “I’m glad we have such a connectional church. They helped us in the time of grieving.”

    The congregation of about 60 will meet Sunday morning in the home of Lynda Cassels, a daughter of the pastor. “For the foreseeable future, we will meet in homes while we figure out what we are going to do,” Johnson said.

    News of the fire spread around the world via the Internet by Sunday morning, Johnson said. “We’re hearing from people from all corners, all denominations.”